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Can anyone stop Southampton?

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Paul Fletcher | 14:50 UK time, Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Shortly after the end of last season, it was widely reported that Alan Pardew was facing the sack as manager of Southampton.

His team had started the campaign on minus 10 points but eventually finished in seventh place, just missing out on the play-offs.

It was a noble effort by Saints, whose challenge was undermined by their inability to reproduce their dominant home form away from St Mary's. For example, they scored five goals in consecutive home games in late February but lost at struggling Tranmere in their next away fixture. But was it enough for chairman Nicola Cortese, who had sanctioned a multi-million pound spend in January?

Southampton manager Alan PardewPardew is set on directing his team towards the Championship

When he demanded a meeting with Pardew after the season was over, it was widely assumed the manager was on his way. But Pardew survived. That said, I would be extremely surprised if Cortese settled for anything less than automatic promotion this season.

I met the former banker last year and found him to be considered, intelligent and calm. But it's fair to say he's also unaccustomed to failure.

Southampton certainly have the personnel to win League One. In Rickie Lambert, they have a striker who scored 37 goals last season, while David Connolly and Lee Barnard supplement the attacking options.

The spine of the side is solid, with Kelvin Davis in goal, Jose Fonte in the centre of defence and the ever-improving Morgan Schneiderlin in midfield. Saints have kept hold of Adam Lallana, while the likes of Ryan Dickson, Danny Butterfield and Frazer Richardson have bolstered an already impressive squad.

Saints took four points off last season's champions Norwich, including a 2-0 win at Carrow Road - and Canaries defender Russell Martin believes Pardew's team are equipped to emulate his team's achievement.

"If you look at it on paper, they have the strongest squad by quite some distance," Martin told me. "I think they have a group of players who can handle the pressure of expectation and their manager definitely can. I would expect them to be up there with the likes of Huddersfield and Sheffield Wednesday, while Plymouth have kept quite a strong squad and Peterborough have made a lot of changes."

Posh have indeed made changes. Gary Johnson, who became Posh's fourth manager during last season's chaotic Championship campaign, has had a busy summer, bringing in the likes of Grant McCann from Scunthorpe and striker Dave Hibbert from Shrewsbury. He has also retained key personnel from the side that won promotion from League One two seasons ago.

"We were able to keep the likes of Craig Mickail-Smith, Aaron McLean, Charlie Lee and George Boyd and supplement them with players of quality and experience," Johnson, who has previously won promotion from League One with Bristol City, told me. "It is important to be ready at this stage of the season and I think we are pretty much there."

Like Martin, the Posh boss expects Saints, Sheffield Wednesday, Huddersfield and Plymouth to be challenging for promotion, with Charlton also in the mix.

"The teams that are generally regarded as strong promotion contenders are worthy favourites and we have to infiltrate that group," added Johnson. "But there is always a team or two that comes out of the pack and creates a problem when you least expect it."

Swindon lost last season's play-off final and key striker Billy Paynter has since departed for Leeds. Great responsibility therefore rests with Charlie Austin, who was a sensation after being plucked from non-league last year. However, the 21-year-old is still inexperienced, which means the recruitment of powerful forward Vincent Pericard, signed from Carlisle in January, could be important.

Huddersfield lost to Millwall in the play-off semi-finals but Lee Clark's talented young side should be stronger for the experience.

Charlton were the other defeated semi-finalists and have since lost important players in Frazer Richardson, Lloyd Sam and Nicky Bailey. However, manager Phil Parkinson - aided by a sense of stability after Richard Murray's buyout - has brought in numerous experienced campaigners, including striker Pawel Abbott, midfielder Alan McCormack and defender Gary Doherty.

Sheffield Wednesday fans show their disappointment after relegationWednesday fans are hoping for something to smile about

Sheffield Wednesday are still plagued by financial problems but have a studious manager in Alan Irvine, who will be desperate to atone for last season's agonising final-day relegation.

Irvine has lost a few players, notably striker Leon Clarke and goalkeeper Lee Grant, but he has brought in experienced performers such as striker Neil Mellor and midfielder Chris Sedgwick from Preston as well as Republic of Ireland striker Clinton Morrison.

Gus Poyet has overseen a clear-out at Brighton as he prepares for his first full season in charge but it remains to be seen whether he has adequately replaced midfielder Andrew Crofts. It is the club's last season before moving into their new ground at Falmer and chairman Tony Bloom would love to be playing Championship football by then.

MK Dons are another club with lofty ambitions but they have gambled in appointing 29-year-old Karl Robinson as their manager. Oldham also have an unproven man in charge after bringing in Paul Dickov as player-manager.

Lee Hughes scored 30 goals in League Two last season as Notts County won the title and has the quality to score regularly at League One level but after nine months of excitement and headlines at Meadow Lane it could be a season of consolidation under new boss Craig Short.

Dagenham & Redbridge are the bookmakers' favourites for relegation after securing promotion to the third tier for the first time by winning last season's play-off final - but manager John Still has other ideas.

"Last season was fantastic and we have been preparing for what we hope will be another exciting season," Still told me. "It would be foolish to set too many targets but we want to be able to make sure we can compete at this level."

Rochdale have lost striker Chris Dagnall and full-back Tom Kennedy, while highly rated defender Craig Dawson has been linked with Burnley. It could be a difficult season for Keith Hill's team after finally ending their 36-year stay in the bottom division but their ebullient manager will ensure they approach the campaign in an upbeat manner.

Indeed, pre-season optimism is widespread in League One.

"This is the time of the year when everyone has high hopes and ambitions," said Posh boss Johnson. "I think it is very important to start well but if we lose our first few games I will be saying that the season is a marathon not a sprint."

I know I have not mentioned every team here - but if you feel your side has been overlooked and is definitely worth a mention, please tell me why.

