Vital Imps News

Vital Lincoln City – League One Season Preview 2022-23 (Part One)

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CHARLTON ATHLETIC

Last season: 13th
P46 W17 D8 L21 F55 A59 Pts59

Chairman/owner: Thomas Sandgaard, 64 (appointed September 2020)

Manager: Ben Garner, 42 (appointed June 2022)

Ben Garner’s managerial record:

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

Players out (17):

Goalkeepers (2):
Stephen Henderson, 34
Harry Whitling, 18

Defenders (5):
Jason Pearce, 34 (retired)
Chris Gunter, 33 (AFC Wimbledon)
Pape Souaré, 32
Adam Matthews, 30 (Omonia Nicosia – Cyprus)
Ben Purrington, 26 (Ross County)

Midfielders (6):
Ben Watson, 37
Ben Dempsey, 22 (Ayr United)
Johl Powell, 21
James Vennings, 21 (Bromley)
Jimmy Appiah, 20
Terrell Agyemang, 19

Forwards (4):
Conor Washington, 30 (Rotherham United)
Wassim Aouachria, 22 (Waterford)
Josh Davison, 22 (AFC Wimbledon)
Hady Ghandour, 22 (Maidstone United)

Players in (6):

Goalkeepers (1):
Joe Wollacott, 25 (Swindon Town)

Defenders (3):
Eoghan O’Connell, 26 (Rochdale)
Mandela Egbo, 24 (Swindon Town)
Steven Sessegnon, 22 (season loan from Fulham)

Midfielders (2):
Jack Payne, 27 (Swindon Town)
Conor McGrandles, 26 (Lincoln City)

Forwards (0):

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

Player of the Season 2021-22: George Dobson, 24 (defensive midfielder)

One to watch: Scott Fraser, 27 (attacking midfield)

Season ticket sales: 7,300

Ground capacity: 27,111

Visiting supporter capacity: 3,000 (all seated)

Pre-season:
P6 W3 D1 L2 F14 A6
1/7 Kilmarnock N 0-1 (in Marbella, Spain)
9/7 Dartford A 6-1 Leaburn 2, Kirk, Stockley, Clare, Elerewe
12/7 Colchester United A 4-2 Gilbey, Leaburn, Morgan, OG
16/7 Sutton United A 0-0
22/7 WELLING UNITED H 3-0 Gilbey 2, Jaiyesimi
23/7 SWANSEA CITY H 1-2 OG

Commentary:

“It’s a fantastic stadium. We know we’ve got great support. All the individual chats I’ve had with the players over the last three or four weeks, I get the same message: If we can get the crowd onside at The Valley, what a difference it makes. We need to focus on that and use it as a strength. There aren’t many clubs that can call on that in this division. We have to understand what a great weapon it is for us. We need to do that with how we play on the pitch. We want that energy and passion from the stands.”  – Charlton Athletic manager Ben Garner

After years of high-profile ownership wrangles, Charlton Athletic supporters may have been forgiven for expecting stability following the arrival of owner Thomas Sandgaard in September 2020. However, things are not rosy in south-east London with a section of fans accusing the owner of everything from cost-cutting to nepotism. The involvement of Sandgaard’s son Martin as director of analytics and media comments from Sandgaard’s partner Raelynn Moloney have caused friction, especially given the departures of some popular administrative staff. Whatever the state of those relationships, success on the field is ultimately the bottom line and promotion back to the Championship after three years in League One is the expectation for this season.

The appointment of Ben Garner as manager in June is therefore an interesting one, given his relatively ordinary record in management to date. Without question, he is going to need far more than a noisy Valley if he is going to succeed where others have failed. There was a significant turnover on the playing side with some big departures including 109-cap Chris Gunter, former captain Jason Pearce, Northern Ireland international Conor Washington and FA Cup winner Ben Watson. The average age of a notoriously pedestrian starting eleven will undoubtedly fall as a result.

