League One experts from Portsmouth, Sunderland, Sheffield Wednesday, Ipswich, Lincoln, Charlton and more give their predictions ahead of division's big kick-off
We caught up with journalists associated with every club in League One for their insight into the season ahead.
Here’s what they had to say about their respective club’s transfer business to date, their reasons for being optimistic and cautious ahead of tomorrow’s big kick-off, their league prediction for the team they cover, and their favourites for promotion and relegation.
Name: Karen FazackerleyPublication: BBC SportClub: Accrington StanleyKey ins: Joel Mumbongo, James Trafford, Harry Pell, John O’Sullivan, Joe HardyKey outs: Mark Hughes, Joe Maguire, Reagan OgleReasons for optimism: John Coleman has managed to keep the main squad together from last season, and so far has kept hold of his prize assets whilst strengthening in other areas too. Off the field the club is flourishing too with a new training ground and ground facilities. So what’s not to get excited about?!Reasons for caution: Hardcore Accrington fans will say they have had more success in the last 20 years than fans of most clubs in their lifetime. The constant worry being that success will come to an end at some point - it’s a similar scenario every season, as an Accrington fan it comes with the territory.Predicted finish: 9th - Heartbreakingly just outside the play-offs, it may just be a bridge too far with the money that is being spent at the so-called 'bigger clubs' that were relegated/promoted last season.Three to go up: Ipswich, Portsmouth, Sheffield WednesdayFour to go down: Cambridge, AFC Wimbledon, Fleetwood, MorecambeHope for the season: Winning the play-offs at Wembley would be the ultimate dream, Stanley have never played at the home of football, so winning promotion there would be incredible.Name: Daniel MarshPublication: South London PressClub: AFC WimbledonKey ins: Aaron Pressley, Luke McCormick, George MarshKey outs: Joe Pigott, Terell Thomas, George DobsonReasons for optimism: Wimbledon have been revitalised under Mark Robinson, and he's keen for the club to aspire for more than just staying in the division. Some exciting young talent like Ayoub Assal should give fans some cause for optimism in 21/22.Reasons for caution: Coping without Joe Pigott, who scored 20-plus league goals last season, isn't going to be easy for Wimbledon. There'll be a lot of pressure on Aaron Pressley to adapt to senior football quickly.Predicted finish: 14th - I fancy Wimbledon to surprise a few and avoid a scrap for relegation this year given their improvements since Mark Robinson took charge.Three to go up: Bolton, Ipswich, RotherhamFour to go down: Burton, Cambridge, Fleetwood, MorecambeHope for the season: No survival worries on the final day would be nice!Name: Marc IlesPublication: Bolton NewsClub: Bolton WanderersKey ins: Josh Sheehan, Amadou Bakayoko, Xavier Amaechi, Declan John, Dapo AfolayanKey outs: Shaun Miller, Arthur Gnahoua, Reiss Greenidge, Ryan DelaneyReasons for optimism: Wanderers have decent people in charge, are playing their most attractive football in years and there is genuine hope in the town that a bright young manager in Ian Evatt can build a team capable of climbing the league again. Better still, the town is reconnecting with its club after years of estrangement.Reasons for caution: This time last year optimism levels were sky high – but Bolton still had further to fall and more lessons to learn before they bounced back off the bottom. Expectations will always be high at this club, but they are no longer big spenders.Predicted finish: 7th - I am going to settle for that and a cup run. Evatt’s side have a habit of exceeding my expectations.Three to go up: Ipswich, Sheffield Wednesday, WiganFour to go down: Cambridge, Cheltenham, Fleetwood, MorecambeHope for the season: Progression. I think this team is heading places, and if it takes a season or two to get promoted, then so be it.Name: Colston CrawfordPublication: Burton MailClub:Burton AlbionKey ins: Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, Deji Oshilaja, Louis Moult, Omari Patrick, Bryn MorrisKey outs: Ryan Edwards. Otherwise no-one you'd describe as key apart from loanees Hayden Carter and Sean ClareReasons for optimism: Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and his assistant Dino Maamria are heroes in Burton after last season's Great Escape. Hasselbaink was already