So – less than a week away from the big kick off in England, and we begin our Football League preview with the lowest tier of the 92 team system. We cover each team, their transfers and all the odds on offer. We hope this proves to be helpful in any ante-post bets, and for the season ahead. This really helps us with Tips as well – knowing each squad inside out can only be a good thing! To make things interesting, I did the research and decided where I thought each side would come before looking at the odds, to see if what I thought lined up with the bookies pricing – and predictably our opinions differed on some, and matched on others!
Manager: John Coleman
Odds: 7/2 (Relegation), 150/1 (Winner)
Transfers In: Ross Etheridge, Jason Mooney, Anthony Berry, Adam Morgan, Billy Kee, Tom Davies, Joe Wright, Sean McConville, Matty Pearson
Transfers Out: 9 Released
Accrington struggled for a long time last season – and sacked James Beattie after only a few weeks of the season. John Coleman saved them in the end. Apart from Billy Kee, they have brought in a lot of unknown’s on free deals – Kee scored 39 in 99 league games for Burton over the last few years and if given the service could bang home plenty of goals. He will be their key man this season if they are going to avoid relegation. That is the worry though – lack of service. I see them struggling again, with them being favourites for relegation @ 7/2.
Manager: Neal Ardley
Odds: 25/1 (Winner), 10/1 (Promotion)
Transfers In: Tom Elliot, Jon Meades, Andy Barcham, Lyle Taylor
Transfers Out: 6 Released
Wimbledon are a steady team in this league, I don’t think they will be anywhere near the bottom 6, but could push for the top 7/8 teams if they perform. Key to their chances will be Tom Elliot who has come in from Cambridge. Over the last couple of seasons he has scored 26 in 75 league goals. With Sammy Moore leaving, and Adebayo Akinfenwa getting on a bit, they need another striker to chip in with regular goals. Adebayo Azeez will be interesting to watch – the ex-England under 19’s international scored 6 in 41 last season, and provided plenty of assists. Those 3 will be important to the Dons’ chances.
Manager: Martin Allen
2014/15: Conference Champions
Odds: 33/1 (Winner), 6/1 (Promotion), 5/2 (Top 7)
Transfers In: Tom Champion, Kevin Lisbie, Bina Dembele, Justin Nwogu, Gavin Hoyte, Shaun Batt, Ben Tomlinson
Transfers Out: 6 Released
Barnet romped the Conference last season and come into this season full of confidence. They have signed well – Gavin Hoyte a good deal – the ex-Arsenal right back should be very good at this level. Their main man though is John Akinde – at 26 he is still in the prime of his career, and scored 33 in 49 last season. He, along with Mauro Vilhete, a 22 year old winger – will be important players this season. I’d fancy them to get into the top 10, but no higher than 8th. Seem to be decent odds to get into the playoffs, or at least near – but I don’t think they are good enough with the current squad.
Manager: Darrell Clarke
2014/15: Playoff Winner – Conference
Odds: 20/1 (Winner), 9/2 (Promotion), 20/1 (Relegation)
Transfers In: Cristian Montano, Chris Lines, James Clarke
Transfers Out: 5 Released
Rovers are back! Their exile from the Football League lasted a solitary season, but so far they have not really added too many, which to be fair can’t be too bad as they are giving those who got them up a chance to prove themselves. They have signed old-boy Chris Lines, who was with them as a youth players before leaving a few years ago. Another signing is Cristian Montano – who was sacked by Oldham for apparent match-fixing, although it was never proven. Ex-West Ham youth player, and will be fantastic at this level! Top 10 is a realistic goal, but again – like Barnet I cannot see them getting near promotion.
Manager: Richard Money
Odds: 14/1 (Winner), 7/2 (Promotion), 5/4 (Top 7)
Transfers In: Barry Corr, Sam Beasant, Mark Roberts, Conor Newton, Danny Carr, Elliot Omozusi, Keith Keeane, Jeff Hughes, Leon Legge
Transfers Out: 14 Released
Cambridge have rid themselves of a lot of the players that nearly got them relegation, and brought in some great players! Barry Corr was a shock deal, with Southend surprised that he left, and their fans not happy either. He was one of the top scorers last season. Mark Robers has also come in from Chesterfield and becomes captain – he player-managed Stevenage twice, and is a natural leader – something they lacked last season. Along with the likes of Ryan Donaldson and Conor Newton (both ex-Newcastle) and Elliot Omozusi (Fulham) they have plenty of higher league experience, hence why they are fairly fancied for promotion. 5/4 for Top 7 looks cracking value!
