23. Bolton Wanderers
It seems remiss to speculate about on the field matters whilst the off field future of both clubs hangs in the balance. Solidarity to both sets of fans and I sincerely hope you get your club back in the near future.
Brian Barry-Murphy did a fine job in keeping Rochdale up last season after being parachuted in to replace Keith Hill in March. Though, whether his success was down to the fabled ‘new manager bounce’ or impressive coaching ability remains to be seen.
Dale are yet to sign a player over the age of 21 this summer and their survival hopes could hinge on whether 34 year old striker Ian Henderson can match the 20 goal tally he reached last term and also whether they can keep hold of talented midfielder Callum Camps. If neither of those occurs then fans at Spotland could be in for a long season.
21. AFC Wimbledon
The Dons looked doomed when Neil Ardley left last November, but the return of club legend Wally Downes instilled some of the old crazy gang spirit back into the side which eventually resulted in them beating the drop on the final day.
Without defensive lynchpin Deji Oshilaja survival could prove much more difficult this season and the rumoured departure of Joe Pigott might well be the final nail in their survival bid, unless he is adequately replaced.
20. Tranmere Rovers
Tranmere surprised many by securing their second successive promotion last season. Micky Mellon has done superbly in gaining promotion in each of his two full seasons in charge at Prenton Park. Although, achieving survival this term could prove just as impressive as his two playoff victories.
The departure of last season’s EFL top scorer James Norwood will be keenly felt on The Wirral and his replacement Stefan Payne has big shoes to fill.
Tying down imposing centre back Manny Monthe to a new deal was a key bit of business by Mellon and Monthe will be looking to resume his partnership with Sid Nelson, who joins the club permanently after impressing on loan last season.
Rovers appear to be well stocked in the centre half department as they’ve also managed to secure the services of Welshman George Ray from Crewe. Mellon will be hoping that defensive solidity could be the key to them remaining in the division.
19. Wycombe Wanderers
Gareth Ainsworth enters his ninth season as Wycombe manager with League One survival once again the aim.
Wanderers look to have retained most of their squad from last season and have added quality in Paul Smyth, on loan from Ainsworth’s old side QPR, and Jack Grimmer on a free from Coventry. Although the latter looks to have been signed as a replacement for the Millwall bound Jason McCarthy.
Ageing strike duo Adebayo Akinfenwa and Craig Mackail-Smith will be aided by the more energetic Scott Kashket and Alex Samuel and that quartet should have enough goals in them to make sure League One football is played for a third successive season at Adams Park.
18. Accrington Stanley
John Coleman must be sick of having to defy pre-season predictions, though this has to be the year that pundits stop underestimating Stanley.
It looks to have been a relatively quiet summer in Lancashire, with attacking full back Zaine Francis-Angol being the headline bit of business so far. Francis-Angol looked very handy going forward last season for Fylde and that should add another dimension to Stanley’s play.
Chairman, Andy Holt gave the green light to install a new pitch at The Wham Stadium and that should help Coleman’s side in their attempt to play passing football.
In terms of budget, Accrington are punching above their weight plying their trade in League One, but due to exemplary management on and off the field, no one should be surprised by now if Accrington comfortably maintains their place in the division for another season.
17. Oxford United
Oxford are a club with a lot more potential than they’ve been showing in recent seasons and, unless business picks up in the last days of the window, expect them to underwhelm again this year.
Curtis Nelson’s move to Cardiff leaves the U’s very short at centre back; only two senior centre halves remain at The Kassam with one of them being the veteran John Mousinho.
They’re also short up top with 33 year old Jamie Mackie, the only out and out striker in the squad at the time of writing.
Things could have been even worse for the club if Simon Eastwood’s rumoured move to Blackburn had gone through but following their signing of Christian Walton that now looks to be off.
Many Oxford fans were pinning their hopes this season on attacking midfielder Gavin Whyte but he now looks all set to follow Nelson to the Welsh capital and what looked like a disappointing window is now verging on a farcical one for the Yellows.
Alex Gorrin and Tariq Fosu are solid additions but more bodies are a necessity between now and the end of the month if Karl Robinson’s men want to escape a relegation battle.
