The Welsh Gull

Torquay United, the Football League and other stuff

2011-12 Predictions – League One

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On to League One, a division I don’t know brilliantly well, but I’ll have a go regardless:

1. Huddersfield Town
It would be difficult to repeat last year’s fantastic form but the smart money does suggest that Huddersfield are still one of the best bets for promotion, despite losing players such as Anthony Pilkington. Lee Clark is criminally underrated

2. Preston North End
Phil Brown has made mistakes – that beard, for one. But his arrival at Deepdale sparked a revival in PNE’s fortunes last year, and I think he’ll have the same effect this year too. Iain Hume will be looking forward to a return to the third tier

3. Sheffield United
Despite all the big club connotations, it is by no means a certainty that Sheffield United will do well at this level – look at Wednesday last year. However, over the past few years, the big ex-Premier League clubs relegated to the third tier have at least been contenders, and the Blades will be looking to follow the examples of Leicester and Norwich with a quick return to the Championship

4. Milton Keynes Dons
The club everyone loves to hate had a very good year last year and, like Huddersfield above them, were unlucky to have been part of a very strong year for League One. If they can maintain their form of last year, who’d rule out a “return” to the second tier?

5. Sheffield Wednesday
OK, it’s time for Wednesday to forget last year and just get on with it. Gary Megson, although not the most popular man in English football, has done this promotion thing before, so you would think he’d be able to build a decent side. However, I am by no means convinced that automatic promotion is likely

6. Charlton Athletic
I’m not convinced by Chris Powell and it could go either way for Charlton, but like the other “big” clubs in this division, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. I’m not ruling out a struggle, though, just so that I’ve got all the bases covered

7. Scunthorpe United
The Iron have become something of a yo-yo team in recent years, punching above their weight. They have lost key players after their relegation last season, but they also have Alan Knill, who is a good manager and had an instant effect on his arrival. Don’t rule them out of another return to tier 2

8. Chesterfield
A team that dominated a division like Chesterfield did in League Two last year will be full of confidence and could continue the momentum into next year. It is not without precedent that they could make the play-offs – see Bournemouth’s heroics last year – but it won’t be easy, especially with Craig Davies has gone

9. Brentford
The two headlines at Griffin Park are the arrival of former Man City and Southampton striker Uwe Rosler as manager and League Two top scorer Clayton Donaldson from Crewe. I fancy them to be a surprise package this season – the potential is certainly there

10. Colchester United
Last year was a year for stabilising for Colchester under John Ward. This year they will be hoping to push on to get stuck into the battle for a play-off place. With so many big clubs in the division, it’ll be tough, but they should improve on last year

11. Carlisle United
Last year’s Football League Trophy winners had a more difficult season in the league, but they are now a well-established club at this level so anything less than a mid-table finish would be a disappointment. Outside bet for the play-offs?

12. Leyton Orient
Surprise contenders for the play-offs towards the end of the year, Russell Slade knows this division inside out, as does new signing Jamie Cureton. Dave Mooney is also a great signing from Reading after spending last year on loan to Colchester. Mid-table likely again

13. Notts County
Martin Allen, Football League legend, now has one of his biggest tasks yet – to turn Notts County into a force at this level once again. Not an easy task, but he has pulled rabbits out the hat many times before. With Munto Finance and League Two now a distant memory, can he remove their shackles and push them on to a solid season?

14. Bournemouth
Last year was a very good year for the Cherries, but they will be hard-pushed to repeat it. Traditionally in L1 there is always one team out of the play-off contenders which struggles the following year – I don’t predict doom for Bournemouth but it’s likely to be mid-table at best

15. Walsall
I like the way Dean Smith and the Saddlers have really gone out and added a number of good players this summer. If I was braver I’d put them in the top half but they did struggle last year so I don’t want to get too carried away. But I’d be surprised if they went down

16. Bury
Perhaps I’m being a bit harsh here but I can’t see Bury storming through League One into the top half as I predict Chesterfield will. No doubt they will do OK and that relegation looks unlikely but over the course of a season, I can’t see them sustaining a big push for promotion

17. Exeter City
I’ve seen it so many times before – small club can’t sustain top half finishes for a number of years, and Exeter (and this isn’t me being nasty because it’s Exeter) are, in this division, a small club. The squad is much the same and Tisdale has stayed on but something tells me they will struggle this year

18. Oldham Athletic
I detect a slight air of apprehension around Oldham this year. They’re always a decent bet to be roughly mid-table but I’m not convinced they’ve added to the squad that saw them lurch to 18th last year, just above the relegation fight. They could be in it this year

19. Hartlepool United
Nolberto Solano aside, Hartlepool are also a small club for this division who are unlikely to be troubling the big boys at the top. Without wanting to sound condescending, I think it’s a case of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ they’re going to return to League Two. Not necessarily this year, though

20. Tranmere Rovers
I don’t know what has happened to Tranmere. When I first got into football, they were a solid First Division side (albeit punching above their weight) under John Aldridge. Now they are perennially flirting with a return to the basement. They’re a good bet to be down there again this year

21. Rochdale
I feel sorry for the Dale in some ways – last year was one of the best years in the club’s history and yet now their manager has gone and taken players with him, and suddenly they’re staring at relegation back to League Two. It looks a bit bleak, but then it was always unlikely to last

22. Wycombe Wanderers
A yo-yo club in recent years, it’s a safe bet to put them down the bottom. They seem to have a set of players good enough to get promoted to League One but not quite enough to keep them up. Add in the controversy over the owner and his plans for a new ground, and it could be a difficult year for them

23. Yeovil Town
Yes, I know, another easy prediction. But I think it is coming – there does seem to be a feeling of inevitability that Yeovil will go down eventually. The signs point towards it – inexperienced manager coupled with not much of a playing budget. Much will rest on Steve MacLean and his goals

24. Stevenage
I predicted Dagenham, also ex-non-league and also promoted via the play-offs, for this spot last year and while they did nearly escape, they succumbed on the final day. I think it’s fair to say something similar isn’t unlikely for Stevenage – it’ll be very tough for them to survive

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Written by James Bennett

July 28, 2011 at 14:33

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