Last year, I cheated. I waited until a few games had been played and then I made my picks.
That clouded me. I’d actually say it wasn’t too bad, but there were a couple of sweet lemons ruining everyonee’s day.
This time, no such errors shall be made. It’s back to wild shots in the dark based off transfer activity, ‘vibe’, and whether it feels like it’s a club’s time to be heading up top.
I’m gonna predict where each 21/22 League Two side is gonna end up and then tot up a score based on the difference between that and where they actually finish. For example, if I pick Sutton to have a cracker first season in the EFL and finish 5th but they actually survive by the skin of their teeth in 22nd, that would net me a score of -17.
Let’s see how I do this season. Into double digits for the first time? The trend would certainly indicate so. But this game ain’t played in trends, baby.
Just how is the 21/22 EFL League One season gonna end?
A season of survival attained, now time to move forward. The exit of Bradley Barry, Joel Dixon, and Scott Quigley are paired with the arrival of Mark Cooper as new head coach, fresh off solidifying Forest Green’s place at this level. They’ve now a squad and a coach who can go at this level, and though there won’t be many fancying them to be up top when all is said and done, the boys from Holker Street will have done enough to at least die another day as they grind out a survival spot.
Could be a big season for The Bantams as they’ve gone for it across the board. Along with apparent League Two specialist Derek Adams at the helm, they have doubled down on striking options, and added a wealth of appropriate experience in defence. I do not think this will take time; Bradford will begin as contenders and continue as so — no gelling period, just off like a rocket — stopping just shy of the moon.
Barton was unable to rid The Gas of the long funk that has plagued them when he took over last season — and though relegation can occasionally be a welcome refreshment, unflattering stories have got their fourth division stay off to a cloudy start.
But when has that stopped Joey Barton before?
With plenty heading out, Barton hasn’t wasted anytime putting his mark on the side, with three players joining Rovers from his old club Fleetwood. This tells me he’s assembled a squad who know how to play for him, or will do very soon. There’s no denying there’s a lull at this club, and the manager’s presence will either see them come out the other side swinging, or help them find the bottom.
Or, more likely, something in the middle.
Unlike past seasons, The Cumbrians have been able to keep most of an impressive squad together. As someone who has moved from the county many times, I have noticed that contracts don’t often get renewed and players opt to move on. But this season is different. Yes, Anderton has gone, but Mellish, Guy, and Allesandra remain — a foundation has stuck around long enough for something to be built upon it. There’s still a bit of cementing to do, but the Beech Boys are crew on a tight ship and they’ll be running like a well-oiled machine in no time. Experience on execution is where this side might be lacking though as gaps will be found in them throughout the season.
The beneficiaries of an Ipswich Town deluge, most of Colchester’s new signings are already on the same page and merely need to change the title of the chapter. Hayden Mullins will have his day to prove what he can do and he has players of undeniable quality — but most of what goes to Colchester becomes a part of the black hole there. It’s a mixing pot, in that nothing stands out and you’re just left with a jumbled custard in various shades of blue. These players under this manager should be capable of hitting every beat this season, dramatically, clumsily, forcefully, and haphazardly shimmying their way into the play-offs, and I hope Mullins can allow for that creativity to shine so that’s what I’ll predict. But that voice in the back of my head is saying prepare for more blue blancmange.
Prediction: 7th (voice in my head says 15th)
I never seem to catch this lot playing badly, but then I also never see them in the conversation for promotion. It’s as if they’ve assembled the squad perfect for survival in League Two, but that’s it — just survival. Anything that stands out and looks as if it’s going to get them promoted can hit the bricks; see you later, David Sesay. Hit the bricks, Max Watters.
What they have now is the definition of same again in terms of comfortable survival as well as mathematically possible but always doubtful play-off aspirations.
A lot of what has made Exeter so unmistakably Exeter over the last few years has gone. The team they’ve been building in that time has essentially disappeared and what stands in its place is so many new broom heads and broom handles that it ain’t the same broom anymore. Exeter have become Trigger’s broom. Only right now, it’s hard to say whether the broom head is a good one. The proof of the pudding will obviously be in the eating, but for the 21/22 season, The Grecians will have to come to terms with the fact that it ain’t the same broom anymore.
