INTRODUCTION

The information in this preview is complete to 5pm on Thursday 1 August 2019.

The latest transfers will be posted here and not below!

Managerial data is as accurate as I can make it: it is almost impossible to identify the exact dates managers joined or left minor non-league clubs 25 years ago, and detailed statistical information for minor leagues is not readily available. Online statistics databases have not been used due to the errors they can contain. As the figures are self-compiled, any errors, therefore, are my fault entirely. Firstly, sincere apologies to the subjects; secondly, any errors should be minor and not affect the overall impression; thirdly, it will be more accurate than Wikipedia.

An average points per game figure is given for each manager. In order to translate that into something more tangible, the table below shows how many points that figure equates to over the course of a 46-game season. Although other factors obviously come into play, it gives an indication of how likely that manager is to be involved in a relegation struggle (under 1.20 PPG), a play-off challenge (above 1.50 PPG needed) or an automatic promotion challenge (above 1.70 PPG needed).

As for the player sections, permanent transfers and longer-term loans in are included; all shorter-term loans and season-long loans out are not included. Players given their first professional contracts from academy status are not included as new signings. Remember that the transfer window does not close until 2 September, a month after the season has begun; later signings may be significant.

Only regular pre-season matches involving first teams are listed. Games scheduled for more or less than the standard 45/90 minutes are omitted, as are games played mainly as training exercises.

One new addition this year is the inclusion of the ‘chairman/owner’ title. Due to the proliferation of such people in League One and the often problematic paths trodden by their clubs, it is of interest to note where the chairman is also the sole or major shareholder. This includes de facto ownership through separate – but solely owned – limited companies. Bookmakers’ odds are for promotion.

Finally, a caveat regarding the prediction section. Before you consider using this preview as fuel for a gambling spree, do not forget that last season I tipped Notts County to be champions of League Two. This shows beyond doubt that such forecasts are essentially subjective, and also that you do not have to post photographs of your own genitalia on Twitter to make yourself look a bit silly.

Scotimp, 31/7/2019

LINCOLN CITY

Last season: Champions of League Two (promoted)
P46 W23 D16 L7 F73 A43 Pts85
Average attendance: 9,005

Chairman: Clive Nates, 61 (appointed June 2018)

Manager: Danny Cowley, 40 (appointed May 2016)

Danny Cowley’s managerial record:

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

Players out (3):

Goalkeepers (1):
Matt Gilks, 37 (Fleetwood Town)

Defenders (1):
James Wilson, 30 (Ipswich Town)

Midfielders (0):

Forwards (1):
Matt Rhead, 35 (Billericay Town)

Players in (4):

Goalkeepers (0):

Defenders (0):

Midfielders (4):
Jorge Grant, 24 (Nottingham Forest)
Jack Payne, 24 (Huddersfield Town)
Joe Morrell, 22 (Bristol City – season loan)
Alex Bradley, 20 (West Bromwich Albion)

Forwards (0):

Average age of players out: 34
Average age of players in: 22

Number of players in squad: 19

Player of the Season 2018-19: Michael Bostwick, 31 (centre half)

One to watch: Bruno Andrade, 25 (winger)

Season ticket sales: 6,500 SOLD OUT

Ground capacity: 10,300

Visiting supporter capacity: 1,000 (all seated – may be extended to 1,700 but under review)

Pre-season:
P6 W2 D1 L3 F12 A8

9/7 Leicester City U23 A 8-0
13/7 SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY H 1-3
20/7 Reading N 1-0 (Played at Marbella Football Centre)
24/7 STOKE CITY H 1-2
27/7 Scunthorpe United A 0-2
29/7 NOTTINGHAM FOREST XI H 1-1

Commentary:

And so the Lincoln Loco continues to race powerfully through football’s countryside, and shows little sign of stopping for long at any station. The fantastic journey under Danny Cowley has carried Lincoln from the bottom half of the National League to League One via two divisional titles and a Wembley cup win in three short seasons. A little over two years ago, non-league Lincoln famously dumped Championship regulars Ipswich Town out of the FA Cup despite a gulf of three divisions between them; this season, they meet as equals.

