Ooooooooooooooo, if yooooooooooouuuuu want drama, you don’t have to look much further than English Football in general, but come to League One for final day foolery that’ll have your stomach turning if you support one of the sides involved, and only your brain melting if you’re a neutral. The last day here saw heartbreak for Wednesday, Derby, MK Dons, Accrington Stanley, and Morecambe, while Plymouth, Ipswich, Peterborough, and Cambridge got what they could well have been praying for prior to kick-off.
Of course, that was reality. Nine months ago, I tried to guess reality, and here’s what I came up with:-
1. Bolton Wanderers
2. Sheffield Wednesday
3. Derby County
5. Plymouth Argyle
6. Ipswich Town
7. Peterborough United
8. Oxford United
9. Wycombe Wanderers
11. MK Dons
12. Charlton Athletic
13. Bristol Rovers
14. Fleetwood Town
15. Port Vale
16. Accrington Stanley
17. Shrewsbury Town
18. Forest Green Rovers
19. Cambridge United
20. Burton Albion
22. Cheltenham Town
23. Lincoln City
24. Exeter City
And here is what actually happened:-
1. Plymouth Argyle
2. Ipswich Town
3. Sheffield Wednesday
5. Bolton Wanderers
6. Peterborough United
7. Derby County
9. Wycombe Wanderers
10. Charlton Athletic
11. Lincoln City
12. Shrewsbury Town
13. Fleetwood Town
14. Exeter City
15. Burton Albion
16. Cheltenham Town
17. Bristol Rovers
18. Port Vale
19. Oxford United
20. Cambridge United
21. MK Dons
23. Accrington Stanley
24. Forest Green Rovers
Now I score myself.
If you ain’t sure how that goes, I simply minus the difference. For example, if I had MK Dons to finish 8th and they end up finishing 18th, that’d be -10 off my score. Then we add ’em all up with the goal being to get as close to 0 as possible.
My previous scores came out like this:-
So I’m getting progressively worse, great stuff.
But I’ve got a good feeling about this year — double digits could be on the cards, and maybe a best score ever? Well, that’d be something and I’m not gonna say that, I’m just gonna say that it feels good.
Now let’s see how long that good mood lasts.
Just how did the 2022/23 League One season end?
Predicted: 16th / Actual: 23rd
Each season it feels as if there is a side that slips below that dotted line that you always think is eventually gonna get a streak together that pulls them clear. There were three sides like that this season, and Stanley were one of them. They didn’t stay competitive in so many games, too many getting away from them before they could do anything about it. Stability remains at the club and that’s a godsend that won’t see them fall far, but exploited gaps need to be patched before they go on.
Predicted: 4th / Actual: 4th
Yeah, that’s about right. Down a division with a new manager, things took a while to gel, but The Tykes always do at this level. Duff feels stable, and as he leads them to a play-off final, the question of being ready for the second tier remains, but it feels obvious they will always be major players in League One, and if they do stay for another season, I reckon we could expect the same again or better.
Predicted: 1st / Actual: 5th
It was the goals of late last season that had me predicting Bolton’s ascension, but that turned out to be a much smaller part of their game, with their defence being the ones really turning up, only conceding thirty-six goals all year. It wasn’t enough to push to the very end, but this is a club still developing and still growing away from recent troubles and near-extinction — graduality may be their friend and Ian Evatt isn’t going to simply let it go.
Predicted: 13th / Actual: 17th
They were on for gittin’ right up in the reaches, then they were on for my prediction, but they ended up liggin’ a bit lower than they perhaps would have liked. I’d be surprised if they weren’t well and truly back at this level just looking at the heart that they play with — they drag a performance out of themselves even in defeat, and if Barton can continue to inspire that kind of game, they stand themselves in good stead of at least avoiding the drop. With a few additions and a coupla tweaks, they’re looking up.
Predicted: 20th / Actual: 15th
Another side who were flirting with proving me right but just couldn’t let me have it. Post-JFH, Dino Maamria has actually done a quietly marvelous job in re-tooling Albion for survival. How that presses on remains to be seen, but the immediate task is accomplished, and the grind was a mightier one than it perhaps looks to many now, with Burton near-enough doomed at one point. The future looks boggy, but Maamria’ll be trying something, and even if it’s ‘just’ survival, many at Burton will take it.
Predicted: 19th / Actual: 20th
I said Bonner would deliver, and he did. Even if it was for the run-in, and the final day especially. But that’ll do! If you survive, even at the last second, you’ve done enough in the multitude of seconds before to earn it. Cambridge were the second of the three sides expected to pull out of a nosedive, and now they have, it’s easy to call on the reason why. That being said, work is clearly required — tweaks and changes that will see this machine remain well-oiled and remain on the third-tier payroll.
