In the penultimate part of our exhaustive Football League pre-season preview, Rob Freeman looks at the runners and riders in League One, a division which is, peculiarly, starting to look a little bit like the bottom half of the Premier League did ten years ago.
1. Huddersfield Town
In: Peter Clarke (Southend United), Antony Kay (Tranmere Rovers), Lee Peltier (Yeovil Town), Jordan Rhodes (Ipswich Town), Theo Robinson (Watford), Robbie Simpson (Coventry City)
Out: Danny Cadamarteri (Dundee United), Michael Flynn (Bradford City), Andy Holdsworth, Keigan Parker, Jon Worthington (Oldham Athletic), Daniel Broadbent, Malvin Kamara, Dominik Werling (all released), Andy Booth (retired)
Huddersfield have splashed the cash this summer, thanks to chairman Dean Hoyle, and Lee Clark looks to have spent it well. The plan appears to have been to sign their rivals’ best players or higher division prospects who have excelled at this level. Rhodes in particular is a coup, considering Roy Keane was talking his potential up three days before the move. With the players added, it’s difficult to see anyone else finishing top of League One.
2. Charlton Athletic
In: Christian Dailly (Rangers), Miguel Ángel Llera (** ****), Frazer Richardson (Leeds United)
Out: Darren Ambrose (Crystal Palace), Mark Hudson (Cardiff City), Svetoslav Todorov (Litex Lovech), Josh Wright (Scunthorpe United), Jonathan Fortune, Matt Holland, Nicky Weaver, Zheng Zhi (all released)
Charlton looked shorn of confidence and leadership as they gave up their Championship status without a real fight, but Phil Parkinson has signed the right sort of players, as they bring experience, leadership, defensive and creative qualities. Andy Gray should be capable of scoring a hat-full in this division. Real contenders.
3. Norwich City
In: Jens Berthel Askou (Kas?mpa?a), Matthew Gill (Exeter City), Grant Holt (Shrewsbury Town), Stephen Hughes (Motherwell), Owain Tudur Jones (Swansea City), Goran Maric (Celta Vigo), Paul McVeigh (Luton Town), Michael Nelson (Hartlepool United), Michael Theoklitos (Melbourne Victory), Simon Whaley (Preston North End), Rhoys Wiggins (Crystal Palace), Ben Alnwick (Tottenham Hotspur, loan)
Out: Sammy Clingan (Coventry City), Carl Cort (Brentford), David Marshall (Cardiff City), Stuart Nelson (Aberdeen)
Bryan Gunn adds a little stability to the squad with eleven signings, after last season’s relegation. Norwich utilised the loan system far beyond the boundaries of usefulness, as they borrowed sixteen players from other clubs, which must have been a factor in the club’s first relegation to the third tier since 1960. The signings Gunn has made have largely looked good for a promotion challenge, although their goalkeeping situation isn’t ideal, with Alnwick yet to keep goal for a whole season, and Theoklitos being an unknown quantity. Other than that Norwich have all they need to go straight back up, although the jury is also still out on Gunn.
4. Colchester United
In: Lee Beevers (Lincoln City), David Fox (Blackpool), Gary Holt (Wycombe Wanderers), Magnus Okuonghae (Dagenham & Redbridge), Joel Thomas (Hamilton Academical), Ashley Vincent (Cheltenham Town), Ben Williams (Carlisle United), Kevin Lisbie (Ipswich Town, loan)
Out: Chris Coyne (Perth Glory), Dean Gerken (Bristol City), Mark Yeates (Middlesbrough), Akanni-Sunday Wasiu (released)
Paul Lambert begins his first full season in charge by showing signs of a clearout. Matt Heath and John White have been sent out on loan and the squad numbers suggest a number of the previous first team are now squad members or surplus to requirements compared to a number of seemingly excellent signings, and that’s likely to help them push for the play-offs.
In: Steve Morison (Stevenage Borough), Jason Price (Doncaster Rovers), John Sullivan (Brighton & Hove Albion)
Out: Richard Duffy (Exeter City), Adrian Forbes (Grimsby Town), Lenny Pidgeley (Carlisle United), Ahmet Brkovic, Danny Spiller (both released)
The Lions came so close to promotion last season, losing to Scunthorpe in a cracking FA Cup final at Wembley, but they haven’t really capitalised. Price turns his loan into a permanent deal, and Sullivan is likely to be backup keeper, so Morison is likely the only addition to the first team. The play-offs are within reach, but unless more additions arrive, it could be a lot tougher. In Millwall’s favour is that the division as a whole doesn’t look strong.
