Vital Lincoln City – League One Season Preview 2019-20 (Part One)

BURY

Last season: 2nd in League Two (promoted)
P46 W22 D13 L11 F82 A56 Pts79
Average attendance: 4,044

Chairman/owner: Steve Dale, 63 (appointed December 2018)

Manager: Paul Wilkinson, 54 (appointed July 2019)

Paul Wilkinson’s managerial record:

League games only – play-offs and cup games not included.

Players out (18):

Goalkeepers (1):
Joe Murphy, 37 (Shrewsbury Town)

Defenders (9):
Phil Edwards, 33 (Accrington Stanley)
Tom Aldred, 28 (Brisbane Roar – Australia)
Chris Stokes, 28 (Stevenage)
Adam Thompson, 26 (on trial at Bolton Wanderers 24/7/19)
Will Aimson, 25 (Plymouth Argyle)
Callum McFadzean, 25 (Plymouth Argyle)
Eoghan O’Connell, 23 (Rochdale)
Ryan Cooney, 19 (Burnley)
Sam Allardyce, 18 (Oxford United)

Midfielders (5):
Nicky Adams, 32 (Northampton Town)
Jay O’Shea, 30 (Brisbane Roar – Australia)
Danny Mayor, 28 (Plymouth Argyle)
Scott Burgess, 21 (Port Vale)
Joe Adams, 18 (Brentford)

Forwards (3):
Nicky Maynard, 32 (Mansfield Town)
Byron Moore, 30 (Plymouth Argyle)
Dominic Telford, 22 (Plymouth Argyle)

Players in (0):

Goalkeepers (0):

Defenders (0):

Midfielders (0):

Forwards (0):

Average age of players out: 26
Average age of players in: 0

Number of players in squad: 7

Player of the Season 2018-19: Danny Mayor, 28 (attacking midfielder)

One to watch: Steve Dale, 63 (chairman)

Season ticket sales: 800

Ground capacity: 11,840

Visiting supporter capacity: 2,000 (all seated)

Pre-season:
P2 W2 D1 L1 F6 A6

13/7 Nantwich Town A 1-1
24/7 BLACKBURN ROVERS H 0-3
27/7 Port Vale A 2-1
30/7 Radcliffe A 3-1

Commentary:

A mid-season takeover followed by staff not being paid for weeks; rumours of huge latent debt and unserviceable offshore loans secured against Gigg Lane; spaces in the car park sold off; winding-up petitions beaten off with a stick; hyper-critical statements from the players on social media; threats of legal action from the chairman in return; aggressive demonstrations by angry fans outside the chairman’s home; the manager repeatedly linked with a number of other jobs before eventually resigning; players declaring their contracts invalid and leaving for new clubs; the club offices closed in May and staff being told not to bother coming in to work; staff accused of ripping the club off; food banks set up for said staff; the club optimistically put up for sale; Manchester City serving notice on Bury for not maintaining the Carrington training ground leased to them at no cost; rumours that the new owner has not yet passed the fit and proper test, and that the EFL has allowed that to drift; a rookie manager from Truro City appointed; six players turning up for pre-season training but apparently being unable to do so in the absence of an insurance policy; and a hurriedly arranged set of pre-season matches for a hurriedly assembled squad of bargain basement trialists. We could go on, but there really is no need to.

All in all, not exactly the anticipated aftermath of a promotion season. Furthermore, it would be fair to say that Bury’s promotion to League One was hardly greeted with universal approval from the world of football once the historical profligacy and alleged mismanagement of the club’s finances came to light in March. Accusations that at least two promotions had been secured unfairly were rife on social media, although quite how the critics would explain the two relegations is another question. At the same time, some sobering tweets and public statements from midfielder Nicky Adams laid bare the extraordinary privations suffered by players and staff alike as last season limped into a painful summer. There was sympathy for the human beings affected, but absolute condemnation for the football club as an entity: what a familiar tale that has become in modern football.

Having agreed a CVA in principle, Bury would have been the second side to start the League One season with a twelve-point deficit. However, further problems arose when the EFL requested evidence of adequacy of funds. At the time of writing, Bury’s opening fixture against MK Dons has been suspended pending further investigations, and it is not known whether the club will kick another ball in the Football League. If it does, there may be a further points penalty for failing to fulfil a fixture.