You can follow me throughout the season at twitter.com/Paul__Fletcher

And don't forget, you can watch all the goals from League One this season on the BBC Sport website. To whet your appetite, here's our pick of the best goals from the 2009/10 Football League campaign.

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Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    Sadly, it won't be Derby County who will stop Southampton. :)
    I think, however, that Leeds United may have a lot to say in the matter.

  • Comment number 2.

    This is something at Southampton we are not used to, the pressure of being without doubt favourites on paper! Can we cope?! I can't, i still feel we will mess this up somehow. Can't wait till Saturday! COYR!

  • Comment number 3.

    Sheffield Wednesday losing Leon Clarke is definatly not a notable departcher! He's a League 2 player at best, broke his toe in celebration of scoring his goal in the last game of the season and had to be stretcherd off! That sums him up.

  • Comment number 4.

    As a Southampton fan, my only concerns are that if we have too many injuries, we don't have the players to replace them. If Hammond/Schneiderlin get injured in midfield, we're left with Paul Wotton and Anthony Pulis, who are not of the required quality.

  • Comment number 5.

    And not even a mention for poor old Exeter City, who stayed up against most people's predictions last season, have a midfield in Harley, Noble and Sercombe, that could well turn out to be the envy of League 1, strikers of quality in Nardiello, O'Flynn and Cureton, and a fairly solid defence.

    I'm happy for teams to continue to write us off, but I have high hopes for the season!

  • Comment number 6.

    I agree with Southampton as favourites, even though my club did the double over them last season.

    Even though we've lost Billy P to Leeds, with the signings over the last week of Caddis, Ferry and Dossevi, most Swindon fans think we've probably got our strongest squad in 15 years. We'll be there or there abouts.

    Charlton will struggle after selling their best players. I hear admin could be on the cards for them. Sheff Wed should be up their, but their big debts could come back to haunt them, especially owing money to HMRC.

    My Predictions :

    1st Saints
    2nd Swindon

    Play-offs : Huddersfield, Sheff Wed, Brighton and Brentford as this seasons surprise team.

    Relegation : Hartlepool, Daggers, Rochdale and Yeovil

  • Comment number 7.

    I am delighted that everyone is getting behind us and saying we are going to win the league, and some say at a canter, but I just hope we can deal with the pressure. I am pretty sure Alan Pardew can as he is plenty experienced. Although, we have a relatively young squad and I hope dearly that they cope.
    If we can keep our big players and keep them fit as well then I think we will finish in top 4, but top 2, I'm not sure. I've been really used to failure as a Saints fan for the past 18 years, but there is a sense of excitement and positivity around the club now after such a successful season last year, let's just hope we can do it. Really looking forward to the season as a whole, not just the Saints. So roll on the start of the football league tomorrow night and 12:15 on saturday for the Super Saints.

    COYR. In Pardew we trust :)

  • Comment number 8.

    I have to say i like keeping an eye on the lower divisions in England.

    I fancy Swindon to be there come the business end of the season i know they lost Billy Painter but they have made 2 cracking signings in Paul Caddis and Simon Ferry.

    Would like to see them do well this season and think they will

  • Comment number 9.

    Sadly, it won't be Derby County who will stop Southampton. :)
    I think, however, that Leeds United may have a lot to say in the matter.

    -----------------------------------------------------------

    what does this mean?!

  • Comment number 10.

    Eddie Howe @ AFC Bournemouth to push the saints all the way, both to get promoted, Saints to go back down the following season, lovely thought huh!!

  • Comment number 11.

    If Saints get off to a strong start (which is incredibly rare for us) then we have the potential to steamroller this division because if Promotion looks a certainty by January, I expect the club would start building early and bring in even more quality players then.

    However, if Saints do our usual trick of playing catch up, the pressure will grow and we may do our old bad habit of snatching defeats from the jaws of victory.

    Really looking forward to the new season though!

    (Oh and Sheff Wed, Swindon & Huddersfield to be up there at the end of the season, with Brighton as the wild card in the division)

  • Comment number 12.

    Saints and in my opinion, Huddersfield, are the favourites. You've not mentioned Eddie Howe and his merry men at AFC Bournemouth. If we steer clear of injuries I think the Cherries will surprise the 'experts' this year.

    After all we've been through in the past 3 seasons mid table mediocrity would be a considerable achievement but I have a distinct feeling that having substantially increased the squad during the close season we have potential to mix it with the big boys.

  • Comment number 13.

    Ledleynowworthafortune

    spot on. We have also signed Togo internation Thomas Dossevi and David Ball on loan from Man City. With other loan signings on the radar from City, Liverpool, Bolton and Celtic to name a few we are all getting very bullish even if all the punduts have written us off. Fill your boots at 20/1 with Corals. Each way of course!

  • Comment number 14.

    @1... Maybe I'm missing something, but are you aware that Leeds are not in the same division as Saints?

  • Comment number 15.

    Hi Paul

    Good blog, and in the main on the ball with it, really am looking forward to this season, with Dickov now in charge after that awful year under penney, just to see them playing footy in pre season was better than the drivel he served up.
    It will probably be a year of regrouping due to the influx new young players coming in, i'm just happy to see the return of flowing passing football again, it's good to see an energetic Dickov being given his chance to cut his teeth and the way has been geeing them up from the sidelines already means i'm positve he'll have a good impact at BP.

    Agree with post 6, brentford were one of the better teams we played last season, they could be the surprise.

    Keep the Faith

  • Comment number 16.

    Don't forget about Bristol Rovers!
    I can only hope they will get themselves into a playoff position.

    What does everyone else believe their chances are as they have so far not been mentioned? I find it interesting that people have looked at Brentford and Brighton over the Gas!

  • Comment number 17.

    Plymouth get overlooked, as usual. Still, we're used to being underdogs. I fancy Peter Reid to get us motivated and surprise a few people this year following relegation last year.

    I don't anticipate automatic promotion but a good run for the playoffs is certainly well within reach.

  • Comment number 18.