Manager: Keith Curle
Odds: 33/1 (Winner), 10/1 (Relegation)
Transfers In: Kevin Osei, Michael Raynes, Tom Miller, David Atkinson, Jabo Ibehre, Bastian Hery, Alex McQueen, Luke Joyce, Jason Kennedy, Angelo Balanta
Transfers Out: 12 Released – Kyle Dempsey – Huddersfield (£300,000)
Carlisle, like Cambridge have got rid of a lot of players who nearly got them relegated. They have signed quite well, Jabo Ibehre and Bastian Hery the pick of the bunch. Both have played in League 1 or the Championship for a lot of their careers, so are of good quality. Hery was one that big things were expected of at Sheff Weds, but never followed through with the promise he initially showed. Kevin Osei is an interesting one – he’s an ex-Marseille forward, so is one to watch!! I expect them to finish in mid-table. No better, no worse.
Dagenham & Redbridge
Manager: Wayne Burnett
Odds: 100/1 (Winner), 4/1 (Relegation)
Transfers In: Nyron Nosworthy, Matt McClure, Josh Passley
Transfers Out: 8 Released
Dag & Red were a little lucky last season that so many others we poor. A relegated League One side and a team that had a playoff place the season before got relegated, with them finishing 14th in the end. They have added very few players and have a poor squad. Their hopes hang on Jamie Cureton, who is 39 and really looking injury prone. Nosworthy is an ex-Premier League defender, and will add vital experience, but with striking issues – I see them going down. 4/1 seems value at the moment.
Manager: Mark Yates
2014/15: Relegated from League One
Odds: 33/1 (Winner), 9/1 (Relegation)
Transfers In: Jon Ashton, Luke Rooney, Simon Walton, Shamir Fenelon, Joe McNerney, Freddie Woodman
Transfers Out: 13 Released, Dickson/Walsh sold to MK Dons/Yeovil
Crawley’s last two seasons’ have been relegation and promotion, and with so many players leaving this time around and so few coming in – I’m struggling to see them doing anything this season. They lack a real goalscoring threat, so goals could be at a premium this season. They are about to lose Izale McLeod, so there goes their only natural goal threat. Mid-table, and even an outside threat for Relegation, following in the footsteps of Tranmere.
Manager: Paul Tisdale
Odds: 40/1 (Winner), 13/2 (Relegation)
Transfers In: Lee Holmes, Emmanuel Oyeleke, Bobby Olejnik, Troy Brown
Transfers Out: 6 Released, 3 Loaned Out
Exeter seem well fancied to struggle this season after a 10th place finish in the 14/15 season. With Matt Oakley remaining as captain and an influential figure and Tom Nichols hitting form last season with 17 in 39 games and is only young so will be improving. I don’t think they will go down, and in my opinion will be upper-midtable, between 9th and 12th. Paul Tisdale is a good manager, and with him there I can’t see them being relegated.
Manager: Ronnie Moore
Odds: 9/1 (Relegation), 40/1 (Winner)
Transfers In: Jake Carroll, Carl Magnay, Rakish Bingham, Rhys Oats, Billy Paynter, Adam Bartlett, Harry Worley, Rudus Oyonuga, Trevor Carson, Peter Denton
Transfers Out: 9 Released (Inc Stuart Parnaby + Marlon Harewood)
Hartlepool narrowly avoided relegation last season, and have rid themselves of a few big names like Harewood and Parnaby that they thought could do a job. They have brought in a lot of ‘League 2’ players who have played in this league most of their careers. In terms of key men – they lack a striker. Matt Bates is a cracking centre back, and should help at the back with their new look team. Further up, Brad Walker is a potential Championship midfielder – he won the Apprentice of the Year in 2014, so has a lot of talent! I’m expecting them to struggle again this season, so 9/1 looks half decent for relegation!