Let’s assume they do start the season at some point. If the blood-letting is finally over and life really can be breathed back into what owner Steve Dale, unfortunately, referred to as ‘a dead corpse’, we can perhaps look at Bury’s chances of retaining the place in League One that cost them so much to buy. Any analysis of last season is completely irrelevant because there has been an almost complete change of personnel. Manager Ryan Lowe, chief scribe Nicky Adams and most of his colleagues have gone, and no one can claim they did not give Bury every chance to retain them. The likely replacements – such as they are – look vastly inferior to their predecessors. That’s it, really.

At the bookies (Sky Bet): 250/1

Prediction: Relegation.

COVENTRY CITY

Last season: 8th
P46 W18 D11 L17 F54 A54 Pts65
Average attendance: 12,362 (at the Ricoh Stadium)

Chairman: Tim Fisher, 51 (appointed September 2014)

Manager: Mark Robins (appointed March 2017)

Mark Robins’ managerial record:

League games only – play-offs and cup games not included.

Players out (11):

Goalkeepers (2):
Liam O’Brien, 27
Lee Burge, 26 (Sunderland)

Defenders (5):
Tom Davies, 27 (Bristol Rovers)
Jack Grimmer, 25 (Wycombe Wanderers)
Jordan Willis, 24 (Sunderland)
Chris Camwell, 20
Reece Ford, 20 (Stratford Town)

Midfielders (2):
Tony Andreu, 31 (St Mirren)
Billy Stedman, 19

Forwards (1):
Stuart Beavon, 35 (Nuneaton Borough)
Conor Chaplin, 22 (Barnsley)

Players in (9):

Goalkeepers (2):
Ben Wilson, 26 (Bradford City)
Marko Maroši, 25 (Doncaster Rovers)

Defenders (3):
Kyle McFadzean, 32 (Burton Albion)
Fankaty Dabo, 23 (Chelsea)
Josh Pask, 21 (West Ham United)

Midfielders (4):
Wesley Jobello, 25 (Gazélec Ajaccio – France)
Jamie Allen, 24 (Burton Albion)
Gervane Kastaneer, 23 (NAC Breda – Holland)
Dan Bartlett, 18 (Southampton)

Forwards (0):

Average age of players out: 25
Average age of players in: 24

Number of players in squad: 22

Player of the Season 2018-19: Dominic Hyam, 23 (centre half)

One to watch: Tom Bayliss, 20 (central midfielder)

Season ticket sales: 2,800

Ground capacity: 29,409 (St Andrew’s Trillion Trophy Stadium, Birmingham)

Visiting supporter capacity: 3,000 (all seated)

Pre-season:
P5 W2 D3 L0 F8 A2

6/7 Leamington A 4-0
12/7 Northampton Town N 1-1 (played at Pinatar Arena, Murcia)
20/7 AFC Telford United A 1-1
24/7 Liverpool U23 N 0-0 (played at Rugby Town FC)
27/7 Swindon Town A 2-0

Commentary:

“Coventry is ‘City of Sport’ for 2019 – this is an absolute joke.”

Coventry manager Mark Robins minced no words over the fact that Coventry City cannot play in the stadium built for them, labelling the situation ‘an utter disgrace’. Yet everything had looked set fair for a permanent stay at the Ricoh once legal action by owners SISU against landlords Wasps had eventually ended in the High Court in April. However, the news that SISU had referred the original sale of their ground to the EU Commission did not go down well with their landlords, and Coventry were once again faced with ground sharing outside the city. Sadly, the only Coventry supporter visible at the Ricoh Arena this coming season will be the statue of Jimmy Hill.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the ground sale in 2014, Coventry find themselves tenants at St Andrew’s for this season. Subsidised coach travel for £5 has been arranged, with season ticket prices attractively priced at £260. Chief executive Dave Boddy claims the playing budget will be unaltered, but the fact that season ticket sales are down to 2,800 from last season’s 6,850 must surely impact as the season progresses. As laudable as it is, setting the match ticket price at £20 will hardly swell the coffers either.

