League One 2013-14: Club-by-club preview

 

Wolves will be seen as most people's favourites to win the League One title when the new season begins on Friday.

The Molineux club have suffered back-to-back relegations and are in the third tier for the first time since 1989, but in Kenny Jackett they have appointed a manager with experience of winning promotion from this division.

Doncaster pipped Brentford to a place in the Championship in the most dramatic of circumstances on the final day of last season and the Bees, together with another beaten play-off team, Sheffield United, should both challenge again but Swindon, together with Coventry, have suffered a turbulent summer.

BBC Sport experts assess each side's chances while you can also read our guide to League Two.

Bradford City

Manager: Phil Parkinson

Last season: 7th and play-off final winners (League Two)

Best summer signing: Jason Kennedy

One to watch: Carl McHugh

Bradford City

BBC Radio Leeds' Bradford City commentator Dave Fletcher: "How on earth do Bradford City top the 2012-13 campaign?

"Much will be expected of the side that reached Wembley twice, grabbing the attention of the nation on their way to the Capital One Cup final and securing promotion via the play-offs.

"Many believed that the team Phil Parkinson put together was better suited to playing at a higher level and they will get their chance with much of the squad that did so well in League Two still on the books."

Brentford

Manager: Uwe Rosler

Last season: 3rd

Best summer signing: George Saville

One to watch: Adam Forshaw

Brentford

BBC London 94.9's Billy Reeves: "Last term will go down as Brentford's 'nearly-season', coming within a coat of paint of promotion when Marcello Trotta missed a last-minute penalty against Doncaster to miss out on automatic promotion before bowing out in the play-off final.

"Gaffer Uwe Rosler is mindful that his side did not start too well, so a rigorous pre-season has involved run-outs against Celtic, Cardiff and Millwall.

"Simon Moore and Harry Forrester have moved on but the signings look impressive, notably Walsall striker Will Grigg and Swindon skipper Alan McCormack.

"Brentford played some pretty football last year but they need to add a little steel to performances to compete and improve on third place."

Bristol City

Manager: Sean O'Driscoll

Last season: 24th (Championship)

Best summer signing: Jay Emmanuel-Thomas

One to watch: Jordan Wynter

Bristol City

BBC Points West's Alistair Durden: "City will be expected to challenge for promotion straight back to the Championship and head coach Sean O'Driscoll has spent the summer trying to change the mindset of a club that has been fighting relegation over the last few seasons.

"He has remodelled his squad with an emphasis on younger players on their way up in the game. A lot of transfer business was done early on, and if the Robins boss can coax consistent performances out of Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, City will have one of the division's best players.

"The former Arsenal trainee found his best form under O'Driscoll at Doncaster and although a lack of goals is still a slight concern, the need for a dominant centre-back was ended by signing giant defender Aden Flint from Swindon.

"They will not be the finished article on 3 August, but this young squad of players should grow in their understanding of each other over the season."

Carlisle United

Manager: Greg Abbott

Last season: 17th

Best summer signing: David Amoo

One to watch: Connor Thomson

Carlisle United

BBC Radio Cumbria's Paul Newton: "This will be a big season for manager Greg Abbott, who has been given a new one-year deal by the club despite a disappointing campaign last time out.

"One of his biggest tasks will be to attract some of the missing fans back to Brunton Park after a sizable fall in average gates last season. Budget restraints will be tighter than ever so there will be more pressure on a smaller squad and a good start will be vital.

"Much will depend on the fitness and form of striker Lee Miller, arguably Carlisle's most important player, while a big improvement will be expected in defence after shipping 77 goals last season - the worst in the division.

"Carlisle have been tipped as one of the favourites for the drop this season but the core of the side which nearly made the play-offs two years ago largely remains. If they can eradicate defensive frailties, a top-half finish should be more than within their sights."

Colchester United

Manager: Joe Dunne

Last season: 20th

Best summer signing: Craig Eastmond

One to watch: Alex Gilbey

Colchester United

BBC Essex's Glenn Speller: "A further reduced budget and a division which doesn't look any easier, it could be another difficult season for manager Joe Dunne.

"The signings of Craig Eastmond and Sanchez Watt have made a few people sit up and take notice while the burgeoning link with Chelsea has continued with the addition of Daniel Pappoe.

"Keep an eye out for Alex Gilbey this season. The youngster earned rave reviews during a loan spell with Newport last term and played at Wembley to help them win promotion to the Football League. He will be looking to force himself into first-team reckoning.

"Anything better than mid-table for the U's would be seen as a major step forward."