Lincoln were utterly dominant in League Two last season, rising to the top at the end of August and slipping off top spot for only two games thereafter. Three of their seven defeats came in their last four games when promotion had already been secured, and Lincoln also had the distinction of being the first club in the EFL to win promotion and to win a title. Danny Cowley has a remarkable record over his twelve years in management, averaging a massive eighty-two points per season: that suggests that Lincoln can never be discounted. Reality says there are bigger clubs with bigger budgets to contend with, but Cowley has already stated that he is not interested in consolidation.

Lincoln will have one of the smaller squads in the division, with Cowley’s target being twenty-first team professionals. Three exciting midfielders have been added from higher division clubs in Jorge Grant, Joe Morrell and Jack Payne. Those signings alone suggest a stylistic change once again from Lincoln, whose game continues to evolve at a pace.

Their 6,500 season ticket holders have become used to winning and Cowley has a reputation for finding a way to do so. If little else, Lincoln will be welcomed to League One purely for financial reasons: not only was their average home attendance of 9,005 the highest in League Two, their average away following of 1,393 was also the highest in the bottom tier by far.

At the bookies (Sky Bet): 9/2 (sixth favourites)

Prediction: Play-off challenge. Lincoln or MK Dons could take the final spot.

MILTON KEYNES DONS

Last season: 3rd in League Two (promoted)
P46 W23 D10 L13 F71 A49 Pts79
Average attendance: 8,223

Chairman/owner: Pete Winkelman, 61 (appointed March 2004)

Manager: Paul Tisdale, 46 (appointed June 2018)

Paul Tisdale’s managerial record:

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

Players out (11):

Goalkeepers (0):

Defenders (4):
Mathieu Baudry, 31 (Swindon Town)
Mitch Hancox, 25 (Solihull Moors)
Oran Jackson, 20 (ÍBV – Iceland)
Finley Tapp, 19 (Oxford City)

Midfielders (4):
Ousseynou Cissé, 28 (Gillingham)
Lawson D’Ath, 26
Ryan Watson, 26 (Northampton Town)
Liam Sole, 19 (on trial with Bromley)

Forwards (3):
Robbie Simpson, 34
Chuks Aneke, 26 (Charlton Athletic)
Brandon Thomas-Asante, 20

Players in (7):

Goalkeepers (1):
Laurie Walker, 29 (Hemel Hempstead Town)

Defenders (1):
Regan Poole, 21 (Manchester United)

Midfielders (2):
Brennan Dickenson, 26 (Colchester United)
Hiram Boateng, 23 (Exeter City)

Forwards (3):
Jordan Bowery, 28 (Crewe Alexandra)
Joe Mason, 28 (Wolverhampton Wanderers)
Rhys Healey, 24 (Cardiff City)

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

Number of players in squad: 27

Player of the Season 2018-19: Alex Gilbey, 24 (central midfielder)

One to watch: Baily Cargill, 24 (centre half)

Season ticket sales: Not disclosed

Ground capacity: 30,500

Visiting supporter capacity: 3,000 (all seated – may be extended to 8,000)

Pre-season:
P6 W4 D1 L1 F16 A5

12/7 Oxford City A 2-2
16/7 Brackley Town A 5-1
19/7 Welwyn Garden City A 1-0
23/7 Hemel Hempstead A 1-0
26/7 Northampton Town A 1-2
30/7 St Neots Town A 6-0

Commentary:

“No-one has had a bad game yet, no-one has been dropped, we haven’t lost, we’re all happy.”

MK Dons manager Paul Tisdale was philosophical when returning to work after the summer break, and perhaps the degree of pressure on his shoulders this time around is less than when he was appointed to the Stadium MK hot seat during the summer of 2018. The requirement a year ago was to take MK straight back up to League One, and despite the pressure, it was mission accomplished. A section of the MK support believes it was a far from satisfactory season for a number of reasons. It was a struggle that not many really anticipated, but they re-enter League One with a clean slate.

There has been a significant turnover of playing staff during the summer with the loss of Chuks Aneke the only real negative. His nineteen goals will need to be replaced, and more besides if they are to make a serious dent in League One. New signings have bizarrely come from either the Premier League or League Two with very little else in between. Rhys Healey returns from Cardiff on a permanent basis and should form a potent combination with Kieran Agard. Jordan Bowery and Hiram Boateng were certainly two of the better players in League Two, while Joe Mason returns to League One after eight seasons in the Championship and Premier League.

