Date: 4th August 2017 at 12:32am
Written by:

INTRODUCTION

The information in this preview is complete to 5pm on Thursday 3 August 2017. All player ages are correct at 1 August 2017. 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 I have compiled the figures myself, 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; fourthly, if you always believe I am an idiot, you will never be disappointed.

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).




GRIMSBY TOWN

Last season:
14th
P46 W17 D11 L18 F59 A63 Pts62
Average attendance: 5,259

Manager:
Russell Slade, 56 (appointed April 2017)

Who Are The League Two Managers? No.13: Russell Slade (Grimsby Town)

Russell Slade’s managerial record:

League games only – play-offs and cup games not included. Does not include Slade’s short spells as manager of Armitage (1995) or Leicester United (1995-96) because no dates can be found for his reign at either club; both clubs folded with Slade incumbent, and under the same chairman.

Players out (10):

Goalkeepers (0):

Defenders (6):
Josh Gowling, 33 (Torquay United)
Shaun Pearson, 28 (Wrexham)
Andrew Boyce, 27 (Eastleigh)
Gavin Gunning, 26 (Port Vale)
Danny Andrew, 26 (Doncaster Rovers)
Dan Jones, 22 (Barrow)

Midfielders (2):
Craig Disley, 35 (Alfreton Town)
Rhys Browne, 21 (Yeovil Town)

Forwards (2):
Ashley Chambers, 27 (Nuneaton Town)
Adi Yussuf, 24 (Barrow)

Players in (8):

Goalkeepers (1):
Ben Killip, 21 (Norwich City)

Defenders (2):
Nathan Clarke, 33 (Coventry City)
Paul Dixon, 30 (Dundee United)
Karleigh Osborne, 29 (Kilmarnock)

Midfielders (3):
Mitch Rose, 23 (Newport County)
Sam Kelly, 23 (Port Vale)
Siriki Dembele, 20 (Nike Academy)

Forwards (1):
Harry Cardwell, 20 (Reading)

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

Number of players in squad: 27

Pre-season:
P11 W8 D1 L2 F43 A14

4/7: Cleethorpes Town – A 4-2
6/7: Grimsby Borough – A 11-3
11/7: Stamford – A 3-2 (County Cup)
13/7: Scunthorpe United XI – H 4-0 (County Cup)
15/7: Barnsley – H 2-1
18/7: Bideford – A 4-0
20/7: Tavistock – A 7-1
22/7: Boston United – A 0-3 (County Cup)
25/7: Blackburn Rovers – H 0-1
27/7: Winterton Rangers – A 7-0
29/7: Wigan Athletic – H 1-1

Commentary: Grimsby had a disappointing first season back in the League, with three managers at the helm producing a mediocre bottom half finish. Some observers felt they had won promotion in May 2016 with their worst team for five seasons, and manager Paul Hurst brought in no fewer than 17 players prior to the transfer deadline. The natural momentum created by promotion disappeared very early on, with some poor performances and that revolving door to the manager’s office making it impossible for Grimsby to find any consistency. The side only managed 59 goals all season, and 19 of those were scored by the departed Omar Bogle. Proven strikers are required urgently if they are to improve on last season’s 14th place, but the signing of untested 20-year-old Harry Cardwell from Reading looks unlikely to change that significantly. To compound matters, six defenders departed during the summer including Josh Gowling, Shaun Pearson and Danny Andrew, and that degree of experience can be hard to replace. Manager Russell Slade has somehow managed to be named League One Manager of the Year on two separate occasions without ever having won a single promotion in his 700-game career. Taken together, another testing season looks to be on the cards, although Grimsby’s renowned supporter loyalty has seen season ticket sales hold up well. Grimsby undertook a very busy pre-season schedule of 11 games including an extraordinary number against ill-matched opposition (Cleethorpes, Grimsby Borough, Winterton, Tavistock, and Bideford), presumably as confidence-builders. But there is a noticeable lack of depth and continuity at Blundell Park, and some more rebuilding is required before Grimsby will be in a position to challenge at the right end of the table.

At the bookies (Ladbrokes): 33/1

Prediction: Mid-table. The bookmakers’ forecasts of a bottom-eight finish look harsh.


LINCOLN CITY

Last season:
1st in National League (promoted as champions)
P46 W30 D9 L7 F83 A40 Pts99
Average attendance: 5,160

Manager:
Danny Cowley, 38 (appointed May 2016)

Danny Cowley’s managerial record:

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

Players out (10):

Goalkeepers (0):

Defenders (0):

Midfielders (6):
Alan Power, 29 (Kilmarnock)
Terry Hawkridge, 27 (Notts County)
Taylor Miles, 22 (Hemel Hempstead Town)
Kegan Everington, 21 (Grantham Town)
Elliot Hodge, 21 (Notts County)
Andrew Wright, 20 (Grantham Town)

