Monday, 2 March 2015

The Curious Case of English Football.

Harry Kane, ‘B’ teams, and the gut-wrenching £5.136 Billion Premier League Television deal. Not the sordid title of a rejected Roald Dahl novel, but three separate entities that can all be included within the discussion of English football’s longest running soap-opera, the development of homegrown players. And much like a soap-opera on Christmas Day, a time of the year that should be lauded and celebrated, we’re faced with a dark gloom and haze as to what has just gone on and that very English footballing question, “Where do we go from here?”

According to the FA, the Football League and the Premier League, one of the various solutions is to introduce Premier League ‘B’ teams into the already fatiguing Johnstone’s Paint Trophy. Quite how a handful of games a season against sides that more often than not don’t take the competition particularly seriously until the latter stages will benefit the development of young English players, I don’t really know. But the FA does, so why question it? It’s not like we matter, is it? We’re only good for crowd shots in the latest Barclays or Sky advert anyway. We’re not supporters, we are the advertisement.

From my own personal perspective it also damages the integrity of the competition I secretly enjoy. The JPT isn't glamorous, but it’s one of the very few chances a lower league supporter has of seeing his or her side get a chance to play at Wembley. You try telling a Walsall supporter who will see his/her side at Wembley for the first time in the clubs history this month that it’s a worthless competition and see what response you get. Introducing ‘B’ teams here is the start of a slippery slope, a slope that we already have minimal footing on as it is. Allowing this to happen without a fight is akin to digging our own graves. They wanted to introduce ‘B’ teams into our leagues before, and they’ll want to do it again if they see weakness.

But it’s not just the thought of this that disturbs me and many other supporters of lower league clubs, but also the lack of consultation that has surrounded the seemingly sudden implementation of this idea. I'm realistic as a football supporter, I know that I won’t hear the ins and outs of everything that goes on at my football club or in the wider context of the game in general, and that’s quite right. But to brush such a fairly big decision under the carpet, to the point where it has only become apparent as a result of supporters trust meeting, is utterly despicable. We don’t expect total transparency as supporters, but we expect honesty when something that we’re involved in is subject to change despite the fact we have not been consulted.

It’s not just the fact that our opinions have not been heard in this matter, as the majority don’t want ‘B’ teams anywhere near our competitions, but also the simple fact none of our number were even aware that such a vote was taking place at any point. Surely it is the duty of the FA, the Football League or simply individual clubs to notify supporters that such a significant issue is being discussed. It’s not about the implementation, it’s about the principle. It’s a phrase I detest, but in a lot of ways it sums up the way supporters are treated within English football, with total and utter disdain. I don’t care about some rubbish McCoy’s promotion, the SkyBet Transfer fund or a Capital One advert which are systematically churned out nonchalantly by every club’s standardised official website. I care about what is happening to my game and ultimately what we as supporters can do to aid the development of English football. We’re not unapproachable dinosaurs you know; consult us; maybe we’ll actually have some reasonable suggestions as to how to realistically improve English football. “We are football”, so we’re told sparingly by the media, so why not listen to us? The FA has done a fantastic job of corroding English football, so why not give us a chance?

Quite frankly, your average match-going supporter of a Premier League side right the way down to the regional combinations is more in touch with what football really needs than anyone sitting in the ivory towers at Wembley will ever be. It’s ‘jobs for the boys’, it always has been and it always will be. None of ‘our kind’ will ever get a say because we don’t fit, but that’s by-the-by.   

Moreover it’s fairly clear so far that we don’t know the ins and outs of the discussion, but for only one club in League Two to vote against it (AFC Wimbledon), it suggests something is awry. Given the Premier League’s previous with EPPP, which Football League clubs were more or less blackmailed into signing up for, it’s not unreasonable to suggest that there is more than meets the eye.

Instead of putting a sledgehammer to lower league supporters, the FA should be embracing a modern form of the game instead; Futsal. It’s probably escaped the attention of the majority of football supporters, but England does in fact have a steadily improving national Futsal team. Buoyed by a crowd in excess of 1400 on Saturday afternoon, a gate similar to that of a bottom end League Two side, England defeated Sweden 7-3 at one of London’s premier sporting arenas, the Copperbox. An affordable, fun and ultimately enjoyable day out for supporters, it also has the potential to develop the next generation of young English talent.  

We’re relatively new to the Futsal game in this country, having only established a national team as recently as 2003. In the first five or so years, progress was slow and tentative, with the lowlight a 24-1 defeat to Portugal in 2004 under manager Graeme Dell. But under the stewardship of current manager Pete Sturgess, in place since 2008, England have made good progress, climbing the rankings to 55th in the world and amassing a total of thirty victories, including a recent run of six wins on the bounce. Yet despite this, we remain behind countries such as Uzbekistan, Solomon Islands, Macedonia and Guatemala in the rankings. And without wishing to disrespect the aforementioned associations, you can’t help but feel with some emphasis from the FA, a larger degree of funding and a more wider publicity, Futsal in this country could grow and go on to significantly aid the development of young English footballers. No-one is suggesting this could bring radical changes straight away, but if done properly, it has the potential to be a stepping stone in the progress of our homegrown footballers.  

Added to that, it’s a way of progressing technically, adding something different to the game that we do not currently have in this country. Football League clubs already embrace Futsal, so why don’t the Premier League? Could it be something to do with the ability to import ‘talent’ as a result of a certain TV deal? I think so. Futsal teaches the art of close control, tight passing and finding gaps in the play whilst also retaining that frenetic element we all love about football. It has such fantastic untapped potential if used correctly by the clubs that have the funds. Let’s face it, it’s not like the Premier League is strapped for cash at the moment. Instead of wasting £4 million on that half-rate Spanish forward who scored a handful of goals for Numancia, invest in the future. Germany did, turns out they’re half decent, bit bloody weird that.

Does anyone want to see the youngsters of our game play at most eight games a season against sides in League One or Two? How does it aid their development? Of what benefit is it to the real clubs in those leagues that are more or less reduced to friendly encounters? We have a thing that we use already to enable players to get serious game time amongst professional footballers on a weekly basis, it’s called the loan system if you didn't know. It’s not perfect, and a lot of the time players that go out on loan won’t make it to the top level, but that’s the nature of the beast of football. You only need to look at Harry Kane to witness the positive effects that it has in association with top level coaching – an issue which deserves a whole post of its own given the astronomical prices coaching badges cost in this country. Introducing ‘B’ teams into the JPT won’t change anything, it just creates the illusion that an effort is being made when in reality it’s not.

If the FA or the Premier League wants to make some sort of impression in the lower leagues, do so by funding Football League academies. Allow a proportion of the TV money to be given to those that need it, to those that will spend it and cherish it. You only have to look at Jordan Ibe’s flourishing form to see the effects. He was a product of Wycombe Wanderers’ academy, an academy that is no longer running due to lack of funds. What sort of injustice is that; that a club can produce a player with the quality of Ibe yet be forced to shut down their academy? The FA or the Premier League should be begging Wycombe to keep their academy open, but instead it has been allowed to wither and die. It’s a similar injustice for clubs that fall out of the Football League, whereby their academy funding is cut. Why? It’s a totally backwards mentality to have when actually funding these academies could produce the next great England player, or at the very least a competitive Englishman in the Premier League. The system is completely flawed from top to bottom.