Although events on the pitch were frequently overshadowed by wrangling off it, Coventry had a very good first season back in the third tier, eventually falling short of the playoffs by eight points. The loss of Jordan Willis to Sunderland and Conor Chaplin to Barnsley during the summer came as a blow, but Robins has assembled an eclectic squad of players from home and abroad. Kyle McFadzean and Jamie Allen from Burton Albion look astute signings in particular.

Quite what effect playing every game away from home will have on Coventry’s promotion challenge is an unknown quantity, but it is far from ideal. Another play-off challenge would be some achievement against that backdrop, and a promotion bid truly exceptional. Coventry have far too much quality to struggle regardless of home venue, but manager Robins faces a disrupted season that initially promised much.

At the bookies (Sky Bet): 8/1

Prediction: Mid-table.

DONCASTER ROVERS

Last season: 6th (lost in play-off semi-final)
P46 W20 D13 L13 F76 A58 Pts73
Average attendance: 8,224

Chairman: David Blunt, 70 (appointed August 2014)

Manager: Darren Moore, 45 (appointed July 2019)

Darren Moore’s managerial record:

League games only – play-offs and cup games not included.

Players out (9):

Goalkeepers (1):
Marko Maroši, 25 (Coventry City)

Defenders (3):
Andy Butler, 35 (Scunthorpe United)
Danny Andrew, 28 (Fleetwood Town)
Tyler Garratt, 22 (unsuccessful trial at St Mirren)

Midfielders (3):
Tommy Rowe, 30 (Bristol City)
Luke McCullough, 25
Alfie Beestin, 21

Forwards (2):
John Marquis, 27 (Portsmouth)
Liam Mandeville, 22 (Chesterfield)

Players in (5):

Goalkeepers (1):
Seny Dieng, 24 (Queens Park Rangers – six-month loan)

Defenders (2):
Reece James, 25 (Sunderland)
Brad Halliday, 24 (Cambridge United)

Midfielders (2):
Madger Gomes, 22 (NK Istra 1961 – Croatia)
Ben Sheaf, 21 (Arsenal – six-month loan)

Forwards (0):

Average age of players out: 26
Average age of players in: 23

Number of players in squad: 25

Player of the Season 2018-19: Ben Whiteman, 23 (attacking midfielder)

One to watch: James Coppinger, 38 (attacking midfielder)

Season ticket sales: Not disclosed

Ground capacity: 15,231

Visiting supporter capacity: 3,344

Pre-season:
P6 W2 D2 L2 F8 A6

9/7 Rossington Main A 3-0
13/7 Gainsborough Trinity A 2-0
16/7 FC HALIFAX TOWN H 1-1
20/7 Grimsby Town A 0-1
24/7 HUDDERSFIELD TOWN H 0-2
27/7 HULL CITY H 2-2

Commentary:

Losing manager Grant McCann to Hull City at the end of June was hardly the best pre-season preparation for promotion-chasing Doncaster. While they sourced a suitable replacement, their warm-weather training camp in La Manga was taken by none other than former Imps boss John Schofield, currently Rovers’ U23 manager. Schofield soon stepped aside to make way for one of the most interesting appointments in League One for some time. Many supporters feel Darren Moore was not given sufficient time at West Bromwich Albion in the face of difficult circumstances, and Moore himself has been critical of the decision to replace him. Now he has an opportunity to make his name with a well-organised lower division club with potential, and will be aware of the need to maintain the momentum created by the last three seasons.

After a season of consolidation, Rovers enjoyed a very good 2018-19 by reaching the play-off semi-finals before falling on penalties to eventual promotion winners Charlton. Doncaster also reached the fifth round of the FA Cup before falling to Crystal Palace. Their total of 104 goals in all competitions was impressive, but the scorers of 67 of those goals are no longer at the club. Most notably, they have lost 26-goal John Marquis to Portsmouth, while on-loan Mallik Wilks contributed 16. Darren Moore welcomes the substantial transfer fee to strengthen his squad, but Marquis, in particular, will take some replacing. They also conceded too many for a promotion-chasing side, which will need addressing. To compound matters, they lost Danny Andrew to Fleetwood, although the signing of highly-rated goalkeeper Seny Dieng on a season loan may plug a hole or two. The appointment of a defender as manager should also pay dividends there, and Reece James has joined after a solitary season at Sunderland.

