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Too close to call in League Two

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Paul Fletcher | 11:02 UK time, Wednesday, 4 August 2010

It will have to be a pretty spectacular season in League Two if it is to match the 2009/10 campaign. All four promoted teams had incredibly distinctive stories in what proved to be a thrilling year for the fourth tier.

Champions Notts County provided a constant slew of headlines after the arrival of the mysterious Munto Finance consortium and the appointment of Sven-Goran Eriksson as director of football. Eriksson and co had all gone before the end of the campaign, leaving Steve Cotterill to steer the club to the title.

Bournemouth, calmly led by rookie manager Eddie Howe, defied a transfer ban to secure second place, Rochdale ended decades of disappointment to take third and Dagenham & Redbridge showed just how high "a pub team from Essex" can climb with their play-off victory.

It's a tough act to follow but Daggers boss John Still believes the division his team have left behind will be the scene of another almighty battle for promotion this season.

"I think it will be very competitive - a touch more so than last season," Still told BBC Sport.
"There were some good sides last year that perhaps failed to push on. This year, we might see more of Bradford, who finished 14th, and Crewe, who finished 18th. Gillingham and Wycombe have dropped into the division from League One and will also do well."

Bradford City boss Peter Taylor Taylor is embarking on his first full season as Bradford manager

Peter Taylor has previously won promotion with Gillingham, Brighton, Hull and Wycombe. Now the 57-year-old is preparing for his first full season as manager of Bradford - and there is a strong case to suggest that the Bantams' fourth consecutive season in the bottom tier of the Football League will end in more success for Taylor. "The gaffer has won promotion at this level before and is very experienced so he knows exactly what he is looking for in the transfer market," club captain Zesh Rehman told me.

In addition to experienced campaigners such as Tommy Doherty, Robbie Threlfall and Lewis Hunt, Taylor has brought in 18-year-old striker Louis Moult on loan from Stoke. Moult had a prolific scoring record coming through the ranks with the Potters, found the net for Bradford in a pre-season match at Rochdale on Monday and is one to watch this coming campaign.

"We finished last season really well, going six games unbeaten, and the gaffer got across the style of play he wants," added Rehman. "Everything is in place, we have a big fanbase, averaging close to 14,000 last season, a good squad, the pitch has been relaid and the coaching staff have been working really hard. There has been talk about winning promotion for several years but now it is a case of getting down and doing it."

Crewe will have to improve in defence (only Darlington and Accrington conceded more last season) if they are to challenge but manager Dario Gradi has brought in the experienced David Artell to help address that.

Gradi has been playing a three-pronged strikeforce of Calvin Zola, Shaun Miller and Clayton Donaldson in pre-season as the Alex have won seven straight games, including victory over Premier League new boys Blackpool.

I think it would be foolish to discount Rotherham - providing they keep hold of striker Adam Le Fondre, who scored 30 goals last season. The Millers lost last season's play-off final and manager Ronnie Moore has shipped out seven of the players who started at Wembley, remodelling his squad in a bid to win automatic promotion.

Crucially, though, Le Fondre and midfielder Nicky Law both remain, while Moore believes that bringing in the likes of Tom Elliott (Leeds) Tom Newey (Bury) and Mark Bradley (Walsall) has improved the strength and experience of his squad.

Gillingham midfielder Mark Bentley recently suggested that, since manager Andy Hessenthaler returned to the club in late May, the squad have rediscovered a discipline and respect missing during last season's relegation campaign under Mark Stimson.

Former Gills midfielder Hessenthaler spent 10 years at the Priestfield Stadium after arriving in 1996, with the final four of them as player-manager. He is a club legend and it would be no surprise if he inspired them to a successful season.

Adebayo Akinfenwa (left) in action for former club Northampton Akinfenwa (centre) has left Northampton for Gillingham

Striker Simeon Jackson has been sold but fellow forward Andy Barcham remains, while Adebayo Akinfenwa has been brought in from Northampton to further boost the club's forward options.

How the Cobblers adjust to the loss of the powerful Akinfenwa will have a big say on whether they improve on last season's 11th-placed finish and push for a play-off spot. Hope here lies with Irishman Tadhg Purcell, who had an excellent second half to last season at Darlington and has joined Ian Sampson's team on a free transfer.

Paul Simpson, sacked at Shrewsbury towards the end of last season after failing to mount a promotion push, has a point to prove at new club Stockport. However, it won't be easy as the Hatters spent the whole of last season in administration and picked up only 25 points before a takeover in June secured the club's future. Their barren run included a 17-match winless sequence. I think a season of mid-table stability for Stockport would be a good achievement for Simpson - but more can be expected at his former club.

Shrews boss Graham Turner knows his way around the bottom division and I reckon veteran defender Ian Sharps is an excellent signing from Rotherham, while striker Matt Harrold should be a useful addition from Wycombe.