Predicted: 12th / Actual: 10th
I did say Ben would get them most of the way, and then came what many perceived as an underwhelming appointment in Dean Holden. But he’s set about shunning that label by setting up an attacking infantry that The Addicks were thriving for long before. Youth was placed at the forefront and they began to prosper, just in time to be hopeful for next season. They’ll be a good watch, whatever happens.
Predicted: 22nd / Actual: 16th
God bless that Wade Elliott. They might have been had in the first half, but they remembered who they were and came on with real personality in the second. I had Alfie May down as a one-season wonder and he proved me hecka wrong while a signing from Ireland actually prospered (see Fleetwood for that too) in the forward position. Players across the board kicked on and pushed, from spectacular Southwood to magnificent May, and they reap the reward of survival.
Predicted: 3rd / Actual: 7th
Ouch. Few too many draws despite not many defeats, but a mixture of immensely tenured experience and promising youth can do that to you. With a year under their belts at this level, next year still won’t be a breeze, but they’ll know what to expect and with Paul Warne staying on, automatic promotion wouldn’t surprise many. Too often, heart was in the wrong place, as in, not there, and things looked too clinical and without soul. Time will bring that, but time better hurry up. For Derby at least. Time is going just fine for me.
Predicted: 24th / Actual: 14th
Hey, well played. The much bandied youth kept on hittin’ and the players who had taken them up a division the season prior kept hittin’ too. You can’t ask for much more, especially under fresh management. A solidity has been bred that can be built upon; a powerful foundation has been formed — they can either choose to mess with that and go for something ‘stronger’, or they can continue to fortify. It might be out of their hands at certain turns.
Predicted: 14th / Actual: 13th
Great first season for Scott Brown and Fleetwood. So often they showed the kind of promise many clubs only dream of, and I can’t see them finishing any lower than this next season. How often do you actually see a club use the players they bring in and slot them right into the team, slot them right into game-winning scenarios to prove themselves? How else will they prove themselves? Fleetwood ain’t waiting for those answers, they seek them. That kind of industry can only hold you in good stead, and though I couldn’t get in the joke about Promise Omochere, I feel mentioning it could be enough to at least show off the fact that I didn’t miss it.
FOREST GREEN ROVERS
Predicted: 18th / Actual: 24th
Just completely ran out of steam, and from the start, it shouldn’t have been a surprise. I mean, can you name one of their Summer signings? If you can, name one that had an impact. In fact, name a departure that had an impact elsewhere. The culture, the very heart of this club was morphed upon its ascension, and it raced into this season unfinished and ultimately, misshapen. They attempted to find their shape, but it never arrived, no standout ever rose from the pack to lead, and in the end, nothing arrived. Seven points from a possible sixty-six since the turn of the year, and just one win in the latter half of the season, FGR will be forgiven for thinking there’s nowhere to go but up, but that’s the kind of thinking that gets ya dropped another level.
Predicted: 6th / Actual: 2nd
What a season. Highest scorers, lowest conceders, two points from a century, and still not champions. McKenna’s ripeness is blossoming and this side is looking electric. Arguably moreso than the team that topped them come season’s end. The second tier looks set for the unity they embodied as well as the ruthless power they inflicted upon everyone this time out.
Predicted: 23rd / Actual: 11th
Okay, so Exeter was incorrect because of a tremendous stability that should honestly trouble most political parties with it’s roaring steadiness. But I feel that is one I can be forgiven for, and despite Lincoln about to begin a poor streak for me personally on this list, I do not feel I can be blamed. The Imps were going through big ol’ changes and yes, should certainly get credit for steadying and steering that ship to a marvelous destination, BUT I WILL NOT BE BLAMED.
Predicted: 11th / Actual: 21st
I WILL NOT BE BLAMED. They were in the play-offs last season! They were nearly automatically promoted! I know they got rid of a lot of big players and didn’t replace them too well and I reflected that in my prediction, but from one end to the other? COME ON!
Sacking Manning may have been the right call to inspire change, even if it didn’t work, but in the long run, it appeared only reactionary and risky for what it was. All the wrong choices at all the wrong times? I don’t suppose it matters now. A new manager is being hunted down, and a new chapter begins.
Predicted: 21st / Actual: 22nd
Fought ’til the last even though many gave them no right too. Eras have ended this time out with big players departing; this stint in the third tier has always seemed somewhat of a holiday, as if they don’t have the coffers or the power to compete with anyone else who can make this division. And that could well be true, the coffer size part I mean. What Morecambe have proven here is that heart can win the battles, and it can get you to the dance, and you can put on a show, you can embody what you aim to do, but maybe, just maybe, at the end of the day… Money talks?
