The Football League returns from it's summer break next weekend, with the action in Sky Bet League One kicking off on Saturday. Over the last few years there's been one or two sides that really dominate the division, but this season looks different. It's a very even playing field at the top of the division which should make for an entertaining campaign. The biggest news is the addition of Sunderland, who after back-to-back relegations enter League One as favourites to win the division.
It's been some drop down the ladder for the Black Cats but things won't be easy for them, with Jack Ross' men very much the team to beat. It's going to be a dramatic campaign and we're looking forward to seeing what unfolds in the coming months!
With the big kick-off now within touching distance we've taken a look at what's potentially in store for some of these clubs and given our views below - let us know yours by tweeting us @FootyAccums!
The pre-season favourites for the Sky Bet League One title comes in the form of Sunderland, who come into the campaign desperate for success. It's been a dreadful couple of seasons for the Mackem's, with them dropping out of both the Premier League and Championship in consecutive seasons. Their supporters are praying for success and there's been some wholesale changes at the club in order to achieve that, with new owners and a new manager coming through the door at the Stadium of Light. Jack Ross has a massive job on his hands in the dug out trying to restore the confidence in this Sunderland side but many fancy him to do that, with them 3/1 to win the title at SkyBet. Ross has been busy adding some new faces to his squad and on paper they look pretty decent. Summer additions of Chris Maguire, Reece James and Jerome Sinclair are certainly a step in the right direction and they can also call upon the services of Aiden McGeady who should be a major threat at this level. If the Black Cats can start the season well and get the fans on board they'll be very difficult to stop, so we can see them competing at the top.
We're expecting another recently relegated side to have a big say at the top of the table too, with Barnsley looking in very good shape coming into the new season. The Tykes were cruelly relegated on the final day of the Championship last term and they'll be keen to bounce back at the first attempt. Coached by Daniel Stendel who's making his debut in English football, Barnsley have a very strong squad on paper which could really go on and dominate in the third tier this year. They have quality throughout the spine of their side with Liam Lindsay, George Moncur, Cameron McGeehan and Brad Potts all very capable at this level, but where they really stand out is in attack. In Kieffer Moore and Tom Bradshaw they possess arguably the divisions most lethal strike force, so if they can retain their services and get them firing they will definitely be up there. Their transfer activity has been fairly low key so far but we're expecting movement over the next couple of weeks so we believe that they're genuine contenders for promotion.
We believe that Kenny Jackett's Portsmouth will be joining Sunderland and Barnsley in the fight for automatic promotion. This is Pompey's second season back in the third tier and spirits are high that they can make their long awaited return to the Championship. They finished 8th last term, narrowly missing out on a spot in the play-offs but with that experience behind them they're looking in very good shape to go one step better. Jackett has added some quality to his ranks by bringing in Lee Brown, Anton Walkes and Tom Naylor, bolstering an already strong squad. To compete at the top you need a goalscorer and in Brett Pitman they have one of the Football League's most clinical strikers. Only Jack Marriott (27) scored more than the 30 year-old (24) last season in League One and if he can replicate those performances then Pompey supporters will be getting very excited about their chances of promotion.
League One Promotion Predictions
SUNDERLAND & BARNSLEY TO FINISH IN THE TOP 2 @ 16/1
This is a big year for Charlton Athletic, with Lee Bowyer taking charge of his first full season at the club. The Addicks were denied promotion in the play-offs but eventual runners-up Shrewsbury Town last season and they'll be eager to build on it. Bowyer's only been in the hot seat at the Valley since March but he's made a big impact, building on the foundations left by Karl Robinson. Charlton's squad is more than capable of challenging for promotion this year, with players such as Jason Pearce, Jake Forster-Caskey and Mark Marshall all excellent players at this level. Bowyer's moved in the transfer window to add to his options too, very much going for quality over quantity with Lyle Taylor and Darren Pratley the only arrivals so far. The pair add experience and quality in important areas & we'll get a good inkling into how they'll fare this season after match day one, with them taking on title favourites Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.