    I dont pretend to know a huge amount about league one but from my reckoning the saints should be around top come end of season with players like lambert there attack is to be feared and I suspect good organisation and communication with the back four should allow them to overcome most sides. The other teams ive been impressed with in the past who I believe could do well are Swindon who always seem to score bagfulls of goals when I watch with Austin and Huddersfield.
    But as usual football all changes on the day and I would be surprised if Carlisle and Bournemouth didnt steal some points from the favourites and cause it to be a close finish.

  • Comment number 19.

    #17 - Plymouth were mentioned by both Martin and Johnson. You need to read more closely!

  • Comment number 20.

    Yeovil will hang on. Luke Ayling was impressive in his showing last season, and with Ed Upson from Ipswich, Andy Williams and Paul Huntington, Skivo has made some good signings.

    Exeter do look strong with their impressive frontline, and could be dark horses for the play-offs. Rochdale have let a few too many go, and Dagnall will be difficult to replace. Dagenham & Redbridge, meanwhile, won't go without a fight. They've signed some vital seasoned pros who know this level of the League well.

    The season's set up for a cracker, 24 evenly matched teams, and managers young and old. I love being a neutral when it comes to League football.

  • Comment number 21.

    Your short paragraph on Swindon is ill thought out and wrong. Pericard important? I hardly think so, he made little impact last season. That's as ridiculous as the article that said Frank Nouble could be the next big thing for England after he scored a few goals in the U-19's championship but at the same time overlooking how incredibly poor and disinterested he was on loan at Swindon last season.

    You also fail to mention that one of our most influential players Simon Ferry, who was on loan from Celtic last season has finally been signed on a permanent deal. He may turn out to be more important than Charlie Austin let alone Vincent Pericard.

    I'm fairly optimistic on our chances of replicating the great season we had last term but please do some research Paul.

  • Comment number 22.

    Is anyone else like me slightly worried that we will turn out what looked like last season's Preston North End Reserve team in August against Dagenham and Redbridge?
    I am a lifetime shareholder and season ticket holder and I appreciate the financial and other difficulties the club is in and I guess I have to trust the Manager's knowledge of the 'oldies' and 'never-made-its' from his previous club and elsewhere but it is a worry.
    Take Neil Mellor for example.
    Read him up in Wikipedia and you will see that his career has been severely hampered by a persistent and chronic knee injuries which has meant he has been able to make very few appearances and score even fewer goals in the past 6 seasons and with a variety of clubs of which we are the last. I've nothing against the boy and I hope he succeeds but the persistent loan deals are indicative that managers don't want to take a risk with £3k-£5k per week on someone who is likely not to be playing regularly through injury.
    I understand that proud soccer players, even though they have bills to pay like the rest of us, don't want to drop down the divisions as their skills, energy and pace decline, (and there must be several hundred of them out of contract this summer to choose from). We have recruited half a dozen who fall into this or related categories and at the very least they keep younger, pacier, hungrier and abler people out of the team and deny them the experience which we need so much.
    Whatever, it seems as if we need to prepare ourselves for a longish period in Division 1 and that the main target this year is to stay in it. I hope I'm wrong.

  • Comment number 23.

    I think that it will be a good year in League One for the underdogs.
    Last season Swindon Town were up there and i thought that they deserved to get promoted witht the team that they had and they still do despite losing Billy Paynter. I hope Southampton are promoted too, so that they can get into the Championship and hopefully play against Portsmouth again!
    My Predictions: Promotion: Southampton, Swindon Town, Huddersfield Town
    Relegation: Hartlepool United,Yeovil Town, Dag & Red, Rochdale
    Underdogs: Brighton, Exeter City, brentford, Bournemouth

  • Comment number 24.

    Bristol Rovers are a team who, for the past two seasons, have played above themselves. They do not have the players or resources to maintain a promotion push, but they seem well organised enough to hang around in mid-table. I live in Bristol and have the unfortunate ability to occasionally have to watch them. Most fun fans I've ever been with though.

    LedleyNowWorthAFortune, thanks for the patronising comments. League 1 is the big time, man. I'm a Cambridge United fan and the Conference National is also the big time. Try watching the Dorset Senior League, or the Kent County League. Or even try as low as the Bristol and District League, where I referee. THAT'S LOWER LEAGUE.

    Premiership is full of talent-sapping, over-hyped, over-pressurised money men (=dull and predictable football) and the Championship is filling with PL wannabees and hangers on. League 1 is pretty much as good as it gets.

  • Comment number 25.

    Fletch, I reckon you're missing out another team in red and white stripes, there. ;-)

  • Comment number 26.

    1. At 11:52am on 05 Aug 2010, dirtydonki wrote:

    Sadly, it won't be Derby County who will stop Southampton. :)
    I think, however, that Leeds United may have a lot to say in the matter.

    ______________________________________________________________________________

    Let's hope you're not a Leeds Fan! You do realise that it's now 2010? :-p

  • Comment number 27.

    I think Charlton will win it this year. Bailey is no loss at all, semedo and racon are a better pairing and Reid can easilly replace Sam. Charlton, Huddersfield and Brighton for promotion this year. Pardew will crumble under the pressure!!

  • Comment number 28.

    Ive put big bucks on them to win league 1 outright, either way im on a winner- PLAY UP POMPEY

  • Comment number 29.

    Ligeti

    That wasnt meant to be patronising and i agree with you the football in the Championship and League 1 is excellent and very exciting.

    I watched the play offs in League 1 last season and they were excellent and with me being a Celtic fan i look out for ex celts so thats why i would like to see Swindon do well

  • Comment number 30.

    If Southampton win promotion it won't be under Pardew.

  • Comment number 31.

    Now then - thanks for the comments so far. I reckon Brentford could surprise a few people - though I guess alot depends on how much they can get out of Nicky Forster.

