Tuesday, 28 August 2018

League 2 Discussion 6: Stevenage, Swindon, Tranmere, Yeovil

It has been a solid couple of seasons for Stevenage. They are an established League 2 certainly not fighting against relegation but I’m sure has ambition of competing for promotion. Stevenage have been a settled club for some time despite the surprise sacking of Darren Sarll in the middle of last season, the club has continued to be stable under current boss Dino Mammria who knows the club well having played for them during his career. He certainly would like to get Stevenage competing for a play-off spot this season and he will be quietly confident his side are the dark horses for promotion this season. Mammria has completely stripped the squad to his liking with 14 new signings joining the club. Mammria has added proven League 2 players in the likes of Jamal Campbell-Ryce, Scott Cuthbert, Michael Timlin, Joel Byrom, Ben Nugent and Paul Farman. All are proven players at this level and Mammria will be delighted to have them all on board. However, Mammria has used his non-league knowledge and brought in new talent including James Ball, Luther Wildin, Emmanuel Sonupe and Donovan Makoma. All share a hunger and desire to prove why they were signed and will relish their chance of playing in the football league. Mammria has a good balance of experience, youth and hunger in his side and he will be confident they can compete for promotion this season. The Stevenage fans may head into the new season unsure of their sides prospects because of the vast changes but they will be confident Mammria is the man to deliver a potentially exciting season for the club.
I think Stevenage will be a difficult side to predict because of the vast changes. Mammria will feel they are promotion contenders while others will feel a season of struggle could be on the horizon. I edge towards the promotion challenge, but I feel they will come up short and finish in mid-table this season.

My Predicted Finish: 14th

Expectations will be high at Swindon this season after agonisingly missing out on a play-off spot last season. However, a full pre-season under Phil Brown, a proven promotion winner at this level, Swindon will be confident this is their season to secure promotion back to League 1. Phil Brown is expected to deliver with the fans and owner Lee Power expecting a return to third tier. The players will have to thrive on the pressure and expectations. Phil Brown has tweaked the squad slightly with 10 departures and 9 new arrivals so far. Paul Mullin and Luke Norris are amongst the contingent to leave but Michael Doughty and Tounami Diagouraga are amongst the new arrivals. Diagouraga is an excellent signing at this level and will a strong steel and good passing range at the heart of Swindon’s midfield. While Marc Richards will once again lead Swindon’s attack and he does enjoy a goal at this level and he will be important for Swindon’s chances of getting promotion. Swindon will be expected to be competing for automatic promotion and certainly a play-off spot would the expected finish this season and anything else is certainly deemed a failure. However, with a proven boss in Phil Brown, it is difficult to rule Swindon out of the automatic promotion race.
I believe Swindon will be competing for promotion and will secure a play-off spot. However, I feel there are stronger squads and these games will decide who takes automatic promotion and I feel Swindon will miss out on a top 3 finish but rule them out at your own peril because League 2 is extremely difficult to call.

My Predicted Finish: 6th

It was an excellent season last time out for Tranmere having secured their promotion back to the football league after winning the National League play-offs. Micky Mellon has done an excellent job at Tranmere and he will be confident the club will survive relegation comfortably and consolidate themselves back in the football league. Mellon has reliable players he can trust including James Norwood, Jay Harris, Scott Davies and Richie Sutton. All were excellent last season and will be confident the momentum built can be brought into the new season. However, Mellon has transformed the squad letting 13 leave and 13 join the club in the transfer window. The likes of Andy Mangan, Jay McEveley, Andy Cook, James Alabi, Ollie Norburn and James Wallace have departed for new challenges. While Mellon has added excellent players at this level including Mark Ellis, Ollie Banks, Paul Mullin, Zoumana Bakayogo, Cole Stockton and Luke McCullough. All join a club with confidence and many Tranmere fans will believe they could be competing for a play-off spot. While this is a long-term ambition, a consolidation season in League 2 would represent an excellent season for Tranmere.
I think Tranmere will take a few scalps this season and cause teams plenty of problems. I think promotion is out of reach this season and a mid-table finish would represent an excellent season and I feel this is where Tranmere will end up.

