League One returns this weekend and brings with it the annual mix of fan optimism and despair before a ball is even kicked. But which teams will light up the league or have a season to forget?
The race for the title
A Premier League club a mere 18 months ago, Sunderland’s decline has been staggering. The fact their stadium is almost double the size of the league’s next largest ground makes you realise the club has as much business being in this division as Fleetwood gaffer Joey Barton does talking about the post-Brexit economy. But after a dire couple of seasons, Black Cats supporters have reason to be optimistic, with owner Stewart Donald overhauling the playing staff and bringing in St Mirren boss Jack Ross. Shaking off the trauma of back-to-back relegations may be difficult, but a club the size of Sunderland has to be considered a contender.
Barnsley may benefit from the extra attention given to Sunderland. Former Hannover 96 manager Daniel Stendel looks to be putting together a youthful side with a penchant for an attacking, high-tempo style of play.
After a promising return to League One last year, Portsmouth will have their sights set high this season. Kenny Jackett is never shy of a promotion or two and knows the division inside out. Could Pompey could be going potty?
Despite takeover talks stalling at Charlton, Lee Bowyer will be aiming to steady the ship and lead a charge up the table after play-off disappointment last term. Whether off field issues will harm the Addicks’ promotion aspirations, only time will tell.
Peterborough have channelled their inner Harry Redknapp in the transfer market, signing a whopping 14 players. Will it be a case of quality and quantity for the Posh? After finishing as the league’s fourth highest goal scorers last campaign, Steve Evans has promised even more attacking football for 2018/19.
Key man Murray Wallace may have left for Millwall, but Scunthorpe still has much the same side that made it to the play-offs the previous term. Will they get over the line this time?
League Two runners-up Luton could be a decent punt to make a push for promotion via the play-offs. Much will depend on striking duo James Collins and Danny Hylton – fresh from plundering 43 goals between them last season – making the step up.
After being seemingly in freefall on and off the pitch, Coventry finally had a reason to celebrate after escaping League Two through the play-offs. If they can keep their end of season form going, it could well be another season to smile about.
And Charlton favourite Chris Powell will be hoping to outdo his former side with Southend. Having taken over in January, a full season under his tutelage may see the Shrimpers swim to success.
Shrewsbury came agonisingly close to The Championship in May, losing the play-off final. The prospect of tumbling down the table may cause a raise of the proverbial eyebrow. But after losing highly-rated manager Paul Hurst to Ipswich and seeing on-loan goalkeeper Dean Henderson return to Man Utd, it’s not beyond the realms of fantasy to expect a season of struggle.
Wycombe could also be in the same budget boat, exacerbated by box-to-box midfielder Luke O’Nien being snapped up by Sunderland. They still have Adebayo Akinfenwa in their ranks but at 36 years old, the 16-stone man mountain will have to go full ‘Beast Mode’ to keep his side clear of trouble.
Despite being best known by a generation of football fans thanks to a certain milk advert, Accrington Stanley have shaken off their dairy shackles and got promoted to the third tier for the first time in their history. Neutrals may be wishing them well, but a tight budget points to difficult times ahead.
Odds correct at time of publication. Subject to change.
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