Bradford’s success last year was monumental and far more than anyone could have expected. The nation was enthralled with their run in the Capital One Cup beating Arsenal, Wigan and Villa on the way to the final. League form did dip a bit during this run but Phil Parkinson kept it together at the end and they managed to get promoted. The squad established last year was probably already of a League 1 standard with players such as Nathan Doyle and Andrew Davies proving their worth. Nakhi Wells has been kept onto and with season ticket sales around the 15,000 mark, the Bantams could continue their good run and sneak into the top 6.
It was a heartbreaking season for Brentford last year. Marcello Trotta took a penalty which would have clinched promotion for the side but instead found the woodwork, and the rest is history. Uwe Rosler and Brentford fans will be hoping for automatic this year and that is not out of reach. Simon Moore has been sold to Cardiff, and he was brilliant for them last year. David Button has come in as a replacement. However the signings of Will Grigg (Walsall) and Alan McCormack (Swindon) show real intent, more so with the fact they have been signed from fellow League 1 sides. Grigg managed 20 goals for Walsall last year and could find himself bagging a few more for Brentford.
Sean O’Driscoll rejected a few job offers including Blackpool before ending up at Ashton Gate. He couldn’t manage to keep them in the Championship last year but he is at a club with a lot of potential. As things stand star player Albert Adomah has been kept on, and it will be a huge bonus if that is the case come the end of the transfer window. They will be expected to challenge at the top and with the signing of Jay Emmanuel-Thomas they should find themselves in the top 6 come May. JET showed why he was on the books of Arsenal in his spell with Ipswich and I was surprised they let him go. He could be the star signing of the summer for League 1. O’Driscoll knows this league well, and the signing of Aidan Flint also strengthens the Robins’ chances.
Carlisle have been nearly men in the past and in the last few seasons have found themselves hovering around mid table obscurity. Lee Miller has stayed at Brunton Park and he will be key for a side who conceded the most goals in the league last year. Attendances were down last year, and it will be down to Greg Abbott to try and bring people back to watch the Cumbrians. The core of the squad has been together for a while now so I don’t expect them to be struggling at the foot of the table. David Amoo has the potential to rip a few defences open, and could be a star for Carlisle.
Joe Dunne has a tough job on his hands this year. Colchester struggled last year, and the season ahead looks to be a daunting one. Sanchez Watt and Craig Eastmond have signed permanently after both being with the Gunners, and these two will be key in an otherwise plain squad. Alex Gilbey returns after an impressive spell with Newport County last year, but I predict a tough slog for the U’s this year.
Well the Sky Blues have hardly been out of the sports news this summer with their stadium situation constantly changing. The Ricoh Arena saga has been well publicised and put simply is a mess. A mess which has resulted in Coventry scheduling their games to be played 40 miles away in Northampton. A lot of these games are on a Sunday due to the Cobblers gaining priority. Due to this only around 300 season tickets have been sold. A diabolical situation for a club of Coventry’s stature. On the field there isn’t too much to report on. Mark Robins was making progress last year but I have yet to be convinced by Steven Pressley. It’s a young squad due to the transfer embargo and City do produce some good kids. Expect Cyrus Christie to shine this year, but also expect his side to linger towards the bottom of League 1. Relegation will be almost certain if they have points deducted.
Crawley went through their debut campaign at this level relatively unnoticed last year. Richie Barker was brought in at the last minute after O’Driscoll’s late departure to Forest. He did a great job considering his minimal managerial experience, all at Bury. They were a tough side to beat, and almost made the play-offs. Andy Drury comes in adding some experience to the side, and promising youngster James Hurst arrives from West Brom. Even in a much tougher league this year, I expect the Red Devils to still be comfortable.
Captain and star player Luke Murphy has moved onto to Leeds United. Certainly a level which he deserves to play at. But surely Crewe know how to deal with their own produced players moving on now? Countless players have come through they youth system at Gresty Road under the guidance of Dario Gradi. What is their secret recipe for success? Anyhow, Crewe’s chances this year remain the same. Anthony Grant has come in, but it is generally the same squad. A key thing was the retention of Manager Steve Davis who was linked to Wolves, and after last season’s JPT win, he will be looking to continue to progress.