Coventry City

Manager: Steven Pressley

Last season: 15th

Best summer signing: None - transfer embargo

One to watch: Billy Daniels

Coventry City

BBC Coventry & Warwickshire's Geoff Foster: "Being asked what is happening at the Sky Blues has been a familiar scenario throughout the summer - in general terms it's simple enough, Coventry City are a shambles.

"The club is in administration with a transfer embargo in place and the plan for home games to be played at Northampton has provoked protests, campaigns and widespread anger among long-suffering supporters.

"On the pitch, the manager Steven Pressley, his staff and the players are remarkably positive. It's a young first-team squad with plenty of academy players who, because of the embargo, will more than likely get a chance at League One level earlier than expected.

"Injuries and suspensions will expose the lack of depth that the embargo has produced but if those factors don't hurt City too much, my prediction is a top-half finish."

Crawley Town

Manager: Richie Barker

Last season: 10th

Best summer signing: Andy Drury

One to watch: Joe Walsh

Crawley Town

BBC Sussex's John Barnett: "A quiet summer on the transfer front means a thin squad at this moment in time and options are currently limited up front.

"While this may have some fans worried, it has meant continuity from last season's excellent first campaign at this level, when Crawley were play-off contenders right up until the final week.

"Young, promising players will have vital experience under their belts, and although the division looks stronger this time around, if the Red Devils can get points on the board early, there is no reason why they cannot enjoy a comfortable season and claim a few scalps along the way."

Crewe Alexandra

Manager: Steve Davis

Last season: 13th

Best summer signing: Anthony Grant

One to watch: Thierry Audel

Crewe Alexandra

BBC Radio Stoke's Graham McGarry: "Crewe enjoyed another successful season on their return to League One, which also coincided with them winning their first major cup final by beating Southend in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy final at Wembley.

"Steve Davis has once again sold a player for over a million pounds in Luke Murphy, who joined Leeds, but I do like the look of his summer signings who all seem capable of fitting into the Crewe style.

"The division this time around looks to be as tough as ever, but the ambitious Davis won't be resting on what he has achieved in the short time that he's been in charge."

Gillingham

Manager: Martin Allen

Last season: 1st (League Two)

Best summer signing: Cody McDonald

One to watch: Amine Linganzi

Gillingham

BBC Radio Kent's Ben Croucher: "Buoyed by sauntering to the League Two title, Gillingham enter their first season back in League One with genuine optimism of a strong mid-table finish rather than a relegation dogfight.

"The Gills will be reliant on Cody McDonald replicating the 25 goals of his previous spell at Priestfield. However, manager Martin Allen is unlikely to enjoy the riches he did last season and will hope to add depth and experience to their defence as the season progresses if finances dictate.

"Gillingham's last attempt at League One football three years ago saw them relegated without a win away from home, but they lost just three times on the road last season.

"Allen will no doubt galvanise the squad and supporters to avoid an immediate return to the fourth tier."

Leyton Orient

Manager: Russell Slade

Last season: 7th

Best summer signing: Romain Vincelot

One to watch: Jack Sheratt

Leyton Orient

BBC London 94.9's Dave Victor: "Having finished just below the play-offs, expectations around Brisbane Road are high.

"Russell Slade has a settled squad. His players demonstrated spirit and resilience during a marathon campaign and the O's boss will be determined to build on last season's promise.

"Once again the Orient manager must operate on a tight budget and as a result his plans are vulnerable to injuries to key players.

"Since Slade's arrival in E10 the O's have struggled in the opening weeks of the season, but with a better start and a bit of luck with injuries, a top-six finish could be within reach."

MK Dons

Manager: Karl Robinson

Last season: 8th

Best summer signing: Lee Hodson

One to watch: Jason Banton

Milton Keynes Dons

BBC Three Counties Radio's Luke Ashmead: "The aim for Karl Robinson's MK Dons remains promotion to the Championship.

"An historic victory over AFC Wimbledon and an impressive cup run aside, the Dons disappointed in League One last season and the fans will expect to see the improvement needed to secure a play-off place.

"Gary Mackenzie, Ryan Lowe and Adam Chicksen have all moved on but fans will be heartened to see Stephen Gleeson and Shaun Williams still at Stadium:MK for now at least."

Notts County

Manager: Chris Kiwomya

Last season: 12th

Best summer signing: Mick Jones (assistant manager)

One to watch: Mark Fotheringham

Notts County

BBC Radio Nottingham's Notts County correspondent Colin Slater: "The priority at the end of last season was to recruit two strikers, but a reduction of 30% in the budget helps to explain why, so far, Danny Haynes is the only new front man.

"Of the other new recruits, Mark Fotheringham is expected to make a big impact in a midfield weakened by the departures of Alan Judge, Jeff Hughes and Neal Bishop.