To be quite honest, this has been nothing more than a ramble. The ramble of a supporter who is becoming increasingly disillusioned with a lot of what surrounds football. I don’t think I’ll ever fall out of love with my club, but in the wider context you so often wonder what the actual point is. And if you totally disagree with me, ask yourself this, is what I'm proposing any more barbaric than what the FA are seeking to do?

Keep updated with @AgainstLeague3.

Follow me on Twitter at @NickMurphy1995.  

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

League Two Preview 2014/2015

With little under a week to go until the new season kicks off in the Football League, it's that time again where we take a deeper look into the fortunes of the twenty-four teams competing in SkyBet League Two this season. We have six new recruits this season, with Luton Town, Cambridge United, Tranmere Rovers, Carlisle United, Stevenage and Shrewsbury Town, while Bristol Rovers, Torquay United, Chesterfield, Rochdale, Fleetwood Town and Scunthorpe United have all exited the division. In this preview we take a look at all of the incomings and outgoings in each squad, academy included, the opinions of the supporters and how to make a few quid along the way in the betting market this season. As we begin, there's no better place to start than right at the top of the table in Lancashire, with Accrington Stanley.





Accrington Stanley

Players In: James Jenkins (ST, Academy), Liam Goulding (CB, Academy), Luke Greaves (DF, Academy), Adam Buxton (CB), Luke Simpson (GK), Connor Martin (MF). 

Players Out: Luke Clark (RB), George Miller (MF), Danny Webber (ST), Laurence Wilson (FB), Ian Dunbavin (GK), Peter Murphy (RB). 

Perennially tipped for relegation, once again I feel as though Accrington will have enough to avoid the clutches of the Vanarama Premier. While their recruitment has been far from impressive, and losing forward Danny Webber will be a big blow, with James Beattie in charge, Stanley have an advantage over the other teams that will inevitably be in the mix come the business end of the season. Ensuring that Dean Winnard and tricky forward George Bowerman remain at the club has been a coup for Beattie, who will be looking to 22 year old James Gray to fill the void left behind by Webber. This season could be more difficult for Stanley than the previous few, but I still feel as though Accy will just about have enough in the bag to ensure survival for another season. 

What the fan says: Ben Crutchlow, "We had a fairly solid year in James Beattie's first season in charge, and hopefully we can build on that. As always, ensuring we stay safe from relegation is the main aim, along with the development of some of our youngsters such as James Gray. A much better start than last year would also be welcomed, especially with our home form which suffered towards the first part of the season. Hopefully we can maintain our league status and defy the odds once again." 

Murphy's Best Bet: Accrington to win "Group 4", at 4/1 with SkyBet.

AFC Wimbledon

Players In: Will Nightingale (CB, Academy), George Oakley (ST, Academy), Chace Jacquart (MF, Academy), Tom Beere (ST, Academy), James Shea (GK), Adebayo Akinfenwa (ST), Jack Smith (RB), Adebayo Azeez (MF), Dannie Bullman (CM), Mark Phillips (CB), Sean Rigg (RM), Matt Tubbs (Loan ST).

Players Out: Seb Brown (GK), Will Antwi (CB), Peter Sweeney (MF), Jack Midson (ST), Charlie Strutton (ST), Luke Moore (ST), Rhys Weston (RB), Callum Kennedy (DF), Charlie Sherringham (ST), Jim Fenlon (CB), Aaron Morris (RB), Darren Jones (CB).  

He's a nice bloke, really.
After a relatively anonymous season in League Two last time around, Wimbledon fans will be dreaming of a promotion push in their third season back in the Football League. Mediocre experience has been ousted in favour of genuine goalscoring talent with the arrival of Matt Tubbs and Bayo Akinfenwa, while the defence has been shored up with the signing of Mark Phillips from Southend. If the Dons can maintain a fully fit backline for the majority of the campaign and get Tubbs and Akinfenwa to form an effective partnership, a play-off push seems likely. If however they’re unable to make it all click, then the lack of experience in the attacking department could cost the Dons dear. Harry Pell will be key in the midfield. 

What the fan says: @MattMightSay: "This summer has seen Neal Ardley bring in some of the biggest names we’ve had in the AFCW era, with the likes of Matt Tubbs, Bayo Akinfenwa, Sean Rigg and Dannie Bulman replacing the weaker players we released at the end of a long and frustrating 2013-14 campaign. With these new faces, some shiny new BMO vests for us to all squeeze into, the godlike presence of Barry Fuller and the growing likelihood of a return to Merton, I think there’s plenty to look forward to at our club this season. If the new players can gel then I see no reason why a play-off push isn’t possible."

Murphy's Best Bet: Wimbledon to finish in the top half, 13/8 at SkyBet. 


Burton Albion

Players In: Joe Doyley (Academy, CM), George Taft (DF), Lucas Akins (ST), John Mousinho (CM), Shane Cansdell-Sherriff (CB), Callum McFadzean (Loan, MF), Stuart Beavon (Loan, ST), Jon McLaughlin (GK). 

Players Out: Michael Symes (ST), Gary Alexander (ST), Zander Diamond (CB), Freddy Hall (GK), Jack Dyer (MF), David Gray (RB), Marcus Holness (DF), Chris Hussey (LB), Kevin Poole (GK).

After two near misses in the play-offs in the last two seasons, this will surely be the make or break year for the Brewers. Often sides who lose in the play-off final go on to have a disastrous follow up campaign, but with the impressive signings of playmaker John Mousinho and solid defender Shane Cansdell-Sherriff, expect Burton to maintain a serious charge for automatic promotion this time around. Stuart Beavon will add more prowess up front alongside Billy Kee and Adam McGurk, and with the young and ambitious Gary Rowett remaining in the Pirelli dugout, Albion fans are assured of having one of the best managers in League Two at their disposal once again. 

What the fan says: Liam Stack: "Wembley defeat in May to Fleetwood Town was a bitter pill to swallow for Albion fans after we defied the odds to make the play-offs again. Highly rated boss Gary Rowett has again recruited well and new additions Lucas Akins and John Mousinho are likely to be key players, alongside forwards Adam McGurk and Billy Kee. Ian Sharps has committed to another year and the Brewers look strong as they go for promotion at the third attempt. The big concern, however, will be keeping hold of talented manager Rowett when the bigger clubs come sniffing."

Murphy's Best Bet: Burton to gain promotion, available at 4/1 with BetVictor. To win Group B, 7/2 with PaddyPower. 

Bury


Players In: Marcus Poscha (Academy CM), Antony Dudley (Academy ST), Ryan Lowe (ST), Shwan Jalal (GK), Kevin Etuhu (CM), Chris Hussey (LB), Keil O’Brien (CB), Danny Mayor (RM), Nicky Adams (RM). 



Players Out: Trevor Carson, Richard Hinds, Tommy Miller, Lewis Young, Brian Jensen, Robbie McIntyre, Temitope Obadeyi, Phil Picken, Reice Charles-Cook, Ashley Grimes. 


