means that Notts County, Yeovil Town, Leyton Orient and Crawley Town have joined us from League One, with Barnet and Bristol Rovers making the jump up from non-league. After summer soiree's in hotspots such as Spain (Wimbledon and Stevenage), Eindhoven (Dagenham), Portugal (Luton), Austria (Oxford), and, er, Scotland (Exeter), everyone's back and raring to go for the season ahead.
Players In: Max Halezdine (MF, Academy), Keenan Quansah (DF, Academy), Kealan Steenson (MF, Academy), Tom Davies (DF), Adam Morgan (ST), Matt Pearson (CM, DF), Sean McConville (MF), Billy Kee (ST), Ross Etheridge (GK), Jason Mooney (GK), Anthony Barry (MF), Joe Wright (DF, Loan).
Players Out: Michael Liddle (DF), James Jenkins (ST), George Bowerman (ST), Nicky Hunt (RB), Rob Atkinson (DF), Luke Joyce (MF), Kal Naismith (ST), James Gray (ST), Danny Whitehead (CM), Tony Warner (GK).
Automatically relegated by the bookmakers before the season has begun, Accrington look well placed to maintain their Football League status once again, 10 years after they first regained it. John Coleman has recruited impressively, bringing Billy Kee back to the club after a failed crack at League One, while another former player in Sean McConville adds vital experience to the midfield four years after he departed from the Crown Ground. Nicky Hunt, Rob Atkinson and Luke Joyce are three big losses for Stanley, but with four members of the youth side that reached the FA Youth Cup 4th Round two years ago handed professional deals, there’s hope that an emphasis on youth could be the answer for the John Coleman’s side. Regardless of that, the contract extension of key midfield Pierro Mingoia who scored eight goals for Stanley last season is welcome news with Accrington looking to punch above their weight once again next season.
What the fan says: @Baldy984: With John Coleman having pulled off the signings of former Stanley players Billy Kee and Sean McConville who helped us get to the play-off semi-final in 2011, as well as Matty Pearson and Adam Morgan, I'm quietly confident of having a good season. Moreover players akin to Matt Crooks have come back a totally different player from last season. Crooks in particular is a lot more confident and has started scoring in pre-season, a trait unseen from him in the last campaign. Our player to look out for is choice between fans favourite Pierro Mingoia, and Josh Windass who had a great end to last season. The bookmakers have us down for being bottom of the pile come the end of the season but as John Coleman once said "One day they'll learn, won't they.”
Murphy's Best Bet: Accrington to finish higher than York (13/8, SkyBet) or Accrington to finish top half (3/1, SkyBet).
Players In: Jon Meades (LB/MF), Andy Barcham (W/ST), Karleigh Osborne (CB), Tom Elliott (ST), Lyle Taylor (ST), Paul Robinson (CB).
Players Out: Sammy Moore (MF), Ross Worner (GK), Mark Phillips (DF), Jack Smith (DF), Alfie Potter (CM), Dan Agyei (ST).
|The best metaphor.|
What the fan says: Ollie Tucker: Dons fans have cause to be optimistic. After two disappointing campaigns, there are strong feelings among Wimbledon fans that this is Neal Ardley's last chance to prove he has what it takes to get us out of this league. For the first time in our league history, we haven't had a large turnaround of players. The revolving door seems to have stopped halfway, with only 5 players leaving the club, as opposed to around 10 or 11 in past seasons. Performances in pre-season friendlies have also been very promising. We also seem to be producing youth players for the first team squad now, most notably Will Nightingale who has slotted into the CB role and looks set to be a starter. Having said ‘he dreams of leading the Dons out at New Plough Lane’, he is fast becoming a fan favourite, truly one of our own. In our 'Meet the Manager' event, Ardley stated that we will be playing primarily a 3-4-3 formation which will certainly be interesting. And with the strong pair of Tom Elliott and Adebayo Akinfenwa up top alongside the pacey Lyle Taylor, we seem to have a fairly varied attack. Pre-season friendlies have also been promising with solid draws against Watford, Millwall and Granada of Spain. Most fans are expecting a top ten finish this time around, although an aging midfield may be our downfall. I’ll predict a 6th place finish.
Murphy's Best Bet: AFC Wimbledon to finish top half (11/10, SkyBet), Wimbledon to finish top London club (3/1, BetVictor), Wimbledon to finish top of Group 'B' with Plymouth and Stevenage (13/2, Coral) or Lyle Taylor top goalscorer (25/1, SkyBet).
Players In: Joe Goater (DF, Academy), Charlie Kennedy (DF, Academy), Wes Fonguck (DF, Academy), Fumnaya Shomotun (MF, Academy), Ryan Gondoh (MF, Academy), Shane Cojocarel (MF, Academy), Tom Champion (MF), Ben Tomlinson (ST), Kevin Lisbie (ST), Gavin Hoyte (RB), Bira Dembele (CB), Shaun Batt (ST), Justin Nwogu (RW), Michael Nelson (CB).
Players Out: Lee Cook (W), Jack Saville (DF), Charlie MacDonald (ST), Sam Cowler (GK), Jon Nurse (MF), Luisma Villa (MF), David Stephens (DF), Keanu Marsh-Brown (W), George Sykes (ST), Iffy Allen (RW).
|"Yes, another pay rise after all I've done to these chumps!"|
What the fan says: @Luuuce_x: After spending the majority of last season at the top of the Conference, I’m confident we’ll fare a lot better in the Football League this time round. We’ve managed to keep hold of Martin and the majority of the squad – although we lost two excellent players in David Stephens and Luisma Villa (who returned to Spain). John Akinde netted 33 goals in all competitions last campaign and we’re hoping for more of the same! We’ve also signed experienced strikers in Kevin Lisbie and Shaun Batt, so plenty of attacking options to be pleased about. Eight of the academy squad signed their first professional deals in the close season, but in terms of young talent, look no further than Elliott Johnson and Mauro Vilhete. Left back Elliott has progressed from the youth team to become ever-present in our back four. He recently signed a two-year contract extension and has over 100 appearances to his name. Similarly, Mauro has been with us since the age of 16 and has grown so much in the last two seasons alone, becoming a regular starter. He scored both goals in our 2-0 win against Gateshead to secure promotion and thoroughly deserved the Player of the Month award he won in April. Compared to how it was when we first moved, the atmosphere at The Hive is a lot better too – so it can only be up from here. In terms of position, come May, I’d like to think we could push for mid-table, but in reality, I think we’ll finish 17th.
Murphy's Best Bet: Barnet to finish in the top half (11/10, Coral) or Barnet to make the play-offs (9/2 Ladbrokes).
In: Jay Malpas (MF, Academy), Tyler Lyttle (RB, Academy), Kieran Preston (GK, Academy), Ryan Broom (MF, Academy), James Clarke (DF), Cristian Montano (W/ST), Chris Lines (MF).
Out: Abdul Bell-Baggie (W), Andy Monkhouse (MF), Angelo Balanta (W), Neal Trotman (DF), Aaron Ward-Baptiste (ST).
Hotter on the heels of Barnet than the taxman was of Southend United last season, Bristol Rovers finished a point behind Martin Allen’s side in the league table. But with momentum on their side, victories over Forest Green and Grimsby Town in the play-offs followed to send the Gas back to whence they came, ending a single year of non-league exile. Rovers return to the league with renewed hope and a manager that has shown a genuine care and passion for the club, both in promotion and relegation. Furthermore, Clarke has opted to retain the majority of his squad, with just three incomings and three outgoings over the summer so far. If the Gas can continue their home form and the recent goalscoring exploits of Ellis Harrison, whilst addressing an away record (2 wins) which proved their undoing during their League Two relegation campaign; they should be looking at a lower mid-table finish.