6. Leeds United
In: Jason Crowe (Northampton Town), Shane Higgs (Cheltenham Town), Patrick Kisnorbo (Leicester City), Micky Doyle (Coventry City, loan)
Out: Fabian Delph (Aston Villa), Jonathan Douglas, David Lucas (Swindon Town), Matty Edwards (Rochdale), Frazer Richardson (Charlton Athletic), Peter Sweeney (Grimsby Town)
Leeds just missed out on promotion via the play-offs, and only small improvements seemed to be needed, but just like at Millwall they haven’t materialised. Delph leaving is a bigger blow than the arrival of two new fullbacks will cover. The fee is rumoured to be £5-6m, which is extortionate for a player who has never played a full game above League One level. Just how much Leeds receive up front, will depend on how much they have available for replacements – assuming that they are in a position to use it on strengthening the team. Until new players arrive, the play-offs look the best that Leeds will achieve.
7. Brighton & Hove Albion
In: Andrew Crofts (Gillingham), Gary Dicker, James Tunnicliffe (both Stockport County), Liam Dickinson (Derby County), Alan Navarro, Mark Wright (both ** ****), Graeme Smith (Motherwell), Jake Wright (Crawley Town), Matt Thornhill (Nottingham Forest, loan)
Out: Chris Birchall (LA Galaxy), Adam Hinshelwood (Aldershot Town), Tommy Fraser, Doug Loft (Port Vale), Jake Robinson (Shrewsbury Town), John Sullivan (Millwall), Seb Carole, Jason Jarrett (released), Jonny Dixon, Kerry Mayo (retired)
Brighton struggled last season, but Russell Slade starts his first full season with a strong squad, and some very good acquisitions, especially the pair from the Franchise. The sheer number of new signings may prevent them challenging for automatic promotion, but play-off contention is a distinct possibility.
8. ** ****
In: Paul Carrington, Mark Woodards (Crewe Alexandra), Jermaine Easter (Plymouth Argyle), Stephen Gleeson, Lewis Gobern (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Jabo Ibehre (Walsall), David McCracken (Wycombe Wanderers), Richie Partridge (Chester City), Jason Puncheon (Plymouth Argyle, loan)
Out: Miguel Ángel Llera (Charlton Athletic), Alan Navarro, Mark Wright (both Brighton & Hove Albion), Carl Regan (Bristol Rovers)
Paul Ince returns to the franchise to replace Roberto Di Matteo and, with their previous free-spending policy, another championship challenge looked likely. But the changes are not those of a team looking to go forward. Four first team players have departed, and their replacements are mainly inexperienced. The signing of Partridge seems especially strange, considering that he struggled to hold down a starting role at Chester last term.
In: Mark Hughes (Northampton Town), Steve Jones (Burnley), Josh O’Keefe (Blackburn Rovers), Sam Parkin (Luton Town), Matt Richards (Ipswich Town), Peter Till (Grimsby Town), Jamie Vincent (Swindon Town)
Out: Paul Boertien (Burton Albion), Anthony Gerrard (Cardiff City), Jabo Ibehre (** ****), Chris Palmer (Gillingham), Stephen Hughes, Michael Ricketts, Sofiane Zaaboub (released)
Chris Hutchings starts his first full season at the Bescot Stadium with the main losses being Gerrard and Ibehre, but replacements in the shape of Hughes and Parkin look more than adequate replacements. The addition of Jones and Richards from the Championship will also help the squad, and should help guide the squad into the top half, although a play-off berth looks beyond them for now.
10. Leyton Orient
In: Ben Chorley (Tranmere Rovers), Scott McGleish (Wycombe Wanderers), Adrian Patulea (Lincoln City), James Scowcroft (Crystal Palace), Jimmy Smith (Chelsea)
Out: Adam Boyd (Hartlepool United), Paul Terry (Luton Town), Danny Granville, Wayne Gray, Aiden Palmer, Brian Saah, Alton Thelwell (all released)
Geraint Williams helped steer the Os away from the relegation zone after being appointed in February. The close season has given him chance to make his first permanent signings, and they’re all pretty strong. The fact that only one of the released players has stayed at this level suggests a clear-out was needed. Orient’s first eleven looks one of the strongest in the division, but the squad is small, with only 19 players with league experience. Unless they’re unlucky with injuries, mid-table beckons.
