Saturday, 2 April 2016

Coventry City – Why our season has gone wrong

If November’s 4-1 demolition of today’s opponents Gillingham was the zenith of our season, then Tuesday’s defeat to Colchester was its nadir. The indication following that atmospheric win was that - finally - this was to be our season; nothing could or would stop a side who had just embarrassed their promotion rivals.

Fast-forward several months and we sit languishing in tenth place, having embarrassed ourselves over a succession of matches that culminated in an unforgivable loss to a slightly improved, yet undeniably soft-centred Colchester United. The question on everyone’s lips – why? Well it certainly isn’t because the club has a soft underbelly, as one ‘enlightened’ fan quipped on CWR after the game.

“Football is a game of very fine lines and at the moment we aren’t falling on the right side of it.” Sam Ricketts has graced the Premier League, turned out for his nation on 52 occasions and captained Wolves to promotion from this very division two years ago – it’s fair to say his opinion is an informed one.

When you take a step back and look at how our season has played out, you would be hard pressed to disagree with Ricketts' sentiments. There is cause behind most of what occurs in football; it is rare for randomness or luck to be deemed the deciding factor. We haven’t gone from automatic promotion chasers to mid-table stragglers just, you know, because.

At any point in a season you can expect to encounter injuries, suspensions and to a lesser extent the unavailability of players due to international call-ups. The first and most pertinent of these factors is an unforgiving beast. Injuries cannot be pre-empted and in the main cannot be avoided.

The loss of Lee Burge and James Maddison early in the season may pale in significance when compared to the defensive crisis that has plagued us throughout, but both have negatively impacted our season. Burge fell victim to a sickness bug prior to the 3-0 home win over Shrewsbury in October, leaving Mr social media Reice Charles-Cook to deputise in his absence.

Initially we were all impressed by the clean sheets, reflex saves and an on-field and online persona that was endearing. Tony Mowbray too was evidently impressed and at no stage felt the need to sign a loan keeper. As mistakes began to appear in Charles-Cook’s game – which is part and parcel of the developmental stage of any keeper -  there wasn’t even a suggestion that a replacement was needed.

We dropped points at the hands of Charles-Cook; the effect his presence has had on the – ever changing - back four is also up for discussion. Mowbray’s blind faith in a promising yet currently flawed keeper prevented Burge from gaining a recall on his return and put paid to any chance of an experienced keeper being signed.

The exquisite through ball for our second goal in the 4-0 rout of Millwall showcased the relative genius of the departing Maddison. A three month lay-off was the result of an ankle injury picked up a week later against Walsall and his development has momentarily stalled. Putting aside the odd flash of brilliance we have seen since his return to fitness, his all round game isn’t befitting of his obvious ability.

He has struggled to influence games in the way a number ten needs to for our system to work. A player who should have been at the forefront of our promotion charge just hasn’t had ample development time to play and consistently perform week in, week out at this level. Those three months may well have offered him much needed exposure to first team football.

A well constructed back four is the stuff of dreams; it brings solidity, reliability and confidence to a team. Game after game after game a defensive unit can replicate their performances, grow tighter and understand each other’s individual game better. Unfortunately, we haven’t been afforded the luxury of a settled back four all season.

As a result, last season’s theme of unforgivable defensive errors has carried over into this one. A defensive unit that is in a constant state of flux is always going to work against you; whether it’s defending set pieces or a fullback’s communication with his winger, inevitably a team will suffer because of this. Had Johnson and Martin or Turner and Martin been able to play together for a sustained period of time, we would have accumulated more points.

Indirectly it has also negatively affected other parts of the team. Swindon fans were very complementary about Jack Stephens’ midfield capabilities when he arrived on transfer deadline day. He exuded calmness on his debut away at Port Vale, managing to both protect the back four and drive forward with ball – thereby adding a new dimension to our midfield.

However, due to injuries and Peter Ramage’s departure he has been stuck at centre half. The freshness and legs he brought to the defensive midfield role – which also offset the tiring Fleck and Vincelot partnership – has so far been seen on a sole occasion. Let’s not forget Baily Cargill’s brief loan spell that was also ended by injury.

I’ll be the first to admit that I thought the play-offs were all but confirmed at several stages this season, and I imagine many others shared my confidence. Such was my belief, I goaded Villa supporting friends by suggesting that we would be meeting them in the Championship next season.

November’s delusional train of thought went: If we can replicate what we are currently doing until April - the run in and our hardest month of fixtures - then we should be well positioned for promotion. It appears that Mowbray had been working along these lines.

For the majority of the season he has kept faith with the 4-2-3-1 system; the correct basis to work off given the type of football we were attempting to play. There is no denying the fact that we’ve had success because of this. Sumptuous football with the results to back it up, something we hadn’t seen for a long time. 

Mowbray is a managerial veteran who learnt from the likes of Malcolm Allison, Bruce Rioch and George Burley during a distinguished playing career. He’s had success as a manager, he’s also had his fair share of failure. What I’m reluctant to call naivety, perhaps better expressed as a blind spot, is his disinclination to deploy an alternative system prior or even during a game to combat the opponents we face.

He spent a solid period of time out of the game following his sacking by Middlesbrough. He will have reflected on what went wrong, how much of this stemmed from his ideals and what he personally needed to change when he stepped back into management. The well publicised criticism of Mowbray was that on two successive occasions his Middlesbrough side nosedived after being well placed before January – sound familiar? 

Frankly I won’t be drawn into vague comparisons between that then and this now, however there is scope to suggest that Mowbray hasn’t altered his managerial principles during his idleness. Apart from the opening day of the season where we started in a 4-2-4 and effectively pressed Wigan’s back five high up the pitch, we’ve been a one trick pony.

Much like the Real Madrid sides since Jose Mourinho’s departure in 2013, we care not what the opposition do, we are only concerned with attempting to blow teams away with our high tempo, pace dependent, offensive style of football. This worked and worked extremely well, but it cannot be sustained for the entirety of a season – a pragmatic approach is required at times (The second half of Chelsea’s title winning 2014/2015 campaign is the most relevant example of this).

Several teams have sussed us out due to Mowbray’s loyalty to his principles. During games we’ve dropped points because Mowbray’s game management hasn’t been up to scratch. When chasing a game, we aren’t capable of going long; we actually struggle to set the ball, pack the box and launch a long ball. We’ve lost winnable games against the likes of Scunthorpe, Fleetwood and Rochdale by failing to adjust our style.

Tuesday was a prime example of this. We played as we have done for most of the season; playing out from the back, patiently looking for that incisive pass - we actually put together a few examples of beautiful combination play. High up the pitch, we were caught out by one ball – some questionable goalkeeping to boot – and found ourselves a goal down.

We rallied, won and missed a penalty. A strong start to the second half was derailed by the substitutions Mowbray made. He removed the pace of Jacob Murphy and the aerial threat of Marc-Antoine Fortune and we spent the last 30 minutes floundering in a sea of tactical discontent. The fact Romain Vincelot was one of the furthest players up the pitch speaks volumes.

As mentioned above, injuries, suspensions and international duty have at times forced Mowbray’s hand in terms of selection. He is due a degree of sympathy with this, but his inclusion of some players and exclusion of others has directly affected our results. I couldn’t find fault with his selection on Tuesday, but the positioning of two individuals left a lot to be desired.

Pairing the two old stagers of the side (Joe Cole and Sam Ricketts) on the left hand side was a costly error – even more so when Colchester’s quickest player Gavin Massey was playing down the right hand side. Equally questionable was his situating of Murphy in the number ten role; he has neither the vision nor technical ability to perform well behind the striker – something that should have been clear given the past few months.

All this after both players had their best performances in weeks away at Peterborough, playing in their preferred positions. When Murphy – much derided by fans even though he’s been one of our most influential players – has been left out altogether, we’ve struggled with a lack of pace.

Pace at any level of football is vital. We struggled without it last season, but this term it’s been a different story. Our best performances and results have come when the golden triumvirate of Ryan Kent, Jacob Murphy and Adam Armstrong played together. Wins against Chesterfield, Shrewsbury, Peterborough, Barnsley and Gillingham.

Since Liverpool recalled Kent we’ve won four times in 15 games; a startling statistic. The pace and tempo of our performances has slowed and we’ve failed to come to terms with it. It took three defeats on the spin for Mowbray to become aware of this. In a rare display of tactical flexibility, he changed from 4-2-3-1 to 4-3-3 as we drew with Port Vale.

James Maddison played as a false nine with Adam Armstrong and Jacob Murphy on the wings. Andy Rose, Jack Stephens and John Fleck comprised the three behind and for the majority of the game we defended staunchly and counter attacked with pace. A late wonder strike from Sam Kelly prevented us from winning, but Mowbray’s – much needed - change of tack boded well for the rest of the campaign.

Martin Lorentzson’s injury sustained during the draw at Vale Park would set off a chain of events that saw us take several steps backwards, having seemingly move forward for the first time in a month. Peter Ramage replaced the injured Swede and put in his best performance in a City shirt – not quite good enough to be selected by Mowbray in the next game however.

Jack Stephens was given the nod and we duly returned to a 4-2-3-1. The return of pace to both wings was transient with the player formerly known as Joe Cole playing wide - Adam Armstrong once again played as the lone striker. We won 6-0 and the promotion charge was well and truly back on, wasn’t it? – the answer is no.

We met a Bury side who had lost eight of their last nine away games in the league; we played them at just the right time. It papered over our own deficiencies and we subsequently headed into a two week break as content as we’d been all season. The success of the 4-3-3 and requirement of pace on both flanks was forgotten, and we lost the next four games.

