Hovering so precariously over a trapdoor to an apparent wilderness (according to the likes of Scunthorpe and Yeovil) is the fourth tier of English football, confusingly named League Two.
Nine months ago, I attempted to call exactly what was going to happen in this division in regards to where all the teams would finish, and boy oh boy, I’m really not good at it.
Case in point, here are my scores from the past few seasons:-
Scoring is calculated by adding up the difference between my predictions and the actual finishes, for example, if I had Tranmere finishing 14th and they actually finish 4th, that would be -10 off my score, with the goal being to get as close to a perfect 0 as possible. I think the worst score is around -288 so I’ve been floating around the halfway point each season and that would be an optimistic outcome this time round because here… Are my guesses for this year:-
1. Stockport County
2. Northampton Town
3. AFC Wimbledon
5. Mansfield Town
6. Doncaster Rovers
7. Leyton Orient
8. Salford City
9. Crawley Town
10. Tranmere Rovers
11. Sutton United
13. Bradford City
14. Crewe Alexandra
15. Newport County
16. Swindon Town
17. Carlisle United
18. Grimsby Town
19. Hartlepool United
22. Colchester United
24. Harrogate Town
And here… Is what actually happened (be nice):-
1. Leyton Orient
3. Northampton Town
4. Stockport County
5. Carlisle United
6. Bradford City
7. Salford City
8. Mansfield Town
10. Swindon Town
11. Grimsby Town
12. Tranmere Rovers
13. Crewe Alexandra
14. Sutton United
15. Newport County
17. Gillingham Town
18. Doncaster Rovers
19. Harrogate Town
20. Colchester United
21. AFC Wimbledon
22. Crawley Town
23. Hartlepool United
Now let’s have a wee dive into each team to see exactly how I fecked up and what led me to it. Let’s see how the 2022/23 League Two campaign ended.
Predicted: 3rd / Actual: 21st
I’ve heard of a false start, but has a car ever actually started reversing at the commencement of a race? I don’t think I was too alone in this one though. A side coming down from League One who’d spent a lot of time in League Two anyways with an exciting new manager and a handy group of players. I’m still not sure how they ended up down in the twenties actually. Well, I do, they conceded too many goals and didn’t score enough, but 21st does seem harsh on them. And more importantly, on me.
Predicted: 20th / Actual: 9th
Again, I know I wasn’t the only one. Barrow staved off the drop last season and then second-season syndrome does ’em in this time round, easy call. But nobody expects Pete Wild. Nobody had ’em this high (I’ve done no research), and they outdid expectations due to some of the best recruitment in the league, which looks set to continue into next, alongside a real galvanisation under Wild. Long may it continue as those gaps continue to be patched.
Predicted: 13th / Actual: 6th
Yeah, this could have been called. It only takes a second look to see that their Summer signings were impressive enough to do the job they did, especially under the tutelage of Sparky. I’d have been surprised had they gone all the way in the playoffs, but there’s no doubting that the tactics were on point for much of the season and that pays off regardless of who’s in your side. As long as they’re footballers I guess…
Predicted: 17th / Actual: 5th
Jiminy, these scores aren’t looking any prettier. Coming from very close to Carlisle, I don’t think anyone ever expects them to set the world on fire, but when they do, they’re a bit of a force, not doing things by halves. I’m of course more than happy to take the L here, and I know other people did too. ‘Cos everyone predicts this league with a bit of Cumbrian racism, even Cumbrians.
Predicted: 22nd / Actual: 20th
Hey, that’s not a bad score is it? I’ll take a -2. They’re finish doesn’t reflect it, but they were never in as much trouble as I expected them to be; they were clearly the most stable of those sides in ‘danger’. Youth continues to be their way forward and I’m hoping we start to see it usher them further up the table.
But yeah, good score. Start of something new here.
Predicted: 9th / Actual: 22nd
You can all see where I was coming from. Crawley had fresh new owners pumping in a load of money as well as a mighty core that was now supported by a coupla big names. The manager looked good, and even after the manager left, the caretaker looked good, then the new manager looked good! Then they started to do that thing that some owners tend to do. They do seem to have calmed down and that could have saved them, but you never know if they’re just gonna start up again next season and the only reason they didn’t carry on this time out was because it was getting too close to the climax.