Gary Waddock could not keep the Chairboys up last season but has since overhauled his squad, bringing in four players from Brentford in addition to paying Peterborough £125,000 for striker Scott Rendell. Fellow forward Kevin Betsy has been excellent in pre-season and Wycombe should not struggle for goals.

Aldershot boss Kevin Dillon believes his squad is stronger than the one that reached the play-offs in May after a close season in which he claims to have cleared out the "whingers".

It will be interesting to see what effect moving into a new stadium has on Chesterfield, while a transfer embargo at Southend means it is unclear what impact new boss Paul Sturrock will have. Elsewhere, Chris Sutton will preside over his first full season as Lincoln boss, Micky Adams continues to build at Port Vale and Bury fans will hope for another tilt at promotion.

"There are a dozen or so teams that you could argue have a chance," added Still. "It is the teams that are able to show some consistency that will push out of the pack."

As for the Football League new boys, Still, whose Daggers team won promotion to the Football League in 2007, is confident they will give a good account of themselves. "Oxford United and Stevenage are both strong," he added. "When a team comes up into League Two their players are on a high."

Grimsby and Darlington were relegated last season, with the Mariners slipping out of the Football League on the final day of the season. This season, the bookmakers think Accrington Stanley and Barnet are the two teams most at risk. But Stanley boss John Coleman has vast experience of overachieving on a limited budget, while new Bees boss Stimson has had a busy summer after his appointment.

It should all make for a fascinating campaign and I have high hopes the forthcoming League Two season will once again provide rich entertainment. I would be delighted to hear your thoughts.

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

And don't forget, you can watch all the goals from League Two 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

  • Comment number 1.

    Hessenthaler will be backed by players and fans completely as he is a true Gillingham legend, and we should do well this season. We have lost our best player in Simeon Jackson, to Norwich, but hopefully we should be able to score enough goals as a team to compensate. The main difference needed however is an improvement on our away form, with no away wins last season; if the team can overcome that mental barrier then we should have a fruitful season.... I hope!

    Paul, if you had to stick out your neck, and name the league winners, who would it be? I won't be upset if it is not the Gills. Honest.

    Up The Gills!

  • Comment number 2.

    Really looknig forward to the start of the new season - and the start of the 2010 accumulator challenge my mate and I have.

    I'm going for

    Middlesbrough to beat Ipswich,
    Bristol City to beat Millwall,
    QPR to beat Watford,
    Sheff Wed to beat Dag & Red,
    Rotherham to beat Lincoln.

    5 home wins, fiver a pop should bring me in £60 - hopefully!

  • Comment number 3.

    It looks such a tight league again. One team you didn't mention is Burton Albion. They were around the play offs most of last season. They've kept Pearson and Harrad which will get goals. Brought experiened and very capable midfielders like Bolder in and strengthened their leaky defence. Overall I'm looking forward to the competitiveness of the league again and hope for a better season from Lincoln!

  • Comment number 4.

    I am admittedly biased as a Gills fan, but I think our squad of players really is a League One squad and should really be pushing for automatic. We should have finished mid table last season, but largely thanks to terrible man management from Mark Stimson, whose selections and a general persona got the players and fans backs, and this cost us dearly.

    The squad we have now is better than last seasons - the only player we would have liked to have kept, but lost was Simeon Jackson. He has been replaced by Akinfenwa and McDonald from Norwich, who should be a formidable partnership and we have supplemented the squad with some good back-up signings in Danny Spiller, Sinclair and former Ajax youngster, Aborah, who has amazing potential. We also have high quality midfielders in Andy Barcham and Curtis Weston and experienced lower league pros such as Mark Bentley and Danny Jackman. We now have Hess back to guide us, in place of the bald clown, and he has has improved as a manager since his last stint at GFC where he kept up in the Championship for five seasons. My only worries are that we may lack a bit of bite in midfield and an experienced, quality centre half (until Simon King comes back, if at all).

    As for our rivals, I think Bradford are yet again overhyped due to the size of the club. I fancy Rotherham and Chesterfield to do well and Oxford to surprise a few people.

    Bring it on and up the Gills!

  • Comment number 5.

    No mention of Port Vale?!

    Typical Southern bias.......

  • Comment number 6.

    "No mention of Port Vale?!

    Typical Southern bias......."

    Yeah, typical southern bias considering the first three teams he mentioned were Bradford, Crewe and Rotherham.

  • Comment number 7.

    Why nothing about Chesterfield, surely we must be one of the favourites? All it says is that a new ground might help!!!

  • Comment number 8.

    I cant believe there isnt more mentioned about Bury!!
    They spent the majority of last season in the top 4, but Alan Knill has now released the majority of players in the summer and brought in 9/10 new players including impressive Andy Haworth from Blackburn Rovers.
    They have beaten a near full strength Leeds United 4-0 and Rochdale 3-0 in pre season - Alan Knill will take the Shakers to League One!!