There were no home pre-season friendlies due to three concerts on the Stadium MK pitch, which owner Pete Winkelman said were necessary to restore the club’s finances after a number of unprofitable seasons. Furthermore, the pre-season games they did play were distinctly unchallenging. If your second most difficult pre-season opponent is Hemel Hempstead, it is possible you may not be fully prepared for the rigours of League One. That remains to be seen, although it may be some time before we find out: their opening game of the season against Bury has been suspended by the EFL.

Paul Tisdale is a clever manager who will be seeking to enhance his reputation by taking MK Dons back to the Championship as soon as possible. Tisdale took Exeter to two successive promotions a decade ago, although at a lower level. Despite the irregular start to the season, MK Dons look in decent shape for their return to League One and should be in the right half of the table.

At the bookies (Sky Bet): 15/2

Prediction: Play-off challenge, could be another duel with Lincoln for the final berth.

OXFORD UNITED

Last season: 12th
P46 W15 D15 L16 F58 A64 Pts60
Average attendance: 7,315

Chairman/owner: Sumrith Thanakarnjanasuth, 56 (appointed February 2018)

Manager: Karl Robinson, 38 (appointed March 2018)

Karl Robinson’s managerial record:

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

Players out (9):

Goalkeepers (1):
Scott Shearer, 38 (retired)

Defenders (3):
Curtis Nelson, 26 (Cardiff City)
Charlie Raglan, 26 (Cheltenham Town)
Fiacre Kelleher, 23

Midfielders (3):
Gavin Whyte, 23 (Cardiff City)
Armani Little, 22 (Torquay United)
Tsun Dai, 20 (Wolverhampton Wanderers)

Forwards (2):
Jonathan Obika, 28 (on trial with Stevenage)
Jonté Smith, 25 (on trial with Cheltenham Town)

Players in (8):

Goalkeepers (0):

Defenders (3):
Elliott Moore, 22 (Leicester City)
Sam Allardyce, 18 (Bury)
Kevin Berkoe, 17 (Wolverhampton Wanderers)

Midfielders (4):
Anthony Forde, 25 (Rotherham United)
Alex Rodríguez Gorrín, 25 (Motherwell)
Tariqe Fosu, 23 (Charlton Athletic)
Chris Cadden, 22 (Columbus Crew – season loan)

Forwards (1):
Ben Woodburn, 19 (Liverpool – season loan)

Average age of players out: 25
Average age of players in: 21

Number of players in squad: 21

Player of the Season 2018-19: Josh Ruffels, 25 (central midfielder)

One to watch: Ben Woodburn, 19 (striker)

Season ticket sales: 4,020

Ground capacity: 12,500

Visiting supporter capacity: up to 5,000

Pre-season:
P9 W3 D3 L3 F13 A17

7/7 Glasgow Rangers A 0-5
9/7 Oxford City A 5-3
10/7 Thame United A 2-0
11/7 Brackley Town A 2-1
13/7 Woking A 1-1
16/7 Eastleigh A 0-3
20/7 QUEENS PARK RANGERS H 1-2
23/7 FULHAM H 1-1
27/7 Solihull Moors A 1-1

Commentary:

It would be fair to say that 2018-19 was a tough season for Oxford United. Attention was all too often focused on off-field matters with a number of winding-up petitions brought against the club by the owners of the Kassam Stadium (former owner Firoz Kassam, through his company Firoka) for unpaid rent and service charges. A recurring problem since Kassam sold the club in 2006, the dispute was eventually settled at the end of May. The latest dispute revealed that Oxford are paying around £1 million per year to play there, an unequivocal warning to the dangers of not owning your own ground. There were also problems transferring money for March wages from the club’s owners in Thailand, with only the players paid on time.

Oxford had a difficult season against that backdrop, and were in the bottom four with ten games remaining before a very strong end to the season saw them finish in mid-table. Manager Karl Robinson has a previous promotion from League One to his name and will be hoping for a more stable platform for his second full season at the Kassam. Notable departures during the close season included the sale of captain Curtis Nelson and Northern Ireland international Gavin Whyte to Cardiff; the defence was further weakened by the loss of Everton loanee Luke Garbutt, leaving Robinson to source replacements at the back. Top scorer James Henry remains, although second top scorer Marcus Browne returned to West Ham at the end of his loan.