Time will tell. Just like with their business, there’s no predicting these owners’ behaviour.
Predicted: 14th / Actual: 13th
And we’re back! Just one point off? Yes please.
Crewe needed a minute, they took it, and their late season form looked promising to move forward with. They sorted out personnel on and off the pitch and overall it was efficient season of taking stock and re-tooling for the road ahead. Bish bash bosh. Underrated use of time really.
Predicted: 6th / Actual: 18th
OH COME ON. THEY CAME DOWN, WE ALL EXPECTED THEM TO BE TOP TEN, DON’T EVEN LIE.
What a feckin’ mess they made this look by the way. Wee bit clownish from the outside, just a load of weird decisions. Hopefully McCann can bring back some of that comparative stability of the recent past.
Predicted: 4th / Actual: 17th
That first half was a bit shit wannit? Halfway through, two wins, seven goals, bottom of the table. Second half, twelve wins, twenty-nine goals, comfortable survival.
BUT THEY WERE ANOTHER SIDE THAT CAME DOWN AND HAD A REALLY GOOD MANAGER, NOBODY SAW THAT CLUSTERFUCK OF A FIRST HALF COMING, PLEASE LOVE ME, FATHER.
Predicted: 18th / Actual: 11th
Even my close scores bag me too many points. With a cup run and this kind of finish, The Mariners can be hecka proud of this! This was tight as all heck! Heck yeah! Well played. Plugged away and fought for points properly, dragging them from depths they had no right to be dredging at times. Good management on the pitch, but also off it, as they dealt with their schedule admirably.
Predicted: 24th / Actual: 19th
Alright, I watched these lot prove me wrong in real time. Three games in a row at the end of the season they came back from two goals down to take a point or more, and that kind of gumption and grit deserves to stay up. It seems a season to season thing at the moment, but for this kind of club, that could be the smartest angle you got.
Predicted: 19th / Actual: 23rd
Hartley just didn’t work, and then Askey did, but too late. Really gave their all in the run-in, but were punished for a confused start in which they couldn’t get their feet right. Some things just don’t work out, and that’s okay. But then you get relegated, and yeah, it becomes costly, you just hope that you live and learn. I hope these monkey hangers will, and I’m sure they will, despite what they did to those monkeys.
Predicted: 7th / Actual: 1st
I had them rocketing up, I guess I just didn’t wanna go all out. Everything I said indicated that nothing would go wrong, but I guess it’s like doing all the working out correctly and then just coming up with the wrong answer at the vital moment.
Predicted: 5th / Actual: 8th
Harsh, harsh, harsh. On both of us. They were right in amongst it and could have finished where I predicted with a little, tiny, almost insignificant change, but I guess I’m not allowed to experience joy am I? Once again, my description was correct, but my final prediction was wrong.
Predicted: 15th / Actual: 15th
Wait, what? Holy Moses, I got one. And I pretty much called what would happen. They kept it tight at both ends, didn’t concede too many, just stayed conservative and kept their heads. I know it doesn’t stand for so much in the midst of all the mess, but at least I know in my heart of hearts I can predict what Newport County will do.
Predicted: 2nd / Actual: 3rd
Wait a minute, we got a streak going here, don’t we? Just one off? That, honestly, could have been another perfect score, couldn’t it? Hylton wasn’t the fit I thought he would be, but they had an eclectic collection up top that saw them through and did an admirable job, and they weren’t gonna be burned again, no way Jose. Kept pushing and kept powering and got to the final day almost just to say to it that it wasn’t gonna get ’em this time.
Predicted: 21st / Actual: 24th
I’ll take a -3 in the midst of a streak, I’ll keep the hype going!
But then Rochdale are down, and that’s nothing to be hyped about. They didn’t replace the many important departures, and when they did start cooking, some things were left to burn and some things went undercooked, the streak that they needed (much like the one I’m currently on) never materialised and only threatened to do so. When that’s all you can manage, the news at the end is never gonna satisfy.
Predicted: 8th / Actual: 7th
The streak lives!