Manager: Ian Hendon
2014/15 – Relegated from League One
Odds: 12/1 (Winner), 9/4 (Promotion), 5/4 (Top 7)
Transfers In: Sean Clohessy, Blair Turgott, Paul McCallum, Sammy Moore, Ollie Palmer, Alex Cisak, Connor Essam
Players Out: 16 Released
Leyton Orient are a great shout to go straight back up, or even finish in the top 7 @ 5/4. They have rid themselves of the higher earners, and brought in a few ex-Premier League kids in the likes of Turgott (Winger) and McCallum (Striker) who both looked good while on loan in Leagues 1 and 2 last season – both will be among my ‘Ones to Watch’ for the 15/16 season. Other than that, they have added Sammy Moore – who is a good player at this level, and Ollie Palmer is a good player too. Top 7 should be a cert, while promotion is a big possibility if their new players perform to their ability.
Manager: John Still
Odds: 8/1 (Winner), 15/8 (Promotion), 5/6 (Top 7)
Transfers In: Josh McQuoid, Steven O’Donnell, Dan Potts, Danny Green, Jack Marriott, Paddy McCourt, Mark O’Brien, Magnus Okuogae, Scott Cuthbert, Craig Mackail-Smith
Transfers Out: 18 Released, Mark Cullen (£180,000)
Luton are one of the top three bookies favourites this season to win the competition. They signed relatively well – Dan Potts, formerly of West Ham – has signed. He was raved about for a few games a season or two ago, and has never lived up to the hype. In terms of key men – Luton have a very good midfield. Northern Irish international Paddy McCourt has come in, while they have an experienced trio of Alex Lawless, Luke Guttridge and Jack Howells. In terms of goalscorers they do not have an amazing array up front, but what they did so well last season is win 1-0. At one point it looked like their home form would get them a playoff place. Personally don’t think they have enough with their current squad to go up, but if they add a striker or two they will have a much better chance. As I’m writing this, they have signed Mackail-Smith – who at this level should prosper! Their chances in my mind have just shortened!
Manager: Adam Murray
Odds: 13/2 (Relegation)
Transfers In: Matt Green, Nathan Thomas, Nicky Hunt, Brian Jensen, Scott Shearer, Adi Yussuf, Adam Chapman, Scott Shearer, Chris Beardsley (+ 4 others)
Out: 10 Released, Matt Rhead and Ollie Palmer sold for fee’s
Mansfield were the lowest scoring team in the league last season, and much like Hartlepool were fortunate to stay up. They have gone back to old-boy Matt Green, who served them so well in the Conference, and taking a chance on ex-Football League striker Adi Yussuf, who bagged 27 in 39 for Oxford City in the Conference South. They have mainly gone for more experience this season, but at some point that just means “past it by a year or two and needs to retire”. Brian Jensen is the oldest signing at 40, while Chris Beardsley and Scott Shearer are in their 30’s. Green and Yussuf will be their key men – if they want to stay up they will need to score about 30% more than last season. However, I don’t think they will manage it. 13/2 value for relegation.
Manager: Jim Bentley
Odds: 4/1 (Relegation)
Transfers In: Adam Dugdale, Lee Molyneaux, Tom Barkhuisen, Peter Murphy, Aaron Wildig
Transfers Out: 10 Released, Jack Redshaw sold for a fee
Morecambe are joint 2nd favourites for relegation, and you can see why. Very little quality in the squad, and it’s been key-man Kevin Ellison who has saved their bacon more often than not with 46 goals in 155 league games for them. Jack Redshaw was their most promising player, and he has been sold, while incoming players are decent enough but might not save them. They are lacking a goalscorer – Ellison may have saved them before but he is now 31 – and Tom Barkhuisen will not get enough in my eyes. They might just survive, but only because Accrington and Mansfield are worse than they are.
Manager: Terry Butcher
Odds: 50/1 (Winner), 9/2 (Relegation)
Transfers In: Medy Elito, Danny Holmes, Rhys Taylor, Lenell-Johhn Lewis, Matt Taylor, Scott Boden, Nathan Ralph, Nana Ofori, Alex Rodman
Transfers Out: 15 Released
Newport are among the bookies favourites to go down, but I don’t see why. In the likes of Elito, Lewis and Boden they have signed well and not really lost anyone too important. Elito in particular is impressive, as he is well proven at this level and played for VVV in the Dutch 2nd tier in 14/15. In my eyes they could finish in the top 10 again, but will end up in mid-table. 10th-15th – Boden and Lewis will chip in with the majority of the goals with Elito chipping in as well.
