A bit later than I’d hoped, but here’s the last part of the previews for the 2015/16 Sky Bet League One season. Interestingly, Wigan were 33/1 to be relegated from the Championship this time last year…
Promoted from League Two via the playoffs
Manager: Phil Brown
Last ten games: 7-1-2 (League Two, doesn’t include the playoffs)
Back in League One after several near misses but the Shrimpers don’t tend to hang around at this level: in their last ten seasons in the third tier they’ve been promoted twice and relegated four times. Although they had a chance of automatic promotion going into their last game, Southend had been in the playoff spots since Christmas without ever really challenging for the three automatic places. A very good defensive record – including eight consecutive clean sheets – was crucial in reaching the playoffs, but half of the teams in League Two scored more goals than they did in 2014/15 and they haven’t scored more than twice in a league game at Roots Hall since March 2014. If that issue isn’t addressed by Phil Brown then 2015/16 will be a steep learning curve spent in the bottom half of the table.
Fourth consecutive season in League One
Manager: Mark Cooper
Last ten games: 3-3-4 (doesn’t include League One playoffs)
Have only finished in the bottom half of the table once in the last six seasons, but that was when Swindon were relegated in 2011 after losing in the League One playoffs at the end of previous season. Could it happen again? The answer is that it’s possible: despite being top in mid January, Town won just seven of their last 20 games and limped into the playoffs where their defensive frailties were clearly on display. A playoff hangover is likely anyway, but with several key players having already left the club I think even a top half finish might be optimistic. The new ‘media policy’ would probably be seen as being too liberal by the North Korean government.
Ninth consecutive season in League One
Manager: Dean Smith
Last ten games: 3-5-2
It would be wrong for me start this preview without mentioning the three Saddlers fans from the same family that were murdered at Sousse earlier in the summer. Patrick and Adrian Evans and Joel Richards were probably looking forward to the new season in the same way as the rest of us do during the close season. The club they supported were last season’s draw specialists and Walsall always seem to be among the pre-season favourites to go down, but their average finishing position over the last nine seasons since they won League Two has been twelfth. The 8-2 defeat at Bristol City on the last day of 2014/15 was an aberration (it was the Saddlers’ heaviest league defeat this century) and keeping Tom Bradshaw seems to be the key to where the Saddlers finish this season. Comfortably mid table springs to mind.
Relegated from the Championship
Manager: Gary Caldwell
Last ten games: 2-2-6 (in the Championship
Promotion: 5/2 second favourites
It’s well over a decade since the last time the Latics played in the third tier, which not only indicates how well they’ve done since 2003 but also confirms how far they’ve fallen since winning the FA Cup. There are some similarities here with what happened at Leeds a decade ago; it took United three seasons to win promotion from League One and Wigan needed six seasons to escape the last time they were here. Their home form should be better than in 2014/15, which isn’t saying much. An eighteen game winless streak at the DW between August and April effectively sealed their fate and won’t happen again, especially as Will Grigg has joined the club, but there’s been a recent history of ‘big’ names failing to make the grade immediately and the Latics might find themselves on that list next May.