It’s time for the next of our gargantuan pre-season previews we’re off to League Two, where the Bovril is likely to be scalding hot and the pies may still be frozen in the middle. Perhaps surprisingly, everybody that finished last season starts this time around, and no-one (at the time of writing) has been deducted any points yet, either. Rob Freeman has been kind enough to run his eye over the runners and riders, and these are his conclusions.
1. Rotherham United:
In: Jamie Annerson, Nicky Law (both Sheffield United), Kevin Ellison (Chester City), Andy Liddell (Oldham Athletic), Tom Pope (Crewe Alexandra), Paul Warne (Yeovil Town)
Out: Mark Burchill (Kilmarnock), Jamie Clarke (Lincoln City), Marc Newsham (Boston United), Reuben Reid (West Bromwich Albion), Alex Rhodes (Oxford United), Jamie Yates (Kettering Town), Tom Cahill, Peter Holmes, Mark Hudson, Andy Todd (released)
What a difference twelve months makes, as Rotherham go from starting the season seventeen points adrift, to being second favourites. The main concern of the fans is to get through the season without off-field sanctions, having surrendered a total of 47 points to financial difficulties over the last three terms. Hopefully, the spending under the new regime is sustainable, and signings such as Pope (for a club record £150,000) are a statement of intent to the rest of the division. Overall the new faces are a good mix of youth and experience, and with the club earning 75 points on the pitch last season, and looking stronger this time round, promotion looks very likely.
In: Damien Allen (Halifax Town), Danny Carlton (Carlisle United), Ryan Lowe (Chester City)
Out: Steve Haslam, Glynn Hurst (Released)
Bury had their best season in years, as they finished in the play-offs, only losing out on automatic promotion on the last day of the season, on goal difference. Alan Knill has kept all of the important players of the squad, and has added some competition up front in Carlton and Lowe. Knill also used the loan system very successfully last season, and this time round could Bury should do even better.
3. Northampton Town:
In: Dean Beckwith, Steve Guinan (Hereford United), Sebastian Harris (Oakland Golden Grizzlies), Craig Hinton (Bristol Rovers), Chris McCready (Crewe Alexandra), Billy McKay (Leicester City), Gary Mulligan (Gillingham), Paul Rodgers (Arsenal)
Out: Ikechi Anya (Sevilla Atletico), Giles Coke (Motherwell), Leon Constantine (Hereford United), Jason Crowe (Leeds United), Chris Doig (Central Coast Mariners), Mark Hughes (Walsall), Colin Larkin (released)
Relegation bites, even at this level, and several of Northampton’s first team have moved on. Replacing them are a mixture of youngsters from elsewhere and experienced heads from last season’s League One. The side does look a little weaker and the loss of the highly-rated Coke for nothing will hurt, but the Cobblers look to be in a good enough position to bounce straight back.
4. Notts County:
In: Neil Bishop (Barnet), Ben Davies (Shrewsbury Town), Lee Hughes (Oldham Athletic), Graeme Lee (Bradford City), Ricky Ravenhill (Darlington), Luke Rodgers (Yeovil Town), Craig Westcarr (Kettering Town), Brendan Moloney (Nottingham Forest, loan)
Out: Richard Butcher (Lincoln City), Gavin Strachan (Corby Town), Adam Tann (Histon), Myles Weston (Brentford), Jamie Forrester, Adam Nowland (both released), Michael Johnson (retired)
Most of the column inches in the national press has centred around Notts County, their mysterious new owners and their new Director of Football Sven Göran Eriksson. So far though, the majority of the new signings Ian McParland has made were before the takeover went through, and they were solid for League Two rather than spectacular. Since the takeover and Eriksson’s appointment, only Karl Hawley and Lee Hughes have arrived. It remains to be seen who else may arrive so, for now, we can only predict based on what has happened, not what might happen. Until the situation becomes clearer, the Magpies are looking at being playoff contenders.