Flicker is No. 1. 
One of a number of sides tipped by the bookies for automatic promotion this season, Bury appear to have made the signings that back the claim up. Former hotshot and fans favourite Ryan Lowe returns to Gigg Lane after a three year absence to spearhead the attack, while Danny Mayor and left-back Chris Hussey will likely slot straight into the starting line up after loan spells last year. After the appointment of David Flitcroft last year, Bury were arguably one of the best sides in the division, and if they can continue that revival again into the new season, specifically at home, then they’ll definitely be one of the sides to watch out for. 

What the fan says: @Ben_Brumby, "I feel Bury will be one of the stronger teams this season and will be competing at the top. Our towards the end of last season coupled with some good signings for this level, such as Lowe and Adams, has instilled much optimism amongst supporters, with the majority expecting promotion. However, in my opinion we have a squad which lacks depth, especially in attack where we only have 3 forwards on the books, therefore I feel we lack the strength needed to win the league. I predict we will finish 4th."

Murphy's Best Bet: Daniel Nardiello to be League Two top goalscorer, 20/1 at 888bet. 

Cambridge United

Players In: Chris Dunn (GK), Robbie Simpson (ST), Luke Chadwick (MF), Johnny Hunt (DF), Kewsi Appiah (Loan, ST), Harry Lennon (Loan, DF).
 
Players Out: Ashley Chambers (MF), Sam Smith (ST), Kevin Roberts (CB), Andy Pugh (ST), Matthew Barnes-Homer (ST), Scott Garner (CB), Blaine Hudson (CB), Rory McAuley (DF), Luke Berry (MF), Nathan Arnold (ST, Loan).

Back in the Football League after an nine year absence, Cambridge United should have what it takes to avoid an immediate drop back down to non-league. The signing of Luke Chadwick from MK Dons on a permanent deal could prove to be imperative for Richard Money, while Robbie Simpson and Kwesi Appiah, on loan from Crystal Palace, could both prove to be hits down at the Abbey Stadium. Losing midfielder Luke Berry to Barnsley will be a significant blow, meaning a solid mid-table season for the U’s would represent a good first year back in the league for Money’s men. And as with all promoted sides, good home form is imperative, especially at the start of the season. 

What the fan says: @Stueycufc, "Our first season back after nine years out! I think we could well be dark horses this season, having kept the majority of our side together bar midfielder Luke Berry who left for Barnsley. The Abbey is buzzing at the minute, and if we can continue to play the ball on the ground this season whilst using our impressive pace, I think we can expect good things. Overall my head says we’ll finish 12th-15th, but my heart reckons we’ll nick a play-off place!"

Murphy's Best Bet: Cambridge to finish in the bottom half, 8/13 with BetVictor. 

Carlisle United

Players In: Patrick Brough (ML, Academy), Kyle Dempsey (MF, Academy), Danny Grainger (LB), Gary Dicker (CM), Antony Sweeney (MF), Billy Paynter (ST), Troy Archibald-Henville (DF), Danny Kearns (MF), Dan Hanford (GK), Alex Marrow (MF), Steven Rigg (AM).

Players Out: Dean Bouzanis, Chris Chantler, Danny Livesey, Prince Bauben, Liam Noble, Lee Miller, Mike Edwards, Greg Fleming, Jack Lynch, Lewis Guy, Nacho Novo, Pascal Chimbonda, Danny Cadamarteri (ST).

How far?!
Deservedly back in League Two after a torrid year in League One, Carlisle fans will be expecting a tilt at the play-offs this season. A total of 22 incomings and outgoings at Brunton Park signals big changes under Graham Kavanagh who will be looking to assert his control in his first full season in charge. The signings the Cumbrians have made however look to be positive. Former Swindon hotshot Billy Paynter appears to be the pick of the bunch, while Anthony Sweeney and Gary Dicker are impressive additions to the midfield. Steven Rigg, signed from Penrith in the summer scored 35 goals last term, and could be another to look out for. In what appears to be an average league, if Carlisle can remain consistent and solid, especially at Brunton Park, they should have little trouble making the top seven. 

What the fan says: Will from Cumbria, "It’s difficult to separate the hopes from the expectations for how we’ll do in an unfamiliar division. Much has changed after an abject year of transient and uninterested players and humiliating results and as fans we’re getting excited but have a natural pessimism. The players brought in all fit the plan for a solid and consistent squad nicely, and I’d expect us to at least be tough to score against. Currently, new arrival Billy Paynter looks our main attacking threat but we need to complement him by signing more creative players. It’s hoped that last season’s top scorer David Amoo can cause problems with his blistering pace but needs to impose himself on games more, while former forgotten man Josh Gillies has impressed in pre-season. My personal player to watch though is Brad Potts, a box-to-box midfielder from the youth set-up who was the best thing about watching United last year. He covers ground, runs fearlessly at defenders and if he can improve his shooting could be a star of the division. Without saying it’s definitely where we’ll finish, I’d be disappointed if we failed to make the play-offs."

Murphy's Best Bet: Billy Paynter to finish League Two top goalscorer, 25/1 at Bet365.

Cheltenham Town

Players In: Harry Williams (MF, Academy), Bobbie Dale (Academy, ST), Adam Powell (Academy, CM), James Bowen (Academy, FB), Lee Vaughan, Asa Hall (MF), Paul Black (LB), Andy Haworth (W), Trevor Carson (GK), Jack Deaman (DF), Matt Taylor (DF), Omari Sterling-James (W), Koby Arthur (W, Loan). 

Players Out: Jermaine McGlashan (ML), Connor Roberts (GK), Sido Jombati (LB), Sam Deering (MF), Ashley Vincent (AM), Ed Williams, Scott Brown (GK), Jamie Cureton (ST). 

It’s safe to say that last season was wholly disappointing for Cheltenham fans. A 17th place finish in a campaign blighted by inconsistencies, none more so than their form at Whaddon Road where the Robins picked up just five victories, was a stark contrast to the previous two seasons’ play-off efforts. Allegations of players “not trying” in training emerged towards the end of the season, summing up a thoroughly dismal 10 months for the Rubies. Now though, with the bad blood out, Robins fans can begin to dream again, although a play-off tilt appears unlikely this time around. Mark Yeats has made some solid if unspectacular signings; the capture of highly rated Lee Vaughn from Kidderminster a particular highlight. However, losing ‘keeper Scott Brown to Aberdeen is a significant blow, and with striker Jamie Cureton also departing for pastures new, the onus will fall on the duo of Byron Harrison and Terry Gornell to provide the goals for any hope of that elusive place in League One.  



What the fan says: @PeterJFielding, "Wholesale changes were inevitable after last year’s 17th place finish, and Mark Yates has so far made nine new signings in order to create a young, yet hungry squad with a point to prove.Yates has brought an eclectic mix of players to Gloucestershire, some of whom boast plenty of Football League experience, while others embody raw, exciting talent. Striker Byron Harrison might be worth a flutter for League Two top scorer a 40/1, while midfielder Omari Sterling-James could prove to be a diamond-in-the-rough. Due to the unproven-nature of Yates’ new-look squad, this season is difficult to foretell, however with the feel-good factor having returned to the Whaddon Road, I see Cheltenham Town securing a mid-table finish and would not rule out a play-off push."

Murphy's Best Bet: Cheltenham Town to finish as top SouthWest club, 7/2 at BetVictor.



