League One preview – part II
Rivals, non rivals, I guess it depends where you live, but Gillingham under the growing reputation of manager Justin Edinburgh were one of the surprise packages last season, only a poor slide at the end seeing them miss out on a play-off place. Edinburgh will be looking to improve on a 9th placed finish and he has added well to his squad, although Lee Martin will miss the start of the season due to a bad injury picked up in a friendly.
Scott Wagstaff also joined from Bristol City and Paul Konchesky from Leicester, but who played 36 games on loan at QPR last season. Ex-Addick Josh Wright the captain at Priestfield. Has there ever been a time when the Gills has had no ex-Charlton players? They did lose centre-back Joe Egan to Brentford but importantly have kept the sought after Bradley Dack, at least until now.
Keeping Dack will be essential and Edinburgh may need to add to his squad before the deadline, but I expect Gills to be challenging for the play-offs again. Promotion 10/1. Relegation 7/1.
Milton Keynes Dons probably shouldn’t have gone down last season. Whereas it was long in the tea leafs for Charlton and Bolton, MK blew it. Although his reputation as a man that can manage higher than the bottom two divisions was tarnished, Karl Robinson doesn’t suddenly become a bad manager and if and the owner can stick with it, they have the stability that most clubs crave.
MK have lost numerous players and if Robinson was looking to rebuild, then he needs plenty more bricks as incomings have been few and far between. The best signing probably being Paul Downing from Walsall. George Williams has also resigned on loan from Fulham. Also there is the added pressure of playing for the first time in the same division as AFC Wimbledon. A bit like being fronted by someone you mugged. The gulf between these two Dons may not be close at all this season. Promotion 4/1 Relegation 33/1.
Our history long nemesis Millwall I think are more deserving as the role of favourites than Sheffield United. Neil Harris, Millwall’s very own Chris Powell, has built a young, together and organized team, one to be proud off. They lost to eventual winners Barnsley at Wembley in May, but I suspect they could well be the team to finish ahead off to win promotion.
Lee Gregory remains and Gregg Wylde is an exciting addition. Millwall scored a lot of goals last season and I think they will again but could miss Mark Beevers at the back. For Charlton it could be a long season and not only does it include two defeats against our south London rivals, but also I think we could have the added pain of watching Millwall have a very good season as well. Promotion 3/1. Relegation 33/1.
It will be interesting to see how Northampton Town get on without Chris Wilder. After a wonderful title winning season, the Cobblers forgot to lock their doors and returned to see half of their worldly goods stolen. Nicky Adams, Danny Rose each followed Ricky Holmes out of the door and new manager Rob Page, who could turn out to be an inspirational pick, has had to rebuild confidence and a team, which he has done slowly since arriving in the wake of Wilder’s departure.
Town were last in League One in 2011 but many League Two sides have easily connected with League One and Northampton may well not feel the difference. Alex Revell is good signing for this level as is Gabriel Zakuani and I think Northampton will re-adjust quite nicely to a level up. Promotion 10/1. Relegation 5/1.
Oldham Athletic in their 10th season in League One have had a tough summer. Before pre-season Oldham had no manager, an HMRC winding up petition and hardly any players. But it has been a frenzied couple of weeks in the small Lancashire town with first Steve Robinson taking over. The ex-Bournemouth midfielder was assistant to Northern Ireland’s Michael O’Neill, and takes his first league job and a hatful of new players appearing on the doorstep of Boundary Park.
Oldham lost 20 players in the summer including returning loan players but in turn have now signed 14 including the experienced defender Peter Clarke from Bury, Ryan Flynn from Sheffield United and ex-Eire international midfielder Paul Green. Robinson is also chasing Motherwell’s Irish striker Josh Magennis and his shopping looks far from finished.
Of course pulling all of this together will not be easy, and Robinson will be the least experienced manager in the division, so beating last season’s finish of 17th may be tough. Promotion 22/1 . Relegation 6/4.
Michael Appleton’s photo often appears on Charlton Life linking him to any new job going. This reflecting his little switch around a couple of years ago between Portsmouth, Blackpool and Blackburn. Yet he returned to management in 2014 at Oxford United, where he has found admirable success and thus his name is back doing the rounds again. A funny game is football.
Oxford last played as high as this 15 years ago but prior to that had not been in the lowest tier since the 60’s. Oxford lived in Northampton’s shadow last season but nothing should be taken away from their own excellent campaign. United were League Two’s top scorers and often played in a swashbuckling manner which will be good to see in League One.
However as Northampton found out, with success comes a struggle to keep your best people and the U’s have lost two of their best young talents. Kemar Roofe was sold to Leeds for £3m and Callum O’Dowda to Bristol City for an initial £1m. Roofe was voted League Two player of the year and is a huge loss. Captain Jake Wright also departed, the defender to Sheffield United.
Brought in though has been a couple of very good signings. Keeper Simon Eastwood from Blackburn, Curtis Nelson from Plymouth, Rob Hall from Bolton and using a little bit of the cash, Appleton spent £250,000 on Dundee strike Kane Hemmings, who was the Scottish Premier League’s 2nd top scorer last season and had already scored 3 in the early rounds of the Scottish League Cup.
Despite the loss of Roofe, I think Oxford will be around and about the top half of the table. Promotion 5/1. Relegation 12/1.
Peterborough United are often prefixed as Darragh MacAnthony’s Peterborough such as his outspoken personality often overshadows what happens on the pitch. Manager Grant McCann knows the club and MacAnthony well but is a little untested and Peterborough fans are right to be a litle hesitant about the new season.
Ben Alnwick takes his place in goal and Souleymane Coulibaly looks Posh’s biggest goal threat. Left back Jerome Binnom-Williams has signed on loan from Palace and defender Ryan Tafazolli permanently from Mansfield. Consistency has been a problem for United which McCann will need to address, hopefully with positive support from the owner. Promotion . Promotion 11/2. Relegation 14/1
Port Vale have had to deal with the loss of manager Rob Page and under unknown Portuguese Bruno Riberio, who took over, Vale fans have sat back and seen a whole transformation of playing staff.
Riberio has signed players from Holland, France, Sweden, Portugal, Curacao and one Jerome Thomas! 14 players have left. Riberio who last worked in Portugal for 2nd Division side Académico de Viseu has a very checkered history managing, and also worked in Bulgaria, which also wasn’t a sparkling time.
Riberio you may remember played for Leeds and Sheffield United so he’s not new to the country or the language but he does represent an enormous gamble and rarely do foreign managers flourish in the bottom two English leagues. Fan favourite Louis Dodd leaving is also a blow but owner Norman Smurthwaite and Riberio are talking up Vales’ top 6 chances. I can’t see it myself. Promotion 20/1. Relegation 7/4