In: Kenny Arthur (Accrington Stanley), Matty Edwards (Leeds United, Jason Kennedy (Darlington)
Out: Nathan D’Laryea (Hyde United). Mark Jones (Wrexham), Simon Ramsden (Bradford City), Lee Thorpe (Darlington), Lee McEvilly, Sam Russell, James Spencer (all released)
Rochdale have come close to leaving this division for the first time in 35 years over the last two seasons, and Keith Hill has decided that continuity is the key. Arthur replaces Russell in goal, and Kennedy will add extra service to the forwards. A play-off spot beckons. Again.
6. Cheltenham Town:
In: Julian Alsop (Bishops Cleeve), Barry Hayles (Leicester City), David Hutton (Tottenham Hotspur), Michael Pook (Swindon Town), Justin Richards (Kidderminster Harriers), Barry Richardson (Nottingham Forest), Oliver Bozanic (Reading, loan), Tom Denton (Huddersfield Town, loan)
Out: Gavin Caines (Kidderminster Harriers), Paul Connor (Lincoln City), John Finnigan (Kidderminster Harriers), Shane Higgs (Leeds United), Lloyd Owusu (Adelaide United), Alex Russell (Exeter City), Damian Spencer (Kettering Town), Ashley Vincent (Colchester United), Ian Westlake (Wycombe Wanderers), Alan Wright (Fleetwood Town), Andy Lindegaard (released)
It’s fair to say that Martin Allen has had a cull since he arrived at Whaddon Road, completely revolutionising the squad since he arrived last September. The changes he made during the season weren’t enough to save them from relegation, but the summer has brought more new signings and time to regroup. Cheltenham will still need time to gel once the season starts, but come the end of the season they will be there or thereabouts.
7. Hereford United:
In: Chris Adamson (Ilkeston Town), Adam Bartlett, Keith Lowe (both Kidderminster Harriers), Leon Constantine (Northampton Town), Ryan Green (Bristol Rovers), Darren Jones (Forest Green Rovers), Kenny Lunt (Sheffield Wednesday), Lee Morris (Burton Albion), Marc Pugh (Shrewsbury Town), Glen Southam (Dagenham & Redbridge), Jamie Tolley (Macclesfield Town), Ryan Valentine (Darlington), Darren Dennehy (Cardiff City, loan)
Out: Dean Beckwith, Steve Guinan (Northampton Town), Toumani Diagouraga (Peterborough United), Ben Smith (Crawley Town), Jose Veiga (Macclesfield Town), Karl Broadhurst, Bradley Hudson-Odoi, Richard Jackson, Craig Jones, Stephen O’Leary, Kris Taylor (all released)
Another side with an overhaul is Hereford United. Graham Turner has stepped down as manager after thirteen seasons, handing over the reigns to his assistant John Trewick. Trewick has had a busy summer rebuilding the squad, and while they look strong in midfield and defence, at the time of writing they only have two strikers on the books. As a result, going straight back up may just be beyond them but they won’t be far away.
In: Mark Allott, Mark Crossley (both Oldham Athletic), Ian Breckin (Nottingham Forest), Drew Talbot (Luton Town)
Out: Ben Algar, Jamie Winter (released)
For the final season at Saltergate, John Sheridan replaces Lee Richardson as manager and brings in some experience from higher up the league. Otherwise the squad stays relatively unchanged, and that sort of stability on the pitch could be enough to give them a great start. Overall the squad is stronger and that’s why they’re likely to be one of the contenders.
9. Bradford City:
In: Gareth Evans (Macclesfield Town), Michael Flynn (Huddersfield Town), Simon Ramsden (Rochdale), Zesh Rehman (Queens Park Rangers), James Hanson (Guiseley), Simon Eastwood (Huddersfield Town, loan)
Out: Simon Ainge (Bradford Park Avenue), Paul Arnison, Mark Bower (both Darlington), Barry Conlon (Grimsby Town), Paul Heckingbottom, Kyle Nix (both Mansfield Town), Graeme Lee (Notts County), Paul McLaren (Tranmere Rovers), Rhys Evans, Keith Gillespie (both Released)
Bradford have had a clear-out, with most of the players who have left being deemed surplus to requirements by manager Stuart McCall, but McLaren and Lee were allowed to leave to reduce the club’s wage bill further. Rehman has made his move permanent, and Ramsden should help tighten up the defence, but having just missed out on the play-offs last season, it seems a similar fate is in store for the Bantams this time round.
