This is my view on the fortunes of the local clubs in the South Yorkshire and North Derbyshire area for the forthcoming season, you may not agree with what I say (in fact its pretty much a given that someone wont) so feel free to comment on this article or im on twitter @AWFootballBlogs. Enjoy and good luck for the forthcoming season whoever you support.
To Win League 200/1 (Various Bookmakers)
Promotion 80/1 (Victor Chandler)
Relegation 13/8 (Coral and BET 365)
Once again Barnsley start the season as most bookmaker’s favourites to be relegated and once again most Barnsley fans will be hoping there team prove the bookmakers wrong and beat the drop. Last season they essentially stayed up by default, Portsmouths financial troubles caused them to be deducted 10 points all but relegated them. Had Pompey not been deducted the ten points then Barnsley would have found themselves in 22nd position and relegated. 1 win in 15 was certainly relegation form but had there been a more realistic threat of relegation this may have been provided a bit of fight.
This season promises to be much of the same for the Tykes they will hope to be able to beat the drop and that will be the one and only aim this season. Keith Hill is a decent manager and managed to work wonders at Rochdale with little to no budget and he will be asked to do the same at Oakwell this season. The loss of Butterfield will be telling as up until his injury last season he was Barnsley best player and looking at the players they have brought in they are mainly young players and free transfers, players like Mellis and Etuhu have potential but it’s whether they can bring it week in week out. Mido has been the big name signing but his best years are long behind him and his struggles with his weight have been well publicised and he is already out for a significant period with injury. I know a lot of Barnsley fans won’t agree but I personally struggle to see 3 teams that will be worse than Barnsley this season and although it would be nice for them to stay in the Championship I feel this season may be the one where they finally succumb to relegation.
Prediction Bottom 3
To Win League 28-1 (Coral)
Promotion 8-1 (bet365)
Relegation 10-1 (Coral)
Most Wednesday fans were in shock when Milan Mandaric removed Gary Megson from his post just days after a victory against local and promotion rivals Sheffield United. Replacement Dave Jones wasn’t really welcomed with open arms amongst a few fans but he masterminded Wednesdays charge towards second place and promotion, not losing a game on the way. Made all the more sweeter by the fact that it was the Blades who they beat to promotion and knocked them into the playoffs which they ultimately when on to lose.
Wednesday have made a number of decent signings in the close season but none will have been greeted with more approval than the acquisition of Mikael Antonio. He was one of the star performers at the end of last season in his loan spell and Dave Jones made it his priority to acquire him on a permenant deal. There other signings have been decent too, Kieran Lee and Joe Mattock were both decent young prospects a few years ago so they will hope to start fulfilling some of that potential, and by all accounts young Rhys McCabe comes from Rangers with a glowing reputation. The problem may be the ability to score goals they look a bit lightweight in the goals department, New signing Maguire doesn’t appear to be a prolific goal scorer and although Madine scored 18 goals last season he faded as the season wore on and the jury’s out as to whether he can up his performance level for the Championship. Wednesday will however be difficult to beat, Dave Jones knows this league inside out so I don’t think a Playoff spot is beyond the realms of possibility this season though may be one for them to establish themselves as a Championship side once more and given the ups and downs Owls fans have had over the past few seasons I don’t think they will consider that to be a bad thing.
Prediction Upper Mid table.
To Win League 6-1 (Various Bookmakers)
Promotion 7-4 (Ladbrokes)
Relegation 33-1 (Coral)
Up until the middle of April The Blades looked certainties to book the final automatic promotion spot back to The Championship but on the 20th of April a certain Mr Ched Evans was sent to prison and with that United’s season capitulated. A lot of people locally accused Sheffield United of being a one man team last season and although this is a bit unfair on players like Maguire, Quinn and Macdonald it’s fair to say United would not have been challenging for automatic promotion had they not had goals and all round influence of Evans. The play-off semi finals and final proved that without him they lacked a severe cutting edge.
The re signing of Kevin Macdonald was the best bit of business United have done this summer, he was a key player for them last season and his non appearance in the play off final due to injury ultimately proved costly, if they can keep hold of Stephen Quinn and Harry Maguire then United fans will be hoping for a similar season to last but this time with a better ending. One major issue they will have will be replacing the goals, assists and all round impact left behind by Evans. Chris Porter will not score enough goals to push them up the league so they will be hoping that new signings Shaun Miller and John Cofie can find the goal trail. Cofie comes from Man United with a big reputation. He looks fast and strong but whether he can get 20 + goals this season is a doubt. I don’t think United fans will be expecting much from Miller who found himself out of the Crewe side at the end of last season but a change of scene for a player who has bags of potential may do him good. With the wage budget being squeezed Danny Wilson will start to blood some of the promising youth players that guided the Blades to the youth cup final but it’s whether they can handle the physicality of League One football. The league is wide open with about 12 clubs who have realistic ambitions for promotion and United will be one of those, I would expect them to be challenging for a playoff spot at the very least but goals may be an issue.