Replacements were relatively low-key until two current full internationals materialised in late July. Scottish international winger Chris Cadden was a surprising addition on loan from Columbus Crew, but the best signing by far was the season-long loan of 19-year-old striker Ben Woodburn from Liverpool, who already has ten full caps for Wales to his name. One has to assume that springs from Robinson’s connections with the Liverpool Academy, but it could represent the signing of the season in League One. Winger Anthony Forde from Rotherham comes in to supply the ammunition. Pre-season results have been unconvincing against mixed opposition, but the nine games played will have driven plenty of minutes into the players. Oxford should not be remotely in trouble again this season, although a promotion push may have to wait another year.

At the bookies (Sky Bet): 7/1

Prediction: Upper mid-table.

PETERBOROUGH UNITED

Last season: 7th
P46 W20 D12 L14 F71 A62 Pts72
Average attendance: 7,364

Chairman: Darragh MacAnthony, 43 (appointed September 2006)

Manager: Darren Ferguson, 47 (appointed January 2019)

Darren Ferguson’s managerial record:

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

Players out (5):

Goalkeepers (0):

Defenders (3):
Ryan Tafazolli, 27 (Hull City)
Darren Lyon, 24
Lewis Freestone, 19 (Brighton & Hove Albion)

Midfielders (0):

Forwards (2):
Matt Stevens, 21 (Forest Green Rovers)
Morgan Penfold, 20 (Barrow)

Players in (9):

Goalkeepers (1):
Christy Pym, 24 (Exeter City)

Defenders (5):
Mark Beevers, 29 (Bolton Wanderers)
Dan Butler, 24 (Newport County)
Frazer Blake-Tracy, 23 (King’s Lynn Town)
Frankie Kent, 23 (Colchester United)
Niall Mason, 22 (free agent)

Midfielders (2):
George Boyd, 33 (Sheffield Wednesday)
Serhat Tasdemir, 19 (AFC Fylde)

Forwards (1):
Mohamed Eisa, 25 (Bristol City)

Average age of players out: 22
Average age of players in: 25

Number of players in squad: 27

Player of the Season 2018-19: Marcus Maddison, 25 (attacking midfielder)

One to watch: Marcus Maddison, 25 (attacking midfielder)

Season ticket sales: Not disclosed

Ground capacity: 15,314

Visiting supporter capacity: 1,800 (all seated)

Pre-season:
P9 W7 D1 L1 F29 A8

6/7 St Mirren N 2-0 (played in La Manga)
10/7 Stamford A 6-0
13/7 Kettering Town A 2-1
16/7 Stevenage A 1-1
20/7 Barnet A 3-1
23/7 Bedford Town A 3-0
24/7 Reading A 2-4
27/7 Grimsby Town A 2-0
29/7 Deeping Rangers A 8-1

Commentary:

“He’s a genius this guy and we want to get in the Championship as much as anybody. We’ve got a hell of a chance with him, and little or no chance without him.” – Barry Fry on Marcus Maddison

Accurate or not, quite what the other Peterborough players made of Fry’s comments is anyone’s guess. The signing of striker Mohamed Eisa for a club-record £1.5 million suggests that Peterborough mean business in their search for Championship football, although he is completely untested at League One level. The size of the fee is eye-watering for a small League One club, although Posh will highlight some profitable dealings in the transfer market as justification for their particular strategy.

Darren Ferguson is back home for the third time, and has an outstanding record at Peterborough. He has already taken the club up to the Championship in each of his two previous spells, and it would take a brave soul to bet against him making it a hat-trick. Ferguson knows how to get out of League One and the new Canadian owners are backing their manager financially. Besides the signing of Eisa, George Boyd has returned for a second spell at the club, although he may not be a regular starter at 34. Teenage midfielder Serhat Tasdemir from AFC Fylde is a very interesting signing, albeit for a six-figure fee, while goalkeeper Christy Pym from Exeter conceded only a goal per game last season. If Fry is right and they can hang on to Maddison for a while longer, it looks set to be an exciting season at the newly-named Weston Homes Stadium.

