As the new season approaches, football fans all over the country are immersing themselves in wasting money on bets, getting ready to wake up at 5am for an away day, and reading articles predicting where their team is going to finish.
Last season, I predicted the League One final standings, and I ended up correctly predicting two of the three teams who got promoted and one of the four teams to get relegated. I also correctly predicted the champions.
However, on the flip side, I only correctly predicted the final positions of two of the teams, and also predicted the eventual bottom two to finish 3rd and 4th.
Part one of this article will cover the teams from Bury to Macclesfield, as I try to predict who will finish where based on their transfer business, their squad, their previous league finishes, and everything else in between.
Let's get into it.
Last Season Finish - 24th (relegated)
Key Man - Chris Dagnall
Bury fans had a torrid time of it in League One last season as they saw their team finish rock bottom of the division, 15 points from safety. They were also relegated as the lowest scoring side in the division. After a summer of very good transfer business before the 17/18, many, including myself, thought Bury could be the dark horses of the league. However, those people, including myself, were left with egg on their faces as the Shakers went out with a whimper. They have done some good business this summer, with the additions of Chris Dagnall and Byron Moore to their side, two players who I think could do a really good job in League Two. Up front, they have plenty of attacking options, but it will just be a case of getting those strikers to do the business in front of goal that they failed to do last season. Despite finishing rock bottom in League One last season, Bury did not have the worst defence, and they have good depth at the back. They need to add some quality to the midfield in my opinion if they are going to be competitive this season. The Shakers are no strangers to League Two, having been relegated to the fourth tier twice in five seasons, so at least they won't be in a foreign land, so to speak. I think this season will be about steadying the ship and putting the disappointment of last season behind them, so don't expect any miracles from the Shakers.
Predicted Finish - 10th
Last Season Finish - 12th
Key Man - Jevani Brown
Last season's mid-table finish for Cambridge was respectable, but average. They seem to be stuck in the mid-table of League Two, having finished there for the last three seasons, and they are actually slipping down it. Things have been worryingly quiet on the transfer front for Cambridge which doesn't reflect the actions of a club seemingly in standstill. It seems to reflect a lack of ambition from the club. One good signing is Reggie Lambe, who will add some depth to the squad which is decent at best. There are certainly some exciting youngsters amongst their ranks, such as Jevani Brown, who really has the chance to excel himself this season. However, their side lacks a goal scorer, a problem which was exposed last season as they were the lowest scoring side in the top half of the table in League Two and failed to score in 15 of their games. I'm predicting a lower mid-table finish for the U's, as they have failed to convince me otherwise with their business so far.
Predicted Finish - 18th
Last Season Finish - 10th
Key Man - Hallam Hope
Carlisle gave the play-offs their best shot last season but ended up missing out by a sizeable ten points. Their ambition to reach the third tier is there for all to see, but they seem to be lacking that quality in certain areas to get them over the line. They have recruited a mixed bag in the window. As well as signing some experienced heads, they have used the loan market well, which I am a big fan of at League One and Two level. If a team can get the right loanees from top clubs, then they could really cause problems for other sides in the division. However, it can have the opposite impact and end up making the squad lack harmony. Overall, I think their squad is on a similar level to that of Cambridge's. They have a pretty mediocre squad and I cannot see them going any better than tenth this season. They need more quality out wide if they are to compete at the top end of the division this season, but I am predicting an average season for the Cumbrians.
Predicted Finish - 15th
Last Season Finish - 17th
Key Man - Jordon Forster
Cheltenham suffered a great loss over the summer, though Robins fans would have probably predicted it. The departure of their star man, Mo Eisa, to Bristol City will certainly be a big loss for them as he was their main source of goals going forward. They have since failed to replace him, though they have recruited a couple of decent players in Chris Hussey and Johnny Mullins who could bring some quality to the side. Cheltenham need to make improvements all over the park. Their defence was a big problem for them last season as they conceded 73 goals, and they need to make quality signings in midfield. I do worry for Cheltenham, as I think the loss of their star man Eisa, coupled with a leaky defence, could be a recipe for disaster. Robins fans may need to strap themselves in for a rough ride this season.
Predicted Finish - 21st
Last Season Finish - 13th
Key Man - Frank Nouble
Make no mistake, Colchester are going to be gunning for the play-off places in League Two this season. They have made some top signings so far in the window with the likes of Harry Pell as well as goal scorer Frank Nouble. On top of this, they have added some good loanees to their ranks. They have a strong defence as well as a strong attack as they look to build upon what was a fairly mediocre 17/18 campaign. They were by far the best defensive side in the bottom half of League Two last season, but they found goals hard to come by. Their fans will be hoping that the addition of Frank Nouble will solve this issue, and I think it could. Nouble is a top striker and knows the league very well. He has a fantastic eye for goal and could be the man to fire Colchester into the play-offs. Colchester have put themselves in a great position for the season ahead.
