Class of 2010 ready for League One challenge

Last year’s automatic promotion places in League Two looked sewn up for the majority of the season.

Notts County began the season with Sven-Goran Eriksson and Sol Campbell in situ, ended with neither but won the title. Rochdale finally exited the division after an overly length spell. Bournemouth admirably fought their way to promotion despite well-documented constraints.

All three will face the music in League One this season and optimism abounds.

Rochdale

Towards the end of last season, you could have been forgiven for forgetting that Rochdale had been promoted for the first time in 41 years. A torrid end to the campaign saw Dale win just one of their final nine games and it seemed no sooner had the season ended that half of their squad was moving on to pastures new.

League Two left back of the year Tom Kennedy moved on a free transfer to Leicester City and prolific striker Chris Dagnall joined him in the Championship by signing for Scunthorpe United, again on a Bosman.

Add to this the departure of the almost ever-present Nathan Stanton, who opted for the security of a two-year deal at League Two Burton Albion, and the apparently imminent sale of £1m-rated defender Craig Dawson and Dale were left with quite a worried fan base.

However, as Dale fans have learned so many times in the past, you should never doubt Keith Hill’s ability as a football manager. Despite having one of the smallest budgets in the league, Hill has managed to bring in a number of signings who have impressed in pre-season.

The signing of Bury’s holding midfielder Brian Barry-Murphy, not a Shakers favourite, was hardly greeted with a great deal of optimism. But left-back Kennedy departs a success having been signed from the Gigg Lane club, this despite similarly poor initial reviews from their supporters.

Along with Barry-Murphy, new arrivals include ex-Grimsby pair Joe Widdowson, who will replace Kennedy, and French striker Jean-Louis Akpa-Akpro, highly rated ex-Man City youngster Jack Redshaw, winger Matty Done, old Dale favourite Alan Goodall and, perhaps most impressively, striker Anthony Elding.

The signing of Elding has really got the fans excited. His arrival from Hungarian side Ferencvaros caught everyone by surprise and, taking into account his previous record in the Football League, Dale supporters cannot help but think this could be another of Hill’s masterstrokes in the transfer market.

With regards to the season ahead, no one can possibly predict what is in store for Rochdale. Hill has constantly tried to keep supporters’ feet on the ground, reminding them that Dale are already punching above their weight by taking their place in League One.

But the new signings have shown up well in pre-season and all seem to fit into the new style of play, in particular Widdowson who looks a more than capable replacement for Kennedy. Although it would be foolish to read too much into friendly results, the 1-1 draw with an almost full-strength Bolton Wanderers team was a particular highlight.

It will be important that Dale get off to a good start against Hartlepool United on Saturday. The townspeople are somewhat disappointing when it comes to supporting their local team, with crowds averaging around the 3,000 mark.

With teams such as the two Manchester clubs, Burnley, Wigan Athletic and so on in such close proximity, it is hardly surprising. However, attendances picked up towards the end of last season and one can only hope that some of the “floating” supporters will return.

Realistically, it looks like being a season of consolidation for Rochdale. Keith Hill has said it is going to be a long, hard year and it is difficult to argue with his assessment. It will be a great experience for fans who have grown accustomed to the fourth tier though, so it is time for Rochdale’s faithful to strap themselves in and enjoy the ride!

Written by: Jack Oldham

Bournemouth

A year ago, AFC Bournemouth were celebrating staying in the Football League, after surviving a seventeen point penalty imposed for going into administration, a transfer embargo, and a threadbare squad coached by the youngest manager in the league, 31-year-old Eddie Howe.

Almost unbelievably, in 2010/11 the Cherries now find themselves in League One, after demonstrating what their young squad can do when unrestricted by the hazards of point penalties.

Striker Brett Pitman was the catalyst for much of last season’s success, and his future remains uncertain, with Championship and even Premier League clubs interested in the 22-year-old. If Pitman leaves, Bournemouth are left with an unfit Steve Lovell and club hero Steve Fletcher at one end of the field, whilst at the other end, Rhoys Wiggins has signed after a loan from Norwich to the delight of the fans.

Staying up will be obvious priority, but after a 2009/10 season that exceeded all expectations, anything is possibly at Dean Court.

Written by: David Dickson

Notts County

The last twelve months in the life of Notts County have been nothing if not tumultuous. While none of us need to read (or write) another rundown of all the events which transpired during the 2009/2010 season at Meadow Lane, it is probably fair to suggest that, given all that did occur last season, the club, their new chairman Ray Trew, new manager Craig Short and supporters are more than likely quite glad to be gearing up for an assault on League One. But what of their chances?

It has to be said that, of all of the teams promoted from League Two last season, Notts have prepared most impressively for life in their new surroundings. The Magpies have strengthened well, it seems, in every area of the team.

Goalkeeper Rob Burch comes in from Lincoln, the highly impressive signings of Liam Chilvers, Krystian Pearce and Jon Harley will solidify the back four, John Spicer adds some creativity in the middle of the park and the bearded beanpole Ben Burgess adds to the already well-stocked squad. It seems fair to see Notts as better than outsiders for promotion.

One of the key questions for Magpies fans is how former fans’ favourite Craig Short will settle in as manager, having finished his brief tenure at Ferencvaros. Some decent pre-season results and sensible shaping of his squad suggest that the good times may well continue to roll at Meadow Lane, with or without the millions initially promised through the ill-fated Munto Finance deal.

One thing’s for sure, it is unlikely to be boring.

Written by: Haydon Spenceley

The Seventy Two
The Seventy Two published an outstanding series of articles about the Football League between 2010-12 and was the brainchild of Leicester City fan, David Bevan. As well as collaborating with The Two Unfortunates on the Football League Blog Network and a mammoth 2011-12 season preview, the site featured a host of leading bloggers and David was rewarded with a nomination in the 2011 Football Supporters’ Federation awards. Latterly, he was joined as co-editor by Joe Harrison and TTU is happy to present this archive of the site’s output.

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