    PulpGrape - post 21 - not sure about the lack of research. Pericard didn't have much of a go after joining last season as Paynter and Austin were obviously first choice but don't be surprised if he is more involved this campaign.

    I did a couple of blogs on Swindon last season and have been very impressed with the direction that the club is being taken under your chairman, who talks a lot of sense but also has some interesting ideas.

    As for the comment about Neil Mellor (post 22) - it was often said that he was the most naturally gifted finisher at Preston. With him, it is all about keeping him fit and firing. Which has been something of an issue.

  • Comment number 32.

    Ligeti_Grieg - "Try watching the Dorset Senior League"

    Try playing in it!! ;)

  • Comment number 33.

    Sheffield Wednesday have by far the strongest squad.

    Mellor, Morrison, Tudguy and Hefffernan.... who else can boast that kind of strength in depth upfront in League 1?

    If Lambert gets injured do you still think Southampton will get promotion? The odds for Southampton are crazy IMO. They would only just have reached the play-offs last year without their points deduction!

  • Comment number 34.

    Not many people talking about them but keep an eye out for MK Dons this season.

    Particuarly David Martin in goal recently signed from Liverpool and of course Didi Hamann who should find this level a stroll. Angelo Balanta has been signed from QPR and he looks a player. Saw them pre-season against Birmingham and they looked a good unit

  • Comment number 35.

    I think Plymouth will struggle, but there may be some bias in my opinion as I am a Grecian!

  • Comment number 36.

    Paul

    You have also neglected the mention the excellent Jason Puncheon who Saints signed in January. A fair few Championship clubs were looking at him and Saints fans should see the best from him this season

  • Comment number 37.

    I'm happy for all the attention to be on Southampton, let them have all the pressure on them.

    Which means teams like MK Dons can quietly go through the season without any pressure on them and hopefully we'll make the play-offs...

  • Comment number 38.

    Put your money on exeter to stay up...there is no way we will go down with tisdale in charge and with a better squad and in a weaker league than last season....i'm looking at mid table at the worst for us.

  • Comment number 39.

    At 2:18pm on 05 Aug 2010, Anthony wrote:
    Paul

    You have also neglected the mention the excellent Jason Puncheon who Saints signed in January. A fair few Championship clubs were looking at him and Saints fans should see the best from him this season

    ----

    We still miss him @ Stadium:MK !

  • Comment number 40.

    MK DONS will push for promotion this season now they got new manager and some new players

    c'mon the dons

  • Comment number 41.

    You've overlooked the mighty U's from Essex. Now that Aidy Hoofroyd's been sent to Coventry with his long ball game and taken Clive Plank with him, the future's bright, the future's blue and white. If we can get a half decent striker on board, I'm confident we can surprise a few people and make the playoffs. I'm looking forward to us getting back to playing some decent football this year and attracting more people to Cuckoo Farm. Up the U's!

  • Comment number 42.

    I think Saints will definately get auto place this season because, as what was said before that if we're doing well xmas then the board will start to improve for the championship but, on the other hand, if we have are usual slow start and don't catch up by the Jan window they'll sack Pardew, get another really good manager in and invest heavily. As Paul says, Cortese will not tolerate failure( in his eyes) a second year round. Happy days either way!!!

  • Comment number 43.

    Southampton are way too confident. Many people said Leeds would walk the league in their second season in league one, yet they failed in the play offs. Fair enough they got promoted the season after, but if Southampton think they are going to walk the league, then a reality check is in order. There are many teams more than capable of beating Southampton to the automatics and play off places.

  • Comment number 44.

    wednesdaymorgs

    As I said, I referee in the Bristol and District League. In the bottom division, I get to stand in the middle and watch the ball to-and-fro over my head. Other divisions they sometimes have the cheek of passing it along the floor, completing the pass, and I have to run.

    League 1 is quality league, unlike those above where teams are scared to lose. I don't see why Brighton will improve that much. There are some teams well-established with great quality. It's a much more competitive division, but there are some teams who won't be able to maintain the occasional quality they show, Bristol Rovers being one and why would Brighton be any better, particularly if they have a load of new players.

  • Comment number 45.

    I agree that Saints won't walk the league. No one will. It's a good league, too hard to make accurate calls in.

  • Comment number 46.

    Paul,

    Thanks for your comments about our chairman, Andrew Fitton. There is not a bad word to be said about him from Swindon fans. How the new owners have turned the club around in under 3 years is unbelievable. We now have the cheapest season tickets prices in League One, and it's amazing how they listen to the fans. A lot of this work is also down to the hard work of Chief Exec Nick Watkins and his team.

  • Comment number 47.

    I think Plymouth have been overlooked by too many including this blog i'm afraid. But in some ways I love it because we are going to suprise a few this season, I know it!

    Saturday lunchtime when we put the Saints' feet back on the ground will be amusing to watch. Anton Peterlin our star man for the season!

  • Comment number 48.

    This is giving me an odd sensation.....saints being talked about in a positive light!! Whether we win outright promotion or even via the play-offs, there is one thing for sure: it will be a belter of a campaign. This league is ultra competitive, with great football played and a sackfulls of goals. Who wants to watch Man U sneak a win in the 97th minute 1 - 0? Dull.

    I do fancy us to go well, but all the pressure is mounting. We have not been in this situation before, so it's uncharted territory really. A lot depends on how the squad is managed.

    I fancy the cherries to do ok, and either way Eddie will be on to bigger things by the end of the season. Exeter do look to be a good outside bet via the playoffs.

    Sheffield have got to be there or ther abouts, and Charlton too now they have cleared some deadwood. And Swindon should have really done it last season.

    Reckon Bristol will struggle, and and sorry, but the daggers have not got it I'm afraid.

    To all: good luck though, hope it's a good season.

  • Comment number 49.

    Dont overlook the magpies, achieved an mazing feat last season with the distractions and made some promising transfers, we looking at promotion again maybe cause some upsets

  • Comment number 50.