Across the season there have been other minor issues put forward as reasoning for our decline - Jim O’Brien’s loan move to Scunthorpe being one of them. His performance levels were very much on the wane as was his mental state. He was another player that benefitted from the pace that surrounded him, making his exit less of a factor.

Mowbray’s inability to prevent the isolation of Adam Armstrong for long periods of games. Relying a little bit too heavily on young players who have struggled with decision making. The strain that the defensive crisis has put on Sam Ricketts’ fitness, having looked lethargic in recent weeks. The debatable commitment of some individuals. Failure to take gilt-edged chances. All of these issues do have an affect on the overall success of a team.

It is extraordinarily frustrating that are chances of promotion have all but gone, given where we were in January. Ultimately, in the 39 games played, we’ve fallen just short of what is required. We’ve seen what we can achieve when all the pieces of the puzzle come together and there’s no reason why we can’t scale those heights again in the future – with Mowbray at the helm.

He finds himself in a similar position to the one Steven Pressley found himself in following the 2013/2014 season. Pressley had masterfully taken us into upper mid-table following a ten-point deduction, but we finished in poor form and he had a summer to try and rebuild the squad and the fans faith in him – he failed to do this and was correctly sacked just before he could take us down.

Failure next season could see Mowbray’s managerial career come to a premature end. Add into the mix a disillusioned fan base who won’t stand for a poor start, results in Mowbray having a huge summer ahead of him. It is essential that much deliberation takes place between now and August if we are to successfully move forward from the bitter disappointment of this season.  

Tony Mowbray

Friday, 28 August 2015

The Fryday View: Kevin de Bruyne - A luxury City can do without?

The intrepid modern-day football fan who chooses to shun the mainstream delights of the Premier League and La Liga for the German Bundesliga, will no doubt wax lyrical about Kevin de Bruyne. 

Wolfsburg’s wunderbar number ten was a relentless menace last season - claiming 20 assists in the Bundesliga alone. 

Following a summer of rumours, enquiries and bids, City appear to have finally sealed the signature of the Belgian attacker - and at £54 million and £200,000 a week he isn’t coming cheap. 

Kevin de Bruyne reading this article
A goalscorer, a creative force, a classic number ten, who at 24 will only improve, de Bruyne is the type of player you could build a title winning team around - but is he what City need right now? I’m not so sure. 

Last season’s limp effort should have been the end of Manuel Pellegrini. However City - perhaps waiting for Pep Guardiola to become available - have kept faith with the Chilean and so far, it looks to have been an inspired decision. 

The addition of Raheem Sterling coupled with the seemingly permanent switch to a 4-2-3-1 system has seen City convincingly win their first three Premier League games. The introduction of Sterling has given City much needed vibrancy and crucially, has allowed the best number ten in world - David Silva - to play in his natural position. 

Suddenly all the pieces have fallen nicely in to place. Mr reliability Joe Hart is protected by a back four that has rediscovered its edge. Plainly put, Vincent Kompany is fit and is once again exuding invincibility. Eliaquim Mangala has a newfound assurance that is only present having endured a difficult debut season. 

Sagna and Kolarov are flourishing behind Navas and Sterling - highlighting how significant pace is at any level of the game. As Toure and Fernandinho sit, tick play over and only break forward when necessary, the wide men are a constant threat - especially on the counter attack. 

Silva - who for so long was misused on the left of a 4-4-2 - is now central and allowed to float everywhere. He weaves his individual magic, whilst at the same time subtly linking up with Navas, Sterling and Aguero. Well, Kun Aguero, what more could you want from a centre forward - ruthlessly lethal. 

Then there is the strength in depth. Zabaleta, Demichelis, Otamendi, Clichy, Fernando, Delph, Bony and Samir Nasri - who served up a timely reminder of his class last weekend. 

City are in full flow, the team to beat. So where does Kevin fit in to all of this? Where does he play for starters? Frankly you can’t play David Silva anywhere else - it would be a crime against football to move him out wide again. Not only does it prevent the variation in his play, it hinders Kolarov’s ability to effectively overlap - his link-up play with Sterling is quickly becoming a trait of this City side. 

The Bundesliga watching hipsters have made it clear that de Bruyne cannot play wide. I agree, but for slightly different reasons. Moving de Bruyne wide would remove half of the pace from the side - it shouldn’t even be considered as an option. Navas and Sterling's delivery may be somewhat inconsistent, but their unpredictability is what scares defenders. 

Maybe this is all part of the bigger Pellegrini picture - bring in Otamendi and de Bruyne as insurance, or even for the future. Both Silva and Kompany turn 30 next year, so could it be a transitional move? Unlikely - Pellegrini will probably leave City before Silva and Kompany. 

Whatever the reasoning, the decision to bring in de Bruyne is overkill - in a area that doesn’t need strengthening. With the system and style of play being implemented, an additional pair of pacy wingers would be ideal - Pedro supposedly turned down City’s advances, so they have pursued this idea. Stoke City's Shaqiri would have been shrewd at £12 million. 

Mane, Mirallas, Felipe Anderson, Lucas, Lavezzi - from the ridiculous to the sublime, there are various other avenues City could have gone down before stumping up the cash for a player they don’t need. Not to do Wilfried Bony a disservice, but another striker would also have been beneficial to the squad.

It is a selection headache that Pellegrini will have pre-empted - which makes the move all the more puzzling. Then again, who is to say there won’t be more business after this - it is City after all. 

Simplifying everything for a second, City are about to add more goals and assists to a squad that has scored eight in three. That can’t be a bad thing, can it?

Friday, 7 August 2015

TFB - The League One Preview

The first in a series of League One orientated articles and podcasts by TFB, the League One preview offers a comprehensive team-by-team analysis of League One.

Team: Barnsley 

Last Season: 11th

Manager: Lee Johnson 

Transfers In: Marc Roberts (Halifax Town, free), Marley Watkins (Inverness Caledonian Thistle, free), Alfie Mawson (Brentford, free), Ben Pearson (Manchester United, loan), Joe Rothwell (Manchester United, loan), Dan Crowley (Arsenal, loan), Nick Townsend (Birmingham City, loan) Conor Wilkinson (Bolton Wanderers, loan), Ryan Williams (Fulham, undisclosed).

Transfers Out: Luke Berry (Cambridge United, undisclosed), Milan Lalkovic (Walsall, free) Dale Jennings (Milton Keynes Dons, free), Martin Crainie (Huddersfield Town, free), Kane Hemmings (Dundee, free), Rhys Oates (Hartlepool United, free), Ross Turnbull (Leeds United, free), Darren McKnight (Shrewsbury, free).

Released: Nana Boakye-Yiadom, Leroy Lita, Jean-Yves M’Voto, James Bailey.


Following in his father’s footsteps, Lee Johnson has all the ‘cheeky-chappy’ mannerisms of Johnson senior, and it looks like he has similar managerial capabilities - in what admittedly is a fleeting career. Steering a Barnsley side as inexperienced as himself away from the relegation zone last season was undoubtedly impressive. 

The oldest member of the squad is 26-year-old centre half and skipper Lewin Nyatanga, highlighting the embryonic feel to the squad. That being said, if they’re good enough they’re old enough and in Arsenal loanee Danny Crowley, they certainly have a player that is more than good enough for this level. 

A diminutive ball-playing midfielder, Crowley is something of a coup for Barnsley, having rejected approaches form nine other clubs before signing for the Tykes - an indication of how Johnson likes his teams to play. Here is Crowley single handedly destroying Peterborough in the Youth Cup:

"Alright guv"
Journeyman Jonathan Forte was due to sign from Johnson’s former club Oldham, but the Barbadian failed his medical, whilst bids for Rochdale forward Ian Henderson have been knocked back. The acquisition of additional forwards has evidently been something of a stumbling-block, with Johnson reluctant to rely on injury prone - yet talented - striker Sam Winnall. 

If the final pieces of the puzzle can be obtained, then Oakwell could well be hosting Play-Off football come May time. 

Fan low-down: 

It's been a summer of big changes down at Oakwell. After an ultimately disappointing 2014/2015 season there was a mass clear out of the big earners and big flops. The likes of Leroy Lita and James Bailey have gladly left, players with reputations at higher levels who had been on the whole a disappointment in the end. 

Luke Berry back to Cambridge for a fee, nice bloke but failed to step up a couple of leagues from the Conference and Martin Cranie off the wage bill, probably our highest earner last season, along with Ross Turnbull who has gone to Leeds. A welcome departure considering Adam Davies performed better in the games he played in goal and will be on at least half the money Turnbull was on.

Lewin Nyatanga has signed a new contract off the back of an impressive season and amazingly at 26 will be our senior player this season. In place of the aforementioned departures we seem to have put emphasis on youth, with Ben Pearson and Joe Rothwell coming on loan from Manchester United and highly though of Dan Crowley from Arsenal. 

All great business until January at least, when they'll no doubt be snapped up on loan by bigger clubs if they have a successful first few months with us. On a more positive note we've brought in much sought after players such as Alfie Mawson and Marc Roberts from the lower leagues along with Ryan Williams and Marley Watkins from Fulham and Inverness respectively to boost our attacking options. On top of this we have Conor Wilkinson on loan from Bolton who at 6 foot 3 should be the perfect type of player to partner Sam Winnall up front. 

The rest of the squad will largely be made up of youth graduates including the likes of James Bree who turned down the opportunity to play for Manchester United's youth side just last season and Mason Holgate and Paul Digby who also spent a week or two on trial at Old Trafford this summer. With Conor Hourihane and Josh Scowen coordinating the action from midfield we really do have plenty of reasons to be optimistic this season.

What I expect is a solid challenge for the playoffs.

Tactical insight: 

Lee Johnson will be deploying Barnsley in a flexible 4-2-3-1 formation to try and optimise ball possession. 

