INTRODUCTION

The information in this preview is complete to 5pm on Wednesday 1 August 2018. 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.

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; shorter-term loans and season-long loans out are not included.

Only regular pre-season friendlies are listed. Those played behind closed doors frequently follow irregular formats and feature high numbers of trialists, rendering the results irrelevant.

BURY

Last season: 24th in League One (relegated)
P46 W8 D12 L26 F41 A71 Pts36
Average attendance: 3,931

Chairman: Stewart Day, 36 (appointed May 2013)

Manager: Ryan Lowe, 39 (appointed January 2018 as caretaker, May 2018 permanently)

Ryan Lowe’s managerial record:

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

Players out (8):

Goalkeepers (0):

Defenders (3):
Craig Jones, 31 (Untraced)
Nathan Cameron, 26 (On trial at Mansfield Town)
Greg Leigh, 23 (NAC Breda – Holland)

Midfielders (5):
Chris Humphrey, 30 (Untraced)
Chris Maguire, 29 (Sunderland)
Andrew Tutte, 27 (Morecambe)
Zeli Ismail, 24 (Walsall)
Callum Reilly, 24 (Gillingham)

Forwards (0):

Players in (10):

Goalkeepers (1):
Matthew Hudson, 20 (Preston North End – loan until January)

Defenders (3):
Tom Miller, 28 (Carlisle United)
Chris Stokes, 27 (Coventry City)
Will Aimson, 24 (Blackpool)

Midfielders (2):
Nicky Adams, 31 (Carlisle United)
Byron Moore, 29 (Bristol Rovers)

Forwards (4):
Chris Dagnall, 32 (Crewe Alexandra)
Jordan Archer, 24 (Chester)
Gold Omotayo, 24 (Whitehawk)
Dominic Telford, 21 (Stoke City)

Average age of players out: 27
Average age of players in: 26

Number of players in squad: 29

One to watch: Jermaine Beckford, 34 (striker)

Season ticket sales: 1,730 (2,105 in 2017-18)

Pre-season:
P7 W1 D3 L3 F5 A16

6/7 Glasgow Rangers A 0-6
10/7 HUDDERSFIELD TOWN H 0-4
14/7 LIVERPOOL H 0-0
18/7 EVERTON H 1-1
21/7 Chester A 1-0
24/7 Radcliffe FC A 2-2
28/7 Southport A 1-3

Commentary:

Bury chairman Stewart Day minced no words following Bury’s abject relegation from League One, accusing the players of not caring enough and having a lack of desire. Labelling their efforts ‘inexcusable’, Day also criticised the club’s summer 2017 recruitment, claiming they had not carried out sufficient due diligence on some individuals. He also pointed to managerial instability as another reason for relegation, having worked his way through three of them during the course of a disastrous season. Whatever the reasons, Bury find themselves relegated to the basement for the sixth time in their history with a paltry eight wins and thirty-six points.

To add to the Shakers’ woes, accounts recently published for the 2016-17 financial year revealed a sorry state of affairs. With over £7 million of creditors at that point, the accounts revealed how dependent they are on the chairman, who injected £3 million in 2016 and a further £1m in 2017. The auditors concluded there was material uncertainty over the club’s ability to continue trading, and that was prior to the disastrous relegation season that followed. Over £1.25 million was injected into the club in June and July 2018, presumably by the chairman again: one would think to shore things up rather than to spend on players.

Summer arrivals look a mixed bag, with former City defender Tom Miller, midfielder Byron Moore and the experienced Chris Dagnall looking the best of the lot. Gold Omotayo from Whitehawk is an imaginative signing, although he is making a significant step up from tier six. Much will depend on the fitness of Jermaine Beckford, who is more than capable of scoring goals in League Two even in his mid-thirties. Pre-season matches comprised Glasgow Rangers, Liverpool and Everton followed by three minor non-league clubs, a very unusual approach to the new season.

Bury have never managed to bounce back at the first attempt after relegation to the fourth tier, and there is very little to suggest they are capable of breaking that pattern. They will not be helped by having a rookie manager at the helm, nor by the enforced retention of the majority of last season’s squad. After Chesterfield’s second successive relegation and Port Vale’s single-point survival, it could be Bury’s turn to fight for their Football League lives this time around.

At the bookies (Ladbrokes): 14/1 (seventh-favourites)

Prediction: Lower mid-table.

