TTU Go Predicting: a Club-by-Club League 1 Preview

Posted by on Jul 23, 2013 in Uncategorized | 7 Comments
TTU Go Predicting: a Club-by-Club League 1 Preview

Following yesterday’s start to pre-season, in which we looked at all 24 League 2 clubs, our intensive schedule continues as we move on to League 1. Tomorrow, attention will turn to the Championship.

Bradford City

Fairytale Bradford City have added a little sheen to their well built squad as they look to attack League 1 at a canter – Rochdale’s Jason Kennedy and experienced winger Mark Yeates join the standout performers James Hanson, Carl McHugh and the quicksilver Nahki Wells in Phil Parkinson’s promotion winning squad. Much will be expected of Wells’ second shot at this level after a failed spell at Carlisle, and it seems certain that his ‘big man, little man’ act with Hanson will cause many defences problems. Cult goalkeeper Matt Duke has departed for Northampton and his presence will be a loss to the dressing room. Nevertheless, Bradford’s biggest problem is likely to be the fact they can’t play a cup tie every week.

Verdict: Middle of the Road

Brentford

2012-13 will go down as a season to forget for the Bees after Marcello Trotta’s spot-kick woes denied them automatic promotion in favour of Doncaster Rovers, their besting at Wembley at the hands of football’s answer to the Bad News Bears, Yeovil Town and the subsequent snaffling of star asset Harry Forrester by the aforementioned Rovers.  Despite this, Uwe Rösler’s outfit will head into the new season amongst the favourites for promotion.  For the time being, top scorer Clayton Donaldson remains in place, whilst the arrival of free-scoring Will Grigg from Walsall will add further potency to the frontline. It’ll be genuinely interesting to see how overseas imports Javi Venta and Czech international Martin Fillo gel with the manager’s notoriously direct, robust style.  Likely to be one of the pacesetters.

Verdict: Chasing the Play-Offs

Bristol City

Despite being relegated with something of a whimper, Bristol City look like good bets to fire themselves into contention for an immediate return to the Championship.  Summer arrivals of blue chip players such as Aden Flint, Frank Fielding and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas to augment the talents of Sam Baldock and co must whet the appetite of the local cider-swilling community. Sean O’Driscoll seems like the ideal man to mould this ragbag of mercurial talent into a more fulsome whole and it’d be unsurprising to see another of his free-flowing, talent heavy sides towards the top of the tree come next April.

Verdict: Chasing the Play-Offs

Carlisle United

Oh this is just unbearable… Last year I did this and I stated, quite confidently, that Carlisle would be in the mix at the business end of the year. Well they were, but it was less of a ‘Norman Cook Headlines Brighton Beach Mix’ than a Lidl Dried Fruit Mix.  If this taught me anything, it’s that subjectivity, optimism and tribal loyalty can do more to bend the mind of a man than the strongest hallucinogens. It’s also taught me to shut up about Carlisle United. So what do you want to know? We kept Lee Miller! I still think he’s the best number 9 in League 1. Elsewhere, we’ve taken punts – Josh Gillies and David Amoo weren’t top of many target lists, but the squad doesn’t feel significantly worse off for the departure of seven players. Much depends on Miller, and second season development from Brad Potts and Mark Beck. An improvement on last year awaits. I think. Hopefully.

Verdict: Middle of the Road

Colchester United

Righto, the smart arse who keeps arranging Colchester away games for Carlisle on Friday evenings, you’ve had your fun pal. Seriously, what right minded sage wants to risk their own personal well-being crossing a dual carriageway to the infernal Weston Homes Community Stadium in the August evening twilight? Colchester had a pretty torrid season last time out with big ticket, bigmouth signing Clinton Morrison failing to fire and ‘the Marcus Twins’ Okuonghae and Bean proving comprehensively that their solid talents are at home in League 1. The dual capture of former Arsenal loanees Sanchez Watt and Kyle Eastmond looks like astute business, but a lot will hinge on this pair and wing tyro Gavin Massey. If they struggle, so too will Joe Dunne.

