Blades-Mad 2013/14 League One Preview

Last updated : 01 August 2013 By @blades_mad1889

Well here goes nothing…….pin it and come back and laugh at the end of the season but here is my season preview / predictions for the new season. Cue criticism for my conservative prediction (what do you mean ‘you’ are always negative) for where the Blades finish?!

1) Brentford

To me if they can recover from the agony of losing out twice last season; they look the outstanding bet to go up. They have lost Harry Forrester to Doncaster but have actually strengthened with the signings of arguably Walsall and Swindon’s best players respectively in Will Grigg and Alan McCormack. Losing keeper Simon Moore will be a blow but with Donaldson, Grigg and a couple of new exciting wingers from the continent then they have the firepower to blow most teams away.

Key Man : Clayton Donaldson

2) Peterborough

On the face of it they may have the weakest squad of the three that went down at least in terms of personnel but they have a manager that knows this division well and with little changes to the majority of the side that only just went down; they will be right up there. Balancing the loss of Dwight Gayle (for a remarkable 8.5 million when all said and done) is incoming record transfer from Watford Britt Assombalonga. They will be very strong at home and I have an inkling they may bounce straight back up.

Key Man : Lee Tomlin

3) Bristol City

City had been treading water for a few years and finally slipped through the trap door but Sean O’Driscoll could hardly be blamed and will slowly get things right. His team will play football but they have some tough performers who do the dirty things such as incoming centre back Aiden Flint and also defensive midfielder Marvin Elliott. Albert Adomah will cause major problems at this level and Sam Baldock will score goals. Jay Emmanuel Thomas and Stephen Pearson give further options up top and new keeper Frank Fielding also should shore up the backline. They will definitely be around the top 6 and could even threaten the top two.

Key Man : Sam Baldock

4) Preston

North End have had a few indifferent seasons and it is fair to say the Graham Westley experiment did not work. Now with Simon Grayson at the helm for his first full season, Preston will be nearer the top than the bottom. He may be on his last few years but at this level Kevin Davies will have the experience and cunningness to score goals, win free kicks and generally cause real problems. With Stuart Beavon, Ian Hume and Joe Garner they have the firepower to profit from Davies’ hold up play and knockdowns. Tom Clarke gives them strength at the back and Declan Rudd also comes in as the new custodian. Grayson has been very successful in this division before and I see no reason why North End will not be upwardly mobile again.

Key Man : Kevin Davies

5) MK Dons

I fully expected the Dons to be right up there last season but it never really happened for Karl Robinson’s man. Robinson himself flirted with a move to the Lane but opted to stay and have another go. They still have a decent squad and some good young players. Goals may be an issue with Dean Bowditch, Daniel Powell and Chelsea front man Patrick Bamford maybe not enough. However, they they finished the season strong and if they carry on that impetus and can get back to a strong home record at Stadium:MK where they struggled last year they will be there or thereabouts.

Key Man : Stephen Gleeson

6) Wolverhampton

The notion that teams with such experienced and supposedly superior of talent to the rest of the division will just bounce straight back up; probably has been proved wrong in recent years. The likes of Wednesday, United, Leeds, Forest and others have struggled to get out straight away in recent years. Wolves have players that most teams in the league can only dream of affording but with many of the so called big earners probably still on the way out there are still a lot of question marks over who will be here by the end of August. Roger Johnson, Jamie O’Hara and Stephen Ward are remain on the list. The rest of the squad actually looks bereft of experience and will rely on youngsters like Jake Cassidy and Leigh Griffiths for goals. They made a solid managerial appointment as Kenny Jackett will steady the ship but Wolves fans won’t find it as straight forward as they think to get out of this league.

Key Man : Leigh Griffiths

7) Sheffield United

The Blades failed again as the playoff curse struck yet again with another end of season
meltdown leaving United stuck in League One and having to find yet another manager. David
Weir has brought a freshness to the club and United will have to be patient. The majority of the teams above have managers who have been in the game for a lot longer and many have been successful at this level. They had a strong defence last season but lacked creativity and goals and it is hard to see if much has changed. If anything losing Blackman and Kitson means it is even more difficult to see where the goals will come from with most of the sides above having far more options in this area. No matter how many shut outs they have, if they cannot score then they will struggle to consistently beat teams. They also need to improve in the centre of midfield where last year teams overran the slow and pedestrian McDonald and Doyle. Signings such as Brandy, McGinn and Taylor will have to come off for the side to make the top 6. Talented youngsters continuing to emerge from the academy to join the likes of Long and Maguire and this will help a cash strapped side.

Key Man : Kevin McDonald

8) Notts County

County actually were right on the verge of the playoffs last term but fell away and Keith Curle lost his job. Chris Kiwomya made a promising start and has former Blades coach Mick Jones to help him. They have made a few decent signings. Danny Haynes will score goals at this level and David Bell is a clever midfielder. If Francois Zoko can return to his form of Carlisle they could have a very powerful and fast front line. I fancy them as a surprise package this season.

Key Man : Danny Haynes

9) Leyton Orient

The O’s have a settled side and Russell Slade knows how to get the best out of them. Kevin Lisbie will get goals again and with French striker Yohan Lasimant alongside him he may have help. Diminutive winger Dean Cox is an underrated player at this level and can get full backs going towards their own goal. Shaun Batt and David Mooney also can get beyond defences too.

Key Man : Kevin Lisbie

10) Rotherham United

Steve Evans may court controversy wherever he has gone but he delivered last year albeit with a big wage bill. They have added to it this year and I cannot see them finishing anywhere but top half due to depth of squad. Evans finally got his man after a long pursuit for front man Matt Tubbs and with Alex Revell, Daniel Nardiello and also another newcomer Danny Hylton, there are options aplenty up top. Allied to that they have talented midfielder Ben Pringle and centre back Kari Arnason behind them. They may push for a playoff place if things fall into place.