CAMBRIDGE UNITED:

Last season: 12th
P46 W17 D13 L16 F56 A60 Pts64
Average attendance: 4,522

Chairman: None

Manager: Joe Dunne, 45 (appointed February 2018 as caretaker, May 2018 permanently)

Joe Dunne’s managerial record:

League games only – playoffs and cup games not included.

Players out (4):

Goalkeepers (0):

Defenders (1):
Leon Legge, 32 (Port Vale)

Midfielders (2):
Medy Elito, 28 (Barnet)
Piero Mingoia, 26 (Accrington Stanley)

Forwards (1):
Uche Ikpeazu, 23 (Heart of Midlothian)

Players in (3):

Goalkeepers (0):

Defenders (2):
George Taft, 25 (Mansfield Town)
Louis John, 24 (Sutton United)

Midfielders (0):

Forwards (1):
Reggie Lambe, 27 (Carlisle United)

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

Number of players in squad: 31

One to watch: George Maris, 22 (attacking midfield)

Season ticket sales: 1,712

Pre-season:
P10 W8 D1 L1 F37 A8

7/17 St Neots Town A 7-1
10/7 Cambridge City A 8-1
12/7 Royston Town A 4-0
14/7 Chelmsford City A 4-1
20/7 Braintree Town A 3-0
21/7 MILLWALL H 0-2
24/7 Ebbsfleet United A 2-2
25/7 Dagenham & Redbridge A 2-0
28/7 Bishop’s Stortford A 1-0
28/7 Newmarket Town A 6-1

Commentary:

It has been a very quiet summer in southern Cambridgeshire. That is somewhat unexpected, as Cambridge finished last season as one of the form teams. A little more consistency over 46 games may produce a play-off challenge this season, and a few key signings may have been expected to reinforce that. Transfer activity has been minimal however, with few departures and few additions of any note. Whether due to budgetary restrictions or a deliberate decision by manager Joe Dunne, Cambridge have kept faith with the players who finished last season so well. Top scorer Uche Ikpeazu has gone to Hearts and certainly will have to be replaced: a side that scored only 56 goals last season will definitely need to replace his tally of fourteen, and find more besides. Injury-prone Barry Corr has signed a new six-month deal but looks unlikely to be the answer, and new signing Reggie Lambe from Carlisle has never been prolific. Other than that, everything is essentially as it was at the Abbey Stadium.

On the positive side, sparse transfer activity meant there was very little squad bonding or integration required. There was a somewhat strange pre-season schedule which consisted largely of massacring hapless sides from the lower levels of the non-league pyramid. The only game of the ten which was against a Football League side produced a home defeat to Millwall. It is hard to see what Cambridge could have learned from that lot, but that settled squad may hold the answer.

Cambridge could be one of the dark horses this season, but a lack of goals could hamper them again. The defence looks very solid, so a mid-table position should be the very minimum achievable. Joe Dunne enters his first full season at the helm and will be eager to justify his three-year contract. On that basis, he will have his sights set squarely on the playoffs.

At the bookies (Ladbrokes): 20/1

Prediction: Outside bet for the playoffs.

CARLISLE UNITED

Last season: 10th
P46 W17 D16 L13 F62 A54 Pts67
Average attendance: 4,656

Chairman: Nigel Clibbens, 50 (appointed June 2016)

Manager: John Sheridan, 53 (appointed June 2018)

John Sheridan’s managerial record:

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

Players out (12):

Goalkeepers (1):
Morgan Bacon, 20 (Untraced)

Defenders (3):
Clint Hill, 39 (Retired)
Mark Ellis, 29 (Tranmere Rovers)
Tom Miller, 28 (Bury)

Midfielders (5):
Jamal Campbell-Ryce, 35 (Stevenage)
Nicky Adams, 31 (Bury)
Luke Joyce, 31 (Port Vale)
John O’Sullivan, 24 (Blackpool)
Samir Nabi, 21 (Torquay United)

Forwards (3):
Shaun Miller, 30 (Crewe Alexandra)
Reggie Lambe, 27 (Cambridge United)
Cameron Salkeld, 19 (Gateshead)

Players in (7):

Goalkeepers (2):
Adam Collin, 33 (Notts County)
Joe Fryer, 22 (Middlesbrough – season loan)

Defenders (2):
Gary Miller, 31 (Plymouth Argyle)
Macauley Gillesphey, 22 (Newcastle United)