Verdict: Middle of the Road

Coventry City

It seems almost facile attempting to objectively assess the potential of the dormant Midlands giants amid the current unrest and stupor affecting both the club and the city. As a regular visitor to Coventry, the ongoing saga serves as an elegant metaphor for its ailments and woes in the post-Thatcher era; a literal concrete allegory of the perils of freeloader capitalism, civic pride in their club was one of the few clear lights which bound together a beleaguered, struggling community.  As that slips away, so, too seemingly, does hope.  Whether Coventry City play at the Ricoh, at Sixfields stadium or on the fields of Ernesford Grange School seems to matter much less than the club’s future.  Sadly, with the exception of the stolid Leon Clarke and the wily Carl Baker, there’s little to celebrate onfield either and one fears that the inertia of off-field woe and the absence of Mark Robins’ force of personality could see them tilt yet further toward the abyss.  One dearly hopes not, for the sake of Coventry and its people, who deserve better.

Verdict: Looking Over Their Shoulders

Crawley Town

Forgive this peccadillo, but I often forget that Crawley are in League 1.  For all the money they threw at promotion from the Conference and League 2, they seem utterly inconsequential since Steve Evans left the club. No longer do they appear to be anyone’s bête noire, but by the same token, they don’t pull up any trees – they’re just there. It is with a further degree of apology that I confess to know absolutely nothing about any single Crawley player, nor about their new signings. Andy Drury was at Brighton? Fair enough. James Hurst played for England under 20s? Okay, so did Ryan Noble.  Richie Barker seems quite a nice man, though, but he should wear shorts less often; it’s a bit childlike. Where will Crawley finish in League 1? I have literally no idea. None at all.

Verdict: The Most Middle of the Road Club of All

Crewe Alexandra

One of last year’s top League 1 gaffers, Steve Davis has been shopping at Aldi for bargains this summer with Macclesfield’s Thierry Audel and Accrington’s Lee Molyneux his biggest summer coups. Against this Crewe have lost the outstandingly talented Luke Murphy to Leeds and are shrouded in controversy after the arrest and charge of seven club players over a rape allegation. The spectre and outcome of the case is likely to set the tenor for the Railwaymen’s season and, in no way wishing to belittle the allegations, it seems a shame that such an act may throw Davis’ superhuman progress off course. Football, yet again, the loser in every respect.

Verdict: Middle of the Road

Gillingham

Every year League 1 needs its colour story; the natural habitat for Clem’s collection of cyan knitwear, for a guest visit from ‘Fenners’, for one of Lawro’s trademark, sidearm draped quips – ‘well Dan, as you know, I am in total contempt of all football at any point in the pyramid below about 7th in the Championship, but well, that Martin Allen – certainly a character, Dan’. Last year Paolo Di Canio filled League 1’s cynical, manipulative, media-savvy arsehattery quotient, and this year that role will fall to perennial berk, Martin Allen. For someone with an uncanny resemblance to Emmerdale mope Bob Hope, the camera seems to love this man who, lest we forget, is self-styled as ‘Mad Dog’. With him around literally anything could happen! And it will! If your definition of anything is that Gillingham will be lower mid-table at Christmas and Paul Scally will decide there’s only room for one pompous, self-promoting idiot in his part of Kent. Meanwhile, cult striker Bayo Akinfenwa will find that ‘beast mode’ is no replacement for ‘fitness’ as he makes another tilt higher up the pyramid.

Verdict: Middle of the Road

Leyton Orient

I’ve a confession; I quite like Leyton Orient. In part that’s down to them being the easiest ‘away/home’ game for me to get to from North London, but it’s mostly down to lovable Russell Slade in the dugout. The first time I clocked Slade on the TV I mistook him for a plucky trier battling against leukemia in his wee hat and, shamefacedly, that’s kind of stuck – I always want Orient to do pretty well as Slade looks like he’s been quite unwell and I don’t wish to think ill of him. Luckily for me, and more’s the point, for O’s fans, they look set for a good season. They comprehensively blew Carlisle away last season thanks to the combined talents of Dean Cox, Shaun Batt, David Mooney and Kevin Lisbie; one of League 1’s most complete forward lines. With Batt and midfield engine Romain Vincelot back in the hutch after successful spells at Brisbane Road last year, they look set to kick on. Which means more of Russ’ doughy visage on BBC London news. Only a good thing.