Predicted Finish - 7th
Last Season Finish - 14th
Key Man - Dominic Poleon
Crawley, under the management of Aussie Harry Kewell, have pulled off some good signings in the window, adding Dominic Poleon, George Francomb and Ollie Palmer to their squad, which certainly shows some attacking intent from Kewell. Those three players, amongst a smattering of other signings, are players who really know the division well and I have no doubt this will be beneficial to Crawley. Poleon (who, incidentally, has me blocked on Twitter) and Francomb both played with each other at AFC Wimbledon, so they know each other well. However, they need to strengthen their defence, and it was the fact that they conceded 66 goals last season which led to them finishing mid table and no higher. Crawley are a hard team to predict, but you know what they say, when in doubt, predict them to finish bang mid-table.
Predicted Finish - 12th
Last Season Finish - 15th
Key Man - Jordan Bowery
Crewe are another side who had a pretty average season, and they have since had a transfer window to match it. There have been few ins or outs and this suggests to me that they aren't going to set the division alight this season. Their squad is quite young, and they have quite good depth at the back. However, depth does not always equal quality, as they were the third worst defence in League Two last season, conceding 75 goals. They need more attacking options and, more specifically, someone to score goals, as they do not look at all convincing going forward. Crewe will be reliant somewhat on Jordan Bowery, who really has the quality to change games. I think Crewe will do exceptionally well to finish top half this season.
Predicted Finish - 16th
Last Season Finish - 4th (play-off finalists)
Key Man - Jayden Stockley
It has been a turbulent summer for the Grecians, with manager Paul Tisdale leaving for MK Dons after their play-off final heartbreak at the hands of Coventry. It signalled the end of the tenure of the second longest serving manager in English football. As is often the case when a manager departs for another club, they take some players with them. Tisdale took three of his players from Exeter to MK Dons, including captain Jordan Moore-Taylor. New manager Matt Taylor will have a difficult job on his hands, but he has handled it fairly well so far. He has made some good signings in Nicky Law and Aaron Martin, but they need more width as well as more quality at the back. They have done very well (so far) to keep hold of Jayden Stockley, but they cannot be too reliant on him. Having reached two consecutive play-off finals in the last two seasons, they may suffer something of a fall from grace this season.
Predicted Finish - 8th
Forest Green Rovers
Last Season Finish - 21st
Key Man - Christian Doidge
Forest Green missed out on relegation by a mere point last season, escaping by the skin of their teeth. That served as something of a kick up the bum for them, and they have made a couple of decent signings in George Williams and Carl Winchester. They have cleared out a lot of the 'deadwood', as they look to improve on what was a nervy season for them. They have a decent defence and midfield now, but they need more going forward. They had the second worst defence in League Two last season, conceding 77 times, but they seem to have patched that up slightly. I still think they need to adjust to the Football League, and Dale Vince will have to wait a while to change those two grey stars to green ones on the new Forest Green kits.
Predicted Finish - 14th
Last Season Finish - 18th
Key Man - Jake Hessenthaler
Grimsby had a difficult time of it last season, but eventually they managed to avoid the drop by a few places. Elliott Whitehouse could prove to be a good signing for them this season, but they haven't really added any top quality players to their side. This hasn't been helped by the fact that they have lost a lot of players over the summer. They look decent in midfield and attack, but they need to improve defensively if they want to build on last season. Like most sides, they lack a goal threat, and they were the second-lowest scoring side in the division last season, managing just 42 goals. I'm predicting another season of adapting to the division for Grimsby, with not a lot of excitement. Who knows, I may be proven wrong, but their squad simply cannot convince me that they will do much better than they did last season.
Predicted Finish - 17th
Last Season Finish - 7th
Key Man - Matt Green
Lincoln are a club who can't seem to stop getting better, which must be a delight for Imps fans. John Akinde is an absolutely fantastic signing for them, and he really can be the man to fire them to glory this season. The signing of Harry Toffolo at the back is also a top signing by Danny Cowley. They need to add to the midfield in my view, especially out wide, if they are to add the finishing touches to what is looking like a perfect picture. They have done well to keep the bulk of their good squad from last season which will be beneficial to them. They also have a strong defence, and it was the best last season out of all the teams who didn't get promoted, and actually better than Wycombe's, who did get promoted. They are going to need more goals if they want to go one step further than the play-offs, but I have no doubt that with Matt Green and John Akinde, they can do it.
Predicted Finish - 2nd
Last Season Finish - National League Champions
Key Man - Harry Smith
The National League Champions will probably still be celebrating their return to the Football League after they took the National League by storm, winning the league by ten points. They have signed some experienced League Two players in Jamie Grimes, and Harry Smith could prove to be a very good signing for them. Mark Yates will have a difficult job on his hands as they look to survive their first season back in the Football League. Their squad is somewhat on the older side and may struggle to compete with some teams in the division. Interestingly, despite winning the league by such a margin, three other teams scored more goals than them in the National League. They won 16 games by a one-goal margin last season and only scored three or more goals on five occasions. They need some more firepower, but I think they will survive.
Predicted Finish - 19th
That's part one over with, let's take a look at the predicted table so far.