10. Shrewsbury Town:
In: Kris Bright (Panserraikos), Craig Disley (Bristol Rovers), Nathan Elder (Brentford), Dean Holden (Falkirk), Joss Labadie (West Bromwich Albion), Chris Neal (Preston North End), Lewis Neal (Carlisle United), Jake Robinson (Brighton & Hove Albion)
Out: Neil Ashton (Chester City), Nick Chadwick (Darlington), James Constable (Oxford United), Ben Davies (Notts County), Ben Herd (Aldershot Town), Stephen Hindmarch (Workington), Grant Holt (Norwich City), James Meredith (York City), Darren Moss (Morecambe), Marc Pugh (Hereford United), Michael Symes (Accrington Stanley), Moses Ashikodi (released)
Another team with a high turnover of players, and will take time to gel. Paul Simpson seems to have gone for youth, rather than experience, but will be familiar with the Neals from their time together at Preston. The team appears to be a little weaker this time round, so may need to stay injury free if they are to repeat last season’s play-off finish.
In: Mark Duffy (Southport), Darren Moss (Shrewsbury Town), Laurie Wilson (Chester City), Ian Craney, Phil Jevons (both Huddersfield Town, loan)
Out: Matthew Blinkhorn (Sligo Rovers), Michael Howard (Llanelli), Adam Yates (Port Vale), Diarmuid O’Carroll (released)
Little movement at Morecambe over the summer (certainly compared to some clubs) means that they can pick up, and maybe move on from the mid-table consolidation they have achieved in their short League lifetime, in this, their last season at Christie Park. The play-offs are not out of their reach.
12. Aldershot Town:
In: John Halls (Brentford), Ben Herd (Shrewsbury Town), Adam Hinshelwood (Brighton & Hove Albion), Clark Masters (Southend United)
Out: Nikki Bull (Brentford), Rhys Day (Oxford), Rob Elvins (Worcester City), Justin Cochrane, Ricky Newman (Released)
Consolidation was the name of the game for Aldershot Town last term, finishing a respectable 15th in their debut season. Gary Waddock has made some strong signings, as Halls, Herd and Hinshelwood all have a wealth of experience at higher levels, and are all under the age of 28. The only difficulty looks to be the goalkeeping position, as long-time custodian Bull left the club late last month to pursue a career outside of full time football (only to subsequently sign for Brentford – insert your own joke here), leaving Venezuelan Mikhail Jaimez-Ruiz as the most experienced replacement.
13. Lincoln City:
In: Richard Butcher (Notts County), Jamie Clarke (Rotherham United), Paul Connor (Cheltenham Town), Chris Fagan (Manchester United), Rene Howe (Peterborough United), Paul Musselwhite (Gateshead), Joe Heath (Nottingham Forest, loan)
Out: Lee Beevers (Colchester United), Ayden Duffy (Corby Town), Lee Frecklington (Peterborough United), Geoff Horsfield (Port Vale), Dany N’Guessan (Leicester City), Adrian Patulea (Leyton Orient), Owain Warlow (Llanelli), Ben Wright (Macclesfield Town), Gary King, Sam Mullarkey, Martin Pembleton, Frank Sinclair (both released)
Lincoln are another club who have a different look, but not all of it is through choice. The sale of N’Guessan brings some much needed funds into the club, and Patulea and Beevers both move up the League after rejecting contracts. The new signings, while promising don’t seem to replace the quality that has been lost, and mid-table mediocrity seems to be where the Imps’ season is headed.
14. Crewe Alexandra:
In: Patrick Ada (Histon), David Button (Tottenham Hotspur, loan)
Out: Julien Baudet (Colorado Rapids), Paul Carrington, Mark Woodards (both ** ****), Colin Daniel (Macclesfield Town), Chris McCready (Northampton Town), Michael O’Connor (Scunthorpe United), Tom Pope (Rotherham United), George Abbey, Eugen Bopp, Stuart Tomlinson (all released)
Crewe return to the basement division for the first time in fifteen years. Last season was a long one for the Alex, but they showed improvement as new manager Gudjon Thordason was awarded Manager of the Month in February. They will be looking to go straight up, but they are a young side having lost a lot of experience either through releases or bigger clubs snapping their brighter talents up. With only two additions, consolidation may be the best they can hope for.