My Predicted Finish: 16th

It has been a penny-pinching time for Yeovil with the club having fallen from the Championship to League 2. The club has struggled in both League 1 and League 2. But with cup ties like Manchester United at home, this has increased the club’s budget and allowed boss Darren Way to build a team that he believes can compete for a play-off spot. While Way will believe that, many people will be sceptical and expect to see Yeovil at the wrong end of the table. Darren Way has lost creative spark Otis Khan to Mansfield and that is a blow, but he will have the upmost confidence in his 10 new recruits that can fill the gap left by him. The club has managed to keep excellent performers like Tom James, Omar Sowunmi and Francois Zoko. These players are crucial to Yeovil and are vital to any success the club has or wants this season. 10 new faces have arrived including young players like Dialling Jaiyesimi, Nathan Baxter, Alex Pattinson and Wes McDonald culminating with experienced signings like Carl Dickinson, Gary Warren and Sassi D’Almeida. Darren Way has a very good blend of youth and experience in his squad he will believe in the squad he has assembled. The Yeovil fans have faith in their manager and will hope he can deliver something special this season.
I feel although Yeovil will believe they can compete for promotion, I feel they will be battling against the drop because there is a lot of change and they must gel quickly as a team to have any success this season. They have struggled for too many seasons, but I feel they will survive once again this season.

My Predicted Finish: 21st

League 2 Discussion 5: Northampton, Notts County, Oldham, Port Vale

It was a miserable season last time out for the Cobblers of Northampton. The club struggled for vast amounts of last season and going through 3 different managers in one season is never a good sign. Both Justin Edinburgh and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink were sacked during the course of the season and the club finished the campaign with current boss Dean Austin. Despite some encouraging performances under Austin, the club were ultimately relegated. However, the fans and owners will expect promotion at the first attempt in the new season and their squad is more than good enough at this level. The likes of John-Joe O’Toole, Matt Crooks, Aaron Pierre, Ash Taylor and Daniel Powell are all excellent players at this level and should Northampton continue how they finished the previous season, they have every chance of competing for promotion. However, the common issue for any relegated team is adapting to their new league and Northampton will have to adapt quickly if their season is to end with success. Dean Austin has brought in new faces to freshen up the squad and his new recruits include proven goal scorers Andy Williams and Junior Morias as well as goalkeeper Lewis Ward and full back Hakeem Odoffin. Both Williams and Morias add much needed fire power to a pretty goal shy Northampton attack. Austin will be confident he can get a tune out of his new strikers. The promotion pressure will be on with the fans expecting promotion and Austin must have a good start to the season to install that belief into the players and fans.
I think Northampton will try to compete for promotion but like many relegated sides, adapting to a new league takes time and I feel Northampton will finish in mid-table this season and fall short of competing for a play-off spot.

My Predicted Finish: 13th

Notts County
It was an encouraging first full season in charge for Kevin Nolan after Notts County finished in the play-offs but lost in the semi-finals to eventual winners Coventry. Fast Forward 3 months and with a new squad and an incoming new manager following Kevin Nolan’s sacking, Notts County will feel their chances of promotion are much stronger this time around. County owner Alan Hardy has put his money where his mouth is after promising to bring Notts County back to where it should be and has recruited excellent players at this level including Enzio Boldewijn, Nathan Thomas, Kane Hemmings, Kristian Dennis and David Vaughan. Boldewijn joins after an excellent 2 seasons at Crawley and will be confident his good form can continue. While proven goal scorers Kane Hemmings and Kristian Dennis add dangerous firepower to Notts County and will both be crucial to their chances at promotion. Many of last seasons play-off semi finalists remain at the club with the likes of Richard Duffy, Matt Tootle and Jon Stead all hoping this season can bring the promotion they missed out on. The Notts County fans are optimistic, and promotion is no doubt high on their agenda. With a new manager on the horizon, the appointment must be spot on and keep that belief in the fans.
I would of said Notts County for automatic promotion had Kevin Nolan stayed in charge because he built an extremely strong squad but a poor start cost him and the new manager must hit the ground running to give Notts the best chance of keeping automatic promotion alive. I think Notts County will come good if the right manager is appointed and I still expect them to be finishing in the automatic promotion places.