11. Southend United
In: Matt Heath, John White (both Colchester United, loan), Lee Sawyer (Chelsea, loan)
Out: Charles Ademeno (Crawley Town), Peter Clarke (Huddersfield Town)
The Shrimpers have had the quietest pre-season in the league, with only five players moving, and no permanent additions. Clarke will be a big loss, but the loans of White and Heath will help the Essex club cope without him, as long as the moves can be made permanent. Southend’s ideally could have done with increasing their fire power, but with no strikers signing, mid-table will be the best the cam hope for.
12. Oldham Athletic
In: Pawel Abbott, Rob Purdie (both Darlington), Dean Brill (Luton Town), Dean Furman (Rangers), Andy Holdsworth, Keigan Parker, Jon Worthington (Huddersfield Town), Joe Jacobson (Bristol Rovers), Michael McKerr (Birmingham City), Rene Steer (Arsenal), Alex Marrow (Blackburn Rovers, loan)
Out: Mark Allott, Mark Crossley (Chesterfield), Greg Fleming (Dunfermline Athletic), Lee Hughes (Notts County), Andy Liddell (Rotherham United), Kevin Maher (Gillingham), Stefan Stam (Yeovil Town), Matthew Wolfenden (Wrexham), Jean-Paul Kalala (released)
Oldham ended last season with an alarming slump in form, which claimed the job of John Sheridan, and also brought an unhappy second spell for Joe Royle. Dave Penney has arrived and brought with him sweeping changes, some familiar faces from Darlington and three players from Huddersfield. It seems a steady, if unspectacular tactic, but should ensure that Oldham consolidate, rather than challenge or struggle.
13. Bristol Rovers
In: Dominic Blizzard (Stockport County), Carl Regan (** ****) , Fraser Forster (Newcastle United, loan)
Out: Craig Disley (Shrewsbury Town), Ryan Green (Hereford United), Craig Hinton (Northampton Town), Joe Jacobson (Oldham Athletic), Richard Walker (Burton Albion)
Rovers have had one of the quietest summers in the division, but Paul Trollope has signed well in Regan and Blizzard, but they only compensate for the loss of Hinton and Jacobson, so last season’s mid-table finish is likely to be repeated.
In: Alan Bennett (Reading), Nikki Bull (Aldershot Town), Carl Cort (Norwich City), Danny Foster, Sam Saunders, Ben Strevens (all Dagenham & Redbridge), Myles Weston (Notts County), Lewis Price (Derby County, loan)
Out: Nathan Elder (Shrewsbury Town), John Halls (Aldershot Town), Brett Johnson (Wimbledon), Adam Newton (Luton Town), Gary Smith (Darlington), Ross Montague, Glenn Poole, Darren Powell (released), Craig Pead (retired)
Last season’s League Two champions have strengthened the team with mainly promising players from the Division they’ve just won. A lot of fans saw the key to doing well being in Alan Bennett turning his loan into a permanent deal, and Jordan Rhodes returning. As said above, Rhodes is now at Huddersfield and the new strikers are Strevens and Cort. Strevens misses the start of the season with a broken leg, and Cort’s injury proneness is well known. That said, Brentford look strong enough at the back to stay up, and maybe even threaten mid-table mediocrity.
In: Dan Harding (Ipswich Town), Graeme Murty (Reading)
Out: Jason Euell (Blackpool), Stern John (Crystal Palace), David McGoldrick (Nottingham Forest), Drew Surman (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Bradley Wright-Phillips (Plymouth Argyle), Rudi Skacel, Ryan Smith (both released), Michael Svensson (retired)
Some teams are tougher to predict than others, and the Saints fall into that category. At times over the summer, it has looked like the 1976 FA Cup winners may cease to exist, so the purchase of the club by Swiss billionaire Markus Liebherr has not just secured the future of the club, but instilled confidence in the fans. The first of the players to pay that back was goalkeeper Kelvin Davis who turned down a move to West Ham United in order to extend his stay at St. Mary’s. Prior to Liebherr’s arrival two players had been sold, and with only two signings since exiting administration, a youthful squad outside the first eleven and a ten point deduction, a promotion challenge seems unlikely.
