The 200% Football League Pre-Season: League Two

By on Jul 31, 2013 in English League Football, Latest | 0 comments

With the Football League just a few days from kicking off it’s time to start the annual preview of the lower professional ranks. With Financial Fair Play seeing clubs wait as late as possible to sign players, and the end of the transfer window replacing the beginning of the season for the point at which managers aim to finalise their squad for, predictions are often out of the window before September. Instead were doing small previews and looking at new arrivals. This is not intended to be comprehensive, so undoubtedly I’ll be missing that obscure signing from local non-league, but the aim is to be slighly informative without being heavy reading or repetitive. Although naturally, there are only so many ways in which to refer to players signing, joning, or being acquired by a club.

Scunthorpe United have used their summer to reorganise their attack. Chris Iwelumo’s experience looks set to lead the line, while Deon Burton will hopefully bring experience from Gillingham‘s promotion with him. Etienne Esajas and Andy Welsh will look to provide service from the wings Elsewhere Andy Dawson returns after a decade at Hull.

The Shakers have shaken up their squad since relegation with defenders Richard Hinds, Gareth Roberts and Nathan Cameron, midfielders Chris Sedgwick and Andrew Procter being joined at Bury by four new forwards, the pick of which looking like Ashley Grimes and Marlon Jackson. Rwandan Jessy Reindorf may be the most intriguing signing of the division.

Hartlepool United have largely stuck with the side they were relegated with, but manager Colin Cooper has recognised their lack of goals cost them last season, so has added winger Jack Compton and forward Niall Rodney in an attempt to improve their goals for tally.

Ten players arrive at Portsmouth, but the most important signature was the one that sealed the takeover that saw the Pompey Trust finally become owners of their own club. The pick of the signings look to be Simon Ferry, Andy Barcham, Ricky Holmes and Joe Devera, who will bring the much needed League Two experience to the club, while Romain Padovani could prove to be the cult hero of the season if he continues scoring from midfield, as he has done in their friendlies.

Burton Albion look to repeat – or better – their playoff finish of last season, and their signings are a mixture of youth and experience. Defenders Ian Sharps and Phil Edwards and forward Michael Symes have a wealth of experience at this level, and Rory Delap may be 37, but his throw-ins will add to the Brewers arsenal.

Cheltenham have gone for squad consistency in an attempt to go one better than last season, with most of the acquisitions looking like squad players. The evergreen Jamie Cureton, and Terry Gornell are the main two additions up front, while Troy Brown is a useful signing at the back. Matt Richards and Ashley Vincent add options out wide.

Aidy Boothroyd had a clear out at Northampton Town, with nine players leaving on free transfers over the summer, although just two players have stayed in the league. Just six players have arrived at the time of writing, including three new midfielders in the shape of Gary Deegan, Ian Morris and Darren Carter. The Cobblers need a great start if they want to challenge, and how those three adapt will be shape the start of their season.

Paul Cook made a promising start as Chesterfield manager, and his first close season has seen him pull of an excellent coupĀ  in signing combatitative Port Vale midfielder Sam Morsy. Ritchie Humphreys, Gary Roberts and Jimmy Ryan have been persuaded to drop a division. Ian Evatt is another defender who has dropped down to the bottom tier who should excel at this level.

Oxford United’s pre-season has been quieter than most, with the much-travelled Dave Kitson, Tom Newey, Johnny Mullins and David Hunt the only new major signings. Danny Rose also returns to the Kassam for the first time since the Us returned to the league.

Exeter‘s squad looks strong, and more importantly, settled. Sam Parkin arrives to add to the striking options, and at the time of writing, he’s the only experienced signing.

Southend United’s main headlines over the close season has been over their latest winding up order courtesy of a late paid tax bill, and the resulting transfer embargo presumably placing a dent in Phil Brown’s summer plans. Ben Coker and John White have arrived since last season to add to the defensive options, with midfielder Will Atkinson the only other arrival.