Five days of warm-weather training in La Manga were followed by a relatively comfortable set of pre-season fixtures. The only game that offered any significant test was away to Championship Reading, but nine games were played and most of them won. Peterborough will certainly head into the new season full of confidence after strengthening the side in all areas and will be one of the teams to beat.

At the bookies (Sky Bet): 10/3 (joint fourth favourites)

Prediction: Fry is right: at least a play-off place if they retain Maddison.

PORTSMOUTH

Last season: 4th (lost in play-off semi-final)
P46 W25 D13 L8 F83 A51 Pts88
Average attendance: 18,217

Chairman/owner: Michael Eisner, 77 (appointed August 2017)

Manager: Kenny Jackett, 57 (appointed June 2017)

Kenny Jackett’s managerial record:

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

Players out (6):

Goalkeepers (0):

Defenders (2):
Nathan Thompson, 28 (on trial with Bristol City)
Matt Clarke, 22 (Brighton & Hove Albion)

Midfielders (3):
Dion Donohue, 25 (Mansfield Town)
Jamal Lowe, 25 (Wigan Athletic)
Dan Smith, 19 (Bognor Regis Town)

Forwards (1):
Louis Dennis, 26 (Leyton Orient)

Players in (8):

Goalkeepers (0):

Defenders (3):
Paul Downing, 27 (Blackburn Rovers)
Sean Raggett, 25 (Norwich City – season loan)
James Bolton, 24 (Shrewsbury Town)

Midfielders (3):
Ryan Williams, 25 (Rotherham United)
Marcus Harness, 23 (Burton Albion)
Ross McCrorie, 21 (Glasgow Rangers – season loan)

Forwards (2):
John Marquis, 27 (Doncaster Rovers)
Ellis Harrison, 25 (Ipswich Town)

Average age of players out: 23
Average age of players in: 24

Number of players in squad: 27

Player of the Season 2018-19: Matt Clarke, 22 (centre half)

One to watch: Jamal Lowe, 25 (winger)

Season ticket sales: 14,500 SOLD OUT

Ground capacity: 21,100

Visiting supporter capacity: 1,400 (all seated – may be extended to 2,800)

Pre-season:
P7 W6 D0 L1 F22 A9

10/7 UCD A 11-0
13/7 Havant & Waterlooville A 2-1
16/7 Bognor Regis Town A 2-1
20/7 Stevenage A 1-0
23/7 Aldershot Town A 0-4
27/7 Crawley Town A 2-1
30/7 Woking A 4-2

Commentary:

With two FA Cup Finals and a lengthy stay in the Premier League still fresh in recent memory, Portsmouth are a big club for the third tier and expectations will be high. But the same can be said of Ipswich, Sunderland and Coventry, and there are only three promotion places on offer. With ambitious smaller clubs like Rotherham, Peterborough and Lincoln in there too, there are no foregone conclusions for anyone in League One.

Owner and former Disney chief executive Michael Eisner is worth in excess of a billion dollars, suggesting Portsmouth may not linger in League One for much longer. However, fans have been critical of the perceived lack of investment in the playing side since he assumed control of the club two years ago, with many assuming Portsmouth would take League One on a wave of Eisner cash. Having won promotion as League Two champions in 2017, Portsmouth have improved steadily, rather than dramatically. The trajectory is undoubtedly upwards, with a play-off semi-final and the Checkatrade Trophy win dominating last season.

The majority of last season’s squad has been retained, the only real departure of note being Player of the Season Matt Clarke to Brighton. The squad has been strengthened by some excellent signings including highly-rated winger Marcus Harness from Burton, Ross McCrorie on loan from Rangers, and Lincoln hero Sean Raggett from Norwich. Completing a powerful line-up are strikers Ellis Harrison from Ipswich, who scored plenty of goals in League One for Bristol Rovers, and 26-goal John Marquis from Doncaster.

Kenny Jackett has a good record at this level with two previous promotions from League One, and Portsmouth have bought well during the summer. Support at Fratton Park will be as fervent as ever, with season tickets having sold out once again. All of that makes them one of the teams to beat this season: the only real question to be answered is whether it will be the play-offs or an automatic spot next May.