Dagenham & Redbridge

Players In: Jon Nouble (ST, Academy), Liam O’Brien (GK), Mark Cousins (GK), Ashley Chambers (MF), Damien Batt (RB), Nathan Green (CB), Frankie Raymond (MF), Joss Labadie (MF), Matt Partridge (CB), Jamie Cureton (ST), Ashley Hemmings (W), George Porter (W).  

Players Out: Chris Dickson (ST), Chris Lewington (GK) ,Femi Ilesanmi (LB), Alex Osborn (ST), Jordan Seabright (GK), Luke Wilkinson (CB), Gavin Hoyte (RB), Medy Elito (MF).
 
Curo.
Embarking on their eighth consecutive season in the Football League, Dagenham & Redbridge fans will be hopeful of another good season after an impressive 9th placed finish last term. The summer has seen major upheaval at Victoria Road; goalkeeper Chris Lewington has moved to Colchester, winger Medy Elito to Holland, while Gavin Hoyte remains unattached after rejecting a new contract at Victoria Road. However, with the midfield bolstered and creative options added, Daggers appear to have much more pace and spark going forward, and with the experienced Jamie Cureton leading the line, goals shouldn't be a problem. This does however mean that the physicality of the side is compromised, potentially leading to more goals being leaked from set-pieces, a real bug bear for the Essex side last season. For Daggers a lot depends on whether the side clicks, if they do, a play-off push could be on the cards, if not, then it could be a lower end basement battle.  

What the fan says: @LeeWilsonDRFC, "All change at the Daggers this summer with no less that 10 players coming in. Experienced striker Jamie Cureton is the most recognisable of the bunch with an impressive scoring record over the years, especially at League Two level. Elsewhere, Joss Labadie will be familiar to many League Two followers after a fruitful recent spell at relegated Torquay. Overall, I'm expecting a fairly transitional season. There is quality within the team, but I feel as though we may be a little soft across the pitch which will see us bullied out of points on various occasions. However this squad, now filled with more experience, should be more than capable of lurking around mid-table. If all clicks, then an outside promotion push is a possibility. If I had to predict though, I would estimate we'll finish somewhere between 8th and 14th. 

Murphy's Best Bet: Dagenham to finish in the top half, 3/1 with SkyBet.

Exeter City:

Players In: Matt Jay (Academy, ST), Ollie Watkins (Academy, ST), Jason Pope (Academy, MF), Connor Riley-Lowe (FB, Academy). 

Players Out: Artur Krysiak (GK), Sam Parkin (ST), Jon O’Flynn (ST), Alan Gow (ST), Elliott Chamberlain (ST), Jacob Jagger Cane (AM), Jake Gosling (LM).

After a difficult season last year, things could be about to become a whole lot harder for Paul Tisdale and Exeter City. A thin squad, coupled with the departure of at least two key players and barely noticeable incomings paints a sorry picture for the ravaged Grecians. To make matters worse, attendances are falling at St James Park, while club captain Danny Coles’ future is in doubt courtesy of an ill-thought out Twitter row. Fans began to turn on manager Paul Tisdale last season following a string of results that at one stage stood at thirteen without victory at home, a sequence that if repeated this time around, will almost certainly spell disaster for the South-West outfit. One beacon of hope however lies with the academy, and if the four graduates this year can perform as well as Tom Nicholls (7 goals in 39), there could be hope yet for the beleaguered Grecians. 

What the fan says: @exemsg, "One word to describe City's pre-season - tumultuous! A PFA loan, a transfer embargo, the Chairman resigning, a famous trip to Brazil, the captain losing the armband for abusing someone on Twitter - and more besides...City's financial woes meant a number of summer departures, and as yet nobody in. Quite rightly, therefore, we have been installed as relegation contenders by most. However, City have something of a "golden generation" coming through, a team that pulled off notable scalps in last season's Premier League U21 Cup (including Southampton) and the side which despatched Fleetwood and Scunthorpe to preserve City's L2 status last season is mostly still intact. Key will be whether we can hold on to teenage starlet Matt Grimes, who has attracted interest from the likes of Sunderland and Liverpool during the summer. Paul Tisdale, the second longest serving manager in the top four divisions, is relishing the challenge of developing his young squad. Most City supporters will be pleased just to win a few more home games and be well clear of the dreaded drop!"

Murphy's Best Bet: Exeter to finish bottom, 10/1 with Ladbrokes. 

Hartlepool United

Players In: Josh Nearney (Academy, DF), Matthew Bates (CB), Stuart Parnarby (RB).

Players Out: Zak Boagey (MF), Andy Monkhouse (LM), Greg Rutherford (MF), Simon Walton (CM), Antony Sweeney (CM), James Poole (ST), Nialle Rodney (ST). 


This doesn't look creepy at all. 
Unsurprisingly for Pools fans, Hartlepool have had a pretty Hartlepoolesque summer. There have been very few signings to get pumped up about, while the outgoings have somewhat weakened the squad. The defence however has been bolstered, with the arrivals of impressive former Middlesbrough pair Matthew Bates and Stuart Parnaby, bringing the ex-Boro count to four. Luke James remains without doubt the one to look out for in the Pools squad, having scored 13 goals in just 16 games last season. Once again this means the onus will likely fall on James to score the majority of Pools goals this season, with the ageing Marlon Harewood unlikely to hit double figures. It means Pools fans can probably look forward to a mid-table finish, although if the goals dry up, expect Colin Cooper’s men to become embroiled in yet another relegation scrap.  

What the fan says: @DavidPKL, "It’ll most likely be a slightly boring but respectable mid-table finish here at Victoria Park. We've struggled for consistency over the last few years and currently have a thin squad which makes that mid-table mediocrity look even more likely. We have brought in some experienced players such as Stuart Parnaby and Matthew Bates who’ll be looking to help aid the progress of our talented young players to ensure that we won’t be at the wrong end of the table come May. Luke James is the player in our side to look out for. James was our top scorer last season and quite rightly won the club’s Player of the Year Award. The teenager is a nightmare for defenders to face with his pace, aerial ability and skill and any lazy centre-half will be run ragged by him after 90 minutes. James has had interest from other clubs and it’s clear why but, fortunately for us, he has recently signed a new contract."

Murphy's Best Bet: Hartlepool to reach the play-offs, 6/1 with SkyBet. 

Luton Town

Players In: Curtley Williams, Andy Drury (MF), Luke Wilkinson (CB), Charlie Walker (ST), Mark Onyewah (LB), Ricky Miller (ST), Ross Lafayette (ST), Lee Angol (ST), Paul Connolly (RB), Paul Benson (ST).  

Players Out: Lathaniel Rowe-Turner (LB), Jerome Jibodu (RB), Jake Woolley (ST), Anthony Charles (CB), Jon Shaw (ST), David Viana (AM), JJ O’Donnell (ST), Ronnie Henry (DF), Andre Gray (ST), Lee Angol (Loan, ST).

Luton Town, remember them?
Following a seven year exile in the Conference, Luton are back in the big time. But don’t just take my word for it, the Hatters have even emblazoned their new kit this year with a, “We Are Back”, hashtag, just in case you didn’t know. Stewarded by the wiley old fox that is John Still, Luton are unsurprisingly one of the bookmakers favourites for promotion from League Two this season. Losing key forward Andre Gray to Championship side Brentford is a blow, but with Still’s knack of turning non-league talent into Football League gems, the capture of Ricky Miller (Boston Utd) and Charlie Walker (Peacehaven & Telscombe), should provide ample competition for veteran striker Paul Benson, one of a contingent of four who have previously worked under Still at Dagenham & Redbridge. Key to the Hatters progress in League Two will be maintaining their sterling home form. With only two defeats throughout the whole of last season, and nineteen during their five year spell in the Conference, Kenilworth Road must remain a fortress if Town are to launch a crusade for a return to the third division. 