One interesting sub-plot is the acquisition of three of Garner’s players from former employers Swindon – including former Lincoln midfielder Jack Payne – which raises the question of whether three League Two stalwarts will prove good enough to propel the Addicks to promotion to the Championship. Of similar interest to Lincoln supporters is the arrival at The Valley of ex-Imp Conor McGrandles, whose satellite navigation system appears to be malfunctioning after rumours abounded of a desire to return to his native Scotland. Fulham prodigy Stephen Sessegnon joins on loan and could prove the pick of the bunch. The crowd awaits, but will the new-look squad be enough to get The Valley bouncing again?

At the bookies (Sky Bet): 8/1

CHELTENHAM TOWN

Last season: 15th
P46 W13 D17 L16 F66 A80 Pts56

Chairman: David Bloxham, 63 (appointed August 2021)

Manager: Wade Elliott, 44 (appointed June 2022)

Wade Elliott’s managerial record:

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

Players out (6):

Goalkeepers (2):
Scott Flinders, 36 (Mansfield Town)
Owen Evans, 25 (Walsall)

Defenders (1):
Will Boyle, 26 (Huddersfield Town)

Midfielders (2):
Conor Thomas, 28 (Crewe Alexandra)
Charlie Colkett, 25 (Crewe Alexandra)

Forwards (1):
Andy Williams, 35 (Walsall)

Players in (9):

Goalkeepers (2):
Shaun MacDonald, 25 (Torquay United)
Luke Southwood, 24 (season loan from Reading)

Defenders (4):
Ryan Jackson, 31 (Gillingham)
Tom Bradbury, 24 (FC Halifax Town)
James Taylor, 20 (season loan from Bristol City)
Caleb Taylor, 19 (season loan from West Bromwich Albion)

Midfielders (2):
Taylor Perry, 21 (season loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers)
Dan Adshead, 20 (Norwich City)

Forwards (1):
Dan N’Lundulu, 23 (on loan from Southampton to January)

Average age of players out: 29
Average age of players in: 23

Player of the Season 2021-22: Alfie May, 29 (striker)

One to watch: Alfie May, 29 (striker)

Season ticket sales: 1,600

Ground capacity: 7,066

Visiting supporter capacity: 1,100

Pre-season:
P7 W4 D1 L2 F10 A5
2/7 Evesham United A 4-0 Guinan, Williams, Lloyd, Sercombe
6/7 Bristol City A 0-2
9/7 Bath City A 0-0
12/7 Stratford Town A 2-1 Barkers, N’Lundulu
16/7 CARDIFF CITY H 1-2 Sercombe
19/7 BIRMINGHAM CITY H 1-0 May
23/7 NORTHAMPTON TOWN H 2-0 May, N’Lundulu

Commentary:

“The Board set out with clear criteria for the type of coach we wanted and one of the key requirements was to try and continue the excellent progress we have experienced over the last three years. In the end we believed that Wade’s knowledge and understanding of the club, its staff and players made him uniquely placed to take us forward.” – Cheltenham Town chairman David Bloxham

Having taken Cheltenham to the highest league placing in the club’s 135-year history, it was no surprise to see manager Michael Duff move on during the summer. An extensive search for his replacement ended at home with the appointment of first team coach Wade Elliott, who was initially expected to join Duff at Barnsley. Whilst he has no previous management experience, Elliott does hold the UEFA Pro Licence. The departure of manager Duff was not the only change at the club: after four years of strangely hyphenated sponsorship, the Jonny-Rocks Stadium has morphed into the Completely-Suzuki Stadium. Infrastructure has been further improved with the purchase of the club’s training ground in Swindon Village after twenty years as tenants of the site.

While the club’s main summer priority was to hang on to top scorer Alfie May, it will not have gone unnoticed that only four teams conceded more goals than Cheltenham’s 80 last season. To compound matters, star defender Will Boyle departed for Huddersfield and has been replaced by no fewer than four new signings. Up front, former Lincoln loanee Dan N’Lundulu has returned for a second spell as one of five season-long loans and will need a successful year if he is to extend his stay at Premier League Southampton. The squad has a much younger look to it, the average age of the nine new signings being just 23.