Midfielders (2):
George Glendon, 23 (Fleetwood Town)
Regan Slater, 18 (Sheffield United – season loan)

Forwards (1):
Jerry Yates, 21 (Rotherham United – loan until January)

Average age of players out: 28
Average age of players in: 24

Number of players in squad: 22

One to watch: Cole Stockton, 24 (striker)

Season ticket sales: 1,791 (1,880 in 2017-18)

Pre-season:
P5 W4 D0 L1 F8 A4

10/7 Barrow A 1-3
14/7 Penrith A 2-0
21/7 AFC Fylde A 1-0
24/7 Workington A 3-1
28/7 BRADFORD CITY H 1-0

Commentary:

It has been a case of all-change at Carlisle this summer as an exodus of players followed former manager Keith Curle out of the Brunton Park door. Whilst some would consider that a huge challenge for new manager John Sheridan, it does clear the decks for the extensive overhaul that many fans considered necessary after a couple of near-misses at the top of League Two. On the other hand, a new manager, a major squad rebuild, and a hastily prepared pre-season schedule is not the ideal grounding for a successful season, neither is a flurry of signings late in the transfer window. Carlisle go into the new season not as prepared as many other clubs, and it may take some time before any consistency is found.

Summer signings have not been spectacular, the experienced Gary Miller from Sheridan’s former club Plymouth being the most notable. At the time of writing, three of Carlisle’s seven signings to date are on loan, which does nothing to dispel the uncertainty around the quality of the squad. The pre-season schedule of just five uninspiring games offers few clues either, leading to the conclusion that this is most certainly a work in progress.

Sheridan has a track record in League Two, leading Chesterfield to the title in 2011, but that was on a tidal wave of unsustainable spending as we now know. Whether he can deliver the goods on a much smaller budget remains to be seen, but his managerial record in recent times has been extremely patchy. This is his seventh job in a little over three years and he will be desperate to create something more permanent. Season ticket numbers have held up well despite a lukewarm season last time around and growing apathy amongst the fan base. Carlisle need to get off to a good start to keep the fans on board, but at this stage it is hard to see them doing that. It could be a long winter ahead for the Cumbrians.

At the bookies (Ladbrokes): 28/1

Prediction: Bottom eight.

CHELTENHAM TOWN

Last season: 17th
P46 W13 D12 L21 F67 A73 Pts51
Average attendance: 3,171

Chairman: Andy Wilcox, 48 (appointed May 2018)

Manager: Gary Johnson, 62 (appointed March 2015)

Gary Johnson’s managerial record:

League games only – playoffs and cup games not included. Does not include Johnson’s spell as Latvia manager from September 1999 to April 2001.

Players out (13):

Goalkeepers (0):

Defenders (3):
Aaron Downes, 33 (Retired)
Jamie Grimes, 27 (Macclesfield Town)
Jordan Cranston, 25 (Morecambe)

Midfielders (5):
Harry Pell, 26 (Colchester United)
Carl Winchester, 25 (Forest Green Rovers)
Jerell Sellars, 22 (Östersunds FK – Sweden)
Adam Page, 21 (Gloucester City)
Josh Thomas, 19 (Gloucester City)

Forwards (5):
Danny Wright, 33 (Solihull Moors)
Dan Holman, 28 (Aldershot Town)
Sanmi Odelusi, 25 (FC Halifax Town)
Mohamed Eisa, 24 (Bristol City)
Jaanai Gordon, 22 (Untraced)

Players in (12):

Goalkeepers (0):

Defenders (4):
Johnny Mullins, 32 (Luton Town)
Chris Hussey, 29 (Sheffield United)
Sean Long, 23 (Lincoln City)
Joshua Debayo, 21 (Leicester City)

Midfielders (6):
Ben Tozer, 28 (Newport County)
Alex Addai, 24 (Merstham)
Conor Thomas, 24 (ATK – India)
Ryan Broom, 21 (Bristol Rovers)
Tom Smith, 20 (Swindon Town)
Jacob Maddox, 19 (Chelsea)

Forwards (2):
Immanuelson Duku, 25 (Hayes & Yeading United)
Liam McAlinden, 24 (Exeter City))

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

Number of players in squad: 21

One to watch: Jacob Maddox, 19 (attacking midfield)

Season ticket sales: 950

Pre-season:
P6 W2 D0 L4 F10 A13

10/7 Bristol City N 2-4 (played at Weston-super-Mare)
13/7 Cirencester Town A 4-0
19/7 Evesham United A 2-0
21/7 BIRMINGHAM CITY H 0-3
24/7 Weston-super-Mare A 1-4
28/7 WALSALL H 1-2

Commentary:

Once again, budget constraints at the newly christened Jonny-Rocks Stadium have led to manager Gary Johnson having to sign almost a new team for this season. Johnson got the majority of his work done early, which is seldom a good sign. On the other hand, he is one of the few managers with a thousand games to his name, and has a fine working knowledge of the lower division and non-league game.