one for getting them promoted from League Two and putting them on top of League One in his first spell. Unlike so many managers, their plans are believable; their signings make sense. The feel-good factor is unavoidable.Reasons for caution: There are more big hitters in League One than when Burton were promoted from it - Walsall finished third that year. Sunderland and Portsmouth will again be desperate to escape the division, while Ipswich, Wigan and Bolton all have new owners throwing money around. Sheffield Wednesday may be in disarray, but so were Hull last year and they won the title. For a club with Burton's resources, it is a lot to contend with, however good Hasselbaink is.Predicted finish: 8th - I'm no Darragh MacAnthony fan, but when the Peterborough owner said he would have hated to have to try to get out of League One this season, he was right.Three to go up: Portsmouth, Sheffield Wednesday, SunderlandFour to go down: Cambridge, Fleetwood, Gillingham, MorecambeHope for the season: That Burton ruffle feathers, compete and entertain. That Covid stays away enough to keep competition real and that no clubs implode, which also skews results.
Name: Stephen PagePublication: Cambridge NewsClub: Cambridge UnitedKey ins: Lloyd Jones, James Brophy, Jack Lankester, Sam Smith, Jensen WeirKey outs: Paul Mullin, Kyle Knoyle, Luke Hannant, Hiram Boateng, Jubril OkedinaReasons for optimism: The U’s are set to embark on their first season in the third tier since the 2001/02 campaign, having secured promotion from League Two last season. United had a memorable campaign last term, after six previous seasons of being unable to challenge the promotion places in the division below. Out of the Football League as recently as 2014, the club are heading back in the right direction, and have an exciting challenge ahead to look forward to.Reasons for caution: United will be widely tipped to drop straight back down into League Two due to not being an established League One club, and will need to adapt quickly to the new level. The U’s have also lost two of their best players from last season in Paul Mullin and Kyle Knoyle. Losing 34-goal striker Mullin is a particular blow to their chances, with his goals leaving a significant void, posing the question as to whether United have enough goals in their team.Predicted finish: 18th - The U’s are good enough to stay up in my view but are expected to finish in the lower part of the table.Three to go up: Ipswich, Sheffield Wednesday, SunderlandFour to go down: AFC Wimbledon, Fleetwood, Morecambe, ShrewsburyHope for the season: A season away from relegation danger is what U’s fans will be hoping for, although securing their League One status is fundamentally the aim.Name: Richard CawleyPublication: South London PressClub: Charlton AthleticKey ins: Craig MacGillivray, Jayden Stockley, Akin Famewo, Sean Clare, George DobsonKey outs: Ben Amos, Chuks Aneke, Darren Pratley, Andrew Shinnie, Deji OshilajaReasons for optimism: Nigel Adkins. The manager's experience could be crucial considering Charlton are not right at the top of the spending charts - he has twice won promotion at this level with Southampton and Scunthorpe. The Addicks would have made the top six if their form under Adkins was spread across the 46-game campaign.Reasons for caution: Still work to be done in this transfer window. The squad is light in a number of areas, and the make-up of Charlton's squad is unlikely to become fully clear until further into this transfer window. They'll be hoping influential centre-back Ryan Inniss can stay fit.Predicted finish: 4th - Adkins' nous, coupled with the expectation that more quality will be added to the playing personnel, should see them secure a play-off place.Three to go up: Charlton, Ipswich, WycombeFour to go down: Cambridge, Cheltenham, Morecambe, PlymouthHope for the season - Promotion. That's the hope. But, based on budget, that can't be an expectation. Charlton should be in the mix.Name: Jon PalmerPublication: Gloucestershire LiveClub: Cheltenham TownKey ins: Owen Evans, Elliot Bonds.Key outs: Josh Griffiths, Callum Wright, Finn Azaz, Sam Smith, Chris ClementsReasons for optimism: Michael Duff’s management skills have allowed Cheltenham to exceed all expectations in winning the League Two title for the first time in their history. They have kept all of their key (permanent) players from last season despite losing some bright young loanees. They are well-organised