  • Comment number 9.

    Nothing about Morecambe? Sort it out.

  • Comment number 10.

    Not even a mention for Burton Albion after a very solid first ever season in the league and finishing not too far away from the play off places.
    Peschi' can mount a real challenge after keeping hold of Harrad and tightening the defence. Darren Moore the newly named captain can surely help steer them to a real play off challenge this season.

  • Comment number 11.

    Graham Turner's signings, his managerial experience and some creditable pre-season results mean Shrewsbury should do well.
    I'm quietly confident – even though I've said the same thing for the past few seasons!!

  • Comment number 12.

    Morecambe will do the same as last year slow start and then pick up as the season goes on (hopefully make glode a hard place for teams to come too)

    we have a strong a team and sammy knows whats hes doing, as said above nothing about the north west teams, hopefully morecambe and bury will top the table

  • Comment number 13.

    Quote "Chris Sutton will preside over his first full season as Lincoln boss, Micky Adams continues to build at Port Vale and Bury fans will hope for another tilt at promotion."

    At least these teams got a mention, all be it brief. We finished 4th last season we have shipped out one defender (which was our weakest area last season anyway) and a couple of squad players and are also moving to a new stadium. None of this matters? Give us some credit.

  • Comment number 14.

    RoversReturn - wouldn't put your money on Wednesday beating Dagenham & Redbridge, I'm pretty confident a shock might be on the cards and we'd be lucky to get a point even though the match is at Hillsborough. On paper, Wednesday will be one of the strongest teams in League One but have a feeling that it's not going to be that easy and we may just labour at the start of the season.

  • Comment number 15.

    "RoversReturn - wouldn't put your money on Wednesday beating Dagenham & Redbridge, I'm pretty confident a shock might be on the cards and we'd be lucky to get a point even though the match is at Hillsborough. "

    Honestly, that is the only game I'm having second thoughts about.

  • Comment number 16.

    OK, OK, OK - lets talk Morecambe.

    They undoubtedly had a tremendous season last time out and there is no reason to suppose that they cannot build on that. Having said that, it will be interesting to see if there is any impact after moving to their new stadium. It does not always follow that a new ground helps the home team improve their form.

    It will also be interesting to see how 18-year-old striker James Spencer does after his loan move from Huddersfield.

    As for Burton - Darren Moore should be a decent signing if his aging body is sensibly managed.

    I always expect stick from disgruntled fans after writing this sort of piece because they tend to take it personally when their team is not extensively mentioned.

    If you think your outfit has been over-looked, do tell me why, as a couple of Burton and Morecambe fans have. I'm always keen to learn.

  • Comment number 17.

    OK - How about Chesterfield? If not for a disatrous end to the season play-offs should have been a cert. Not only a new stadium but quite a bit of activity in the transfer market too.

  • Comment number 18.

    Not a mention of the mighty yellows, Oxford UTD, who are back in league 2.
    Top 3 finish is on the cards, watch for the first round of the league cup as the much touted Bristol Rovers from Div 1 will be sent crashing!

  • Comment number 19.

    A lot of fan websites seem to be rating Port Vale, and here's why: the nucleus of the squad came close to the playoffs last year, and Justin Richards up front may be the strike partner Marc Richards has needed. The defence is strong: young keeper Chris Martin has another year under his belt and is now the definite #1, and Lee Collins has shown he's a terrific player in the back. But the biggest bright spot, if he can control his off-field issues, is Gary Roberts, who at least in preseason has been the class of the pitch every time and improves our midfield play 1000%. If he can stay on track we will really benefit.

    Of course as with all Div Two squads, money is tight and a few injuries could scupper things, but for the first time in a few years we are feeling optimistic about the new season!

    As for the others, Rotherham and Gillingham I think should be strong, Bury impressed last year. Bradford is always a popular choice but have yet to show the form on the pitch needed--maybe this will be the year but I doubt it.

  • Comment number 20.

    It's going to be such a difficult leage to predict this season. I'm a Gillingham fan and firmly believe that we'll have a good year under the guidance of Andy Hessenthaler. A good start is vital though. As is a 1st away win in over a year.

    I've actually put together a ground guide so if anyone wanted to have a look at the 24 league two teams and their stadiums etc, here's the link:

    http://www.tothe92.co.uk/leaguetwoguide.html

  • Comment number 21.

    Paul, thanks for your thoughts on Morecambe.

    Just a couple more points. You are right about the stadium; however you could have easily mentioned us alongside Chesterfield in the main article but decided against that.

    I read your blogs and although I sometimes disagree with what you have to say I still enjoy them. Your blog your opinion, that’s what a blog is right your? I just found this one disappointing. Practically given that it’s a league 2 blog but mentions Dagenham and Redbridge’s league campaign more than Morecambe’s.