Key Man : Matt Tubbs

11) Coventry City

City still have the uncertainty over their future and will have to play home games at Sixfields and this must be soul destroying for the loyal fans. However, from a football perspective it is not like they had much of a home field advantage from playing at the Rioch and it may not hurt the side on the pitch in the short term. They have a young side but a promising manager in Stephen Pressley. They also will have a no fear attitude and may surprise one or two sides.

Key Man : Leon Clarke

12) Crawley Town

Another side that threatened the playoffs for a period last year and have a manager Ritchie Barker that will now know exactly what his squad can do. They do not have the strongest squads and injuries could see them even further down the league but if they keep everyone fit and keep a strong home record then they will be around mid table once again.

Key Man : Billy Clarke

13) Bradford City

Bradford had a dream season last year culminating in promotion after a remarkable Carling Cup run. Phil Parkinson was once thought of as being a very promising manager but had to start again at the bottom but like City his star is on the rise again. The little-big man combination up top in Nakhi Wells and James Hanson will get goals and Jason Kennedy from Rochdale gives them something different in midfield alongside the veteran Gary Jones. City will not be near the top but should be comfortably away from the relegation places and if anything will find things easier than the more agricultural play in the league below.

Key Man : Nakhi Wells

14) Swindon Town

Town fell away after Paulo Di Canio moved on and then on the eve of the season Kevin McDonald also departed. Mark Cooper is in temporary charge and there is still talent in the squad but it is a relatively inexperienced side and they have brought in four young players on loan from Spurs to add to this. I am not sure they have enough to challenge this year and a bad start and they may be looking over their shoulders.

Key Man : Wes Foderingham

15) Gillingham

Martin Allen did a tremendous job as the Gills won the title going away last season and have a relatively settled squad that should be able to cope with the step up in division. Burly striker Ade Akinfenwa returns up top to give further options but it is the spine of last season and the tactics from the wily old Allen that will keep them away from trouble.

Key Man : Cody McDonald

16) Crewe Alexandra

They have lost another talented youngster in Luke Murphy but the conveyor belt will keep on delivering. Macclesfield’s Thierry Audel and Accrington’s Lee Molyneux have come in to add to the squad from last season but the fact that manager Steve Davis remained was the biggest news for the ‘Alex this summer.

Key Man : Mathias Pogba

17) Oldham Athletic

After the highs of the FA Cup came the nail biting finish to the season but after Paul Dickov left, Lee Johnson was able to guide Athletic to safety and now he faces up to his first full season in charge. Losing beanstalk striker Matt Smith was a blow but incomers Charlie McDonald, Adam Rooney and Jose Baxter should help soften the blow. James Dayton from Scotland and Sidney Schmeltz could be captures who surprise at this level.

Key Man : Adam Rooney

18) Tranmere Rovers

It may seem churlish to predict should a fall from grace but they have lost many players they had (many on loan) and I feel that the end of season form was more akin to what we could expect. Maybe Ronnie Moore can drag an extra 20% out of this side and inch them towards mid table but I fear for them and they have a very lightweight squad. Ryan Lowe will score goals and maybe I jury prone Akpo Sodje may finally have an impact somewhere as he goes through around 2 or 3 clubs a season!

Key Man : Stephen Foster

19) Walsall

The side that I feel will take the biggest hit from last season but that is mainly due the
departures with Brandy, Paterson and Grigg all moving on. I felt that they would have
struggled to replicate last season anyway and losing that attacking trio means they be searching for goals. I think they will do enough to survive and it would not surprise me if Dean Smith can bring in more gems to see them closer to mid table.

Key Man : Andy Butler

20) Carlisle United

Carlisle went from playoff contenders to a side that was nervously looking at the trap door and it is hard to see where the improvements will come from. They have not brought many in and rely on the same side that struggled so much last year. Of course many of them that were part of the side that got the verge of the playoffs so there is hope. However a poor start and they could be in trouble.

Key Man : Lee Miller

21) Colchester United

Another season of struggle awaits and young manager Joe Dunne will have to really work miracles to keep the side away from the lower end in an improved division. They are still relying on ageing journeyman Clinton Morrison although Craig Eastman and Daniel Pappoe from Arsenal and Chelsea will give them more youth and enthusiasm. If they do not improve at home then they could go.

Key Man : Sanchez Watt

22) Stevenage

Graham Westley is back and whilst the move to Preston may not have worked out; it cannot be said that Westley has never been a success. At Stevenage he worked miracles and whilst his style may not be universally popular he can get teams to win with little talent. He will hope to get the best out of players such as Luke Freeman that maybe did not quite do it last season when he had departed. A return to health for centre back and new skipper Jon Ashton will also be key but they may be struggling this season with better sides around them and teams with better resources.

Key Man : Jon Ashton

23) Port Vale

Vale finally came up after a few years of close calls and Micky Adams gets another chance to prove himself at a higher level of the pyramid. Vale lack genuine quality and have a lot of journeyman and unproven players. They will struggle to replicate the goals they got last year and even though they will have a better backing than in many years (5,000+ season tickets sold) I think it may be the stay in League One is a brief one.

Key Man : Tom Pope

24) Shrewsbury Town

They surprised many last season with a good run that saw them fairly comfortable safe but with experienced men departing such as Matt Richards and Marvin Morgan, they have to rely strongly on youth and the experience of Graham Turner to coax the maximum out of this side. A poor start and they could be in big trouble without that leadership on the pitch.

Key Man : Jon Taylor