in a 3-5-2 formation and extremely dangerous from set pieces, with Ben Tozer’s long throw-ins causing havoc last season.Reasons for caution: Cheltenham have spent four seasons in League One before and every one of them has been a struggle. The highest they have finished is 17th (2006/07) but for much of that season they were in the bottom four. They are not a big club in League Two, so they will certainly be one of the smallest in League One in terms of crowds, stadium size and budget. They have missed out on several summer targets.Predicted finish: 16th – Duff has rewritten Cheltenham Town’s record books several times as a player and now as a manager, and he can do it again.Three to go up: Charlton, Ipswich, PortsmouthFour to go down: AFC Wimbledon, Cambridge, Morecambe, PlymouthHope for the season: Most fans would take survival, which would be some achievement, but Duff will set his sights higher and 16th would make history – that’s the aim.Name: Mike BaggaleyPublication: Crewe ChronicleClub: Crewe AlexandraKey ins: Callum McFadzean, Tommie Hoban, Kayne Ramsay, Shaun MacDonald, Chris LongKey outs: Ryan WintleReasons for optimism: Crewe had an impressive 2020/21 season, finishing 12th in their first campaign back at this level since 2016. The experience of the last 12 months, plus the addition of new signings, gives them the opportunity to build on that.Reasons for caution: The majority of clubs in the division will be operating with a bigger budget, in fact manager Dave Artell reckoned his side had the lowest playing budget in the division last season. That’s not to write off a side who instead rely heavily on home-grown players, but the competition will be tough.Predicted finish (position plus one line explainer): 10th - steady improvement after a year’s adjustment to League One.Three to go up: Ipswich, Sheffield Wednesday, WiganFour to go down: AFC Wimbledon, Cambridge, Cheltenham, MorecambeHope for the season: The manager was proud of the attractive football his team produced last season. More of the same and maybe a challenge for the play-offs.Name: Liam HodenPublication: Doncaster Free PressClub: Doncaster RoversKey ins: Tommy Rowe, Matt Smith, Ben Close, Kyle Knoyle, Jordy HiwulaKey outs: James Coppinger, Reece James, Brad Halliday, Matt Smith, Joe WrightReasons for optimism: The club as a whole feels refreshed following the appointment of beloved former player Richie Wellens, who has breezed in armed with a new style and his typical no-nonsense attitude. The signings so far certainly appear to have strengthened the starting XI and, despite Covid-related disruption over the last few weeks, there have been positive signs in pre-season the group are quickly adapting to what Wellens wants from his team - namely attacking, front foot football.Reasons for caution: The biggest concern at this stage is the lack of depth in the squad. The starting XI looks strong enough to mount a decent challenge for the top six this season. But beyond it, there is not a tremendous amount of proven quality in reserve. Wellens will be looking to bolster the squad before the closing of the window but it is now at the stage where players will need to leave before others are brought in.Predicted finish: 6th - a lot will need to go right with injuries and suspensions but some of the early signs of what Wellens has been able to do have been very exciting.Three to go up: Charlton, Ipswich, SunderlandFour to go down: Accrington, AFC Wimbledon, Cambridge United, MorecambeHope for the season: Very little Covid disruption. Rovers saw half the senior squad put into isolation due to a single case earlier this month. Something similar in the season could be catastrophic.Name: Tom SandellsPublication: Blackpool GazetteClub: Fleetwood TownKey ins: Tom Clarke, Max Clark. Brad Halliday, Ryan Edmondson, Callum MortonKey outs: Wes Burns, Paul Coutts, Josh Morris, Sam FInley, Mark DuffyReasons for optimism: Simon Grayson got himself settled into the job by the end of last season and had one of the best defensive records in the league. In that regard, his two young starters are now more experienced, he's added Tom Clarke who is a leader and Max Clark who has the potential to be dangerous on the left side. There's good young talent at Highbury.Reasons for caution: Firepower, or a lack thereof. Start striker Paddy Madden and Ched Evans departed during the course of last season and were never adequately replaced. This summer