That is beautifully evidenced by his discovery of top scorer Mo Eisa last summer. A similar discovery this summer is remote, but there are some talented players among the new arrivals. Johnny Mullins and Chris Hussey will add vast experience to a defence that conceded a frightening 87 goals last season: as soon as Eisa scored them, the defence let them in. Jacob Maddox is a talented midfielder who reached the Checkatrade Trophy semi-final with Chelsea U21 last season, whilst Tom Smith was highly-rated by supporters of former club Swindon.

However, it is no longer a case of simply reinforcing the defence. With Eisa now departed for Bristol City, the question appears to be who is going to score the goals this time around. With a rumoured £1 million in the bank from the transfer, at least a replacement can be sourced for money. Liam McAlinden from Exeter has a mediocre scoring record but could come good with a regular run in the side. The immediate solution appears to be the untested Manny Duku from Hayes & Yeading, but will Johnson regret having signed the majority of his new squad before the sale of Eisa?

At the bookies (Ladbrokes): 33/1

Prediction: Bottom eight.

COLCHESTER UNITED

Last season: 13th
P46 W16 D14 L16 F53 A52 Pts62
Average attendance: 3,320

Chairman: Robbie Cowling, 57 (appointed September 2006)

Manager: John McGreal, 46 (appointed May 2016)

John McGreal’s managerial record:

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

Players out (7):

Goalkeepers (1):
Sam Walker, 26 (Reading)

Defenders (0):

Midfielders (5):
Doug Loft, 31 (Shrewsbury Town)
Sean Murray, 24 (Vejle Boldklub – Denmark)
Craig Slater, 24 (Partick Thistle)
Tommy O’Sullivan, 23 (Untraced)
Drey Wright, 23 (St Johnstone)

Forwards (1):
Denny Johnstone, 23 (Greenock Morton)

Players in (7):

Goalkeepers (2):
Ethan Ross, 21 (West Bromwich Albion)
Bailey Vose, 20 (Brighton & Hove Albion)

Defenders (1):
Noah Chesmain, 20 (Millwall)

Midfielders (1):
Harry Pell, 26 (Cheltenham Town)

Forwards (3):
Frank Nouble, 26 (Newport County)
Luke Norris, 25 (Swindon Town)
Aaron Collins, 21 (Wolverhampton Wanderers – season loan)

Average age of players out: 25
Average age of players in: 23

Number of players in squad: 24

One to watch: Sammie Szmodics, 22 (attacking midfield)

Season ticket sales:

Pre-season:
P7 W6 D1 L0 F23 A4

7/7 Maldon & Tiptree A 4-1
10/7 Braintree Town A 5-0
13/7 Colwyn Bay A 5-0
17/7 Dagenham & Redbridge A 1-1
21/7 Dartford A 1-0
24/7 MILLWALL H 2-1
28/7 GILLINGHAM H 5-1

Commentary:

John McGreal enters his third season as Colchester manager needing an improvement on last season’s disappointing bottom-half finish if he is to enjoy a fourth term. The initial promotion challenge tailed away badly with just three wins from their last thirteen games, and only eight goals scored. Indeed, Colchester’s form over the entire second half of the season was almost that of a relegation side, with only twenty-six points coming those final twenty-three games (W6 D8 L9). The immediate requirement, therefore, may be to ensure that poor form does not continue into this season.

On the other hand, the solution may be relatively straightforward. Colchester have scored and conceded barely a goal a game during McGreal’s tenure, suggesting the advent of some serious strike options this summer could see them make a concerted challenge for the playoffs. The arrival of highly-rated Aaron Collins on a season-long loan from Wolves may go some way towards solving that, although he has just eight goals to his name from sixty-six games in League Two and the National League. The enigmatic Mikael Mandron and last season’s revelation Sammie Szmodics remain despite transfer speculation during the close season, and journeyman Frank Nouble could chip in with a few goals with the right supply line. Harry Pell from Cheltenham could be the answer to that – he should add creativity in midfield and provide opportunities for the front men.

