League One continues to be the testing ground for those in the Football League who aim to push towards the top level of the English Football Pyramid. Adam Johnson looks at what we can be looking forward to in the months ahead…
We’ve only been away a year but it’s nice to be back. The phrase goes that you don’t know what you had until you lose it and being in League Two, even if it was one of the best seasons we’ve had in recent times, didn’t feel right.
To me, Swindon is the definition of a League One club. We’re one of many sides that could make The Championship if on form but if not you get left behind. It can be the trap door to the bottom tier or it can be the start to a glorious future.
We’ve experienced the highs of being just a bad piece of turf away from potentially taking a place in The Championship to the demoralising effect of going into League Two. We know what this league demands and it’ll be tougher, tighter and to get out of will be harder than a Darren Bullock tackle. That’s right, that hard.
However with this in mind Swindon is being tipped as promotion contenders which, given the signings we’ve made, isn’t a shock. It shows that the higher echelons of the Football Pyramid are where we belong to be. The club as a whole have made their intentions pretty clear, The Championship is the goal.
League One is slowly becoming an extension of The Championship with the sides that grace the league. We’ve had Leeds and Southampton in the past but now we have Sheffield United, Preston, Coventry, Doncaster, Scunthorpe and Portsmouth. All these sides, albeit with their struggles, are known for being on the top steps of the Football League ladder.
Preston, Sheffield United and Coventry are the ones of out that list that should set the pace in League One but, as Andy King use to always say, anyone in League One can beat anyone.
The Lilywhites have been the busiest this summer and they had to be. A club that has fallen apart in recent years needed a revamp and their first full season with Graham Westley could provide the kick start required.
If you thought Di Canio liked shopping, Westley makes him look like the guy who, when out shopping with his wife, just wants to go home. The former Stevenage boss told 21 players they could leave and has signed 13 new players so far in their place. The most recent was striker Lee Trundle but he suffered a knee injury in his first pre-season game and will now be out for four months.
A revamped squad will need time to gel but with the home support at Deepdale they could prove a dominant force depending on how they start. They’re still a club in hard times so success is not a given, but it’s certainly a strong possibility.
Sheffield United came so close last season to promotion but isn’t that the tale of Danny Wilson’s management career in recent years? The poor guy keeps getting close but falls at the last hurdle through no fault of his own.
The Blades have lost 35 goals in striker Ched Evans, and to replace that is very hard. On loan striker John Cofie from Manchester United will be trying along with James Beattie, Richard Cresswell, Chris Porter and Will Hoskins. All these names are well known in the Football League and you’d expect goals from whoever is on the pitch.
They’ve sold young defender Matt Lowton to Aston Villa and with that money have so far spent a fee on Crewe forward Shaun Miller and reinforced with a few free transfers who may be on higher wages. The recent deal to sign another forward, Nick Blackman from Blackburn Rovers, is one of many expected signings before the end of August.
The side is riddled with experienced heads such as Gary Montgomery, Matt Hill, Michael Doyle and the strikers already mentioned and you’d bank on them to pick up vital points in crucial situations. Their squad shouts ‘get the job done’ which might not be pretty but results over performances is the motto coming out of Bramall Lane.
Coventry are the other name on the shortlist for promotion contenders and with some exciting signings along with the lovely home of the Ricoh Arena, I’d be surprised if this side weren’t in the top two.
They’ve capitalised on Rangers and Preston’s demise by signing promising midfielders John Fleck and Adam Barton but did lose their own in Gael BigIrimana to Newcastle. They’ve added experience In Kevin Kilbane, who did a good job at Huddersfield, along with striker Stephen Elliot who should score goals in League One.
Coventry though could suffer from the Leeds effect. Teams will be going to the Ricoh Arena next season very much pumped up for games and Leeds struggled to get out of League One because they didn’t get the home results, Coventry could suffer from the same effect.
They have some great individual talent but do they have the depth past the top few players? That’s yet to be seen, last season they were very far behind the rest and it’s going to be a tough test for unproven, as far, manager Andy Thorn.
The final name that has been mentioned highly is MK Dons. I’m not in favour of The Dons but you can’t deny the good job Karl Robinson is doing. He’s a young manager who has made a great start and after coming so close last season has said: “We want to prove to everybody that we are the best team in the league.” I’m sure Paolo will definitely have something to say about that.
They’ve kept the squad together, which is crucial, and strengthened it with striker Ryan Lowe, who had a terrific spell with Bury, and former Leeds United player Alan Smith. By keeping the squad together they shouldn’t start slowly and may set the early pace this season.
They still have quite a small squad which could hinder them and do lack quality in depth but after coming so close last season, they automatically will be put back up as a favourite for promotion.
These four sides are my favourites for promotion and League One is probably the toughest league to guess. Many teams are on a level playing field and it is truly the league where the phrase ‘it depends on the day’ really makes sense, as shown by Stevenage making the playoffs last season.
If Swindon made the playoffs I’d be delighted but for the top two, I’m sticking my neck on the line with Coventry and Sheffield United. Read this in May and let it show you how I know nothing about football as Yeovil Town storm League One…