Verdict: Chasing the Play-Offs

Milton Keynes Dons

What the hell is going on down in Bletchley? A cynic might suggest that celebrity chairman, Pete ‘Whole Lotta Love’ Winkleman is beginning to grow wearisome of his plaything down at Concrete:Shed. Whilst the Dons are still managed by promising youngster, Christian Slater’s Cameo in Austin Powers 1, there’s been something of a talent exodus from Buckinghamshire with Adam Chicksen, Gary McKenzie and Ryan Lowe all taking flight and Stephen Gleeson seemingly agitating away from Asda.  Chelsea prospect Pat Bamford has rejoined for a further slog, and lots will rely on he, Dean Bowditch and the excellent Daniel Powell. Even with all three firing, the Dons seem unlikely to be at the sharp end and may face a fight to stop Slates wandering across the street to bring some orange sherbert.

Verdict: Middle of the Road

Notts County

Whither Notts County? Any club at this level which loses talent of the magnitude of star trio Alan Judge, Neal Bishop and Jeff Hughes should be set for a struggle surely? Add the fact that they’re stewarded by a greenhorn manager in Chris Kiwomya and the summer murmurings of budget cutbacks and it could spell disaster.  Apparently not so – sheckels have been found to cross the palms of Mustapha Dumbuya and the extraordinarily talented Danny Haynes with silver, and add an optimistic spring to Trentside steps. Much will still rely on Kiwomya’s ability to get the best out of his host of talented prima donna frontmen; get Yoann Arquin, Joss Labadie and Francois Zoko firing around decorative Maypole Enoch Showunmi ,and Notts will be a frightening prospect.

Verdict: Middle of the Road

Oldham Athletic

Now that Paul Dickov has taken his late 1980s hairline across the Pennines to Doncaster, no-one is duty bound to hate Oldham any longer – instead you can marvel as a man in a babygro, Lee Johnson, leads a capable looking football team to mid-table obscurity. In truth, for a preview-merchant such as myself the loss of an opportunity to marvel at the fact that Dickov looks like Ray Liotta, if someone burst, then re-inflated his head a la Theme Hospital level one, is a shame. In his stead, Johnson remains something of an unknown entity, though his ability to negotiate his squad out of trouble (with a bit of hired help) bodes well for this year. The loss of beanpole academic Matt Smith to Leeds will likely not hit the Latics as hard as some predict, and whilst the signings of Korey Smith and James Dayton look astute, snaring current trialist Adam Rooney from Swindon would prove the pick of their summer business. A few heads may be turned at Boundary Park, not just by the wind either.

Verdict: Middle of the Road

Peterborough United

Last time Peterborough were in this league, they were a bit like gold top milk (look it up, youth) – even their nickname, ‘Posh’, was a giveaway that this was a luxury product.  The problem with gold top, as with Posh, was that all the cream was at the top and thus any malign suitor (e.g. a magpie/Gus Poyet) could easily get to the spoils – in the instance of George Boyd he hot-footed to Hull where he quite literally wears a gold top. The Peterborough of today, devoid of apparent £6m prodigy Dwight Gayle, are more of a semi-skimmed affair. The glamour trio of McLean, Boyd and Mackail-Smith are all gone but there’s enough of the good stuff still there for them to remain in your cup of tea. Grant McCann, Jack Payne and the inevitable haul of Dad’s contact book will ensure that the East Anglia side are at the top end of the table, whilst Posh fans will hope things don’t turn sour again between manager and owner. Arf.

Verdict: Chasing the Play-Offs

Port Vale

After yet another unsuccessful spell on the Paul Jewell lookalike circuit, Micky Adams is back at his spiritual home of Vale Park, once again guiding perennial yo-yo club to another well-earned shot at lower mid-table in League 1. In Tom Pope they have a striker who was even better last season than Edinson Cavani – and if that zeitgeisty, hipster reference doesn’t make you root for the Valiants, nothing will. Sarcasm notwithstanding, Adams has placed his faith in youth, with pick ups from the scrap tips at West Ham, Reading and Leicester and they’ll need Pope to fire like he did last year or be staring downwards. Any team whose second highest scorer is much travelled blind-alley fan Jennison Myrie-Williams needs all the luck they can get.

