How’s It Gonna End? — EFL League One 22/23

ACCRINGTON STANLEY

The losses of Sykes and Bishop will sting, but, I mean, it’s Stanley, innit? They always do a bit of alright. They’ll bring a bit of something to the table, they’ll fall of it once or twice as they attempt to climb and dance atop it, and come the end of the meal, they’ll be no worse off, and no better off. While they’d normally be right down the middle, the pack is getting a bit more competitive, so I’ll put ’em in that group of mid-table chasers; comfortably safe, comfortably out of the race.

BARNSLEY

A host of free signings to combat some fees coming in, the squad is still flush with players who have excelled a division up from here. Stir in Michael Duff, and there’s an impressive roster for Barnsley here, who might continue to adhere to that ‘too good for League One, not good enough for the Championship’ moniker. But if Duff can see the job through this season and push on into the second tier, he could break new ground for The Tykes. It might take the hard way, but the chances are with ’em I reckon.

BOLTON WANDERERS

Y’either love or hate Evatt’s style, but he’s been getting results in his career thus far. Post January last season, Bolton were on a warpath, and if that had started in December, they’d have stormed the play-offs and potentially be a division higher right now. Evatt has got the squad where he wants them, and right now, I’m looking at the highest scorers, and for my dime, the highest finishers.

BRISTOL ROVERS

Another manager who knows what he’s doing with the team he has. There’ll be a settling in period back at this level, but they’re coming off a major high, and with only a few loanees missing, I’ve no doubt they’ll settle back in sharpish and provide competition up the table. I’m expecting ’em to start alright, slow down a bit, and then press right on to a cushty position considering.

BURTON ALBION

There was an anomaly last season, Burton struggling under the management of JFH. Like a glitch in the matrix or somet. He’s certainly gone about remedying that in the Summer, and the impressive signings of Butcher, Adeboyejo, and Keillor-Dunn are a sweet part of it. There is a dish all set up and ready at the Pirelli, it just needs those fixings. While I think they’ll press on, I think some will need a while, and it won’t cost ’em, but it’ll seem like it might at points.

CAMBRIDGE UNITED

After an impressive first season in League One, Cambridge will look to consolidate, and as long as they keep Bonner at the tiller, I reckon they can do just that. Shrewd signings that have flown under the radar a bit feel like they’re gonna take, and while they’ll have to stave off that second-season syndrome which’ll drag ’em out a bit, they’ll have what it takes to do it as they continue to cement their place in the top three tiers of English football

CHARLTON ATHLETIC

After Ben Garner well and truly fucked the donkey last time he managed at this level, he’ll be looking to prove himself. With Charlton, he’s inherited a good squad, and he’s brought along a few of his own from Swindon, where he was last season. Everything seems good, right? WRONG. No, it’s right. I dunno if they’ll push on, but he seems to have his philosophy sorted out, and with a squad like this, they should be getting up towards that side of the table, so Ben’ll get ’em most of the way, if only just.

CHELTENHAM TOWN

Duff out, Boyle out, even Flinders out! Wade Elliott has come into a side that’s just looking a bit anonymous. I have a good feeling about Wade as a manager, but this’ll be a task. Cheltenham overachieved last season, and Alfie May, no disrespect to him, this is all scraping the top of my head bologna, but he seems like a one-season wonder in terms of the volume he scored last season at least. There’s results here, but I don’t think there’s enough of them. A character has dropped, and it’ll be a job to build a fresh one. I really want Wade to prove me wrong.

DERBY COUNTY

July 1st hits and they were really off to the races, no hanging about. They added an entire half of a squad and haven’t just made up the numbers, recruiting immense experience, and some dark horse signings who maybe haven’t been appreciated as they should have been in recent seasons. They’ve also got some of them players perhaps ready to drop down a level, but they can still go a level up, which tends to go well most of the time. If the heart remains, the talent is obvious, and they will push it all the way, but might just sit outside the big party.

