League One preview – part III
Part I is here and Part II is here.
Rochdale under Keith Hill have made the transition to League One look fairly comfortable. Two top ten finishes are not to be sniffed at as Dale keep company with much bigger and financially stronger clubs. Hill also remains at Spotland and unlike 95% of the countries managers, you have to think that the manager does control quite a lot of his own destiny.
Just a couple of additions aligned with a bit of a clear out, should mean that Dale at least stand still but with the lowest home attendance in the division last season, Hill must continue to get his players to punch above their weight. Led by young skipper Jamie Allen, it is not a squad of household names although Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, ex of Peterborough and Wolves, is there, but it is a young but clearly a non-intimidated group of players. Hill and is his team should expect a mid table finish again. Promotion 12/1. Relegation 9/2.
Scunthorpe United dallied with The Championship a few years ago, but have re-settled back in League One and came within goal difference of a play-off berth last season. Preston legend Graham Alexander is the manager of the Iron and although he picked up on the good work of caretaker managers Nick Daws and Andy Dawson, their form in the second half of the season after the sacking of Mark Robins, was nothing short of remarkable. The only problem was that so was Barnsley’s!
Huddersfield’s Duane Holmes has been the most high profile signing, with the Addicks apparently interested in the midfielder. Paddy Madden, who has scored goals for ever, remains and if Scunny can carry on where they left off, they could be this season’s surprise top 6 pick. Promotion 6/1. Relegation 9/1.
Onto the favourites then and Sheffield United. We all know about Chris Wilder and how he is now at his boyhood club, and Blades fans seem confident that finally they have found a man that can get them out this division after Danny Wilson, David Weir, Nigel Clough and Nigel Adkins all failed. It is important to remember that this will be the highest Wilder has ever managed after 15 continuous years on the touchline. In his favour he does come across as remarkably grounded and confident. We shall see.
Wilder has had a good clear out with Jose Baxter, Jamal Campbell-Ryce, Martyn Woolford and Dean Hammond amongst many released. In the door comes Leon Clarke, a goalscorer it says here, but Addicks can’t vouch for that. Also brought in was defender James Wilson from Oldham, midfielder John Fleck from Coventry and left back Chris Hussey from Bury. Clarke will join Billy Sharp and Che Evans up front in what could be a potent threesome.
Being favourites is not new to United, and they have rarely done it justice. They may well might this year. Promotion 2/1. Relegation 50/1.
Shrewsbury Town after a team that have clung on by their fingertips in this division but manager Micky Mellon has made some big changes of personnel. Players that know League One such as Adam El-Abd, Louis Dodds and Olly Lancashire and the squad has quite a lot of depth and flexibility to it. The Shrews will miss the gallantly named defender Nathaniel Knight-Percival, who debarked to Bradford.
Keeping the ball out of the net was a problem last season for Town but they have more quality at the back this season and they can score goals. I expect a relegation battle but Mellon is a crafty operator and should see them safe. Promotion 18/1. Relegation 3/1
Southend United will be a welcome trip for many Addicks. The Shrimpers under Phil Brown were comfy in mid-table last season and Brown will be looking for more this season. They have made a few astute signings such as Jason Demetriou from Walsall and Simon Cox from Reading and maybe a less astute one in free agent Nile Ranger.
The loss of young keeper Daniel Bentley to Brentford is a blow as is Jack Payne to Huddersfield and both should be able to step up to a higher level. Brown has a small squad of Charlton proportions and will I expect looking to bring more players in but on the face of it the current hand he has looks low on quality and Brown will need all of his man-management skills to keep Southend up. Promotion 14/1. Relegation 9/2.
It is hard to forget ‘that’ play-off games and Swindon Town, but for the Robins ever since then it has been a case of nowhere nearly. Certainly if the club wasn’t so quick to cash in on it’s best players, Town would be playing at a higher level than League One, but chairman Lee Power has openly insisted on financial frugality over ambition. The sale of Nicky Ajose, and Michael Smith this summer’s case in point with speculation over midfielder Yaser Kasim rising.
The little known Luke Williams is in the dug out, who did well to guide Swindon to mid-table, but 37 goals from Ajose and fellow striker Jon Obika were major reasons for that.
Goalkeeper Lawrence Vigouroux, who spent last season on loan, joined on a permanent basis from Liverpool, a young winger from Woking called John Goddard and Conor Thomas, who played 3 times for Coventry last season are the sole arrivals. It looks a tough season ahead for Swindon unless Luke Williams can perform a minor miracle or Power opens his wallet. Promotion 16/1. Relegation 5/2
Last of all then is Walsall, who had a terrific season last year. One of the lesser lights in the division the homely midlands club missed out to Burton by a point on automatic promotion. Jon Whitney who stepped up to replace long serving Dean Smith provided a seamless transition and is very popular at the Bescot.
Sadly failure to go up for a club like Walsall meant they were always going to struggle to hold onto their best players and Romaine Sawyers, top scorer Tom Bradshaw, signed by Barnsley, Anthony Forde, and Jason Demetriou all sought pastures new.
Those coming in including Franck Moussa, don’t look to have the same quality or experience as those that left. Simeon Jackson, still only 29, does have the experience though, but is he able to replace Tom Bradshaw’s goals. I’m not sure Walsall will be quite outside brave hearts this season, but Whitney might think otherwise. Promotion 9/1. Relegation 11/2.