16. Southend United
Southend have looked to Scotland this summer for new recruits in a bid to stave off a repeat of last season’s relegation battle. Mark Milligan comes in from Hibernian and Kevin Bond has immediately handed the 33 year old the captains armband. He’s joined at Roots Hall by full back Nathan Ralph who signs from Dundee.
If Southend are to improve on last season’s dismal showing then striker Stephen Humphrys will be key. The 21 year old hit 5 goals in 10 appearances after joining on a free from Fulham in January and a partnership between himself and the experienced Simon Cox should have enough firepower to secure a mid-table finish for Bond’s side.
15. Bristol Rovers
Bristol Rovers have made some solid signings over the summer as they look to improve on last season’s mid table finish.
Josh Hare was the outstanding right back in the National League last season and he joins on a free from Eastleigh. He’ll face competition for his spot from the athletic Mark Little, who comes in from Bolton.
Exciting young strikers, Victor Adeboyejo and Tyler Smith have signed on loan from Barnsley and Sheffield United respectively and they’ll be looking to ease the goal burden on last season’s star man Jonson Clark-Harris.
Tom Lockyer was the major departure from the Memorial Stadium this summer but he looks to have been well replaced by Coventry’s Tom Davies, whilst left back Luke Leahy joins after impressing at struggling Walsall last season.
Rovers certainly have the potential to finish higher but with doubts remaining over Graham Coughlan’s suitability for the job a mid table finish might be on the cards again.
Gillingham appointed controversial manager Steve Evans as Steve Lovell’s replacement in May and what’s followed has come as no surprise to anyone who’s previously followed Evans’ career. A total of 11 senior players have joined the club in the last couple of months, as Evans looks to put his own stamp on the squad at The Priestfield.
Northern Irish international Lee Hodson and former Cardiff central midfielder Stuart O’Keefe are arguably the most high profile additions. However, the arrivals of young players Alex Jakubiak, Matty Willock and Alfie Jones could be just as important to the Gills’ season.
Quantity doesn’t necessarily equate to quality though and bringing in that amount of players will surely mean the squad needs time to gel. The loss of last season’s talisman Tom Eaves is another factor as to why you shouldn’t be surprised if it’s more mid-table mediocrity for the Gills this season.
13. Doncaster Rovers
There’s been a lot of change at the Keepmoat since Donny suffered playoff heartbreak against Charlton back in May. Rovers defied expectations by reaching the playoffs and as a result manager Grant McCann was rewarded with a step up to the Championship anyway, as he took the job at Hull City.
Along with their manager a number of last season’s key players have left the club including Andy Butler, Danny Andrew and Tommy Rowe. Rovers have managed to keep hold of leading scorer John Marquis so far this summer but rumours persist of a move to one of the league’s big boys.
McCann has been replaced by former West Brom manager Darren Moore. The 45 year old already has a special rapport with the Donny faithful following his two seasons in South Yorkshire as a player back in the 90s and he’ll be keen to show the Baggies they were wrong to sack him last March.
Given the amount of upheaval in the last few months regression is to be expected and Moore will have done a decent job if his side finish the season close to the top half of the table.
Following a tough few years, a lot of Blackpool fans will feel they have their club back after controversial owner’s The Oyston Family, finally departed the club. Simon Sadler acquired the club from The Oyston’s over the summer and one of his first actions was to employ Simon Grayson as manager.
Grayson was in charge the last time the Seasiders were promoted from League One and optimism is high on the Lancashire Coast going into the new season.
The only key departure so far from Bloomfield Road this summer has been Marc Bola, who leaves for Middlesbrough. His replacement looks to have already been signed in the shape of Norwich loanee James Husband, whilst a host of other names including Ryan Edwards, Ben Tollit, Sullay Kaikai and Ryan Hardie have all also been added to Grayson’s squad.
All the signs are there for the club to improve in the long term future, but Terry McPhillips’ side arguably overachieved last season and Grayson will do well to better his tenth place finish.
11. Shrewsbury Town
Sam Ricketts looks to have recruited very well for his first full season in charge at New Meadow, notably in defence, where the Shrews look very strong. If Ricketts continues with a back three this season then you won’t find three more physical centre halves than Aaron Pierre, Ethan Ebanks-Landell and Ro-Shaun Williams.