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

Prediction: Automatic promotion.

ROCHDALE

Last season: 16th
P46 W15 D9 L22 F54 A87 Pts54
Average attendance: 3,574

Chairman: Andrew Kilpatrick, 58 (appointed December 2018)

Manager: Brian Barry-Murphy, 41 (appointed March 2019 as caretaker, April 2019 permanently)

Brian Barry-Murphy’s managerial record:

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

Players out (4):

Goalkeepers (0):

Defenders (1):
Kgosi Ntlhe, 25 (Scunthorpe United)

Midfielders (3):
Brad Inman, 27 (Brisbane Roar – Australia)
Jordan Williams, 26 (AFC Fylde)
Daniel Adshead, 17 (Norwich City)

Forwards (0):

Players in (5):

Goalkeepers (1):
Robert Sánchez, 21 (Brighton & Hove Albion – season loan)

Defenders (2):
Eoghan O’Connell, 23 (Bury)
Rhys Norrington-Davies, 20 (Sheffield United – season loan)

Midfielders (1):
Jimmy Ryan, 30 (Blackpool)

Forwards (1):
Rekeil Pyke, 21 (Huddersfield Town – season loan)

Average age of players out: 24
Average age of players in: 23

Number of players in squad: 29

Player of the Season 2018-19: Ian Henderson, 34 (striker)

One to watch: Ian Henderson, 34 (striker)

Season ticket sales: 1,600

Ground capacity: 10,000

Visiting supporter capacity: 1,500 (all seated – may be extended to 3,650)

Pre-season:
P5 W2 D0 L3 F7 A11

6/7 Sporting Club Farense N 0-1 (played at Estádio Municipal de Albufeira)
17/7 HUDDERSFIELD TOWN H 1-3
20/7 Oldham Athletic A 3-2
24/7 Ramsbottom United A 3-2
30/7 Hyde United A 0-3

Commentary:

Rochdale go into the 2019-20 season as one of the bookmakers’ favourites for relegation, but that is a tag they have become used to. Fortunately, budgets do not always equate to points, and with neighbours Bury and Bolton starting with a twelve-point deficit, that prognosis may not be a foregone conclusion. Rochdale have punched above their weight for a long time and there is no reason to believe they cannot do so again.

Although an unknown quantity, rookie manager Brian Barry-Murphy did a great job last season, inspiring an immediate turnaround in the club’s fortunes after taking the reins at the start of March. Dale were five points adrift of safety with eleven games remaining at the time, but six wins and two draws ensured another season in League One. Barry-Murphy stated his intention to reduce the size of his squad dramatically in the belief that tight-knit squads produce better results, but there have been only four departures during the summer.

The main problem last season was obvious: Rochdale had the worst defence in League One, conceding an almost fatal 87 goals. The best defender at the club Kgosi Ntlhe declined a contract offer to sign for Scunthorpe, and he will need to be replaced. The budget should be boosted by the rumoured £300,000 received from Norwich for 17-year-old starlet Dan Adshead. Club legend Ian Henderson remains despite rumours of a move away during the summer, which could prove pivotal: Henderson scored 20 of Rochdale’s 54 league goals last season. On the downside, Dale’s pre-season preparations were badly affected by the cancellation of a game against Blackburn and the abandonment of the final match against Bradford.

Rochdale launched a billboard advertising campaign prior to the start of the season to drum up more support from the town. Entitled ‘A New Dawn Beckons’, it was certainly stylish if not dramatic. Let’s hope it does not prove as embarrassing a false dawn as the Jolley Revolution, for instance. Whilst last season’s average attendance of 3,574 may appear paltry to the majority of League One clubs, it actually constituted the highest average at Spotland for almost 50 years. If that does not emphasise the extent of Rochdale’s achievement in staying in League One for so long, nothing ever will.

At the bookies (Sky Bet): 14/1

Prediction: Relegation.

Page Two: Rotherham United, Shrewsbury Town, Southend United, Sunderland, Tranmere Rovers and Wycombe Wanderers.

Posted by Vital Lincoln City on Friday, 2 August 2019

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