Forwards (4):
Jack Muldoon, 28 (AFC Fylde)
Adam Marriott, 26 (Royston Town)
Alex Simmons, 21 (Gainsborough Trinity)
Jenk Acar, 19 (Spalding United)

Players in (10):

Goalkeepers (1):
Josh Vickers, 21 (Swansea City)

Defenders (2):
Neal Eardley, 28 (Northampton Town)
Rob Dickie, 21 (Reading – on loan until January)

Midfielders (5):
Michael Bostwick, 29 (Peterborough United)
Billy Knott, 24 (Gillingham)
Harry Anderson, 20 (Peterborough United)
Josh Ginnelly, 20 (Burnley – season-long loan)
Jordan Maguire-Drew, 19 (Brighton & Hove Albion – season-long loan)

Forwards (2):
Matt Green, 30 (Mansfield Town)
Ollie Palmer, 25 (Leyton Orient)

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

Number of players in squad: 21

Pre-season:
P6 W4 D0 L2 F14 A10

8/7: Lincoln United – A 4-0
12/7: Benfica B – N 1-3 (three 30-minute periods; played in Portugal)
15/7: Millwall – N 1-0 (played in Portugal)
22/7: Peterborough United – H 2-3
25/7: Nottingham Forest U23 – H 4-3
29/7: Walsall – H 2-1

Commentary: Lincoln City’s promotion to the Football League last season was as unexpected as it was breathtaking. Their run to the FA Cup quarter-final astonished and enthralled football supporters all over the world, and that is one reason why they are expected to do well this season. Wins over Oldham, Ipswich, Brighton and Burnley suggest that City will have little trouble with the likes of Crawley and Newport, and they have a far stronger squad this season. The methodical and analytical approach of Danny Cowley and his management team should deliver results regardless of which tier they are in; and whilst promotion to League One at the first attempt seems a tall order, they have plenty of momentum. Cowley has made some interesting signings during the close season, with Peterborough’s Player of the Season Michael Bostwick the headline-maker. Off the field, their policy of attracting sustainable investment has been enhanced through the advent of a couple of new directors. With a bespoke training ground scheduled to open in December and a new 15,000-seat stadium very much on the horizon, developments in infrastructure are set to keep pace with progress onfield. The people of Lincoln are certainly convinced: they have snapped up almost 6,000 season tickets over the summer, a response not seen since their Second Division days in the mid-1950s. City are almost guaranteed an average crowd of between 7,000 and 8,000, even if consolidation is the outcome next May. But the Cowleys have the opportunity they have worked for ten years to secure – to test their skills in the Football League – and they are unlikely to settle for anything less than a promotion challenge.

At the bookies (Ladbrokes): 10/1 (fourth favourites)

Prediction: Automatic promotion.


LUTON TOWN

Last season:
4th (lost in play-off semi-final)
P46 W20 D17 L9 F70 A43 Pts77
Average attendance: 8,128

Manager:
Nathan Jones, 44 (appointed January 2016)

Who Are The League Two Managers? No.14: Nathan Jones (Luton Town)

Nathan Jones’ managerial record:

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

Players out (9):

Goalkeepers (2):
Craig King, 20 (Retired)
Liam Gooch, 19 (-)

Defenders (1):
Stephen O’Donnell, 25 (Kilmarnock)

Midfielders (3):
Danny Green, 29 ()
Cameron McGeehan, 22 (Barnsley)
Jake Gray, 21 (Yeovil Town)

Forwards (3):
Craig Mackail-Smith, 33 (-)
Jack Marriott, 22 (Peterborough United)
Zane Banton, 21 (St Albans City)

Players in (8):

Goalkeepers (3):
Marek ?tech, 27 (Sparta Prague)
James Shea, 26 (AFC Wimbledon)
Harry Isted, 20 (Stoke City)

Defenders (1):
Jack Stacey, 21 (Reading)

Midfielders (2):
Alan McCormack, 33 (Brentford)
Andrew Shinnie, 28 (Birmingham City – season-long loan)

Forwards (2):
James Collins, 26 (Crawley Town)
Elliot Lee, 22 (Barnsley)

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

Number of players in squad: 29

Pre-season:
P7 W5 D1 L1 F16 A7

5/7: Hitchin Town – A 2-2
8/7: Bedford Town – A 2-1
15/7: NK Bravo (Slovenia) – A 6-2
18/7: Hitchin Town – A 2-0
22/7: Boreham Wood – A 2-0
26/7: Leicester City – H 0-1
29/7: Scunthorpe United – H 2-1

Commentary: As ever, expectations are high at Luton Town. The Hatters have been back in the Football League for three seasons now without achieving promotion, which was hardly the plan when they won the Conference with a 19-point margin in 2014. Last season’s fourth-place finish and unexpected play-off semi-final defeat to eventual winners Blackpool will have strengthened their resolve to return to League One for the first time in a decade. Too many draws (17) cost Luton an automatic promotion bid last season, and some judicious close season signings should prevent that happening again. Scoring goals was not a problem with a line led by Danny Hylton, and should not be again this time. Although Jack Marriott has been sold to Peterborough, manager Nathan Jones has moved quickly to replace him with 22-goal James Collins from Crawley. Loan signing Andrew Shinnie has a reasonable scoring record from midfield, whilst in goal the experienced Marek ?tech from Sparta Prague can only make an already frugal defence more secure. Like an increasing number of clubs in League Two, Luton undertook warm-weather training in July, with a week in Slovenia. Nathan Jones is no longer a rookie as he enters his second full season in management, and things look set fair at Kenilworth Road. Finish above Luton this season, and you will be kicking off in League One this time next year.