Hourihane and Scowen will sit in front of the back four, aiming to supply the advanced midfield three. 

Key to the system is the man selected to play the number ten role, for Barnsley that looks likely to be Danny Crowley. 

The Arsenal youngster should flourish in this role - being able to avoid the one-to-one physical battles, instead playing in between the lines and in turn causing League One defenders trouble. 

Verdict: Play-Off challengers.

Team: Blackpool

Last Season: 24th (Championship)

Manager: Neil McDonald 

Transfers In: Jarrett Rivers (Blyth Spartans, undisclosed), Colin Doyle (Birmingham City, free), Kyle Letheren (Dundee, free), Brad Potts (Carlisle United, undisclosed), Clark Robertson (Aberdeen, free), John Herron (Celtic, free), Mark Cullen (Luton Town, undisclosed), Lloyd Jones (Liverpool, loan), Emmerson Boyce (Wigan Athletic, free), Jack Redshaw (Morecambe, undisclosed), Jim McAlister (Dundee, free), Kwame Thomas (Derby County, loan).

Transfers Out: Tom Barkhuizen (Morecambe, free), David Perkins (Wigan Athletic, free), Peter Clarke (Bury, free), Nyron Nosworthy (Dagenham & Redbridge, free), Steven Davies (Bradford City, free), Jacob Mellis (Bury, free), Gary MacKenzie (Doncaster Rovers, free), Tony McMahon (Bradford City, free), Jamie O'Hara (Fulham, free), Bobby Grant (Fleetwood Town, free), Dom Telford (Stoke City, TBC), Mark Waddington (Stoke City, TBC), Tomasz Cywka (Wisla Krakow, free), Darren O'Dea (Mumbai City FC, free), Elliott Parish (Colchester United, free).

Released: Andre Blackman, Nathan Delfouneso, Joel Dielna, Jeffrey Rentmeister, Saer Sene, Francois Zoko.


Blackpool FC - the laughing stock of English football. The high profile disputes between the Oyston family and the fans have been a consistent source of drama for longer than anyone cares to remember. 

When fans are invading the pitch and getting league games abandoned, you know things have gone catastrophically wrong at Bloomfield Road - so much so that a fan has produced an alternative shirt as part of a boycott for the new season. 

With all the off-field drama, it’s easy to forget that Blackpool do actually play football, and have a new manager. Their appointment of Big Sam’s right hand man - Neil McDonald - is an intriguing move, far more original than that of the tried, tested and failed Lee Clark. 

The arrival of League Two trio Jack Redshaw, Brad Potts and Mark Cullen are calculated gambles on players that should be able to adjust to the League above. Redshaw especially, is a player that has gone under the radar for far too long. 

Jarrett Rivers winning goal in the FA Cup against Hartlepool was one of the stories of last season: However, Blackpool may have bought a little too much into the fairytale, as the transition from non-league might be too much for the former Blyth Spartans man. 
"I bloody love Kevin Nolan"

Overall McDonald has built a nice little squad which should have enough to stave off another relegation - however of late, nothing has been as simplistic as that at the one time Premier League outfit, expect more turbulence this season. 

Tactical Insight: 

Neil McDonald was an integral part of Sam Allardyce's back room staff for a number of years. Need we say any more?

Verdict: Relegation battlers.

Team: Bradford City 

Last Season: 7th

Manager: Phil Parkinson 

Transfers In: Steven Davies (Blackpool, free), Josh Morris (Blackburn Rovers, free), Tony McMahon (Blackpool, free), Mark Marshall (Port Vale, free), Luke James (Peterborough, loan), Nathan Clarke (Leyton Orient, free) Paul Anderson (Ipswich Town, free).

Transfers Out: Jason Kennedy (Carlisle United, free), Matthew Dolan (Yeovil Town, free), Oliver McBurnie (Swansea City, undisclosed), Andy Halliday (Rangers, free), Andrew Davies (Ross County, free).

Released: Matt Urwin, Aaron McLean.


I tell you what, aren't Bradford a real joy to watch. The way they move the ball is something to behold, a truly beautiful style of football. The pitch as well, the best in the country surely. 

Each sentiment more sarcastic than the last, but will Bradford fans care? Not at all. Phil Parkinson’s side are the antithesis of Barcelona, but are rightly one of the favourites for automatic promotion this season. 

They’ve recruited well by adding to a squad containing solid League One performers. The capture of Paul Anderson following his release from Ipswich Town is easily one of the better signings of the League One transfer window thus far. Josh Morris is another shrewd signing having impressed on loan at Fleetwood Town in recent seasons.

They're very reminiscent of the Leyton Orient side that reached the Play-Off final in the 2013/2014 season. A solid squad of players that have the required balance of physicality and creativity needed to consistently perform at this level. 

Take that basis and place it in a strongly structured system that is firmly implemented by an astute manager and you really shouldn’t be finishing any lower than 6th place.

Tactical Insight: 

As we alluded to earlier, a long-ball approach will be implemented by Phil Parkinson. 

The classic companion of the long-ball philosophy, is the quintessentially English formation 4-4-2 - most successfully used by Mike Bassett in his spell as England manager. The system has been having something of a renaissance in recent years. 

Don't be surprised to see Bradford switch between that and a diamond formation, with Gary Liddle playing the role of the midfield destroyer - allowing the more technically gifted Billy knott to pick up the pieces from big Jim Hanson's knock downs. 

Verdict: Automatic promotion chasers. 

Team: Burton Albion 

Last Season: 1st (League Two)

Manager: Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink

Transfers In: Callum Reilly (Birmingham City, free), Calum Butcher (Dundee United, free), Darius Charles (Stevenage, free), Timmy Thiele (Borussia Dortmund II, free), Tom Naylor (Derby County, free), Mark Duffy (Birmingham City, loan), Tom Naylor (Derby County, free), Remi Matthews (Norwich City, loan), Anthony O'Connor (Plymouth Argyle, free), Zeli Ismail (Wolves, loan), Jerome Binnom-Williams (Crystal Palace, loan).

Transfers Out: Adam McGurk (Portsmouth, free), Ian Sharps (Chester, free), Jimmy Phillips (Gateshead, free).

Released: Stefan Maletic, Mickael Antoine-Curier, Joe Doyle, Lee Bell.


Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink is one of the brightest managers in the English game right now. It is refreshing to see a man of his standing, managing in the lower leagues and not relying on short cuts to get him to the top:

Having taken over from the equally talented Gary Rowett, Jimmy’s arrival was the catalyst that saw a gifted group of Burton players lift the League Two title. 

They've lost Adam McGurk, who has opted to remain a League Two player with Portsmouth - increasing his bank balance at the same time. 

Replacements come in the form of Mark Duffy - borrowed from Birmingham and Gary Rowett for the season - and Wolves winger Zeli Ismail who has appeared at this level before, most notably with Notts County in the first part of last season.

With the gap between League One and Two forever narrowing, the Brewers should comfortably finish mid-table. That is if course based on a full season with Jimmy at the helm, it wouldn't come as a surprise if a Championship club come calling at some point. 

Tactical Insight: 

Yes they were a League Two side last season, but Burton still played a nice passing style of football - as you would expect, seeing as their manager spent the majority of his career playing for the likes of Chelsea, Atletico Madrid and Holland. 

Belfast born Robbie Weir will keep things ticking over in midfield - a very underrated member of the squad. The Dutch wizard - Abdenasser El Khayati - will bring his own brand of creativity. 

This coupled with Lucas Akins pace and power make for an intimidating forward line. The experienced Aussie Shane Cansdell-Sheriff is an assured and calm head, vital to any back line. 

Verdict: Mid-table stragglers.

Team: Bury 

Last Season: 3rd (League Two)

Manager: David Flitcroft 

Transfers In: Peter Clarke (Blackpool, free), Leon Clarke (Wolverhampton Wanderers, free), Tom Pope (Port Vale, free, Jacob Mellis (Blackpool, free), Danny Pugh (Coventry City, free), Christian Walton (Brighton & Hove Albion, loan).

Transfers Out: Nicky Adams (Northampton Town, free), Jimmy McNulty (Rochdale, free), Joe Thompson (Carlisle United, free).

Released: Pablo Mills, Chris Sedgwick (retired).


Big spending Bury, yes you heard correctly, that was the combination of the term ‘big spending’ and the football club Bury. Granted not in terms of transfer fees paid, but their wage budget would have them sitting in the top third of the division. 

The marquee signing was former Wolves and Coventry City striker Leon Clarke - dictionary definable as a ‘League One standard player’. 
Leon Clarke striking a familiar pose

Some of David Flitcroft’s signings are slightly suspect however. Tom Pope has been superb over the last three seasons for Port Vale, but following a knee injury - which required surgery - he hasn't quite been the same. Jacob Mellis - once of Chelsea - has a chequered past and failed to make an impact at Blackpool last season. Whilst Danny Pugh - although only a squad player - doesn't have the best of injury records. 

Tom Soares and Danny Mayor have the necessary quality to be key players at this level, as does the aforementioned Clarke - that is of course assuming he doesn't jump ship to a struggling MK Dons side in January. Like Burton, the Shakers should be strong enough to avoid a relegation battle, perhaps finding themselves in the upper echelons of mid-table. 

Tactical Insight:

A former assistant to Rochdale's Keith Hill, David Flitcroft comes from the same school of thought. 

A back four that contains two 'head-everything' centre halves and a pair of fullbacks that like to get forward at every attempt. 

The trickery of former Sheffield Wednesday man Danny Mayor was influential last season and messieurs Pope and Clarke will be looking to him to create chances for them. 

Verdict: Mid-table stragglers.