16. Yeovil Town
In: Dean Bowditch (Ipswich Town), Danny Hutchins (Tottenham Hotspur), Richard Martin (Manchester City), Scott Murray (Bristol City), George O’Callaghan (Dundalk), Ben Roberts (Derry City), Stefan Stam (Oldham Athletic), Sam Williams (Aston Villa), Steven Caulker, Ryan Mason (both Tottenham Hotspur, loan), Alex McCarthy (Reading)
Out: Lee Peltier (Huddersfield Town), Luke Rodgers (Notts County), Paul Warne (Rotherham United), Aaron Brown, Josh Wagenaar (both released)
Terry Skiverton begins his first full season as a manager by bringing a lot of youth to Huish Park. While the trio from Spurs and Martin are likely to be backup and squad members, the rest of the additions look like they should improve the Glovers standing in the third tier. Whether Skiverton will be able to match that, considering his inexperience, but barring disaster, Yeovil are unlikely to trouble the drop zone.
17. Wycombe Wanderers
In: Stuart Beavon (Weymouth), Michael Duberry (Reading), Stuart Green (Blackpool), Lewis Montrose (Wigan Athletic), Ian Westlake (Cheltenham Town), Chris Westwood (Peterborough United)
Out: Will Antwi (Dagenham & Redbridge), Gary Holt (Colchester United), David McCracken (** ****), Scott McGleish (Leyton Orient), Nathan Ashton, Leon Crooks, Magno Vieira (all released)
Wycombe have strengthened their side significantly after promotion. Peter Taylor resists his usual temptation to add numerous players from his former clubs, only bringing in Green from his Hull/Palace days. One thing Wycombe do lack though is a decent goalscorer. With only 54 goals in the league last season, Wycombe will need to add fire power, and that will be the difference between a relegation scrap, and mid-table consolidation.
18. Hartlepool United
In: Neil Austin (Darlington), Denis Behan (Cork City), Adam Boyd (Leyton Orient), Scott Flinders (Crystal Palace), Jon Andre Fredriksen (Sarpsborg), Peter Hartley (Sunderland), Leon McSweeney (Stockport County)
Out: Michael Nelson (Norwich City), Joel Porter (Gold Coast United), Matty Robson (Carlisle United), Jan Budtz, Arran Lee-Barrett, Jamie McCunnie (all released)
Pools only survived the drop by a point, and manager Chris Turner needed to strengthen the squad – and he’s done it in most areas, except defence, where the club are down to five fit defenders at the time of writing. Behan and Boyd should improve the goals for column, but considering they were the third highest scorers outside the play-offs, maybe Wilson has strengthened in the wrong areas. That said, they do look stronger than last season, so survival is likely, if mid-table isn’t achieved.
19. Swindon Town
In: Scott Cuthbert (Celtic), Jonathan Douglas, David Lucas (Leeds United), Gordon Greer (Doncaster Rovers), Jakub Jesionkowski (Zag??bie Lubin), Alan O’Brien (Hibernian)
Out: Barry Corr (Exeter City), Simon Cox (West Bromwich Albion), Jake Hyde (Barnet), Ben Joyce (Torquay United), Lilian Nalis (Bastia), Michael Pook (Cheltenham Town), Jack Smith (Millwall, Jamie Vincent (Walsall), Chris Allen, Petr Brezovan, Pat Kanyuka, Hamdi Razak, Blair Sturrock (released)
Danny Wilson culled the squad in his first close season at the County ground, releasing a dozen players. Greer turns his loan move into a permanent one, and a couple of players come in from Leeds and north of the Border, but the rumoured £1.5m the club have received for Simon Cox hasn’t gone on strengthening the team, and the overall quality of the team drops as a result. Swindon may struggle, but should be safe.
20. Exeter City
In: Joe Burnell (Oxford United), Barry Corr (Swindon Town), Richard Duffy (Millwall), Scott Golbourne (Reading), Alex Russell (Cheltenham Town)
Out: Steve Basham (Luton Town), Matthew Gill (Norwich City), Dean Moxey (Derby County), Fred Murray, Jack Obersteller (both released)
Exeter reach the third tier for the first time in over a decade, and have also kept most of their players. The biggest departure is Moxey, who left for £300k, which the club will use wisely if previous history is anything to go by. They have strengthened the squad, but the players have very little experience in this level. Team spirit and a habit of having spent the last two seasons mainly winning will be their best bet for survival.