Murphy's Best Bet: Bristol Rovers to finish in the bottom half (Evens, Paddy Power) or Ellis Harrison top goalscorer (80/1, Ladbrokes).
In: Leon Legge (CB), Mark Roberts (CB), Keith Keane (CM), Barry Corr (ST), Elliot Omozusi (RB), Luke Berry (MF), Daniel Carr (ST), Sam Beasant (GK), Jeff Hughes (MF), Connor Newton (ST), George Taft (LB, Loan).
Out: Matteo Lanzoni (DF), Mitch Austin (MF), Richard Tait (DF), Michael Nelson (DF), Ian Miller (CB), Luke Chadwick (MF), Ryan Bird (ST), Nathan Arnold (ST), Tom Elliott (ST), Tom Champion (MF), Liam Hurst (ST), Ayrton Bevins (ST), Johnny Hunt (MF), Bobby Joe-Taylor (LW).
|Dick Money showing the only way is up.|
What the fan says: This time last year, most of the fans didn't really know what to expect after 9 years playing Conference football. Some expected to see the side challenge for a play-off place, however the majority, including myself, said we'll simply be a mid-table side with neither promotion hopes nor relegation trouble. Sadly, both camps were wrong, as we endured a terrible time just after the Manchester Utd cup tie, and found ourselves having to look over our shoulders. Richard Money had kept faith in the players who got us up, but it was evident that most of them were not experienced enough to play in League 2, and changes had to be made.
Money has rectified this problem by bringing in 12 new faces so far, the majority of whom are experienced League 1 and 2 players, and that number could well increase by a couple of more signings. There's also Gearoid Morrissey, the Irish player Money signed during the season, who, although only featuring in 3 games last year because of injury, looks like a real exciting prospect, and we're all looking forward to his return this coming season. Naturally, these signings have gone down well with the U's fans, and now expectations are much higher. No one is saying they'll be happy with simply a mid-table finish, and most of us expect to mount a serious play-off challenge. Personally speaking, I won't be too disappointed if we fail in this objective, just as long as we put up a good fight, and still be in with a chance going into the last couple of months, and I'm getting the impression a lot of U's share this view. But the big question the United fans are asking is this - will the new faces settle down instantly or take a long time to gel? If Richard Money is able to get his players playing as a well-drilled side after a few weeks, then I think we're in for a good season!
Murphy's Best Bet: Cambridge to gain promotion (4/1, StanJames), or Cambridge to finish top half (8/15, Coral).
Players In: Connor Hammell (MF, Academy), Luke Joyce (MF), Michael Raynes (CB), Jason Kennedy (MF), David Atkinson (DF), Tom Miller (DF), Bastien Hery (MF), Jabo Ibehre (ST), Alexander McQueen (RB), Angelo Balanta (W), Kevin Osei (ST), Joe Thompson (RW).
Players Out: David Amoo (ST), Stephen Elliot (ST), Josh Gillies (MF), Sean O’Hanlon (CB), Matty Robson (W), David Symington (RB), Brad Potts (MF), Nathan Buddle (CB), Kyle Dempsey (MF), Anthony Griffin (MF), Mark Beck (ST), Billy Paynter (ST), Paul Thirlwell (DM), Jordan Marshall (LB).
|The brick and lipstick in question.|
Last season we had one of the youngest teams around, often fielding sides with five or six teenagers and an average age of 22. Since then we've let those who didn't measure up leave while the most promising ones have been poached. That leaves left back Patrick Brough as the only prospect remaining so he's our young player to watch by default, unless Connor Hammel is able to repeat Dempsey's success in his first professional season.
In previous seasons we’ve made disastrous starts that have left us bottom of the table with no win, no manager and an embarrassing goal difference by the first week in September. If perhaps with our added experience we can just avoid making such an awful start this time around then we're in uncharted territory, and hopefully can plod to mid-table obscurity. That really is all I can realistically hope for.
Murphy's Best Bet: Carlisle to be relegated (12/1, BetVictor), or Carlisle to finish in the bottom half (4/5, Betfair).
Players In: Simon Walton (MF), Joe McNerney (CB), Luke Rooney (MF), Shamir Fenelon (ST), Jon Ashton (DF), Freddie Woodman (GK, Loan), Callum Preston (GK), Roarire Deacon (ST), Lee Barnard (ST), Liam Donnelly (CB, Loan).
Players Out: Joe Walsh (DF), Marvin Elliott (MF), Brian Jensen (GK), Dean Leacock (DF), Charles Banya (MF), Emmett O’Connor (MF), Blair Anderson (MF), Bradley Isaacs (MF), Kelly Youga (DF), John Cofie (ST), Ryan Richefond (MF), Josh Simpson (MF), Ryan Dickson (DF), Matthias Pogba (ST), Dean Morgan (ST).
|"Yeah give us a gurn, Mark. The crowds love a good gurn".|
What the fan says: @CraigyBratt: After the emotional roller coaster of last season which ended in relegation to the fourth tier on the final day, it's been a summer of change in West Sussex. Dean Saunders was strongly back to permanently take his interim position as manager, but his departure to Chesterfield saw former Mark Yates take over the reins. One of his first jobs was bringing in his own players, and it was out with the old and in with the new as Joe McNerney, Simon Walton, Jon Ashton, Luke Rooney and local boy Shamir Fenelon all signed. It is Fenelon who is one to watch next season. After impressing for Torquay last season, the Crawley born former Brighton forward has impressed this pre-season. With a bit of re-structuring behind the scenes, a few more suitable, experienced signings and a more stable relationship between board and fans, the Reds should achieve a mid-table finish, although Yates has stated that the play-offs are his aim.
Murphy's Best Bet: Crawley to finish in the bottom half (4/7, Betfair), or Crawley to be relegated (9/1, SportingBet).
Dagenham & Redbridge
Players In: Nyron Nosworthy (CB), Matt McClure (ST), Josh Passley (RB), Matt Richards (CM).
Players Out: Abu Ogogo (RB/CM), Scott Doe (CB), Billy Bingham (CM), Luke Howell (CM), Joel Nouble (ST), Brian Saah (CB), Bradley Goldberg (ST).
|When your hat-trick is extra cheeky.|
What the fan says: Edward Johnson: 'Another season and another clutch of first team players gone for Daggers fans to mourn over. This time the core has been ripped out of the side, although that has been subset by the quality signings of Matt Richards in particular who has shone in pre-season. Yesterday's pre-season victory over Crystal Palace proves that on our day we have what it takes to mix it with the best, although whether that can manifest itself into the league remains another question. We have enough quality to avoid relegation, and in young player Jodi Jones we appear to have a real talent on our hands who will likely be the next one to leave the club for a good fee. Hopefully we can keep him for a while though as a move early on in a young players career isn't always the best choice. As for us, we have goals but our defence looks somewhat rickety, it could be another interesting season for Daggers fans!.
Murphy's Best Bet: Jamie Cureton to be top goalscorer (25/1, bet365), Dagenham to win group 'D' consisting of Accrington, Morecambe and Mansfield (11/2, Coral), or Dagenham to be bottom on 1st September 2015 (11/1, SkyBet).
In: Josh Read (DF, Academy), Josh Charles (W, Academy), Cameron Gill (ST, Academy), Alex Byrne (CM, Academy), Manny Oyeleke (MF), Lee Holmes (W), Bobby Olejnik (GK), Troy Brown (CB), Will Hoskins (ST).
Out: Clinton Morrison (ST), Liam Sercombe (MF), Pat Baldwin (CB), Graham Cummins (ST), Scot Bennett (DF), Jimmy Keohane (CM).
