Written by Connor Lawson
This is the final part of my four part article grading each League One team on their start to the season. Hope you have enjoyed all of the parts. In this part, I will be grading Scunthorpe, Sheffield United, Shrewsbury, Southend, Swindon and Walsall.
Scunthorpe United – A+
Scunthorpe have had a fantastic start to the season to match their late surge at the end of last season. They have the best away record in the league coupled with a brilliant home record too. Graham Alexander has got them playing some really good football and they have just been too hot to handle for many teams this season. They are the highest scorers in the league and they also have the second best defence in the league. A large part of their scoring success is as a result of midfielder Josh Morris, who is the league’s third top scorer with a remarkable 14 goals this season. Paddy Madden and Kevin van Veen have contributed a further 14 goals between them as well. One thing Scunthorpe need to be careful of is losing to their promotion rivals, having lost against both Bolton and Rochdale in December. One thing is for sure, Scunthorpe fans can expect an exciting 2017.
Sheffield United – A+
Chris Wilder didn’t have a great start to life as Blades boss, as Sheffield United found themselves bottom after four games but, since then, they haven’t looked back and have surged up the table until they could rise no more, and they are sitting at the top of the table as we enter the New Year. Billy Sharp has been a huge contributing factor to their success with his 16 goals this season making him the league’s top scorer. They have made Bramall Lane a fortress this season, winning 10 out of 13 home games so far and they also have the second best away record in the league. The Blades will be looking to get back to the Championship for the first time since 2011 which, in my opinion, is where they belong. As long as they keep up their fantastic form, I have no doubt that we will be seeing Sheffield United in the Championship for the 17/18 season. I really hope they do get promoted, as everything about the club is much better than League One.
Shrewsbury Town – C-
Shrewsbury only just survived the drop back to League Two last season and, if they’re not careful, they might not get so lucky this time round. I think in an article I wrote at the beginning of the season I said Shrewsbury could really struggle for goals this season, and that has proved to be the case. They lack that player who can score a lot of goals and lift the team out of trouble. Their current top scorer is Ivan Toney, a loanee from Newcastle and, with loan signings, you always run that risk of them being recalled and if that were to happen it would present Shrewsbury with a big problem. Since Micky Mellon departed in October and Paul Hurst was appointed, the new manager has tried everything in a bid to try and boost his team, even suggesting his side needs a ‘joker’ to lift the mood around the team. Like many other teams I have mentioned, Shrewsbury need a striker for sure, so Hurst will need to be looking around in January for the man who could potentially turn his teams season around.
Southend United – A-
Southend have done well so far, currently occupying the final play-off position. They have scored a pretty decent amount of goals this season but will want to stop conceding in order to maintain their play-off position. They have a habit of picking up good wins. having brushed aside the likes of AFC Wimbledon and fellow play-off contenders Bradford City in recent weeks. Roots Hall is proving a difficult ground to visit, with only two teams winning there this season. As well as wins, Southend have picked up eight draws this season, a figure they may not want to add to too much if they want to stay in the play-offs. Perhaps they need to sign that player who they can bring on to win a game, a real impact sub. They already have some good quality players in Simon Cox and Anthony Wordsworth, if they could bolster their squad in the January window it could do their play-off challenge a world of good.
Swindon Town – D
Swindon are a prime example of what can happen if you don’t get promoted when you have the chance. Since missing out on play-off final success in the 14/15 season, they have gone into decline. It is always hard to recover when you don’t get promoted, it is also reminiscent of getting relegated, players who you may have held onto if you got promoted decide to leave for a higher league, and often the squad loses a lot of quality. After their poor lower mid-table finish last season, Swindon fans would’ve been hoping for an improvement this campaign, but it seems to have gotten worse. Their home form has been their only saving grace this season and is probably the only reason they aren’t in the bottom four. However, they are only three points above the relegation zone and their lack of goals coupled with their leaky defence is a recipe for disaster. Big change is needed in January if Swindon want to get out of their current predicament.
Walsall – C+
Walsall aren’t even half the team they were last season, which is a result of losing some key players in the summer. Like Swindon, they endured a failed play-off campaign last season which consequently caused many players to leave for Championship clubs such as Tom Bradshaw, Romaine Sawyers and Rico Henry. And whilst the loss of some players such as Paul Downing hasn’t hit them too hard, the loss of the trio mentioned and many others meant Walsall had to rebuild their squad for the 16/17 season. Erhun Oztumer has been one of their best signings of the season and he is the Saddlers’ top scorer with eight league goals, but Walsall are really struggling for goals, especially now they don’t have that twenty-goal-a-season man like they did in Bradshaw. They aren’t too bad defensively, but they certainly aren’t sparkling or anywhere near the standard they were at last season. They just need to try and recruit some good players in the January window who can boost them up the table. I think a mid table finish is a reasonable expectation for Walsall this season.
Do you agree with these grades? Let us know in the comments!