    I'm a Tranmere fan but i watch Charlton reguarly living in London and i really think the addicks they will push the leaders this season. Unfortunately it will probably be a long struggle for rovers this year. The sides i'm expecting to do well are Southampton (obviously with their financial backing) Peterborough Huddersfield and Charlton. I also fancy brighton to make the play offs !

  • Comment number 51.

    I cannot believe the amount of people waffling on about Southampton walking the divison. It really makes me laugh! Wednesday will win the divison, and no, I'm not just saying that because I support the Sheffield outfit.

    If you look at the squad, we have not 1, or 2, or 3, but 4 quality strikers, whom are all proven goalscorers at Championship level. Southampton have offloaded players and hardly brought anyone in to replace them. If you add 10 points on to Southampton's points tally from last season they would have just scraped the playoffs, so why is everyone thinking Southampton will walk the league?

    As for Huddersfield, I'm not saying anything but Lee Clark isn't anything special. The amount of money he spent last season should have seen the Terriers in an automatic place come May 2010. I'm still puzzled over the substitution he made at Millwall. You fall 2-0 down with 10 to go and bring a defender on. I thought Capello's decisions were bad.

  • Comment number 52.

    I don't know too much about League One to make predictions, but I would like to wish 23 of the teams the very best of luck for the new season. I have no prediction, but I do have a hope that franchise fc finish 24th. A position "deserving" of this little franchise's origins.

  • Comment number 53.

    @No Tomato In My BLT

    You're my favourite you are!

  • Comment number 54.

    re: blatterboy

    Think your wrong about Bristol Rovers, I think with Hoskins they have a good striker, Paul Trollope has also made some shrewd signings.
    The Pirates are my outsiders for the play-offs

    1st Southampton
    2nd Huddersfield

    Play-offs : Bristol Rovers, Sheff Wed, Swindon and Charlton.

  • Comment number 55.

    If you add 10 points on to Southampton's points tally from last season they would have just scraped the playoffs, so why is everyone thinking Southampton will walk the league?
    --------------------------------------

    Because for the first 10 games of last season, the club was still in a mess following administration. We started last season with just one striker in the entire squad (an 18 year old with a handful of first team appearances) on the back of a disorganised pre-season.

    So, if you ignore the early part of last season and extrapolate the points Saints gained for the last 3/4 of the season (excluding the points deduction) then we would have been right there with Norwich & Leeds points tally.

  • Comment number 56.

    I agree with booby prize, i think your predictions could be spot on. Bristol Rovers have a decent looking squad and a young shrewd manager who could be tempted to a club further up the league ladder before long.

  • Comment number 57.

    Congrats to followers of - Oldham, Rochdale Exeter and Tranmere, i think these sides will go down this year (which usually means they'll be safe !)

  • Comment number 58.

    "The amount of money he spent last season should have seen the Terriers in an automatic place come May 2010"

    Oh how little you know!

  • Comment number 59.

    I just don't want to be branded another Leeds.. i hated Leeds last season and still do because of the rubbish there fan base talked..

  • Comment number 60.

    To be fair to Pardew, last season the team had a slowish start, presumably gelling new players together, then went like the clappers from there on in. Too few wins and too many draws at the start was the reality.

  • Comment number 61.

    Following my predictions for League 2, here's my stab at League 1. As I don't support a club in this league, I have no preference over any of them.

    1st - Huddersfield Town
    2nd - Southampton
    Play Offs - Sheff Wed (winners), Bournemouth, Brighton & Peterborough

    Relegated - Rochdale, Hartlepool, Oldham & Tranmere

    No axe to grind with my bottom four, good luck to all 24 teams in this division!

  • Comment number 62.

    Saints are going to be the team to beat for sure. Odds on.

    Outsider: Brentford who have been buying in some experienced forwards in Nicky Forster and M'wall's Gary Alexander and have also signed a decent young centre back in Pim Balkerstein. They could be difficult to beat and grab lots of away points. I fancy the Bees to just sneak through like Colchester did a couple of years back.

    Most attractive team to watch on their day? Brighton. Gus will get them playing on the deck.

  • Comment number 63.

    In relation to comments 51 and 43, I think you maybe reading a bit too much into newspaper reports, pundit predictions and bookmakers in terms of confidence. As a long time Southampton Fan, Ive never been wholly confident, rather I think we are quietly confident this season that we can do the business. I have us as one of the favourites, but we will have to fend off the likes of Huddersfield, Plymouth, Sheff Wed, Peterborough, Swindon etc, which is going to be very difficult. If we can sort out our away form then I think we will gain auto promotion. Fingers crossed for the Cherries to finish 2nd!! Eddie Howe has done a brilliant job. Saints and Cherries in the Championship with Pompey in League One!!.

    I also fancy Brentford to do well this season and Brighton like most others. Theyl be up near the play-offs.

  • Comment number 64.

    I'm a Argyle fan who goes uni at Southampton.

    From what i've seen from last season, Saints should have more than enough to gain automatic promotion and they're my tip to win it. Ok they would have only just reached the play-offs had their deduction not taken place, but they did win the JPT.

    I do think Plymouth have been kept too low key in the discussions for promotion. Peter Reid is a manager with top flight experience who knows what it takes to win promotion, and i'd like to see a better side who better a centre midfield pair of Damien Johnson and Carl Fletcher.

    Not to sure what the hype is about Charlton. Even Phil Parkinson believes they're a number of players short of being a quality side. I saw them play a few times last season, and without big names such as Bailey, Shelvey, Sam and Burton, wheres the fire power coming from???

    Huddersfield on the other hand, have a great squad. They boast a great young manager and despite them losing Michael Collins, who was injured for most of last year, have added to their impressive array of players. From Smithies in goal to Rhodes up front, there is quality throughout.

    My predictions:

    1 - Southampton
    2 - Sheffield Wednesday
    3 - Huddersfield
    4 - Swindon
    5 - Plymouth
    6 - Peterborough

  • Comment number 65.