Team: Chesterfield 

Last Season: 6th 

Manager: Dean Saunders 

Transfers In: Sylvan Ebanks-Blake (Preston North End, free), Alex Cairns (Leeds United, free). 

Transfers Out: Jimmy Ryan (Fleetwood Town, free), Gary Roberts (Portsmouth, undisclosed), Sam Clucas (Hull City, undisclosed), Tendayi Darikwa (Burnley, undisclosed).

Released: Charlie Dawes, Jack Broadhead.


Influential manager Paul Cook and first team quartet Jimmy Ryan, Gary Roberts, Sam Clucas and Tendayi Darikwa have departed the Proact this summer. 

Arriving as Cook’s replacement, the man who wrote the book on relegation - Dean Saunders, bringing with him the former Premier League player turned slightly overweight/injury prone Sylvan Ebanks-Blake. Chesterfield fans aren't optimistic and neither are we. 
You've been relegated again Dean
"Get in there"

The fact that they can still rely on an experienced back four - which includes Ian Evatt, who has recovered from his on-pitch scrap with the whole of Preston after the Play-Off semi-final - and a solid keeper in Tommy Lee, gives them more of chance of avoiding the drop.

Doncaster, Wolves and Crawley Town have not benefitted from Saunders' guidance, here’s hoping it’s fourth time lucky for Dean - no one wants to see the man who did this: reduced to tears.

Tactical Insight:

The Dean Saunders way of playing football:

Centre half receives ball.

Centre half - without looking - duly smashes the ball in the direction of the centre forward

Repeat for 90 minutes. 

Good luck Sylvan.

Verdict: Relegation battlers.

Team: Colchester United 

Last Season: 19th

Manager: Tony Humes

Transfers In: Richard Brindley (Rotherham United, free), Kieran Bailey (West Ham United, free), Matthew Briggs (Millwall, free), George Elokobi (Oldham Athletic, free), Joe Edwards (Yeovil Town, free), Elliot Parish (Blackpool, free).

Transfers Out: Sean Clohessy (Leyton Orient, free), Jabo Ibehre (Carlisle United, free), Magnus Okuonghae (Luton Town, free), David Fox (Crewe Alexandra, free), Kevin Lokko (Welling United, free).

Released: Sanchez Watt.


At one stage last season, Colchester seemed to have all but accepted their relegation to League Two. Somehow they managed to bounce back from a crushing 6-0 defeat by Chesterfield  - amongst other poor results - to beat Play-Off winners Preston on the last day and stay up. 

Tony Humes ‘masterminded’ their great escape and is looking to succeed at a club that hasn’t had much to shout about in recent years.  

They’ve tightened up at the back, securing the return of fans favourite George Elokobi - a character on and off the field:

Big George is joined by the permanent signings of Richard Brindley and Matthew Briggs - who played vital roles in maintaining the Essex club’s League One status last season. 

Talented youngsters Alex Gilbey and George Moncur are expected to have another positive season of progression. Their lack of a cutting edge will restrict any top half ambitions, but safety should be a formality. 

Tactical Insight: 

The focal point of Colchester's team will be captain and striker Chris Porter. 

Used for years as an unorthodox target man - mainly coming off the bench - he isn't known for his goalscoring threat. He will be the foil for wide men Drey Wright and Gavin Massey in a 4-3-3 system.

Centre half Joe Edwards looks set to be used as a defensive midfielder - operating just behind the more forward thinking minds of Alex Gilbey and George Moncur. 

Verdict: Mid-table stragglers.

Team: Coventry City 

Last Season: 17th

Manager: Tony Mowbray

Transfers In: Chris Stokes (Forest Green Rovers, free), Sam Ricketts (Wolves, free), Romain Vincelot (Leyton Orient, undisclosed), Ruben Lameiras (Atvidabergs FF, free) Adam Armstrong (Newcastle United, loan), Bryn Morris (Middlesbrough, loan).

Transfers Out: Blair Turgott (Leyton Orient, free), Adam Barton (Portsmouth, free) Danny Pugh (Bury FC, free), Frank Nouble (Tianjin Songjiang). 

Released: Andy Webster, Shaun Miller, Simeon Jackson, Al Bangura. 


With the delusional days of Steven Pressley long gone, Coventry will be hoping for an improvement on last season’s nerve jangling final day survival act. In Tony Mowbray they have one of the best managers in the division. 

A calm and calculated thinker, Mowbray quickly identified and removed the dead wood from the squad. He has spent the majority of pre-season strengthening where necessary and implementing his style on the team. 

A mixture of experience and youth has been brought in - Romain Vincelot and Sam Ricketts know what it takes to perform consistently in winning sides. Whereas the likes of Armstrong, Lameiras and Morris bring a mixture of youthful exuberance and unpredictability. 

Additional strength up top is required as Mowbray acknowledges, if another couple of forwards can be acquired then there is no reason why a Play-Off challenge couldn't be mounted. Having a fit Reda Johnson available week in, week out is also crucial to any Play-Off ambitions. 

Fan Low-down (Guest written by a stereotypical Coventry City fan): 

We need strikers, lots and lots of strikers. Even though Mowbray has stated he is on the look out of strikers, I still think it is worth saying again - we need strikers. 

In reality, we are doomed, I mean, we haven't even won a game in pre-season, therefore we are certainties to be relegated. 

In terms of signings, why have we signed another central midfielder on loan? - are you not listening Tony? WE NEED STRIKERS!

Romain Vincelot was relegated with Orient last season, another indication that we will be in League Two next year. 

Despite all the negativity, I am looking forward to joining my pals in Singers Corner on Saturday - the location of the best atmosphere in the League. 

Oh yeah and SISU out, and Wasps out, and the Council out, and Oggy out, but McSheffery in, and if Mowbray fails - which he will - let's bring back the glory days, by hiring Noel Whelan and Darren Huckerby. My managerial dream team. 

Tactical Insight:

Tony Mowbray likes his sides to play entertaining football, either in a 4-2-3-1 system or a flexible 4-4-2. 

Like Danny Crowley at Barnsley, the number ten in this team will be crucial. 

This is likely to be wonder boy James Maddison. Premier League clubs have been sniffing around, but the Coventry born attacker should be staying at the Ricoh for the foreseeable future.

He is expected to pull the strings in terms of attack, and possesses all the natural technical ability to be a hit this season.  

Verdict: Play-Off challengers. 

Team: Crewe Alexandra

Last Season: 20th

Manager: Steve Davis

Transfers In: Billy Bingham (Dagenham & Redbridge, free), David Fox (Colchester United, free), David Nugent (Ipswich Town, free), Dave Richards (Bristol City, free), Ben Nugent (Cardiff, free).

Transfers Out: Vadaine Oliver (York City, free), Matt Tootle (Shrewsbury Town, free), Scott Shearer (Mansfield Town, free), Anthony Grant (Port Vale, free), Anthony Stewart (Wycombe Wanderers, free), Billy Walters (Cheltenham Town, free).

Released: Liam Nolan.


Steve ‘dull’ Davis was what a section of the Crewe support dubbed one of the longest serving managers in the league last year. That ‘dullness’ just about kept them up on the last day of the season. 

The loss of midfield enforcer Anthony Grant to local rivals Port Vale was a blow, but he has been replaced by former Norwich and Colchester player David Fox. Powerful centre half Ben Nugent has also arrived at Gresty Road and will be looking to improve on, what at one stage, was a promising career. 
"Camp hand, thumbs up - got that lads"

The dullness that surrounds Crewe as a football club has found its way into this overview, they’ll be fighting relegation once again this season. 

Fan Low-down: 

This year could easily be billed as Davis' last stand and the day of reckoning for our centre back pairing of the last couple of the years. Steve Davis, considered by many to be very lucky to be in a job after two dreadful seasons and having fluked survival last season due to a late goal 200 miles away in Kent relegating Notts County, is facing what could be his last few games as manager. 

After a history of poor starts Davis must hope for a complete change else a certain James Collins might be asked to relieve Davis of his duties and manage himself. The way I see it, I believe the only way we'll be relegated is if the board spinelessly allow Davis a full season and we show no signs of improvement. I believe James Collins has asserted his influence within this squad and the playing style has improved since his promotion to the backroom frontline. 

The club have completely transformed the midfield and time will tell if the new recruits, David Fox, Billy Bingham and Adam King are good enough or not. The forward line looks very good for this level of football but the incompetent defence and the lack of a recognised left back at the time of writing could shave a chunk off the capable Ben Garratt's future transfer value.

I believe we will improve from our last two years as I think Davis will be under intense pressure if he loses nine of his first eleven games this time round, like he did last season. If he repeats that again I could see Collins guiding us to safety with fresh ideas and a desire to immediately rectify the defence, which is the one area I see dragging us into a relegation battle this season as I believe we've scored an own goal making Harry Davis our most experienced centre half.

Anywhere between 13th-24th, going for 18th myself! There might not be any weaker defences than ours at this level but we haven't got the worst overall squad in the league thankfully.

Tactical Insight: 

Historically speaking Crewe are known to produce a fair few technically gifted footballers and this usually translates its way through into their style of play. 

David Fox fits in to this bracket - a graduate of Manchester United. He will be anchoring the midfield as he did for Colchester United last season.

Ryan Colclough was close to leaving the club this summer - trialling with Wolves - but he has just signed a two year deal. Having returned from a lengthy lay-off, he will be the creative spark in an otherwise uninspiring front three. 

Verdict: Relegation battlers.

Team: Doncaster Rovers 

Last Season: 13th

Manager: Paul Dickov

Team: Doncaster

Transfers In: Thorsten Stuckmann (Preston North End, free), Andy Williams (Swindon Town, free), Gary Mackenzie (Blackpool, free), Richard Chaplow (Ipswich Town, free), Aaron Taylor Sinclair (Wigan Athletic, free), Dany N'Guessan (AEL, free).

