League One Preview 2013/14

Title contenders

Sky Bet Football LeaguePeterborough: Relegated from the Championship last season, despite a late season surge, the Posh are well placed for a quick return. Most of last season’s squad has been kept together, and the sale of Dwight Gayle gave Darren Ferguson a healthy transfer kitty. Whilst Britt Assombalonga is unproven at League One level, he has the raw attributes to achieve at a higher level than last season’s loan spell at Southend. Having impressed in the Championship last season, Peterborough have also done well to sign Jack Payne on a permanent deal, giving Ferguson a player he described as his number one target.

Preston: After the disaster that was the Graham Westley era, the appointment of Simon Grayson represents a safe pair of hands. Grayson has been promoted from League One with three different teams, and Preston should be challenging to make that four. Last season’s lack of goals shouldn’t be repeated, with Iain Hume returning from his loan spell and Kevin Davies signing from Bolton. Service to the front men has also improved with the signing of Chris Humphrey, which should please Stuart Beavon who will be looking to improve upon last season’s nine goals.

Sheffield United: Fifth last time out, the Blades are starting their third season in League One amidst less fanfare than the previous two. Febian Brandy and Lyle Taylor have both signed to add goals to a squad that has a younger look than the journeymen of previous years. David Weir is an unknown quantity as a manager, but his experience as academy and reserve boss at Everton should hold him in good stead to get the most out of Sheffield United’s exciting young squad.

Wolves: Following successive relegations, Wolves possess a squad that should see them easily promoted back to the Championship at the first time of asking. However, last season’s squad was on paper a top end Championship side, and supporters will be nervous that the slide will continue. The Molineux side appear, finally, to have made a sensible managerial appointment in Kenny Jackett, and should live up to their favourites tag. Defender Sam Ricketts has been signed and made captain, and much is expected from returning loanee Leigh Griffiths at the other end of the field.

Play off contenders

Brentford: Losing a play off final at Wembley takes some getting over. Losing at Wembley a matter of days after being denied automatic promotion, by one of the most dramatic endings to a football match ever, takes even more getting over. Uwe Rosler has a job on his hands to prevent a play off hangover at the beginning of the season, but his side should be there or thereabouts. Whilst goalkeeper Simon Moore has left for Cardiff, Rosler has added to his squad over the summer. Will Grigg should lift some of the goalscoring burden that was carried by Clayton McDonaldson , and Alan McCormack will add some more steel to the backline following his move from Swindon. Chelsea loanee George Saville is also one to watch, as the Bees try and go one better than last year’s heartbreak.

Bristol City: Less fancied than the other relegated sides, City were comfortably bottom of last season’s Championship, and never looked like surviving. The squad has been depleted, with the loss of Steve Davies to Blackpool the pick of the departures, and the Robins are likely to be outsiders for promotion. However the appointment of Sean O’Driscoll in January means that City should stop the slide, and a play off push isn’t out of the question.

Leyton Orient: Potential dark horses for the play offs, Orient have kept the basis of the squad that finished 7th last season, and could challenge again. Shaun Batt has arrived to add competition up front, although the loss of Lee Cook could limit some of the service to the frontmen. By mixing it at the top end of the table Orient overachieved last season, but with continuity they could do the same again this time around.

MK Dons: Serial play off failures, the Buckinghamshire side dropped to 8th last season after successive 5th place finishes. The squad has remained largely intact, but looks too thin to challenge the top places. Another play off challenge is likely, although the Dons have probably had better chances of promotion in previous seasons. Youth looks likely to be given a go, with summer signings Ben Reeves, Jason Banton and Patrick Bamford all under 21, and academy graduate Dele Alli tied down to a three year deal.

Mid table

Bradford: Last season’s League cup finalists, the Bantams are the bookmakers most fancied promoted side. However, a touch of realism is needed when talking about a side that, even before their cup run, never troubled the automatic places in League Two, and only snatched the final play off berth on the last day. Keeping Nahki Wells represents a major coup, as does Andrew Davies’ new contract, but mid table is likely to beckon for Bradford.

Crewe Alexandra: Thrown into turmoil by allegations of sexual assault against seven players on a pre season training camp, last season’s Johnstones Paint Trophy winners can be sure of a slow start. Bailed until September and October, the cloud over the club is not going to go away quickly. However, on the pitch, the Alex should have enough to stay up. Whilst Luke Murphy has left for Leeds, the team were successful last season, and have added well. As long as off the field events don’t overshadow their season, Crewe should replicate last season’s mid table finish.

Martin AllenGillingham: Gillingham walked League Two last season, leading for all but two weeks of the season, and should find this season more comfortable than their last in League One, when they went through the season without an away win. The Gills are a much tougher outfit now, with last season’s success based upon a solid defence and a string of 1-0 victories on the road. This season should see more goals at both ends. Despite last season’s enviable defensive record, the defence is vulnerable to pace and lacking in cover. The returns of Bayo Akinfenwa and Cody McDonald to compete up front with Danny Kedwell should compensate for any increase in goals conceded, and if McDonald can replicate the form of his previous spells at the club then the Gills could be play off outsiders. The squad currently looks thin on cover, and success will be reliant upon luck with injuries and Allen continuing to use the loan market well for cover.