What the fan says: @LTFC_Dave, "It hasn't been a bed of roses for Luton on our return to the league, after losing 30 goal striker Andre Gray to Brentford, but the return of Andy Drury to Kenilworth Road to play alongside Luke Guttridge means creating chances shouldn't be a problem for the Hatters.  With some League experience added to the defensive ranks in Paul Connolly and a couple of potential John Still gems plucked from non-League, it'll be interesting to see how Luton fare in their first season back in the Football League. Sides going from the Conference - especially as champions - have tended to acquit themselves pretty well in League 2, and backed by nearly 6000 season tickets holders, Luton should be able to challenge for a top seven place and the lottery of the play-offs (which will hopefully be 5th time lucky!)"

Murphy's Best Bet: Luton to win League Two, 10/1 with Coral. 

Mansfield Town

Players In: Simon Heslop (MF), Luke Jones (CB), Sascha Studer (GK), Fergus Bell (MF), Alex Fisher (ST), Liam Hearn (ST), Rob Taylor (MF), Amari’i Bell (LB, Loan).

Players Out: Paul Black (DF), Ian Deakin (GK), Ross Dyer (ST), Ben Hutchinson (ST), James Jennings (DF), Keiran Murtagh (MF), George Pilkington (DF), Godfrey Poku (AM), Jake Speight (ST), Lee Stevenson (MF), Louis Briscoe (ST), Anthony Howell (MF), Liam Mitchell (GK), Lindon Meikle (ST), Alan Marriott (GK), Colin Daniel (ML).

It’s been an average summer of transfer activity down at Field Mill. A glut of players have left the club, while only seven have come the other way. The most notable of these being the Jones and Heslop double swoop from Stevenage which will undoubtedly improve both the backline and the midfield. Meanwhile Fergus Bell and Alex Fisher make the cross from Italy after joining from regional side, Monza. However, the most impressive piece of business this summer for manager Paul Cox is retaining the services of sought after striker, Sam Clucas, after the Stags spurned the advances of both Leyton Orient and reportedly Nottingham Forest during the off season. If Town are to improve on last season using their somewhat direct current style, a fit and firing Clucas is essential, otherwise it could be another long old drag for Stags fans in the upcoming campaign, culminating in relegation back down to the Conference. 

What the fan says: James Simpson, "Having cleared out a lot of the deadwood, there are hopes that we can improve on last season. Keeping Sam Clucas has been a real bonus, and hopefully he repays us by finding his scoring touch again. My only real worry is our lack of goalkeeping options, with new signing Studer our only contracted 'keeper. I expect us to improve on last seasons finish and make a push towards the play-offs."

Murphy's Best Bet:  Mansfield finish bottom half, 8/15 with Skybet. Relegation, 10/1 with BetVictor.


Morecambe

Players In: Declan Watson (Academy, W), Jamie Devitt (RM), Ryan Edwards (CB), Laurence Wilson (LB), Alan Goodall (DF), Tom McCready (MF), Paul Mullin (ST).

Players Out: Chris McCready (CB), Robbie Threlfall (FB), Joe Mwasile (MF), Joe McGee (MF), Tony Diagne (LB).

Morecambe's poster boy. 
It’s been a quiet summer down at the Globe. Only five new players have been brought in from external sources, while only five have left, creating an equal balance for boss Jim Bentley. Every season Morecambe tend to defy the bookmakers odds by retaining their place in League Two, but this year I think it could be harder than ever. There’s a heavy reliance on the duo of Kevin Ellison and Jack Redshaw, particularly Redshaw to score the goals that will see the Shrimps out of trouble, and if they hit a bad rut of form, you can see it being difficult for the Lancashire outfit. Under Jim Bentley however, they have every chance; a man skilled in getting the best out of an average bunch both as a player and manager, if Morecambe are to retain their League Two place, Bentley is key. 

What the fan says: @AdamLordLM, "Morecambe are quietly confident this season. Once again written off by the bookies they have signed up many of the players who were signed on loan or short-term deals during the latter part of last season. Jamie Devitt is the stand out, bringing an added dimension in attack with his guile and flair. The signings have brought a new depth to what was a thin squad last season meaning they look more likely to last the course having faded after a bright start last time around. Like Accrington Stanley and Dagenham & Redbridge, Jim Bentley will be content to see his side shock a few of the big boys on the way to a safe midtable finish. Anything more will be deemed a real success."

Murphy's Best Bet: Morecambe to be relegated, 5/1 at William Hill. 

Newport County

Players In: Darren Jones (CB), Yan Klukowski (MF), Mark Byrne (CM), Kevin Feely (CB).

Players Out: David Pipe (RM), Ryan Burge (CM), Harry Worley (CB), Darcy Blake (RB), Aaron Amadi-Holloway (ST), Tony James (CB).  

Newport’s first foray back into the Football League will forever be remembered for the troublesome Rodney Parade pitch. A pitch that ultimately scuppered any hopes the Exiles had of back-to-back promotions, thanks to six postponements through the course of the season. Now though, with that calamity behind them, County fans should be able to look forward to a relatively comfortable season ahead. Aside from David Pipe, there have been no significant outgoings in South Wales, while the trio of Darren Jones, Yan Klukowski and Mark Byrne in particular appear to be solid signings, with Byrne adding some steel into the midfield. They join a squad filled with talent, including the likes of Chris Zebroski and Rene Howe, both of whom are capable of double figures if they manage to stay fit. If County can rebuild their terrific home form from the start of last season, and put in some better performances on the road, expect an improvement on last year’s 14th placed finish. 

What the fan says: Nathan Watkins, "I think Newport will do reasonably well in the season ahead. We have had a brilliant and confident pre-season and look a more stable outfit than we did last season. I feel as though the play-offs are what we should be aiming for. Supporters should look out for Aaron O’Connor, a player with a lot to prove after being injured for the majority of last season.  As for the new signings, Mark Byrne looks an excellent signing from Barnet and hopefully he can bring some steel to the midfield. On the whole I think that the new season will be an exciting one with some great encounters against some exciting teams."

Murphy's Best Bet: Newport to make the play-offs, 6/1 with Ladbrokes. 

Northampton Town

Players In: Connor Roberts (Academy, RB), Marc Richards (ST), Zander Diamond (CB), John-Joe O’Toole, Evan Horwood (LB), Emile Sinclair (ST), Daniel Alfei (RB, Loan), Kaid Mohammed (LM, Loan), Jordan Archer (GK, Loan). 

Players Out: Leon McSweeney (RM), Joe Widdowson (DF), JJ Hooper (ST), Gary Deegan (CM), Alan Connell (ST), Claudio Dias (RM), Matty Harriott (LM), Ben McNamara (GK), Matthias Kouo-Doumbe (RB). 