What the fan says: @ecfc32: I believe that this season will be a successful one. We've got the players, the coaching staff, and more importantly, the manager to make this season a success. The atmosphere around the club has been the total opposite to last season, seeing as then we had no money, not many players and a transfer embargo just to make sure. This year however, it’s completely the opposite. We have money from the Matt Grimes sale, we’re attracting players that will help us mount a serious promotion challenge, the supporters & players know we can get promoted and it's going to be a good one! The two things that we do need, in my opinion is a target man up top to help young Tom Nichols (more about him soon!) and a big, horrible looking centre back to help out another of our stars for the future, Jordan Moore-Taylor. We need that someone to take command at the back, and be the rock of the defence that we've been missing the last couple of seasons. A player to look out for this season will definitely be young Tom Nichols. He's got raw talent that you can clearly see and has an eye for goal, which as a striker, is always a bonus! The young lad has the potential to score 25+ goals this season, and with the midfield that we have behind him, I don't see why he can't and won't do it. A lot of higher league clubs will be looking at him, and if his season is as impressive as last season, I can see him being at least in the Championship in the 2016/2017 season.
Murphy's Best Bet: Exeter to win the play-offs (28/1, Boylesports), or Exeter to make the play-offs (6/1, Boylesports).
Players In: Rakish Bingham (MF), Rhys Oates (ST), Harry Worley (DF), Carl Magnay (DF), Jake Carroll (LB), Trevor Carson (GK), Billy Paynter (ST), Kudus Oyenuga (W), Adam Bartlett (GK), Peter Denton (GK).
Players Out: Marlon Harewood (ST), Jack Compton (MF), Darren Holden (LB), Jonny Maxted (GK), Tommy Miller (MF), Stuart Parnaby (RB), Jonathan Franks (ST), Scott Flinders (GK), Neil Austin (RB).
|Carl Magnay an excellent addition.|
What the fan says: Glasshalffullpools, www.onefootballforum.co.uk: Pools fans for the first time in 5 years are feeling optimistic, you have to realise we have gone from mid-table League One to 10 points adrift at the bottom of League Two in the blink of an eye. Ronnie stepped in and saved us and now we are at the start of stage two. We easily have a better squad than last season, then again so did the team finishing 4th bottom! The question I have is, if Ronnie can get a bottom of the table squad playing like a mid-table one, can he get a mid-table squad playing like a promotion squad? For I feel that is the type of team we have assembled. Bearing in mind the dross we have been dished up here over the last 5 years it’s no wonder some of us (not me obviously!) have been getting a bit excited at the signing of Rakish Bingham. But if you are going to watch us when we visit your side I would ask you to look out for one of our youngsters who was here before Ronnie. He has improved beyond belief in the last 6 months and his name is Michael Woods – a player who won’t be here in a year’s time because he is destined to get picked off by a club further up the ladder. As far as predicting where we finish, I learnt a long time ago to stop doing that! But I believe we will score more than we concede and win more than we lose. In summary, we have new owners, a new manager and a host of new players, what could possibly go wrong?!
Murphy's Best Bet: Hartlepool to finish in the bottom half (4/7, Betfair), or Hartlepool to bottom on 1st September 2015 (20/1, SkyBet).
Players In: Sandro Semedo (W, Academy), Sean Clohessy (DF), Sammy Moore (MF), Blair Turgott (W), Paul McCallum (ST), Ollie Palmer (ST), Frazer Shaw (LB), Connor Essam (DF), Alan Dunne (CB), Alex Cisak (GK).
Players Out: Scott Cuthbert (DF), Adam Legzdins (GK), Kevin Lisbie (ST), Elliot Omozusi (RB), Chris Dagnall (ST), Gary Sawyer (DF), David Mooney (ST), Romain Vincelot (CM), Darius Henderson (ST), Shaun Batt (ST), Marvin Bartley (MF), Nathan Clarke (DF), Andrea Dossena (LB), Giovani Plasmati (loosely described as ST), Josh Wright (CM).
|"I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing"|
|Alan Dunne a solid signing|
What the fan says: @Daniel_Slaw: 'Well after last season’s relegation Os fans certainly have been brought back down to Earth. The squad has been overhauled and new backroom staff appointed, indicating that we are going for a back to basics approach. Ian Hendon, former Captain of the club is now steadying the ship and his crew of nine new signings are on board as well as a whole starting eleven jumping ship. We have taken a youthful approach, which is very exciting as a fan looking in (but my feet are staying firmly grounded). In Pre-Season the manager has included players from our youth set up and a name that should be on everyone’s radar is Scott Kashket. Small in size he may be, but his work rate is reminiscent of last season’s top goal scorer Chris Dagnall who is now playing in India. Keep an eye out for the nineteen year old this season as he has featured heavily throughout pre-season grabbing three goals.
Promotion is on everyone lips after last season’s relegation, but with such a line up change it may take the squad some time to gel. I personally hope we are in around the playoff places at a minimum come the end of the season as if we fail to at least achieve that goal, our chairman could decide to get rid of Hendon as his track record of sacking and hiring managers in just one season is nothing short of ridiculous. Keep an eye out for new signing Paul McCallum as he has been banging in the goals over the summer. I would love us to get automatic promotion, but my heart tells me we will end up in the play-offs.'
Murphy's Best Bet: Leyton Orient to make the play-offs (10/3, Ladbrokes), or Orient to finish top London club (4/5, BetVictor).
Players In: Craig King (GK, Academy), Isaac Galliford (MF, Academy), Jack Marriott (ST), Scott Cuthbert (DF), Dan Potts (CB/LB), Cameron McGeehan (MF), Stephen O’Donnell (DF/RB), Josh McQuoid (ST), Danny Green (W), Magnus Okanghae (CB), Paddy McCourt (W), Mark O’Brien (DF), Craig Mackail-Smith (ST).
Players Out: Alex Wall (ST), Charlie Walker (ST), Jim Stevenson (MF), Kynan Isaac (MF), Ian Rees (MF), Charlie Smith (MF), Brett Longden (DF), Shaun Whalley (W), Danny Fitzsimons (LB), Ricky Miller (ST), Ross Lafayette (ST), Mark Cullen (ST), Fraser Franks (CB), Lee Angol (ST), Alex Lacey (CB), Andy Parry (CB), Andy Drury (AM).
|Oh Danny, we can't stay mad at you.|
What the fan says: @LTFC_Dave: It's been a busy transfer market with the most noticeable departures being Mark Cullen (Blackpool), Michael Harriman (loan ended), and Jake Howells (requested) leaving the club, however crucially, the players coming in have been on greater quality. Up front, Still has used his connections to persuade Craig Mackail-Smith to drop down to League 2, and with a lack of real "quality" strikers, the goals he can provide could be the difference maker with Paddy McCourt and Danny Green on either wings providing the ammunition for him. Despite looking strong defensively last year, the arrivals of Scott Cuthbert, Magnus Okuonghae and Mark O'Brien will ensure competition is rife for the centre back slot, whilst the arrival of Cameron McGeehan on a permanent deal was a massive coup for the club.
The bookies currently have us as joint second favourites for the title (only Pompey at shorter odds than us) and I think this is a pretty fair reflection. I think we'll be in the top 3 this season, alongside the aforementioned Pompey and Oxford. As a young player to watch, I have chosen former West Ham left back Dan Potts. The consensus amongst Luton fans is that he's arrived to provide competition for Scott Griffiths, but I think that he'll usurp him before too long and be one of the first names on the team sheet.