At the bookies (Ladbrokes): 6/1 (second favourites)

Prediction: Champions.


MANSFIELD TOWN

Last season:
12th
P46 W17 D15 L14 F54 A50 Pts66
Average attendance: 3,773

Manager: Steve Evans, 54 (appointed November 2016)

Who Are The League Two Managers? No.15: Steve Evans (Mansfield Town)

Steve Evans’ managerial record:

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

Players out (11):

Goalkeepers (2):
Brian Jensen, 42 (Crusaders)
Scott Shearer, 36 (Oxford United)

Defenders (2):
Lee Collins, 28 (Forest Green Rovers)
Corbin Shires, 19 (-)

Midfielders (3):
Jamie McGuire, 33 (Boston United)
Kevan Hurst, 31 (Guiseley)
James Baxendale, 24 (Orange County SC)

Forwards (4):
Matt Green, 30 (Lincoln City)
Yoann Arquin, 29 (-)
Ashley Hemmings, 26 (Boston United)
Pat Hoban, 26 (-)

Players in (13):

Goalkeepers (2):
Conrad Logan, 31 (Rochdale)
Robert Olejnik, 30 (Exeter City)

Defenders (4):
Zander Diamond, 32 (Northampton Town)
David Mirfin, 32 (Scunthorpe United)
Paul Digby, 22 (Ipswich Town)
Hayden White, 22 (Peterborough United)

Midfielders (4):
Paul Anderson, 29 (Northampton Town)
Will Atkinson, 28 (Southend United)
Jacob Mellis, 26 (Bury)
Johnny Hunt, 26 (Chester)

Forwards (3):
Jimmy Spencer, 25 (Plymouth Argyle)
Omari Sterling-James, 23 (Solihull Moors)
Lee Angol, 22 (Peterborough United)

Average age of players out: 29
Average age of players in: 27

Number of players in squad: 24

Pre-season:
P10 W6 D1 L3 F28 A13

6/7: Malta Football Players Association XI – A 5-0
15/7: Sheffield Wednesday – H 2-3
18/7: Stocksbridge Park Steels – A 4-0
19/7: Middlesbrough – H 2-2
21/7: Stamford – A 1-3
22/7: Nottingham Forest – H 0-4
25/7: Gainsborough Trinity – A 4-0
25/7: Matlock Town – A 4-0
29/7: Alfreton Town – A 2-0
1/8: Rainworth Miners Welfare – A 4-1

Commentary: After spending a king’s ransom to escape the Conference in 2012-13, Mansfield owner John Radford is employing a similar tactic this season after four mediocre years in League Two. Employing Steve Evans as manager last November was certainly a sign of intent. His record in lower division football is good, even allowing for the off-field activities which have brought him a host of headlines for all the wrong reasons, and he now has his own players. Evans has made wholesale changes on the playing side over the summer, with 11 leaving and 13 coming in. Although only missing the play-offs by an effective five-point margin last time around, the football on display was hardly exciting, with just 54 scored and 50 conceded. He has boosted his squad in the midfield/forward areas in an effort to increase the number of goals scored, but has he signed the right players to achieve that? Transfer business was completed by the end of May, which seldom ends well, and their wage bill will take a significant hit accordingly. The release of Matt Green was not welcomed by the majority of Stags supporters, and Lincoln fans have serious doubts over the ability of former loanee Lee Angol to score the numbers required. The bookmakers have Mansfield as favourites for the title due to the presence of Evans and that disproportionate budget, and Radford will surely be expecting an immediate return on his substantial investment.

At the bookies (Ladbrokes): 5/1 (favourites)

Prediction: Promotion, but not as champions as the bookmakers expect.