Another side that we're tipping to be a major player in the third tier are newly promoted Luton Town, who have big aspirations. The Hatters arrive in Sky Bet League One with plenty of momentum behind them after finishing as runners-up in the fourth tier, ending their four year stay in the Football League's basement division. In Nathan Jones Luton have one of the Football League's brightest up and coming managers and he's backed with a big budget. Town have made some seriously impressive moves in the transfer window bringing in Andrew Shinnie, Matty Pearson and Sonny Bradley on permanent deals - along with the loan capture of Jorge Grant who was a revelation for Notts County last season. So the signs are extremely promising coming into the campaign and we genuinely believe that the Hatters could win back-to-back promotions, which would be an incredible achievement.
Peterborough United have gone through a lot of change over the summer but they look in good shape to launch a push for a spot in the play-offs. This will be Posh's sixth successive season in the third tier and Darragh MacAnthony has invested some big money again to make them competitive, whilst also generating plenty of income. Steve Evans waved goodbye to first teamers such as Leonardo Da Silva Lopes, Gwion Edwards and Jack Marriott but their replacements certainly provide plenty of reasons for optimism. Jason Cummings, Matt Godden, Alex Woodyard and Sirki Dembele are just four of their 14 arrivals and despite losing their top scorer, they still have an awful lot of firepower which should stand them in very good stead as the season progresses. It remains to be seen whether they can hang onto their other prized asset in Marcus Maddison who's gaining plenty of interest, but should he stay they will surely be contenders to finish in the top six.
At the other end of the table we're expecting Accrington Stanley to find life difficult in their first ever League One campaign. John Coleman's men were one of the stories of the 2017/18 season when they stunned the EFL to win the League Two title. The Lancashire outfit performed heroics to win promotion and they're going to need to produce the same and more as they bid to stay up at the first attempt. Coleman has the smallest budget in the division at his disposal and his squad is in need of re-enforcements if they're to stay up. The signings of Will Wood, Sam Finley and former player Piero Mingoia are the only things that Coleman has had to shout about transfer-wise so far and he also has a fight on his hands hanging onto some of his key men. Pacey 16 goal forward Kayden Jackson has been the subject of interest from the likes of Peterborough and it's imperative that they retain his services going forward. Stanley have the ability to cause problems and be a threat, but their thin squad makes us think that the fairytale may end this season.
We're tipping Wycombe Wanderers to join Stanley in trouble at the wrong of the table, with the Chairboys also winning promotion last term. Gareth Ainsworth's men finished third in League Two and deservedly won promotion, but their ageing squad will certainly be providing their supporters with plenty of concerns going into the new campaign. Wanderers have a wealth of experience to call upon but at the same time they have 7 players who're 33 years-old or over - which is very concerning when stepping up a level. The likes of Adebayo Akinfenwa, Matt Bloomfield, Adam El-Abd and Sam Saunders are all important members of Ainsworth's plans but it's imperative that they strengthen in the window and bring in some younger legs to cope with the difference in class in League One. So far he's only managed to make three additions to his squad in Ryan Alssop, Darius Charles and Curtis Thompson & we think that he needs to add to the trio if they're to retain their third tier status.
Walsall are another club who could be in real danger of surrendering their place in the third tier this season, with Dean Keates in his first full season at the Bescot Stadium. Making his Football League debut the with Saddlers, the 40 year-old has some job on his hands keeping them up if last seasons performances are anything to go by. Just two points separated themselves and relegation in 17/18 and their summer additions won't do too much to ease their supporters' worry of more struggles. The headline arrivals have spent the majority of their careers in the lower leagues but could prove to be useful in Josh Ginelly and Andy Cook - the latter excelled for Tranmere Rovers in the National League last term but this is a huge step up in class for him. But the big news came in the departures, with influential duo Joshveer Shergill and Erhun Oztumer both leaving the club. Oztumer in particularly is an absolutely massive blow and it remains to be seen whether they can recover and replace his goals after he top scored with 16 last season.
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