Manager: Chris Wilder
Odds: 16/1 (Winner), 4/1 (Promotion), 13/8 (Top 7)
Transfers In: Adam Smith, Nicky Adams, Alfie Potter, Ryan Clarke, David Buchanan, Josh Lelan, Rod McDonald
Transfers Out: 11 Released
Northampton are for me a baffling choice as one of the top 5 favourites to either A – win it or B – be promoted. They had good spells last season but ultimately fell away when it mattered to finish 12th. They have some good players – Zander Diamond spent 8 years with Aberdeen in the SPL, while Marc Richards scored 18 in 31 for them last season. Alfie Potter and Lawson D’Ath are talented midfielders that chip in with goals and assists regularly, and could bag double figures if they perform to their ability. A non-starter for me in terms of promotion, I feel they will do well but fall away again mid-late season and end up in a similar position to where they finished in the last campaign.
Manager: Ricardo Moniz
2014/15: Relegated from League One
Odds: 16/1 (Winner), 4/1 (Promotion), 7/4 (Top 7)
Transfers In: Adam Campbell, Jon Stead, Graham Burke, Kyle Da Silva, Julian Jenner, Rhys Sharpe, Gill Swerts, Rob Milsom, Wes Atkinson, Scott Loach, Genaro Snijders, Filip Valencic
Transfers Out: 13 Released
For me, this team is where the value lies. In manager Ricardo Moniz, they have a man who managed Red Bull Salzburg to a league and cup double – the first manager to do so. He has coached at Tottenham, Grasshoppers, Hamburg and Feyenoord as a technical coach, and Lechia Gdansk, Ferencvaros and Jong PSV as a manager. They have signed very well – Adam Campbell (formerly of Newcastle) was seen as a future Michael Owen when he was younger, but limited loan spells led to his demise. He won the prestigious Nike MVP award at a summer tournament, which had been won by Ronaldo, Messi etc in the past. As well as him, Graham Burke and Kyle Da Silva are ex-Premier League youngsters who didn’t make the grade, while the likes of Jenner, Snijder, Valencic and Swerts are high standard players who were either full internationals or youth internationals – and are all vastly experienced. Jon Stead is a good forward to have on the books too. A great shout for winning the whole thing, but it’s a case of gelling the team together quickly enough to get performances from the off.
Manager: Michael Appleton
Odds: 9/1 (Winner), 2/1 (Promotion)
Transfers In: Liam Sercombe, Ryan Taylor, Sam Slocombe, Kemar Roofe, George Baldock
Transfers Out: 8 Released
Oxford, for me – are a shocking 3rd favourite for the title this season, despite being a fairly poor outfit. They have added relatively well – Kamar Roofe from WBA is an astute signing for a talented kid. Liam Sercombe is a very experienced head having made over 200 league appearances for Exeter over the last 4-5 seasons. Odds as you know are misleading – and for me I’m not sure why Oxford are 3rd favourites. They may sneak into the top 7, but I cannot see them getting promoted. They too lack an out-and-out goalscorer, which I believe is their main target for this window. Unless one does come in, I’m 95% positive they won’t get near the top 3. Michael Appleton is a good coach however, but after what happened the other season when he jumped clubs three times in the space of a few months – if a better job comes along he’ll be gone!
Manager: Derek Adams
Odds: 20/1 (Winner), 5/1 (Promotion), 9/4 (Top 7)
Transfers In: Graham Carey, Hiram Boateng, Gregg Wylde, Jake Jervis, Gary Sawyer, Josh Simpson
Transfers Out: 9 Released
Two huge losses for Plymouth were Lewis Allesandra and Jason Banton – both performed well last season and helped them to a 7th place finish and a goal-fest playoff game, which they lost in the end. They may struggle to match last season, with only Reuben Reid left to try and push the team towards league one. He managed 20 in 49, and with the right service can be very dangerous. None of the incoming inspire me with a lot of confidence, so for me I don’t think they will do as well. Top 12 half I would think, but no higher than 8th.