Transfers Out: Kyle Bennett (Portsmouth, free).

Released: Jamie McCombe, Theo Robinson, Abdul Razak, Reece Wabara, Dean Furman, Stephen Bywater, Lewis Ferguson, Alex Peterson, Aron Gordon, Alexander Head, Jack McClaren.


Mid-table mediocrity was a fair reflection of last season at the Keepmoat. Paul Dickov will fancy his chances of taking Rovers into the Play-Off picture this season, following some shrewd dealings in the transfer window. 

Andy Williams was a game away from the Championship last year at Swindon and will be looking to go one better at Donny having signed on a free:

Gary Mackenzie’s career has stalled of late, having previously performed well at MK Dons in League One - he should be a good acquisition if he can recapture his MK form. Richard Chaplow could arguably have played another season of Championship football, but has opted to drop a level. Dany N’Guessan somehow remains in League One. 

Dickov has received a fair amount of criticism during his time, but this could be the year he proves the doubters wrong. An attempt on the Play-Offs is on the cards.

Fan Low-down: 

For the first time in two years we have had a summer free takeover fiasco which has allowed P.Diddles to go about his recruitment early. The signings he has made are of a better quality than those released and overall we have a much stronger squad. 

We are probably two to three players light but the window isn't shut and we can always use the loan market so no panic there. Areas of concern are no specialist right back and a lack of real pace but the biggest of all is Diddles himself, can he actually coach, we will find out soon enough. 

Positives are that we are bigger and stronger plus our midfield has guile, movement and plenty of ability to set up our strike force. If we have some much overdue luck with injuries a top six place beckons as stated we are a few players shy of competing for the top two. My prediction, far better at home, just as good away as last season, 5th place.

Tactical Insight:

4-4-2 combined with a tendency to try and pass the ball, Paul Dickov will be relying on a couple of Doncaster legends to set the tone.

James Coppinger and Richie Wellens were at Donny during the Sean O'Driscoll years. 

Worryingly they represent a distinct lack of pace in the team. Harry Forrester is by no means slow and Nathan Tyson was once a pacy striker - although he is the wrong side of 30.

On his day Andy Butler is one of the best centre halves in the League. 

Verdict: Play-Off challengers. 

Team: Fleetwood Town

Last Season: 10th

Manager: Graham Alexander 

Transfers in: Declan McManus (Aberdeen, free), Amari’i Bell (Birmingham City, free), Eddie Dsane (Preston North End, free), Vamara Sanogo (unattached, free), Jimmy Ryan (Chesterfield, free), Eggert Jonsson (FC Vestsjaelland, free), Lyle Della-Verde (Fulham, free), Bobby Grant (Blackpool, free).

Transfers Out: Mark Roberts (Cambridge United, free), Tom Davies (Accrington Stanley, free), Steven Schumacher (Stevenage, free), Matty Hughes (AFC Fylde), Jeff Hughes (Cambridge United, free), Liam Hogan (Tranmere Rovers, free), Stewart Murdoch (Ross County, free), Mason Springthorpe (AFC Telford United, free).

Released: Stephen Crainey, Joe Burgess, Josh Green, Richard Wright, Andre Street, Adam Nditi.


Fleetwood will be hoping that Graham Alexander is able to build on the successful first season in League One they had last term. Alexander has pulled off some good transfer dealings thus far, with the real coup being the signing of Jimmy Ryan on a free transfer from Chesterfield. 

Ryan starred as Chesterfield made the Play-Offs last term and will be key if Fleetwood are to push for a similar goal this season. Eggert Jonsson and Bobby Grant are two solid signings, whilst convincing David Ball to sign a two year deal was equally as crucial.

Captain Mark Roberts and Jeff Hughes both left for Cambridge United, whilst Steven Schumacher moved to Stevenage. Not huge losses as all three were past their best. In terms of positioning, Fleetwood should replicate their performance last season. 

A solid if uninspiring season, which in the end leads to mid-table mediocrity whilst flirting with the play-off positions.

Tactical Insight: 

Another side that will try to play a decent brand of passing football this season.  

This is epitomised by Jimmy Ryan, who performed fantastically last season in Paul Cook's Chesterfield side. 

Ryan will pull the strings, allowing Icelandic defensive midfielder Eggert Jonsson to break up play - although Wolves fans aren't exactly complementary about his ability.

Antoni Sarcevic is a technically gifted player, but he will be looking for a stark improvement on his debut League One season of last year.  

Verdict: Mid-table stragglers.

Team: Gillingham

Last Season: 12th

Manager: Justin Edinburgh

Transfers In: Ryan Jackson (Newport County, free), Elliott List (Crystal Palace, free), Emmanuel Osadebe (Tottenham Hotspur, free), Ben Williamson (Port Vale, free), Bradley Garmston (West Bromwich Albion, free), Max Ehmer (Queens Park Rangers, free), Rory Donnelly (Swansea City, free), Jordan Houghton (Chelsea, loan), Adedeji Oshilaga (Cardiff City, free).

Transfers Out: Leon Legge (Cambridge United, free), Gavin Hoyte (Barnet, free), Joe Martin (Millwall, free), Mahlon Romeo (Millwall, free).

Released: Danny Galbraith.


Exciting times lie ahead this season for Gillingham. A talented young manager at the helm who has put together a very strong and balanced squad, should see the Gills sustain a play-off push.

Justin Edinburgh has spent the summer bringing in many youthful, talented players, whilst getting rid of some of the dead wood like Leon Legge, Gavin Hoyte and Joe Martin. Being able to bring back Max Ehmer on a permanent deal is a excellent move from Gillingham. 

They’ve also managed to bring in a partner for Ehmer to replace the departed Legge. Adedeji Oshilaga has come in from Cardiff after impressing for AFC Wimbledon last season and he, along with Ehmer and Gills player of the year John Egan will form one of the strongest defences in league one.

The searingly quick Bradley Garmston is another good buy and an excellent replacement from Joe Martin. Garmston has all the traits of a top wing-back with his aforementioned pace coupled with his powerful build, which will see him cause many a right back problems. 

Edinburgh has also managed to add some fire power with the signings of Rory Donnelly and to a much lesser extent Ben Williamson. This added to the guaranteed goals coming from Cody McDonald, Gills look to have strength in defence and attack. 

The success of the attack will hinge on the performances of talented midfielder Bradley Dack, who was superb last season for the Gills and will hope to carry on this form into the new season. His creativity will be key to the performances of McDonald, Norris and Donnelly.

Gillingham have a good season ahead and are currently in a position to make a realistic challenge for the play-Offs. 

Tactical Insight: 

Justin Edinburgh is one of a number of managers trying to replicate Bristol City's 3-5-2 system that saw them promoted as champions last year.

The man who introduced the system to the English game - Jim Smith - was very specific about how it should be played:

“I always played it as an attacking system, but they’d often end up with a five at the back, which I’ve never liked, because when you get the ball, there’s no-one to pass to.”

Here's hoping for several attacking 3-5-2 systems this season.

Verdict: Play-Off challengers.

Team: Millwall

Last season: 22nd (Championship)

Manager: Neil Harris

Transfers In: In: Joe Martin (Gillingham, free), Jordan Archer (Tottenham Hotspur, free), Tony Craig (Brentford, free), Mahlon Romeo (Gillingham, free), Steve Morison (Leeds United).

Transfers Out: Matthew Briggs (Colchester United, free), Richard Chaplow (Doncaster Rovers, free), Martyn Woolford (Sheffield United, free).

Released: Nicky Bailey, Dylan Casey,, Alan Dunne, Carlos Edwards, Sofiane El-Bekri, Ricardo Fuller, Denzel Gerrar, Jake Goodman, Magaye Gueye, Justin Hoyte, Stefan Maierhofer, Angel Martinez, Danny Shittu, Josh Siafa, Callum Webb.


It’s been a summer of transition for Neil Harris’ Millwall side. He has started his first managerial role by removing the extensive surplus from the Lions’ squad. Out have gone Ricardo Fuller, Richard Chaplow, Justin Hoyte et al. 

However, despite 18 players departing The Den this summer, only four have come in, which shows a change of emphasis to relying on the players that their youth system has produced. 

Players like Fred Onyedinma and John Marquis who both enjoyed successful loans with Wycombe and Gillingham respectively last year, will be key members of the squad this year. 

Other products of the youth academy that will look to have breakthrough seasons this year are Aiden O’Brien and Sid Nelson, who both made appearances towards the tail end of last season.

Proper Wall
Out of the four signings that the Lions have made, the stand out is Tony Craig who has returned after leaving in 2012 to join Brentford. The 30-year-old will look to make a solid partnership with Mark Beevers, Sid Nelson or Byron Webster. 

Craig has been made captain by Harris and he’ll be pivotal in helping Millwall challenge for an immediate return to the championship - having done so before under Kenny Jackett, which is documented in one of best football books ever written:

Tactical insight:

With this being Harris’ first ever senior management job, it’s hard to predict how he will tactically set up his side.

Having played for a long time under Kenny Jackett, I see him going for a similar setup of 4-4-2 with a pair of solid central midfielders in Abdou and Powell with nippy wingers out wide.

These could be Cowan-Hall, Upson or Onyedinma. The majority of the creativity will come from the wings supplying balls for Gregory, Marquis and Aiden O’Brien.

Verdict: Play-Off challengers.

Team: Oldham Athletic

Last season: 15th

Manager: Darren Kelly

Transfers In: Lee Croft (St Johnstone, free), George Green (Everton, free), Jake Cassidy (Wolverhampton Wanderers, free), David Cornell (Swansea City, free), David Dunn (Blackburn Rovers, free).