Murphy's Best Bet: Luton to win League Two (7/1, StanJames), Luton to win promotion (2/1, StanJames), or Luton to be top on 1st September 2015 (14/1, SkyBet).
Players In: Chris Spencer (MF, Academy), Conor Green (LM/LB, Academy), Anthony Dwyer & Chris Spencer (Academy), Mitchell Rose (MF), Malvind Benning (LB), Matt Green (ST), Lee Collins (CB), Chris Beardsley (ST), Adi Yussuf (ST), Nathan Thomas (W), Craig Westcarr (ST), Nicky Hunt (RB), Brian Jensen (GK), Scott Shearer (GK), Krystian Pearce (DF), Nathan Thomas (RW).
Players Out: Lee Beevers (DF), Alex Fisher (ST), Simon Heslop (MF), Ricky Ravenhill (MF), Michael Raynes (CB), Martin Riley (DF), Sascha Studer (GK), Matt Rhead (ST), Ritchie Sutton (DF), Junior Brown (MF), Ollie Palmer (ST), Michael Raynes (CB), Rakish Bingham (ST), Liam Hearn (ST).
|"Why is this scarf so heavy?"|
A new season and a new approach for Mansfield Town as the youthful Adam Murray takes charge of his first full campaign. Murray replaced Paul Cox last season, breathing new life into a club that had gone somewhat stale from Cox’s brand of more direct football. With a number of Cox’s failed signings now ousted from Field Mill, along with a man synonymous with Cox’s brand of football, Matt Rhead, the coming season should prove to be an interesting one if nothing else for Stags supporters. Four players have been handed professional contracts straight from the academy, while the return of Matt Green who scored 25 goals in Town’s promotion winning season from the Conference has raised spirits.Joining him at Field Mill is the promising Adi Yussuf who went one better than Green; scoring 26 goals for Conference North outfit Oxford City last season. If Town are to improve on last season’s paltry tally of 36 goals, Yussuf, Green or fellow new signing, the well travelled Craig Westcarr will be required to step up to the plate. Conceding goals was also a problem for the Stags last term, and although Scott Shearer a seven times promotion winner and Krystian Pearce have joined the ranks, Mansfield’s defence still looks vulnerable. Another mid-table campaign may be the best that can be hoped for once more for the Stags.
What the fan says: @CraigPriest14: This season has a feel of going back to the year dot. Adam Murray in the past 18 months has gone from exiled assistant manager loaned out to local non-league sides to being manager. When he took the reins from Paul Cox, he had a squad of his team mates and it was always going to be tough to change their mentalities and style of play. In January he tried to bring in his own players but couldn’t do that to excess without moving some on which sadly didn’t happen.
Now contracts have expired, he’s been able to wield the axe and put his stamp on Mansfield Town. The games so far in pre-season have been far less direct ala Cox and much more possession based which is what runs deep in Murray’s blood! We’ve held Championship MK Dons and a very strong Leicester City side to home draws and, finally, had a penalty which returning goal machine Matt Green tucked away, at the same end and in the same spot as his last goal which took us into the Football League before his exit to Birmingham. There’s nothing like picking up where you left off! Murray’s tenure has a good feel to it and whilst there are a few things which cause some worried “oohs” generally we are turning a corner and those jibes of “cheap option” are fading away. Murray is also using home grown talent having restructured the academy set-up, Jack Thomas and Liam Marsden will always be young ones to watch but are more established now, I’d keep an eye out for Joe Fitzpatrick (Midfielder) and Corbin Shires (Centre Back) – I think they will make a break through this year. I don’t do predictions but I think “positive progression” is imminent.
Murphy's Best Bet: Mansfield to win Group 'D' (7/2, Coral), or Mansfield to finish in the bottom-half (8/15, Betfair).
Players In: Charlie Bailey (MF, Academy), Jack Kelleher (MF, Academy), Tom Barkhuizen (ST), Lee Molyneux (W), Adam Dugdale (CB), Aaron Wildig (MF), Peter Murphy (MF).
Players Out: Padraig Amond (ST), Mark Hughes (CB), Andy Wright (RB), Ryan Williams (MF), Jack Sampson (ST), Declan Watson (DF), Will Bell (GK), Marcus Marshall (W), Andreas Arestidou (GK), Jack Redshaw (ST), Stewart Drummond (DM), Tom Stewart (GK).
|Murphy in action for Wycombe.|
Perennially tipped for relegation along with Accrington and Dagenham, Morecambe start the season as surprise sixth; yes you heard it right, sixth choice favourites for relegation. And with good reason. Despite often suffering from a slow start or a poor run towards the end of the season, in their seven years as a Football League club, Morecambe have never even come close to dropping back down into the Conference. Even with the loss of star striker Jack Redshaw to Blackpool ahead of the upcoming campaign, it appears unlikely that the Shrimps will find themselves embroiled in any relegation trouble. The five signings that Jim Bentley has made will all enhance the current squad. Peter Murphy excelled for Wycombe last season, Lee Molyneux is proven League Two quality, Tom Barkhuizen is young and has scored goals at this level before whilst Adam Dugdale, although currently injured will only improve a relatively tight back-line. Crucially talismanic midfielder Kevin Ellison has also been retained. The man opposition supporters love to hate has an outstanding return of 51 goals in 170 appearances for Jim Bentley’s side and will only add to that in the season ahead. With Jim Bentley at the helm and unlikely to move on any time soon, I make Morecambe this year’s dark horses for the play-offs.
What the journalist says: @AdamLordLM: Jack Redshaw's departure is the most significant thing to happen at the Globe Arena this summer. Although all are agreed his departure to Blackpool was right for player and club it does leave a big hole in The Shrimps squad. At the time of writing Jim Bentley was working hard to find a replacement, a signing that could have a big say in how Morecambe's season pans out. Despite being a comfortable 11th last time around they have once again been written off by the bookies as more likely to drop out of the Football League than challenge at the sharp end of the table. At the Globe Arena though all eyes are on improving on that and making a sustained run at the top seven, something which looked likely for large parts of last season before fading. New faces Aaron Wildig and Lee Molyneux have both impressed in pre-season and could provide much-needed goals from midfield that were lacking last season. That could help Morecambe make the jump into the play-offs but it remains a big ask in a division that looks as tough as ever. Watch out for young Aaron McGowan, a 19-year-old full back who is unlucky to find himself competing for a spot in the side with last season’s player of the year, Shaun Beeley.
Murphy's Best Bet: Morecambe to make the play-offs (9/1, Boylesports), or Morecambe to finish top-half (5/2, BetVictor).
Players In: Kieran Parselle (MF, Academy), Tom Owen-Evans (ST, Academy), Rhys Taylor (GK), Scott Barrow (DF), Lennell John-Lewis (ST), Alex Rodman (W), Danny Holmes (RB), Medy Elito (W), Matt Taylor (DF), Scott Boden (ST), Stanley Abborah (CM), Nana Ofori-Twumasi (RB), Nathan Ralph (LB),
Players Out: Lenny Pidgeley (GK), Aaron O’Connor (ST), Lee Minshull (MF), Andy Sandell (DF), Ryan Jackson (FB), Shaun Jeffers (ST), Joe Parker (ST), Max Porter (MF), Jamie Stephens (GK), Robbie Willmott (W), Ismail Yakubu (CB), Michael Flynn (MF), Kyle Patten (MF), Adam Chapman (MF), Darren Jones (CB).