MORECAMBE

Last season:
18th
P46 W14 D10 L22 F53 A73 Pts52
Average attendance: 1,703

Manager:
Jim Bentley, 41 (appointed May 2011)

Who Are The League Two Managers? No.16: Jim Bentley (Morecambe FC)

Jim Bentley’s managerial record:

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

Players out (5):

Goalkeepers (0):

Defenders (3):
Lee Molyneux, 28 (Guiseley)
Liam Wakefield, 23 (-)
Ryan Edwards, 23 (Plymouth Argyle)

Midfielders (1):
Peter Murphy, 27 (Retired)

Forwards (1):
Paul Mullin, 22 (Swindon Town)

Players in (8):

Goalkeepers (0):

Defenders (4):
Steve Old, 31 (GAIS)
Patrick Brough, 21 (Carlisle United)
Mitchell Lund, 20 (Doncaster Rovers – season-long loan)
Sam Lavelle, 20 (Bolton Wanderers)

Midfielders (0):

Forwards (4):
Garry Thompson, 36 (Wycombe Wanderers)
Vadaine Oliver, 25 (York City)
Adam Campbell, 22 (Notts County)
Reece Deakin, 20 (Airbus UK Broughton)

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

Number of players in squad: 23

Pre-season:
P6 W2 D0 L4 F5 A8

11/7: Bamber Bridge – A 2-1
15/7: Lancaster City – H 1-0
18/7: Preston North End – H 0-2
21/7: Blackburn Rovers – H 1-2
25/7: AFC Fylde – A 1-2
29/7: Rochdale – H 0-1

Commentary: Life has never been easy for Morecambe since they entered the Football League in 2007. With one of the smallest budgets in the League and crowds which can almost be counted on the fingers of one hand, likeable manager Jim Bentley has his hands full just to keep Morecambe out of the National League. Relegation was avoided by six points last time around, not helped by a transfer embargo imposed between December and February after wages were not paid on time, and this season promises another struggle ahead. Last season’s star man and top scorer Paul Mullin has departed for relegated Swindon. Close season signings look mediocre, with former Imp Vadaine Oliver tasked with scoring enough goals to avoid the non-league trapdoor; Oliver has been relegated in each of his last two seasons with York City and will want to avoid a hat-trick of a less welcome kind. Survival this season will require Morecambe to punch above their weight in no uncertain terms; and to hope there are two teams worse than they are.

At the bookies (Ladbrokes): 125/1 (favourites for relegation)

Prediction: Bentley has kept his club in the Football League against the odds, but this season the odds are about to catch up. Nailed-on relegation.


NEWPORT COUNTY

Last season:
22nd
P46 W12 D12 L22 F51 A73 Pts48
Average attendance: 2,853

Manager:
Michael Flynn, 36 (appointed March 2017 as caretaker, May 2017 permanently)

Who Are The League Two Managers? No.17: Michael Flynn (Newport County)

Michael Flynn’s managerial record:

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

Players out (14):

Goalkeepers (1):
Marcus Beauchamp, 19 (Hungerford Town)

Defenders (4):
Darren Jones, 33 (Retired)
Paul Bignot, 31 (-)
Kieran Parselle, 20 (Gloucester City)
Liam Angel, 18 (Cinderford Town)

Midfielders (5):
Jennison Myrie-Williams, 29 (-)
Jack Compton, 28 (-)
Mark Randall, 27 (Crawley Town)
Mitch Rose, 23 (Grimsby Town)
Finlay Wood, 20 (-)

Forwards (4):
Craig Reid, 31 (Coventry United)
Ryan Bird, 29 (Dover Athletic)
Lenell John-Lewis, 28 (Shrewsbury Town)
Tom Meechan, 26 (Hungerford Town)

Players in (7):

Goalkeepers (0):

Defenders (2):
David Pipe, 33 (Eastleigh)
Ben White, 19 (Brighton & Hove Albion – season-long loan)

Midfielders (2):
Robbie Willmott, 27 (Chelmsford City)
Matt Dolan, 24 (Yeovil Town)

Forwards (3):
Frank Nouble, 25 (Southend United)
Lamar Reynolds, 21 (Brentwood Town)
Shawn McCoulsky, 20 (Bristol City – on loan until January)

Average age of players out: 26
Average age of players in: 24

Number of players in squad: 24

Pre-season:
P7 W3 D2 L2 F13 A11

14/7: Undy Athletic – A 1-1
15/7: Swindon Supermarine – A 4-3
18/7: Chippenham Town – A 2-1
19/7: Merthyr Town – A 1-1
22/7: Gloucester City – A 4-1
25/7: Barry Town – A 0-2
29/7: Northampton Town – A 1-2

Commentary: On 4 March 2017, Newport County looked certain to be relegated at the end of the season. A 4-0 home defeat to second-from-bottom Leyton Orient left them 11 points from safety with just 12 games to play. Manager Graham Westley was sacked the following week, with young coach Mike Flynn appointed to oversee what was surely to be the club’s return to the National League after four seasons away. What happened next was truly unexpected. Flynn won his first two games – both away from home – and County began a run which slowly but surely lifted them out of the bottom two. They went into the final game of the season against Notts County at Rodney Parade two points ahead of second-from-bottom Hartlepool, needing a win to guarantee survival. It was 1-1 after 89 minutes, and with Hartlepool leading Doncaster 2-1, Newport were going down. Then a goal out of the blue by defender Mark O’Brien proved enough to keep Newport in the Football League. It was one of the great escapes in recent football history, but reality soon bites: Flynn may have kept them up against all odds, but can he have a similar impact over the course of a whole season? There has been a dramatic overhaul on the playing side, with 14 players departing. New signing Lamar Reynolds scored 28 in 36 games for Brentwood Town last season and will be hoping to bridge the four-tier gap to the Football League. Much-travelled Frank Nouble has also been brought in – Newport is his seventh club in little over two years, and it is hard to believe he is still only 25. They do not look likely to create a promotion bid by any stretch of the imagination, and another season of struggle will surely be on the cards. County have one of the smallest budgets in the division, and are forced to play their home games on a pitch shared with both Dragons and Newport RFC . They will be playing away for the first three games of the new season due to installation of a new Desso pitch at Rodney Parade to try to overcome drainage issues. On the positive side, they have sold 1,000 season tickets for the first time. The original phoenix club will need all the support it can get if relegation is to be avoided again.

