From promotion hopefuls to those expecting a survival scrap, via key players, new managers and dark horses. What to expect
• Poll: which clubs will be promoted this season?
Too big for League Two, Andy Awford’s Portsmouth team are surely capable of escaping it this term. The Fratton Park crowds – at 15,460 they enjoyed the division’s best average attendance last season and attracted League Two’s biggest audience (18,181) when Oxford United visited – can only help. With their financial woes increasingly behind them England’s biggest supporter-run club is ready to consign the errors of past regimes to history and rise again. And Awford’s team displayed title winning form following his installation last spring.
Bury finished last season on an upward trajectory following David Flitcroft’s appointment as manager in December. Flitcroft did an awful lot right despite difficult circumstances in his previous job at Barnsley and seems one of the game’s brighter managerial prospects. Bury should be strong enough to make it back into League One. And quite possibly in style. Better, much better than the pre-season odds suggest.
Teams that finish strongly generally start the next campaign well and York have been on the way up since Nigel Worthington’s squad was reinforced last January. They should do much better than the pre-season odds suggest. Although they stumbled in the play-offs to miss out narrowly on promotion, York averaged two points a game in the second half of last season suffering only two defeats in 23 league fixtures as they displayed title-winning form. Throw in Worthington’s experience and they could be quietly formidable.
Granted Luton have only just returned to the league but newly-promoted teams often arrive with the sort of momentum capable of sweeping them straight up through the divisions and, in John Still, Luton boast a highly experienced manager. Kenilworth Road should also house some of the division’s bigger crowds.
Micky Mellon, Shrewsbury’s manager, says his radically re-shaped side are “good to go” after a manic summer during which he signed 16 new players. The bookies seem to believe this is a recipe for instant promotion on the part of a club only relegated from League One in April. But gelling so many players so quickly will not be easy.
Like York, Southend missed out on promotion via the play-offs last spring but Phil Brown is optimistic they can be second time lucky. Brown is likely to be the manager with the best sun-tan in League Two but the man who led Hull into the Premier League and kept them there for a season should not be underestimated.
Morecambe, Accrington, Wycombe, Exeter
Michael Appleton (Oxford United)
The one-time Manchester United youth player is still only 38 but has managed four clubs – Portsmouth, Blackpool, Blackburn Rovers and now Oxford in the space of three years. Appleton’s coaching is much vaunted but now is the time for him to walk the walk.
Rob Edwards (Tranmere)
It is the 41-year-old, one-time Bristol City defender’s first managerial position but the Cumbrian-born Edwards impressed enormously during a stint as assistant manager at Exeter. If he hits the ground running, Tranmere could well be part of the promotion mix.
Micky Mellon (Shrewsbury)
The 42-year-old Scot has a mixed managerial record – although he generally did very well at Fleetwood – but has been given carte blanche to sign virtually an entirely new squad. It could be promotion or bust.
Ricky Miller (Luton Town)
The 25-year-old striker has joined League Two Luton Town from Conference North Boston United after scoring 28 goals last season. John Still, who has a knack of turning semi-professionals into full-time league players, says he reminds him of the recently retired, uber-prolific, one-time European Golden Shoe winner and Premier League top scorer Kevin Phillips.
Adebayo Akinfenwa (AFC Wimbledon)
League Two defences beware; big units do not come more sizeable. Akinfenwa, aka the strongest man in football, has swapped Gillingham – where he scored 10 goals in 34 appearances last season – for AFC Wimbledon. Dubbed “the Beast” this 16-stone powerhouse of a centre-forward can bench-press 180kg – almost twice his bodyweight – and recently gave John Terry an extremely testing workout during a friendly against Chelsea.
Luke Chadwick (Cambridge United)
The former Manchester United winger/midfielder could not be happier after helping Cambridge back into the league last season. Chadwick grew up in a Cambridgeshire village and says he is much happier at the Abbey Stadium than he ever was at Old Trafford.