15. Port Vale:
In: Tommy Fraser, Doug Loft (Brighton & Hove Albion), Geoff Horsfield (Lincoln City), Adam Yates (Morecambe)
Out: Kyle Perry (Mansfield Town), Dave Brammer, Scott Brown, Paul Edwards (both released)
Another club with little movement on the playing side. The biggest change being the arrival of Micky Adams and Geoff Horsfield as the new management team. Adams will be hoping to arrest the slide that has affected Port Vale in recent years and stability, with some faces familiar to Adams may well be the key. That said, none of the squad appear to stand out and a season in the mid-table may be the best bet, which if nothing else, will be an improvement.
16. Dagenham & Redbridge:
In: Will Antwi (Wycombe Wanderers), Danny Green (Bishops Stortford), Abu Ogogo (Barnet), Josh Scott (Hayes & Yeading), Stuart Thurgood (Grays Athletic)
Out: Jon Boardman (Woking), Danny Foster, Sam Saunders, Ben Strevens (all Brentford), Magnus Okuonghae (Colchester United), Glen Southam (Hereford United)
Dagenham & Redbridge finished last season with a flourish, missing out on the play-offs by a point. They have paid a price, as Brentford raided them for three of their best players. With the exception of Antwi, most of the replacements are inexperienced and this season may well be a lot more more difficult.
17. Burton Albion:
In: Paul Boertien (Walsall), Guy Branston (Kettering Town), Russell Penn (Kidderminster Harriers), Jimmy Phillips (Stoke City), Richard Walker (Bristol Rovers), Shane Redmond (Nottingham Forest, loan), Robin Shroot (Birmingham City, loan)
Out: Jody Banim (Real Maryland Monarchs), Jake Buxton, Saul Deeney (both Derby County), Danny Holmes (Ilkeston Town), Lee Morris (Hereford United), Martin Butler (Released)
The league newest club have brought in some much needed League experience, but the biggest question mark surrounds new manager Paul Peschisolido. Nigel Clough and Roy McFarland will provide big boots to fill, and maybe the club may find themselves regretting not appointing someone with experience. That said, Burton won’t be the worst side in the division, and at the very least they will stay up.
18. Macclesfield Town:
In: Hamza Bencherif, Emile Sinclair (Nottingham Forest), Paul Bolland (Grimsby Town), Nat Brown, Carl Tremarco (Wrexham), Colin Daniel (Crewe Alexandra), Ross Draper (Hednesford Town), Tyrone Kirk (Boston United), Paul Morgan (Bury), Stephen Reed (Weymouth), Matthew Tipton (Droylsden), Jose Veiga (Hereford United), Kyle Wilson (FC United of Manchester), Ben Wright (Lincoln City)
Out: Gareth Evans (Bradford City), Francis Green, James Jennings (Kettering Town), Neil Harvey (Retford United), Jamie Tolley (Hereford United), Richard Walker (Hednesford Town), Simon Yeo (Droylsden), Ahmed Deen, Jordan Hadfield, Danny Thomas (released)
Another team with a lot of movement as Keith Alexander looks for the right blend. Most of the incoming players are young or from non-league so it there will need to be a bedding-in process, but there’s certainly a fair amount of potential, even if this season is too early for it to be realised.
19. Torquay United:
In: Ben Joyce (Swindon Town), Scott Rendell (Peterborough United, loan)
Out: Iyseden Christie, Roscoe D’Sane (released)
Torquay have had the quietest summer of them all, releasing two strikers, and picking up two young players from higher up the leagues. League Two isn’t as close to the standard of the Conference as it once was, and the Gulls may find themselves back in a place with which they have been rather too acquainted over the last few years or so – towards the bottom of the league.