has seen Ged Garner flying the flag solo, a raw, young forward, and he's only just been joined by Callum Morton who is yet to prove himself in League One. Assuming their defensive record is similar to last season, scoring goals could make or break this one.Predicted finish: 14th - Goals and creativity a worry.Three to go up: Ipswich, Rotherham, WycombeFour to go down: Cambridge, Cheltenham, Crewe, MorecambeHope for the season: Fans remain throughout, the young talent continues to impress and Simon Grayson gets the most out of the group to push the top six.Name: Luke CawdellPublication: KentOnlineClub: GillinghamKey ins: Ben Reeves, Max Ehmer, Dan Phillips, Jamie Cumming, Danny LloydKey outs: Jordan Graham, Jack Bonham, Connor OgilvieReasons for optimism: Steve Evans has already managed a couple of top-10 finishes with Gillingham and can get the best out of a small budget. While some key men have left, they’ve kept big striker Vadaine Oliver and captain Kyle Dempsey. There’s room for some more loan signings and, with Evans’ contacts, there is every reason to hope those extra late additions can make Gillingham a decent outfit.Reasons for caution: A disrupted pre-season because of Covid means they are probably not as sharp as they should be going into the new campaign, and losing Jordan Graham’s threat from out wide is a blow. They are a little light up top with only Oliver, transfer-listed John Akinde and first-year pro Gerald Sithole as recognised strikers.Predicted finish: 10th - Anything higher will be a tremendous achievement considering the strength of League One this year.Three to go up: Ipswich, Rotherham, Sheffield WednesdayFour to go down: Accrington, Cambridge, Cheltenham, MorecambeHope for the season: To be competitive, to cause a few surprises, upset a few of the ‘big teams’ and keep the fight for a play-off spot going for as long as possible.Name: Andy WarrenPublication: East Anglian Daily TimesClub: Ipswich TownKey ins: Lee Evans, Joe Pigott, Rekeem Harper, Scott Fraser, George EdmundsonKey outs: Andre Dozzell, Gwion Edwards, Luke Chambers, James Wilson, Alan JudgeReasons for optimism: A complete fresh start at Ipswich. New ownership after years of decay, a top-class CEO (Mark Ashton) and a new manager starting his first full season. More than 20 first team players have been let go and a host of signings incoming to create a brand-new squad after two years of failure. Ipswich are shopping in a completely different market now, taking the best players from other League One clubs, rather than just relying on free transfers and loans.Reasons for caution: Ipswich have taken a high risk, high reward approach when it comes to blowing up last season’s squad and starting again, and there are obviously no guarantees with that approach. Most fans would agree it was both needed and wanted but, in a strong division where nothing’s a given, the fear must be that this new squad takes a little while to gel.Predicted finish: 3rd - Ipswich simply must be in the thick of the promotion mix this season – I think they will be, but I have this nagging feeling the play-offs may be needed.Three to go up: Ipswich, Rotherham, SunderlandFour to go down: AFC Wimbledon, Cambridge, Fleetwood, MorecambeHope for the season: A vast improvement on two miserable League One seasons. Ipswich need to be right at the forefront of the promotion race.Name: Mark WhileyPublication: Lincolnshire EchoClub: Lincoln CityKey ins. Josh Griffiths, Lewis Fiorini, Chris Maguire, Teddy Bishop, Dan N’Lundulu, Lasse Sorensen, Hakeeb AdelakunKey outs: Jorge Grant, Harry Anderson, Zack Elbouzedi, Theo Archibald.Reasons for optimism: A fantastic 2020/21 campaign which almost yielded a place in the second tier for the first time in 60 years. The team played some fantastic attacking football – it was just a shame no-one was in the grounds to see it live. An excellent manager in Michael Appleton, who remains at the helm after being strongly linked with West Brom in the summer. Appleton is also back at work after undergoing treatment for testicular cancer which is great to see.Reasons for caution: With teams like Ipswich and Wigan set to be much improved, and the relegated trio of Rotherham, Wednesday and Wycombe looking strong, competition will be much tougher this time around. With that in mind, I hope there isn’t too much expectation on the team. Losing last season’s star man, Jorge Grant, was a blow too but the recruitment, on paper at