Sky Bet League One Preview and Predictions – William Cashman

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Since the Championship joined the Premier League in cuckoo land (Wolves, anyone?) it leaves us no choice but to turn to League One as the last bastion of real football. After all, how can you beat a Saturday afternoon on the terraces of a dive stadium, enjoying a beer and a pie? What I’m saying is that League One is the Championship for hipsters.

Before anyone derides my prediction of the League One table, I am going to destroy my own reputation by admitting to something- I am the Worst Predictor of Football in the World. Proof? Well the date of this bet should be enough to convince you:

Therefore, I’m liberated by the fact that nothing I ever predict can go as badly as that bet. In which case, here is my predicted table:

1st – Blackburn Rovers

They say 50 points is the magic number to stay up in the Championship – if that’s true, Blackburn can feel hard done by to even be in League One this year, having gone down with 51 points by virtue of goal difference. However poorly Blackburn played last year, with the (obviously) disastrous Owen Coyle appointment further endearing Venky’s to the fans, there were positive signs at the end of the season boding well for Rovers. Tony Mowbray appears to have steadied the ship, and Blackburn arguably have a better squad this year than last year, with Whittingham, Dack, Gladwin, Samuel and Caddis coming in, though former loanee Sam Gallagher will be missed. All this adds up to a successful season and a quick rebound to the Championship.

2nd – Bradford City

Although Bradford suffered heartbreak at Wembley against Millwall, they should look to their Playoff final opponents as an example to bounce back better than ever, and make the step up to promotion. Millwall lost the 2016 final to Barnsley and were promoted the next year, and Bradford’s 16-17 season was positive in many ways – they didn’t lose a single home game last season, and have finished in consecutive playoff positions. Far from resting on their laurels, the transfer market has seen Jake Reeves (trying not to sob here) and Dom Poleon arrive from Wimbledon, as well as McCarten, Taylor and Chicksen. I predict automatic promotion.

3rd – Wigan Athletic

“You look at the table, the quality we have in the dressing room – and the manager – we are simply too good to go down” – Omar Bogle

Doesn’t quite stack up to the “This does not slip” from Stevie G, but a good effort from Bogle nonetheless. After a calamitous return to the Championship (the less said about Warren Joyce the better), Wigan are back in action in League One, ensuring there’s never a dull moment for the fans when they can focus on football between rugby league matches. Wigan have a young team and 2015-16 hero Will Grigg, famous League One specialist, along with the aforementioned Omar Bogle will ensure they score plenty. Paul Cook should be animprovement on Joyce and Caldwell – although any prolonged time out of the playoff places this season and he should fear for his job. Playoffs and promotion challenge to come.

4th – Fleetwood Town

Write off the Cod Army at your peril – with Uwe Rosler of Brentford, Leeds and Wigan fame at the helm and a team that performs better than the sum of its parts, you may just see this little club from the North West in the Championship next year. With the only departure being McLaughlin to Millwall, and talent such as Conor McAleny, Wes Burns and Amari’i Bell in the team, I predict another great season for Fleetwood. There’s something of the Burton Albion about them – and their fans would certainly take that.

5th – Scunthorpe United

The key to this Scunthorpe team last season was firepower – Madden and Van Veen taking goalscoring responsibility up top. The problem was at the back – 54 goals conceded is clearly not good enough. The acquisitions of Matt Gilks, Cameron Burgess and Rory McArdle have been the attempted remedy to this problem, and that could potentially be enough to see the Iron retain their playoff place next year.

6th – Southend United

Perhaps surprisingly, Southend of all teams have the most recognisable names in League One, with Phil Brown, Michael Turner, Anton Ferdinand, Michael Kightly, Simon Cox, Marc-Antoine Fortune and Nile Ranger previously plying their trade in the Premier League. Although Nile Ranger has wound up in prison again (hahaha) this collective experience and know-how should mean Southend improve on their 7th placed finish last year.

7th Milton Keynes FC

If I’m unbiased, Milton Keynes FC have had a good summer of recruitment with Ebanks-Landell and Ryan Seager potentially good additions. However, I’m not. I hope the franchise finish 24th and go into liquidation, allowing a new Milton Keynes team to come up through the leagues the proper way rather than stealing a club.

8th – Oxford United

A.k.a. Dwight Tiendalli FC. Oxford will miss former loanee Toni Martinez, and have probably had my favourite set of recruits over the summer, with Celtic and Barca youngsters joining as well as the mysterious former Swansea right back Dwight Tiendalli. There’s clearly a focus on recruiting young and developing the team, which makes Oxford hard to place. Last season was a positive one despite the shock loss in the JPT (or whatever it is now) to Coventry. Another solid season awaits in my book.

9th – Portsmouth

Pompey have been heralded as one of the favourites for League One promotion, and although I believe things are looking up for the best-supported team in the league, I also think talk of promotion is premature. There is bound to be some transition to new manager Kenny Jackett’s ways, and as Northampton found out last year, it’s not always possible to replicate League Two form in League One (they lost Wilder to Sheff Utd as well, hence the similarities). The League Two title was only secured due to a disastrous 12 point swing as Pompey won their last 4 games and Doncaster lost all theirs. Either way, it will be a comfortable season in the top half.

10th – Peterborough United

Perhaps the textbook Championship-League One yoyo club, Peterborough are always a solid outfit in League One. Although last year’s player of the season Luke McGee will be missed, Jonathan Bond could yet prove his worth as well to Posh. I’m excited to see the return of Stevie Taylor, if only for this priceless moment: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vl3HnU0HOhk

What a man. Much will depend on star man Marcus Maddison – if he leaves, that changes things.