    “…not extensively mentioned?” There is no mention yet we were 1 place off the automatic promotion last season. For what its worth there is no mention by name for Burton, Cheltenham, Macclesfield Hereford or Torquay also. When you consider these teams(and ourselves) it looks like you forgetting to mention some of the small less fashionable teams in this division.

    I know you have said it’s too close to call but how about we get off the fence and put out our promoted and relegated teams. Ill Start. ;-)

    Gillingham
    Rotherham
    Bradford
    Torquay (Playoffs)

    Stockport (r)
    Barnet (r)

  • Comment number 22.

    I am now an official Barnet fan after experiencing the delights of Underhill during their pre-season friendly with Peterborough last Saturday. I'll be rooting for them to stave off the threat of relegation and make a decent go it this season, with Steve Kabba hopefully being the man to help achieve this.

    http://bit.ly/9EeWWv

  • Comment number 23.

    BarryTheMorecambeBadgeShrimp - I see what you're doing, trying to suck me into a very, very dangerous game. I'm not one for picking out an exact top three, years of failure have warned me against doing so.

    But I will predict that Morecambe will fall on my radar this season, to an extent that will hopefully persuade you I'm not all about following the so-called big clubs around.

    Part of the beauty of the Football League for me is that there are so many interesting stories to be unearthed and, unlike in some other leagues we could mention, teams can come from nowhere to win promotion - just ask Blackpool and Dagenham & Redbridge fans (although I guess I should not be mentioning the Daggers any more!).

    If you think of any story at Morecambe that deserves a wider audience please let me know.

  • Comment number 24.

    As a Shrewsbury fan I would like to see us get promotion - preferably without having to go via those awful play-offs. We have been touted as one of the favourites for the last couple of seasons but seem to have slipped under the radar this season and I think this may take some of the pressure off the players. It seems that a lot of teams have made a lot of signings - us included - and I hope that Graham Turner's experience may mean that we gel more quickly than other teams and get some momentum going. The only worry I have is that we possibly don't have a decent goalkeeper but look out for Benji van den Broek to set up a few goals and Tom Bradshaw to score them

  • Comment number 25.

    I tend to agree that it will be a very tight division this season. It certainly appears much stronger than the season before last when my team Wycombe were promoted with a very average side. From our viewpoint we have the strongest group of players we've had for quite some time. We've continually struggled to score goals in recent years, however the signings of proven strikers in Rendell & Strevens to play alongside the highly talented JP Pitman should end that problem. In midfield we have a wealth of talent, so much so in fact that England U19 international Matt Phillips will most likely start the season on the bench. In Kevin Betsy we have one of the most talented players in the lower division and I expect him as usual to have a big influence on our side.
    Having said that, I'm well aware that other sides have also been busy in the summer. Gillingham in particular I see as worthy favourites, as long as they can start performing away from the Priestfield. Bradford I'm not so sure about, yes Peter Taylor will have them organised and They'll certainly improve on recent seasons, but I'm not convinced they'll have the flair to compete for a top 3 place, although I'd expect them to be play off contenders.

  • Comment number 26.

    Nothing about Vale because they are rubbish. Turning into the Alex rejects as well.

    We'll be higher than you come the end of the season.

  • Comment number 27.

    As a Barnet fan I hope for a top half finish. We have a new manager and 14 new signings. Our signings are actually players that have played in the football league for a change and not non-league youngsters. We are one of the favourites to be relegated but I am confident we can stay up. I wish luck to all teams before the season begins. Come on you Bees!

  • Comment number 28.

    I don't follow a League 2 team, however, from the outside looking in my predictions for ups & downs are:-

    1st - Rotherham
    2nd - Gillingham
    3rd - Morecambe
    Play Off Winners - Wycombe

    Relegated - Hereford & Barnet

    Good luck to all of you over the coming season!

  • Comment number 29.

    Accrington Stanley have been favourites for relegation every season since they were promoted but it's not happened yet. They were even in contention for a playoff spot at one stage last season. Good luck to them.

  • Comment number 30.

    Nothing about Torquay United either... We've had a really strong pre season. We walked all over Argyle, Yeovil, Exeter and Bristol City, and looked strong against a very good QPR side. Buckle has re-built the squad from the one that got us promoted from the Conference, and we've got to be looking for play-offs. Call the arrogance or confidence, but end of last season we won 6 out of last 7, and that only game not won was against Notts County on the last day of the season when there was nothing to play for.

    expect great things from Torquay this season!!!

  • Comment number 31.