The appointment of Marcus Bignot (pronounced ‘Been-yo’, don’t forget) as first team coach this week raised an eyebrow at a time when instances of racism or sexism are anathema in British life. The club followed a period of consultation with various stakeholders before confirming the move.

At the bookies (Sky Bet): 33/1 (relegation)

DERBY COUNTY

Last season: 23rd in the Championship (relegated)

P46 W14 D13 L19 F45 A53 Pts34 (deducted 21 points for financial irregularities)

Owner: Clowes Developments (UK) Ltd

Chairman: David Clowes, 53 (appointed July 2022)

Manager: Liam Rosenior, 38 (interim manager appointed June 2022)

Liam Rosenior’s managerial record:

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

Players out (11):

Goalkeepers (2):
Ryan Allsop, 30 (Cardiff City)
Kelle Roos, 30 (Aberdeen)

Defenders (2):
Lee Buchanan, 21 (Werder Bremen – Germany)
Kornell McDonald, 20

Midfielders (5):
Ravel Morrison, 29 (D.C. United – USA)
Isaac Hutchinson, 22 (Walsall)
Louie Watson, 21 (Luton Town)
Festy Ebosele, 19 (Udinese – Italy)
Malcolm Ebiowei, 18 (Crystal Palace)

Forwards (2):
Colin Kazim-Richards, 35 (Fatih Karagümrück – Turkey)
Tom Lawrence, 28 (Glasgow Rangers)

Players in (11):

Goalkeepers (2):
Scott Loach, 34 (Chesterfield)
Joe Wildsmith, 26 (Sheffield Wednesday)

Defenders (3):
James Chester, 33 (Stoke City)
Haydon Roberts, 20 (season loan from Brighton & Hove Albion)
Kwaku Oduroh, 19 (Manchester City)

Midfielders (3):
Conor Hourihane, 31 (Aston Villa)
Corey Smith, 31 (Swansea City)
Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, 30 (Sheffield Wednesday)

Forwards (3):
David McGoldrick, 34 (Sheffield United)
James Collins, 31 (Cardiff City)
Tom Barkhuizen, 29 (Preston North End)

Average age of players out: 25
Average age of players in: 28

Player of the Season 2021-22: Curtis Davies, 37 (central defender)

One to watch: Conor Hourihane, 31 (central midfield)

Season ticket sales: 15,300

Ground capacity: 33,597

Visiting supporter capacity: 2,700

Pre-season:
P5 W2 D0 L3 F5 A6
9/7 Bradford City  2-0 Forsyth, Barkhuizen
16/7 HERTHA BERLIN H 1-0 Mendez-Laing
19/7 Stevenage A 0-1
23/7 LEICESTER CITY H 1-3 Barkhuizen
26/7 Alfreton Town A 1-2 Robertson

Commentary:

“I won’t be making any extravagant promises, however I can confirm my intentions. My focus now is to stabilise the football club in every department and to make sure we have the foundations in place for success, however long that takes.” – new Derby County Owner David Clowes

Fifty years after Brian Clough led Derby to an improbable and unforgettable first Football League title, the club suffered the ignominy of relegation to English football’s third tier. Not the ideal way to celebrate what was and remains an outstanding achievement, but it could have been far worse: Texan businessman Chris Kirchner’s failed takeover could have seen the club expelled from the EFL until lifelong supporter David Clowes appeared from stage left to take the club over.

The resignation of manager Wayne Rooney at the end of June came as a major surprise, coming just a few days before the Clowes takeover and subsequent exit from administration. Derby would have finished 17th last season without the 21-point penalties handed out for financial shenanigans, and it seems strange that Rooney did not accept the challenge of leading the club back to higher echelons. One unexpected outcome of the takeover was a number of higher-profile players declining contract offers while Lee Buchanan simply tore his up following legal advice.