Newport County are this season’s team to watch – but not necessarily for altogether positive reasons. New manager Terry Butcher has taken a chainsaw, an axe and then a flamethrower to last year’s side put together by Justin Edinburgh, getting rid of fifteen players including five, Lee Minshull, Ismael Yakubu, Andy Sandell, Aaron O’Connor and Adam Chapman who made a combined 196 appearances last season, with O’Connor top scorer on 11 goals. If you ever want to ask a manager how to make a mark on a new side, give Butcher a call. Butcher by name, butcher by nature. In their place are seven players from non-league football including the Conference top scorer from last season Lennel John-Lewis, Alex Rodman from Gateshead and Matt Taylor most recently of Cheltenham Town. It remains to be seen whether the Newport seven can make the step up, especially in the case of John-Lewis who has flattered to deceive before now at League Two level. Newport will however be getting proven quality in the form of Medy Elito, signed from Dutch side VVV Venlo. Elito has previously lit up the league with Dagenham & Redbridge and employed in the correct position can be a serious danger going forward. The big question is whether all of these new and thrown together components can work together under a manager who suffered relegation in his last managerial role at Scottish club Hibernian. Personally, I don’t think they can.
What the fan says: @Lauralizbethh: With Butcher wielding the axe on last season's squad, new faces arriving behind the scenes & the idea of a supporters trust run club closer to reality, it’s a hard season to predict. The budget being slashed represents a challenge for Butcher to improve on last season’s league finish, however I’m confident he’s is the right man to get the best out of a small budget & build a team to compete in this league. A new look squad includes Danny Holmes, Scott Barrow & Seth Nana Twumasi, all of whom look to be exciting prospects. Meanwhile at the age of just 17, Regan Poole looks set for another solid season in defence. Our options up front are also promising. With more training to get fully fit Scott Boden looks a great buy and along with John-Lewis & Alex Rodman they’ll hopefully get the County faithful cheering. For me though, Medy Elito is a stand out player that will excel in this league & be very important for us this season. With such a small squad still needing time to gel, any injury problems could cause issues, but I’d be happy with a mid-table finish in Butcher’s first campaign in charge.
Murphy's Best Bet: Newport to be relegated (5/1, BWin), or Newport to be bottom on the 1st September 2015 (7/1, SkyBet).
Players In: Sam Warburton (LB, Academy), Danny Clifton (CM, Academy), Alfie Potter (CM), Nicky Adams (MF), David Buchanan (LB), Josh Lelan (RB), Adam Smith (GK), Ryan Clarke (GK), Rod McDonald (DF), Sam Hoskins (ST).
Players Out: Matt Duke (GK), Darren Carter (CM), Lee Collins (DF), Ben Tozer (DF), Lewis Hornby (MF), Ross Perry (CB), Ian Morris (MF), Billy Bodin (LW), Tom Newey (DF), Shwan Jalal (GK).
|Meh, we like it open plan.|
For Oldham 15th in League One, see Northampton Town 12th in League Two. The Cobblers are the definition of a side that consistently middle half-way up the league, with a manager in Chris Wilder who doesn’t do much to set the pulses racing. But with a rumoured £1 billion Indian consortium looking to purchase the club, things could be about to change (Or alarm bells could start ringing). Either way Wilder appears to have retained the base of last season’s squad, although Ben Tozer and Lee Collins have both been released which could prove to be a mistake in the long run. One area Wilder has enhanced however is the midfield. Creative midfielder Nicky Adams has been brought in from Bury where he was placed on the transfer list, and if he can provide the ammunition for Marc Richards who hit 18 goals in just 31 appearances last term, the Cobblers could be onto a winner and a shout of a play-off place.
What the fan says: @Tylerjason_: 'Optimism and trepidation are the overriding feelings heading into a Northampton Town season that is likely to set the tone for the club’s future. Among all the goings on at Sixfields it's easy to forget there's actually a football team somewhere in the middle of it all. Work has stopped on a new stand that was due to be completed a year ago, leaving it to linger awkwardly like a fart at a funeral. The future is far from certain, notwithstanding the half-baked monstrosity on one side of the ground. Chairman David Cardoza confirmed he is looking to sell to an Indian consortium, the identity of whom is unknown but that hasn’t stopped the rumours, with reports of the leader’s wealth to be valued in billions.
Whilst the changes in ownership and their reputed riches are giving some excitement to the supporters, manager Chris Wilder knows he needs to deliver with what can certainly be considered ‘his’ squad. Nicky Adams looks to be the marquee signing of the summer from Bury and adds to an attractive looking forward line that includes Ricky Holmes and Lawson D’Ath behind striker Marc Richards. Wilder will need back up for last season’s top scorer, especially if Ivan Toney completes a move to Newcastle United. Wilder has also signed Alfie Potter and Ryan Clarke, who he worked with at Oxford United. David Buchanan and Josh Lelan have come in to shore up defensive options, but question marks still linger ahead of a campaign in which a top-seven finish will be expected.'
Murphy's Best Bet: Northampton to finish in the top half (4/7 Labdbrokes), or Marc Richards to be top goalscorer (12/1, bet365).
Players In: Jordan Richards (DF, Academy), Lartey Sarpong (RM, Academy), Scot Bennett (MF/DF), Rhys Sharpe (LB), Robert Milson (MF), Gill Swerts (DM/RB), Mawouna Amevor (CB), Jon Stead (ST), Graham Burke (ST), Filip Valencic (ST), Kyle de Silva (CM), Adam Campbell (ST), Julien Jenner (W), Genaro Snijders (W), Scott Loach (GK), Wes Atkinson (RB), Filip Valencic (ST), Stanley Aborah (CM).
Players Out: Mustapha Dumbuya (RB), Fabien Spiess (GK), Greg Tempest (MF), Cieron Keane (DF), Brad McGowan (DF), Hayden Mullins (CM), Drissa Traore (MF), Elliot Whitehouse (MF), Shaun Harrad (ST), Garry Thompson (ST), Jordan Cranston (FB), Gary Jones (CM), Balint Bajner (ST).
Another very intriguing club to keep an eye on this season are likely to be Notts County, now under the stewardship of Dutchman Ricardo Moniz. Unfortunately for Moniz his first month or so was hardly flying, unable to save County from relegation back to League Two six years after their last visit. And over the summer it’s been all change at Meadow Lane. Thirteen have departed from the banks of the Trent, with Hayden Mullins, Gary Jones and Garry Thompson leading the exodus from the Pies. In their place comes a mixture of experience and flair, both European and domestic. Filip Valencic comes from Slovenia, Julien Jenner, Genero Snijders and Mawouna Amevor are all Dutch whilst right-back Gill Swerts has 17 caps for the Belgian national side between 2006-2009. Snijders looks the pick of the continental crop having previously played for Vitesse and Willem II, and at 26 years of age should be in his prime. One player not in his prime, but still an excellent addition to League Two is Jon Stead; he joins Scot Bennett and Adam Campbell as the pick of the domestic players signed by County over the summer. Aside from player recruitment, home form will be imperative for County this term. The Pies recorded the lowest home points tally last season with a paltry 21, improvement is needed at Meadow Lane in order to get the results and perhaps more crucially in the long term, to get the fans back. County should be looking to make the play-offs at the very least this season, whether Moniz will still be in charge by the end of the season however remains open to speculation.
What the fan says: @Totk_10: 'As a team, and in some ways a club, Notts are completely unrecognisable from the wilting spineless mess that threw away survival in the last couple of minutes at Priestfield last season. Forced to adapt to the personnel and play dull direct football, few were impressed with Moniz’s ‘continental’ influence on the club after being appointed. However, that has been ceremoniously chucked out of the window over the summer with a focus on recruiting pace and creativity. What has followed has been an astonishing wave of transfer activity with 15 signings made so far and another few to come. A Togolese international, two Dutchmen, a Slovenian and two Belgians have all entered the fray, ranging from the genuinely exciting like Mawouna Amevor to the bizarrely nomadic Stanley Aborah. Obviously with these sort of signings we’ve been bombarded with the usual clichés about foreigners in lower league football but quietly we also possess a very strong spine of English players including our talisman Jimmy Spencer, Jon Stead, Rob Milsom, Liam Noble and the talented local boy Curtis Thompson who was raised around half a mile from Meadow Lane.