    I think this season in League 2 is going to be fiercely competitive from the top end of the table to the bottom end. Every season it always amazes me how tightly contested the top ten places are in this division, with the top 4 fighting tooth and nail for automatic promotion and the next four all battling to get into the play-off places (and thereafter fighting for positions within). It always seems to be that the 3 teams outside the play-off group at the end of the season only miss out by a few points, which is very competitive for the standard of football that it is.

    My predictions for promotion and relegation (at this time) are as follows:

    Top Three (in any order) - Morecambe, Rotherham, Gillingham.

    Outside chance of top 3 finish - Wycombe

    Play-off contenders - Wycombe, Aldershot, Bury and Port Vale.
    Play-off winners - Wycombe

    Top three outside chance for play-off place - Northampton, Shrewsbury, Oxford.

    Relegation - Barnet and Torquay/Hereford

    I think League 2 new upcomers Oxford and Stevenage will both compete very well this season, I expect both to be tough to beat for most teams in last season's bottom half of League 2. Of the two, I think Oxford might have the better quality up front to get more goals and therefore pick up a few more points that may get them into play-off contention. One thing is for sure though, this will be a long season for any team looking to fight for promotion or stave off relegation.

    Good luck to all in League 2! ;)

  • Comment number 32.


    Here we go then:

    1) Gillingham (I am biased, but think we'll do well).
    2) Chesterfield
    3) Rotherham

    Promoted through playoffs

    Port Vale

    Relegated

    Accrington
    Cheltenham

    I think Wycombe and Bradford will also do well and Oxford will surprise a few and make the playoffs. I think Barnet will just about stay up, despite Mark Stimson, but I hope they go down - nothing against them, just because of the bald twonk you see!

    Up the Gills!

  • Comment number 33.

    Crewe are going up as Champions this year - you heard it here first.

    Why?

    1. Dario Gradi - has had time to get his squad together now, after taking over from Gudjon Thordasson's disasterous time halfway through last season. There is no better manager to succeed in this division, and the other teams better beware now he has had time to do his stuff.
    2. Improvement in defence - a ton of clean sheets in preseason show the new look defence is going to be a massive difference to last year. Brayford is gone but it allows Tootle to move to his natural right back position, Blanchett comes in from Peterborough on the left, and Ada and Artell look a very good partnership already. I genuinely think we will be mean at the back this year.
    3. Goals. Zola was the division's top scorer until his injury at Christmas, and Donaldson would have been up there too if he hadnt got injured. Those two will bang them in. Add in 19 in 56 starts Shaun Miller's natural improvement under Gradi, and Crewe could well be top scorers this season - they werent far off last year.
    4. "The two best midfielders outside the Championship" In POTY Ash Weswood and Luke Murphy, Crewe have two extremely talented young midfielders who both have what it takes to go right to the top. They will be marshalled by the returning Lee Bell, Macc Town's POTY last year, and we should have far too much for most sides in the middle of the park. Nick Powell, wanted by Arsenal at 16 years and 4 months, looks the best prospect at that age for a long time, and that includes Rob Jones, Seth Johnson, Danny Murphy and Dean Ashton.
    5. Optimism - for the first time in 5 or 6 years, there is a breeze of optimism blowing through Crewe's ranks. Even an average home record would have seen Crewe finish well inside the top half last year, and with a positive atmosphere at home, and a meaner defence, Gresty Road will be a lot harder place to come to this season.

    My advice, take the 25/1 as quick as you can. It wont last long...

  • Comment number 34.

    Gillingham, Gillingham, Gillingham:
    Don't forget boys - away wins are vital to success. Remind me how many games you won away last season? Oh yes. I remember now.

    Chairboys for the title. A cert.


  • Comment number 35.

    As a Port Vale fan, I think all the optimism above is misplaced. We have a cynical, defensive-minded, "seen it all before" manager who will never get us anywhere. Mid-table...or worse...

    As for the others - Rotherham & Gillingham to go up, Morecambe to be there or thereabouts again & the new teams to do well.

    Oh, and Crewe to be relegated by Xmas.
    Only joking...or am I?

  • Comment number 36.

    Of course nothing of any note happened at Macclesfield last season, so you can add us to the list of clubs who simply do not seem to exsist.

  • Comment number 37.

    Once again, League Two clubs everywhere can look forward to Bradford fans arriving at your stadium en masse; ready to boost your coffers. The difference this year is that we'll be arriving to take the three points better equipped than we have been during any of the previous years that we have had to suffer in the bottom tier.

    We finally have the manager with the tactical nouse and experience to lead us out of the division and if you Wycombe fans think that telling Bradford fans we can expect a season of boring football bothers us, you could not be more wrong. We are happy to take success at any price this year as we really should not be in this division (not saying that in an arrogant way but this club has been wallowing below its level for too long).

    The squad has a much more balanced look to it than it is had for a number of years, there will not be a better full back pairing than Ramsden and Threlfall on show in the league this season; the midfield is anchored superbly by Doherty, Bullock and Flynn (all of whom are better than League Two) and watch out for revitalised flair players who could change peoples perceptions of Taylor's teams in Scott Neilson and Omar Daley.