At the bookies (Ladbrokes): 80/1

Prediction: Relegation battle, should just survive.


NOTTS COUNTY

Last season:
16th
P46 W16 D8 L22 F54 A76 Pts56
Average attendance: 5,969

Manager:
Kevin Nolan, 35 (appointed January 2017)

Who Are The League Two Managers? No.18: Kevin Nolan (Notts County)

Kevin Nolan’s managerial record:

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

Players out (4):

Goalkeepers (1):
Scott Loach, 29 (Hartlepool United)

Defenders (1):
Thierry Audel, 30 (Barrow)

Midfielders (1):
Mark Yeates, 32 (Eastleigh)

Forwards (1):
Adam Campbell, 22 (Morecambe)

Players in (12):

Goalkeepers (2):
Branislav Pindroch, 25 (MFK Karviná)
Ross Fitzsimons, 23 (Chelmsford City)

Defenders (4):
Nicky Hunt, 33 (Leyton Orient)
Dan Jones, 30 (Chesterfield)
Shaun Brisley, 27 (Carlisle United)
Pierce Bird, 18 (Dunkirk)

Midfielders (4):
Liam Walker, 29 (Europa FC)
Terry Hawkridge, 27 (Lincoln City)
Jorge Grant, 22 (Nottingham Forest – season-long loan)
Elliot Hodge, 21 (Lincoln City)

Forwards (2):
Lewis Alessandra, 28 (Hartlepool United)
Callum Saunders, 21 (Crewe Alexandra)

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

Number of players in squad: 30

Pre-season:
P6 W3 D1 L2 F12 A6

8/7: Rolls Royce Select XI – A 6-0
15/7: Basford United – A 2-0
19/7: Nottingham Forest – H 0-2
22/7: Wigan Athletic – H 1-2
29/7: Carlton Town – A 1-1
29/7: York City – A 2-1

Commentary: In direct contrast to Newport, Notts County started last season in fine form, only to lose 10 successive games to slip from 4th to 22nd in League Two. A change of manager followed in January with the dismissal of John Sheridan, and a much-improved second half of the season under Kevin Nolan has raised hopes of better things this time around. County will be seeking financial stability under new owner Alan Hardy after years of financial crises, although the closure of the Notts County Ladies team indicates the problems have not entirely gone away. Strange, then, that Hardy should purchase Ilkeston FC from the liquidators in July. Signings include tricky winger Terry Hawkridge from Lincoln and the return on a season’s loan of popular midfielder Jorge Grant, who played a key role in County’s revival last season. Although the supply line has certainly been improved, goals may well be at a premium again, with the ageing pairing of Jon Stead and Jonathan Forte up front. Six new board members were appointed in June including BBC Radio 5Live presenter Darren Fletcher, thereby giving Hardy his own directors. Hardy confirms that the playing budget is up 10% on last season, although the fact that 12 players have been brought in during the summer compared to just 4 out would suggest that is a conservative figure. Hardy says the play-offs is the expectation, so rookie manager Nolan may have his hands full.

At the bookies (Ladbrokes): 14/1

Prediction: Play-offs.


PORT VALE

Last season:
21st in League One (relegated)
P46 W12 D13 L21 F45 A70 Pts49
Average attendance: 4,628

Manager:
Michael Brown, 40 (appointed December 2016 as caretaker, May 2017 permanently)

Who Are The League Two Managers? No.19: Michael Brown (Port Vale)

Michael Brown’s managerial record:

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

Players out (17):

Goalkeepers (3):
Sam Johnson, 24 (FC Halifax Town)
Deniz Mehmet, 24 (Dundee United)
Harry Pickering, 19 (Forest Green Rovers)

Defenders (4):
Ben Purkiss, 33 (Swindon Town)
Kiko, 24 (-)
Remie Streete, 22 (-)
Scott Tanser, 22 (St Johnstone)

Midfielders (8):
Jerome Thomas, 34 (-)
Paulo Tavares, 31 (-)
Sam Foley, 30 (Northampton Town)
Quentin Pereira, 25 (-)
Chris Mbamba, 25 (-)
Sam Kelly, 23 (Grimsby Town)
Ryan Lloyd, 23 (Macclesfield Town)
Sebastien Amoros, 22 (-)

