League One preview 17/18 – part II
Part I here.
Out of Yorkshire then and back to the north-west of the country and those teams that have to live in the shadows of United and City in Greater Manchester.
Wigan Athletic have been a league club for less than 40 years, and under the generous ownership of Dave Whelan, the Latics have spent almost half of that time in the top two divisions. This season they find themselves, now under the chairmanship of Whelan’s grandson David Sharpe, back in the 3rd tier. After winning the League One title Wigan should have had enough to survive in The Championship and relegation appeared to be avoidable, but relegated they were and four managers later they begin this season as one of the bookies’ favourites for promotion.
Ex-player Paul Cook surprisingly gave up on Portsmouth and came to the DW to see if he can repeat the success of 24 months ago. Nonetheless this is an unforgiving league and to get promoted twice out of it so quickly won’t come easy, although Scunthorpe did do it in the mid 2000’s.
Cook is used to success though and on paper he inherits a very useful League One squad. Only defenders Stephen Wannock and Jake Buxton have gone of any significance (both to Burton). Leicester left back Callum Elder signed on loan as did Brighton keeper Chris Walton, who looks to be the number one. Centre-half Chey Dunkley looks a good acquisition from Oxford and a little out of left field Cook took a gamble on ex-Addick’s academy defender Terrell Thomas.
Will Grigg, and that song, will return to League One grounds and Wigan will be hoping with that comes the Northern Irishman’s goals. Omar Bogle will also be a goal threat in this league and both will be supplied out wide by Ryan Colclough, Michael Jacobs and a player known to us Nathan Byrne.
Wigan have a strong prospectus and Paul Cook will be desperate to continue to grow his reputation at a club he has great affinity for, but this division can throw up many roadblocks and a lot will depend on if Will Grigg can fire up the goals.
Key player – Will Grigg
CA expectation – Automatic promotion contenders
Lee Clark has brought some summer excitement to the Lancashire town of Bury. After avoiding relegation by a point on the final day, Bury have been one of the more active League One clubs in the summer market. Clark has become something of a fire-putter-outer, and he will be keen to restablish his own managerial career with a push at the top end of a table.
The Shakers did lose their biggest asset in James Vaughan, who showed how good he can be if he can stay fit. In his place Clark has added the firepower of Jason Beckford and Nicky Ajose, both with something to prove, plus Scotsman Chris Maguire from Oxford. Clark also managed to convince tough tackling Stephen Dawson to join from Scunthorpe and the skillful Jay O’Shea from relegated Chesterfield. O’Shea can add goals too, and played a big part in Sheffield United’s promotion after playing there on loan during the second half of last season.
Jamaican winger Chris Humphrey comes from Hibs and in defence two very able and experienced central defenders in Adam Thompson (Southend) and Tom Aldred (Blackpool) were persauded to join Lee Clark’s revolution.
Bury are my dark horses for this season, although I think over a course of it they may struggle to hold their own at the top end of the table against much better quality than we saw last season. But still Bury fans should be able to look forward to their best finish for two decades.
Key player – Nicky Ajose
CA expectation – Top half including a flirtation with the play-offs
Bury’s local rivals are Rochdale, who under Keith Hill have found life in League One less of an adjustment than some others. Dale have finished 8th, 10th and 9th in the past three seasons and have mixed it with clubs with far greater financial muscle. Hill is a steady influence and save for one season at Barnsley is in his 11th season at Spotland. Hill, however will be very conscious that Dale had a poor end to last season and will not want the begin this season with that hangover.
Hill did lose a couple of good players in the summer. Central midfielder Matty Lund joined Burton and a big influence on the team, Nathaniel Mendez-Laing also jumped up a level going to Cardiff. And not much has been added, at least yet, with probably the not much known about Jordan Williams the most exciting signing. The sought after striker signing from non-league Barrow.
There’s a theory of course that you can only over-achieve for so long, and Rochdale may well find this season their toughest yet in League One as around them similar sized clubs improve and the ‘bigger’ names attempt to re-invent themselves. Dale will rely heavily on journeyman striker Calvin Andrew and young midfielder Callum Camps. I’d also like to add my admiration of Joe Thompson, who has battled cancer for the seond time, and will be back in the Dale fold.
Key player – Callum Camps
CA expectation – A relegation battle
The last of the Lancashire quartet is Oldham Athletic. John Sheridan is something of a legend around Oldham way and when he re-joined them for a third time in January the Latics looked all but down. Sheridan manages how he played and his rejuvenated side ground out enough points to survive, even avoiding the last day drama that involved a handful of other teams.
This will be Oldham’s 14 consecutive season in the 3rd tier, the league’s longest continual member, but rarely have they done anything other than cling onto safety and have only twice finished above 10th.
Sheridan has overseen minimal player changes during the summer, which would tell me they are in for another season of relegation battling. The hardly prolific striker Craig Davies joined from Scunny and full back Rob Hunt made last season’s loan permanent from Brighton.
The squad looks short on numbers and quality and Sheridan will be relying on another good defensive record, with the experience of Anthony Gerrard and Peter Clarke the backbone of the Latics defence. Compared to last summer this one has been a giant step forward for Oldham’s supporters but I can’t see anything other than a season of struggle.
Key player – Anthony Gerard
CA expectation – relegation dogfight