    Finally, if there are three better strikers in League Two this year than Moult, Hanson and Evans, the team that has them deserves all the success they get.

    As an aside, to the Gillingham fan claiming that your squad is League One quality, be careful what you wish for. We had a similar scenario at Bradford a couple of years ago when we brought in players like McClaren, Boulding, Thorne, Lee et al, some performed, most didn't and many found this league is not as easy as they thought it was going to be; a season of disillusionment followed and a summer of players jumping ship was hard on its tail!

  • Comment number 38.

    I'd love to see Gillingham do well especially after the shambles last season, but I've got a real problem with Hessenthaler. Yes, he's a legend, but so were Cas, Steve Bruce and Damien Richardson or going back further Brian Yeo. If any of them had become manager four years after they left then started filling the team with their old mates from their time at the club I would have been worried. With Hess its almost entirely back to the future and I can see it blowing up spectacularly. He's an unproven manager at this level and in football as in life you can never go back. Play offs loom at best.
    As for Bradford, with Peter Taylor at the helm they're dead certs and don't be surprised to see Barnet in the mix just to really rub it in.

  • Comment number 39.

    Anyone saying that Bradford wont be up there and we are favourites because of our ground size and fanbase clearly have done no research. We have retained our best players, got rid of the deadwood and signed some genuine quality players. Add to that, we have the best manager in the league, we are well organised and at the end of last season were top of the form league over the last 7 games, so we have the momentum. Find me a better midfielder in league 2 than tommy doherty...... There isn't one. We have 4 strikers who are all quality in thier own right, best two fullbacks without question (Ramsden and Threllfall). Our young goalkeeper is unproven but whenever called upon he has never let us down and seems an absolute gem. Omar Daley on his day is fantastic for this league, got in league 2 team of year 2 years ago, was injured nearly all last year but with a pre season behind him, he will hopefully be back to his best.

    For once we have realistic ambition, and all the people saying that they haven't seen it on the pitch yet are absolutely correct. That is not however accounting for all the changes (manager, pitch, squad, tactics) that have been made. We wont lose many under the new regime, trust me.

  • Comment number 40.

    I'd like to see all these comments re-published around Christmas then again towards the end of the season, with the original posters invited to reassess their opinions.

    The relegated teams will need a quick start if they are to avoid the post-relegation hangover suffered by most. I can't see this happening particularly with some of the early fixtures. Of the promoted teams, I can see Oxford hovering around the play-offs but will be surprised if they do any more. Stevenage will do ok but finish lower-mid table.

    Teams I expect to see in the hunt are Rotherham, although I can see them underachieving this time, Aldershot look stronger, Bradford I think are nailed on for promotion but possibly not favourites as the bookies are suggesting, Shrewsbury will be there abouts.

    I think these teams will have disappointing seasons, and by disappointing I mean not meeting their fans' expectations: Bury, Chesterfield, Gillingham, Crewe and Morecambe.

    Finally the relegation fight is going to be between Macclesfield, Stockport, Cheltenham and Barnet. Although depending on what happens with Portsmouth we could see only 1 going down.

    Good luck to everybody, we won't all get what we want...




    but I will!

  • Comment number 41.

    "He's an unproven manager at this level and in football as in life you can never go back. "

    The above RE: Hessenthaler.

    Err, okay. Were you not around when he took us to the club's best ever finish in our history? I think it was..11th in the Championship? Yes, he didn't get us promoted, Taylor took us up but Hessy enforced some stability. It's just a shame the way his first spell as boss ended.

    As for your reservations about his old mates, yes he has bought Spiller & Southall back but mainly for their experience at the club and their attitude. They are proven players at this level and above, Spiller is only on a short term deal and Trigger won't feature a lot this year.

    As ever before the start of the season their is an optimistic look about the place but time will tell.

    As for the rest of L2, I can't see too many getting past Wycombe this year. I know Chairboys fans are optimistic about the likes of Rendell & Phillips looks to be a cracking young player, tore us apart on the last day of the season.

    COYG.

  • Comment number 42.

    I think the mighty cobblers need more of a mention. Sammo can put his mark on the team now and I think we will cope without akinfenwa.

  • Comment number 43.

    As a York fan looking up to the promised land of Div 3, Stevenage and Oxford will prove very tough opposition this season. Don't expect because they're newly promoted that they will be scared of any team, they will be out to prove that the league system needs a reworking as the Conference is en-pare if not a stronger league than Div 3.
    Perhaps even a double promotion for one of them? Stevenage are physical and Oxford are attacking, but which suits the league best nowadays?