My Predicted Finish: 2nd

It has been a fall from grace for Oldham. The club has sunk to the 4th tier of English football after consecutive fights against relegation in League 1 and now the club must rebuild and go again. The club begins the new season with a club legend as their new boss. Frankie Bunn has Oldham flowing through his veins and he will be determined to get Oldham back up at the first attempt. However, Oldham are taking a calculated risk with Bunn because this would be his first job as a manager of a football club having worked on the coaching staff of other clubs like Huddersfield and Manchester City. Oldham are in transition as much of the relegated squad has left the club with the likes of Craig Davies, Ryan McLaughlin, Aaron Holloway, Anthony Gerrard and Brian Wilson all leaving for new clubs and Bunn has had to completely build a new team to make Oldham competitive. Bunn has recruited 11 new faces so far in the transfer window and the likes of Jose Baxter, Andy Taylor, Chris O’Grady, Giles Coke and Ishmael Miller have signed up this season. Oldham fans want a football team to be proud off and just win some football matches. Too many draws, and poor defeats saw them relegated and the long-suffering fans just want to see a winning football team. Oldham will have expectations of being promoted at the first attempt and play-off spot would be the minimum expectation this season and anything less is a poor season for the club. Frankie Bunn will be confident he can deliver but like every new manager he must make a good start to give the fans and players he is the right man to lead them forward this season. The pressure is on the Lactics to perform this season and promotion will no doubt be the prime objective this season.
I think Oldham will be competitive this season and will be trying to compete for a play-off spot. However, I feel there are much stronger squads in the league and it is difficult to install a winning mentality, so I feel this is a transition season for Oldham and I expect them to finish in mid-table this season.

My Predicted Finish: 15th

Port Vale
It’s fair to say it has been a difficult couple of seasons for the Valiants. Relegated from League 1 and narrowly escaping relegation from League 2 last season, the club has underperformed for too long and the club will want to be competing at the right end of the table. Neil Aspin is Port Vale through and through and he will be desperate to get Port Vale challenging for a play-off spot and even promotion this season. Aspin has completely stripped the squad from last season with 11 departures and a total of 13 new faces have joined aiming to get Vale up the higher echelons of the table. However, not all last season’s squad have departed with the likes of Tom Pope, Michael Tonge and Anthony Kay still at the club and these three will be determined to get Vale competing for promotion. Pope has been brilliant for Vale over two spells at the club and he will be vital for Vale chances of success this season. As noted earlier, Aspin has brought in new faces and these include Luke Joyce, Ricky Miller, Louis Dodds, Leon Legge and Tom Conlon. All join with good experience at this level Both Joyce and Dodds know the club well and will be determined as ever to improve Port Vale’s league performances. As well as proven League 2 players, Aspin has also added non-league talent and young players such as Connell Rawlinson, Emmanuel Oyeleke, Idris Kanu and Mitch Clark. All join hungry to showcase their skills this season and it could be an exciting blend of players assembled by Aspin. The fans and Aspin will demand improvement from the Vale players this season and they will be demanding a minimum top half finish and hoping to push on for a spot in the play-off places and who knows where things could go from there.
I think Port Vale will be much improved this season and will be competing for a spot in the play-off places. However, I feel they will just miss out on the play-offs this season, but they could be a surprise package this season if they do get everything together nicely.

My Predicted Finish: 9th

Sunday, 26 August 2018

League 2 Discussion 4: Mansfield, MK Dons, Morecambe, Newport

If you are looking for an ambitious club in the fourth tier then Mansfield is you’re the bet. The Derbyshire based club have lofty ambitions of promotion and even title success. The Stags looked set for promotion last season but the departure of Steve Evans to Peterborough and a slow start for David Flitcroft ultimately cost Mansfield promotion and a place in the top 7. However, David Flitcroft will be confident he can deliver this season having already gone up with Bury in the past. David Flitcroft has largely kept the core of the squad Steve Evans assembled with the likes of Danny Rose, Paul Anderson, Hayden White and Conrad Logan all hoping to play an important part this season after a disappointing campaign overall last season. But Flitcroft has added quality to his squad with the likes of Craig Davies, Otis Khan, Tyler Walker and Neal Bishop all joining this summer. Khan in particular is an excellent signing having been a brilliant creative force in a struggling Yeovil team and he will thrive at Mansfield if given the license. While, experienced striker Craig Davies does score goals and Flitcroft will be confident he can lift the burden of Danny Rose. The Mansfield fans will fancy their sides chances this season and promotion is certainly their target this season and everyone associated with the club would expect at least a play-off place come the end of the season and the pressure will be on this season to deliver promotion.
I think Mansfield will be challenging for promotion this season. Flitcroft has assembled a very strong team at this level and he will be confident of challenging for automatic promotion. However, I feel that Mansfield will secure a play-off spot but miss out on automatic promotion.