I’d love to throw a bold prediction in about our chances but frankly, I have no idea how we’ll do. On paper, it’s one of the strongest squads in the division with two or three big further additions promised – but on the flipside is the risk/reward aspect of a flair-packed enigmatic group. In terms of players to watch; the great Jimmy Spencer is fully recovered and far too good for this division, the aforementioned Thompson could be a very special holding midfielder who nets us a tidy sum at some point, and newly acquired Kyle de Silva has looked a revelation in pre-season.'
Murphy's Best Bet: Notts County to finish in the top 3 (13/2, Boylesports), County to be top Midlands club (7/1, Coral), or County to be the top relegated team (2/1, BetVictor).
Players In: Freddie Grant (FB, Academy), Robbie Cundy (CB, Academy), AJ George (MF, Academy), Kemar Roofe (ST), Liam Sercombe (MF), Ryan Taylor (ST), Sam Slocombe (GK), George Baldock (CB, Loan).
Players Out: Andy Whing (DF), Jonathan Meades (DF), Will Hoskins (ST), John Campbell (ST), Josh Shama (MF), Matt Bevans (MF), Jeremy Balmy (ST), Ryan Clarke (GK), Jamie Ashdown (GK).
Something sensational has happened at Oxford in the last 12 months. Michael Appleton has stayed at a football club! I know I can’t quite believe it either. But stay he has and summer recruitment has gone well for the Football League grasshopper, with Kemar Roofe who scored six goals on loan at the Kassam last season the pick of the bunch. He joins Ryan Taylor in putting pen to paper at the U’s in a coup which leaves United looking very handy in the forward department. Although some defensive experience has been lost with the departures of Andy Whing and goalkeeper Ryan Clarke (267 apps), Sam Slocombe on a permanent deal and George Baldock on loan fill the void nicely to leave the U’s contented with their summer dealings. For all my criticism of Appleton it appears as though he’s building a squad of players intent on playing football whilst retaining the importance of promoting from the academy, and with that in mind it’s hard to dismiss Oxford as contenders for a play-off spot and outsiders for an automatic place.
What the fan says: @EthanSimlett24: 'The buzz around the Kassam Stadium at this moment in time is something to behold! I have not experienced such excitement among Oxford fans for a very long time & a ball is yet to be kicked! With Stewart Donald, a lifelong Oxford fan purchasing a 10% share in the club, combined with Michael Appleton's ability to bring in his main transfer targets early on in the window, confidence for the new season is seemingly sky high. Kemar Roofe & George Baldock, who performed so admirably last season, were seen as the two key men to retain & to the surprise of many Oxford fans, this is exactly what happened. This coupled with the signings of experienced players Sam Slocombe, Liam Sercombe & Ryan Taylor, has given the squad a strong look. The academy, at long last, seems to have yielded some useful talent too - 3 potentially top drawer players to keep an eye out for are Callum O'Dowda, James Roberts & Josh Ashby. With all this being said, it would be seen as a massive disappointment if the U's were not to at least pinch a play-off spot.'
Murphy's Best Bet: Oxford to make the play-offs (13/5, Ladbrokes), or Kemar Roofe to be top scorer (20/1, bet365).
Players In: Louis Rooney (ST, Academy), Callum Hall (MF, Academy), Ryan Lane (LB, Academy), Gary Sawyer (DF), Jake Jervis (ST), Josh Simpson (MF), Graham Carey (MF), Gregg Wylde (MF), Hiram Boateng (MF, Loan).
Players Out: Jason Banton (MF), Dominic Blizzard (MF), Marvin Morgan (ST), Matt Lecointe (ST), River Allen (MF), Ollie Norburn (MF), Jamie Richards (DF), Paul Wotton (DF/MF), Lewis Allesandra (ST), Anthony O’Connor (CB).
|"I've never seen one of these in Scotland"|
Five seasons later and Plymouth’s fantastic supporter base still hasn’t seen them gain automatic promotion out of League Two. It’s an utter travesty really, and with last year’s failed play-off campaign now a distant memory following the dismissal of John Sheridan, it’s down to young Scotsman Derek Adams to try and direct the Pilgrims back to the third tier. On the face of it, there doesn’t appear to be too much upheaval since the end of last season. A defensive unit which conceded the league’s second lowest tally of just 37 goals remain largely intact, whilst 18 goal striker Reuben Reid remains and has Jake Jervis for company fresh from spells in Scotland and Turkey. Argyle’s potential problems however lay in midfield, where Jason Banton, Lewis Allesandra (although technically a striker) and loan star Bobby Reid have all departed, leaving behind a dearth of goals and creativity. New manager Adams has attempted to replace them with players familiar to him, a bold move and one that could prove a success just as easily as it could backfire. Hiram Boateng on loan from Crystal Palace is an astute signing and continues the recent connection between the two clubs. The play-offs will be the aim once again for the Home Park outfit, but in a much stronger league this time around it’ll be a far tougher ask.
What the fan says: @DaveWeeks20: 'If we can continue to improve season on season as we have done in the last few years, we should be looking at a 5th place finish! I'm hoping for the automatics though (along with the double being re-done over Exeter). We've got a young manager who has a huge hunger to get us out of this league and crucially has the charisma to make bold decisions and big changes when they’re needed. We’ve also signed Hiram Boateng on loan from Crystal Palace. He seems like he could play a big part in how we do. I don't know much about the bloke as I've never seen him play! However, he's a bit of a beast looking at him from photos and one of his goals on youtube looks fantastic. I do realise however that YouTube has the ability to make anyone look good. Crystal Palace fans rate him highly and believe he's unlucky not to have played more first team football with them which is only good news for us. Our own youngster to watch though is Ryan Brunt, well I say young he's 22 so not exactly young anymore in football terms! Hopefully he can find the net a bit more this season. Fans like him and he's on form in pre-season. He’s well built, tall and can be a real handful which usually goes quite well in League Two.'
Murphy's Best Bet: Plymouth to finish in the bottom half (Evens, SkyBet), or Reuben Reid to be top goalscorer (16/1, Coral).
Players In: Brandon Haunstrup (LB, Academy), Snorre Nilsen (CB, Academy), Chad Field (CB, Academy), Kyle Bennett (MF), Kal Naismith (ST), Enda Stevens (LB), Gary Roberts (MF), Adam McGurk (ST), Adam Barton (MF), Christian Burgess (CB), Michael Doyle (CM), Jayden Stockley (ST, Loan), Matt Clarke (CB, Loan), Ben Tolitt (MF), Gareth Evans (W).
Players Out: Nicky Shorey (LB), Dan Butler (LB), Tom Craddock (ST), Joe Devera (CB), Ben Chorley (DF), Danny East (DF), Wes Fogden (MF), Bradley Tarbuck (W), Ryan Taylor (ST), Jed Wallace (CM), Craig Westcarr (ST), Andy Barcham (W), Jonny Ertl (DM), Paul Robinson (CB), Nicky Shorey (LB).
|Pompey shouldn't be a crockett this season.|
Always the bookies first choice for promotion, this season there appears to be some foundation in their odds as favourites for the title. New manager Paul Cook has already experienced promotion from League Two with Chesterfield, and he brings with him a wealth of experience and talent in the form of twelve summer signings. Adam McGurk and Gary Roberts have both won promotion in the past two seasons, while Christian Burgess and Michael Doyle played at League One level last season for Peterborough and Sheffield United respectively. The loss of Jed Wallace to Wolves is a blow, but retaining the services of promising young centre-half Jack Whatmough ensures youth remains in the Pompey first XI. And with Matt Tubbs leading the line up front, the blues look to have a solid core that should enable them to challenge for promotion. What Pompey must do however is make an improvement on their away form. Away from Fratton Park, Portsmouth have accrued just eight victories in the last two seasons, an appalling record for a club with aims of automatic promotion. With Paul Cook in charge though, that should be rectified and a top seven finish will be a minimum requirement.