Ivan Toney, one of the Football League's hottest prospects.
After a truly horrid campaign last time out, much more is expected of Northampton this season. Led impressively away from relegation by former Oxford boss Chris Wilder, the Cobblers survived on the last day of last season after a horrific opening four months to the campaign. Now though the defence has been bolstered and the attack revitalised, with several impressive players brought in. Defensive rock Zander Diamond joins from Burton, Emile Sinclair from Crawley and arguably League Two’s player of the season last year, John Joe O’Toole, from Bristol Rovers. If Wilder can combine all of these elements while continuing to get the best out of young talents such as Ivan Toney, Town should be able to make a charge for the play-offs once again. The timely return of Alex Nicholls from a long term injury lay-off should also give the Cobblers a significant boost.  

What the fan says: @TylerJason_, "Last season was a living nightmare for Cobblers fans after narrowly scraping Football League survival. Aidy Boothroyd and his deadwood have departed and Chris Wilder has given three-year contracts to highly rated Marc Richards, John-Joe O'Toole who impressed at relegated Bristol Rovers last term, and defensive rock Zander Diamond. Doubts remain over the quality and depth of the rest of the squad and whilst promotion is a hopeful ambition, we are sure to fare better than we did during the last campaign."

Murphy's Best Bet: Northampton to make the play-offs, 7/2 with Ladbrokes. 

Oxford United

Players In: Josh Ashby (CM, Academy), Aidan Hawtin (MF, Academy), James Roberts (ST, Academy), Sam Humphreys (W, Academy), Michael Collins (MF), Danny Hylton (ST), Junior Brown (LM), George Long (GK, Loan), Carlton Morris (ST, Loan). 

Players Out: Deane Smalley (ST), Sean Rigg (RW), Scott Davies (CM), Wayne Brown (GK), Dave Kitson (ST), James Constable (ST), Kenzer Lee (CB), David Lynn (LB), Joe Riley (FB, Loan).

It’s fairly safe to say that Oxford United haven’t had the most ideal preparation ahead of the upcoming season. A change in ownership signalled a change in management, with Gary Waddock, only two months into his tenure at the Kassam, sacked in favour of mercurial grasshopper, Michael Appleton. Appleton’s record in his short time at each club isn’t anything to write home about, although his favouring of youth is; something that bodes particularly well for highly rated forward James Roberts. And with long term U’s striker James Constable heading to a money pit in Hampshire, Roberts will almost certainly need to step up to the plate if United are to have any hopes of mounting another play-off challenge.

What the fan says: @OllieWilliams33, "I think most Oxford fans would admit that if we are to have a successful season we will have to rely on senior players avoiding injury, which hasn’t been the case in the last few seasons! We already start the season without Ryan Clarke and Andy Whing and the squad is made up of lots of younger pros. New manager Michael Appleton has brought George Long and Joe Riley into the building with him, both of whom have experience at a higher level, but perhaps our most exciting signing of the off-season was new first team coach Derek Fazackerley who has worked alongside Roy Hodgson and Kevin Keegan as their assistants. If we can keep the core of the squad together there is no reason why we can’t improve on last season and push on for a Play-Off place. Losing forwards Dave Kitson and James Constable will be tough, but youngster James Roberts looks to be a great prospect and could be a valuable player for us this season."

Murphy's Best Bet: Oxford to finish in the bottom half, 5/4 with BetVictor. 

Plymouth Argyle

Players In: River Allen (MF, Academy), Aaron Bentley (Academy, CB), Deane Smalley (ST), Lee Cox (MF), Peter Hartley (DF), Kelvin Mellor (DF), James Bittner (GK), Carl McHugh (CB), Reuben Reid (ST), Oliver Norburn (MF), Anthony O'Connor (DF, Loan).  

Players Out: Maxime Blanchard (CB), Romauld Boco (MF), Jake Cole (GK), Matt Parsons (LB), Neal Trotman (CB), Isaac Vassell (ST), Luke Young (CM), Andres Gurrieri (MF), Durrell Berry (RB), Conor Hourihane (CM), Jamie Richards (CB, Loan).

"See ya lads"
Displaced as the biggest fish in the smallest pond by Portsmouth last year, Plymouth will once again be targeting a top-seven finish this time around. A 10th placed finish last term ensured steady progress for the Pilgrims, but with the solid signings of Ollie Nurburn and League Two powerhouse Reuben Reid, a player who performed well whilst on loan at Home Park last season, manager John Sheridan will be hopeful that his side have enough to progress in what is sure to be an average league. Losing captain and talismanic midfielder, Conor Hourihane to Barnsley is bound to be a big blow, but with Lee Cox and academy product River Allen potentially available to fill the void, Sheridan will be confident in his options. Defender Kelvin Mellor from Crewe is another inspired acquisition, and if Argyle can get all the parts to click and score more goals 

What the fan says: @crmedia1992, "I don’t like making predictions as I normally get bitterly disappointing when I get them wrong, but this season I am feeling quietly confident. Although having said that, Conor Hourihane’s transfer to Barnsley was a big blow, although Oliver Norburn has been brought in to fill the void, and has performed well alongside Lee Cox in pre-season. The signing of Reuben Reid provided another huge boost after his spell here last season, and with Peter Hartley, Kelvin Mellor and Carl McHugh at the back, we should be a lot harder to break down this season. Their experience and recent stints in League One last season will be a massive plus point for us. Taking all of this into consideration, I feel as though Argyle will finish 5th. We have the potential to finish higher, but let’s wait and see what the season brings."

Murphy's Best Bet: Plymouth to be the best South-West club, 5/4 with William Hill. 


Portsmouth

Players In: Ben Close (Academy, MF), Paul Jones (GK), Michael Poke (GK) Craig Westcarr (ST), Danny Hollands (MF), James Dunne (MF), Nigel Atangana (MF), Miles Storey (ST, Loan), Alex Wynter (DF, Loan). 

Players Out: George Branford (CM), John Sullivan (GK), Ashley Harris (ST), Jake Jervis (ST), Yassin Moutaouakil (RB), Marcos Painter (LB), Thery Racon (MF), Bondz N’Gala (DF), Romain Padovani (DM), Josh Warren (CB), Liam Triggs (RB), Phil Smith (GK), Simon Ferry (MF), Sonny Bradley (DF),

Having found their feet last season in League Two, it’s safe to say bigger and better things are expected of Portsmouth this time around. After being tipped for promotion at the beginning of the last campaign, Pompey never really got going, largely due to a mixture of awful away form and inconsistent home performances. Three managers later however, and Andy Awford appears to be the man to lead Pompey forward. The dross has been cleared out, two season long loans have been confirmed and the very pleasing signing of former Charlton man, Danny Hollands has been made. With a confident blend of youth and experience, more is expected of the Fratton Park outfit this season, with a top seven finish the target for the Pompey faithful. 

What the fan says: @FrattonFaithful, "Expectations are high following a summer where all of the dead wood players were released and some seemingly higher quality players were brought in to mount a promotion push. On paper, Pompey look to have the strongest midfield in the division (Barcham, Wallace, Hollands, Dunne, Fogden), which is capable of scoring plenty of goals and the forwards offer a good variety of attacking options. The only real worry about the team is the defence which lacks pace and has leaked goals in pre-season although Awford says that he will fix the issue. Awford is inexperienced in first-team management but he seems to know what he is doing and with young players like Jed Wallace and Jack Whatmough who can flourish this season, the play-offs will be a minimum requirement, although automatic promotion should undoubtedly be the aim."