  • Comment number 44.

    supermccall - If you want a better midifelder in League 2 than Tommy Doherty then it is Curtis Weston, who on his day is better than any midifleder in this division and we should see him ripping up this league now Stimson has gone.

    Without tyring to sound too biased towards Gillingham, I think that there are about 8-10 teams who feel that they should be challenging towards the play offs this year. The likes of Bradford, Rotherham and Gillingham all have played in much higher divisions and the quality of the managers should ensure them of some success at the top this season.

    As for the others - I think that Wycombe look strong under Waddock, Aldershot seem to have a good spirit about them and could do something like Bournemouth did last season, Northampton will be up there if they can replace Akinfenwa, Crewe look solid and can certainly threaten, Morecambe and Chesterfield will be good if they can settle into their new grounds quickly, Oxford, and particularly Stevenage, look strong coming from non-league. Also Southend may spring a suprise if they can deal with the off-field problems and Port Vale will be there of their abouts, but I think they may fall short eventually.

    Teams that could under perform I think are Bury, Shrewsbury, Lincoln (Any club relying on Delroy Facey to score will struggle)

    Going down - Well I think that Accrington, Stockport, Macclesfield, Cheltenham and Barnet will all struggle but if any of the more established names in the division has a poor start then they could find themselves struggling, like Grimsby last season.

  • Comment number 45.

    Err, okay. Were you not around when he took us to the club's best ever finish in our history? I think it was..11th in the Championship? Yes, he didn't get us promoted, Taylor took us up but Hessy enforced some stability. It's just a shame the way his first spell as boss ended.

    Fair point, but he was doing it then as a Player/Coach where he led by example on the pitch. As a manager only, well even the great Kenny Dalglish found that tougher on the nerves. Remember that first time round as well he had a far higher quality of player around him. As you said the catalyst was Taylor and Hess could build on that. This time we have a poor squad and a team that was in total disarray last season. I still maintain that you can't go back. Still, I hope to be proved wrong.

  • Comment number 46.

    "Gillingham, Gillingham, Gillingham:
    Don't forget boys - away wins are vital to success. Remind me how many games you won away last season? Oh yes. I remember now.

    Chairboys for the title. A cert."

    Very true what you say about our away form, and you may be right, but if that's true, I am not sure how a team that finished below that non-away winning team last season are "dead certs" for the title?!?!

  • Comment number 47.

    It's quite hypocritical that Kevin Dillon reckons he's cleared out all the whingers from the club, in that sentence alone but also because he's done nothing but whinge about Wycombe at every single opportunity!

  • Comment number 48.

    Cheltenham relegated? You must be joking...

    Paul, as you missed out a few teams could you give us a few pointers of where they could end up?

    I'm liking the Cheltenham line-up so far, our pre-season has been ok, we may not have scored many (apart from against Gloucester) but we were very good on the defensive front. Steve Elliott is a very good buy, think everyone has noticed that.

    For promotion, I'd like to put Rotherham up there but I think they might follow the same pattern other play-off losers do - and struggle. However, they still have Le Fondre, who is a renowned striker and hopefully will have another good season (so long as he doesn't score against us, I don't mind :) )

    Bradford are good bets to go up, maybe with Wycombe. Couldn't really choose another team as this season will be, as Paul said, too close to call.

    For relegation though, Stockport seem to be favourites to drop, but as long as they sort their off the field problems out they should be fine. Barnet to go, hopefully Hereford will join them (as Hereford are our rivals and a few other people would love to see them go too :D)

  • Comment number 49.

    Trust me Paul backing Rotherham is a major mistake. We play 'hoof' football, are too reliant on Le Fondre (who I still fear might leave) and play at a ground that when a coin drops on the floor you can hear it at the other end of the ground. Compare that to our rivals over in Chesterfield who have a new ground and some decent players I would imagine that they will have a better outcome at the end of the season. We'll see. P.s Tony Stewart (Rotherham Chairman) is a top bloke for sorting Rotherham's mess out. He's shrewd, apart from appointing Ronnie Moore again!

  • Comment number 50.

    I'm on Rotherham and Crewe for this season. There has been a lot of money for Rotherham last couple of weeks and it looks like bookies own money from what I can see! And I agree with the_ghost_of_kenny_lunt, Gradi is proven time and again in this division and this time he has the firepower and some great youngsters. Crewe and Rotherham definitely my tips to go up

  • Comment number 51.

    Some of the stuff here makes sense, some is a bit crazy and some laughable.

    When you get BarryTheMorecambeBadgeShrimp pointing out that Morecambe were one place off automatic promotion, Rochdale lost their last 1000 games last season, Rotherham and Aldershot relaxed once they had made the playoffs leaving Morecambe and Dagenham to sprint into the final two places. Only 10 points behind Rochdale.

    I'm expecting to see Rotherham, Bradford, Bury and Stevenage to be going for the top three, Crewe, Gillingham, Port Vale or maybe Aldershot making up the numbers.