They’ve also strengthened up top where one of their bright lights from last season, Fejiri Okenabihrie will face new completion from experienced target man Steve Morison, signed on loan from Millwall and the promising Daniel Udoh, who hit 26 goals in the National League North for AFC Telford last season.
Shrewsbury’s squad looks to have the right blend of youth and experience and if they start quickly who knows they could well come close to emulating their 17/18 run to the playoffs.
10. Burton Albion
Kyle McFadzean, Marcus Harness and Jamie Allen weren’t just three of Burton’s best players last season, they were arguably three of the better players in the whole division. There loss will be hugely felt at The Pirelli Stadium and had they stayed put during the off season The Brewers would certainly have been a lot higher in this prediction.
However, Nigel Clough is a master at keeping everyone around him on an even keel and will surely be relishing the challenge of trying to improve without some of last season’s star names.
John Joe O’Toole is a battle-hardened campaigner and should prove a good addition, whilst loan signings Richard Nartey and Kieran O’Hara will bring some young blood to a slightly ageing squad and in Liam Boyce; they have a striker who is more than capable of hitting 15 plus in a season.
Clough has dealt with much tougher predicaments during his near 15 seasons in charge of the club and whilst he remains don’t expect Burton to drop much lower than last season’s 9th place finish.
9. MK Dons
MK Dons needed a reset following an unexpected relegation to League Two last year and Paul Tisdale proved to be the perfect man for the job.
Tisdale did superbly guiding MK back to League One at the first time of asking and his side probably would have pushed Lincoln a lot harder in the title race had it not been for an unfortunate spate of injuries mid way through the season.
Losing last season’s star man Chuks Aneke to Charlton for £450k is a blow but they’ve put that money to good use by bringing in a number of solid players with the most notable being former Wolves man Joe Mason. Welshman Regan Poole and creative midfielder Hiram Boateng also arrive from Manchester United and Tisdale’s former club Exeter, respectively.
Keeping the strike force of Kieran Agard and Rhys Healey intact, by tying the former down to a new contract and signing the latter on a permanent deal, is another solid bit of business from the club and a top half finish looks more than an achievable target on their return to the third tier.
8. Fleetwood Town
Some of Fleetwood’s recruitment would lead you to believe that theirs is one of the bigger budgets in the division. Josh Morris, Paul Coutts, Jordan Rossiter and Danny Andrew are all quality additions at this level and certainly won’t have come Highbury on the cheap.
Given the money spent in the summer pressure will be on manager Joey Barton to deliver a top six finish this season; however that won’t be a straightforward task if they can’t replace the goals of last season’s top scorer Ched Evans, who returned to parent club Sheffield United in the off season.
The door remains open for Evans to return to the club and unless they do sign him or indeed a player of a similar ilk, the top six might just be out of reach for Barton’s side this season.
7. Lincoln City
The management duo of Danny and Nicky Cowley must have some of the highest stock amongst their own supporters in English football at the moment. The two brothers have done an exceptional job in leading the Imps from mid table in the National League to a place in League One in just over three years at the club and expectations will be high that they can continue the club’s meteoric rise this season.
One criticism of the Cowley’s, especially from opposition fans, has been that their side plays very direct football. That looks like it could be set to change this summer though, as the departure of physical striker Matt Rhead, along with the arrivals of skilful midfielders Jorge Grant, Joe Morrell and Jack Payne would suggest the Imps will be looking to keep the ball on the deck a lot more this term.
Another striker might be necessary if Cowley’s men are going to break the top six but winning is a habit and expect the good times to continue at Sincil Bank this season.
6. Coventry City
Off the field Coventry look to be in turmoil, they’ll play their home games away from the city for the second time in six years this season, as the battle between the club’s owners, Sisu, and the owners of the Ricoh wrangles on.
On the field however, the Sky Blues are progressing nicely following their promotion back to League One last May. An 8th place finish was impressive from Mark Robins’ side last time out and they’ll be looking to build on that this year.
Jordan Willis and Connor Chaplin will be missed but the double signing of Jamie Allen and Callum MacFadzean, both from Burton, significantly improves their squad whilst also weakening one of their rivals.
Fankaty Dabo and Josh Pask both fit Robins’ blueprint of signing young players who are desperate to get some league football under their belt and if they can add rumoured signing Tyler Walker to their frontline then their temporary home of St Andrews might have to host an extra fixture come May.