Forwards (2):
JJ Hooper, 23 (-)
Rigino Cicilia, 22 (-)

Players in (12):

Goalkeepers (2):
Rob Lainton, 27 (Bury)
Sam Hornby, 22 (Burton Albion)

Defenders (5):
Antony Kay, 34 (Bury)
Lawrie Wilson, 29 (Bolton Wanderers)
Gavin Gunning, 26 (Grimsby Town)
Joe Davis, 23 (Fleetwood Town)
Graham Kelly, 19 (Sheffield United)

Midfielders (2):
Cristian Montaño, 25 (Bristol Rovers)
Marcus Harness, 21 (Burton Albion – season-long loan)

Forwards (3):
Tom Pope, 31 (Bury)
Tyrone Barnett, 31 (AFC Wimbledon)
Rekeil Pyke, 19 (Huddersfield Town – season-long loan)

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

Number of players in squad: 28

Pre-season:
P6 W2 D3 L1 F17 A4

8/7: Kidsgrove Athletic – A 6-0
11/7: Newcastle Town – A 8-0
15/7: Buxton – A 1-1
18/7: Derby County – H 0-1
29/7: Chester – A 1-1
1/8: West Bromwich Albion – H 1-1

Commentary: 2016-17 was a bizarre season for Port Vale. The appointment of Portuguese manager Bruno Ribeiro in June 2016 was a bold move which inspired chairman Norman Smurthwaite to predict a League One play-off place for his club. Ribeiro immediately imported 10 players from various European leagues, which inspired the bookmakers to predict nailed-on relegation. Guess who was right? Ribeiro departed in December after a poor start, and caretaker manager Michael Brown simply oversaw the remainder of a season which never got going. Vale failed to score in six of their last seven games and were finally relegated on the final day following a draw at Fleetwood (0-0, predictably). Despite having had little impact on proceedings, Brown was named manager on a permanent basis in May and immediately released 15 players (since when two more have chosen to move on). Vale Park hero Tom Pope has returned from Bury, although his 4 goals from 37 games last season does not suggest a return to his more prolific days. Tyrone Barnett has plenty of experience too, although his return of just 2 goals in 36 games last season for AFC Wimbledon does not promise a glut of goals to come either. Young Huddersfield striker Rekeil Pyke could prove effective in League Two, and Lawrie Wilson from Bolton looks a good signing. Season ticket sales have held up very well, with 3,199 sold by the end of June. Michael Brown had a baptism of fire in management last season, and this season will be no less of a challenge. With everything in a state of flux after relegation, a huge turnover on the playing side, and the club currently up for sale, a return to League One at the first attempt seems remote.

At the bookies (Ladbrokes): 25/1

Prediction: Lower mid-table.


STEVENAGE

Last season:
10th
P46 W20 D7 L19 F67 A63 Pts67
Average attendance: 2,899

Manager:
Darren Sarll, 34 (appointed February 2016)

Who Are The League Two Managers? No.20: Darren Sarll (Stevenage FC)

Darren Sarll’s managerial record:

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

Players out (8):

Goalkeepers (0):

Defenders (4):
Dean Wells, 32 (Boreham Wood)
Andrew Fox, 24 (-)
Kgosi Ntlhe, 23 (Rochdale)
Nathan Kerr, 19 (Glentoran)

Midfielders (3):
Jobi McAnuff, 35 (Leyton Orient)
Michael Tonge, 34 (-)
Charlie Lee, 30 (Leyton Orient)

Forwards (1):
Jake Hyde, 27 (Maidenhead United)

Players in (10):

Goalkeepers (1):
Joe Fryer, 21 (Middlesbrough – season-long loan)

Defenders (3):
Joe Martin, 28 (Millwall)
Kevin Lokko, 21 (Maidstone United)
Terence Vancooten, 19 (Reading)

Midfielders (4):
Chris Whelpdale, 30 (AFC Wimbledon)
Harry Beautyman, 25 (Northampton Town)
Blair Turgott, 23 (Bromley)
James Ferry, 20 (Brentford)

Forwards (2):
Danny Newton, 26 (Tamworth)
Alex Samuel, 21 (Swansea City)

Average age of players out: 28
Average age of players in: 23

Number of players in squad: 26

Pre-season:
P5 W1 D3 L1 F6 A5

8/7: Hitchin Town – A 1-1
11/7: Norwich City – H 2-2
22/7: Charlton Athletic – H 1-2
25/7: Millwall – H 0-0
29/7: Dagenham & Redbridge – A 2-0

Commentary: Although not fancied by the bookmakers at the start of the 2016-17 season, Stevenage surprised many by coming within 4 points of a play-off spot. A great run in February and March of 8 wins from 9 games looked certain to give Stevenage a play-off place at least, but a late season dip in form saw them fall back to finish tenth. The unorthodox management team of Darren Sarll and Glenn Roeder has been retained, and summer transfer business has been very impressive. The retention of Matt Godden could be pivotal to another promotion challenge, and the addition of 29-goal Danny Newton from Tamworth should produce even more goals than the very satisfactory 67 scored last season. Midfielder Tom Pett has yet to leave despite rumours of a move away, and midfield options have been boosted further by the return of Chris Whelpdale to the Lamex Stadium after a season at Wimbledon. Clever winger Blair Turgott has been signed from Bromley, although his impending trial on fraud and money laundering charges may curtail his season, and Harry Beautyman was impressive for Welling in the Conference a few seasons ago. Stevenage could be the surprise package this season if all goes well.

