Looking at pre-season predictions written by fans it is easy to see there is an air of the usual pre-season optimism among supporters of League One clubs. However I am going to banish this pleasant early feeling and instead let you know who I think will be relegation contenders therefore and could be in for hard season.
There was a West Country feel to the relegated teams in League One last season with Bristol Rovers, Plymouth Argyle and Swindon Town joining Dagenham & Redbridge in succumbing to the drop.
Terry Skiverton’s Yeovil could continue this theme into the new season and are favourites to be relegated after losing a number of key men in the close season in Dean Bowditch, Adam Virgo and Andy Welsh. The club has been busy trying to replace these and have brought in Steve MacLean who should guarantee goals while N’Gala and Agard are both highly regarded youngsters. However they are favourites to go down for a reason and will probably need a big season from MacLean in order to survive.
Graham Wesley’s Stevenage did brilliantly to win promotion through the play-offs last year but they could be in for hard time in only their second season in the Football League. Wesley is certainly the man for the job and he will instil his mental toughness onto his players. Whether they have enough to survive is questionable but I am sure their fans will enjoy the ride.
Over at Walsall, Dean Smith has brought in eight new players to the Bescott Stadium but they could struggle again after last season’s heroic late survival. Some positives to take are the impact that Smith made on the team after his arrival and if he can continue this they should have enough to stay up but it will be close again.
Tranmere Rovers under Les Parry could struggle again and after a summer of transition at Prenton Park it is clear to see why Parry is front runner to be the first man sacked in League One. Youngster Dale Jennings may have moved to Bayern Munich for big money but there is no evidence of the cash being spent to strengthen the side despite the obvious need for new recruits.
Hartlepool United are another team that can be regarded as relegation contenders as as appears to be the case every season but they still manage to defy the critics and stay up. I think they should be able to survive again with the experience of Nolberto Soloano benefiting the relatively young side and I believe Wadsworth is the man for the job.
Exeter had a stunning season last year coming close to achieving a play-off spot. However this year could be a reality check for the Grecians as although Paul Tisdale looks a fine young manager, his team lacks depth and the loss of Cuerton and McNish could really affect their prospects. It is important that they hang onto the much-prized Tisdale if they are to stand a chance of survival.
Newly promoted Bury relied heavily on loan players to secure promotion last term and now they have all departed. With a very small budget in comparison to some of the bigger team and an undersized squad, the Shakers could have a difficult first season in League One and may return to League One at the first time of asking.
Other teams that could struggle include Notts County who were the lowest goal scorers in the league last year, Oldham who have a thin squad and little money to spend and Rochadale who have had a summer of change after the departure of manager Keith Hill to Barnsley. I think all three clubs should have enough to have another season of mid-table mediocrity and it will be interesting to see if this is the case come May 2012. The new season is finally here, bring on the football!
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