I don’t know what I did to that analogy, but I should’ve bought it dinner first.
FOREST GREEN ROVERS
The Vegans were ready to take a step forward and a step out of the Mark Cooper comfort zone was always gonna be it. With a highly-touted young coach aboard, a club with a vision have rounded themselves well and look difficult to beat, despite weaknesses from last season still lingering. But they’ll know what to freeze out, and Forest Green should go from strength to strength this season.
It’s a brave move for a still-freshly promoted side to thin out like they have, but Simon Weaver’ll be sticking to his guns and following the same plan Harrogate have had in place since he got there. The seniority in the squad as will stand them in good stead, but depth could hit ’em down the line and I reckon they could falter before even the thought of a serious push for the upper echelons is sprouted.
I hope I’m wrong.
A few of the stars of a sparkling promotion campaign have up and left, but a core remains that can do damage. They’ll settle in well enough but’ll be caught out with the jump in divisions, however slight it is. The addition of depth is still paramount, and a few loan signings could easy make them a lot more comfortable, but it’s more likely to be a season of consolidation for The Monkey Hangers. And that’ll do.
A lot of big departures heralded one huge arrival, that of new manager Kenny Jackett. He’s attracted talent who’ve proven themselves in divisions above, and they join potential ready to be recognised to the fullest with the likes of Craig Clay and Dan Happe.
Jackett’s good, but a jump to lightspeed for Orient would be a huge ask, and they might fall just short in this new season of the plan.
The Stags have managed some slinky business in the market, especially in the face of losing Sweeney and Benning. The loans of Ryan Stirk and Nathan Bishop are gambles on potential that’ll bear fruit, and while we already know Stephen Quinn can do a job for Mansfield and Clough, Rhys Oates and Danny Johnson will bring some lush firepower for the side.
It ain’t all gonna be smooth sailing, but with one of the largest squads in the division, The Stags could easy have the legs to stride into the oasis.
After a rough end to last season, The Exiles have added a veritable fuck-tonne of applicable experience, including the return of Joe Day! Good to see him back where he’s appreciated. I hope they’ll continue to bring youth through, but amongst the seniors there could be a lot of goals this season — we could be looking at the neutral’s favourite to watch; lots scored, lots conceded. I’m reckoning they’ll have more of the former and shake the ‘season-on/season-off’ rhythm they’ve got going.
Jon Brady has pulled off a cracker transfer window regardless of managerial experience. With the likes of Nicke Kabamba, Mitch Pinnock, and Jon Guthrie all joining fresh of SPL experience, along with a pair of quality ‘keepers and another pair of lads fresh off a run to the play-offs with Tranmere in this very division, and I’d reckon Northampton have a good shout with new signings alone. The lads they join have a bit of somet-somet, especially in defence, and Northampton have added the necessary sparkle to probably shock a few this term.
Keith Curle harnessed something when he took over at Oldham last season. They were scoring a tonne and conceding a tonne more — but entertainment is a step forwards in anyone’s book. It’s hard to imagine defensive frailty will be chalked off completely and departures of loanees will damage their attacking approach, so I’m gonna say we’re gonna get a scaled-down version of what we got last season — still entertaining, if not by numbers.
Like last season, Port Vale with display the ability to mold into whatever they need to be. Unlike last season, I’m not gonna pretend to know I’ve any clue of where they’ll end up. Port Vale are to League Two what Reading are to the WSL — capable of losing to the basement club one week and beating the runaway champions the next.
Mid-table, right down the middle, neither here nor there.
They’ve had to see off only a few of their lads after a harsh relegation last term. They never displayed any shortage of heart and it was just unlucky for them they were coming up against the heartier Wigan in the race for survival. Stockdale has managed to retain most of the impressive core that will definitely do a job at this level, but they’re looking trim and haven’t added any new features to the arsenal. Nobody’ll want to play them, but once that weak spot is found, it could be exploited.