And no prizes for this one, they’ve been right there each season and while I was actually surprised to see them make it onto the right side of the line, it wasn’t too unexpected. I’ll take it, I’ll take it, I’ll take it, and although Salford were done in the playoffs, this was the year for them in terms of progress, even if it was just one step forward.
Predicted: 23rd / Actual: 2nd
Okay, yeah, streak dead. I think this was laziness, I didn’t look at the squad too much, or how they were playing, I looked at where they finished last season and I put ’em there again. Feck me for that one, ‘cos that’s disrespectful, and Stevenage deserve better.
Good thing they got promoted then, eh?
The score off seems a bit harsh, but I guess that’s what I deserve.
Predicted: 1st / Actual: 4th
If it weren’t for that rough start, I’d be a god by now. Nearly got a spot up, but it wouldn’t have changed enough, and they might still go up, but honestly, I’m still reeling from that Stevenage score. Now that’s how you get something wrong — all the way.
Great season from Stockport though, and they’ve taken it to the wire…
Predicted: 11th / Actual: 14th
Fuck getting a streak going again. It shouldn’t be threes, I want ones and zeros! I want robots! Sutton were realistic and that’s okay, the consolidated and that sounds pretty sensible to me. A season in which they didn’t stand out because they didn’t have to — a team-focused outing that, with a good Summer ahead, will hold them in good stead going forward.
Predicted: 16th / Actual: 10th
I think I have a bit of a vendetta against Swindon since Ben Garner was there. I don’t know what my problem was, or is, with him. Their acquisitions were pretty tight and this squad probably should have been higher looking at how they lined up in that second half of the season, but it was too little too late, and too loose for a tight bunch.
Predicted: 10th / Actual: 12th
Micky Mellon getting sacked was the surprise here in what was a real underwhelming season. Choices that most could tell wouldn’t pay off when it came to signings as well as a frustrating amount of slips that cost them so, so much. From the outside, this looked like a horrible season to be a Tranmere supporter, just halfway between hell and nowhere with not enough or too much. Blue balls all over the spot.
Predicted: 12th / Actual: 16th
I can’t even get these right. This has been terrible on my part. And Walsall simply couldn’t connect with Michael Flynn enough to push on and they looked out of puff before Flynn was dismissed. Going forward, Sadler will take over The Saddlers and after a season that frittered to nothing, they’ll be hoping for more of a link between coach and passengers next time out.
So long Rochdale after so many seasons. In a while Hartlepool after not so many seasons. Enjoy ascension for Leyton Orient, Stevenage, Northampton, and one of Stockport or Carlisle — not to sound too ominous but there’s a sneaking suspicion that League Two will be seeing you all again someday…
In the meantime, the division will find satisfaction in the form of promoted and relegated sides, placating it’s hunger with the likes of Wrexham and Notts County (tasty), as well as Forest Green Rovers (vegan, so probably not as tasty), MK Dons (full of bike parts), Accrington Stanley (who?), and Morecambe (fishy). And what a dainty dish that sounds.
There is never any shortage of entertainment in any of these divisions, but each has its own unique taste, and League Two’s is bitter. Bitter like a Lemon Drizzle Cake or a Key Lime Pie, the kind of bitter you’d take home to meet your mother and your father and your sister and your brother and your dog and your cat because you know that beneath that tart exterior is a heart that beats and longs and yearns and loves just like ours. A heart that dreams, and we find that those dreams are our dreams, and they’re a lot closer than we thought.
Anyways, let’s see how I did.
-117 to beat for my best ever, but it’s not feeling good…
Worst score ever, no biggie. I also do birthdays, weddings, and bat mitzvahs.
I promise I’ll try harder next season. But can anyone truly predict… The unpredictable? Maybe somebody can, I haven’t really checked.
MY BIGGEST WINNERS — Newport County — 0, Crewe, Northampton, Salford — -1
MY BIGGEST LOSERS — Stevenage — -21, Wimbledon — -18, Gillingham, Crawley — -13, Doncaster, Carlisle — -12, Barrow — -11
Had to put all the double-digit wrongness on just to compound my shame. I literally could have taken wild stabs at the results and achieved a marginally better score.
And so to another season, another risky endeavour into the unknown. For me at least because I clearly have no idea what’s happening. And doesn’t that just make it all the more thrilling?
See you next season.
Keep it streets ahead,