Nathan Rowe from Walsall FC Central has given his views on the upcoming League 1 campaign.
After being relegated last season fans will be hoping for an instantaneous return to the championship. This task has become significantly more difficult however after the loss of their top goal scorer Chris O`Grady to Brighton & Hove Albion. Replacing Chris O`Grady is Kane Hemmings, who scored 18 in 31 for Cowdenbeath in the Scottish Championship. Sam Winnall, another striker who has entered the fray at Barnsley scored 23 goals for Scunthorpe last season in league 2, much like Hemmings, how well Winnall settles in will determine his how effective Barnsley can be as an attack force. Another big addition for the Tykes is Conor Hourihane, a midfielder who enjoyed a very good season captaining Plymoth Argyle in league two. With 17 players leaving and their replacements being unproven and this level, I predict Barnsley to finish mid-table.
With no real big losses so far, other than perhaps Nathan Doyle and good additions Bradford are manufacturing a strong squad. Additions such as Gary Liddle, who has made 283 appearances in league one and Adam Drury amongst others, create a side that has great experience. After losing Nahki Wells last season to Huddersfield the goal burden fell on James Hansen who grabbed 12. For the upcoming season Bradford have added Billy Clarke and Jon Stead to their strike force, neither of which are particularly exciting signings. I predict that Bradford will be hard to beat this season but with a lack of firepower will draw many games and finish mid-table.
It`s easy to see that with better defensive displays than last season Bristol City will be challenging for promotion. The capture of Mark Little from Peterbourough appears to be a valuable accusation to sure up the defence. In the same position the Robins have signed young Luke Ayling who has previous promotion winning experience with Yeovil. At the time of writing this article City have managed to hold on to both Sam Baldock and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, who scored an incredible 47 goals last season. If they can make an addition to the heart of their defence and hold on to their strike force Bristol City will be real contenders for promotion, I predict them to finish in one of the automatic promotion spots.
League one new boys Chesterfield won league two last season, however they have lost Marc Richards to Northampton, a player that has been ever present in the starting line-up scoring 20 goals in 72 appearances over a two year period. Additions have been few and far between up to yet, young defender Charlie Raglan has joined up after agreeing to sign last season and young Mason Bennett has agreed season long loan move from Derby. With the lack of signings Chesterfield look destined for a bottom half finish.
Colchester are the bookies favorite for relegation this season after finishing 18th last term. Young left back Ben Gordon has joined from Ross County after making 27 appearances in the Scottish Premiership. Another good addition is Chris Lewington, a goalkeeper who accumulated 127 appearances for Dagenham & Redbridge. Another positive is Colchester have only let three players go, which should lead to a good understanding in the squad and a solid start to the season. Also Freddie Sears will be hoping to continue his development, the striker has increased his goal tally over the last two season and will hope to do this again. For Colchester I will disagree with the bookies and tip them to stay up.
Without the 10 point deduction last season Coventry would have finished 9th last season. A big loss is Wilson to Championship side Bournemouth, the forward scored an impressive 22 goals in 41 appearances last term making him the sky blues top goal scorer. Second top goal scorer Franck Moussa has also departed for the Championship and next season will line up for Carlton Athletic. The departures don`t end there, with young centre-back Cyrus Christie heading to Derby county after making 40 appearances last season. Reda Johnson has been brought in from Sheffield Wednesday to replace Christie at the heart of the defence. Other notable additions include Danny Swanson a midfielder from Dundee, James O`Brien a winger from Barnsley and Danny Pugh a left back from Leeds. With a host of changes to the starting 11 Coventry may start slowly this term, I expect a similar performance to last year with another top half finish.
This window Crawley have lost both Andy Drury and Kyle McFadzean for transfer fees and seem to be investing every penny back into the team making 18 signings at the time of writing. Adding Sonny Bradley to their ranks was a very impressing feat after reportedly fighting off championship clubs for the 22 year old defenders signature. Gavin Tomlin how also signed up from league one rivals Port Vale. The forward scored 5 goals in 23 last season however there are questions over his fitness. Crawley struggled to score goals last season, scoring the least goals in the league during 13/14. Izale McLeod has signed up to help remedy this problem however in recent seasons he hasn’t been prolific. I predict goals to be hard to come by for Crawley again and that they will finish in the bottom half
Last season Crewe conceded the most goals in league one and exits this season do not lead to a positive outlook for the Railwaymen. Crewe were saved by the goals of young Arsenal striker Chuks Aneke last season, however after being released by Arsenal he has joined Zulte Waregem in the Belgian Pro League. It gets worse for Crewe fans, at the time of writing young striker Max Clayton looks destined for the custard bowel (Wolves). Marcus Haber has joined the side, however going off his previous record it doesn’t look promising. Crewe are also still yet to make any defensive additions which is clearly required. Poor in all areas I would be dumbfounded to see Crewe anywhere other than in the relegation zone at the end of the season.