Prediction Play Offs
To Win League 14-1 (Coral)
Promotion 9-2 (Ladbrokes)
Relegation 12-1 (William Hill)
Doncaster took a big risk last season in bringing Super Agent Willie Mackay to the club to recruit players and it back fired big time. Under O Driscoll the season before Donny were renowned for being one of the best footballing sides in the division, but they struggled in the second half of that season and took that form into the 2011/12 season. O’Driscoll was controversially replaced by rookie manager Dean Saunders and he returned a win rate of 20% which ultimately resulted in there relegation.
The so called big name players or mercenaries all left in may when Rovers were relegated leaving Saunders with a squad of 13 professionals for the forthcoming season but still way over his proposed wage budget, this will make adding to the squad further a hard task. They have brought it Robbie Blake and David Cotterill and there are some very good players in the group of 13 but Donny will need a lot more if they are going to challenge to get back to the Championship and although decent players I’m not sure what they have will be the right type of players for this division. They need to have a good start and the first six or so games will give the fans an indication of how they will fare this season, if they don’t get a decent return from these then the fans will start to question the direction of the club and it may result in Saunders getting the sack. I think this will be a season of transition for Rovers and I fear they will be fighting at the wrong end of the table, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Dean Saunders out of a job come Christmas and if this is the case they need to make sure they make the right appointment because the wrong one could mean they will be plying their trade in the bottom tier once again and that would be a big shame because up till the middle of last season they appeared to be a club going places.
Prediction Relegation Battle but may just have enough to stay up.
To Win League 7- 2 (Various Bookmakers)
Promotion 4-5 (Ladbrokes)
Relegation 66-1 (Victor Chandler)
After years four years playing at a soulless athletics stadium in Sheffield, Rotherham have finally come home and this season promises to be an exciting ride for Millers fans. Last season started well enough but they faded badly and by March they had dismissed manager Andy Scott. Steve Evans was brought in and wasn’t the big name manager that a lot of millers were hoping for but he went on a charm offensive and a lot of fans came round to the idea, this coupled with some decent results at the end of the season gave the millers a sense of optimism about the future.
Rotherham are the shortest price favourites in the Football League this season and looking at who they’ve brought in over the summer coupled with the “new stadium effect” there appears to be justification in this. They will have to be aware of the pitfalls that being favourites can bring. Everyone wanted to beat Crawley last season and Rotherham will be in that position this year. The new ground could also have a downside, it being the best ground in the league visiting teams will enjoy playing there so it’s important that it’s made a fortress pretty early on. Looking at the players Evans had brought in, it could be said that most of them are League One players. Odejayi, Nardiello, Noble, Hunt, O’Connor and Agard all played in League One last year and Ainsworth, Sharps and Shearer were all part of promotion winning sides in addition to that they have signed Icelandic International Kari Arnason from Aberdeen coupled with the players retained from last season the Millers have a very good squad on paper. It could be said there is a lack of a potent goal threat from an out and out Striker, nobody has really come in to replace departing striker Lewis Grabban although they have a number of forwards on the books none are what i would call a proper striker. But at this level it’s not always imperative they have a 20+ Goal scorer (although it does help) and there appears to be goals throughout the squad. With the players brought in and the new stadium it would be a massive surprise to not see the millers up the top end of the table come May and I would fully expect them to fulfil the expectation and gain promotion to League One.
Prediction Top 3 and with a bit of luck Champions.
To Win League 12-1 (Various Bookmakers)
Promotion 11-4 (Stan James)
Relegation 40-1 (Bet 365)
I was a little surprised that Chesterfield ended up getting relegated last season, I paid a visit to the B2net when they beat Rotherham 5-0 at the end of their promotion season and they looked a really good side. I was talking to one of the gentleman on the board of directors about what the ambition of the club was once they had confirmed promotion and he said they would be investing to get the club challenging for promotion to the Championship. This didn’t happen and after selling Craig Davies to local rivals Barnsley they never replaced his goals. Winning at Wembley will have been a welcome bright point in what will have been a difficult season for the Spirerites fans.
They will start this coming season as one of the favourites for promotion and it’s difficult to disagree with that. They will have the core of the side from last season and have shown ambition in signing players like Hird, Togwell and Richards and they are good signings for this level. John Sheridan knows what it takes to win this division after they won it in 2010-2011 and I would think Sheridan will try to play with a similar mentality to last time. They were quick and fluid and played some attractive football and if they can repeat that style then I would expect them to be one of about 6 or 7 teams that can win it this season. It will be more difficult than last time though as teams such as Rotherham, Fleetwood and Bradford have invested quite heavily in their playing squads but in football there is no replacement for experience and this may be Chezzie’s trump card as they’ve been there done it and got the T Shirt. The fans will be hoping for an instant return to League One and it won’t be out of reach this season and it would be a big shock if they weren’t up in the mix.
Prediction Automatic Promotion Contenders