Before I receive a hatful of comments on this post informing me that matchday one of the League One season has already taken place; I am aware. I actually planned this article in advance of Saturday's fixtures, I just didn't get round to writing it until now.
So, here we go, your somewhat belated League One predictions. I am going to be analysing each team and where I think they are destined to finish this season. Please note the "I think" section of that last sentence, I am sure your opinions will be different, so feel free to leave a comment with your opinions, minus any verbal obscenities although they can be fun to read.
Without further ado, here's how I think each team will fare in this new campaign, from AFC Wimbledon through to Northampton for part one.
Key Player - Lyle Taylor
One to Watch - Cody McDonald
Last Season Finish - 15th
Last season's new boys in League One all did fairly well, with all of them staying in the division. AFC Wimbledon had a decent time of it in 16/17, and their fans would've been quite happy with staying in League One after their surge up the league ladder from non-league since formation in 2002. However, the turn of the season saw them lose key players such as Tom Elliott, Jake Reeves and Dominic Poleon. In order to fill in these gaps, Neal Ardley recruited some exciting prospects for the London club such as Cody McDonald from Gillingham. He is a real goalscorer and always has been for the Gills. He can really do a job in League One and, if he is kept fit, he will be a crucial player for them this season. I do think that the Wombles will be hit hard by losing a few of their top players from last season, though, and they need to ensure they do not slip as a result. I think another lower mid-table finish is on the cards for them this season.
Predicted Finish - 14th
Key Player - Peter Whittingham
One to Watch - Bradley Dack
Last Season Finish - 22nd (relegated)
Blackburn are one of three teams to be relegated from the Championship in a season which marked a miraculous fall from grace for the former Premier League Champions. You'd have to venture back to 1980 to find the last Blackburn team to play in the third tier of English football. For the current Blackburn side, they could have trouble adapting to life in a new division. Ardent League One fans will tell you tales of how big teams have fallen into the league and found themselves stuck in it for a few seasons or more. That said, Blackburn have recruited well. Inevitably, they lost some key players after relegation, but have signed some big players to compensate. Peter Whittingham and Bradley Dack are two I think Rovers fans should be excited about. Dack is still fairly young and a player I've always thought is above League One standard, whilst Whittingham is a seasoned pro who will thrive in this division. Assuming that they also keep hold of captain Charlie Mulgrew, Blackburn could have a good time of it in League One.
When Blackpool upset Luton to get to the League Two Play-Off Final last season no one really saw it coming. The fact that they only qualified for the Play-Offs by one point on the final day of the regular season meant everyone was taken aback by the fact that they went all the way. However, you can't say their fans don't deserve it. Off the pitch, they've had a miserable time of it and many will hope that their promotion buoys the club to move away from a fairly desolate last few years. In response to their promotion, Blackpool cleared out several players that they deem useless heading into what promises to be a testing season. In the summer market, they sought after some solid League One players in order to help them avoid relegation. Players like Jimmy Ryan from local rivals Fleetwood and Max Clayton from Bolton will hopefully see the Tangerines remain in the division this season. I do think they will stay up this season, but only by the skin of their teeth.
Bradford have always been the 'big boys' of the league. In fact, they have finished in the top half of League One in all of their last five campaigns since promotion from League Two in 2013, and have qualified for the Play-Offs in all of their last three seasons, narrowly missing out on glory at Wembley last season, losing by one goal to Millwall. It certainly seems Bradford don't get on too well with the Play-Offs, so what lengths have they gone to in their bid for automatic promotion this time round? Well, after losing players like Billy Clarke, Rory McArdle, James Meredith and Mark Marshall, there were obvious gaps to be filled, and they have done exactly that, signing twelve players for the new season. The picks of the bunch include Jake Reeves and Dominic Poleon, both from AFC Wimbledon. Add to that some Premier League academy level players and you have an exciting Bradford side. I think Charlie Wyke will really settle in this season and he has the potential to be the leagues top scorer. Brace yourselves, Bradford fans, you could be in for an exciting ride.
Bristol Rovers were another one of the new teams to come up from League Two last season and had a very good first campaign in the third tier of English football. Over the summer, many players have left the Memorial Ground, but they have managed to hold onto some key players, notably Billy Bodin, whose goals helped Rovers to a very respectable eighteen wins last season. In terms of players in, their two best summer signings are probably Liam Sercombe from Oxford and Tom Nichols from Peterborough, both of whom are still fairly young and ooze quality and potential. For the Pirates, it was their form away from home last season that let them down, only managing five wins on the road all season, and with the league only getting stronger, I can't see them doing anything particularly exciting this season, as their bid to become a regular League One team continues.