New manager Moore has plenty of playing experience of the third tier, albeit a long time ago. It will be interesting to see how he adapts to the different challenges of lower-division football after lengthy spells in the Premier League. Those contacts may produce a stream of quality arrivals this season, and that may have a say in dictating whether or not Rovers press for promotion for the second year running.

At the bookies (Sky Bet): 5/1

Prediction: Mid-table.

FLEETWOOD TOWN

Last season: 11th
P46 W16 D13 L17 F58 A52 Pts61
Average attendance: 3,164

Chairman/owner: Andy Pilley, 49 (appointed August 2004)

Manager: Joey Barton, 36 (appointed June 2018)

Joey Barton’s managerial record:

League games only – play-offs and cup games not included.

Players out (7):

Goalkeepers (1):
Paul Jones, 33

Defenders (3):
Ryan Taylor, 34
Joe McGuire, 23 (Accrington Stanley)
Lewis Baines, 20 (Chorley)

Midfielders (2):
Ross Wallace, 34
James Wallace, 27

Forwards (1):
Ashley Nadesan, 24 (Crawley Town)

Players in (8):

Goalkeepers (1):
Matt Gilks, 37 (Lincoln City)

Defenders (4):
Peter Clarke, 37 (Oldham Athletic)
Danny Andrew, 28 (Doncaster Rovers)
Lewie Coyle, 23 (Leeds United – six-month loan)
Harry Souttar, 20 (Stoke City – season loan)

Midfielders (3):
Paul Coutts, 31 (Sheffield United)
Josh Morris, 27 (Scunthorpe United)
Jordan Rossiter, 22 (Glasgow Rangers – season loan)

Forwards (0):

Average age of players out: 27
Average age of players in: 25

Number of players in squad: 26

Player of the Season 2018-19: Wes Burns, 24 (winger)

One to watch: Wes Burns, 24 (winger)

Season ticket sales: Not disclosed

Ground capacity: 5,327

Visiting supporter capacity: 1,131 (831 standing, 300 seated)

Pre-season:
P6 W3 D0 L3 F5 A5

5/7 WREXHAM H 1-0 (played at Poolfoot Farm Training Ground)
13/7 Millwall N 0-1 (played in Algarve)
17/7 Port Vale A 0-1
20/7 Carlisle United A 3-1
23/7 BURNLEY H 0-2
26/7 PRESTON NORTH END H 1-0

Commentary:

With an average attendance of barely 3,000 – and many less than that in terms of home support – Fleetwood are one of the clubs perceived as having possibly benefitted from the ongoing hara-kiri at neighbours Blackpool in recent years. No one quite knows what effect Blackpool’s re-emergence from some very dark shadows may have on support for other clubs in the area, but the sharp increase in season ticket sales at Bloomfield Road suggests we may be about to find out. To muddy the waters further, longstanding owner Andy Pilley has been linked with other clubs recently, including Blackpool. Pilley remains in place however, and has reiterated his commitment by backing his manager well in the summer transfer market.

With manager Joey Barton’s latest indiscretions in Barnsley and Newquay plus a driving ban casting more shadows, the club has never appeared less stable in its modern incarnation. Barton has been charged following the alleged assault on Daniel Stendel, although the club has deferred any action or comment until after his court appearance in October. Having to find a new manager in mid-season is never a straightforward task and far from ideal, but the club has passively given its support to Barton. One assumes they believe in his innocence and it is business as usual.

Summer transfer business has been brisk, with Pilley referring to the signings of Danny Andrew and in particular Paul Coutts as a real sign of intent. Rangers loanee Jordan Rossiter won promotion with Bury last season while giant centre back Harry Souttar returns for a second loan spell from Stoke. Souttar is interesting, in that he plays for Australia U23 while his brother John plays for Scotland.

The Fleetwood squad is undoubtedly stronger this season after very few significant departures, and Barton has an opportunity to prove himself in management. The bookmakers certainly fancy them as an outside bet for the play-offs, although that may rely to some degree on the outcome of Barton’s court appearance.

At the bookies (Sky Bet): 11/2

Prediction: Unsuccessful play-off bid.