Out: Carl Preston (Weymouth)
It’s always difficult to gauge the mental effect a massive points deduction has on a team, but even that aside, Bournemouth won enough points on the field to have been within touching distance of the play-offs. The deduction for failing to agree a CVA instead meant that they only secured their League status with two games to go. Off the field, the club are still in a precarious position and the club have changed ownership, with new chairman Property Developer Eddie Mitchell having held a similar position at Dorchester Town. The club have also won a reprieve from a winding up order from the taxman until October. A transfer embargo has meant that no-one has arrived, but they have retained the squad from last season, so the next nine months are going to be one of consolidation on the pitch, and survival off it.
21. Accrington Stanley:
In: Luke Joyce (Carlisle), Darran Kempson (Wrexham), Michael Symes (Shrewsbury Town), Billy Kee (Leicester City, loan), Tom Lees, Alan Martin (both Leeds United, loan)
Out: Kenny Arthur (Rochdale), Jay Bell (Burscough), Andrew Smith, Colin Murdock (Both released)
Accrington have had a busy summer, as they faced a winding-up order over £300k owed to HM Revenue & Customs, but with an agreement reached, and a change of ownership, as David O’Neill has replaced Eric Whalley, but the club remain one of those on the tighter budgets in League Two. That said, goalkeeper Arthur is the only major loss. Symes has turned his loan into a permanent move, while Kempson and Joyce will add to the spine of the side. Accrington may struggle, but there are worse teams than them in League Two.
In: Jake Cole (Queens Park Rangers), Paul Furlong (Southend United), Jake Hyde (Swindon Town), Micah Hyde (Woking), Albert Jarrett (Gillingham), Yala Bolasie (Plymouth Argyle, loan)
Out: Adam Birchall (Dover Athletic), Neil Bishop (Notts County), Ian Hendon (Retired to concentrate as manager), Ran Kadoch (Bnei Yahuda), Michael Leary (Grimsby Town), Max Porter (Rushden & Diamonds), Nicky Nicolau (Released)
A small exodus at Underhill underlines Barnet’s status as one of the poorer relations of the division. Bishop is the big loss, but Hyde’s experience seems a good replacement on paper, although his best days are behind him. The only other signings are mainly temporary or as back-up, and Ian Hendon’s first full season as manager may prove to be a long one.
23. Grimsby Town:
In: Nick Colgan (Sunderland), Adrian Forbes (Millwall), Paul Linwood (Chester City), Peter Sweeney (Leeds United), Joe Widdowson (West Ham United)
Out: Paul Bolland (Macclesfield Town), Barry Conlon (Bradford City), James Hunt (Gainsborough Trinity), Michael Leary (Barnet), Chris Llewellyn (Neath Athletic), Peter Till (Walsall), Tom Newey, Andy Taylor (released)
Last season was a nightmare for the Mariners. Only saved by relegation thanks to Luton’s points deduction, and six points adrift of the next lowest team without a handicap. Mike Newell has reduced the size of the squad, but only two of the additions to the team are new – Colgan and Linwood – the other three were on loan last season. Unless Newell can bring in more loan players or stronger permanent players, this season will be nothing but a struggle.
In: Paul Arnison, Mark Bower (both Bradford City), Nick Chadwick (Shrewsbury Town), Mark Convery (Newcastle Blue Star), David Knight (Mansfield Town), Chris Lumsdon, Jeff Smith (both Carlisle United), Gary Smith (Brentford), Lee Thorpe (Rochdale), Dean Windass (Hull City)
Out: Pawel Abbott, Rob Purdie (both Oldham Athletic), Neil Austin (Hartlepool United), Gregg Blundell, Tim Ryan (both Chester City), Franz Burgmeier (Vaduz), Clayton Fortune (Weston-super-Mare), Robin Hulbert (Barrow), Jason Kennedy (Rochdale), Ricky Ravenhill (Notts County), Ryan Valentine (Hereford United), Alan White (Luton Town), Corey Barnes, Adam Griffin, Przemys?aw Kazimierczak, Andy Oakes, David Poole (all released)
All change at Darlington. The administrators released most of the squad at the end of last season, with only three first teamers and a handful of academy players remaining new manager Colin Todd has done well to build a small squad, but in general they are cast offs and older players for the time being. Darlington are due to come out of administration in the next few days with a CVA agreed, so they are unlikely to receive another points deduction, but even without that obstacle the Quakers will still face a long winter.