Murphy's Best Bet: Portsmouth to make the play-offs, 11/4 with SkyBet. 

Shrewsbury Town

Players In: Jason Leutwiler (GK), Mark Halstead (GK), Scott Vernon (ST), James Caton (W), James Wesolowski (MF), Mickey Demetriou (DF), Cameron Gayle (DF), Nathaniel Knight-Percival (DF), Mark Ellis (CB), Jean Louis-Akpa-Akpro (ST), Ashley Vincent (W/ST), Jordan Clark (W), Liam Lawrence (MF), Andy Robinson (W), James Collins (ST), Andy Mangan (ST).

Players Out: Joe Anyon (GK), Asa Hall (RM), Joe Jacobson (LB), Alex McQuade (CB), Paul Parry (LM), Luke Summerfield (CM), Chris Weale (GK), Tamika Mkandawire (CB), Dave Winfield (DF), John Marsden (ST), Tom Bradshaw (ST), Jon Taylor (MF).

Mickey Mellon poses for the cameras. 
After relegation from League One last term, it’s fair to say that the Shrews board are pinning their hopes on an instant return, with a clearly significant financial outlay being spent on the playing budget this season. While key men Tom Bradshaw and Joe Jacobsen may have left, manager Micky Mellow has acted to bring in tried and tested performers that should do the business in League Two. One of the main acquisitions, midfielder James Wesolowski from Oldham, turned down a new contract at Boundary Park to move to the Greenhous Meadow, a sure sign of Town’s ambitions for the season ahead. Recapturing striker James Collins, the man who scored the goal to send the Shrews into League One is also a solid buy, while Liam Lawrence brings with him invaluable Premier League experience. Midfielder Ashley Vincent also has a point to prove after stalling at Cheltenham last year, as does manager Micky Mellon; sacked by Fleetwood over a year ago. Shrewsbury tend to be solid at home in League Two, and if they can replicate that this time around, they’ll be in with a very good shout towards the end of the season once again.

What the fan says: @AlexCrossan, "New manager, Micky Mellon, has come in and completely revamped the dire Shrews of last season with an impressive squad for the upcoming League Two campaign; signing the likes of Liam Lawrence, James Collins and Scott Vernon. Make no doubt about it, we are spending big in the pursuit of promotion and the fans are expecting it, although it will be tough with so many quality players in the league this year. My player to watch out for this season is hard to pick but I'll have to go with young Ryan Woods. ‘Woodsy’, broke onto the scene at right back last season but playing in his preferred centre mid role he will easily be one of the best in the league at only 20 years old. Hoping for a memorable one under MM this year. UP THE TOWN!"

Murphy's Best Bet: Shrewsbury to finish top relegated team, 2/1 with SkyBet. Promotion at 5/2 with StanJames.

Southend United

Players In: Jack Bridge (MF, Academy), Ellis Brown (Academy, ST), Myles Weston (LW), Lee Barnard (ST), David Worrall (MF), Mads Ibenfeldt (DF), Isaac Layne (ST), Shaquile Coulthirst (ST, Loan).

Players Out: Freddy Eastwood (ST), Mark Phillips (CB), Marc Laird (CM), Anthony Straker (LM), Seedy Njie (ST), Ryan Auger (RM), Bedsente Gomis (DF), Luke Chambers (GK).  

They may have left it late in the day, but Southend have finally added some much needed attacking talent in this transfer window. The signing of highly rated Spurs forward Shaquile Coulthirst on a season long loan should provide ample competition for fans favourite Barr Corr, giving Southend far more of a cutting edge up front. Moreover, given Phil Brown’s recent success rate with loan signings, it could prove to be an inspired piece of business for the Shrimpers. Elsewhere tricky winger Myles Weston should fit right in to the XI, while impressive youngster Isaac Layne joins from Billericay. It leaves United with a good looking squad for the season ahead, especially in the midfield where Kevan Hurst will likely be the focal point once more. Losing Michael Timlin for three months is a blow, and I feel as though the defence could be stronger, but the Shrimpers should still be good value for a play-off charge once again. 

What the fan says: @AllAtSeaFanzine, "Failure to get promotion out of League Two has traditionally resulted in Southend's best talent leaving for pastures new. However, this year, Phil Brown has kept hold of the likes of Ryan Leonard, Kevan Hurst and Daniel Bentley. With Barry Corr always reliable for goals and a nuisance factor, the only areas of concern are in central defence, where the absence of loanees John Egan and Jakub Sokolik will leave a void, and in attack - Lee Barnard has failed to hit the net from open play since signing in January. New signing Myles Weston has looked sharp up front in pre-season, scoring four goals. Supporters will expect Brown's side to at least make the play-offs, but the competition promises to be a lot stronger than last time around."

Murphy's Best Bet: Southend to make the play-offs, 4/1 with SkyBet. 

Stevenage

Players In: Ryan Johnson (Academy, DF), Sam Beasant (GK), Ronnie Henry (RB), Chris Whelpdale (MF), Chris Beardsley (ST), Andy Bond (MF), Simon Walton (MF), Harry Worley (CB), Charlie Lee (DF), Dean Wells (DF), Tom Pett (ST), Adam Marriott (ST), Calvin Zola (ST).

Players Out: James Dunne (MF), Francois Zoko (ST), Dani Lopez (ST), Craig Reid (ST), Oumare Tounkara (ST), Jimmy Smith (MF), Anthony Furlonge (DF), Jordan Burrow (ST), Matt Ball (MF), Sam Wedgbury (MF), Michael Thalassitis (ST), Steve Arnold (GK), Simon Heslop (MF), Luke Jones (CB), Peter Hartley (DF), Lucas Aikins (ST), Luke Freeman (W), Joseph N'Guessan (W, Loan).

One of the few men more despised than Steve Evans.
Having suffered relegation from League One last term, Graham Westley and Stevenage appear well placed to make a good challenge for an immediate return.  The signings of the experienced Andy Bond, Chris Whelpdale and Simon Walton improve a midfield that is now without both James Dunne and Simon Heslop following their exits. Francois Zoko is also a loss, but in Calvin Zola, the Boro have a readymade and proven replacement. Potentially the most exciting signing however, providing he features, is that of 22 year old forward Tom Pett who joins from Wealdstone after scoring 18 times to help seal the Stones promotion to the Conference South last season. If all of the cogs fit together, their form at Broadhall Way is solid and a consistent striking partnership is formed, expect Stevenage to mount a significant challenge for the top seven and possibly the top three. 

What the fan says: @Govey24, "To say the last few years as a Stevenage fan have been difficult would be an understatement. We've been in freefall ever since a 1-0 defeat at Colchester began the end of our brief stint at the top end of League One. Things got worse the following season and relegation to League Two appeared imminent. An overhaul of players, however, and a newly instilled work ethic, as well as a promising pre-season (barring a 1-0 defeat to Barnet...) has given the Boro faithful plenty of confidence for the upcoming season. There were few shining beacons last season, but keeping Roarie Deacon and Dean Parrett could prove crucial. The return of Ronnie Henry could also be vital in instilling that classic attitude that has brought us so much success in the past. Optimism hasn't been this high for a while. Prediction- 3rd"

Murphy's Best Bet: Calvin Zola to finish top goalscorer, 40/1 at Coral. 