The biggest arrival at Rochdale has been the return of manager Keith Hill to Spotland. Peter Vincenti and Matt Done bring valuable experience, while Ollie Lancashire, Matthew Lund, Robbie Thompson and Ashley Eastham will all be looking to settle down, having spent more time on loan than with their previous parent clubs.

Fleetwood Town are one of the few clubs that have spent money with Antonu Sarcevic, Steven Schumacher and Ryan cresswell all arriving for undisclosed fees. Stephen Jordan, Jeff Hughes and Matty Blair head the rest of the arrivals, as Graham Alexander builds a strong squad as the Cod Army push for promotion.

Bristol Rovers were one of many sides that started last season slowly, only to kick into form as the season progressed. In the Pirates’ case, their upturn in form came with the arrival of John Ward. No new faces have arrived yet at the Memorial ground, with the only two signings being John Joe O’Toole and Steve Mildenhall, who were on loan here last season.

Wycombe Wanderers not only had a similar record last season, but also have had a similar summer, with just two signings. Jon-Paul Pittman returns having left the club two seasons ago, while veteran Scotsman Steven Craig plays south of the border for the first time. The biggest difference between Rovers and Wanderers is that Rovers have retained all their squad, while The Chairboys have seen Dave Winfield and Joel Grant move up the league for undisclosed fees.

Morecambe are another staying with a settled squad, with just three experienced players arriving. Although experienced is a term to be used lightly, as 26-year old defender Mark Hughes is the oldest arrival. Marcus Marshall is the only other arrival with major league experience.

York City‘s return to the Football League was almost the first one year stay since promotion and relegation was introduced between the League and the Conference. Nigel Worthington has had a busier summer than some of his counterparts with seven new arrivals. Richard Cresswell is the most well known, but Lewis Montrose and Ryan Jarvis may well end up being more effective.

Accrington Stanley will no doubt find themselves at the sharp end, as they invariably do, but this is usually down to a small squad, rather than a poor one. Very few acquisitions by new manager James Beattie mean that it’s also a settled squad, which should see them make a good start. Danny Webber is the latest exprienced striker to end up at the Crown Ground, although at the age of 31, he could prove to be the best acquisition of the season if (and unfortunately, it’s a big if) his injuries are behind him.

Alan Knill’s first close season at Torquay United has seen him bring together some great lookings signings on paper, and the Gulls look like the divisions dark horses. Dale Tonge has great lower division experience as do younger arrivals Elliot Benyon, Ben Harding and Krystian Pearce.

Wimbledon needed a last-day win to retain their league status last time around, but their form since the arrival of Neal Ardley was a lot stronger than their final position suggested. Ardley has strengthened the squad further with the signings of Andy Frampton, Barry Fuller, Callum Kennedy as the Dons look to have a safer season this time around.

The most controversial arrival at Plymouth Argyle will be the return of goalkeeper Luke McCormick. The rest of the Pilgrim’s signings are aimed at improving the attack. Reuben Reid is another player returning to Devon up front, and he’ll compete with other new signings Lewis Alessandra and Marvin Morgan, with Dominic Blizzard and Romauld Boco looking to provide their ammunition.

Dagenham & Redbridge have been quiet, with the well traveled Brian Saah the only one of new manager Wayne Burnett’s new signings with any real experience. He’ll need to plunder the loan market, otherwise it will be a long season.

Mansfield Town return to the league, and pick up a few signings from non-league. John McCombe has a few season’s League experience with Port vale, and Paul Black’s five years at Oldham will prove useful too as Paul Cox looks to build from the back. Jamie McGuire also has a season at Fleetwood to call on, otherwise it’s a brave new world for most of the squad.

Newport County’s first season in the fourth tier since their resurrection sees them go for a simple approach in terms of strenthening their squad, as three new players strengthen the spine of the squad with one defender (Harry Worley), one midfielder (Adam Chapman) and one forward (Chris Zebroski).

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