League One 2020/21 Preview – Part III
Part III and my final look at our fellow League One teams teams this season. I started in the north in Part I and moved towards the middle of the country in Part II and lastly we have the southern teams for this conclusion.
Karl Robinson had a sticky start to LAC (life after Charlton) but this is his third full season at Oxford United and a sense of optimism fills the town. Robinson’s side fell at the final hurdle a couple of months back but have kept the majority of that squad together.
Robert Dickie was sold to QPR as expected but Robinson has finally replaced those that left in January like Fosu and Baptisite with Joel Cooper from Linfield and Marcus McGuane on loan from Nottingham Forest. McGaune has had an interesting journey from Arsenal’s academy playing in Spain for Barcelona B and Telstar in Holland then Forest where has never started. He’s still only 21.
Sam Winnell is an interesting add from Derby and Robinson also dipped across the channel to bring in winger Dereck Osei from Brest and Liam Kelly from Feyenoord. There was the staple signing from MK Dons of course – striker Dylan Asonganyi.
In Matty Taylor, signed on a permanent from Bristol City, they have potentially the league’s top scorer. Taylor scored 13 in 26 on loan last season.
Key player: Matty Taylor. Possibilities: Robinson will definitely have his eyes on the top two.
Further west Bristol Rovers’ Ben Garner is another in thier first job in management. He has overseen quite a turnover in squad with the highest profile departure being Johnson Clarke-Harris, who has yet to be replaced. The Gas did bring in centre-half Max Elmer from Gillingham. Zain Westbrooke looks a sound move. He played a big part in Coventry’s promotion from this division last season.
Ex-Addick Brandon Hanlon joined as well. He scored 16 goals in 84 appearances for Gillingham. Winger Sam Nicholson is an intriguing newbie. The Scotsman has spent the two years at the Colorado Rapids.
Garner has a lot to prove to Rovers fans and a mid table finish would be celebrated.
Key player: Josh Grant. Possibilities: A relegation fight.
40 miles up the M4 is Swindon Town, who we played in the League Cup. After promotion as PPG champions the Robins have inexplicably lost all of their goal scoring threat.
Bolton offered Eoin Doyle, scorer of 25 goals in 28 league games last season, more money closer to home so he jumped ship. Keshi Anderson joined Blackpool and Kaiyne Woolery moved to Tranmere.
The experienced Brett Pitman has joined from Pompey and Richie Wellens convinced attacking midfielder Diallang Jaiyesimi to sign on a permanent from Norwich. He was good last year in L2.
Then there is the Smith clan – Tyler (Sheffield Utd), Matt (Arsenal) and Jonny (Bristol City) all in on-loan which either tells us that Swindon’s scouts are lazy or geniuses.
Key player: Jonny Smith. Possibilities: Like many others they will be looking for transfer deals before the window closes. Doyle is a huge loss. Bottom half.
Our closest rivals geographically are AFC Wimbledon, although they become a lot closer when they eventually move back to Plough Lane, which is planned to be at the end of October.
Kingsmeadow whilst never home did at least give them a base to develop a siege mentality. I wonder if they can take that onto Loftus Road first, and then Plough Lane?
To aid Wimbledon’s agricultural approach they have added battering ram Ollie Palmer from Crawley, scorer of 13 L2 goals last season. Alex Woodward came from Peterborough and they also dipped into the National League for Aldershot’s defensive midfielder Ethan Chislett. One to watch maybe is on loan Brentford’s Finn Jaako Oksanen.
Among those that left were Scott Wagstaff (to FGR), defender Mitchell Pinnock and journeyman striker Keshi Appiah.
Key player: Joe Piggott. Possibilities: Glyn Hodges may have his work cut out keeping them up and fans will hope that Plough Lane proves a lucky home,
Into Kent then and our faux rivals Gillingham. The hard to like Steve Evans is in his second season at Priestfield after a decent albeit aborted first season. There has been a fair amount of player upheaval with already mentioned captain Max Ehmer, Mikael Mandron and Brandon Hanlon all moving on plus Ben Pringle (Morecambe) and Regan Charles-Cook (Ross County) among 13 players to depart.
There are a couple of good looking additions with Kyle Dempsey joining from Fleetwood, Jacob Mellis from Bolton and Jordan Graham signed permanently from Wolves. Two young Arsenal loanees also came over – defender Zech Medley and attacking midfielder Trae Coyne.
Key player: Jack Bonham. Possibilities: Evans and Scally could blow up at anytime of course, but if they keep the sparks away a possible top half.
It’s League One season number four for Portsmouth after winning L2 in 2016/17. Pompey and Charlton have met 108 times since 1922, and carry a lot of expectation. Kenny Jackett looks under a lot of pressure down on the south-coast and has had a quiet, thus far, transfer window.
However Michael Jacobs does look a steal from Wigan, right back Callum Johnson signed from Accrington and Sean Raggett made his move from Norwich permanent.
The biggest loss is Christian Burgess who had five good seasons at Fratton Park. In Covid times he found a better deal in the Belgian 2nd tier and Brett Pitman, out of favour last season, left for Swindon.
There is still plenty of talent though. Ronan Curtis, Craig MacGillivray, Tom Naylor, Jack Whatmough, Andy Cannon, Marcus Harness and John Marquis are very good at this level. Jackett has also resisted any loan moves for Reeco Hackett-Fairchild, who has yet to start a league game.
Key player: Ronan Curtis. Possibilities: Nothing less than play-off’s.
And finally the farthest south and west Plymouth Argyle. Ryan Lowe is a hot prospect and there is no reason Argyle can’t reinvigorate their Championship ambitions after they collapsed into relegation two years ago.
Lowe has brought in ex-Addicks Ben Reeves and Frank Nouble. Midfielder Lewis Macleod came from Wigan and after a really good season on loan George Cooper signed on a permanent from Peterborough. Ryan Hardie scored 7 in 13 last season at Home Park and he is back for the season.
Of those that moved on Ben Purrington’s brother Tom is at Bromley after being released. Winger Joel Grant joined Swindon and last season’s top goal scorer Antoni Sarcevic joined Bolton.
Key player: Ryan Hardie. Possibilities: Play-off challengers.
And there you have it, from north to south, Sunderland to Plymouth 402 miles apart, and every League One challenger in between.