We’re now over halfway through Soccerlens’ full season preview ahead of the big League kickoff this weekend. Today we’re up to League 1, which contains fallen ex-Premier League teams Leeds, Charlton, Norwich and Southampton as well as smaller teams like Yeovil, Exeter and Wycombe.
Can the Saints overcome their points deduction, can Brentford keep on their buzz after winning League Two? Read on…
Bluffer’s guide to the League
The third tier of English football is often overlooked. There’s none of the relegation from the League drama, nor the potential of promotion to the Premier League, but there’s still a mix of the big clubs, the ambitious and thestrugglers. Four clubs have been in the Premier League while five have done their time in non-league. All are in the mix.
If League One were a footballer it would be…
Phil Neville. Not exactly pretty to look at but often seriously underrated. Has a lot of past glories but is capable of producing a surprise and challenging for a higher spot despite competing in an area with less cash than bigger teams.
Last season in a Tweet
Leeds pay for a slow start, Leicester dominate, Peterborough and MK Dons keep up their promotion momentum, Scunthorpe win over neutrals, heartache for Northampton.
Last season we confidently predicted Leeds would be champions. Wiping the egg off our face, we’ll confidently predict THIS will be Leeds’ year. Simon Grayson already has one promotion to his name with Blackpool. Even with Fabian Delph departing, the whole squad has quality and United will be keen to avoid the playoffs, where they have a habit of choking.
Much as it hurts to write this, MK Dons are probably best placed to take the second promotion spot. The club others love to hate have got plenty of cash behind them and have spent it wisely. PaulInce will be looking to prove a point on his return after his short-lived time at Blackburn. Losing Sean O’Hanlon to injury is a blow but the Dons should be strong enough to survive this. Sadly.
The focus will be on the ‘big three’ relegated from the Championship last season, and of those Norwich City looked best placed to be challenging at the top of the table. Manager Bryan Gunn has built a squad from scratch and they’ve gelled well in pre -season. The team has experience and quality and if Grant Holt can make the step up a division then the Canaries could be singing again.
Huddersfield Town had a disappointing season by their standards last season but the board have got out their cheque book for rookie manager Lee Clark. Although the ex-Newcastle man is untested, there’s much to suggest the Terriers have what it takes to push into the top six. Peter Clarke will be a solid signing at the back.
Last season Millwall fell short at the final hurdle but despite a relatively quiet summer on the transfer front, look at have a squad that can again challenge for a play-off place. Neil Harris will again be the focal point for the attack but keep an eye on new signing Steve Morison.
Southend United’s squad may not be littered with eye-catching names but Steve Tilson’s side will still be very difficult to beat. Run out of steam last season as they looked to bounce back to the Championship but the Shrimpers have a strong, settled squad and could be this season’s surprise package.
Charlton Athletic’s fans will be demanding an immediate return to the Championship, but the debt-ridden club may find League One tough going. On paper, then Addicks squad isn’t bad but much depends on how they can pick themselves up after a disastrous last season. May have to settle for consolidation rather than promotion.
Since reaching the playoff final in 2007, Yeovil Town have found it tough going in League One and have struggled for form and consistency. Terry Skiverton is a popular figure at Huish Park but lacks experience and his appointment felt like a cheap option. With strong teams coming into the division, the Glovers could get squeezed in a long season.
Carlisle United are another team who’ve found the going tough since a storming first season in League One and only just escaped relegation on the final day of last season. There is experience and talent in the squad but Greg Abbot is working under budget constraints and the Cumbrians are still looking short in key areas.
Traditionally one of the promoted sides will struggle in League One and Wycombe are likely to be that team. They’ve suffered off-the-pitch instability and limped over the promotion line rather than sprinting. Already hit hard by injuries, Peter Taylor will need every ounce of his experience to keep the Chairboys up.
Stockport County are another side that have had their problems behind-the-scenes and a new, untested manager in Gary Ablett. The former Liverpool player can expect a tough season and still needs to add to a very small squad short on talent. Goalkeeper Owain Fon Williams is a decent shot stopper and could be called into action more than he’d like this coming season.
Joker In The Pack
Southampton are starting life in the third tier for the first time in 50 years but have spent much of the summer fighting off liquidation. The Saints start on minus ten, and new boss Alan Pardew will have to rouse his squad into life quickly. It’s impossible to tell if the south coast club will struggle or storm up the table.
Solid gold gaffer
Russell Slade saved Brighton from certain relegation last season and the Seagulls will be hoping the ex-Yeovil, Grimsby and Scarborough boss can work some of his magic on the south coast. It says much for the 48-year-old’s abilities that, as he moves slowly up the Leagues, his old clubs struggle once he leaves them.
Three to watch
Grant Holt scored goals for fun at Shrewsbury last season and it was always a case of when not if he’d move up the leagues. The powerful forward will now be expected to lead Norwich’s assault on the title and his performances will be under the spotlight like never before.
Simeon Jackson was another striker who lit up League Two last season, scoring 22 times and attracting attention for other clubs. Has never played at this level before and much of Gillingham’s survival chances depend on the nippy frontman finding the net on a regular basis.
Had Sven been watching Notts County last season, he would have been frustrated that the Magpies couldn’t tie Myles Weston to a new deal. Now the young winger is atBrentford and will have a point to prove against Charlton, where he started his career. Could be a star for the Bees this season.
Make sure you return tomorrow when we preview The Championship ahead of the big kick-off this weekend. Full of big name clubs, this season looks to be tighter than ever. And we haven’t even mentioned the ongoing saga of Newcastle. Come back tomorrow to get the lowdown on who’ll be heading for the Premier League.