Tuesday, 14 August 2018

League 1 Discussion 6: Southend, Sunderland, Walsall, Wycombe

Southend have consistently been a mid-table in League 1 team since their return to the league in 2015 although they missed out on the play-offs by a point in 2017. They have been a solid team in the league and the surprise departure of Phil Brown in the middle of last season showed the frustrations of not pushing consistently for the play-offs. However, Chris Powell replaced him, and Southend showed some decent form at the end of the season and Powell want that form to continue into the new season. Southend have an excellent squad they will certainly fancy themselves at competing for play-off spot at the minimum if not automatic promotion. Southend have plenty of experienced players in their ranks who have seen everything football including Michael Turner, Simon Cox, Michael Kightly and Anton Ferdinand. These players will fancy adding another promotion to their CV’s. Chris Powell has brought in new players during the transfer window he believes can allow Southend to push for the play-offs. The likes of Luke Hyam, Tom Hopper, Harry Lennon and Timothee Dieng have all played at this level and the latter three players being involved in promotion battles for their previous clubs with some success and some heartache. These players will add a winning mentality to the team and Chris Powell comes with a proven track record in League 1 and like his players, he would love to add another promotion to his CV having taken his beloved Charlton up in seasons gone by. The Southend fans will fancy their chances this season that the club can finish in the top 6 and who knows be celebrating promotion in May and Chris Powell will be determined to bring success to Roots Hall this season and there truly is optimism around the whole club that this could be their year.
I really do fancy Southend to finish in the top 6 because they have an excellent team mixed with talent and experience and with a top manager like Chris Powell at the helm, Southend could be celebrating at Wembley in May.

My Predicted Finish: 3rd (Promoted as Play-Off Winners)
It has been a miserable decade at Sunderland. Countless battles against relegation, constant player and management changes, anger towards owners and it has even seen the club suffer back to back relegations. A huge club like Sunderland find themselves languishing in the third tier of English football. Sunderland were abysmal in the Championship last season and comfortably deserved to be relegated however, could this season bring success and optimism for those long-suffering Sunderland fans. The club has a new owner in Stewart Donald who is determined to bring the glory days back and a highly ambitious, young manager in Jack Ross who is hoping to bring success to the club following his wonderful spell in charge of St Mirren where he guided them back to the Scottish Premiership. Ross has also assembled a hungry, young squad hoping to deliver promotion back to the Championship at the first time of asking. Gone are the flops of past years like Lamine Kone, Fabio Borini, Jack Rodwell, Wahbi Khazri, Callum McManaman and Jeremain Lens. And income players with a hunger, quality and desire to help Sunderland reach the Championship and these include Jon McLaughlin, Chris Maguire, Tom Flanagan, Max Power, Luke O’Nien, Jack Baldwin and Charlie Wyke. A total of 12 new players have walked into the Stadium of Light as Jack Ross makes his changes apparent for the fans. However, Sunderland are also relying on some of their talents from their academy including Bali Mumba, Josh Maja, Duncan Watmore, Lynden Gooch and new club captain George Honeyman. The latter 3 have all excelled in the clubs academy and Jack Ross will have total faith in them to ignite the whole squad and bring the fans expectations to the players. Both Honeyman and Watmore are die hard Sunderland fans and they can certainly relate to the feelings of the fans and will be even more determined to get Sunderland back to where it should be. However, with change comes trepidation with Jack Ross needing a good start to the season to install that belief into the fans and players that Sunderland can be promoted at the first attempt. The players need to gel straight away and fight for everything and that will be expected from the demanding fanbase that Sunderland has. Furthermore, the club must turn the Stadium of Light into fortress because their home record over the last 4 years is horrendous and if the stadium is full and the team is playing well, it will be a nightmare for away teams to come to the Stadium of Light because in full voice, it is a very intimidating place to go. Sunderland fans expect promotion at the first attempt and anything other than that is certainly seen as a failed season and the pressure will be on Jack Ross and his young team to deliver success the whole club is desperate for.
I think Sunderland will be celebrating promotion at the end of the season because there will be an expectation from the fans and a determination from the owners, management and players to put right the wrongs of the last decade for Sunderland.

My Predicted Finish: 2nd

It has been a solid number of seasons in League 1 for Walsall. The smallest West Midlands based club in the football league will be determined to continue their prolonged spell in League 1. Former Walsall player and fan Dean Keates is gearing up for his first full season in charge having joined the club in the middle of last season. However, Walsall work on a small budget and a small squad meaning avoiding relegation would represent an excellent season for the Saddlers. However, the loss of Erhun Oztumer is a massive blow for the club because over the last 2 seasons, he has scored majority of their goals and registered the most assists. His move to Bolton is a blow and Keates must quickly find a goal source and fast. Keates has signed new strikers in Andy Cook and Morgan Ferrier who he will believe can fill the gap left by Oztumer. Both Cook, and Ferrier arrive from non-league following prolific spells in the National League and Keates will know all about their abilities following his team as Wrexham manager. He will have complete faith in them and they will be vital if Walsall are to avoid relegation. But Walsall do have good players in their ranks including Joe Edwards, Kieron Morris, Jon Guthrie and Luke Leahy. These players will be vital for Keates as he looks to build a team capable of retaining their place in the league. As well as adding two new strikers, Keates has also added 7 other new signings including the returning Josh Ginnelly and Zeli Ismail are both back at the club following loans and permanent spells. Keates must find a winning formula having just about avoided relegation last time out and survival once again would represent a good season for the club. The fans will want more but with bigger teams have bigger budgets and arguably better players, safety would be good and mid-table would certainly represent an excellent season for the club.
I think it is going to be a long, hard season for Walsall. Cook and Ferrier must hit the ground running to replace Oztumer because losing him is a huge loss. Keates needs a good start to install the belief Walsall won’t be in the relegation battle but I feel they will be dropping into League 2.

My Predicted Finish: 24th

What a wonderful campaign it was for Wycombe last time out. Gareth Ainsworth has finally delivered what he has been desperate for after years of consistent finishes either in the play-offs or just outside, but they went one better last time out. The club now finds itself in League 1 and will be determined to prolong their stay in the league and this would represent another magnificent season for the club. Ainsworth has plenty of experienced players at his disposal who will be confident of helping the club secure back to back campaigns in the third tier and these include Adebayo Akinfenwa, Matt Bloomfield, Sam Saunders, Nathan Tyson and Adam El-Abd. These players will be crucial for the younger players in the squad and there are plenty of talented players at the club. Gareth Ainsworth has dipped into the transfer market and brought in further experienced players like Darius Charles and Jason McCarthy. The latter signing will delight the Wycombe fans having been a firm fans favourite during a loan spell from Southampton but now back on a permanent deal, he will be determined to help Wycombe survive in the League. Ainsworth will be desperate to bring the momentum from last season into the new campaign and he will determined to ensure Wycombe stay up. The fans will hope for safety and if this is secured it would represent another magnificent season for the Chairboys.
I think Wycombe will be in the relegation battle and will come out on top. I fancy to avoid relegation and secure another season in the league. Consistency and home form will be key for them to give them the best chance of staying up.

My Predicted Finish: 19th

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