Predicted: 8th / Actual: 19th
COME ON! They were always in amongst it! At the very least this was lazy, but I bet y’all thought they’d pull up out of the nosedive too. I ain’t taking no loss from this. I haven’t let myself down, Oxford have let me down. Watch, they’ll be back in amongst it next season. Just out to feck me.
Predicted: 7th / Actual: 6th
And we’re back.
I started this season stating the Posh were back under McCann, and I will end it stating that they are back under Ferguson. Who will they be back under next I wonder?
Anyways, I pretty much called it, just didn’t have them going as far as getting over the dotted line to the play-offs, but for the match they provided, I’m glad they did.
Predicted: 5th / Actual: 1st
I pretty much called the top ten or so didn’t I? Sticking with Schumacher could have been seen as a risky play after Lowe’s departure, but they knew what they were about, they knew the plan, and their eyes were dead set on seeing it through. Unstoppable at their best and harsh at their worst, when they eventually got into the three-horse race for the automatic spots, they kicked into that gear that champions know all too well to grasp the century and the title.
Predicted: 10th / Actual: 8th
On the cusp once more. Started brightly, tailed off mid-season before stirring up a stirring reboot that by that time was too late to make a difference and catch the burgeoning pack. There is once again hope for the season that comes next, but after so much of the same year on year, that hope is surely tinted with the fear that the sameness will ravage them once again. Do standouts remain standouts if standing out becomes routine among other standouts?
Predicted: 15th / Actual: 18th
A strange season that threatened to peter out, and had the spiral started any earlier, we’d be looking at a survivor rather than a lower mid-table promotee. The signings clicked and existing stars kept shining, but once everything had cooled down, machinery started to rust — eight wins in the first twenty-three became five in the second twenty-three, and more pressing, nine defeats became fourteen. Andy Crosby continues at the helm into the post-Darrell Clarke future, but any more of the same could be a death knell for their stint in League One.
Predicted: 2nd / Actual: 3rd
It felt as if they had to go up, and with their points haul, any other season would have seen it happen. But devastation reigned and perhaps saw them capitulate 4–0 in the first leg of their play-off semi-final. Wonder how that ended…
Much like with Notts County’s promotion from the National League, it seems right that Wednesday go up, but what’s right doesn’t always overlap with what’s earned.
Predicted: 17th / Actual: 12th
The base that was here was enough for blast-off, and remains so, but a frontline requiring help from elsewhere was always gonna be suspect come the crucial ties. Leahy, Marosi, and Dunkley stood out, and if they can find that in more locations, more moments of individual brilliance across the pitch and across the season, it goes without saying that…
Predicted: 9th / Actual: 9th
In a season where the unthinkable happened, a top ten finish ain’t too shabby. I don’t expect The Chairboys to change too much from how they were under Ainsworth, especially with Bloomfield having played under him for seconds off the entire reign, but there looked to be struggles at season’s end that the Wanderer who rarely wandered will hope won’t continue. Maybe a pre-season is all they need to really get into the swing of the Bloomfield Era. And on this field where the Wanderers wander and the Chairboys sit, eleven blossoms will once again have the chance to bloom.
A few tricky sticky wickets there, but by and large I’d say not bad. Lots of very close and pretty accurate assumptions even when I was four of five out. I still feel good, but that might have been because I wasn’t adding up along the way. But you know what? Maybe I ain’t feeling good ‘cos of what I’ve done but ‘cos of what all these lovely folks at all these lovely folks have provided me and millions more with. The EFL is like that up and down, and with League One in the middle of it all, the unpredictability, the no man’s land of the lot, well, it has all the potential to forever astound the senses.
The wonder is there, and it’s tough to get enough.
Speaking of wonder, I wonder if my score is the best I have ever accomplished for this league… Hmm… Let’s see… -86 to beat. And my score this year is…
Gosh dangit. So close to double-digits, yet so far. My second highest score though, coming in just ahead of the -106 I achieved two seasons ago.
MY BIGGEST WINNERS — Barnsley, Wycombe — 0, Cambridge, Fleetwood, Morecambe, Peterborough, Sheffield Wednesday — -1
MY BIGGEST LOSERS — Lincoln — -12, Oxford — -11, Exeter, MK Dons — -10
I pledge to, if not do better, put more effort in next time out. I can only put my repeated triple-digit scores down to that. Even if that fecks it, at least then I’ll know that my casual glances are better than whatever I deem to be in-depth analysis. ‘Cos that ain’t what any of this is about, eh? I can enjoy without judging, and I would nae really dream of critiquing any of these bad lads, only simply reviewing the outcome of my simple guesses. The real fun lies in the game itself. As it always has.
Keep it streets ahead,