    It's just hard to imagine a good start for Southampton, no matter how hard I try. I'm thinking Southampton may very well get promoted, but only through a late charge or via the playoffs.

  • Comment number 66.

    As long as MK Dons and Dagenham & Redbridge finish bottom two, good luck to the rest of ya.

    Two teams who ripped the soul out of SW London and NE London respectively.

  • Comment number 67.

    I think when assessing teams fortunes you have to look not only at the quality of players but also at the calibre of managers. Pardew's a decent manager and I hope the Saints can win it, but I reckon Peterborough are a good bet with the excellent Gary Johnson at the helm.

    At the other end of the scale, and despite some decent players, I can't see Plymouth doing anything with Reid in charge.

  • Comment number 68.

    Not too many mentions for The Posh amongst the comments, we will definately be right up there challenging this season. After the disaster that was last season lessons have been learned and the experience and stability the Gary Johnson brings will be crucial.

    We've managed to hang on to George Boyd who will be the best player in the division this season, closely followed by Grant McCann a great signing, two Championship quality players. Add to that a front pair that managed 41 goals between them last time they were in this division and a bigger, stronger and more experienced squad all round.

    As for everone else, Saints are the team to beat, Huddersfield will be strong, Charlton and Sheff Wed should be there but equally could underperform. That leaves the likes of Swindon and Bristol Rovers challenging for the playoff places.

    Notts County and MK Dons (hopefully) to go down.


  • Comment number 69.

    this is to comment 64....
    somehow i now think huddersfield have a better centre midfield than plymouth as we have now took damien johnson on loan from you
    i'd like to see you beat joey gudjohnson, scott arfield and damien johnson pal ;)

  • Comment number 70.

    I'm a Bristol Rovers fan and we have made some very good signings in the close season.

    We have bought in:

    Wayne Brown (Fulham - Free Transfer)
    Will Hoskins (Watford - Free Transfer)
    Gary Sawyer (Plymouth - Free Transfer)
    James Tunnicliffe (Brighton - Loan)
    Mikkel Andersen (Reading - Loan)

    I don't think we will challenge for promotion but we definately have an outside chance of play offs. I think we will finish 8th.

    As for champions I think Southampton will win it but not by miles with Huddersfield behind them.

    Brentford my surprise team of the season.

    Good Luck Everyone

  • Comment number 71.

    I find it a bit silly that people just look at last year's points concerning Southampton and base an opinion purely on that. The simple fact was that Saints did not have a pre-season...the so called warm up matches were the first 6 weeks of the season! Alan Pardew then managed to start shaping "his" side. It is the run after this period that the pundits and many here refer to. (Refering to comment 51...without the 10 point deduction we would have finished 3 points from automatic promotion)

    Yes, I am a Saints fan. On paper I do think we have the strongest squad, yet we already have an injury problem for the start of the season. Must agree with others on here that we will not "walk" the division. Too many strong contenders again this year with Sheffield, Huddersfield or Swindon (who were a revealation last year) -- not too mention our occassional propensity to "snatch defeat from the jaws of victory".

    Funny thing is the hit (top 8) or miss (bottom 8) comments about Plymouth...just happens to be our opening game. Me? I put them in the top 6.

  • Comment number 72.

    1. At 11:52am on 05 Aug 2010, dirtydonki wrote:

    Sadly, it won't be Derby County who will stop Southampton. :)
    I think, however, that Leeds United may have a lot to say in the matter.

    =========================================================================

    I'd juat like to ask Dirtydonki how concerned he is about the threat to Southampton's promotion chances posed by Man Utd, Chelsea, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Inter Milan?

  • Comment number 73.

    What about Colchester United???? Can you not remember the team that were challenging Norwich and Leeds all of last season only to narrowly miss out on the play-offs due to a small squad rotation and fatique resulting in poor form towards the end. We may not be a big name team but we have a team unit that are truely capable and work well together, only one significant departure so far and several names to increase the squad rotation. Once again Colchester clearly seen as an underdog however maybe this might be the year where Colchester are a team that are taken into consideration!

  • Comment number 74.

    oh btw easton gas, Wayne Brown is excellent on FIFA 10!
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Exeter are a very good value for the play - offs, we've brought in Nardiello who has an excellent goal record same as John O 'Flynn who in february rejected a 100k move to Shrewsbury!

    David Noble formerly of our fellow cider drinkers Bristol City! looks like an excellent signing, and will provide stability in midfield.

    The futures bright, the futures Grecians!

  • Comment number 75.

    Some of these posts are asking to be quoted back come May, when they make the writer look a bit daft. "We definitely won't go down," and "Wednesday will win the division," for example. One of the main joys of League One is that it's not easy to predict. Yes, there are strong squads, particularly at some of the bigger clubs, who are likely to be challenging the top six, but anybody who makes such unequivocal statements as 'will win' or 'definitely not go down' before a ball has been kicked in anger clearly hasn't learnt much from whatever football they've watched in the past.

  • Comment number 76.

    You can't predict any divison below the Premier League. You seem to forget that us Wednesday fans have seen our side in League One recently. With the first season seeing us finish in a dissapointing mid table position. But this time out we know we have a far better squad, a squad that any mid table Championship side would be happy with! Whoever thinks Southampton have a better squad on paper needs to have a serious sit down with a cuppa' because if Neil Mellor, Marcus Tudgay, Paul Heffernan and Clinton Morrison anrn't worthy of a place in your side, they will by May next year. I'm very dissapointed to see people calling Sheffield Wednesday, Sheffield. You wouldn't do it to either of the Manchester sides so don't do it to us, please.

  • Comment number 77.

    #66

    As long as MK Dons and Dagenham & Redbridge finish bottom two, good luck to the rest of ya.