Transfers Out: George Elokobi (Colchester United, free), Amari Morgan-Smith (Cheltenham Town, free), David Mellor (Barrow, free).

Released: James Dayton.


A season of struggle could be ahead for Oldham, who have tasked Darren Kelly with the difficult job of replacing Lee Johnson, following the latter’s move to Barnsley. Kelly’s signings thus far have been fairly uninspiring, signing an ageing David Dunn and Jake Cassidy - who is still living off a hot streak from two years ago at Tranmere. 

Who is this guy again?

A potential coup could be the signing of George Green after he was released by Everton. Green who was once touted for big things after being purchased from Bradford by Everton for an initial £300k at the age of 17. If Kelly can manage to get Green playing to his full potential, he could prove to be a real asset at this level.

The main reason Oldham should struggle this year is due to the inexperience of their new manager. This will be Kelly’s first senior management job and his appointment was questioned by many Latics’ fans. This added to fairly poor transfer dealings mean that Oldham will be right in the relegation scrap this year.

Fan low-down: 

“Typical Oldham” rears it’s ugly head once again. The phrase is almost as regular as “WABLO” - Will Always Be League One - when it comes to our mob.

When the 2014/2015 season ended, the fans, collectively, had good reason to be optimistic for the immediate future. Most of our key players were tied down to two year contracts and a brand spanking, shiny new stand was to be ready for the new season. 

The only question that remained was: “Who’ll be our new manager?”.

We believed our CEO would pull up trees for a good name given the hype we had over the new stand being ready and a “new dawn” to begin. Neil Redfearn? Iain Dowie? Both of them worthy candidates for different reasons, both would have been interested.

But no, Corney decides to pick some unknown Irish failed-footballer-turned-under 9’s coach. No managerial experience whatsoever, previous 'banter' with IRA supporters on Twitter – a general nobody.

“Lee Johnson”, you say. You have a point, I suppose, but he was still a lot more known to those supporters than this Irish chump, but I wasn't too happy with that appointment either at the time.

So Kelly comes in, gives the usual spiel in his press conference – “I want to play fast attacking football, I believe I know what it takes to get out of this division, I’ll be looking to promote youth at any opportunity” blah blah blah.

So here we are, a day from the season opener, and he’s on the verge of selling Poleon - the fastest player we have - and tried getting rid of Forte - last year’s top scorer. But, hey, he wants to play fast attacking football.

Tactical insight:

The hardest team to predict a tactical setup this year for is Oldham, with Darren Kelly heading into his first senior management job.

They could go for a 4-1-4-1/4-5-1 formation with Kelly anchoring the midfield and breaking up play. A lot will go through the pacey Jonathan Forte down the left side who should be able to provide the side with plenty of goals and assists.

Middlesbrough’s Jonathan Burn and James Wilson will be the starting partnership at the heart of defence on Saturday.

Verdict: Relegation battlers.

Team: Peterborough United

Last season: 9th

Manager: Dave Robertson

Transfers In: Jack Collison (Ipswich Town, free), Joe Gormley (Cliftonville, undisclosed), Souleymane Coulibaly (Bari, free), Kieran Sadler (St Mirren, free), Lee Angol (Luton Town, undisclosed), Andrew Fox (free agent).

Transfers Out: Bobby Olejnik (Exeter City, free), Christian Burgess (Portsmouth, undisclosed), Luke James (Bradford City, loan).

Released: Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, David Norris.


Another club that has a manager entering his first full season in charge is Peterborough. Dave Robertson is carrying on after taking over from Darren Ferguson in February of last year.

The Posh are heading into the season with a squad which is very similar to the one from the previous campaign. The only major departure has been Luke James moving on a season-long loan to Bradford, after he failed to make a similar impact to previous signings such as Britt Assombalonga and Dwight Gayle, following a £1million move from Hartlepool. 

Fairly quiet on the incomings as well, with three stand out moves. Joe Gormley from Cliftonville, who was signed following a very prolific spell in Ireland, could be another excellent piece of business if he can hit similar form in England. 

Beating Port Vale and Crewe to the signing of former Spurs youngster Souleymane Coulibaly is also a solid signing and is risk free with no transfer fee. 

A move that could prove to be one of the signings of the season is acquiring Jack Collison from Ipswich on a free. Collison is a player of real quality and really only finds himself in League One due to a persistent knee problem. If managed correctly - and remaining injury free - the Posh could have a star player this coming season.

The jury is still out on whether Robertson is the right man to lead Peterborough this season. After taking over, he started very well winning his first four games, but after that won just two of the remaining ten. With the signings made, I don’t see much changing for him or Peterborough.

Tactical insight:

Dave Robertson will set up Peterborough in a similar way to Millwall. Pacey wingers being the basis of the attack with a pair of ‘prolific’ - although you can’t really call Washington prolific - strikers up top.

A midfield pairing of Michael Bostwick, who will break up play and give the ball to Collison to distribute the ball. Jon Taylor and Marcus Maddison are two excellent wingers and the two forward players will not be short of service.

Robertson will have his side playing good passing football which is easy on the eye, much like Darren Ferguson did in his time at Posh.

Verdict: Mid-table stragglers

Team: Port Vale

Last season: 18th

Manager: Robert Page

Transfers In: Remie Streete (Newcastle United, free), Sam Kelly (Norwich City, free), Sam Foley (Yeovil Town, free), Anthony Grant (Crewe Alexandra, free), Ben Purkiss (Walsall, free), Uche Ikpeazu (Watford, loan), Ryan Innis (Crystal Palace, loan), AJ Leitch-Smith (Yeovil Town, free).

Transfers Out: Tom Pope (Bury, free), Ben Williamson (Gillingham, free), Chris Robertson (Ross County, free), Chris Lines (Bristol Rovers, undisclosed), Mark Marshall (Bradford City, free)
Released: Chris Robertson, Alex Nimely, Kaid Mohamed.


After a disappointing season last year, Vale fans will be hoping for an improvement in the upcoming season. Last summer saw Micky Adams make many poor acquisitions, such as Colin Daniel and Steve Jennings, which led to a poor start in the league with Adams resigning in September. 

Page was given the job at first as caretaker and then permanently. However, he did not improve Vale in the long term, only winning one game in their last eleven outings. A poor start this year could soon see another managerial change at Vale Park judging by comments from owner Norman Smurthwaite.

And this year looks to be going the same way. Uninspiring signings such as AJ Leitch-Smith, Sam Foley and Ben Purkiss, as well as losing Tom Pope and Mark Marshall to league rivals really is poor business by the Valiants. 

It’s left them with fairly poor options up front and more reliance on an ageing Michael Brown at the heart of midfield. Coupled with a poor manager in Rob Page, Vale could well be struggling this year.

Tactical insight:

An undefinable style of football is the best way to try and describe what Port Vale do under Rob Page.

A slow tempo of play stemmed from the likes of Carl Dickinson and Michael Brown holding down regular first team places last season. 

Ikpeazu will try and replace Tom Pope's physical influence on the team, with Louie Dodds likely to float just in behind the former Crewe man. 

A rigid 4-4-1-1 won't exactly have football fans flooding to Vale Park this season. 

Verdict: Relegation battlers

Team: Rochdale

Last season: 8th

Manager: Keith Hill

Transfers In: Donal McDermott (unattached, free), Jimmy McNulty (Bury, free), Lewis Alessandra (Plymouth Argyle, free).

Transfers Out: Stephen Dawson (Scunthorpe United, free), Bastien Hery (Carlisle United, free), Sean McGinty (Aldershot Town), Jack Muldoon (Lincoln City, free).

Released: Febian Brandy.


After an excellent first season, Rochdale fans will be hoping for more of the same this year. Limited action in the transfer market from Keith Hill, with Donal McDermott being brought in after a spell in non-league, along with experienced defender Jimmy McNulty and striker Lewis Alessandra. 

The only high profile departure was in the form of Stephen Dawson, who joined Scunthorpe on a free transfer. Dawson was a key player for Dale as they achieved their highest ever position last season. 

Fashion conscious Keith

The biggest transfer dealings have not actually happened yet, with rumours surrounding the future of Ian Henderson intensifying, after news of a bid from Barnsley. Keeping Henderson will be pivotal for Rochdale’s chances of achieving a play-off place this year.

The main thing going for Rochdale is the quality of their current manager. Hill is one of the top managers in the division, highlighted by the performance of his team last year - which was achieved on a fairly low budget, and it would not be a surprise to see a repeat performance. 

Tactical insight:

Keith Hill will have his team playing a quick attacking brand of football which gained him so much praise last season.

Having lost Stephen Dawson, 37 year old Brian Barry-Murphy is expected to play a similar role to what he did last year breaking up play and supplying balls to the wings and central midfielders.

The predominant goal threat is of course Ian Henderson but Peter Vincenti and Donal McDermott’s performances will be key to Henderson’s impact this year.

Verdict: Play-Off challengers

Team: Scunthorpe United

Last season: 16th

Manager: Mark Robins

Transfers In: Stephen Dawson (Rochdale, free), Jack King (Preston North End, free), Scott Wiseman (Preston North End, free), Isaac Assenso (Leeds United, free), Charlie Goode (Hendon, free), Scott Laird (Preston North End, free), Tom Hopper (Leicester City, free), Luke Williams (Middlesbrough, undisclosed), Jamie Ness (Stoke City, free), Darius Henderson (Leyton Orient, free).

Transfers Out: Sam Slocombe (Oxford United, free), Matt Sparrow (Lincoln City, free), Billy Kee (Accrington Stanley, free), Eddie Nolan (York City, free), Lyle Taylor (AFC Wimbledon, undisclosed), Taron Hare (York City, free).