GILLINGHAM

Last season: 13th
P46 W15 D10 L21 F61 A72 Pts55
Average attendance: 5,242

Chairman/owner: Paul Scally, 63 (appointed June 1995)

Manager: Steve Evans, 56 (appointed June 2019)

Steve Evans’ managerial record:

League games only – play-offs and cup games not included.

Players out (12):

Goalkeepers (3):
Tomáš Holý, 27 (Ipswich Town)
Tom Hadler, 23 (Eastbourne Borough)
Louie Catherall, 19

Defenders (4):
Luke O’Neill, 27 (AFC Wimbledon)
Alex Lacey, 26 (on trial with Bury)
Danny Divine, 19 (Maidstone United)
Ryan Huckle, 19 (Faversham Town)

Midfielders (4):
Billy Bingham, 29 (Bromley)
Dean Parrett, 26 (Stevenage)
Callum Reilly, 25 (AFC Wimbledon)
Ben Chapman, 20 (Dulwich Hamlet)

Forwards (1):
Tom Eaves, 27 (Hull City)

Players in (11):

Goalkeepers (1):
Jack Bonham, 25 (Brentford)

Defenders (3):
Lee Hodson, 27 (Glasgow Rangers)
Connor Ogilvie, 23 (Tottenham Hotspur)
Alfie Jones, 21 (Southampton – season loan)

Midfielders (4):
Mark Marshall, 32 (Charlton Athletic)
Ousseynou Cissé, 28 (Milton Keynes Dons)
Stuart O’Keefe, 28 (Cardiff City)
Matty Willock, 22 (Manchester United)

Forwards (3):
Mikael Mandron, 24 (Colchester United)
Alex Jakubiak, 22 (Watford – season loan)
Mikael Ndjoli, 20 (AFC Bournemouth – season loan)

Average age of players out: 24
Average age of players in: 25

Number of players in squad: 28

Player of the Season 2018-19: Barry Fuller, 34 (right back)

One to watch: Mark Marshall, 32 (winger)

Season ticket sales: Not disclosed

Ground capacity: 11,582

Visiting supporter capacity: 1,700 (all seated)

Pre-season:
P8 W4 D2 L2 F22 A13

6/7 Faversham Town A 9-1
13/7 Folkestone Invicta A 4-0
16/7 Dartford A 2-1
20/7 CHARLTON ATHLETIC H 3-1
21/7 MILLWALL H 1-2
23/7 Dover Athletic A 2-2
26/7 SOUTHEND UNITED H 1-1
29/7 Welling United A 0-5

Commentary:

Even though Gillingham appeared to finish in mid-table security last season, they were only five points clear of the relegation zone in a fearsomely tight bottom half of the table. Once the season was over, chairman/owner Paul Scally published an extraordinary missive in which he rounded on critical supporters and threatened to quit if it continued. In the same statement, he announced the appointment of Steve Evans, as if that was likely to make his critics any happier. The appointment of the controversial Glaswegian by any club is bound to draw criticism from some quarters, yet many see the appointment as a bold gamble worth taking. Evans usually delivers if he is given the right budget, and one has to believe he has received the relevant assurances. On the downside, Gillingham are his fifth club in four years for various reasons; on that basis, keeping him at the club as bigger jobs become available may prove more problematic, especially if he does well.

As far as transfer dealings are concerned, close-season signings have been notable for a number of reasons: firstly a significant number have come from Premier League clubs; secondly the relatively low average age of those players; and thirdly the likely wage bill for them. Evans likes a good budget, and chairman Scally appears to be playing ball with his new manager thus far. On the other side of the coin, drawing players from Premier League academies can be a risky business due to a surprising inconsistency in ability, as Lincoln found out to their cost under Chris Sutton in 2010-11.

Gillingham underwent an intensive pre-season schedule featuring ten games in little over three weeks, so will be well-prepared for the new season. Curiously, the bookmakers do not fancy them despite the quality of signings and the presence of Evans, and suggest they will finish in the bottom eight. That looks wrong, especially if Evans does see out the full season. The squad looks much improved from last season, although it is hard to see a promotion push just yet.

At the bookies (Sky Bet): 10/1

Prediction: Top half if Evans completes the season, bottom half if not.

