Written by Andy Wood
League Two is a league that is growing in quality. Last season’s Player of the Year, Kemar Roofe, and Apprentice of the year Ben Godfrey, have secured ambitious moves to Leeds and Norwich respectively off the back of their performances, whilst the likes of Adam Smith and Matty Taylor caught the eye in their club’s respective promotion campaigns. Despite this, it is still an increasingly difficult league to recruit well in. Many teams at this level are working on a shoestring budget, and with the tightening of rules regarding loan signings coming into place from this season it’s more important than ever to get the right players in. There’s been an awful lot of movement in the division but here are 3 that could turn out to be the best of the lot
James Collins to Crawley Town
Probably the hardest type of player to bring in on a League 2 budget is a genuine, proven goalscorer. Often, the teams that can manage this feat are the ones who get rewarded with promotion up to the third tier, whilst other teams are left bemoaning their luck at not getting the right forward in. Only 4 players managed to break the 20 goal barrier last year and only 11 registered 15 or more strikes.
Crawley Town were one of the teams to really suffer from a lack of goalscorer last season, their first following relegation, as they could only manage 20th in the division. The well-travelled Matt Harrold led the way with 9 strikes, whilst the now departed Gwion Edwards netted 8. No one else got more than 5. They’ve added a number of wide players over the summer to try and rectify this, but no doubt the arrival of James Collins is the most important that they’ve made.
Simply put, he’s proven at this level. He broke onto the scene when he scored 14 times for Shrewsbury in 2011/12, before his 15 strikes at League One helped Swindon to a play off place. After an underwhelming spell in Scotland, he returned to Shrewsbury to get 15 more League 1 goals. Inexplicably underused last season, he eventually joined Northampton on loan where 8 goals in 21 games helped their charge to the league title. It’s a safe bet that he can grab at least 15 strikes and that could be crucial as Crawley look to change their fortunes.
credit John Lord
Ben Davies to Grimsby Town
A 35 year old right back might not seem like the most glamorous option to put into this list. That being said, it’s not often the Player of the Year from one the division’s biggest clubs leaves to join a newly promoted team.
That’s the case for the versatile veteran Ben Davies. A converted midfield player, Davies turned out to be an ever present and hugely popular member of the Pompey squad during the 2015-16 campaign eventually winning the highest proportion of fan’s votes for the Player of the Year award. Noted in particular for his willingness to always give 100% for the teams cause, Davies has shown himself to be a real role model and an endearing figure for fans.
Grimsby will have been delighted to have secured play-off success in the National League last year, having lost out to Bristol Rovers the year before. Staying in this new division will be a priority, but they’ve managed to add some decent talent. Replacing top goalscorer Padraig Amond (a close contender for this list) will be a challenge but there is a stable squad being built. Davies has huge experience at a number of bigger teams, and has also consistently proven his quality at League 2 level. Not only did he shine last season, but his previous spell at this level with Shrewsbury saw him get into the official Team of the Season twice in a row. Age may not be on his side but form is, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him walk away with more personal accolades at the end of this year.
Tommy Rowe to Doncaster Rovers
A fresh face at Doncaster Rovers and arguably one the best deals to be done over the summer. Donny fans should be no stranger to this acquisition after he spent time with them on loan at the tail end of last season, scoring 3 goals in 10 games.
At 27, Rowe is at a prime age and has built up significant experience at Football League level, approaching 300 league appearances. The exciting feature for Rovers fans is that this has come almost exclusively at higher levels. Indeed, this is the first time Rowe has dropped down to League 2 level since he was part of Stockport County’s play off winning side of 2008. Since then he’s taken in a highly successful spell with Peterborough United, becoming a first team regular and fans favourite, not to mention more silverware with a second play off promotion and a Football League trophy win. With three Wembley wins to his name he joined Wolves in 2014 but failed to break into the side on a regular basis, and as well as the Doncaster loan he also had a temporary spell with Scunthorpe.
Aside from his record of previous successes, there are plenty of other reasons for Doncaster to be optimistic about this deal. Notably, he has a strong connection with current manager Darren Ferguson, with the pair having worked together during their successful times with Peterborough. He also adds considerable versatility to the side; naturally left sided, he can fill into midfield, as a wing back or as a traditional full back, and is also capable playing centrally. Regarding his style of play, the main thing that stands out is his high work rate and energy levels, much needed in the dogfight that is League 2. He’s also a tenacious tackler and, when playing on the left, a decent crosser of the ball too. He should be a fantastic signing for a Doncaster team aiming to go straight back into League 1.
Are these the standout signings in League Two? What other deals have caught your eye? Let us know in the comments below!
featured image by Kevin Neagle