11th – Charlton Athletic

Charlton have the weird combination of being a good club with good fans and a fantastic youth academy – the best in the league – while also having atrocious owners and a talented albeit dislikeable manager, Karl Robinson. Marshall and Fosu should prove to be good signings for the Addicks, and watch out for the “I hate my owners more than you” derby between them and Blackpool, replacing Coventry in those stakes. Good enough for top half, not good enough for playoffs.

12th – Bury

Swapping one former Everton striker for another, it’s James Vaughan out, Jermaine Beckford in for Bury. After finishing only 1 point above the drop zone last season, it looks like Bury have just hit the reset button, with a startling 14 additions and 20 departures. Even I don’t get that drastic on Football Manager! It’s probably a good thing that Bury got rid of their players that nearly took them down so I predict a better season.

13th – Bristol Rovers

It seems strange to think that it was only 3 years ago that Bristol Rovers were relegated to the National League. 2 consecutive promotions and a top half finish in League One later, the mood is significantly better at the Memorial Stadium these days. A fairly routine off season has seen 145k spent on Sercombe from Oxford, and a few free transfers in and out. Expect Rovers to become a solid fixture in League One for the coming years.

14th – Doncaster Rovers

Doncaster were the first club to be promoted from League Two last year and promptly lost their last 4 games – the best example of players mentally going on holiday at the end of the season with nothing to play for. Does this indicate some weaknesses in Darren Ferguson’s side? Probably – although don’t write off the highest scorers of last year’s League Two campaign entirely.

15th – AFC Wimbledon

It has been a summer of upheaval for the Dons, with the departures of Jake Reeves, Dom Poleon and Tom Elliott sure to be felt in the squad. However, the Wombles have also recruited well, with familiar faces Kwesi Appiah, Deji Oshilaja and Callum Kennedy back in the fold. George Long and Cody McDonald have had stellar preseasons ensuring wins against Watford and Burton. Off the field, plans for a new stadium at Plough Lane, Wimbledon’s spiritual home continue, arguably overshadowing any on-pitch events. The aim is to remain stable in League One while building the stadium, then once that has been built, to make a real tilt for the Championship. Never write off the phoenix club.

16th – Rotherham United

Well, everyone predicted Rotherham would go down last year, and they certainly weren’t anywhere near staying up. Amassing a paltry 23 points, it was a season which felt over before it had even begun. Without Warnock at the helm, the Millers looked lost and Alan Stubbs, Kenny Jackett and Paul “Shane” Warne couldn’t stop the rot. The key for Rotherham is to avoid successive relegations, which I think they’ll manage, but don’t rule it out either – the trapdoor in League One is a big one.

17th – Plymouth Argyle

You’ve got to love the Green Army – no matter how much anyone complains about an away day to Plymouth, the Plymouth fans have a long journey every other week no matter who they play (arguably aside from Bristol Rovers). Their loyalty has rarely been rewarded with success, although last season’s promotion cast the memories of a 2016 Playoff final defeat to Wimbedon to the back of the mind. The likes of Graham Carey and Gregg Wylde should ensure Plymouth’s safety this year, which is what they should be aiming for.

18th – Northampton Town

Memories of a 99 point season in League Two in 2015/16 led some optimistic Northampton fans to dream of successive promotions, and beating Sheffield United to the signing of Alex Revell allowed Northampton to gloat at their recently departed manager who had just taken over the Blades. Sheffield United would certainly have the last laugh, but Northampton had a decent season in midtable nonetheless. A nervous step closer to the trapdoor awaits.

19th – Rochdale

Rochdale had a good season last year, finishing 9th in League One. However, losing key man Nathaniel Mendez-Laing to Cardiff will prove a bitter blow, as well as Matthew Lund, who moved to Burton. Rochdale unfortunately appear to be going backwards, although will probably have enough to avoid the drop. Just.

20th – Walsall

League One can be cruel to teams that had recently finished high up the table – Leyton Orient, Swindon, Gillingham all suffered after seasons spent in the playoffs. Walsall had a very poor end to the previous season and despite missing out on promotion by 1 point in 2015/16, a successive slide down the table looks likely. Perhaps the talent of Erhan Oztumer can keep them up?

21st – Blackpool

Have you ever seen more reluctant promotion celebrations than those of Blackpool last year? The brief Premier League participants have had a well-documented and disastrous fall-out since the heady days of Old Trafford, Anfield and the Emirates, with understandable disgust at the way the Oystons are running the club. They could be performing better without the turmoil, but internal strife never ends well. Just ask Leyton Orient, Coventry, Charlton etc.

22nd – Gillingham

Having only stayed up by a singlepoint last year, the outlook looks bleak for Gillingham this year. Losing fan’s favourite Cody McDonald to Wimbledon was a bitter blow, and Bradley Dack is frankly irreplaceable for a club of Gillingham’s stature. Unless the money from the Dack transfer is invested quickly and effectively, relegation awaits.

23rd – Oldham Athletic

Oldham barely survived last year, and last season’s lowest scorers in League One have gambled on Craig Davies to solve their striking problems. The same Craig Davies who scored a total of 1 goal last season. In 35 games. Bye bye.

24th – Shrewsbury Town

If they’re not in League Two, they’re never doing very well in League One. They’ve somehow survived 3 of their last 4 attempts in League One, finishing 16th, 20th and 18th. The yoyo team between League One and Two is about to yoyo back down

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