2015/16 Season Preview Part 2

Part two of the pre-season preview features League One’s Houdini club, two outsiders for promotion and three sides who might have to be content with mid table. Can you guess which teams fall into which categories?

The prices mentioned were the best prices for each team in each scenario on 1st July 2015 and were taken from the Oddschecker website. They may not be available now and will fluctuate throughout the season.

Crewe Alexandra

Fourth consecutive season in League One

Manager: Steve Davis

Last ten games: 2-4-4

Promotion: 33/1

Relegation: 11/8 second favourites

The annual Great Escape was even more baffling than last season: how do you lose almost half of your games and still stay up? The answer was a burst of short term form that included just two defeats in their last eight matches, which meant that Notts County and Leyton Orient (who both lost fewer games) were relegated. The big worry is the lack of goals: only Yeovil netted fewer times and the Alex failed to find the back of the net in just over a third of their games, including two separate three game streaks without a goal. The last time they finished 20th at this level (2007-2008) they were relegated at the end of the following season. They’ll always try to play a decent standard of football and that’s enough to win over most neutrals, if not actually the three points available.

Doncaster Rovers

Second consecutive season in League One

Manager: Paul Dickov

Last ten games: 3-2-5

Promotion: 13/2

Relegation: 12/1

Just like so many clubs last year, Rovers experienced an up and down season – which seems fitting as over the last three seasons they’ve been yoyoing between the Championship and League One. At the end of October Donny were flirting with relegation but by March they were challenging for the playoffs and only a very indifferent run of form put the brakes on a return to the Championship. Patchy home form at the Keepmoat needs to improve to the level of their away form in 2014/15 if they’re even going to make a genuine run at the playoffs: they only beat the sides that finished above them twice at home but three times on the road. If Dickov can iron out the inconsistencies then Donny could go up, otherwise another unremarkable season is on the cards.

Fleetwood Town

Second consecutive season in League One

Manager: Graham Alexander

Last ten games: 3-3-4

Promotion: 8/1

Relegation: 8/1

The club’s highest ever league finish was due to a very good defensive display as only three promoted clubs conceded fewer goals than Town. A bright start was deceptive (two of their three wins at the start of the season were against teams that will be playing in League Two this season) and although they fall back into the chasing pack, for the most part Fleetwood stayed in the top half of the table and look suspiciously like one of those sides that could have a real go at promotion in 2015/16 if no clear cut contenders emerge by the autumn. Like Chesterfield, the bookies are unsure what to make of them but one of the reasons they’ve got this far is a superb record in their second seasons at new levels.

Gillingham

Third consecutive season in League One

Manager: Justin Edinburgh

Last ten games: 4-3-3

Promotion: 14/1

Relegation: 6/1

The most improved side from New Years Day onwards were particularly impressive at home against the other teams in the bottom half of the table but also managed to avoid defeat to four teams that finished in the top ten. Paul Scally’s rather hit and miss strategy in managerial appointments can be a haphazard one but recruiting Justin Edinburgh from Newport in February is beginning to look like a hit. Now that some of the more prolific strikers at other clubs have departed for the Championship, they could have the division’s top scorer in Cody McDonald. My official ‘dark horse’ pick for promotion this season.

Millwall

Relegated from League One

Manager: Neil Harris

Last ten games: 2-4-4 (in the Championship)

Promotion: 7/2 third favourites

Relegation: 33/1

Back in the third tier after five seasons, but it’s been 40 years since the Lions were promoted immediately after relegation and I would expect that record to continue. Millwall were awful last season and despite the optimism coming from Bermondsey, it’ll take at least a season to finish the rebuilding job at the New Den. Neil Harris was an intriguing – if rather obvious – choice to replace Ian Holloway, but although the ‘club legend returns as manager’ scenario usually ends badly, it might not turn out that way for Harris in the medium to long term but he may need to accept that bouncing straight back from relegation is unlikely in 2015/16.

Oldham Athletic

Twelfth consecutive season in League One

Manager: Darren Kelly

Last ten games: 2-5-3

Promotion: 11/1

Relegation: 6/1

Yet another one of those sides that weren’t consistent enough to be playoff contenders or weren’t bad enough to be relegated last season. 2014/15 petered out disappointingly over the last quarter of the campaign, which seemed to be related to the departure of Lee Johnson to Barnsley: the Latics were in the playoff positions in mid February but six defeats in their next seven finished that dream off. Haven’t finished in the top half of the table since 2008/09 and haven’t been in the playoffs for eight years. To be honest there wasn’t much last season to indicate that 2015/16 will be any different but Oldham weren’t that bad against the teams that finished immediately above them and that price for relegation looks rather harsh.

2015/16 Season Preview Part One

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be having a quick look – longer where necessary in some cases – at each of the 24 teams that will be taking part in Sky Bet League One in 2015/16. At the start of August I’ll also be publishing a ‘What To Expect’ post which I missed last season; here’s the post for 2013/14.

I took the promotion/relegation prices from Oddschecker.com at 2pm on 1st July. They were the best prices available from a wide variety of firms and will change throughout the season. Some of these are based on exploiting the perceptions of casual punters rather than the realities of the situation. Some of the ‘big’ names have short prices but a quick look back at last season’s previews is revealing. The three promoted sides were 7/2 (Bristol City), 11/2 (MK Dons) and 11/4 second favourites (Preston); Yeovil and Leyton Orient were 12/1 to go down.