"Another experienced midfielder, David Bell, has also come in but it is Chris Kiwomya's additions to his support staff which may well have a big impact. Former Notts player and assistant manager Mick Jones has returned and the experienced Andy Watson is the new first-team coach.

"Notts believe they will finish the new season in a better place than last time's 12th - and could even make the top six if they improve their dismal home record."

Oldham Athletic

Manager: Lee Johnson

Last season: 19th

Best summer signing: Mark Oxley

One to watch: Jonson Clarke-Harris

Oldham Athletic

BBC Radio Manchester's John Gilder: "Seventeen seasons in League One is exactly the same period as the Latics spent in the old Second Division, before promotion to the top tier of English football back in the 1990s.

"Could such an omen prove to be fruitful for Lee Johnson's new-look squad as he embarks on his first full season at the helm?

"Johnson looks to have made some astute captures during a hectic close season, the most notable of those being attack-minded players James Dayton and Sidney Schmeltz.

"With the Latics having spent part of pre-season at boot camps and with the emphasis on stamina and mindsets, fitness and attitudes should not be an issue, but a relatively small squad of players must stay injury-free if they are to make the leap into a higher division."

Peterborough United

Manager: Darren Ferguson

Last season: 22nd (Championship)

Best summer signing: Jack Payne

One to watch: Lee Tomlin

Peterborough United

BBC Radio Cambridgeshire Sports Editor Nick Fairbairn: "The first task for Peterborough United come the new season is to cope with the physical battle in League One.

"Darren Ferguson's side were known for their silky style in the Championship last term, but the Posh manager has already made it clear they will have to be more streetwise if they're to flourish in the third tier.

"Lee Tomlin impressed in the Championship last season and he has the ability to take League One by storm. The attacking player has a fine range of passing and an eye for goal and the club have stressed their determination to keep hold of and build a team around him.

"Posh have been uncharacteristically quiet in the transfer market this summer, but they did a key bit of business in signing Jack Payne from Gillingham, who was on loan at the tail end of last term."

Port Vale

Manager: Micky Adams

Last season: 3rd (League Two)

Best summer signing: Chris Lines

One to watch: Ben Williamson

Port Vale

BBC Radio Stoke's Lee Blakeman: "The Vale will be keen to keep the momentum going from last season which saw them gain automatic promotion.

"To go with that, they scored the most goals of any team in the Premier and Football Leagues, and in Tom Pope they had the top scorer and PFA Player of the Year for League Two.

"New ownership has brought fresh optimism, and with more than 5,000 season tickets sold the fans are right behind the club.

"The signings of Chris Lines, Chris Robertson, Gavin Tomlin, Anthony Griffith and Kaid Mohamed should ensure the Vale adapt comfortably to life in League One."

Preston North End

Manager: Simon Grayson

Last season: 14th

Best summer signing: Kevin Davies

One to watch: Lee Holmes

Preston North End

BBC Radio Lancashire's Andy Bayes: "North End made great strides following the appointment of Simon Grayson, who has won promotion from League One with his three previous clubs, and expect more progress from them this coming season.

"A strike force of Kevin Davies, Stuart Beavon, Joe Garner and Iain Hume should provide plenty of goals, while there is also strength in depth in wide areas.

"The return to fitness of full-back Scott Laird is also a massive boost."

Rotherham United

Manager: Steve Evans

Last season: 2nd (League Two)

Best summer signing: Michael Tidser

One to watch: Ben Pringle

Rotherham United

BBC Radio Sheffield's Rob Staton: "The Millers are flying after promotion and there's a real feel-good factor at the New York Stadium.

"Steve Evans has built a squad he believes was always better suited for League One than League Two and he'll be pushing to add another promotion to his CV. He's been after Matt Tubbs for a while and finally got his man this week.

"With an ambitious chairman, a brand new stadium and healthy dose of momentum, Rotherham aren't expected to struggle.

"Whether they can challenge with Wolves, Bristol City and Sheffield United, however, remains to be seen. But they won't be far off."

Sheffield United

Manager: David Weir

Last season: 5th

Best summer signing: Lyle Taylor

One to watch: George Long

Sheffield United

BBC Radio Sheffield's Rob Staton: "The Blades have a new boss in David Weir and they'll be hoping it's third time lucky as they try to get out of League One.

"It's a tough ask for a rookie manager and a young squad but United should be in contention again.

"Chief executive Julian Winter says there's no pressure on Weir to deliver promotion at the first attempt, but the play-offs at a minimum has to be the target.

"Crucially, they've kept hold of talented youngsters like goalkeeper George Long and centre-back Harry Maguire. They'll hope Lyle Taylor can provide the goals after signing from Falkirk."