    Two teams who ripped the soul out of SW London and NE London respectively

    -----------------------

    I understand the MK Dons gripe, what with the relocating stadia to make a 170mile round trip for the home fans, moving against their will and despite protests, inspiring a new team to be formed and all fans of the former Wimbledon split to loyalties and now some infighting about each other's choices

    But how is D&R comparable in any way? We merged minor non-league clubs over a period of years, all with tiny fanbases, and now thats happened the base is far bigger (though still smaller than any in the division), everyone pulling together and the ride has been fantastic. No relocation, no forced aggresive move that the fans had to lump it, if anything the club has done nothing but improve and grow as a result. There's a real feel about the club. Nobody "wishes it was like the good old days", we have had a great many fans wish us well as some sort of 2nd team for them.

    i just cant understand what you are on about at all

  • Comment number 78.

    In reference to No. 6, Charlton will not go into Admin, where did you get that piece of garbage from?
    We've cleared out all of our deadwood (that Pardew bought for us)and we've got a player or 2 to add yet.
    I think we're a more balanced team this year, better defensively for sure.

    Ignore Charlton at your peril.

    And Pardew is not all that, spend spend spend. Parkinson however is looking like a very astute manager.

  • Comment number 79.

    I believe that Southampton are the favourites to get automatic promotion but also Saints do suffer some defeats to teams that are no where near as good as Southampton with Brighton being our boggie team last season. Pardew will have to eliminate these bad performances away from St. Mary's in order to secure 1st place as we can beat any team in this division but it won't be easy as I see Plymouth not Sheffield Wednesday as our rivals but don't rule out Charlton, Huddersfield or Swindon and watch out for Bournemouth who look very strong coming up from League Two

  • Comment number 80.

    The new season is on the horizon and i just cannot wait!

    As a Sheffield Wednesday fan, am not really full of optimism too much - only have to remember last time we were here and in our first season we finished 16th and only a few mere points off of relegation. The Play Off's i think would represent a good achievement for this season.

    As for teams going up, Southampton will obviously have some points to proove from last season and will ultimately want to be up at the top.

    Huddersfield have added some real strength and experience this summer and they too shall be looking towards a good season.

    Swindon and Charlton have both lost influential players from the previous season but will be hoping that the replacements they have made will be capable for a promotion push.

    Surprise team for me this season will be Bristol Rovers. Also Carlisle Utd have made some interesting acquisitions and I wouldnt be surprised to see them at the business end of the table.

    Promotion - Southampton and Brighton
    Play Offs - Swindon, Huddersfield, Bristol Rovers, Sheff Wed (heart over head decision made there!)

  • Comment number 81.

    Wow, 80 posts so far and no-one predicting relegation for Leyton Orient. Makes a pleasant change. :-)

    I've no idea how well or badly the mighty O's will do this year. Much will depend on how well Russell Slade's rebuilt side starts the season.

  • Comment number 82.

    Without being patronising, I do thoroughly enjoy "lower league" football, and I have done so for years. As for League One this season and an ex-childhood Wimbledon supporter, MK "Franchise FC" Dons for the drop, just like every season... :)

    I hope my local team Brentford do well this season, Andy Scott has made some smart signings and i think we might be able to spring a surprise on the expected front runners. Also, i've been keeping a close eye on Gus Poyet down at Brighton, and i'm curious to know whether he can carry on where he left off last season. I can't see past Southampton for the title though... no offence guys!

    Because League One is so difficult to predict, i think the top 8 will consist of (in any order): Southampton, Peterborough, Swindon, Charlton, Huddersfield, Brentford, Plymouth and Sheffield Wednesday.

    Good luck to the all 23 (barring the obvious 1) teams this season. :)

  • Comment number 83.

    If we (Saints) bring in some centre-mids on loan then we'll have quallity cover all over the park. Even our back-up goalkeeper is the second best in the division.

    For all those saying about adding the 10 points and we'd only have made play-offs, the club was in a mess at the start of the season. It was basically the same squad that got relegated, minus some of the better ones. Pardew didn't bring in the likes of Lambert until after the season had begun. And after January when Puncheon, Barnard and Fonte came in we looked so impressive, thrashing the likes of Huddesfield (who many tipped to win the play-offs...) and outplaying Norwich away. If we can turn the bizarre terrible performance (Tranmere away) into wins or at least draws then we'll walk the league, I'm sure of it.

    No idea why people are tipping Charlton, I think they'll be relegation contenders if they don't sort themselves out. Parkinson has hardly stabilised the club with the amount of players he's let go. Wednesday will start the same as we didn last season if they can't sort out the money problems, though I will say they are the only squad that looks capable of matching Saints.

    In a perfect world, I want Saints, Bournemouth and Exeter to go up, but I think it'll look like this:

    Autos: Southampton, Sheffield Wednesday
    Playoffs: Huddersfield, Swindon, Brighton, Exeter/Brentford.

    If Brentford get Szczesny on loan again they'll be confident from the off and can build from there.

    Bring on the season!

  • Comment number 84.

    Peterborough United, after promotion from League One, have had a very poor Championship season. However, with Gary Johnson as their new manager and experienced players brought in, plus Posh still retain a few of the better players who were responsible for winning outright promotion from League One, they most certainly shouldn't be under estimated. I think League One this time around, with the likes of Bristol Rovers, Bournemouth and Sheffield Wednesday all fighting for promotion, will prove much more exciting for supporters in 2010/11. I predict Southampton and Posh for outright promotion, with Bristol Rovers, Sheffield Wednesday, MK Dons and Brighton in the play-offs. Wednesday to go through.

  • Comment number 85.

    So Argyle are not worthy of any kind of comment apart from that they are contenders? No analysis, look at the new manager or squad?
    You know, all you columnists are all the same. No football club exists past Bristol according to you lot. There does happen to be at least 3 major football clubs in the area who you have failed to mention. Plymouth Argyle, Yeovil Town & Exeter City (regardless of how much rivalry we have with them).
    The South-west is actually a part of our "Fair" country!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 86.