Before getting stuck in with the first half dozen clubs, a couple of things to bring to your attention. The first live Sky game this season is on Saturday 5th September (ie international weekend) and is between Southend and Peterborough, but the Sky Bet Football League highlights show will now be at 9:00pm on Saturday evenings on Channel 5. The show is called ‘Football League Tonight’ and the presenters have yet to be announced.

Barnsley

Second consecutive season in League One

Manager: Lee Johnson

Last ten games: 1-6-3

Promotion: 5/1

Relegation: 20/1

Didn’t really get the hang of the competition until Lee Johnson took over from Danny Wilson but the Tykes could have made the playoffs if they’d won more than once in their last ten games. Should improve and promotion is possible; they were the only side that Bristol City failed to beat last season and if you look back at their history at this level, it’s been almost 50 years since they spent any longer than two seasons in the third tier.

Blackpool

Relegated from the Championship

Manager: Neil McDonald

Last ten games: 0-4-6 (in the Championship)

Promotion: 20/1

Relegation: 9/4

Avoiding another relegation is probably top of Neil McDonald’s To Do list. You’ve got to admire the former Blackburn and West Ham assistant manager for taking this job on after the wretched campaign the Tangerines had last season under the hapless Lee Clark, but it’s been nine seasons since Blackpool played at this level and they’ve never bounced back at the first attempt. A major rebuilding project is on the cards and I’d be surprised if they trouble the top half of the table; by mid September it should be clear how the rest of the season will pan out.

Bradford City

Third consecutive season in League One

Manager: Phil Parkinson

Last ten games: 4-2-4

Promotion: 11/2

Relegation: 14/1

If you’d said to City fans this time last year they’d achieve their best league position for a decade as well as a memorable cup run they’d have taken it, but the truth is the FA Cup success had an adverse impact on their league form and they should have reached the playoffs at least. That’s a distinct possibility this season, but the Bantams need to be more consistent in 2015/16 as well as doing something about their home performances against genuine promotion contenders. Last season City seven of their eight home games against the top ten clubs including a 6-0 thrashing by Bristol City. That has to stop but if it does there’s no reason Bradford can’t challenge for automatic promotion or even the title.

Burton Albion

Promoted as League Two Champions; first ever season at this level.

Manager: Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink

Last ten games: 7-3-0

Promotion: 11/1

Relegation: 6/1

Uncharted territory for the Brewers, but they’ve been poised for a breakthrough for some years and should have momentum on their side. Although they haven’t lost since February, I don’t think that’s going to last much longer but over the last decade the League Two champions have finished around mid table and there’s an outside chance that Burton could reach the playoffs.

Bury

Promoted from League Two

Manager: David Flitcroft

Last ten games: 8-0-2 (League 2)

Promotion: 12/1

Relegation: 11/2

Back after two seasons away but without a top half finish at this level for almost 20 years, the Shakers will need to maintain last season’s impressive defensive record to have any sort of impact on League One this season. David Flitcroft always seems like a man with a mission and will want to make a point to his former employers at Oakwell (not forgetting the derbies at Rochdale and Oldham); mid table is probably the best they can hope for in 2014/15 but as we saw last season, there were a lot of teams that could be described like that.

Chesterfield

Second  consecutive season in League One

Manager: Dean Saunders

Last ten games (not counting the playoff semi final): 5-3-2

Promotion: 8/1

Relegation: 8/1

Last season’s highest place finish since 1980 was a pleasant surprise but might be a flash in the pan. Paul Cook left after a playoff performance that looked too easy for Preston and so the Spirerites are facing a ‘new manager/playoff hangover’ situation that didn’t bode well for a repeat of 2014/15 before Dean Saunders arrived, let alone after his appointment. It’s fair to say that Saunders has earned a reputation of not being able to win relegation battles; he may not have to in 2015/16 and with the pressure off, Chesterfield might be a showcase for his talents. As you can see from the prices, the bookies are unsure what to make of them.

Colchester United

Eighth consecutive season in League One

Manager: Tony Humes

Last ten games: 5-3-2

Promotion: 28/1

Relegation: 5/4 favourites

Looked doomed until some sort of collective light bulb went on after they lost at home to Crawley in March. Although three of the relegated sides conceded fewer goals and the Us lost as many games at home as Orient and Notts County, Colchester’s escape from the bottom four was probably more impressive than Crewe’s was and if they continue in that vein of form they should be less anxious about the drop next May. Having said that, they’d do well to look at what happened to Notts County in 2014/15.

Coventry City

Fourth consecutive season in League One

Manager: Tony Mowbray

Last ten games: 4-3-4

Promotion: 8/1

Relegation: 12/1

You’d have to be at least 20 years old now to remember Coventry being in the Premier League and it’s been a decade since they finished in the top half of the Championship. Despite the ballyhoo over the return to the Ricoh Arena last season. the Sky Blues weren’t as good in Coventry as they were in Northampton (only three of the four relegated sides last season won fewer games) and City dropped into the bottom four around Valentine’s Day. It’s probably too early to judge the effectiveness of Tony Mowbray’s appointment in the long term but I’m nowhere near as optimistic about the Sky Blues’ promotion hopes as the bookies seem to be.