IPSWICH TOWN

Last season: 24th in the Championship (relegated)
P46 W5 D16 L25 F36 A77 Pts31
Average attendance: 17,764

Chairman/owner: Marcus Evans, 55 (appointed December 2007)

Manager: Paul Lambert, 49 (appointed October 2018)

Paul Lambert’s managerial record:

League games only – play-offs and cup games not included.

Players out (10):

Goalkeepers (1):
Dean Gerken, 34 (Colchester United)

Defenders (4):
James Collins, 35
Jordan Spence, 29
Jonas Knudsen, 26 (Malmö – Sweden)
Chris Smith, 20 (King’s Lynn Town)

Midfielders (4):
Simon Dawkins, 31
Tom Adeyemi, 27
Grant Ward, 24 (rejected contract offer from Rotherham United)
Conor McKendry, 19

Forwards (1):
Ellis Harrison, 25 (Portsmouth)

Players in (5):

Goalkeepers (3):
Tomáš Holý, 27 (Gillingham)
Will Norris, 25 (Wolverhampton Wanderers – season loan)
Adam Przybek, 19 (West Bromwich Albion)

Defenders (1):
Luke Garbutt, 26 (Everton – season loan)

Midfielders (0):

Forwards (1):
James Norwood, 28 (Tranmere Rovers)

Average age of players out: 26
Average age of players in: 25

Number of players in squad: 26

Player of the Season 2018-19: Luke Chambers, 33 (centre half)

One to watch: Kayden Jackson, 25 (striker)

Season ticket sales: 11,900

Ground capacity: 30,311

Visiting supporter capacity: 1,900 (all seated)

Pre-season:
P4 W1 D2 L1 F8 A4

6/7 SC Paderborn 07 A 2-3 (played at Stadion Laumeskamp, Delbrück)
19/7 Colchester United A 5-0
23/7 Notts County A 1-1
27/7 Cambridge United A 0-0

Commentary:

“We have to rebuild from top to bottom, on and off the pitch. The standards have dropped for a club of this stature and with the history behind it. It’s a big job, a huge job to turn things around. It’s a challenge we will take on though.” – Paul Lambert

Further to this dose of realism, Lambert also stated his intention to make signings early and have the majority of his squad in place in time for their tour to Germany at the start of July. He actually signed just three in that time, two of whom were goalkeepers, suggesting that Ipswich are now a long way down the transfer chain. Welcome to the lower divisions.

Much has been made in the media of the fact that when Lincoln City dumped Ipswich Town out of the FA Cup in January 2017, there was a substantial gap of three divisions between the two clubs, yet this season they will meet as equals for the first time since 1960-61. That is almost as extraordinary as the result of that tie, yet League One contains a raft of similar examples this season. Many people will be expecting an immediate return to the second tier, but an illustrious history does not guarantee that. Many other big clubs have slipped into the third tier and taken time to escape. Furthermore, Ipswich won just five league games last season which included a final day win over a deliberately depleted Leeds side. Manager Paul Lambert has a mediocre record in recent years with a number of short stays at various clubs, but he does have experience of League One with Colchester and Norwich, and has won promotion from it with the latter.

The standout signing of the summer so far is undoubtedly striker James Norwood from Tranmere. It remains to be seen how effective he is in League One, with no previous experience of the third tier, but Ipswich can hardly be any worse with him: they scored only 36 goals last season. Lambert has cleared some dead wood from the squad, but at the time of writing, he has made just five signings, three of whom are goalkeepers. To compound matters, Ipswich will also start the season without the services of Teddy Bishop, Toto Nsiala and Jack Lankester after all three picked up injuries during pre-season matches. They only played four in total, and none at home due to the Portman Road pitch requiring extra recovery time after a Rod Stewart concert in early June. None of this would appear to be the ideal preparation for a new season, but season ticket sales immediately rose by 15% despite relegation. The bookmakers believe Ipswich are going straight back up, but they are one of a number of big clubs vying at the top. It looks set to be an interesting season at Portman Road.

At the bookies (Sky Bet): 2/1 (joint second favourites)

Prediction: Play-offs.

Page One: Accrington Stanley, AFC Wimbledon, Blackpool, Bolton Wanderers, Bristol Rovers and Burton Albion.

Posted by Vital Lincoln City on Thursday, 1 August 2019

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