Martin Allen’s side ran away with the League 2 title last year, and the ‘Mad Dog’ will be aiming for a bit more than just safety this year. Allen will provide many interesting interviews for Sky Sports and The Football League Show to laugh. But in the field there is entertainment too in the form of Adebayo Akinfenwa. He will be looking to show Beast Mode can still be effective at this level, whilst Cody McDonald will provide support after his loan spell becoming a permanent one. Will claim a few scalps along the way and be more than safe.
Russell Slade did a good job last season and they could well challenge towards the top this year. Dean Cox was the standout performer for them, and I thought he would have attracted interest from higher up this summer. Nevertheless he stays, and he will be key in providing assists for Kevin Lisbie to continue his good record at this level even at the age of 34. David Mooney will also chip in with a few goals. The loan signing of Marvin Bartley could prove to be a shrewd one adding some bite to the midfield. Another tough team to beat, Slade’s men are well organised and will be aiming for the play-offs.
MK Dons have been pushing to get out of this division for what seems like ages, and again Karl Robinson’s men remain one of the bookies favourites. Gary McKenizie and Ryan Lowe have departed but Patrick Bamford has returned on loan from Chelsea. This could be a big year for him and the Dons will be looking to him for the majority of their goals with support from Bowditch and Powell. Still a strong side, but this League is at its strongest for a good few years. Will be in the mix, but may just miss out.
Neil Warnock’s former number 2 Mick Jones has returned to County to lend a helping hand to rookie Manager Chris Kimwomya . Jones was Warnock’s assistant 20 years ago at Meadow Lane, and has followed him to all his jobs since. But with Warnock without a club he has come back, and this move could be very important for Kimwomya. Bishop, Judge and Hughes have departed and these will be big losses. But they have been replaced adequately with Mark Fotheringham bringing experience to the midfield, and Danny Haynes coming in after failing to settle during various stints in the Championship. Alan Judge will be the biggest lost, arguably the best player in the League last year. Still a good side, but there are better in League 1 this year.
Lee Johnson the Football League’s youngest Manager at 31 settled into Boundary Park well last year. Incidentally Salisbury’s new Manager Mikey Harris aged 28 begins his new job this year in the Blue Square Premier. Back to Oldham, Johnson’s biggest success last year was beating his Father’s Yeovil side. After 17 seasons in League 1, the Latics will be hoping to move out sooner rather than later, and in the right direction. James Dayton has been brought in from Kilmarnock and he could be a surprise package, with former Kilmarnock Manager Kenny Shiels saying he was good enough to play for England. The rest of the squad is solid, and I believe Lee Johnson could turn out to be a good Manager. Another cup run would be ideal, but progress in the League will be a priority.
Fergie Jnr’s boys continue to yoyo between League 1 and the Championship, but return with a much stronger squad than in recent years. Always know as big goalscorers, they were extremely unlucky to be relegated on the last day of last season. Despite being relegated they were only 14 point off 6th place in the League. Dwight Gayle was purchased by Crystal Palace for an astonishing fee of potentially £8.5 million!! I cant see him being worth that but fair play to Darragh MacAnthony on the negotiations there. They continue to find gems from the lower leagues. His replacement comes from Watford however, with a new transfer record for the club being forked out for Brit Assombalonga. That’s a mouthful of a name, would struggle to get that on the back of a Small size shirt. Nevertheless the youngster impressed last year at Southend, and I believe will find the goals for Posh this year. Jack Payne also looks a good signing from Gillingham and it’s hard to look past a top 2 finish for Peterborough.
Micky Adams did a remarkable job in gaining promotion last year given the circumstances. Tom Pope bagged 33 goals, and gained a lot of attention during January but things have been quiet on that front this summer. Whether he can produce the goods in a tougher league, remains to be seen. But incoming transfers have been promising. Experience has arrived via Chris Robertson (Preston), Chris Lines (Wednesday), and Gavin Tomlin (Southend). Kaid Mohamed also arrives after a good season at Cheltenham. He will need to fire in some goals to support Pope, or Vale could be found praying for survival.
Preston North End
Simon Grayson will be aiming for promotion this year, which would make PNE the 4th side he has taken up to the Championship from League 1. Preston look in a great position to do that this year. When Grayson arrived at the start of 2013, the Lillywhites form improved and they became a much more structured solid side than when under Graham Westley. Not too much has changed as regards to the squad this year, with Grayson happy with what he saw last season. England Under – 21 ‘keeper Declan Rudd has returned on loan, and he will be looking to pick up where he left off last season. Chris Humphreys arrives from Motherwell having turned down Leeds and Rangers reportedly and he already looks an exciting player to watch from pre-season. But the biggest signing, in the league perhaps, is that of Big Kevin Davies. A man who could certainly still do a job in the Championship if not the Premiership. Could he lead North End to glory this year?