Doncaster`s owner problems has left them in a bad position, missing from last season`s squad will be Billy Paynter who has returned to Southampton, Chris Brown to Blackburn and both Mark Duffy and David Cotterill to Birmingham. The additions of Nathan Tyson and Curtis Main makes for a pretty uninspiring front line. I predict a mid-table season for the Vikings.
Fleetwood joined league 1 via the play offs, beating Burton Albion at Wembley. They haven`t lost any players of note at this point which is promising. Jamie Proctor has joined from Crawley after scoring 15 in 50 and Adam Barton has signed on loan, a player who has played 42 games in league 1 during his career. Josh Morris has also re-joined from Blackburn for his second loan spell with the club. I don`t see the additions being enough to keep them in the league.
Gillingham finished 17th last season with a poor defensive showing by all accounts. That defence hasn’t been significantly improved at this point which really hinders their chances of improving on last season. John Egan has been bought in however he appears to be more of a squad player than a starter. Aaron Morris has also been bought in from Wimbledon however also looks to be a squad rotation player. An exciting signing for Gillingham is Jermaine McGlashan who appears to be a like for like replacement for Weston. He`s a pacey winger who played 160 games for Cheltenham will be hoping to make the jump up to league 1 successfully. A BIG loss (pardon the pun) is Akinfenwa however he was more of an impact substitute and will be forgotten soon enough. Another average season ahead for Gillingham ending with a bottom half finish.
Orient looked very likely to win promotion in the early stages of last season but fell off, now however money is in the bag, the squad has stayed reasonably strong and solid additions are being made. One of these additions is Jobi McAnuff, he adds a lot of experience after playing 189 games for Reading and has even play 8 internationals for Jamaica. Another good singing appears to be Darrius Henderson, he played 38 scoring 8 last season in the Championship and his stature gives them something different in comparison to veteran Kevin Lisbie. At the time of writing the club still have Dean Cox who was a very influential player last season out wide, Orient have however lost Odubajo who played every game last season however because of the club he has joined I will refrain from praising him. With great experience and players who perform on a consistent basis throughout the side Orient look a formidable team and are one of my favorites to go up.
Milton Keynes Dons
The Dons finished 10th last season after performances dipped towards the end of the season. Samir Carruthers has joined permanently from Aston Villa after impressing on loan last season. They have also taken Will Grigg on loan, a player I know all too well after he left Walsall last year. I firmly believe that whoever played up front for Walsall that season would score goals, he scored a lot of penalties also, what I`m getting at is he isnt an impressive striker and is living off one seasons goal tally. Benik Afobe One Kenobi has also joined, a young player from Arsenal looking to impress, the Dons will hope he can replicate the form Chuks Aneke showed for Crewe. New signing Kyle McFadzean looks a good signing and will presumably slot in next to Kay to make a solid pairing.
County stayed up on the last day of the season last year and will be looking for a more comfortable year this time round. They have lost their impressive goalkeeper Bialkowski to Ipswich town, how well either Roy Carroll or Fabien Spiess fit in to the starting line-up will determine how serious this loss is. Both Alan Smith and Hayden Mullins have joined both in the midfield positions and appear to form a good experienced pairing. A big loss is the captain and player of the season Alan Sheehan, 22 year old Adams appears to be a like for like replacement. A potential exciting signing is Zeli Ismail from Wolves, a young winger with pace should make a good addition. It is important to note however this will be Zelis first season playing consistent football (should he get it) and it is yet to see how he will deal with it.
15th last season for the owls and this season they will hope to improve. Surprisingly the most impressive business Oldham have done included the loss of their captain Korey Smith. Smith left for Bristol with Liam Kelly coming the other way and Oldham reportedly pocketing some cash. Kelly has now been announced captain and after featuring in the Championship last season looks like a very good player for league 1. Mike Jones also looks a good addition to the midfield arriving from Crawley after accumulating 59 appearances. Everyone expects something different from Oldham and are so far the team I have struggled the most to put on the table, I`m going for middle of the pack but wouldnt be surprised if they pushed further up.
