This week we have been looking forward to the return of the football season. On Wednesday we previewed the Npower Champonship, and yesterday saw us focus on the potential drama that’s set to unfold in League One.
Today, we analyse League Two, and what awaits supporters in what is sure to be one of the closest-fought seasons in recent memory:
Which signings have impressed you this summer?
Tony: Not as individuals but the signings of Chris Zebroski, Matt Harold and Scott Mcgleish by Bristol Rovers could go a long way to firing them to the promotion as they are all capable of goals. Scott Davies has been around for a while on loan at various clubs from Reading, he was very impressive at Aldershot but has struggled a bit since, and his permanent move to Crawley could be the platform for him to kick off his career again.
Laurie: As always, many deals in League Two have consisted of free transfers and loan deals, but for me the signing that stands out is that of striker Chris Zebroski, who could ensure an immediate return to League One for new club Bristol Rovers. Neil Harris could prove to be a very astute addition at Southend, and he is more than capable of being prolific at this level.
Who will be the favourites for automatic promotion?
Tony: Crawley are the bookies favourites but I can’t really see them gaining back to back automatic promotions. For me Bristol Rovers are favourites as I mentioned above, they have goals in the side and have a lot of players who are experienced at a level above. Swindon Town are the next favourites with the bookies and for me they are a bit of an unknown quantity with Paolo Di Canio at the helm. They certainly have the squad to go up but does Di Canio have the skill as a manager?
Laurie: It’s such an open league, but almost incredibly, it’s difficult to talk about promotion contenders and not mention Crawley Town. They’ve gone from being the richest club in the Blue Square Premier to one of the richest in League Two. While a lot of their signings have been free transfers, teams such as Stevenage have shown they can come up from non-league and launch a serious promotion push. If Paolo Di Canio can hit the ground running in management, then he has a squad at Swindon to be in contention come May, as do the likes of Shrewsbury and Gillingham. But I agree with Tony – for me, the team that stands out is Bristol Rovers, who have strengthened well and have a shrewd young manager in Paul Buckle.
Who could be this season’s dark horses?
Tony: They are not going to win the league but I expect a huge improvement in terms of final league replacement from Barnet this term, the appointment of Lawrie Sanchez is huge and I went to a few of their games at the back end of last season and at times they were a very good side. I also mentioned them in a previous article but Aldershot Town could fare better this year now Dean Holdsworth has been given time to get settled as manager.
Laurie: Every year people write off Accrington and every year John Coleman and his team prove them all wrong. I think that AFC Wimbledon are going to thrive in their first season in league football, their rise demonstrates that fan power is still alive and well, and will be the team for many neutrals. It’s not so much of a shock, but Bradford are the perennial underachievers in League Two, however I feel they will sneak a play-off spot under Peter Jackson, who understands what the club means to the fans and could be a real inspiration to the current squad.
Who could struggle?
Tony: This league is so tight at the bottom that no one would be a surprise struggler, the likes of Hereford and Macclesfield could be fighting relegation come the end of the season. But they could be battling with up to four other sides.
Laurie: I know Sanchez has experience at this level with Wycome, and Barnet always seem to defy the odds when it comes to avoiding relegation, having had some last-day escapes in recent seasons, including last campaign. But I still think they will find it tough to avoid the trap door this time around. Torquay need to bounce back quickly from the departures of their manager and some key players, while the likes of Cheltenham and Hereford could also be in trouble.
Who could be the player of the season?
Tony: For me there isn’t a stand out player in the division who I would put money on to win the award, I didn’t mention his name in the signing bit so I could name him here, Marvin Morgan was performing well at Aldershot before “Twittergate” his all round play was good but maybe he didn’t score enough. At Shrewsbury they will create more chances for him to get on the end of which could see him scoring around 20 goals and fire the Shrews to promotion. If Le Fondre finds himself in League Two again he will be the stand out player but I fully expect him to get a move away from Rotherham.
Laurie: I’m amazed that Le Fondre has not yet been snapped up by a club from a higher division. Critics may say that he doesn’t bring much else to a side apart from goals, but he’s scored 55 goals for Rotherham in just two seasons – when he’s that prolific he doesn’t need to bring much else. He’s also just 24, so he’s only going to get better. If he does remain with the Millers he will be the player to watch. If Le Fondre does leave, then Zebroski could take the plaudits.
Which young player should we look out for?
Tony: The young players that usually break through in this league are usually loanee’s from Premier League or Championship sides, that makes it very hard to predict who is going to be the young player of the year. This could be a huge chance for Medy Elito to prove himself, he was hugely praised as a youngster and hasn’t quite fulfilled his potential but this could be his chance to reach that next level.
Laurie: This could be a big season for striker John Akinde. The 22 year-old has shown in numerous loan spells his strengths – he’s quick, strong and powerful. Now that he has a permanent home at Crawley, Akinde could really flourish.
Tony’s Predicted final table
1. Bristol Rovers
3. Swindon Town
4. Oxford United
5. Port Vale
11. AFC Wimbledon
12. Dagenham and Redbridge
14. Aldershot Town
19. Burton Albion
Laurie’s Predicted final table
1. Bristol Rovers
2. Swindon Town
3. Crawley Town
4. Shrewsbury Town
6. Rotherham United
8. Port Vale
9. Accrington Stanley
10. Oxford United
11. Southend United
12. Northampton Town
13. AFC Wimbledon
14. Dagenham & Redbridge
16. Burton Albion
17. Plymouth Argyle
19. Crewe Alexandra
So what do you think? How will your team fare this season? Have the SFTS lads got it spot on or horribly wrong! As always, let us know your thoughts.