What the fan says: @FrattonFaithful: 'Expectations are higher than usual at Pompey now that there is a proven winner in charge. Paul Cook has recruited well over the summer, with he and the players under no illusion that promotion is the aim this season and anything less would be deemed unacceptable after two poor seasons in the basement division since the PST takeover. However, with so many new faces arriving the manager himself has admitted that his team are a work-in-progress and will take time to gel having culled the majority of last season's under-performing squad. Jed Wallace will also be a huge miss having been the outstanding player in the side last season and only time will tell if the likes of Kyle Bennett and Kal Naismith can come close to replacing him.
Not only that, but the squad still looks short in numbers, especially in defence following the surprising departure of Paul Robinson which now means the back four lacks experience and leadership. Extra cover in goal and up front is also required as an injury to a key player or two could really hamper Pompey's prospects of at least a top seven finish. Still, with one of the best players in League Two in Gary Roberts and arguably the best striker in the division in Matt Tubbs, this Pompey squad looks of better quality than last season and with a few more additions the aim of promotion whilst playing an attractive brand of football should be achievable under the club's latest manager.'
Murphy's Best Bet: Matt Tubbs to be top goalscorer (8/1, bet365), or Portsmouth to gain promotion (5/6, bet365).
Players In: Dale Gorman (MF, Academy), George Casey (MF, Academy), Dipo Akinyemi (ST, Academy), Mark Hughes (CB), Brett Williams (ST), Steven Schumacher (MF), Fraser Franks (DF).
Players Out: Jon Ashton (DF), Chris Beardsley (ST), Bira Dembele (DF), Roarie Deacon (DF/ST), Joseph N’Guessan (W), Fejiri Okenabirhie (ST), George Allen (DF), Sam Beasant (GK), Michael Richens (DF), Harry Worley (CB), Andy Bond (ST), Simon Walton (MF), Calvin Zola (ST), Darius Charles (CB), Dave Martin (LM), Conor Calcutt (ST).
|"I immediately regret this decision"|
After last season’s play-off failure and Graham Westley’s departure in the summer, it’s down to managerial virgin Teddy Sheringham to pick the troops up and try again over at Broadhall Way. The good news for Sheringham is that star midfielder Tom Pett has signed a new deal, while Brett Williams who has scored 39 goals in the last two years in the Conference joins from Aldershot. Those two as well as the rest of the Reds squad should only benefit from the experience that Sheringham is able to give them, potentially making the ‘Boro a dangerous attacking outfit in the season ahead. At the back however the experience of Jon Ashton, Darius Charles and Bira Dembele has been lost, with Mark Hughes and Fraser Franks their replacements. While the base of last season’s squad has been retained the team remains dangerously thin on the ground, although the promotion of youth, particularly in the case of young Northern-Irish forward Ben Kennedy is to be admired. In a year when most of the league’s top sides have strengthened, a Stevenage side lacking the brutality and ruthlessness of Graham Westley could struggle. On the other hand a more expressive and creative manager such as Sheringham could see the ‘Boro flourish. It’s one that could go either way, but I’m more inclined to say mid-table at best for the Lamex outfit.
What the fan says: @Govey24: 'After two seasons of decline, last season showed a side finally ready to push back up to the higher reaches of the Football League, with a spirited defeat to Southend in extra time ending Boro's hopes of attending Wembley and returning to League One at the first time of asking. The core squad remain together, which is something we've missed in the last few seasons, with three consecutive seasons of wholesale changes. That said, a huge change has occurred in management, with Teddy Sheringham taking the reins from Graham Westley, who saw out his contract. The board decided it was time for a radical new direction, with Graham Westley having been at the club for eight of the last twelve seasons. It's a risk, but a calculated risk. Teddy has been there and done it all as a player. Coached by the likes of Sir Alex, Clough and Venables, he'll undoubtedly have plenty of wisdom and knowledge to inspire this relatively youthful squad. The main concern at the moment is the lack of transfer activity and the squad size. Injuries have already hit the camp, with players from the youth squad playing a significant role in pre-season. Whether they'll play their part in the regular season remains to be seen. Essentially all of this is a step into the unknown.
One player to look out for is Adam Marriott, who scored 45 goals in 42 Cambridge City appearances before joining us last season. It was an injury ravaged year for Adam though, and the striker only made thirteen appearances, scoring three goals. If he can stay fit, then the potential for Adam to develop under a Champions League winning striker is frightening. Adam staying fit could well be the fine line between play-offs and mid-table.'
Murphy's Best Bet: Stevenage to finish bottom half (19/20, Betfair), or Stevenage to make the play-offs (4/1, Ladbrokes).
Players In: Garry Thompson (ST), Ryan Sellers (LB/LM), Anthony Stewart (CB/RB), Jason Banton (W/ST), Danny Rowe (CM/CB), Michael Harriman (RB, Loan), Luke O’Nien (MF), Stephen McGinn (MF).
Players Out: Peter Murphy (MF), Steven Craig (ST), Hogan Ephraim (LW), Matt McClure (ST), Charlie Horlock (GK), Nathan Evans (LM), Tommy Fletcher (CB), Stewart Bannister (Kitman).
|Ainsworth looking to be top of the pops.|
After two years of polarity between relegation and promotion contention, Wycombe fans could be forgiven for wanting a rest this time around. Wanderers came within minutes of promotion to League One in May, but they’ll have to go again this term with a squad that once again appears to be lacking in depth. Whilst a smaller squad is excellent for moral, it often takes its toll on players towards the end of the season when the demands of the league catch up on them as was the case for the Chairboys last season. LMA manager of the year Gareth Ainsworth has made solid if unspectacular business, shoring up the defensive line with the acquisitions of Anthony Stewart and Michael Harriman, whilst adding flair into the midfield by poaching Jason Banton from Plymouth and bringing him back closer to his London home. Losing Peter Murphy to Morecambe is a blow after the midfielder netted an impressive seven goals last season, and with Sam Saunders returning to Brentford after a loan spell, the signing of Banton appears all the more important. Wycombe used the loan market effectively last season and expect them to do so again, with the aging Paul Hayes and Garry Thompson the sole strikers at the club. With so many sides having strengthened so well in the close season, another push for the top three is a tough ask for the Chairboys. The play-offs will likely be the aim for Gareth Ainsworth, and with a bit of luck and an astute loan signing here and there there’s no reason why that target is not achievable.
What the fan says: Lisa Bowker: 'As Wycombe fans we have to manage expectations after our phenomenal success last season. However, Gareth Ainsworth has again brought in some quality players, a mixture of youth and experience that adds to last season’s squad that will certainly keep us in the top half of the table and should enable us to push for promotion once more. However with some very strong sides and a lot of money being spent elsewhere, we still have the smallest squad and budget.