Tranmere Rovers

Players In: Sam Ramsbottom (Academy, GK), Michael Ihiekwe (CB), Kayode Odejayi (ST), Danny Woodards (RB), Eliot Richards (ST), Matt Gill (MF), Marcus Holness (DF), Marc Laird (MF), Clayton McDonald (DF). 

Players Out: Ryan Lowe (ST), Ian Goodison (CB), Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro (ST), Callum Morris (RB), Steve Jennings (CM), Andy Robinson (W), Evan Horwood (DF), Ash Taylor (DF), Jason Mooney (GK), James Wallace (MF).

From Championship promotion contenders to relegation from League One in the space of 18 months, it’s been a torrid turn around for Tranmere Rovers. But in some ways, perhaps it is a welcome one. Relegation gives Rovers the chance to rebuild, gain momentum and have a more solid crack at League One in the future, although not everyone may see it like that. In their first season in League Two/Division Four in a quarter of a century, wholesale changes have been made in order to bounce back at the first attempt. A number of key performers from last season have left Prenton Park in favour of tried and tested League Two experience, particularly in the forward area where both Kayode Odejayi and Elliot Richards, both of whom performed well last season, have been brought in. The trio of Michael Ihiekwe, Danny Woodards and Marcus Holness also have League Two experience, and as such should shore up the back line well. Taking everything into account, I can see Rovers maintaining  a mid-table finish this season, although if all goes well, don’t expect them to be too far away from the play-off places.

What the fan says: @ZaaanderSmith, "What with having a disastrous season last year and being relegated, I'm hoping for a better one this term! Being in League 2 for the first time in 25 years the club have taken on a new approach with things, appointing new manager Rob Edwards as well as a new coaching staff. With the budget being tight and virtually the whole squad of last season leaving, Edwards has said he wants a tight knight side this season. We have made some good signings with plenty of League 2 experience, but the one the fans are the most glad about is creative midfielder Jason Koumas penning a new deal for this season. If Tranmere can keep him fit I'd be more than confident of us securing a playoff place but I think this season is most about steadying the boat and a chance for Edwards to bring some new young talent through on his first managerial job, with that and promotion being the key aim with the clubs new regime."

Murphy's Best Bet: Tranmere to finish in the bottom half, Evens with BetVictor. 

Wycombe Wanderers

Players In: Aaron Pierre (DF), Paul Hayes (ST), Sido Jombati (LB), Nathan Evans (W), Peter Murphy (RB), Alex Lynch (GK), Joe Jacobson (DF), Danny Rowe (DF, Loan), Nicky Walker (AM, Loan).

Players Out: Marvin McCoy (RB), Leon Johnson (CB), Lee Angol (ST), Jesse Kewley-Graham (DF), Jo Kuffour (ST), Anthony Jeffrey (RW), Dean Morgan (ST), Jon Paul-Pittman (ST), Matt Spring (CM).
   
Wycombe survive. 
The greatest comeback since Lazarus, or the greatest escape since Houdini – that’s the only way to describe Wycombe’s last day heroics last term. After looking dead and buried in the penultimate match, the Chairboys pulled off an extraordinary result at Torquay to condemn Bristol Rovers to relegation down to the Conference on the final day. Now fully recharged, Wanderers fans will be looking for a much quieter campaign this time around. On paper, Wycombe appear to have a relatively decent squad. But in practice, I feel as though it’s far too hot/cold. An unhealthy reliance on forward Matt McClure does little to improve matters, especially given their dire need to be more consistent at Adams Park. Coupled with the tactical inaccuracy of boss Gareth Ainsworth, a predicament lamented by their fans, it looks as though the Chairboys could be relegation contenders once more this time around.

What the fan says: @Alky007, "This promises to be a season of transition at Adams Park. Following the great escape on the final day, changes had to be made, and they have. Several high earners have left the club and have been replaced by new players who are hopefully hungry to succeed. The captures of Sido Jombati, Joe Jacobsen, Paul Hayes, Peter Murphy and Aaron Pierre are all very decent and much will be expected from them. If anything, we now seem to be a little heavy on midfielders. Hopefully we see another striker come in to add some competition as we are currently quite light up front. Hopes for the season are that we can do much better than last year and get a more comfortable mid table position. 

Murphy's Best Bet: Wycombe to be relegated, 6/1 across the board. 

York City

Players In: Femi Ilesanmi (LB), Jason Mooney (GK), Jake Hyde (ST), Dave Winfield (DF), Marvin McCoy (RB), Anthony Straker (W), Luke Summerfield (CM), Lindon Meikle (W). 

Players Out: Calvin Andrew (ST), Sander Puri (MF), Adam Reed (CM), Chris Dickinson (ST), Tom Allan (CB), David McGurk (CB), Harry Coates (MF), Tom Chamberlain (ST), Shaq McDonald (ST), Ryan Bowman (ST), Lanre Oyebanjo (DF).

After narrowly missing out on promotion last term following a stoic unbeaten run towards the end of the season, York City will be hoping to go one better this time around. Nigel Worthington has recruited well through the summer after losing a trio of key players in the heart of his defence by signing Dave Winfield and Marvin McCoy, both formerly of Wycombe fame (sic). Up front, Wes Fletcher and Ryan Jarvis will face competition from former Barnet hotshot Jake Hyde after the striker signed a three year deal at Bootham Crescent in the summer. As always, York will prove to be a difficult team to play against, with their rough and ready approach sure to ruffle a few feathers in League Two. If the Minstermen can combine last year’s terrific finish, and the season prior’s consistent start, City fans could see their side reach the play-offs once again this term. 

What the fan says: Mark, "So another season for City after coming close last time with an amazing run from January onwards, sadly we have lost Pope, Davies, and Oyebanjo from a rock solid defence to be replaced with Mooney from Tranmere, Ilesanmi from Daggers and McCoy from Wycombe. The key for us is the strong spine of the team with a very solid centre back pairing of Lowe and McCombe, proven midfield partnership in Summerfield and Penn, and the talented Fletcher up front alongside the nippy Hyde. Biggest question marks are down both wings, Worthington likes his full backs to bomb on and his wingers to track back and we will be starting with at least three of those four with new players until we see the return of Carson later in the year. I think this season could mirror the last one with it taking a while for the new players to bed in and when that happens and we get Carson back I expect us to go from strength to strength. For me it's going to be a stronger league this season and I fear the break up of that defence so I'm predicting us to finish just outside the play off places I'm afraid."

Murphy's Best Bet: York to make the play-offs, 4/1 with SkyBet.

There are of course plenty more transfer dealings that can be done, but as of 05/08/2014, the above are all of the current deals that have been completed. Several notable players, for example Gavin Hoyte, Dany N'Guessan, Lawson D'Ath, Francois Zoko and David Ngoo remain without clubs, and will likely be snapped up before the end of the window. 

And so there you have it, the most comprehensive and in detail look at League Two you're likely to read ahead of the upcoming season. Furthermore, if you followed my tips last season, you'd have earned over £400 for yourself; unfortunately however, I didn't. Make sure you follow me on Twitter, @NickMurphy1995 for more League Two related musings, thanks for reading!