Steve Evans will face his former club Crawley this year, and his decision to drop down a league to manage Rotherham looks to have paid off. Automatic promotion and a general feel good factor at the New York Stadium provide a good base for a decent season ahead. Matt Tubbs is reunited with Evans having stalled since leaving Crawley and I don’t think he is cut out for this level. David Worrall joins from Bury though, and I think that’s a great signing, as he is a very talented individual who could have moved to the Championship. Daniel Nardiello will be looking to be amongst the goals again following his 20 last year, and if he is then Rotherham could reach the top half of the table.
David Weir embarks on his first job as a Manager and has the task of guiding United back up to the Championship. Two failures in the play-offs will lead to fans hoping for automatic thus year, but there chance might have gone. Sheffield United were probably the strongest side in each of the last 2 seasons, but this year is a different matter. Febian Brandy has joined from Walsall whilst promising Liverpool youngster Conor Coady has joined on loan. This season could go either way, but with the retention of young talent such as George Long, I’m plumping for near miss at the play-offs for them.
Graham Turner did a good job in avoiding relegation last year, and this season will be another struggle. Tamika Mkandawire joins and becomes club captain adding lower league experience to the side. They lack goals though, and neither Chris Porter or Tome Eaves, loanees last year, have returned. Will struggle if a few more signings aren’t made.
Well what can be said about Graham Westley that hasn’t been said already? His ‘Attitude Is More Important Than Ability’ philosophy went down a treat at Deepdale…. This man is an idiot, but he thinks the world of himself, and loves to tell everybody of his successes in the past. He made North End train on the pitch so to ruin it to help his style of play, basically anti-football. I hope this man fails at Stevenage this time round, and I think he will because the squad is weak, and he has continued to sign lower league journeyman just as he did for North End. Yes I do support Preston and this might be a bit bias, but it is fair to say he is not liked by many at all, and it is clear to see why. Graham Westley FC will most likely struggle to muster up many chances during a game and will therefore be relegated this year. He will most definitely also receive one hell of a frosty reception when he returns to Deepdale and the club he almost single handedly ruined.
Another team who might struggle this year who as things stand don’t have a permanent Manager. The way Paulo Di Canio left last season was unusual but perhaps not for that crazy Italian. He had built a very good side, but the money had been splashed about and it seems as if they are the creators of their own downfall now. There is a cloud over why Kevin McDonald left as well, and Mark Cooper is currently the caretaker. They have brought in a couple of youngsters from Spurs who could provide some flair, (Pritchard and Luongo) but generally the club is in disarray and needs to sort themselves out soon or a return to League 2 will be on the cards.
Tranmere had a fantastic start to last season, leading the way for the first few months but dramatically failed to even reach the play-offs come the end. Experience has been brought in up front with Ryan Lowe and Akpo Sodje and they will find the back of the enough times to secure Tranmere’s safety. Captain James Wallace remains, and expect him to star once he returns from injury. Remarkably after 2 years out of the game Jason Koumas returns to where it all started. A gifted player in his day, but I’m unsure as to whether this is more of a sentimental move than anything else. On a final note, defender Ian Goodison will celebrate his 41st birthday this year, and still remains an important part of Tranmere’s squad. Fantastic.
Dean Smith did a great job last year guiding the Saddlers to 9th place, but this season will be harder without the attacking capabilities of Jamie Paterson (Middlesborough), Febian Brandy (Sheffield United) and top goalscorer Will Grigg (Brentford). Replacements arrive in the shape of youngsters Troy Hewitt and Milan Lalkovic. Potential but they will need to hit the ground running. More will be needed from Craig Westcarr this year too.
The fact that Wolves are at this level so soon after seeming to establish themselves in the top flight is hard to believe. In my opinion Mick McCarthy should never have been sacked and the recruitment process thereafter was farcical. However Kenny Jackett seems like a sensibke choice, and some big names still remain at the club. Kevin Doyle, Roger Johnson, and Wayne Hennessey are still there whilst Sam Ricketts has arrived from Bolton. Whilst hugely talented Bakary Sako will be able to run rings around most defences in this league. Even if one or two players do depart Wolves will be simply too strong not to return to the Championship at the first attempt.