Shrewsbury Town

Manager: Graham Turner

Last season: 16th

Best summer signing: Alex McQuade

One to watch: Tom Bradshaw

Shrewsbury Town

BBC Radio Shropshire's James Bond: "Graham Turner appears to be putting even more emphasis on youth this season after letting five players go in the summer, including skipper Matt Richards and striker Marvin Morgan.

"Keep an eye on full-back Alex McQuade, who has been brought in from Bolton, Amsterdam-born striker Akwasi Asante, on a second loan spell from Birmingham, and another loanee, defender James Tavernier, from Newcastle.

"Goals were a bit of a problem last season, so perhaps it is time for Tom Bradshaw to show what he can really do.

"He burst on the scene as a youngster and is working his way up the Welsh international ladder - but needs to match his obvious talent with more consistency in League One."

Stevenage

Manager: Graham Westley

Last season: 18th

Best summer signing: Sam Wedgbury

One to watch: Luke Freeman

Stevenage

BBC Three Counties Radio's Steve Watkins: "Stevenage go into their third season at this level pretty much like last year, in a state of transition.

"Manager Graham Westley has tweaked the squad a fair bit as he looks to make his mark at the club again, and it would seem that there will be more ins and outs before the close of the transfer window.

"Jimmy Smith and Oumare Tounkara are looking like exciting captures, but the experience of both Luke Jones and Simon Heslop will be important in shoring up the defence. I expect right-back Sam Wedgbury to shine and he looks to be the pick of the signings.

"Westley will be looking to improve on last season's showing, when a poor second half saw them drop alarmingly from second place. How he handles a tight budget will be the key, but Stevenage should be confident of a mid-table position."

Swindon Town

Manager: Mark Cooper (caretaker)

Last season: 6th

Best summer signing: Ryan Harley

One to watch: Tijane Reis

Swindon Town

BBC Wiltshire's Shaun Hodgetts: "It was so near and yet so far in May for Swindon, after losing their promotion play-off semi-final on penalties at Brentford.

"Now, only five of the starting line-up on that day remain at the County Ground, as the new board continue to overhaul the squad to reduce the budget.

"Off-field drama has continued, with Kevin MacDonald quitting as manager midway through pre-season, leaving assistant Mark Cooper in temporary charge.

"Six of Swindon's summer acquisitions have links to Premier League club Tottenham and all are aged between 19 and 22. What remains to be seen is whether you really can win anything with kids."

Tranmere Rovers

Manager: Ronnie Moore

Last season: 11th

Best summer signing: Ryan Lowe

One to watch: Max Power

Tranmere Rovers

BBC Radio Merseyside's Derek Jones: "A failure to score in nine of their final 11 matches in 2012-13 was the difference between Tranmere securing what had seemed a certain play-off spot and ending a second successive season in mid-table.

"Ryan Lowe's arrival from MK Dons alongside Akpo Sodje from Scunthorpe are Ronnie Moore's solutions to the goalscoring problem, and with Stephen Foster and Evan Horwood added to a settled defensive unit, the squad has a good balance of youth and experience.

"If captain James Wallace recovers fully from his serious injury and young midfielder Max Power can build on a first season of promise, a sustained top-six challenge is a real possibility."

Walsall

Manager: Dean Smith

Last season: 9th

Best summer signing: Milan Lalkovic

One to watch: Romaine Sawyers

Walsall

BBC WM's Mike Taylor: "Last season Walsall did more than just defy gravity as one of the smaller clubs - by any measure - in League One.

"To put together a credible run for the play-offs was a remarkable effort, all the more so after a run of nearly three months without a win before Christmas. Their eventual ninth-place finish did great credit not only to manager Dean Smith and his staff, but to the players themselves.

"The departures of three key attacking players from last season - Will Grigg, Jamie Paterson and Fabien Brandy - were unsurprising but Smith has eventually made interesting replacements.

"With much of last season's reliable defence and midfield still in place, there is cause for optimism for a top-half finish again. A play-off place would be a major achievement."

Wolverhampton Wanderers

Manager: Kenny Jackett

Last season: 23rd (Championship)

Best summer signing: Sam Ricketts

One to watch: Leigh Griffiths

Wolverhampton Wanderers

BBC WM's Rob Gurney: "After successive relegations into League One, Wolves have turned to 'safe pair of hands' Kenny Jackett to see them back into the Championship at the first attempt.

"His thorough knowledge of the division from his time at Millwall should stand them in good stead, with automatic promotion the clear and stated aim by Jackett from day one.

"Trusted lieutenant from their days together at Swansea, Sam Ricketts, will add experience and stability at the back. Leigh Griffiths will feel like a new signing after his prolific season on loan with Hibernian, and he should score goals by the bucketload again.

"Anything other than going straight back up will feel like a wasted season."