My Predicted Finish: 4th

MK Dons
It has been a miserable few seasons for the MK Dons since their relegation from the Championship. The club struggled to push for back to the second tier and ultimately ended up being relegated to the fourth tier. However, with a drop-in league always brings high expectations and optimism amongst the fans and they will no doubt expect promotion at the first attempt. The Dons also head into the new season under a new manager in Paul Tisdale who joins after a brilliant 12-year spell in charge of league rivals Exeter. Tisdale comes with a track record of promotions and the Dons will be quietly confident they can mount a strong charge if not title charge this season. Despite relegation, many of the players are still at the club and could be very good players at this level and these include Chuks Aneke, Kieran Agard, Joe Walsh and Alex Gilbey. Tisdale will be confident of getting the best out of those players this season but as many new managers do, Tisdale has brought in new faces including a few from former club Exeter. Tisdale has added the likes of Jordan Moore-Taylor, Ryan Harley, Mathieu Baudry, Ryan Watson, Lawson D’Ath and Robbie Simpson. Tisdale has added proven League 2 players who are desperate for success and confident they can bring the good days back to MK Dons. The club expects promotion and the fans will no doubt want that delivered this season and Tisdale will be quietly confident he side can deliver this season.
I think the MK Dons have the strongest squad in the league and with an excellent, accomplished manager in Paul Tisdale I fancy them to be promoted and go up as champions.

My Predicted Finish: 1st

It has been a difficult few seasons for Jim Bentley and his Morecambe troops. The club has battled financial issues and frequent takeovers has left the club frequently in limbo. Results on the pitch haven’t been much better and the Morecambe fans deserve better. The club escaped relegation on goal difference last season and the club is once again expected to be battling relegation. Jim Bentley now the longest serving football league manager is desperate for improvement both on and off the pitch. Morecambe have a very experienced squad with the likes of Barry Roche, Steven Old, Garry Thompson and Kevin Ellison. All still are crucial players in Bentley’s side and he has added new signings in this window and he will be hoping they make the desired impact. The likes of AJ Leitch-Smith, Rhys Oates, Andrew Tutte, Jordan Cranston and Liam Mandeville have all joined aiming to improve Morecambe’s season and please their frustrated but loyal fanbase. Survival and improvement would represent an excellent season for the club. The fans will to enjoy watching their team and Bentley must bring back the enjoyment for the fans = because they deserve it.
I think Morecambe are going to struggle and it is going to be a very long season for the club and survival would represent a brilliant season. However, I think relegation beckons for the Shrimpers.

My Predicted Finish: 24th

Newport County
It was a comfortable season last time out for Newport having dramatically escaped relegation the season before. Fan favourite Micky Flynn has done a wonderful job at his football club, but the club is struggling on hard times with finances not as strong meaning Flynn can’t get all the players he wants to make Newport competitive. Despite this, Flynn will be happy with his squad and has managed to add new faces as well, but the loss of top scorer Frank Nouble and captain Joss Labadie is a big blow for Flynn and it will be difficult to replace them in the side. However, Flynn still has the likes of Joe Day, Mickey Demetriou, Robbie Willmott, Matt Dolan and David Pipe at the club and Flynn has complete faith in them. Flynn has added to his squad this summer bringing in 10 new faces which includes Andrew Crofts, Fraser Franks, Jamille Matt, Nick Townsend and Keanu Marsh-Brown. All are decent players at this level and Flynn will be confident Jamille Matt can have the same impact as Frank Nouble and fire Newport to mid-table which would represent a good season for the club. The Newport fans will hoping their team can challenge for a top-half finish season. Flynn will be aiming high and will want more than mid-table but a finish there would be an excellent season for the club.
I think Newport are not as strong as last season and I feel they will be struggling at the bottom of the table and battling relegation as I feel goals are missing and they are going to need to rely on a strong defence to get results this season. I think it could be a long season for Newport.

My Predicted Finish: 23rd