5. Rotherham United
Rotherham will be looking to earn their third promotion from League One in under six years this season. The Millers have fluctuated between the second and third tier in recent times and they’ll be hoping they can bounce back once again this term.
In Paul Warne they have an excellent manager whose policy of treating his squad like family has proved very successful and give them every chance of another promotion. Although his managerial skills will be thoroughly tested this season after the departures of influential players Semi Ajayi, Joe Newell, Will Vaulks and Ryan Williams.
Matt Crooks and Jon Taylor remain at the club though and could form an exciting midfield with new signings Jamie Lindsey and Shaun MacDonald. That midfield will be looking to supply record signing Freddie Ladapo, with enough ammunition to fire Rotherham into the top six.
4. Peterborough United
When Darragh MacAnthony reappointed Darren Ferguson back in March he stated that it was not about current form but instead about ‘the long-term ambitions of the football club’. Reading between the lines there it would seem MacAnthony is seeking a return to the swashbuckling Posh style that saw them earn three promotions in four years between 2007 and 2011.
Those promotions were all achieved under the management of Ferguson and he’ll be hoping to gain a fourth this year after being backed in the transfer market with some impressive signings.
The headline deal saw Posh break their transfer record to bring in Bristol City forward Mo Eisa. The thought of an attack including Eisa, Ivan Toney, Marcus Maddison and Siriki Demebele, is a frightening one for opposition defences and don’t be surprised to see the club end up as top scorers in the division this season.
They’ve also strengthened in defence as well, Frankie Kent and Mark Beevers could prove to be very well matched as central defensive partners and behind them they’ll have promising goalkeeper Christy Pym, who arrives from Exeter.
That trio could well be the key to Posh’s promotion hopes as if they can hold firm in defence whilst the free-flowing attack does its thing then you suspect there won’t be many sides walking away from London Road with three points next season.
3. Ipswich Town
Effectively Ipswich knew they were down by January last year and that has given them plenty of time to prepare for their first season in the third tier for well over 60 years. You’d think then that would have meant they’d be proactive with their transfer business but so far only two headline additions have been brought in.
One of those signings is James Norwood, who joins on a free from Tranmere after hitting 29 league goals at Prenton Park last season. Norwood is the favourite to be the division’s top scorer this season for a reason but more additions will be necessary at Portman Road if they’re going to crack the top two.
Paul Lambert is lucky though that his predecessor Paul Hurst, effectively built a League One dream team last summer and the majority of that squad remains. Toto Nsiala, Kayden Jackson, Jon Nolan and Alan Judge are all excellent players for this level and should certainly possess enough quality to keep the Tractor Boys in the promotion conversation throughout the season.
When Sunderland lost out to Charlton in May’s playoff final, many expected that to be Jack Ross’ final match in charge of the club. Ross has retained his job though and will have another crack at delivering a return to the second tier.
Two of the remnants of the Black Cats’ time in the Premier League Lee Cattermole and Bryan Oviedo, left the club this summer and they’ve been replaced by proven EFL talent Connor McLaughlin and promising youngster George Dobson.
Marc McNulty also comes in to try and ease the goal burden on January signing Will Grigg, who if he can hit the heights of his last full season at this level should prove too much for League One defences.
There was an air of shellshock around the Stadium of Light last season as the Mackem faithful came to terms with their side plying their trade at their lowest point for several years and after a year for fans and players alike to adjust, promotion back to the Championship could be on the cards this time round.
Kenny Jackett is a wily operator at League One level and this season his Portsmouth side look well placed to deliver him a third promotion from this division.
Losing key man Matt Clarke was a blow but Pompey were well compensated with three and a half million pounds and it looks like most of that money has been reinvested back into the side.
Jackett has signed two centre backs in a bid to fill the void left by Clarke. Paul Downing experienced promotion from League One with Blackburn in 2017 and will be looking for more of the same this term, whilst Sean Raggett is an imposing presence who should do well at Fratton Park.
Marcus Harness, Ryan Williams and Ellis Harrison have all been brought in as fresh options in attack and as long as they were signed to play with, rather than replace, influential winger Jamal Lowe, Pompey should have too much quality and nous for the rest of the division this year.
You can find my Championship 1-24 predictions here.
You can also follow me on Twitter @BrendanPitcher