Despite David Clowes’ obvious attempt at managing supporter expectation, Derby immediately set about signing some very experienced former Premier League and Championship players. In one day alone, the club signed three players with 154 Premier League appearances and 84 full international caps between them, although the average age of the side could easily be the highest in League One. Seven of County’s eleven signings are over 30, taking the total number of thirty-somethings in the squad to ten, while 37-year-old Curtis Davies has been named captain. The most surprising signing is that of former Lincoln youth Scott Loach from Chesterfield, ironically replacing another former Imp in Ryan Allsop. The rapid turnover of players produced a mixed set of pre-season results, and the early months of the season proper may produce a similar pattern as the squad gels.

Season ticket numbers have held up well despite relegation with over 10,000 sold in the first 48 hours when they eventually went on sale on 6 July. The final number will be close to last season’s total of 15,900.

At the bookies (Sky Bet): 5/2 (fourth)

EXETER CITY

Last season: 2nd in League Two (promoted)

P46 W23 D15 L8 F65 A41 Pts84

Chairman: Nick Hawker, 64 (appointed December 2021)

Manager: Matt Taylor, 40 (appointed June 2018)

Matt Taylor’s managerial record:

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

Players out (9):

Goalkeepers (0):

Defenders (5):
Colin Daniel, 34 (Scunthorpe United)
George Ray, 28 (Barrow)
Jordan Dyer, 22 (Bath City)
Callum Rowe, 22
Ellis Johnson, 19

Midfielders (3):
Nigel Atangana, 32
James Dodd, 21 (Weston-super-Mare)
Jack Veale, 19

Forwards (1):
Ben Seymour, 23 (Plymouth Parkway)

Players in (2):

Goalkeepers (1):
Jamal Blackman, 28 (Huddersfield Town)

Defenders (0):

Midfielders (1):
Kegs Chauke, 19 (season loan from Southampton)

Forwards (0):

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

Player of the Season 2021-22: Tim Dieng, 30 (defensive midfield)

One to watch: Sam Nombe, 23 (striker)

Season ticket sales: 3,240

Ground capacity: 8,219

Visiting supporter capacity: 1,345 (1,045 standing, 300 seated)

Pre-season:
P7 W3 D2 L2 F14 A7
1/7 Tiverton Town A 1-2 Brown
5/7 Weston-super-Mare A 5-0 Nombe 4, Pond
8/7 Taunton Town A 2-1 Dieng 2
12/7 TRURO CITY H 3-0 Nombe, Key, Trialist
16/7 Yeovil Town A 1-1 Jay
19/7 Bristol City A 2-2 Coley, Hartridge
23/7 Torquay United A 0-1

Commentary:

“I want to add quality to the group. We have a group of honest players, we need to bring in some added quality, some league experience, and add something different to what we have got. We have to be patient, it has to be right. I could sign ten players right now but won’t add to what we have got and that won’t benefit anyone.” – Exeter City manager Matt Taylor

LMA League Two Manager of the Season Matt Taylor is clearly under no illusions regarding the task facing his newly promoted Exeter side. Experience shows that teams placing faith in a promotion squad seldom prosper, and nine players departed during the summer. Exeter then became the last club in all four divisions to make a new signing, with Taylor criticising the conduct of certain clubs in agreeing loan deals before cancelling them at the last minute. Welcome to League One. Exeter finally made their first signing just four days before the season opener at Lincoln, with experienced goalkeeper Jamal Blackman looking the best of them.

Progress on the pitch continues to be matched by improvements in infrastructure. Exeter have commenced the redevelopment of their training ground at a cost of £2.98m – up £800,000 from the original costing due to supply line changes through Covid – which is due for completion in November. Much of the cost has been covered by the £4.5m in add-ons that the club has received from Aston Villa for Ollie Watkins since December 2020, with the balance coming from a loan from the Supporters’ Trust.

City undertook a slightly underwhelming pre-season schedule with six games against local non-league opposition and just the one against another EFL side. The late arrival of summer signings renders that less relevant, as most of the squad development and team bonding will have to take place in a competitive environment rather than a friendly one. The bookmakers are not optimistic that Exeter can survive in League One, a position exacerbated by those delays in transfer activity, although promoted sides have done reasonably well in recent years.