least, looks impressive. There are a few injuries heading into the season which is a slight concern.Predicted finish: 6th - a play-off finish this season would be just as impressive as last season given the increased competition.Three to go up: Ipswich, Rotherham, WycombeFour to go down: Cambridge, Fleetwood, MK Dons, MorecambeHope for the season: Better home form for what I hope will be regular 10,000 crowds at Sincil Bank.Name: Toby LockPublication: Milton Keynes CitizenClub: MK DonsKey ins: Mo Eisa, Max Watters, Scott Twine, Ethan Robson, Josh MartinKey outs: Cameron Jerome, Scott Fraser, Lee Nicholls, Andrew Surman, Matthew SorinolaReasons for optimism: After a strong second half to the season, Dons have recruited extremely well once again to bolster the squad. Losing the likes of Fraser and Jerome, the two top-scorers last season, could have spelt disaster, but replacements are already in the building and with a stable and reliable defensive unit, Dons could be a hard team to break down this season.Reasons for caution: For a team who finished 13th last season, aiming for the heady heights of a promotion fight might seem a little far-fetched, even for the wildest of dreamers. With the level of competition in League One arguably the highest it has ever been and a lot of clubs fancying their chances this season, Dons might just get out-muscled by some of the bigger hitters this term, of which there are plenty.Predicted finish: 10th - it would be a solid improvement. Mixing it with the play-off scrap would be a good achievement.Three to go up: Portsmouth, Rotherham, WiganFour to go down: AFC Wimbledon, Cambridge, Cheltenham, ShrewsburyHope for the season: Supporters get to come back and watch their teams, appreciating what they have missed and getting behind their clubs for better or worse, through thick and thin.Name: Gavin BrownePublication: Morecambe VisitorClub: MorecambeKey ins: Wes McDonald, Ryan Cooney, Josh McPake, Alfie McCalmont, Callum JonesKey outs: Carlos Mendes Gomes, John O’Sullivan, Yann Songo’o, Nat Knight-Percival, Stephen HendrieReasons for optimism: New manager Stephen Robinson certainly brings quite the CV with international and European experience to hand. There was already a feel-good factor around the club after last season’s promotion, which has been added to by the arrivals of players including Callum Jones, Alfie McCalmont and Josh McPake. They can also take inspiration from Accrington Stanley, who were written off after their promotion into League One, but have since consolidated their place in the third tier.Reasons for caution: If Morecambe were annually tipped for relegation when they were in League Two, it’s wholly unsurprising they’re odds-on this time around. They’ll probably have the smallest budget and attendance, while those players who haven’t featured at this level before will need to hit the ground running. They’ll also need a good haul of points as early as possible given they face Wigan, Oxford, Charlton, Portsmouth and Sunderland in their last eight matches.Predicted finish: 20thThree to go up: Charlton, Ipswich, PortsmouthFour to go down: AFC Wimbledon, Cambridge, Cheltenham, ShrewsburyHope for the season: That Morecambe defy the pundits by preserving their record of never having been relegated - and make it a season to remember for the returning fans.Name: James RobertsPublication: Oxford MailClub: Oxford UnitedKey ins: Marcus McGuane, Ryan Williams, Billy Bodin, Steve SeddonKey outs: Josh Ruffels, Rob Atkinson, Sean Clare, Kyran LofthouseReasons for optimism: Two successive play-off finishes show Karl Robinson's United know what is needed to compete at the top end of League One. The four signings to date have all done well in this division before, while some existing players could have big seasons ahead of them - Mark Sykes and Dan Agyei spring to mind. There is no reason to suggest United cannot strengthen in the areas they are light before the end of the transfer window too.Reasons for caution: The flip side of that last point. United have lost the left-side of last season's defence and, while Steve Seddon looks a decent signing at left back, it would be unfair to expect Luke McNally to continue where Rob Atkinson left off in the middle. At the very least, they need a centre back and another winger. United's Covid outbreak, which left 12 players self-isolating, will not have helped pre-season preparations either and they must start far better than