League One 2020/21 Preview – Part I
The Addicks back in the third tier for the fourth time in five seasons. From our first season back down there in 2016/17 AFC Wimbledon, Fleetwood, Gillingham, Oxford United, Peterborough, Rochdale and Shrewsbury are all still there. Both Gillingham and Peterborough are the longest serving with this season being their 8th consective.
The 24 teams are evenly spread north and south, but I will begin my quick glance at our League One rivals at the top of the country.
No Netflix series this summer for Sunderland, even though they finished last season aborted after 36 games, in their lowest position in their 138-year history. Parky is not universally loved by the Black Cats’ fans but he has had a long overdue clear out releasing 26 players and selling six more. And yes Aiden McGeady is still there, but with no squad number.
Parky has added strikers Danny Graham (aged 35) from Blackburn and Aiden O’Brien from Millwall plus he went back to Bolton for ‘keeper Remi Matthews. I feel Parky is more of a steady build than going for the title. Play-off’s may be their limit. Sunderland fans will love that.
Key player: Bailey Wright. Possibilities: Play-off’s.
Warren Barton and Fleetwood Town seem an odd marriage, but Barton has banked a fair number of games as manager now and he has Fleetwood fighting above their weight. Last season Barton took the Cod Army to the play-off’s and I think they will be up there again. The signing of midfielder Callum Camps from Rochdale looks astute.
Not a lot of turnover at Highbury. Young Liverpool centre-half Morgan Boyd came on loan and the experienced winger Mark Duffy was signed from Sheffield United.
Key player: Josh Morris. Possibilities: Play-off’s
Blackpool have gone for it somewhat and a make a few ‘dark horse’ lists. Managed by Jurgen Klopp’s previous assistant Neil Critchley. He has signed Swindon duo Keshi Anderson and Jerry Yates. Winger CJ Hamilton joined from Mansfield.
Still, the Tangerine’s departure board looks a bit full. Amand Gnanduillet, Jay Spearing and Nathan Delfouneso all left. Goals were a problem last year so Yates, Anderson and Bez Lubala will be key aided by wide men Liam Feeney and Sullay Kaikai.
Key player: Chris Maxwell. Possibilities: Play-off challenge
Favourites every year to go down, but Accrington Stanley are a very well run club and last season they were comfortable before lockdown. John Coleman’s team will always be competitive and they will for sure surprise the so called bigger clubs on a regular basis. Not a lot of player turnover, although Jordan Clark will be a loss, but I like the signing of Cameron Burgess from Scunthorpe and Newcastle’s Liberian international loanee Mohammed Sangare is an interesting one.
Colby Bishop and Dion Charles can cause defences problems and Coleman’s squad has a very young look to it with defender Ross Sykes a real prospect.
Key player: Ross Sykes. Possibilities: Safe from relegation.
Question for Hull City is can they break the spell. They won just one game after New Year’s Day and were relegated finishing bottom of the table after being close to the play-off’s before Christmas.
Grant McCann has been allowed to rebuild and the Tigers have made some good looking signings. Ex-Addick target Greg Docherty signed from Rangers, Josh Emmanuel from Bolton and Richie Smallwood from Blackburn, who has been made captain. Mallik Wilks also made his loan permanent, and he was a standout last time in League One.
A few were moved on but no one significant and Hull look to have a decent squad on paper for this division, including Tom Eaves. McCann needs a good start though me thinks.
Key player: Mallik Wilks. Possibilities: Play-off’s
It was a sign of where the wealth is in Greater Manchester outside of the big two that Rochdale lost one of their best players Ian Henderson to Salford in the summer. Callum Camps moved to Fleetwood and the only in’s thus far are two Man City youngsters on loan and Alex Newby from Chorley, who is a striker and joins with a good reputation.
Goals will be a problem, but Dale have a good core with the likes of Paul McShane, Eoghan O’Connell and Aaron Morley.
Key player: Matty Lund. Possibilities: Bottom four
Moving further south we reach troubled Wigan Athletic. Decimated on and off the pitch the Latics currently have a squad heavily augmented by academy players. Leam Richardson is in the dugout, previously the trusted lieutenant of Paul Cook.
We are well aware of Wigan’s demise last season, this when they had the form of a play-off challenger. Unlike the Addicks, Wigan had lived beyond their means, but similarly to us they got turned over by dodgy owners as the EFL watched.
Two free agents have joined in midfielder Dan Gardner and winger Viv Solomon-Otabor, but the list of those sold and left is endless as the administrators quickly raise funds. Joe Garner is still there as is Sam Morsey and Lee Evans. Still plenty of hurdles for Wigan and their fans to face, and it may get worse still, but they made it at least to the opening weekend.
Key player: Lee Evans. Possibilities: Just survival
Our old foes Doncaster Rovers were let down last season by inconsistency. Darren Moore will be looking to make his mark in management but will need to replace the work rate and goals of Kieran Sadlier, who left for Rotherham. Defender Cameron John did make his loan permanent and Moore also snaffled young Arsenal striker Tyreece John-Jules from Lee Bowyer’s wishlist.
Donny do have plenty of quality and Ben Whiteman is good for this level and at almost 40 James Coppinger should break the 600-game barrier this season. Striker Fejeri Okenabirhie is also one to watch.
Key player: Ben Whiteman. Possibilities: Top half flirtation with the play-off’s.