In: Kevin Maher (Oldham Athletic), Chris Palmer (Walsall), Rashid Yussuf (Charlton Athletic), Josh Gowling (Carlisle United, loan)
Out: Andrew Crofts (Brighton & Hove Albion), Albert Jarrett (Barnet), Gary Mulligan (Northampton Town), Nicky Southall (Dover Athletic), Sean Clohessy (released)
Gillingham bounced straight back from relegation, by beating Shrewsbury in the play-offs. and have made few changes. Crofts will be a big loss, and it’s difficult to see how much of an improvement to the side the new additions will make. As with the other promoted sides, it will be a season of struggle, rather than prosperity.
22. Carlisle United
In: Adam Collin (Workington), Tony Kane (Blackburn Rovers), Lenny Pidgeley (Millwall), Matty Robson (Hartlepool United), Tom Taiwo (Chelsea, loan)
Out: Danny Carlton (Bury), Danny Graham (Watford), Luke Joyce (Accrington Stanley), Chris Lumsdon, Jeff Smith (Darlington), Lewis Neal (Shrewsbury Town), Ben Williams (Colchester United), Chris Howarth (released)
Carlisle’s squad has reduced significantly over the summer, and the signings are in the main uninspiring. Between the sticks looks a significant problem. Lenny Pidgeley didn’t make a league appearance last term, and Adam Collin has no experience above Blue Square North. Carlisle just stayed up last season, but that looks beyond them this time round.
23. Tranmere Rovers
In: Mark Allott (Oldham Athletic), Alan Mahon (Burnley), Paul McLaren (Bradford City), John Welsh (Hull City), Luke Daniels (West Bromwich Albion, loan), Gavin Gunning (Blackburn Rovers, loan), Shaleum Logan (Manchester City, loan)
Out: Adnan Ahmed (Ferencvaros), Mark Allott (Chesterfield) Ben Chorley (Leyton Orient), Danny Coyne (Middlesbrough), Chris Greenacre (Wellington Phoenix), Steven Jennings (Motherwell), Antony Kay (Huddersfield Town), Andy Taylor (Sheffield United), Paul Henry, Edrissa Sonko (released), John Achterberg (retired)
Every Division seems to have a “car-crash” club, and League One’s is Tranmere. Tranmere missed out on the play-offs thanks to a late equaliser in their final game against Scunthorpe, and manager Ronnie Moore paid the price. Moore’s replacement was totally left-field, as it meant the return to football of John Barnes. Barnes hasn’t been involved with a club on a day to day basis since being sacked by Celtic in 2000, and his knowledge of League One football is unknown (his comments suggest that he feels League One is almost beneath him: “I’ve applied for numerous jobs and sometimes I haven’t even had the courtesy of a reply to my application letter, perhaps I could understand it if I was applying for jobs at the top level but these were clubs in League One”). New signings have been few and far between, either over thirty or inexperienced, and the squad as a whole fits that profile with the exception of Gareth Edds and Baz Savage – John Welsh may be twenty-five years old but has less than 70 league games under his belt. Barnes’ first signing Mark Allott has already left for Chesterfield, and is part of a major exodus at the club, leaving them with just eighteen professionals. Barnes needs to prove his tenure at Celtic was an aberration, and his exploits with the Jamaican national side, taking them to the Caribbean Championship title last year suggests his tactical knowledge has improved, but with such a small squad, Tranmere seem likely to struggle.
24. Stockport County
In: Paul Gerrard (Free Agent)
Out: Dominic Blizzard (Bristol Rovers), Gary Dicker, James Tunnicliffe (Brighton & Hove Albion), Matty McNeil (Hyde United), Leon McSweeney (Hartlepool United), Tommy Rowe (Peterborough United), Paul Ennis (released)
It’s been a summer of administration at Stockport, so a transfer embargo has prevented them from signing anyone but Gerrard, who arrives as goalkeeping coach and backup. Enforced sales such as Rowe to Peterborough have enabled the club to get through the summer but have seen the squad reduced in numbers and quality, with only sixteen players left with League experience. The club should exit administration any day, but unless the club can bring in some new names quickly, and start better than they ended, they are unlikely to do better than have a long fight against relegation.