At the bookies (Ladbrokes): 25/1

Prediction: The bookies are wrong. Play-offs.


SWINDON TOWN

Last season:
22nd in League One (relegated)
P46 W11 D11 L24 F44 A66 Pts44
Average attendance: 7,026

Manager:
David Flitcroft, 43 (appointed June 2017)

Who Are The League Two Managers? No.21: David Flitcroft (Swindon Town)

David Flitcroft’s managerial record:

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

Players out (11):

Goalkeepers (0):

Defenders (5)
Raphael Rossi Branco, 27 (Boavista)
Nathan Thompson, 26 (Portsmouth)
Jamie Sendles-White, 23 (Leyton Orient)
Bradley Barry, 22 (Chesterfield)
Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill, 21 (Helmond Sport)

Midfielders (3):
Yaser Kasim, 26 (Northampton Town)
Anton Rodgers, 24 (-)
Jordan Simpson, 18 (Forest Green Rovers)

Forwards (3):
Jonathan Obika, 26 (Oxford United)
Jermaine Hylton, 24 (Solihull Moors)
Jordan Stewart, 22 (Linfield)

Players in (10):

Goalkeepers (0):

Defenders (5):
Ben Purkiss, 33 (Port Vale)
Chris Robertson, 30 (AFC Wimbledon)
Olly Lancashire, 28 (Shrewsbury Town)
Chris Hussey, 28 (Sheffield United – season-long loan)
Kyle Knoyle, 20 (West Ham United)

Midfielders (3):
James Dunne, 27 (Cambridge United)
Amine Linganzi, 27 (Portsmouth)
Donal McDermott, 27 (Rochdale)

Forwards (2):
Paul Mullin, 22 (Morecambe)
Harry Smith, 22 (Millwall – season-long loan deal)

Average age of players out: 24
Average age of players in: 26

Number of players in squad: 24

Pre-season:
P9 W4 D3 L2 F21 A11

8/7: Swindon Supermarine – A 7-1
11/7: Melksham Town – A 5-0
14/7: Oldham Athletic – H 1-1
17/7: Salisbury – A 1-1
20/7: Bristol Rovers – N 0-0 (three 30-minute periods; played in Portugal)
25/7: Derby County U23 – N 0-4 (played at St Georges Park)
26/7: Benfica XI – N 1-2 (played at St Georges Park)
29/7: Woking – A 3-0
1/8: Chippenham Town – A 3-2

Commentary: It has been a case of all change at Swindon this summer since relegation in May. Head coach Luke Williams was relieved of his duties with immediate effect, whilst director of football Tim Sherwood – appointed just five months earlier – followed in the middle of June. Swindon now have an ex-Lincoln City ghetto in their dugout, with former City players David Flitcroft appointed head coach and Ben Futcher his assistant. No fewer than 11 of the relegation squad have left the County Ground, whilst the relatively high average age of their summer signings (almost 27) suggests that Flitcroft sees experience as the way to escape League Two. Paul Mullin from Morecambe appears to be the stand-out signing, and could form a potent strike partnership with highly-rated loanee Harry Smith from Millwall. It may take some time to gel as a team, and other than a couple of games against relative minnows, pre-season results have been uninspiring. Swindon bounced back to League One at the first attempt after each of their previous two relegations (promoted automatically in 2007 and as champions in 2012), and chairman Lee Power is expecting another instant return this time around. Presumably Swindon have backed their manager with another big budget despite some serious financial challenges in recent years. Flitcroft took Bury to promotion in 2015 in his first full season at Gigg Lane, so he has a proven track record.

At the bookies (Ladbrokes): 12/1

Prediction: Play-offs.