The Adams Park pitch has also been replaced and hopefully this will improve our home performances. We had the best away record in the entire Football League last year and I see no reason why that can’t continue. At the back we hoped Alfie Mawson would sign for us but Anthony Stewart has returned to the club and is a strong centre-back. Despite being solid in defence, he can score goals and will partner Aaron Pierre with Jombati and Jacobson either side at RB and LB. Through existing players and new additions, we have a team that will give everything for their manager and will never know when they are Beaten. Striker Aaron Holloway is one to watch. Has been nurtured by Ainsworth and his staff after being plagued by injury but looks strong and this could be his season. Youngleft sided player Ryan Sellers has also shown what he is capable of in the pre-season friendlies and hopefully that can translate into the league.
Most people are expecting Wycombe to be up there with Oxford, Portsmouth and Notts County and I agree with them! We will produce another successful campaign and put right the heartbreaking defeat at Wembley to gain automatic promotion.'
Murphy's Best Bet: Wycombe to make the play-offs (4/1, Ladbrokes), or Wycombe to finish top half (4/5 Coral).
Players In: Matt Dolan (MF), Jack Compton (W), Marc Laird (MF), Ben Tozer (CB), Jordan Gibbons (MF), Shaun Jeffers (ST), Omar Sowunmi (DF/CB), Jamie Burrow (AM), Stephen Arthurworrey (DF, Loan), Ryan Dickson (DF), Ryan Bird (ST), Wes Fogden (CM), Iffy Allen (W), Alex Lacey (DF), Matt Dolan (DM).
Players Out: Craig Eastmond (CM), Nathan Ralph (LB), Sam Hoskins (ST), Joel Grant (ST), Gozie Ugwu (ST), Kieffer Moore (ST/DF), Seth Ofori-Twumasi (LB), James Hayter (ST), Alex Smith (DF), Liam Davis (MF), Fergus Bell (MF), Sam Foley (MF), James Berrett (MF), AJ Leitch-Smith (ST), Adam Morgan (ST), Joe Edwards (RB), Gareth Stewart (GK).
|"I've never been this low in the table before"|
After suffering successive relegations things can’t get much worse for Yeovil Town. Paul Sturrock was installed as the new manager following Gary Johnson’s sacking towards the end of last season, and with 32 players combined through the doors at Huish Park it promises to be a fresh start for all concerned. And it needs to be. Town were relegated with a pathetic 36 goals scored last season, the lowest in the league, and with 75 conceded at the other end it’s easy to see why the Glovers finished 12 points adrift of safety at the bottom of League One. Things are looking more positive for the season ahead however. Ryan Bird who has scored goals wherever he’s been in spite of limited opportunities appears to be the marquee signing, while Mark Beck will be hoping for similar fortunes to former Glover Paddy Madden who like Beck made the move from Carlisle to Yeovil. Ben Tozer, Marc Laird, Wes Fogden, Ryan Dickson and Matty Dolan should also be familiar names to those with League Two knowledge. If they can all bed in, Paul Sturrock appears to have assembled a solid if unspectacular core to his side. The problem once again however looks as though it will be finding net. In spite of the signing of Ryan Bird, creativity looks sparse elsewhere and with a dearth of recognised, proven forwards at the club; it’s likely someone will need to step up. A season of stabilisation beckons for the Somerset club, with avoiding a triple relegation and stemming the losing mentality currently instilled at the club the immediate priority.
What the fan says: Alex Porter: 'With two seasons of misery and crushing defeats (albeit one season in the Championship), all we Yeovil fans want is a side that can win a few games, especially at home! Last season was miserable for us, FA Cup tie against Man Utd aside. Paul Sturrock is a man with lower league knowledge though and the player's he's brought in seem to suit as well which should allow us to finish in mid-table at the very least. This is an important season for us, and so long as we don't get off to a poor start I think we'll be fine under Sturrock. Hopefully we make the top twelve!'
Murphy's Best Bet: Yeovil to be relegated (15/1, 10Bet), or Ryan Bird top goalscorer (80/1, bet365).
In: Callum Rzonca (MF, Academy), Ben Godfrey (CB, Academy), Vadaine Oliver (ST), George Swan (DF), Scott Flinders (GK), James Berrett (MF), Eddie Nolan (DF), Mark Beck (ST), Tarane Hare (CB).
Out: Wes Fletcher (ST), Ryan Jarvis (ST), Lewis Montrose (MF), Daniel Parslow (DF), Jason Mooney (GK).
|Goodbye to a famous old ground.|
Last but no means least (unless we’re ranking teams in terms of entertainment last season), is York City. Managed by a man with more draws to his name than an underwear model, City have become synonymous with a 0-0 home scoreline over the past two seasons. Russ Wilcox has sought to change that reputation over the summer however with the enterprising signing of, er, Vadaine Oliver. When you consider the Minstermen have let both Ryan Jarvis and Wes Fletcher leave Bootham Crescent, it’s evident that Oliver will need to improve on his albeit respectable tally of 7 goals in 30 games on loan at Mansfield Town last season. I have nothing against York per se, but when a striker with a relatively average goalscoring record is the best signing in a team that clearly needs improvement, I wouldn’t be massively upbeat for the season ahead. Especially with Wilcox in charge. The good news that comes with being an uninteresting side is that York’s defensive unit is largely solid; in-fact the Minstermen had one of the best defences outside of the play-offs last season. They have a team of workers which in essence is a good thing, players like Keith Lowe and Russell Penn are the sort that get fans on side and provide a good dose of morale to those involved. The problem is that with one half of the jigsaw complete, York lack the creativity, flair and goals to compliment their gritty determination. In their final season at Bootham Crescent I’d be surprised if the Minstermen made the top twelve, with a bottom half slog looking the more likely affair.
What the fan says: @JohnnyDobbo: 'In the end, it was quite comfortable. After sweating for much of the season, City found some home form in the last month of the campaign and ensured another season of League football with games to spare. That's really just the start of it. Russ Wilcox was working largely with the pile of dross signed by the previous manager. Of those, only captain Russell Penn began to look like quality under the new man, freed as he was of the burden of doing the job of two or three men in the midfield. Slowly but surely, Wilcox has transformed the look of the squad, finding willing buyers for most of those that simply aren't good enough. A few remain, still on the transfer list, but the job is almost complete.
The problem last season wasn't conceding, but scoring. Nobody got into double figures for the season and centre-back Keith Lowe came close to ending as the top scorer for the season. Loanees came and went, but only a couple impressed and then for not long enough. To this end, in comes Vadaine Oliver, but his goal-scoring record throughout his career doesn't inspire great confidence and goals again look in short supply. The loan market may well provide a solution once again. Despite that, the defence looks strong once again and there's an upgrade in goal too, so mid-table once again looks plausible. Anything comfortable will do. There are enough teams in division 4 that look appreciably worse and that's fine.
One to watch: George Swan
The 20-year old centre-back arrived in the off-season from Wolves. Formerly captain of Man City's U18s, he is the son of former York skipper Peter Swan. If he gets anywhere near the heights of his old man, we've got ourselves a good one.'
Murphy's Best Bet: York to be relegated (11/1, Coral), or York to finish bottom half (2/3, SkyBet).
Luton Town and Cambridge United dual forecast - 50/1 (SkyBet).
Portsmouth and Luton Town straight forecast - 25/1 (SkyBet).
And there you have it. The most comprehensive League Two preview you're likely to read before the weekend, with my take on things, a fans view if you completely disagree and twenty four bets that over the course of the last two seasons would have earned supporters in the region of £600. All that's left to say is good luck to everyone for the season ahead, and make sure you keep up to date with my musings on Twitter if you're that way inclined using @NickMurphy1995.
If anyone is looking for a forum to use to discuss the leagues, transfers and games for the upcoming season I also recommend One Football Forum (www.onefootballforum.co.uk), the best of its type on the internet.
Thank you for reading!