At the bookies (Sky Bet): 40/1 (relegation)

FLEETWOOD TOWN

Last season: 20th

P46 W8 D16 L22 F62 A82 Pts40

Chairman/owner: Andy Pilley, 52 (appointed August 2004)

Head Coach: Scott Brown, 37 (appointed May 2022)

Scott Brown’s managerial record:

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

Players out (8):

Goalkeepers (2):
Kieran O’Hara, 26
Harry Wright, 23

Defenders (2):
Brad Halliday, 27 (Bradford City)
Billy Batch, 19

Midfielders (4):
Anthony Pilkington, 34
Harrison Biggins, 26 (Doncaster Rovers)
Callum Camps, 26 (Stockport County)
Jordan Rossiter, 25 (Bristol Rovers)

Forwards (0):

Players in (7):

Goalkeepers (1):
Jay Lynch, 29 (Rochdale)

Defenders (2):
Shaun Rooney, 26 (St Johnstone)
Josh Earl, 23 (Preston North End)

Midfielders (2):
Josh Vela, 28 (Shrewsbury Town)
Brendan Wiredu, 22 (Colchester United)

Forwards (2):
Callum Morton, 22 (West Bromwich Albion)
Promise Omochere, 21 (Bohemian)

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

Player of the Season 2021-22: Paddy Lane, 21 (central midfielder)

One to watch: Promise Omochere, 21 (striker)

Season ticket sales: 600

Ground capacity: 5,327

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

Pre-season:
P6 W3 D2 L1 F9 A6
2/7 TRANMERE ROVERS H 2-2 Nsiala, Lane
7/7 Rotherham United N 0-2 (in Pula, Croatia)
9/7 HNK Orijent 1919 N 3-0 Lane, J.Garner (pen), Nsiala (in Rijeka, Croatia)
16/7 Stoke City A 1-1 Batty
19/7 Barrow A 1-0 Batty
23/7 DUNDEE UNITED H 2-1 Batty, Vela

Commentary:

“Scott was on our shortlist and he’s very different to what my perception was of him as a player, we all saw this aggressive player with his eyes bulging out of his head, kicking anything that moved, and won a lot of games with Celtic. He came across as someone very different and I’m sure everyone will agree. He’s articulate, intelligent, but also has that edge and I think you need all these qualities to succeed as a footballing manager.” – Fleetwood chairman Andy Pilley

Despite the chairman’s glowing appraisal of his new manager, the appointment of Scott Brown by Fleetwood (on the same day as Lincoln appointed Mark Kennedy) came as a surprise to many. The former Celtic captain has no experience in English football at all, let alone in League One, although his connections in the game may present opportunities for his new club. At least Brown can claim to be taking over at a club that smashed a Football League record last season: Fleetwood’s 40 points is the lowest total ever by a side avoiding relegation from the third tier since the change to three points for a win in 1981. Indeed, 40 points has often been enough to finish bottom of the division.

On his arrival at Highbury Stadium in May, new manager Brown stated his intention to plunder the Scottish Premiership for talent. At the time of writing, only St Johnstone defender Shaun Rooney has arrived from the SPL. Fleetwood are certainly backing their new manager financially, with Brendan Wiredu signing from League Two Colchester for a six-figure fee. Striker Promise Omochere joins from Bohemian for what Fleetwood term a ‘substantial’ fee. Surprise departure for many was that of star midfielder Callum Camps, who has signed for EFL newcomers Stockport County.

Already tipped for relegation by the bookmakers, further problems could emerge for Fleetwood following owner Andy Pilley’s fraud trial in October. Annual losses run into millions, and the club has net liabilities standing at an astonishing £23.2 million at the end of June 2021. Pilley has stated he will not call in the debt owed to him and his companies, but a mid-season conviction would mean he no longer passes the Owners’ and Directors’ Test.