    At 11:52am on 05 Aug 2010, dirtydonki wrote:
    Sadly, it won't be Derby County who will stop Southampton. :)
    I think, however, that Leeds United may have a lot to say in the matter.

    --------------------------

    What!!!!
    Since Leeds are now in Championship I find this very difficult to believe !!

  • Comment number 87.

    Yeovil to be the suprise package and make the play offs. They have a young manager who understands the league and has developed a better squad than last season. Southampton should win it though. D&R will finish bottom. - Peter Read to be the first L1 manager to be sacked.

  • Comment number 88.

    No way will Peter Reid get the sack this season. People have praise for the likes of Puncheon and Easter, both players Plymouth let go last season.

    Plymouth will be strong defensively, have a decent midfield with or without Damien Johnson (i predict Luke Summerfield to have a decent campaign) it's upfront i'm far less confident with. True, Fallon and Macclean should hit the back of the net at this level but I can't see either of them scoring 15-20 goals. I'm hoping Bradley-Wright-Phillips will shine for us and then there's the youngster Joe Mason to chip in with a few before he gets poached by a Championship club in January!

  • Comment number 89.

    everyone talks about saints and wednesday having strong squads look at huddersfield they have signed players who could still play championship football or above as offers were on the table.
    we have 4 good strikers 3 of the best CM in the div and 4 quality wingers
    i think this season is going to be the toughest yet and will spring one or too little suprises

  • Comment number 90.

    Good blog.........and very interesting to see people's comments on The Bees chances.

    As a lapsed supporter having rediscovered the fun of lower league football last season I really agree with some of you that League 1 is the antidote to the over-hyped, over-paid and overly manipulative top tier(s). Sometimes the football ain't pretty but it's compelling and the people I took to Griffin Park loved the atmosphere (and the pubs!!).

    Southampton are definite favourites - nice football, good manager. Charlton - based on last season they do have it to get promoted, but they seemed to bottle it a little towards the end of the season. Interesting to see how they start this year. Don't know enough about Sheffield Wednesday, but they should be up there. Brighton (they got really good at the end of last season), Plymouth and Swindon will (well, should!) be in the mix. And........never underestimate Colchester!

    As for Brentford - I hope play-offs. But realistically we'll probably be lucky if we get just outside it. In Andy Scott we have a very good manager, and we've been lucky to get the majority of signings he wanted (Pim B.....wooohoooo!) - but he's clear about our aims; building for the future and not getting stupidly into debt. I'd rather my club has mid-table obscurity and survives than go through the nightmare of someone like Southend. Still.....promotion would be nice!!

    Oh - and I hope Dagenham do well.......

  • Comment number 91.

    Saints WILL win the league, im sure we will still take points off them at St Marys like last season and will come in second with dons, weds and plymouth just behind us!!

    COYR

  • Comment number 92.

    64. Huddersfield on the other hand, have a great squad. They boast a great young manager and despite them losing Michael Collins, who was injured for most of last year, have added to their impressive array of players. From Smithies in goal to Rhodes up front, there is quality throughout.
    ===========================================

    "Losing" Michael Collins?!?

    On his day a matchwinner, unfortunately his day was too few and far between and he was made available for transfer (listed) at the end of last season.

    Otherwise, thanks for the nice remarks!

  • Comment number 93.

    I love the fact that not many are mentioning Posh.
    In George Boyd, we have without doubt the biggest talent in the league, and with CMS and Mclean upfront, two players who regually get over 20 goals in a season, we have added Grant McCann a international and a proven Championship player and good leader, we have a full England squad goalkeeper and possibly the best manager in this league. We have quality throught our team. Zakuani, Lee, Nana etc etc.

    Write us off at your peril. We have heard it all before, when Leeds were supposedly going to romp the league, we finished 7pt above them, with a much worse squad than we have now.

    For the record, I think we'll finish in the top two.

    1. Huddesfield
    2. Peterborough.
    3. Plymouth.
    4. Southampton.
    5. Sheff Wed.
    6. Charlton.

    Daggers are going to go down with a wimper.

  • Comment number 94.

    As a Huddersfield fan, I find it quite weird being written about as "I would expect them to be up there with the likes of Huddersfield" as opposed to "Huddersfield should find themselves up there with the likes of Team X and Team Y" and then to see comments predicting us winning the league!

    But hey, I'm not complaining or anything :)

  • Comment number 95.

    Daggers to win the league at a canter....

    Sorry, what was that, we've been relegated already?? Oh well

  • Comment number 96.

    PoshFella...

    20 goals a season? The pair didn't get 20 goals between them last season, let alone each. England keeper? You mean the occasional U21 cap?

    Don't get me wrong I think you've got a great squad and I reckon you'll finish behind us in 2nd.

  • Comment number 97.

    Thanks for leaving Tranmere out, Paul. Shoddy journalism is appreciated.

  • Comment number 98.

    Hi all, to all you "super saint" supporters, from an Argyle supporter, how did you fair today? Favouritesfor the title! hmmmmmmmmmmm.

  • Comment number 99.

    Regi, I'm not being funny, but please do your research. =-)

    Joe Lewis was in The full England Squad for Capello.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/internationals/7416439.stm

    And as this is a thread about League one, not the Championship, McLean and CMS have both scored very regularly in this league, and Mclean scored today. =-)

    Say we are Top of the league ;)

  • Comment number 100.

    How can you possibly call Southhampton favourites, even if you do take into account their points deduction, they weren't best team in league, I watched them play and was truly disappointed. They aren't special. With teams like Sheffield Wednesday in the league the Saints have to compete with some big boys. And before people start going on about how big clubs have struggled with League One in the past, they should remember that Wednesday have been up and down and struggling around top of League One/bottom of Championship for years now, so are used to the standard. Southampton will struggle, although personally I hope they do well, I like the club. Playoffs.

 

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