Oldham Athletic: Lee Johnson followed his father Gary’s footsteps into management in March, aged 32, perhaps giving Blair Sturrock ideas for his next move. The rookie manager has made some shrewd pre season signings in forward areas, and kept last seasons top scorer Jose Baxter. Despite the loss of Jean-Yves M’voto to Barnsley, a mid table spot should beckon for the Latics.

Rotherham: Following years of financial hardship, and a spell playing at the Don Valley athletics stadium in Sheffield, few neutrals would have begrudged the Millers their new stadium and financial clout. Until they appointed convicted criminal, and all round nice guy, Steve Evans. And gave their stadium a ridiculous name. Having snuck into second place in League Two on the final day, Rotherham should be safe from relegation this time around. Following a multi window transfer saga, Evans finally got his man with the loan signing of Matt Tubbs, to give him the striker that he was missing last season. Despite Evans’ claims midway through last season that his squad, which includes footballing lotharios Claude Davis and Kayode Odejayi, is better suited to League One than the robust League Two, the Millers are likely to be mid table.

Lower mid table

Colchester: Joe Dunne embarks on his first full season in charge of a Colchester side that is probably best described as solid. Following survival last time out, having been dragged into a battle following a horrendous mid season run, Dunne’s side can probably hope for a mid table finish at best. Attacking talents Craig Eastmond and Sanchez Watt have made their moves permanent, but the U’s are lacking in a central goalscorer, following disappointing seasons from Jabo Ibhere and Clinton Morrison.

Crawley: A successful first season in League One, Crawley can expect to find things tougher this time around. Having been propelled to League One on the back of a sugar daddy owner, it should be no surprise that attendances are small enough to make mid table the height of the clubs ambitions. Last season saw a good start cover up a mediocre ending, and the club could find themselves at the bottom end of the league this time out. Goals up front were a problem last season, although the late season form of Jamie Proctor gives a glimmer of hope that they may come easier this season.

Notts County: Losing three key midfielders means that County are likely to finish below last season’s 12th place. Throw a rookie manager at a club famed for instability into the mix, and the Magpies could well be pulled into a scrap at the bottom.

Port Vale: The Valiants sat in second place for most of last season’s League Two, before a poor end of season run allowed Rotherham to push them down into third. Probably the weakest of the four promoted sides, they will be relying on Tom Pope to prove that he isn’t a one season wonder. If he even gets half of the 31 he scored last season, then Vale should stay up. Midfielders Ryan Burge and Sam Morsy have both left, but Micky Adams seems to have adequately replaced them in Chris Lines and Anthony Griffith. Vale should be safely mid table, but expect their infamous OneValeFan forum to go into meltdown if they drop below that.

Stevenage: Probably the only club left to rate Graham Westley, Stevenage could be in for a season of struggle following yet another pre season of transition. In previous spells at the Boro, Westley created a team that was greater than the sum of its parts. Fans will be hoping that that is the case again, as the sides current parts are weak.

Tranmere Rovers: Rovers were flying high mid season, before a terrible run of form dragged them towards mid table. Prenton Park is currently turning into a retirement home for journeymen pros, although ironically they are captained by a 21 year old in James Wallace. The Merseyside outfit lack the firepower to replicate last seasons jaunt to the top end of the table and should find themselves mid table, or lower if their end of season form persists.

Relegation battle

Carlisle United: A Jeckyl and Hyde side, the Cumbrian’s squad has changed little since their 2011/12 play off push, but struggled last season. Another season of struggle is again likely for a side that boasted last season’s worst defence. This makes the side all the more reliant upon striker Lee Miller scoring enough to keep the side afloat.

Coventry CityCoventry City: With all that’s been going on off of the pitch it’s easy to forget that Coventry have a football season to prepare for. The uncertainty around the club, playing their home games in Northampton for the next three years, would make conditions difficult to play in for any footballer, let alone the current Coventry squad. Under a transfer embargo, and about to be deducted points, the Sky Blues are bereft of both experience and quality, and possess a squad that even under the best of circumstances would struggle. Supporters will have to hope that the young side will take the opportunity to impress, but they are likely to face a season of struggle.

Shrewsbury Town: 16th last season, the strength of the newly promoted sides could see the Shrews relegated this season. Manager Graham Turner released striker Marvin Morgan, following a season in which the Shropshire side struggled for goals, but has yet to adequately replace him. If the Shrews are to survive, then Turner must find multiple strikers to add to his squad.

Swindon Town: Town have long left behind the blank cheque book approach that allowed Paulo Di Canio to sign, punch and release anyone he pleased, then convince the world he was a decent manager. Since the Italian threw a paddy and left, the budget has been further tightened. The side are currently without a manager, and last season’s play off semi finalists are likely to have to settle for a lower mid table finish. The close season has seen six youngsters come in from Tottenham, and Swindon will need a few of those to pay off if they are to avoid a relegation battle. If not, then the side look light on goals, and could drop.

Walsall: Spare a thought for the Saddlers. Dean Smith had cheaply assembled a team that finished 9th, before having his star assets cherry picked. To rub salt in to the wounds, two of them moved to clubs in the same division, with Febian Brandy moving to Sheffield United and Will Grigg to Brentford. Replacing Brandy, Grigg and Jamie Patterson cheaply is nigh on impossible, and a season of struggle could beckon if the cheap replacements don’t pay off.

The Author

Damian Buxton

Long suffering Gillingham fan confused by our current (relative) success. A student with an avid interest in all things football, and a passing interest in my actual degree.

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