League One Preview (Pt2) – Coventry, Doncaster, Fleetwood, Gillingham, Ipswich & MK Dons

Courtesy Graham Burrell

There isn’t a need for a big introduction; this is self-explanatory. It’s my team-by-team preview of League One, six teams at a time.

Part One was here, this is part two and obviously, the rest are to follow.

Coventry

City winning 4-2 at the Ricoh in 2018 – Courtesy Graham Burrell

Wherever you look in League One there seems to be some tale of woe, either in the past or present. Coventry are no different to the likes of Blackpool, Bolton and Bury in that there are other aspects away from the pitch that will influence their season to a large degree.

It’s been well documented that they won’t be playing at the Ricoh next year, another of those football scandals that seem to be allowed to develop by the EFL and FA. This isn’t the place to go into the finer details, but a stadium that was purpose-built for them will host a rugby club that originated in London and who don’t play in a kit even close to the thousands of empty sky blue seats.

Will it affect their success? Possibly so, for a number of reasons. Home advantage can be huge in football and every game will be an away game for them. It’s incredibly unlikely they’ll get any sort of atmosphere at St Andrew’s which will dent their hopes of building a run of form at ‘home’. They’re also approaching an uncertain income from attendances; it’s impossible to know how well supported they’ll be over in Birmingham and that’s stopped Mark Robins building strongly over the summer.

It’s not to say his recruitment hasn’t been impressive in parts; whilst Sunderland want to become ‘Coventry 2.0’ by signing Lee Burge, Marc McNulty and Jordan Willis, Coventry have aimed for ‘Burton 2.0’ by bringing in Kyle McFadzean and Jamie Allen. Both are good quality players for this level, Allen adding midfield depth with McFadzean replacing Wearside-bound Willis.

Like many clubs in this division, their business is not completed and the capture of a prolific striker is going to be very important. They’ve been linked with Tyler Walker or Britt Enobakhare, both of whom would certainly boost hopes of finishing higher than last season’s eighth place.

Doncaster

Doncaster surprised a lot of people last season, including me, as they ended up in the top six. Pre-season many had tipped them for a year of struggle, instead they held off the likes of Coventry and Peterborough before running Charlton close in a two-legged play-off semi-final. This season could be very different for Rovers though after a rather turbulent summer.

Grant McCann allowed a number of first team players to leave amidst talks of lower pay offers; captain Tommy Rowe and full back Danny Andrew heading up the departure list. Then, with his squad deconstructed but not reassembled, McCann left for Hull City. Cue crisis? Perhaps.

Darren Moore is a well-respected man in football and he’s in his second managerial role after being dismissed by West Brom last season. There was a feeling he might have been tactically naive with the Baggies, with a rather confused transfer policy at times. Aging players such as Tyrone Mears came in, whilst Ollie Burke barely got a kick. He’ll need to correct that approach with the gaping holes left in Rovers squad.

Much of their success last season came through the efforts of John Marquis, Ben Whiteman, Herbie Kane and Mallik Wilks. The last two were loan players who have since returned to their parent clubs, leaving a squad half-finished for Moore to patch up. Thus far, Reece James and Ben Sheaf have been the two biggest incoming names, James to replace the outgoing Danny Andrew at full back and Sheaf to shore up the midfield from Arsenal Under 23s.

If Doncaster are to avoid repeating the mistakes of Scunthorpe and Shrewsbury last season, they need a strong couple of weeks in the transfer market.

Fleetwood

Remember when Fleetwood were a football team in their own right? I do. Now they’re better known as ‘Joey Barton’s Fleetwood’, a line often trotted out about Frank Lampard’s Derby and Steven Gerrard’s Rangers.

You either love Barton or loathe him, 99% of the population surely falling into the latter category with Fleetwood fans and his Mum in the former. He’s in trouble already this season for a clash with Barnsley boss Daniel Stendel in the tunnel following a heated fixture at Oakwell last season. He’ll face an October court date and that could derail whatever success he brings to the Cod Army.

He might just bring some success if he is found innocent as well, they’ve had a really good summer in terms of recruitment. It’s hard to figure out which signing is best; Jordan Rossiter who is a young and energetic midfielder from Rangers, Paul Coutts who is an experienced and combative former Sheffield United man or Danny Andrew, the full back we just spoke about leaving Doncaster. All three look to be quality additions on paper.

If Barton avoids serious trouble at his court date, Fleetwood might just be up there this season. Those impressive signings haven’t been offset by any serious losses, aside from Ched Evans. He had a loan spell with Barton’s side last season and scored plenty of goals, enough to perhaps mask the one area of the field they need a bit of recruitment. Ashley Hunter and Paddy Madden can chip in, but replacing Evans’ 20+ haul isn’t going to be easy.

Barton is afraid to mix up formations either; in his last five matches of the season he played 5-3-2 (v Wycombe), 4-1-4-1 (v Sunderland), 3-4-1-2 (v Bristol Rovers), 4-4-1-1 (v Blackpool) and 4-3-1-2 (v Peterborough). How can you plan for such variation in approaches?

Keep an eye on that court date because it’ll define their season.