A long list of departures accompanies a concise and impressive list of acquisitions. Any dead wood has been chopped, and big names have been replaced, leaving a tight team. Hladky has been replaced by King, Armstrong by McAleny, Towell by Lund, Dieseruvwe by Morris, Threlkeld by Shephard — Bowyer has access to a more focused side with massive capabilities.
Salford are always gonna be in the conversation, but those chats will be getting louder as the season goes on.
The end of last season saw Scunny looking limp and useless, ready for the drop. I don’t reckon the Summer has done much to improve anyone’s thinking. A depressing season could lie ahead. Acquisitions have been nothing more than damage control, and it’s hard to see where the quality is gonna come from.
Scunthorpe could be the next side with a rich EFL history to drop out of it.
Stevenage ‘Revell-ed’ in their unexpected survival last season, acting as if they had a new lease on life and taking far more chances with their game. They got something out of players previously written off, and I can see ’em doing it again. I don’t reckon it’ll be sparkling, but with a nice bit of potential tinged with highlights of experience all executing Revell’s exploratory style of play, The Boro will stick around in League Two for another season, proving that what doesn’t kill you, might just make you stronger.
They’ve kept what made ’em good and they’ve bought a lot of National League stars with ’em. Like Harrogate before them, this will stand them in good stead for survival. This’ll obviously be the aim for the first-time EFLers, and I hope they relish every second.
There’s light at the end of the tunnel, but the tunnel’s looking lengthy as all hell right now. Ten senior outfield players are currently on their books (at time of writing) just one week before the season begins.
With a takeover complete, optimism is high, but it might be too late… Might. Youth players and whatever they can scramble together is the order of the day, but they’ve gotta get over the whimper they ended last season on, and I don’t think the funk will be lifted so easily.
They’re on their way back to normal, but that tunnel is SO LONG.
The Mellon is back, and after a minor clusterfuck to end last season, he’ll bring some much needed stability to a fresh(ish) squad. There’ve been some big losses (Monthé spearheading them), but exciting signings have quashed the burn (McManaman spearheading those). I’ve no doubt Mellon will get the best out of them, but there’s a season of rebuild ahead before a big push. A force to be reckoned with, but not the force.
Experience has left the manager’s chair, and it’s left the side as well, with several long-serving players hitting the road. But new signings are gonna make up a lot of the danger The Saddlers put forth this season. The aforementioned Monthé will continue to be a rock at the back in League Two, Stephen Ward will continue to be cracker on his retirement tour, Joss Labadie will keep the ride going as League Two starlet, and Jack Earing will fill the role of exciting young talent. That’s not even to mention Zak Mills, Ash Taylor, and Conor Wilkinson.
All of this’ll sit ’em well, but not too well. There’ll be danger, but not too much. There’ll be a challenge, but not much of one. They’ll be sitting pretty, but they won’t be homecoming queens.
Alright, let’s have a gander at what I went for.
1. Northampton Town
2. Bradford City
3. Salford City
4. Forest Green Rovers
5. Newport County
6. Mansfield Town
7. Colchester United
8. Leyton Orient
9. Tranmere Rovers
10. Carlisle United
12. Port Vale
13. Bristol Rovers
14. Exeter City
16. Crawley Town
17. Oldham Athletic
19. Harrogate Town
21. Sutton United
22. Hartlepool United
23. Swindon Town
24. Scunthorpe United
This might be the biggest crap-shoot of them all. With the gap between League Two and the National League ever-narrowing, the competition increases immensely season-on-season. I honestly wouldn’t be too surprised if the team I’ve got first finish twenty-fourth and vice-versa.
Maybe not that dramatic, but close enough. I can definitely see Sutton doing better. And Hartlepool. And Harrogate. And Oldham.
Whatever, I’m sticking to this.
And I love that unpredictability. I can’t help it. Whatever goes on, I hope they all win, and they all have fun, and they’re all happy and healthy. I love y’all and thank you for entertaining me — I’ll support you wherever you go. As long as you don’t do owt shitty. But I can’t guess what you’ll do.
I can only guess how League Two is gonna end.
Is this how it’s gonna end?
Keep it streets ahead,