Released: James Severn, Marcus Williams, Miguel Llera, Callum Howe, Jennison Myrie-Williams.


Scunthorpe are heading into the season on the back of an excellent summer of transfer dealings and a solid set of pre-season performances. Mark Robins has made a lot of shrewd signings this window, bringing in a combination of players with a wealth of experience at League One level and a few exciting young players. 

Scott Laird, Scott Wiseman and Jack King have all joined from Play-Off winners Preston, as well as midfield destroyer Stephen Dawson who has joined from Rochdale. They have also done some clever business in terms of departures, managing to get rid of Billy Kee, Eddie Nolan, Matt Sparrow and Lyle Taylor who are all League Two quality players at best. 

Cheeky Mark

In terms of their squad going in to the season, they look to have a very balanced side. Strong in each area with a variety of forward options such as Paddy Madden, Darius Henderson, Tom Hopper and Kevin Van Veen. They’ve also improved their defence tenfold by replacing Miguel Llera and Marcus Williams with Jack King and Scott Laird. 

Mark Robins has put together a squad which is well able to challenge for the Play-Offs. In him, they also have a man capable of embarking on such a challenge - as we’ve seen first hand, with the job he did at Coventry prior to leaving for Huddersfield.

Fan low-down: 

I think that this season we should be able to mount a serious play-off push. With the signings we've made, such as Scott Laird and Stephen Dawson, we have been able to strengthen quite significantly. 

Paddy Madden has also signed a new deal with us and judging by pre-season, it looks like Mark Robins is going to start him up front. This would be massive for us as he managed to get 17 goals from the wing last season, imagine how many he should get starting up front. I feel like we have a squad capable of reaching the Play-Offs this season.

Tactical insight:

Pre-season has seen Mark Robins change his setup to a 3-5-2 formation.

Scott Wiseman and Scott Laird playing in the wing back positions will provide a lot of the creative outlet along with creative midfielder Luke Williams. Neal Bishop and Stephen Dawson will be breaking up the play both playing the ‘midfield destroyer’ role.

Paddy Madden will play up top being partnered by either Tom Hopper or Darius Henderson. As we mentioned earlier the 3-5-2 formation can be hard to master, but if you have the correct players for the formation, like Bristol City had, then it can be very effective.

Verdict: Play-Off challengers

Team: Sheffield United

Last season: 5th

Manager: Nigel Adkins

Transfers In: Martyn Woolford (Millwall, free), Billy Sharp (Leeds United, undisclosed), Conor Sammon (Derby County, loan). 

Transfers Out: Michael Doyle (Portsmouth, free), Iain Turner (Tranmere Rovers, free), Sam Berry (Alfreton Town).

Released: Ben Davies, Jason Paling, Kyle Scarisbrick.


A lot is expected of Nigel Adkins’ Sheffield United this season. Having sacked the rather conservative Nigel Clough following their failure in the play-offs last season, The Blades set about finding a new manager. 

There would be few better choices than the man they finally got in Nigel Adkins. Previously promoted from League One three times (twice with Scunthorpe United and once with Southampton), Adkins’ record in this division is hard to beat.

His transfer dealings - though limited - have been astute. Signing two players that Adkins has previously worked with at Scunthorpe in the form of Billy Sharp and Martyn Woolford are very good signings at this level. 

United have been lacking a prolific striker during their extended stay in League One, previously relying on players like Chris Porter and Michael Higdon who haven’t cut it for a promotion chasing side. The signature of Sharp appears to have solved this issue. 

The signing of Conor Sammon is solid as a backup, but if you’re relying on him then it could become an issue as he’s certainly not the answer to their striker issues - as Derby County fans will attest to. 

It’s hard to look past United being right up there for automatic promotion and this should be the year they finally achieve it.  

Fan low-down: 

With arguably the best manager in the division many Blades fans are rightly to be confident of our chances at eventually getting out of this tinpot league - that last bit was a joke before I get hung. 

Before the transfer window started it was clear we needed a new centre-back, an issue which at the time of writing has been promised to be corrected but hasn't as of yet. So our defence remains a weak point of our squad. 

Neill Collins returns after a successful loan spell at Port Vale following his falling out with Clough and McFadzean returns from a reasonably successful spell at Burton, the former is currently first choice centre half with McEveley and the latter will start the season at left back due to an injury to Bob Harris. 

In midfield we now look stronger with Bahsam moving into central midfield and a much fitter Jose Baxter who avoided a lengthy ban. 

On the wings we still - for now - have Jamie Murphy who will be pushed by Martyn Woolford, whilst Jamal Campbell-Ryce and Ryan Flynn are out injured, it’s likely that Che Adams will start on the right wing, who everyone at the club has high hopes for - 50/1 league’s top scorer, get on it. 

Up front we have McNulty, Done, Higdon - who can hopefully show his quality under a good manager - Sammon and Sharp. 

With the other play-off teams weakened since last season, ourselves strengthened and no one else in this league strengthened enough to overtake our squad on paper - in my opinion - and certainly not when Adkins is brought into the equation we, in theory, only have the relegated teams to worry about. Blackpool are in free fall, Wigan have a better squad but an unknown manager and Millwall will probably fancy their chances as well but I feel we have enough to finish above them.

Tactical insight:

Nigel Adkins will look to stick to the tactic that has served him so well throughout his career.

A solid 4-4-2 formation with a drilled defence, a battling central midfielder paired with a creative midfielder and pace and trickery on the wings.

The performances of Che Adams and Jamie Murphy will be crucial to the Blades this year as Sharp and Sammon are both heavily reliant on the service they get, and aren't the sort of strikers to carve chances out for themselves.

Verdict: Automatic promotion chasers.

Team: Shrewsbury Town

Last season: 2nd (League Two)

Manager: Micky Mellon

Transfers In: Martin Woods (Ross County, free), Mat Sadler (Rotherham United, free), Abu Ogogo (Dagenham & Redbridge, free), Shaun Whalley (Luton Town, free), Darren McKnight (unattached, free), Matt Tootle (Crewe Alexandra, free), Junior Brown (Mansfield Town, free), Liam McAlinden (Wolves, loan).

Transfers Out: Aaron Wildig (Morecambe, free), Andrew Mangan (Tranmere Rovers, free).

Released: Andrew Robinson.


Shrewsbury go into the season with a lot of momentum behind them. Having led the Shrews to an instant return to league one, Micky Mellon has made a long list of additions to an already decent sized squad. 

The signings have been very hit and miss, with players like Junior Brown and Shaun Whalley - who hardly set the world alight in League Two - both joining the Shropshire club. 

However, the signings of Crewe and Dagenham and Redbridge captains Matt Tootle and Abu Ogogo, both on free transfers is good business by Mellon. Ogogo is a very versatile player, able to play at full back or central midfield and Matt Tootle is an improvement on Jermaine Grandison. 

James Collins has proved in the past for Swindon that he can score goals at this level and will be crucial for Shrewsbury this season. His personal performance should directly reflect on how far Shrewsbury can go this year. 

Another crucial factor will be whether they can keep hold of star defender Conor Goldson. Having already rejected a bid from Leeds, he is now being chased by Bradford and it is pivotal for their survival chances that Goldson doesn’t go anywhere this summer.

Should they keep Goldson, they should survive fairly easily without troubling the Play-Off race.

Tactical insight:

Another team that will be using the tried and tested 4-4-2 formation this year.

However for Shrewsbury, their success will be heavily reliant on the performances of midfielders Liam Lawrence and Ryan Woods.

Woods had an excellent season last year and will look to carry on his form this year.

His distribution of play and pinpoint passing will be key to the form of James Collins and Tyrone Barnett.

Verdict: Mid-table stragglers.

Team: Southend United

Last season: 4th (League Two)

Manager: Phil Brown

Transfers In: David Mooney (Leyton Orient, free), Anthony Wordsworth (Ipswich Town, free), Noel Hunt (Ipswich Town, free).

Transfers Out: Barry Corr (Cambridge United, free), Cameron John (Wolves, undisclosed), Lee Barnard (Crawley Town).

Released: Conor Clifford, Mads Ibenfeldt.


Southend are heading into the new season looking in solid yet somewhat uninspiring shape. The Play-Off winners have kept the majority of the squad that was so successful last year and Phil Brown has made some solid additions to it. 

Anthony Wordsworth and Noel Hunt signing on free transfers from Ipswich Town are great deals for this league. Hunt especially, after losing Barry Corr to Cambridge United.

Like many teams, the Shrimpers’ most crucial bits of business have not been completed yet. Talented young keeper Dan Bentley has been the subject of interest from Bristol City, Hull and QPR. Keeping him will be vital to their chances. 

"Oh yes, away days at Barnsley next year"

The other piece of business is further bolstering their forward line. The Essex club are rumoured to be close to resigning Joe Pigott from Charlton Athletic permanently. 

Pigott, the player who scored in the 120th minute last year in the Play-Off final. A marquee signing could also be just around the corner for Southend after Brown confirmed the club have been in talks with Crawley’s Izale McLeod.

If they are able to pull off this deal, then it could be a solid first season for Southend which they can then build on. 

Should they keep hold of Bentley and sign McLeod, then a steady season beckons for the Shrimpers. 

An issue could be that at the moment, they have a very thin squad and a few injuries could really cause them problems. It will be mid-table mediocrity for them if they are able to get McLeod in. 

Tactical insight:

Phil Brown will have his side playing fluid passing football in a 4-2-3-1 formation headed up by experienced front man David Mooney.

Mooney will be used is a similar way to Barry Corr in that he’ll have balls fired into him, and he’ll need to hold them up and bring Wordsworth, Worrall etc. in to play.