It was always going to happen, Assombalonga has left, I`m sure fans will agree that this should have been done sooner giving the club more time to invest the money. Peterborough have done well in the past with young talent, with Assombalonga and Dwight Gayle being examples. The latest young addition Gareth Bale?.I mean Kenny McEvoy (just Google the kid) he is a winger who can play on the left or the right. Darren Ferguson has been full of praise for the signings they have made recently. One of these signings is Michael Smith who plays at left back and featured in the league two team of the season. Another signing that should be a positive one is Erhun Oztumer who scored 33 goals in 49 appearances last season. The ever impressive captain Tommy Rowe has also left to make the step up to the Championship.
Prior to writing this I already have Vale to go down, it`s an opinion I can`t shake and will stick with. Doug Loft is a big loss and has gone to greener pastures at Gillingham. Pipe looks to be the main source of goals again. Also Michael Brown adds quality and experience to the team but questions have to be raised on his ability to stay in the team week in week out at the tender age of 37.
Preston North End
Simon Grayson, that`s my first point. He`s took three league one clubs to the Championship and I can only see him repeating this again. Kyel Reid appears a very strong addition out wide and should be a good source for assists. Young forward Hugill could be ready for a breakthrough season, However the addition of Andrew Little appears slightly more exciting after the forward bagged 33 in 65 for Rangers over 7 years.
I`m putting Rochdale down for relegation without much backing if I`m honest, apologies. To try and justify, they have lost their captain albeit he wasn’t much of player in my opinion. My point almost proved by the fact he has joined Altrincham. Another justification would be their small squad, injuries thrust youngest into the starting eleven or players out of position.
Scunthorpe finished 2nd in league 2 last season 3 points behind eventual winners Chesterfield. As seems to be a theme with promoted sides Scunthorpe lost their top goal scorer to Barnsley, only 23 I feel he will make the step up well. Jennison Myrie-Williams appears to be a good addition out wide, he scored 16 in 81 during his spell at Port Vale. Neal Bishop is a great addition for the newly promoted side, last season he played 35 games in the Championship and will be a real asset and consistent performer. Scunthorpe are too strong to go down and will finish in the middle of the pack.
Sheffield United added Andy Butler to their ranks as a squad player however with the departed of Harry Maguire he appears to now be an important player. Butler will no doubt do the job and I`m sure united fans hold nothing against Maguire leaving, head and shoulders above league 1. Marc Mcnulty has signed from Livingston, he has cost around £100,000 and if he adapts well, at the age of 21 could be a real steal. Ben Davies has now also joined permanently after impressing on loan last season. The squad is simply too strong to not be up there at the end of the season, plays off for the Blades.
Predicted finish 4th
At the time of writing, Swindon have managed to hold onto young Massimo Luongo who has been impressed thus far in league 1. Nile ranger has left the club, and no replacement has been signed. In fact Swindon have made just three additions this window keeping a very similar albeit slightly slimmer squad. One signing is all signings have been loans at this point, with Josh Lelan from Derby, Jacob Murphy from Norwich and Jack Stephens from Southampton all signing up.
I`m putting Walsall in the play offs, simply because I support them and for this season (possibly the last) am buying into Dean Smith`s words. I will of course have more to say about this squad as I watch them week in week out. The main departure is of course Andy Butler, great captain and defender who has moved for family reasons, nothing more to be said. However, when a squad contains two rights backs, and has just lost a centre-back, what`s the obvious thing to do? Sign another right back? Well that`s what Deano has done. Granted O`Connor can reportedly play across the back four however during preseason has been exclusively use at right back. I`m all for versatility but why sign a player which forces J.Chambers into centre-back which simply isn’t his position. Another big loss is Westcarr however I believe it was best for both parties to part ways. Walsall have made an array of attacking signing with the most stand out one being Jordan Cook. Cook will miss the start of the season however I firmly believe he will be top goal scorer for the club this season. I also firmly believe we will score more goals this season with the load hopefully being spread evenly shared between Cook, Grimes, Bradshaw and Romaine (Mainey) Sawyers. Another potential signing is Manset however at this point the topic has no discussion points, he says yes or no, if no Deano supposedly has other options.
Predicted finish 6th (but more likely 11th)
Yeovil have started with somewhat of an overhaul at the back with Duffy and Webster leaving and Nugent; Sokolik and Martin all joining. Ben Nugent could be a great addition however if resigned to the bench (which seems possible) will be a redundant loan for both parties, Sokolik and Martin look appear to be the preferred duo. James Berrett also looks a good signing from Carlisle as long as he can stay fit and stay in the team. Predict a bit of a recovery season for Yeovil finish top half.