WYCOMBE WANDERERS

Last season:
9th
P46 W19 D12 L15 F58 A53 Pts69
Average attendance: 3,916

Manager:
Gareth Ainsworth, 44 (appointed September 2012)

Who Are The League Two Managers? No.22: Gareth Ainsworth (Wycombe Wanderers)

Gareth Ainsworth’s managerial record:

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

Players out (4):

Goalkeepers (0):

Defenders (1):
Aaron Pierre, 24 (Northampton Town)

Midfielders (2):
Sam Wood, 30 (Eastleigh)
Myles Weston, 29 (Ebbsfleet United)

Forwards (1):
Garry Thompson, 36 (Morecambe)

Players in (3):

Goalkeepers (0):

Defenders (2):
Adam El-Abd, 32 (Shrewsbury Town)
Jack Williams, 19 (Queens Park Rangers – on loan until January)

Midfielders (0):

Forwards (1):
Nathan Tyson, 35 (Kilmarnock)

Average age of players out: 30
Average age of players in: 29

Number of players in squad: 22

Pre-season:
P5 W2 D2 L1 F6 A4

8/7: Slough Town – A 0-0
15/7: Queens Park Rangers U23 – A 2-1
22/7: Aldershot Town – A 2-2
25/7: AFC Wimbledon – H 2-0
28/7: Maidenhead United – A 0-1

Commentary: Wycombe had an inconsistent season last time around, with a poor start leaving them hovering just above the relegation zone at the end of October. Eight wins from nine games then took them into the top seven, but their run to the fourth round of the FA Cup may have proved a distraction as form dipped thereafter. Three wins from their last four games was not enough to earn a spot in the play-offs, falling two points short. On that basis, manager Gareth Ainsworth has chosen to maintain continuity with comparatively few changes to the playing staff over the summer. Wycombe were hardly the most entertaining side to watch last season, scoring and conceding barely a goal a game. Having a tight defence is the dream of every manager, but who is going to score the goals? At 35, new signing Nathan Tyson is highly unlikely to replicate his 44 goals in 87 appearances from his first spell at Wycombe more than a decade ago. Their pre-season campaign reflected last season in every way, with few goals scored and few conceded. Season ticket sales have passed the 2,000-mark, but it is difficult to see Wycombe making a challenge for promotion with practically the same squad as last season.

At the bookies (Ladbrokes): 22/1

Prediction: Mid-table.


YEOVIL TOWN

Last season:
20th
P46 W11 D17 L18 F49 A64 Pts50
Average attendance: 3,566

Manager:
Darren Way, 37 (appointed December 2015)

Who Are The League Two Managers? No.23: Darren Way (Yeovil Town)

Darren Way’s managerial record:

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

Players out (9):

Goalkeepers (0):

Defenders (2):
Darren Ward, 38 (-)
Alex Lacey, 24 (Gillingham)

Midfielders (5):
Alex Lawless, 32 (Leyton Orient)
Kevin Dawson, 27 (Cheltenham Town)
Matt Dolan, 24 (Newport County)
Joe Lea, 19 (Bognor Regis Town)
Ollie Bassett, 19 (-)

Forwards (2):
Tom Eaves, 25 (Gillingham)
Brandon Goodship, 22 (Weymouth)

Players in (9):

Goalkeepers (0):

Defenders (3):
Stéphane Zubar, 30 (Weymouth)
Daniel Alfei, 25 (Aberystwyth Town)
Keston Davies, 20 (Swansea City – season-long loan)

Midfielders (5):
James Bailey, 28 (Carlisle United)
Connor Smith, 24 (Plymouth Argyle)
Alefe Santos, 22 (Derby County)
Rhys Browne, 21 (Grimsby Town)
Jake Gray, 21 (Luton Town)

Forwards (1):
Olufela Olomola, 19 (Southampton – on loan until January)

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

Number of players in squad: 18

Pre-season:
P7 W4 D0 L3 F13 A13

11/7: Weymouth – A 2-1
15/7: Bristol City – H 1-3
19/7: Llanelli Town – A 2-0
22/7: Frome Town – A 2-1
25/7: Bristol Rovers – H 1-3
29/7: Tiverton Town – A 4-2
2/8: AFC Bournemouth – H 1-3

Commentary: Yeovil Town suffered successive relegations from the Championship to League Two in 2014 and 2015, and have struggled at the foot of the League ever since. The safety margin was just 4 points last season despite an excellent first half which saw them occupy a play-off place in December. Relegation was finally averted with a 1-1 draw at home to Stevenage in the penultimate game, but the dismal run of only 3 wins from their last 27 games does not bode well for this season. Manager Darren Way has kept his job and will surely have to deliver more in his second full season in management. Former Bournemouth defender Stéphane Zubar, whose career was almost ended by a cruciate ligament injury, has been brought in from Weymouth in an attempt to add a bit of Premier League class to the defence. Defensive midfielder James Bailey from Carlisle should help shore up the midfield, but the exchange of players over the summer appears to be essentially like-for-like. Yeovil scored barely a goal a game last season, a problem which afflicted a surprising number of teams in League Two. Top scorer from the last two seasons François Zoko remains, but with the smallest squad in League Two at 18, it is hard to see anything more than another desperate fight for survival ahead. They need to find some goals from somewhere if they are to prevent this being their fifteenth and final season as a Football League club.

At the bookies (Ladbrokes): 66/1

Prediction: Relegation.

end

Vital Lincoln City – League Two Season Preview 2017-18 (Part 1)