last year - especially with League One looking so strong.Predicted finish: 9th - Will probably change depending on incomings/outgoings, but feel United will challenge for the play-offs again. There may be too many other decent sides though.Three to go up: Ipswich, Portsmouth, WiganFour to go down: Cambridge, Cheltenham, Crewe, MorecambeHope for the season: I'm sure everyone will say this, but simply that grounds stay open with full capacity for the whole season. Will never take it for granted again.Name: Chris ErringtonPublication: Plymouth LiveClub: Plymouth ArgyleKey ins: James Wilson, Dan Scarr, Macaulay Gillesphey, Brendan Galloway, Jordan HoughtonKey outs: Will Aimson, Scott Wootton, Ben Reeves, Byron Moore, Frank NoubleReasons for optimism: With Simon Hallett so supportive as Argyle's owner and chairman, but also financially astute, the club are well placed off the pitch to build for the future despite all the implications of Covid-19. Ryan Lowe is starting his third season as manager and knows what is required from his team in League One. He retained some key players on new contracts, such as Danny Mayor and player-of-the-year Joe Edwards, and has completely rebuilt his defence.Reasons for caution: There are a number of 'big hitters' in League One, with Sheffield Wednesday and Bolton Wanderers added to the mix this season. Argyle, realistically, are likely to find it hard to match them. They will have a smaller budget than many but their mantra is to use the money they have more wisely than others. It is important Lowe's revamped defence is a success, otherwise there will be problems for them.Predicted finish: 12th - That would represent a good improvement on their finish of 18th last season, and build a belief that Argyle could challenge for the play-offs in 2022/23.Three to go up: Ipswich, Rotherham, Sheffield WednesdayFour to go down: Accrington, Cambridge, Cheltenham, MorecambeHope for the season: That the fans enjoy being back in the grounds this season. Football without them in 2020/21 was soulless.Name: Jordan CrossPublication: Portsmouth NewsClub: PortsmouthKey ins: Ryan Tunnicliffe, Shaun Willams, Clark Robertson, Kieron Freeman, Gassan AhadmeKey outs: Craig MacGillivray, Tom Naylor, Jack Whatmough, Ryan Williams, Andy CannonReasons for optimism: Pompey have got the right man at the helm. Danny Cowley has been a breath of fresh air with his enthusiasm and ideas, after Kenny Jackett’s tenure had turned toxic and saw apathy reign. A trio of Championship regulars in Williams, Tunnicliffe and Robertston look astute recruits and the goals have flowed in pre-season for Moroccan prospect Gassan Ahadme.Reasons for caution: Pompey have a billionaire owner but operate on a sustainable basis under Michael Eisner, that’s seen the playing budget slightly cut after haemorrhaging £750,000 a month through the Covid pandemic. There’s been a massive turnover of players which was required, but it could be bumpy early on in the season as a result. Senior strikers Ellis Harrison and John Marquis have failed to deliver.Predicted finish: 5th - A play-off finish has to be the objective in the toughest League One since Leeds, Norwich, Millwall and Southampton were in the third tier over a decade ago.Three to go up: Ipswich, Portsmouth, SunderlandFour to go down: AFC Wimbledon, Cambridge, Cheltenham, MorecambeHope for the season: If it is to be a top-six finish, a winning a play-off game would be nice - Pompey have failed to do so in eight attempts!Name: Paul DavisPublication: Rotherham AdvertiserClub: Rotherham UnitedKey ins: Shane FergusonKey outs: Matt Crooks, Clark Robertson, Matt OlosundeReasons for optimism: Rotherham have the nucleus of a good squad and still have a number of players who went up from this league two seasons ago. They've been there and done it. The Millers should be competitive again if they can make the right additions. The management and players know what it takes to win promotion.Reasons for caution: The strength of the division. There are some big clubs spending big money and around 15 sides could consider themselves contenders for the top three. Maybe Rotherham are still feeling the effects of last term's Championship relegation. Manager Paul Warne has been concerned by the mood in the camp during pre-season. New signings would help lift things. The loss of midfielder Matt Crooks, who made the PFA League One Team of the Season two years ago, is a major blow.Predicted