I was asked this morning which sides I felt would be at the top of the division this season, based on their recruitment and last season’s showing, so I’ve picked a handful who I believe will be ‘there or thereabouts’ come May 2019.
There’s still a lot of business to do, but one or two teams have shown real intent in the summer and, coupled with their outings last time around, look to be absolutely certain of a decent promotion push.
By far the strongest recruitment of the summer has been going on at Notts County. Unveiling not just Kristian Dennis, but Kane Hemmings as well shows they mean business. Hemmings didn’t score as many as Mansfield hoped last season, but his all round contribution was excellent and would have seen them promoted had the manager merry-go-round not derailed their efforts.
That isn’t all though, they’ve thrown a six-figure sum at Crawley for Enzio Boldewijn, one of the players who impressed significantly for Harry Kewell last season. Then there’s former Welsh international David Vaughan too, a fine replacement for Michael O’Connor (pictured top) and, one might argue, a better player pound for pound.
Kevin Nolan has proven himself f to be a sound manager in League Two, one willing to start at the bottom and work his way up, but also adept at getting the best from his squad. Last season their forward line was much their undoing, Jon Stead isn’t getting younger and around him the likes of Ameobi and Forte weren’t adequate for a top three challenge.
That won’t be the case this season. It’s been a summer of evolution, not revolution and they’re going to League One, I’d stake my dinner on it.
Sadly, the same has to be said for Mansfield Town. Their recruitment has been sound too, with Otis Khan amongst their most significant arrivals. There’s a lot to be said for teams who capture a key player from someone at the same level, it establishes a ‘food chain’ of sorts. Look at Luton, snatching James Collins from Crawley last season and getting promoted. Khan is a creative player, devastatingly effective at what he does.
Of course, Tyler Walker should tear up this league and Neil Bishop adds some experience to the side, but there is a question mark over the manager in my eyes. Swindon had a good squad last season but never imposed themselves as they should on League Two. after Flitcroft’s switch to Field Mill they fell away, that wasn’t down to a poor squad as the previous manager had assembled a strong set of players, albeit an expensive one.
The pressure in one there though, more so than County. Walker is costing a small fortune there and they don’t have the infrastructure to support a bit of spending like Notts County do. I’d say it is a brave roll of the dice, but it might be more misguided than some realise.
Port Vale have brought in a lot of faces and much depends on whether they gel quickly or not. If Ricky Miller discovers his old form, he could be devastating with Tom Pope, Idris Kanu or Louis Dodds. On the other hand, there’s four forwards vying for two places. Competition is one thing, but how quickly does the likes of Pope or Miller become unhappy?
Leon Legge is quite a capture too, he came from Cambridge United. there’s a hint that Port Vale might not be contesting a spot in the bottom six this season, especially as I thought they were a decent enough outfit when we went there in April.
Newport County have caught my eye too, they’ve made a few interesting signings that could work out well for them. They’re guaranteed to score against us, they’ve signed Keanu Marsh-Brown. He scores against us with alarming regularity and League Two haven’t seen the best of him after he fell out with Mark Cooper. Oddly, they’ve also signed Mark Cooper’s son Charlie, clearly keeping KMB under close watch.
I’ve always liked Fraser Franks and he could be a big player there, but they’ve retained Padraig Amond who can grab goals. Since their great escape they’ve been growing in stature and it wouldn’t surprise me if they put in a top seven challenge.
MK Dons haven’t recruited a lot just yet, but with Paul Tisdale in charge on imagines they’ll be in the hunt. Lawson D’Ath didn’t get a look in at Luton last season, but he’s amongst the most significant they’ve brought in. Jordan Moore-Taylor captained Exeter last season and Mitch Hancox played 39 times as Macclesfield won the National League, both players will be big assets there.
Up front they have Kieran Agard who should do well in League Two, as well as Osman Sow who scored a lot for Hearts a couple of years ago. Both could thrive given the right service.
Outside of those sides, nobody’s business has impressed me suitably, certainly no more than our own. There’s not one filler player in our new recruits, not one you’d look at and wonder where a start is coming from, could that be said of Port Vale with their 11 new faces?
The other teams to drop out of League One have been scarily cautious in brining in new players, Northampton have signed just two, Andy Williams and Joe Bunney, but have lost their keeper to Bradford City. Oldham have signed just three, Jose Baxter who was poor for Everton in last season’s Checkatrade Trophy and Johan Branger with no English experience. Having sacked their manager too, they could be in real danger of a relegation battle.
Bury have signed Nicky Adams, Tom Miller Chris Dagnall, Byron Moore and Will Aimson. There’s a couple of decent players in there, Tom Miller we know all about although he didn’t impress at Carlisle last season and Chris Dagnall is worth a goal or two but isn’t getting any younger. Will Aimson is still only 24 and has been with Blackpool recently, but one decent defender isn’t going to fuel a promotion drive, is it?
Of the teams coming up I expect Tranmere to do well now they’re back. Their recruitment has been okay, they’ve drafted in five players, Paul Mullin the most significant although he’s a forward of few goals, He does create though, but they’ve yet to adequately replaced Andy Cook. They’ve got Jake Caprice too, he’s another ex-Imp who I rate and has England C honours.
25-year old Ollie Banks is a decent signing, he impressed at Swindon last season, especially in their 2-2 draw at the Bank, so he’ll be a real asset.
Outside of Notts County and Mansfield, most sides have conducted business that could be described as average, at best. The usual suspects will struggle, Yeovil and Morecambe just don’t have the means to challenge the top seven and Macclesfield will do well not to go straight back down, but Lincoln City have very little to fear at this moment in time. There’s still lots of business to be done though and plenty could change before the big kick off.