EXETER CITY

At time of writing, no new additions. Dangerous in a promoted side? Then again, how good must the existing players feel — the confidence within them must be high, and with good reason. There’s an all-star contingent at the centre of this squad, but knowledge of this division is sorely lacking. There’ll be the opportunity to stand out, and there’s something going on there that makes them tricky to predict, but I’m gonna side with the opinion that this could become a bit of a slog, even though the absolute fortitude of the move is delightful and I wish them to survive.

FLEETWOOD TOWN

I tell you what, Scott Brown can be happy with his first transfer window, recruiting an immense amount of promise and knowledge. Within his existing squad lies untapped potential as well, only just beginning to bubble to the surface, more threatening to do so, last season. I think this’ll be a strong season for them — they won’t take any prisoners, and they’ll emphasise the parts of their game that were already so strong last time out — their manager will really come through in their play n’all. (I hope) I can’t wait. Despite this force though, they’ll still have some way to go in terms of consistency.

FOREST GREEN ROVERS

The manager’s gone, along with a few standouts of last season, but a fresh manager with a similar philosophy has joined, and he’s brought with him standouts of other sides (Little, O’Keeffe), as well as standouts of FGR’s past (Brown). There’ll be a cooling off period on this dynasty here, just a pause for breath — it’s not gonna do them in, but it’ll see ’em take stock and probably re-shuffle come next season. This time, they’ll do enough, not always flashy, but there’ll be a spark to get ’em the right side of the line by a decent enough distance.

IPSWICH TOWN

I think Kieran has got the squad he wanted now, with last season’s impactful names like Chaplin, Edmundson, Walton, and Morsy sticking around, while stand-outs from other sides, like Greg Leigh and Marcus Harness, sign on. There’s a real dangerous core at Portman Road now, and with them having proved they can feckin’ ga under McKenna, a full season under his tutelage could be a helluva thing to witness.

LINCOLN CITY

Some major departures, including the manager, have left a bit of a new look/old look Lincoln side. They’re in a transitional period and a new boss with little experience has got a lot on his hands. He’s got players who will play for the club, that’s no doubt, but recruitment has come from lower down, with each name feasibly considered a risky acquisition in terms of filling the void left by the likes of McGrandles, Brammall, or Marquis. I’d look for their two loan signings to sparkle, particularly Carl Rushworth, another Brighton ‘keeper on the up who had a cracking campaign last time out with Walsall, but it’s a damning indictment that he’s gonna have a big chance to.
This could be a big step back for The Imps.

MK DONS

Helluva first season trot out for Manning in Milton Keynes, but now, your hidden gems have been discovered, picked, and a whole new, difficult job commences — replicating last season, or even going one step further. The signings have been solid in terms of shoring up the team, but I don’ think (at the moment) that they come anywhere near to replacing those that came before. There’s promise and experience in every position, but whether that can be realised and/or exploited is another story. It’ll be more of a grind this time out.

MORECAMBE

They clung onto life in League One admirably last season, and with a few of the stalwarts from that campaign shuffling off to pastures new (they’re not dead), Derek Adams has been wise to recruit defensively, with some strong names stepping in at the back for The Shrimps. There’s still a few that look set to leave, and if they were to go, the squad would be a tight one, but even if they stayed, it’d be another slog for Morecambe, but ya cannae discount that fight — they’ll take it down to the wire if it comes to it, and I reckon it easy could, with someone having even oiled that wire as Morecambe were about to step on to it.

OXFORD UNITED

I’m always quite staggered that Oxford don’t have a tougher time hanging onto their players. Then again, I don’t work there, maybe it’s some of the hardest work the staff have ever performed. Still, this retention allows them to add season on season, with a core that becomes reinvigorated every year without being completely refreshed. So they go again, and I’m looking at quite a few standouts, I reckon — Josh Murphy, for example, could be electric at this level. There’ll be competition around them, and they’ll hold their own, but despite their impression, it could be another season of so close, but so no cigar.