    Torquay or Oxford could surprise people (= me)!

    Sides with a new ground tend to suffer, that includes Chesterfield and Morecambe

    Candidates for the drop are Stockport, Barnet, Cheltenham.

  • Comment number 52.

    Dave P - "hopefully Hereford will join them (as Hereford are our rivals and a few other people would love to see them go too :D)"

    What few other people??

    As for "Why is everybody tipping Cheltenham?" Might it be because your end of season form was so dreadful you will have gone down had the season been a month longer?? Or because your financial problems are such that you've had to let your better players go??

  • Comment number 53.

    Cheltenham shouldn't be going down. The largely new squad is looking good. In pre-season, the football played has been of an excellent standard, much more along the ground and far more technical. Fortunately, the pitch at Whaddon Road is superb, which will suit this type of play so hopefully home form will be good. A concern is a lack of a striker who can score - there have been few goals in preseason - but the manager, Mark Yates, is actively chasing an unnamed player.

  • Comment number 54.

    Ian W - "What few other people??"

    To be fair, probably just us Cheltenham fans... ;)

  • Comment number 55.

    Gills fan through and through but if you want a decent punt try Torquay Good manager,fantastic form at the end of last season and good pre season results.

  • Comment number 56.

    Surprised some people are thinking Hereford are heading for the drop. New Chairman and new manager who have put together a young and ambitious squad. Ok they might not have many of the star names but I think they have got the squad in place to target promotion.

  • Comment number 57.

    As an Oxford fsn I'm quite optimistic at this stage about our chances. We have a settled team and have already completed our signings for the coming season (though I would like another striker but then who wouldn't say that?)
    Our squad has a good balance of power and pace allied with a very strong defence. Mitchell Cole, Matt Green, Jack Midson and the mighty James Constable will be a handful for anyone and we have back up for them as well

    We also have one of the largest supports in this league and wouldn't look embarassed in the next division either. As a consequence we have financial stability as well and if the need occurs the chance to bring in further players.

    Finally we have a good manger and backroom staff which work well with the club management. Chris Wilder has the experience of this league and our coaches are sedond to none as well.

    The futures bright, the futures yellow!

  • Comment number 58.

    As a Shakers fan I'm optimistic about our chances this season. Alan Knill has made some astute looking signings in Haworth, Skarz, Schumacher and Sweeney. He has also signed some additional steel in midfield in Damien Mozika and pace in Kyle Bennett and Lenell John-Lewis. Combine that with the experience of Efe Sodje and Ben Futcher at the back with the versatile signing of Phil Picken and I think we have a reasonable chance of promotion, especially with a fully fit Andy Bishop and Ryan Lowe leading the forward line.

    My other tips are: Rotherham, Port Vale and Bradford with Wycombe and Gillingham up there too. As for the drop I'm afraid it's Barnet and Macclesfield to go this time with Accrington just staying up.

  • Comment number 59.

    As Barnet's southernmost fan (unless anyone can beat Dunedin, NZ for southernmost), I'm definitely hoping that if it goes down to the wire this season it will be at the right end of the table for a change. I have serious doubts about Stimson, but the new signings look reasonable on paper. As the old saying goes though, that's not where the games are played.

  • Comment number 60.

    I'm a Shrewsbury fan. I, unlike so many of the delusionally optimistic Shrewsbury fans, am very pessimistic about the forthcoming season of League 2 football. I find it very hard to imagine us coming anywhere near the top of the league. We don't have a good keeper or a a goalscorer (don't listen to anyone saying Tom Bradshaw will be that goalscorer). Look for us in about 18th place this season.

  • Comment number 61.

    Wycombe Wanderers are my favourites to go down this year!

  • Comment number 62.

    I guess Lincoln City are non-existent.

  • Comment number 63.

    Am wondering about your high-rating of Crewe. They are one of my teams, and I can't seeing them going beyond mid-table at best until there is a massive overhaul at the club, especially at the management level (football and corporate).

    Burton will do well, or have a great potential to do so.

  • Comment number 64.

    Herts_Philby wrote:

    Relegation - Barnet and Torquay/Hereford

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

    I think you're way off with Torquay. Undefeated in last 10 league games, with 8 victories. No goals conceded during that run (961 minutes). 21 scored. Only 100% record in the division this season.

    Paul Buckle has done wonders at Torquay but he has done it methodically over the last 3 seasons so the foundation to push on is now there. Compare that to when he took over: club in disarray; all loan players; on 3rd chairman that season; and I think he was the 4th manager.

    Promotion contenders methinks, not relegation candidates.

    The only downside is Buckle's talent will not have gone unnoticed, and he is a young manager, so one of the bigger clubs will inevitably move in for him, especially if he gets Torquay promoted this season.

 

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