Manager: Paul Cook
Odds: 7/2 Favourite (Winner), 8/11 (Promotion)
Transfers In: Adam Barton, Michael Doyle, Gareth Evans, Adam McGurk, Ben Tollitt, Enda Stevens, Kyle Bennett, Gary Roberts, Jayden Stockley, Kal Naismith, Chris Burgess
Transfers Out: 10 Released, Jed Wallace sold to Wolves (£270,000)
This time last season, Portsmouth were favourites to go up and I thought to myself “Eh? How has that happened?” – and rightly so. They were awful for most of the season, chopping and changing manager too often and using far too many players to get a settled squad. They improved towards the end, with Matt Tubbs getting 13 goals in 23 games. They have added some good players such as Stevens, an ex-Villa left back, and Adam McGurk – who will get you goals at this level. Chris Burgess is also an ex-Arsenal youth player, so has some pedigree. All in all I cannot fathom why they are massive favourites. There are other teams with better squads and better managers that are quadruple the odds. Their name in the league is a big one, but I’m thinking the bookies are going off their reputation rather than quality of squad. I might be wrong – they may win it or even get promotion, but like mentioned – they were favourites last season and ended 16th.
Manager: Teddy Sheringham
Odds: 20/1 (Winner), 5/1 (Promotion), 9/4 (Top 7)
Transfers In: Mark Hughes, Fraser Franks, Steven Schumacher, Brett Williams
Transfers Out: 16 Released
Stevenage shall be an interesting one! Under the guidance of Teddy Sheringham in his first management venture, they should be a good side to keep an eye on. Squad wise, not amazing – they have a young striker called Ben Kennedy coming through who netted 3 in 4 games at the back end of last season, and he is only 18. Other than that, Brett Williams has come in from a Conference side and boasts a record of 36 in 77 for Aldershot over the past 2 seasons – a very good record. He is one to watch for certain! With another addition or three, they could threaten the top 7 – but at the moment I have to say they will fall short, 8th-12th in my opinion.
Manager: Gareth Ainsworth
2014/15: 4th, playoff final losers
Odds: 20/1 (Winner), 5/1 (Promotion), 2/1 (Top 7)
Players In: Ryan Sellers, Danny Rowe, Jason Banton, Luke O’Nien, Anthony Stewart, Michael Harriman, Garry Thompson
Players Out: 7 Released
Wycombe lost to Southend in the playoff final in late-May, and were unfortunate not to go up automatically. They have retained most of their squad, and have added some good quality such as Jason Banton and Michael Harriman. Two key men are midfield stalwart Matt Bloomfield, who has occupied the centre of midfield for 12 years now at Wycombe with over 300 apperances – his experience will be vital! Paul Hayes will also be an important player – his 12 goals last season were vital in helping them achieve 4th place. Should be in and around the top 7 in my opinion – 2/1 good value for that!
Manager: Paul Sturrock
2014/15: Relegated from League One
Odds: 33/1 (Winner)
Transfers In: Ryan Dickson, Ben Tozer, Mark Beck, Omar Sowunmi, Jordan Gibbons, Wes Fogden, Jack Compton + 8 Others
Transfers Out: 17 Out
The club basically rid themselves of all the League One wages, and have replaced with average League Two players – so for me no chance of going back up immediately. They seriously lack a goalscorer, with a couple of signings up front needed badly. There is a severe lack of quality – so I cannot even pick out a key player for them this season! It could be a struggle, shouldn’t be relegated, but may be in this league for a couple of seasons!
Manager: Russ Wilcox
Odds: 33/1 (Winner), 10/1 (Relegated), 10/3 (Top 7)
Transfers In: Eddie Nolan, Scott Flinders, James Barrett, Vadaine Oliver, George Swan
Transfers Out: 5 Released
Last season was a struggle, but they have found a bit of form in pre-season, beating Newcastle 2-1. They have a very resilient defence and a few trialists that should be signed up that could really help them this season. Wes Fletcher has left, but you have Vadaine Oliver could fill his shoes, and then there is Jake Hyde who scored 10 in 41 last season. He may get more of a prominent role, and could really increase that tally this season. Very much a key player! Another mid-low table finish in-store for them I think
Right – that is all 24 teams done and like mentioned at the start – odds were not looked at until I had an opinion on each side. Portsmouth for me are stupidly overpriced, and were favourites last season too, only to finish 16th. Notts County are great value @ 16/1, while Luton have just signed Craig Mackail-Smith, so their odds of 8/1 look even better! Here are my best picks for Winner, Promotion, Top 7 and Relegation:
Winner – Notts County @ 16/1 (Top 7 @ 7/4)
Promotion – Luton @ 15/8
Top 7 – Wycombe @ 2/1
Relegation – Mansfield @ 13/2 // Accrington @ 7/2
Later today we should have two articles – my Top 10 Signings, as well as 10 players to keep an eye on this season!