Whether that theory will work in practice remains to be seen. Following a pre-season camp in Wales, Colchester referred to their pre-season schedule as ‘testing’, which is hardly the case considering the standard of opposition. They have scored goals in those games, and replicating that in the higher standard of League football will be the key. Gates at the newly-named JobServe Community Stadium barely averaged 3,300 last season and ensure that budgets will never be among the best in League Two. So is John McGreal the man to reverse the negative momentum and help Colchester punch above their weight this time around?

At the bookies (Ladbrokes): 20/1

Prediction: Lower mid-table.

CRAWLEY TOWN:

Last season: 14th
P46 W16 D11 L19 F58 A66 Pts59
Average attendance: 2,268

Chairman: Ziya Eren, 48 (appointed March 2016)

Manager: Harry Kewell, 39 (appointed May 2017)

Harry Kewell’s managerial record:

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

Players out (10):

Goalkeepers (0):

Defenders (2):
Josh Lelan, 23 (Aldershot Town)
Josh Yorwerth, 23 (Peterborough United)

Midfielders (7):
Dean Cox, 30 (Untraced)
Aryan Tajbakhsh, 27 (Braintree Town)
Aliu ‘Kaby’ Djaló, 26 (Untraced)
Enzio Boldewijn, 25 (Notts County)
Billy Clifford, 25 (Untraced)
Jordan Roberts, 24 (Ipswich Town)
Moussa Sanoh, 23 (CSM Politehnica Iaşi – Romania)

Forwards (1):
Thomas Verheydt, 26 (Go Ahead Eagles – Holland)

Players in (10):

Goalkeepers (0):

Defenders (2):
Romain Vincelot, 32 (Bradford City)
David Sesay, 19 (Watford)

Midfielders (4):
Filipe Morais, 32 (Bolton Wanderers)
George Francomb, 26 (AFC Wimbledon)
Ashley Nathaniel-George, 23 (Hendon)
Tarryn Allarakhia, 20 (Colchester United Academy)

Forwards (4):
Ollie Palmer, 26 (Lincoln City)
Dominic Poleon, 24 (Bradford City)
Reece Grego-Cox, 21 (Woking)
Brian Galach, 17 (Aldershot Town)

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

Number of players in squad: 22

One to watch: Romain Vincelot, 32 (centre half)

Season ticket sales: 1,000

Pre-season:
P3 W0 D1 L2 F1 A4

17/7 IPSWICH TOWN H 0-1 (at East Grinstead Town FC)
21/7 CHARLTON ATHLETIC H 0-2 (at East Grinstead Town FC)
28/7 KSV ROESELARE H 1-1

Commentary:

It would be fair to say that Crawley were one of last season’s surprise packages in League Two, mounting a credible challenge for the playoffs as late as February. A great run of eleven wins from sixteen games carried them to within two points of the top seven, but the final win of that run – the 3-1 victory over Lincoln on 17 February – ironically marked the end of their challenge. Crawley picked up just eight more points from their final twelve games to slip into the bottom half.

Manager Harry Kewell certainly created something to build on in his first season in management, but there have been major losses on the playing side. Exciting winger Enzio Boldewijn was sold to Notts County for a substantial six-figure fee, while Josh Yorwerth became the latest League Two player to land on the Peterborough conveyor belt for very good money. Perhaps Crawley have become victims of the limited success Kewell brought to the club last season as the better players left for pastures new. The losses will be hard to replace, but Kewell has brought in two vastly experienced campaigners in Romain Vincelot and Filipe Morais to maintain some form of status quo. Ollie Palmer has arrived from Lincoln in search of more game time – it will be interesting to see how he fares with a run of regular starts.

Crawley were another side to undertake a strange pre-season schedule, with only three official games plus a number of behind-closed-doors games held at training grounds. One of those was a 9-0 defeat to Arsenal, which surely takes the prize for the most pointless pre-season friendly of the year. The bookmakers clearly do not rate Crawley’s chances of mounting another promotion challenge this season, and some are suggesting a season of trouble ahead. Harry Kewell’s side surprised us last season, but look less likely to do so this time around.

At the bookies (Ladbrokes): 40/1

Prediction: Lower mid-table.

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