League One Preview: Part 3; Plus League One Predictions
I’m back with my preview of 8 more teams in League One. The teams I cover this time are: Port Vale, Preston North End, Rochdale, Scunthorpe United, Sheffield United, Swindon Town, Walsall, and Yeovil Town.
Port Vale – 2013/2014 Position: 9th
Port Vale (sorry IanCransonsKnees, can’t make the reference) had a surprising first season back in League One after getting promoted from League Two. The Vale are looking to solidify their League One status. Micky Adams strengthened their side this season by signing a pair of Northern Ireland internationals Ryan McGivern and Michael O’Connor. Former Premier League midfielder Michael Brown has signed on as a player/coach for the team. The bookies don’t have much hope for the team this season, however they were able to reach 9th last season with a -14 goal difference. If their defensive signings can provide some needed relief then I expect the team to be a top half finisher.
Preston North End – 2013/2014 Position: 5th
The Lilywhites fell short in last year’s playoff and will be looking to fight for automatic promotion this season. If their preseason games are any indicator to their potential then their fans will be very happy this season. Preston North End beat Burnley 2-1 and drew Leicester City 1-1. Goal scoring machine Joe Garner is back for his final year under contract and forward Paul Gallagher is back on loan from Leicester City. Northern Ireland forward Andrew Little was signed in the summer transfer window. It doesn’t look like goals will be a problem for Preston North End this season. After the expired loan of goalkeeper Declan Rudd, The Lilywhites needed to find a replacement and they found it in former Leyton Orient man Jamie Jones. Expect Simon Grayson’s men to be in or around an automatic promotion place this season.
Rochdale – 2013/2014 Position: 3rd (Promoted from League Two)
New boys Rochdale A.F.C. had a good season last year in League Two. However, I doubt they will able to replicate that success, even to the point of staying up. They sold striker Scott Hogan to Championship side Brentford for $1.2 million. So far Rochdale has been able to keep their other top striker from last season, Ian Henderson, but he didn’t have the efficiency that Hogan brought. Manager Keith Hill has brought in a couple of strikers in on a free, Calvin Andrew and Jack Muldoon. Keep an eye on Muldoon, as this is his first taste of professional football after bagging 21 goals for Evo-Stik League Premier Division side Worksop Town. Hill might be able to turn him into a great scorer like he did Hogan. Sadly, unless Rochdale does some more business and spends some of that money they earned they won’t stay up this season.
Scunthorpe United – 2013/2014 Position: 2nd (Promoted from League Two)
The Iron were able to bounce right back to League One after only one year in League Two. The question is can Russ Wilcox’s men be able to stay up? Historically, Scunthorpe has been able to develop great young strikers like Billy Sharp and Gary Hooper only to sell them off. The same is true again with the sale of young striker Sam Winnall to fellow League One team Barnsley. He was able to tally 23 goals in 45 league appearances. So far they have brought in a young striker in Lyle Taylor who had a great season with Scottish side Falkirk a couple of years ago. It seems The Iron have opted mostly for experienced players this transfer season — defender Miguel Llera, midfielder Neal Bishop, and winger Jennison Myrie-Williams. Look for the squad to be strengthened as manager Russ Wilcox has promised a few more signings to come and be in or around the relegation zone most of the season.
Sheffield United – 2013/2014 Position: 7th
Sheffield United is primed and ready to be automatically promoted this season. The question is will it be as League One Champion? Last year Saudi Prince Abdullah bin Musa’ed bin Abdulaziz bought half of the club and provided a cash injection. However, manager David Weir wasn’t able to do much with the new signings and by October he was out and former Derby County boss Nigel Clough was in. By November, Clough had the team getting points on a regular basis and in February/March had a 7 game win streak. This season has seen defender Harry McGuire go to Hull City for $4.2 million. After the selling of McGuire, The Blades have signed defender Craig Alcock but still are short in the back with Clough saying they will be signing more defenders. Finally, the squad signed Englishman striker Michael Higdon from Dutch side NEC Nijmegen. This is a major boost for the team up front. This is a club on its way up and out of League One.
Swindon Town – 2013/2014 Position: 8th
Last season saw Swindon in a very respectable 8th place and 8 points out of a playoff spot. However, it won’t be the same this season because of losing two key players and not really bringing in any replacements. The club released winger Dany N’Guessan at the end of last season after tying with two other players as top scorer with 8 goals. His fellow leading goal scorer was striker Nile Ranger but he left the team in May after a series of criminal issues. Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers’ son, Anton Rodgers, has signed with the club but plays as a midfielder and doesn’t fill the need up top. Swindon doesn’t look like they will do too much business in this window, and with the squad they have now expect them to be in the bottom half of the table by the end of the season.
Walsall – 2013/2014 Position: 13th
The Saddlers finished mid-table last season and had a goal difference of 0. Manager Dean Smith has been busy in this transfer window by bringing in 6 new players. Two new players stick out in my mind — striker Tom Bradshaw and midfielder Billy Clifford. The 22-year old Bradshaw joins Walsall from Shrewsbury Town and has been capped for Wales at the U19 and U21 levels. He is starting to show great form and is definitely on the rise. Billy Clifford was just released from Chelsea’s youth academy after not making an appearance for the senior squad. What’s exciting about him is the experience from being loaned out to Colchester, Yeovil, and Royal Antwerp at only 21 years old, so he will have the necessary experience at this level to step right in at Bescot Stadium. Walsall might struggle at the beginning of the season but will end up better than they did last year, but probably not in a promotion spot.
Yeovil Town – 2013/2014 Position: 24th (Relegated from Championship)
What a season it was for Yeovil Town last year. Although they were relegated from the Championship, they put up one heck of a fight to stay up considering they had the smallest budget in the division. Gary Johnson and his boys should be proud of what they were able to accomplish. Two big losses for the club this off season has been the decision of both goalkeeper Marek Stech and defender Luke Ayling to not re-sign for the club. Both of them were huge parts of their rise to the Championship. However, The Glovers were able to bring in 9 new signings so far to bolster their team. With some of their squad from last season intact and the new signings coming in, they will be contenders for one of the promotion spots.
Based on my assessment and the transfers for some teams since I have wrote about them, here are my league predictions. Several teams made moves since I wrote about them and have strengthened their squad. So some rearranging had to be done to accommodate the recent developments.
1 – Bristol City
2 – Sheffield United
3 – Leyton Orient
4 – Peterborough United
5 – Preston North End
6 – Yeovil Town
7 – Crawley Town
8 – Bradford City
9 – Coventry City
10 – Walsall
11 – Barnsley
12 – Colchester United
13 – Oldham Athletic
14 – Port Vale
15 – Gillingham
16 – MK Dons
17 – Doncaster Rovers
18 – Chesterfield
19 – Swindon Town
20 – Scunthorpe United
21 – Rochdale
22 – Fleetwood Town
23 – Notts County
24 – Crewe Alexandra