Bury shot up the table in the early stages of last season and many thought that they would be serious promotion contenders. However, they plummeted into freefall as the season went on, and survived the drop by a point thanks to some decent form towards the end of the campaign. To try and avoid the yo-yo season they encountered last time round, they have recruited very well this window. They've arguably done some of the best business in the league. After losing a lot of key players like James Vaughan, Tom Pope, Antony Kay and Paul Caddis, Bury knew that they needed to rebuild their squad, and so they have. They have signed a wealth of exciting players from various Premier League, Championship and League One clubs. Some of the most notable signings include Jermaine Beckford, Chris Maguire and Nicky Ajose amongst others. The scale of their recruitment could pose problems surrounding getting the squad to gel together, but once they do, they will have a fantastic team on their hands who could really challenge this season.
Charlton didn't really lose any big players in the summer meaning their squad has only been improved on. Karl Robinson has signed some good players as he embarks on his first full season in charge of the club. He has brought in Jay DaSilva from Chelsea as well as Mark Marshall and Billy Clarke as he looks to add pace to his side. Whilst Charlton's problems off the pitch remain, they are certainly looking to improve on the pitch and the fact that they have kept the likes of Josh Magennis, Ricky Holmes and Tony Watt means they have a good amount of depth as well as quality within that depth. However, I think their downfall could be the stubborn nature of Karl Robinson. If things start heading south, he is reluctant to change things too much, as shown by the awful start to last season had by his former side MK Dons. Despite this, I do think they can mount a Play-Off push.
Another newcomer to the division is Doncaster who grabbed the last automatic promotion place in League Two last season. The Rovers were the highest scoring team in the league last season with 85 goals to their name, 26 of them were scored by John Marquis, who they've managed to keep at the club. He could be a key player for them this season as long as he adapts to the league and how different it is from League Two. In terms of summer signings, they have utilised the loan market to bring in a few young Premier League players, most notably Chelsea youngster Alex Kiwomya, who I think is a very skilful player. Other than that, they don't really seem to have signed any players who have the quality to keep them in the division. With that in mind, I think it could be a bit of a struggle for Doncaster this season. The main question is; are there at least four teams worse than them in this division? I think there are, but Doncaster fans can expect a real tough time of it settling into their new environment.
Fleetwood surprised everyone last season when they missed out on automatic promotion by a mere four points in what was a hugely successful season for the Cod Army, another side who have shot up the league ladder in recent years. However, a handful of their key men from last season have moved away from the club. Striker David Ball as well as midfielder Jimmy Ryan to name a couple have left the club leaving them in something of a difficult situation. To try and compensate for this, they have signed several youngsters from top level clubs on loan and on permanents. The danger with those new signings in the lack of experience as well as the fact that they may struggle to adapt to the different style of play in League One. For me, last season was a flash in the pan for Fleetwood, and this season will be a lot more difficult for them after coming so close to promotion last campaign.
Even with some of their top players last season like Bradley Dack and Cody McDonald, Gillingham only just survived the drop to League Two. So, now that those two have moved on to other League One sides, they could really struggle this season. They have brought in some players to try and fill in the gaps, but no one particularly exciting, which is a worrying sign for Gills fans. Most of their recruitment seems to be from League One and below, so nothing would really suggest that they can have any sort of success this season with such poor recruitment. Of course, the transfer window is still open, but I think they will find it hard to attract players to a club who fought relegation last season and are likely to do the same this season. The season could be one to forget for Gills fans, as I think they are heading down to League Two for the first time since 2013.
Last season started badly for MK Dons after their relegation from the Championship, but after Robbie Neilson replaced Karl Robinson they turned a very poor season into a fairly average one. Now, with the Scot preparing to embark on his first full season as MK Dons manager, they are looking for promotion. Neilson opted to clear out all of the players he didn't need, meaning club legends like Darren Potter, David Martin and Dean Bowditch all left the club. In their places he has signed some exciting players such as Gboly Ariyibi, Ethan Ebanks-Landell and Aaron Tshibola. The Dons look strong defensively and, with the signing of a few more attacking players, they could really push for promotion this season. It is looking like an exciting season is in the pipeline for MK Dons fans, and they really believe Robbie Neilson could lead them to a promotion back to the Championship
Northampton came into the new season last season as League Two Champions, so they perhaps would've expected something slightly better than a lower mid-table finish. Still, it wasn't anything to grumble about and they will certainly be looking to build on it this season. After losing some regular first team players like Adam Smith and Harry Beautyman, they set about signing replacements and adding to their squad. They have managed to pull in some interesting players. Dean Bowditch and Daniel Powell have signed from local rivals MK Dons, as well as Aaron Pierre from Wycombe and Chris Long from Burnley. They have done some very good business and kept hold of big players such as Alex Revell, Sam Hoskins and Marc Richards. Justin Edinburgh will be hoping the various outgoings don't have a negative effect on the new campaign for his side, and I think they can rise up a few places in the table to cement their League One status.