At the bookies (Sky Bet): 40/1 (relegation)

FOREST GREEN ROVERS

Last season: 1st in League Two (promoted)

P46 W23 D15 L8 F75 A44 Pts84

Chairman/owner: Dale Vince OBE, 61 (appointed October 2010)

Head Coach: Ian Burchnall, 39 (appointed May 2022)

Ian Burchnall’s managerial record:

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

Players out (12):

Goalkeepers (0):

Defenders (3):
Dan Sweeney, 28 (Stevenage)
Kane Wilson, 22 (Bristol City)
Luke Hallett, 19 (AFC Totton)

Midfielders (8):
Elliott Whitehouse, 28 (Scunthorpe United)
Ebou Adams, 26 (Cardiff City)
Nicky Cadden, 25 (Barnsley)
Sadou Diallo, 23 (Derry City)
Opi Edwards, 23
Taylor Allen, 22 (Walsall)
Jack Evans, 21
Vaughn Covil, 19 (Hull City)

Forwards (1):
Jake Young, 21 (Bradford City)

Players in (9):

Goalkeepers (1):
Alfie Burnett, 19 (Rotherham United)

Defenders (4):
Corey O’Keeffe, 24 (Rochdale)
Oliver Casey, 21 (season loan from Blackpool)
Harry Boyes, 20 (season loan from Sheffield United)
Jacob Jones, 20 (Swansea City)

Midfielders (4):
David Davis, 31 (Shrewsbury Town)
Reece Brown, 26 (Huddersfield Town)
Armani Little, 25 (Torquay United)
Kyle McAllister, 23 (St Mirren)

Forwards (0):

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

Player of the Season 2021-22: Matty Stevens, 24 (striker)

One to watch: Reece Brown, 26 (central midfield)

Season ticket sales: Not disclosed

Ground capacity: 5,147 (smallest in League One)

Visiting supporter capacity: 1,200 (1,000 standing, 200 seated)

Pre-season:
P7 W2 D1 L4 F10 A13
28/6 Melksham Town A 3-0 Little, Matt, March
2/7 Wolverhampton Wanderers A 1-4 Scorer not reported
9/7 Swansea City A 2-3 Brown, Little
12/7 Coventry City N 0-1
16/7 Swindon Supermarine A 2-1 March, OG
19/7 Bristol City A 1-3 March
23/7 NEWPORT COUNTY H 1-1 Matt (pen)

Commentary:

“Watford can’t read a contract or are careless of the truth – there is no such provision – and how would it even make sense to leave a club before going [to] talk to another? He negotiated in secret and then left once he had the job. Watford are scrambling for cover, but there is none.”  – Forest Green Rovers chairman Dale Vince

The controversial loss of manager Rob Edwards to Watford immediately after the season ended was no way in which to celebrate Forest Green’s promotion to the third tier for the first time in their history. Chairman Dale Vince was scathing over the conduct of both Watford and his former manager, although to his credit he wasted no time in making an appointment. Ian Burchnall joins after an unsuccessful National League play-off challenge with Notts County and becomes a Football League manager for the first time. Burchnall suffered the indignity of being relegated in bottom place in his first season as a manager (with Viking Stavanger in Norway) and will be keen to avoid a repeat in his first season at the newly renamed Bolt New Lawn.

At first sight, Forest Green appear minnows amid sharks in League One, and all indications are that Burchnall has a significant job on his hands. Turnover on the playing side has been swift, with twelve out and nine in at the time of writing. It certainly does not pay to be a midfielder at New Lawn, as no fewer than eight of them left the building this summer including injury-prone ex-Imp Elliott Whitehouse. Three of the departures (Kane Wilson, Ebou Adams and Vaughn Covil) headed for the Championship, a testament to the success of the club’s recruitment team. However, it also leaves some significant gaps in the side, especially considering the step up to League One standards, and Burchnall will have to find viable replacements.

As for incomings, the standout signing is the return of midfielder Reece Brown from Huddersfield. Three youngsters have been signed from Championship clubs while the experienced David Davis from Shrewsbury should complement Brown well. The average age of the nine new arrivals is only 23, suggesting lack of experience could be a problem. All the same, the bookies are indicating a reasonable season for the newcomers, and it will be interesting to see whether the club can take further steps towards the Championship place that Dale Vince targeted upon promotion to the EFL five years ago.

At the bookies (Sky Bet): 28/1

Writer: Scotimp

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