finish: 10th - The Millers have gone up the last twice they've been at this level but are down on numbers heading into the new campaign. More recruitment is vital.Three to go up: Ipswich, Wigan, Sheffield Wednesday.Four to go down: AFC Wimbledon, Cambridge, Cheltenham, MorecambeHope for the season: A push for the play-offs, but more signings are needed for that to happen.Name: Alex MillerPublication: The Star, SheffieldClub: Sheffield WednesdayKey ins: The triple Championship signing of first Jack Hunt, who returns from three years at Bristol City, then Burnley goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell and Boro midfielder Lewis Wing, has stepped optimism up a few notches at S6. Dennis Adeniran, a freebie from Everton, looks a bright young midfielder, and QPR winger Olamide Shodipo looks a real handful.Key outs: 13 first team players left on a free transfer last season, including long-time goalkeeper Keiren Westwood, influential left winger Adam Reach, record signing forward Jordan Rhodes and - somewhat frustratingly - talented young pair Osaze Urhoghide and Liam Shaw on pre-contract terms to Celtic.Reasons for optimism: Darren Mark Moore. The Owls boss had his short time at the end of last season smashed up by illness - he was hospitalised with Covid - and there is a sense within the fanbase that he is the right man at the right time to start a new way forward at Wednesday after years of decline and mismanagement. Grab a few early wins, get the Hillsborough crowd back onside and you never know.Reasons for caution: Wednesday is a tanker trying to turn around very quickly and that's not always easy. The squad is threadbare and there are still off-field issues to iron out here and there, not least if they fail to pay their players on time and are slapped with the six point suspended deduction hanging over them. The biggest worry as it stands? Goals.Predicted finish: 6th - VERY hard to say until the end of the window, and there's no doubt Wednesday need firepower, but if you can't be optimistic now, when can you be? The play-offs are more fun anyway.Three to go up: Ipswich, Wigan, Sheffield WednesdayFour to go down: AFC Wimbledon, Cambridge, Cheltenham, MorecambeHope for the season: For Wednesday to reconnect with its fans whether they are vying for promotion or not and for Moore to get things heading in the right direction. And world peace.Name: Lewis CoxPublication: Shropshire StarClub: Shrewsbury TownKey ins: Ryan Bowman, Matthew Pennington, Elliott Bennett, David Davis, Marko MarosiKey outs: Ro-Shaun Williams, Sean Goss, Dave Edwards, Brad Walker, Matija SarkicReasons for optimism: The manager is back. Steve Cotterill spent exactly six months away from his squad with Covid-19 and severe complications but returned for pre-season and is getting ever-fitter and stronger. Additions have been good, but more are still needed. Town were excellent in his month before illness - unbeaten and the boss claimed December's manager of the month. There is definitely a feeling that things could fall into place for a fairytale return for the manager, though he will play that down.Reasons for caution: There is still significant work to be done in the window. They have recruited six signings - which is not an insignificant amount - and have parted with fees and spent good wages on lengthy deals for some key captures, like keeper Marko Marosi. But the squad is still light, they still require another handful to have enough. Friendlies, too, have been sparse. Town will play just three by the big kick-off. But the manager is happy with that. Two key players (Aaron Pierre and Ollie Norburn) have been at the Gold Cup and missed much of pre-season.Predicted finish: 13th - Make no mistake, Shrewsbury will privately hope for much better than 13th and want to break the top half and push for play-offs, the former they can be capable of. But it could depend on how they finish the window, with clubs spending big.Three to go up: Ipswich, Rotherham, WiganFour to go down: Burton, Cambridge, Morecambe, PlymouthHope for the season: The main hope is that Steve Cotterill remains fit and healthy and can oversee Town during every match of the season after his horrid ordeal last season.Name: Phil SmithPublication: Sunderland EchoClub: SunderlandKey ins: Callum Doyle, Alex Pritchard, Corry EvansKey outs: Charlie Wyke, Max Power, Josh Scowen, Chris Maguire, Grant LeadbitterReasons for optimism: The players who are the club