PETERBOROUGH UNITED

Back under McCann, there’s a lot to like about this squad, especially at this level. However, with Grant looking to get back on that winning path with this side and having quickly shaved it into his vision, there’s a bit of a character shock I’m feeling about it. I could absolutely see them going the dull route and achieving automatic promotion, but the more exciting option will be their struggle to find their personality once more, or maybe even develop a whole new one. I’m thinking a deceptively fast start with obvious issues that begin to get exploited before they flourish come February/March and hit us with a big finish. But it’ll count for nowt, with the new and improved Posh needing to channel it into next season if they want to be back up.

PLYMOUTH ARGYLE

The squad is largely the same. There’s no Broom or Garrick, but there’s a Miller and a Butcher. There’s also a manager who has now had a full off-season in charge about to embark on his first full-season in charge, if all goes to plan. Many could have blamed the Lowe departure from last time out for The Pilgrims’ narrow miss on the play-offs. But there’s a lot to like about what’s Stevie’s done, and his utilisation of the loan market could be the finest of the season, with Mumba, Whittaker, and Azaz all bolstering a burgeoning force. I can see Plymouth galvanising themselves this season, maybe not to the very top, but pretty close.

PORTSMOUTH

They always seem on the cusp, don’t they? And then they slip away, or they don’t quite climb up, they just… Lose their footing, even though it never seems like they’re going to or have done so that drastically.
Come this fresh season, The Cowleys have only eleven players on the books to have made more than ten appearances for Pompey. It’s fresh, to say the least. Is that what’s required? It’s hard to say… They’ve got themselves some stand-outs of the division in Griffiths, Pigott, and Bishop, but for most recruitment, up North has been the answer — not geographically, but in terms of the EFL tier system. Marlon Pack, Joe Rafferty, and Michael Morrison provide excellent Championship experience, but could it take them a hot, pivotal second to acclimatise to League One?
I just think it’s gonna be hard to call this side, but I think they’ll struggle in spots, and it could be a case of same again for a much-changed team.

PORT VALE

I like Darrell Clarke, he seems like a lovely, impassioned bloke. He’s also got a cracker footballing brain on those shoulders. He could probably have anyone on his roster, I’d back ’em because he was at the helm. The fact that he’s sliced off the cuts he don’t need of this Vale squad and kept a powerful core, while adding some cracker names (Ojo, Massey), I think Vale could be a surprise package for a lot here, with many who have them tipped for the drop watching them survive reasonably comfortably alongside the rest of us,

SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY

There’s enough here. Another lovely manager who must have some pull (I’m sure with some help from the club itself) because he’s pulled off some pretty unbelievable signings. Tempting Smith and Ihiekwe away from The Millers is one thing, but then teasing some Championship talent down is nearly world class. They’ve been careful, used their allure, and assembled an all-star squad of proven talent, and players who’ll want to remind the crowds of what they can do. The whole club will have a chip on it’s shoulder, and you would nae want to remind ’em of it.

SHREWSBURY TOWN

After what seemed to be a dire set of departures, The Shrews quietly had one of their most promising recruitment seasons yet. Shipley and O’Brien are tremendous acquisitions for any side at this level, and in terms of defensive signings, Chey Dunkley is a top-tier get and Taylor Moore, with bags of untapped potential, could be a supernova waiting to happen. That hyperbole uttered, I don’t think they’re going to set the world on fire. I can certainly see them shoring up defensively, as they’ve been wont to do for a while now, but attacking options still seem thin on the ground, even if the ones they have are effective.
They’ll be comfortable, but unspectacular.

WYCOMBE WANDERERS

There’s still a tremendous side here, even if (at time of writing) they’ve failed to replace some sizable departures. In terms of transfer activity anyways — they could well be promoting from within; from a fresh youth academy that was beginning to really bear fruit last season. Now that they’ve been down for another season though, a new sense of play has to set in, momentum has to be kept, and while the heart of these folk will keep a’ ticking, the buff around them could force them out of the ultimate race.

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C.L.R.

C.L.R.

Freshly squeezed football content. Mostly.