Ryan Leonard and Michael Timlin will be key to breaking up attacks and getting the ball out wide to the wingers.

Verdict: Mid-table stragglers.

Team: Swindon Town

Last season: 4th

Manager: Mark Cooper

Transfers In: Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill (Arsenal, free), Drissa Traore (free agent), Kevin Stewart (Liverpool, loan), Jordan Williams (Liverpool, loan), Lawrence Vigouroux (Liverpool, loan), Jordan Turnbull (Southampton, loan), Fabian Robert (Lorient, free).

Transfers Out: Massimo Luongo (Queens Park Rangers, undisclosed), Ben Gladwin (Queens Park Rangers, undisclosed), Andy Williams (Doncaster Rovers, free), Wes Foderingham (Rangers, free), Cameron Belford (Wrexham, free), Jack Barthram (Cheltenham Town, free).

Released: Harry Agombar, Josue Antonio, George Barker, Matthew Jones, Darren Ward, Connor Waldon.


Following on from a very successful season, Mark Cooper was tasked with a major rebuilding job over the summer. The spine of the side was sold, with Wes Foderingham leaving for Rangers, Ben Gladwin and Massimo Luongo both moving to QPR for around £4.5million and top scorer Andy Williams moving to Doncaster Rovers. 

The departures don’t seem to be stopping there either. Michael Smith is rumoured to be interesting Barnsley and Yaser Kasim has been linked to many Championship clubs this summer.

So with millions earned in transfer fees, you’d think that Cooper would be given a fairly large outlay to rebuild the squad and go again this season. However, this has not been the case. the Robins have had to rely on loans and free transfers once again this season. 

"Calm down, the preview is almost over"

The loans acquired seem to be of a high calibre with Jordan Williams, Kevin Stewart and Lawrence Vigouroux all signing from Liverpool. Their best signing so far in my opinion is the re-signing of Southampton defender Jordan Turnbull. He stood out for Swindon last season and really solidifies their defence. 

This season will not end well for Swindon. They’ve lost the bulk of last years Play-Off Final squad and more departures are expected. They’ve then failed to bring in players that are guaranteed to be of similar quality. This season could be similar to the 2010-2011 season in which they were relegated after finishing in the Play-Off places the year previously.

Fan low-down: 

After last season, which to me was totally surprising, I thought we would struggle, we had a pretty decent season. But the close season has seen us put a new team together, gone are Luongo, Gladwin, Nathan Thompson, Foderingham, Williams et al, only Louis Thompson, Nathan Byrne, Jon Obika, Yaser Kasim are all that remain of last seasons first team, with Michael Smith set to join Barnsley. We welcome back J Turnbull as well.

Our budget is now one of the smallest in this league at just over a million pounds, so we have gone for year long loans again, with 4 players coming from Liverpool. As you can imagine, with a new team, pre-season has not gone too well, losing against Swindon Supermarine, Solihull Motors, Everton, Aston Villa, WBA and Liverpool, our only success was against Petersfield from the Southern League.

This season could be a bit of a struggle, but I can see us finishing about 14th or 15th, no big cup runs, a mediocre season.

Tactical insight:

Pre-season saw Mark Cooper experimenting with a 4-3-3 formation after the loss of many key players.

However, after bringing in another centre back in Jordan Turnbull, I can see the familiar 3-5-2 formation being played by the Robins.

The performance of the wingbacks Nathan Byrne and Kevin Stewart will be crucial as it was last year and whether Stewart can replace Harry Toffolo is yet to be seen.

The creativity will be coming from Fabien Robert - no relation to Laurent - who signed after a successful trial and he will be giving Obika, Smith and Hylton the majority of their service.

Verdict: Relegation battlers

Team: Walsall

Last season: 14th

Manager: Dean Smith

Transfers In: Neil Etheridge (Charlton Athletic, free), Jason Demetriou (Anorthosis Famagusta, free), Milan Lalkovic (Barnsley, free).

Transfers Out: Malvind Benning (Mansfield Town, free), Richard O’Donnell (Wigan Athletic, free), Ben Purkiss (Port Vale, free), Ashley Grimes (Barrow, free).

Released: Jake Heath, James Chambers (retired).


Another year of mid-table mediocrity appears to be on the horizon for The Saddlers. Little transfer activity has been happening at The Bescot with three players in and four out. The departure that has hit Walsall the hardest is that of their player of the season, Richard O’Donnell, who has moved to Wigan on a free after an excellent season last year. 

Dean Smith will be hoping that former Fulham ‘keeper Neil Etheridge will be able to fill the sizeable gap left by O’Donnell. Walsall’s top scorer from last season Tom Bradshaw provided Smith with a boost in June by signing a new two year deal and his performances will be crucial for Walsall to stay away from the relegation zone.

This season, Walsall are looking at finishing in a lower-mid table spot. They don’t quite have the quality to challenge for the Play-Offs, but Smith will have them organised defensively whilst playing some nice, creative football which will be able to keep them away from danger.

Tactical insight:

Dean Smith is a manager that has always impressed. He will have his team well drilled defensively, but playing expansive, quick, passing football.

He continues to do this on a shoestring budget and it won’t be long before Smith will be moving on to better things. Come opening day, Walsall will be setting up in a 3-5-2 formation.

A player to look out for is Rico Henry at left wing back, who is a quick and talented lad. Walsall fans see him as being one of the best players to come from their academy. 

Tom Bradshaw will be the main threat for Walsall along with Romaine Sawyers. Their service coming mainly from the wing backs and James Baxendale.

Verdict: Mid-table stragglers.

Team: Wigan Athletic

Last season: 23rd (Championship)

Manager: Gary Caldwell

Transfers In: David Perkins (Blackpool, free), Richard O’Donnell (Walsall, free), Donervon Daniels (West Bromwich Albion, free), Max Power (Tranmere Rovers, fee to be set by tribunal), Craig Morgan (Rotherham, free), Sanmi Odelusi (Bolton, £50k), Craig Davies (Bolton, free), Will Grigg (Brentford, undisclosed), Reece James (Manchester United, undisclosed) Francisco Junior (Everton, loan), Jonjoe Kenny (Everton, loan), Michael Jacobs (Wolves, undisclosed), Sean Murray (Watford, loan), Kevin McNaughton (Cardiff, free).

Transfers Out: James McClean (West Bromwich Albion, £1.5million), Rob Kiernan (Rangers, undisclosed), Andy Delort (Caen, undisclosed), Oriol Riera (Deportivo La Coruna, undisclosed), Gaetan Bong (Brighton & Hove Albion, free), Ali Al-Habsi (Reading, free), Martyn Waghorn (Rangers, undisclosed), James Tavernier (Rangers, undisclosed), Aaron Taylor-Sinclair (Doncaster Rovers, undisclosed), James Perch (QPR, undisclosed).

Released: Kim Bo-Kyung, William Kvist, Marc-Antoine Fortune.


A summer of wholesale changes around the DW has seen Wigan heading into the season with a manager in his first job, a totally different squad and lots of optimism. Caldwell set about reshaping the squad over the summer getting rid of the dead wood left behind by Uwe Rosler and Malky Mackay and replacing it with a mixture of solid signings. 

The stand-out deals are Richard O’Donnell from Walsall, Will Grigg from Brentford - who bagged 20 goals last season for MK Dons - and Craig Morgan who will provide a wealth of experience from his time at Rotherham United.

It’s the classic issue that could hinder The Latics’ chances this season - can the team gel early on? 

Significant changes see them going into their game against Coventry with a totally different starting eleven, with all eleven players expected to be making their debuts. Couple this with a very inexperienced manager in Gary Caldwell and the future may not be so bright for the Greater Manchester club.

On paper, Wigan should be challenging for automatic promotion and it’s very possible that they will, however, given his inexperience, Caldwell isn’t the man to lead them forward this season.

They would have been better served by appointing an experienced manager who comes with a vast knowledge of the league like Wolves did with Kenny Jackett. It’ll be the Play-Offs for Wigan.

Tactical insight:

Another side employing a three at the back formation this season, Gary Caldwell’s Wigan are expected to have a great season.

They look to be starting this season with a back three of Donervon Daniels, Craig Morgan and Chris McCann. The one thing that is lacking is pace - with all three players being fairly slow of the mark.

We expect Morgan and Daniels will be two no nonsense type centre backs with McCann, a centre midfielder by trade, will be distributing the ball on the deck and starting attacks.

A front three of Max Power, Michael Jacobs and Will Grigg looks very strong and Will Grigg should not be short of service which should see him thrive this year.

The wing backs are youthful in Jonjoe Kenny and Reece James, but both are good options to have, on top of newly signed Kevin McNaughton who has had a solid career. 

Wigan will attempt to play good quick football, much in the style of Roberto Martinez who Gary Caldwell played under at Wigan.

Verdict: Play-Off challengers.

"Have a bang on that son"

Joe's Bets: 

Finish Top - Sheff United 9/2 (Betway)

Top Six - Gillingham 11/2 (Boyle Sports)

Top Scorer - Paddy Madden 22/1 (Betway) or Leon Clarke 20/1 (William Hill, Paddy Power, Bet Victor, Betfair)

Relegation - Chesterfield 7/1 (bwin)

To finish in the bottom half - Swindon 13/8 (Skybet)

Opening day acca - Barnsley Win, Bradford Win and Gills/Sheffield BTTS - 15.53/1 (Skybet)

Luke's Bets:

Finish Top - Bradford City 16/1 (Bet365)

Top Scorer - Steve Morison 40/1 (Skybet)

Play-Off Winners - Coventry 20/1 (Boylesports) ***LOYALTY BET***

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