are looking in good shape during the pre-season programme. With Aiden McGeady signing a new contract, Lee Johnson has a wealth of good attacking options available to him and, as a result, the style of play has been much improved. This should be a much more creative team this season, especially at home where form was poor last season.Reasons for caution: While the forward areas are probably only one or two signings away from being as strong as anyone in the division, the defensive rebuild has barely begun even as the season nears. At time of writing Sunderland have no senior full backs and need at least one starting centre-back before the window shuts. It's hard to be ovely optimisitc at this point, with such an obvious deficiency still to be addressed.Predicted finish: 2nd - I'm pinning my hopes on a strong last week or so of the window. The quality is there, but not the depth.Three to go up: Ipswich, MK Dons, SunderlandFour to go down: AFC Wimbledon, Cambridge, Morecambe, PlymouthHope for the season: Full stadiums from start to finish, and that no club has to go through the kind of protracted off-field saga that have become all too common in recent seasons. Let's settle the key issues on the pitch.Name: Paul KendrickPublication: Wigan TodayClub: Wigan AthleticKey ins: Jordan Cousins, Stehen Humphrys, Max Power, Jack Whatmough, Charlie WykeKey outs: Lee Evans, Kyle Joseph, Funso Ojo, Viv Solomon-Otabor, Curtis TiltReasons for optimism: Firstly, that we still have a football club, after an horrific 12 months on and off the pitch. With the magnificent backs-to-the-wall effort to avoid relegation being followed by a huge wave of optimism and belief following the recent takeover by Phoenix 2021 Limited, the mood among the fans really couldn't be any better. And having added several quality recruits - and more on the way - Latics should be fighting to get out of the division at the right end this season.Reasons for caution: Obviously throwing together a whole new playing squad - Wigan ended last season with only five contracted players - will create inevitable issues in terms of gelling and integrating. It was a similar story back in 2015-16, after relegation from the Championship, when a virtually whole new playing squad took several weeks to get going under Gary Caldwell. But once they did, they never looked back, finishing up as champions after an incredible last two-thirds of the campaign. Hopefully, it's the same again.Predicted finish: 4th - Play-off winners...not been to Wembley for a while.Three to go up: Ipswich, Sheffield Wednesday, WiganFour to go down: AFC Wimbledon, Cambridge, Cheltenham, MorecambeHope for the season: That the Covid-related issues of the last 18 months don't resurface, and Latics fans can enjoy watching their side again after almost losing the lot. But more importantly, the return of press food.Name: Phil CatchpolePublication: BBC Three Counties RadioClub: Wycombe WanderersKey ins: Sullay Kaikai, Josh ScowenKey outs: Uche Ickpeazu, Fred OnyedinmaReasons for optimism: It’s the first time in many years the Chairboys aren’t their league's version of Oliver. The club is in an excellent position off the pitch, while Gareth Ainsworth still has the same enthusiasm for the club as the day he arrived - only now he has a bit of backing and a few years of experience under his belt. Last time out in League One, Wycombe were excellent and it’s a settled squad with an amazing spirit and belief.Reasons for caution: Wycombe are normally expected to finish bottom due to their usual budget. However, a lucrative and prudent season in the Championship has placed them in a decent financial position. But with a bit more money comes expectation and pressure. These will be new sensations for Gareth Ainsworth, and many will be expecting a decent start to the season. At the time of writing, the club are lacking a focal point up front bar the marvellous Adebayo Akinfenwa, who will surely have to provide his magic via cameos off the bench.Predicted finish: 2nd - Automatic promotion, while allowing one of the many fallen giants in the third tier some much-needed title winning gloryThree to go up: Burton, Ipswich, WycombeFour to go down: Crewe, Fleetwood, Morecambe, PlymouthHope for the season: It’s an excellent division which is absolutely impossible to predict, so I just hope fans can return safely and bring the soul back to the game again.
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