Friday, 10 August 2018

League 1 Discussion 2: Bradford, Bristol Rovers, Burton, Charlton

It has been a couple of disappointing seasons for Bradford. Play-off finalists in 2017 was followed by mid-table mediocrity but expectations will be high this season as the club embarks on hopefully another strong push for the play-offs this time around. A frustrating season gone by saw Bradford go through Stuart McCall and Simon Grayson with neither delivering the expectations and now arguably Bradford’s German owners have taken a risk in appointing the youngest manager in football league in Michael Collins. The remit is simple for the 32-year-old which is simply promotion and he will have to hit the ground running at the club to have any chance of success. The fans will be concerned at his lack of experience as a manager but with the well- respected and experienced Greg Abbott alongside him, the Bradford fans can really get behind their new manager. However, it isn’t just the management that has changed, with the German owners giving Collins a completely new squad to work with following their disappointing campaign. A total 0f 14 players have walked into Valley Parade so far this summer and the window still open for loans, I doubt they will stop there. However, with new signings comes departures and experienced players at this level such as Colin Doyle, Romain Vincelot, Charlie Wyke and Dominic Poleon have all left for pastures new and the experienced players remaining at the club like Matt Kilgallon and Nathaniel Knight-Percival will be crucial in getting this team to gel and work as a unit. Collins has overseen a complete change in players with new signings such as Eoin Doyle, Anthony O’Connor, Josh Wright, Kelvin Mellor and Hope Akpan amongst the 14 to arrive. Doyle will be vital for goalscoring having scored a lorry load in a very poor Oldham team while O’Connor and Wright will add steel to the defence and midfield areas while Mellor is a reliable right back with a bag full of experience after spells at Plymouth and Blackpool and well-travelled midfielder Hope Akpan is looking for stability in his career and will hope to play a big part this season for the bantams. Bradford have a well-balanced squad with plenty of experienced players at this level as well as hungry youngsters like Thomas Isherwood, Omari Patrick and George Miller all wanting to achieve something this campaign. The Bradford fans will be desperate for promotion and play-off place will be the minimum expectation from the fans and board this season.
I think Bradford have an excellent squad, but Collins must hit the ground running from the start to the fans that belief he is the right man to lead them to promotion. I expect them to secure a play-off place, but they will have a big fight to get one with many other teams fancying their chances.

My Predicted Finish: 6th

Bristol Rovers
It has been a good few seasons at Bristol Rovers and I’m sure promotion to the Championship is a future goal for the club and let’s not underestimate the job done by Darrell Clarke as he went down with the club to the National League but has battled with the club and has made them an established League 1 side. Bristol Rovers will be happy to be playing in League 1 and with a potential new stadium on the horizon, it is a good team to support the blue half of Bristol. However, the summer transfer window has seen a few key members of Bristol Rovers’ squad call time on their stay at the Memorial stadium with Ellis Harrison and Lee Brown deciding to go for a new challenge. Rovers will be hoping to stay competitive in the league with their aim I’m sure is to continue improving and hopefully mount a challenge for a play-off spot. Darrell Clarke will be hoping to get his squad firing on all cylinders and goals were a struggle at times for his team last season, but he will be hoping new signings Stefan Payne and Alex Jakubiak are the men to fire Rovers to where they want to be. Payne was magnificent for Shrewsbury last season as they reached the play-off final while Jakubiak scored a decent amount of goals during a loan spell at Falkirk from Watford. There is plenty of quality in this Bristol Rovers’ squad including the likes of Liam Sercombe, Ed Upson and Alex Rodman and these players will be vital to the success of the team with season with Sercombe advancing from midfield while Upson takes up a box to box role while Rodman will hog the touchline and be a creative drive from the flanks. The Bristol Rovers’ fans will be happy with a top half finish overall but, they will believe their squad can challenge for a play-off spot and whose to say Bristol Rovers can’t.
I think Bristol Rovers will be a difficult team to play against this season and a play-off charge isn’t out of their reach however, I feel there are stronger squads in this division, so I expect them to finish in mid-table once again.

My Predicted Finish: 14th

It was a rare season for Burton Albion since their promotion to the football league 2009 because for the first time in their football league spell, they were relegated and it was a somewhat expected as certainly many will argue Burton overachieved even getting to the Championship but after 2 seasons there, they find themselves back in League 1 and Nigel Clough will be determined to try and get Burton back to the Championship while his task will be tough a play-off finish would represent a good season for the club. The Brewers struggled to score goals last season, but they will hope now fully fit, record signing Liam Boyce can be the man to fire them back at the first attempt. A horrendous injury in 2017 preseason took him out for much of the relegation season but he will be back fully determined to get the club back to the Championship. Nigel Clough will have to re-build and go again following the relegation, but they have kept experienced players like Lloyd Dyer, Jake Buxton, John Brayford and Stephen Bywater on their books and all will play an important role for the Brewers this season. Similarly, Nigel Clough has signed experience so far in what has been a very quiet transfer window for Burton with only David Templeton being their only noteworthy signing. Templeton will add pace and creativity to a side that severely lacked this in the previous season. Clough has a difficult job on his hands to get Burton challenging for promotion once again, but the fans and board will be hoping he can make them a competitive force in League 1.
I think Burton will competitive and with a few loan additions, they will challenge for a play-off spot. However, I feel they will miss out on that this season.

My Predicted Finish: 9th

It was a solid season for Charlton last time out despite the surprise resignation of Karl Robinson and fan unrest with owner Roland Duchatelet. The club got into the play-offs and Lee Bowyer has done an excellent spell in caretaker charge. However, the club desperately needs stability as throughout the summer there has been uncertainty with Duchatelet still in takeover talks that haven’t progressed despite a deal being agreed with an Australian consortium. Furthermore, there are certainties over Lee Bowyer’s future with him still being classed as caretaker manager while the owner sorts out a sale. This certainly infuriates the Charlton fans and makes things difficult for the squad with them unsure as to whether Bowyer will still be there in the near future. However, despite all the concerns about his future, Bowyer has been professional and excellent during his spell in charge and his goals remain the same which is promotion to the Championship. The Charlton fans fully back the manager and he will be determined to reward their loyalty by giving them promotion. Bowyer has plenty of quality at his disposal with the likes of Mark Marshall, Jake Forster-Caskey, Tarique Fosu and Jason Pearce. Charlton have flexed their transfer muscles to sign Lyle Taylor and Darren Pratley. Taylor will certainly fire goals at this level and Bowyer will certainly hope to get the best out of him whereas, experienced midfielder Pratley adds a competitive edge and steel to a young Charlton midfield and Bowyer will look to him in times of difficulties. The loss of Forster-Caskey through injury will hit Charlton hard but Bowyer will still believe in the players he has. Charlton also have plenty of highly rated young prospects who will play an important role this season including Joe Aribo, Dillon Phillips and Karlan Ahearne-Grant who have all worked with Bowyer and Jason Euell at younger levels of the club. Bowyer will be hoping to add a few loan additions, and should he get the players he wants, Charlton could be a real force to be reckoned with. Charlton fans will hope Bowyer can guide the team to promotion and they will expect a play-off spot overall. However, they will also be hoping for stability by giving Bowyer the job on a permanent basis and seeing Roland Duchatelet sell up and go.
I think Charlton will be a difficult team to beat this season and I believe they will secure a play-off spot and certainly could be celebrating in May next year if they stick by Bowyer and give him the tools to get Charlton because he has brought excitement to the club with a nice style of play and a passion for success.

My Predicted Finish: 4th

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