Verdict: Looking Over Their Shoulders

Preston North End

Loath as I am to say this, what with Preston definitely NOT being Carlisle’s local rivals and everything, but I fancy the Lilywhites for automatic promotion. Their drab, prolapse-faced gaffer Simon Grayson has a knack of steering even the most resistant supertankers (hi Huddersfield fans!) out of League 1 and this is reflected in his summer business – Tom Clarke, Chris Humphrey and Declan Rudd are all very good players for this level and jumbotron-sized England international* Kevin Davies should add an X Factor to a solid frontline. Should be docked points for allowing the career stagnation of Joe Garner to continue apace by parking him on the left wing – that boy was born to flick centre-halves ears.

*Under popular England gaffer Ollie Holt.

Verdict: Automatic

Rotherham United

Until recently, the plight of Rotherham United was a Northern psychodrama to rival the gritty depths of Shelagh Delaney’s landmark hymn to working class Salford, ‘A Taste of Honey’. The homeless Millers were camped out in the ghost-town environs of the Don Valley Stadium and twice danced with the financial devil.  Nowadays, the club is on strong footing, with the self-satisfiedly named New York Stadium (I know it’s the district, but still…) a symbol of their change in fortunes. Despite this, it isn’t honey one reaches for when searching for the taste of Rotherham’s success; but an altogether more sour tincture, helmed as they are by Scotland’s premier Les Dawson lookalike, Steve Evans. There’s something about Evans’ manner which grafts Harry Enfield’s fiver tossing ‘Loadsamoney’ onto the face and spirit of the Bride of Chucky and whilst he’s in charge it seems impossible to look past him and warm to the club. That said, Rotherham have a capable squad and are unlikely to be troubled by relegation worries – Bury’s talented winger David Worrall seems a particularly astute signing.

Verdict: Middle of the Road

Sheffield United

Heaven only knows what’s going to happen at Bramall Lane, but it’s for certain that the third year League 1 Blades hold a mite less lustre than those of previous years.  The newly minted Steel City side come again under an untested manager in former Everton and Rangers stalwart David Weir, who joins amidst rumour that last year’s custodian Danny Wilson torched the budget in a bid to haul his team back to the Championship. As a result the squad has a far more austerity feel, with Walsall’s Febian Brandy the biggest name signing of the summer – Weir will hope that the mercurial winger settles in South Yorkshire as much will be pinned on him. England u20 skipper Conor Coady and Man United discard Sean McGinty could give the side solidity, though the latter has struggled in loan spells at Carlisle and Tranmere and, reputedly, with off-field discipline.

Verdict: Chasing the Play-Offs

Shrewsbury Town

Another side with an all change attitude this summer is Shrewsbury, whose gaffer Graham Turner has moved swiftly to solve last season’s defensive issues with a clutch of summer signings. Alex McQuade is an unknown quantity but Tamika Mkandawire and Dave Winfield bring with them a host of lower league experience. The Shrews’ late season dash from relegation owed much to Bolton loanee Tom Eaves, and it’s unlikely that he will return to Greenhous Meadow – without him the team may find goals tough to come by and it seems certain that Turner must address this issue in order to keep heads above water. A new contract for lively winger Jon Taylor will be a boon for the home faithful.

Verdict: Looking Over Their Shoulders

Stevenage

Heeeeeeeeee’s back, back where he belongs! Yes guys, it’s puffa jacket wearing, fist pounding, skin bristling grind along lunatic Graham Westley. I saw Westley at the season closing Premier League game between Reading and Fulham. It was a hot day and he was wearing a pair of thick jogging pants, the type normally only seen piled high in Sports Direct or on schlock documentaries about DSS ‘scroungers’. I was so taken aback by his raiment that I couldn’t even think of a witty epithet for the man – so here it follows – Graham, I hope your return to Stevenage is sour and that you get relegated. Not just because of your vile anti-football, your bullying and your appalling assistant manager. But because you’ve signed a load of bang average players and you genuinely look like you’ll struggle. But mainly for your jogging pants. Awful, genuinely disgusting.

Verdict: Looking Over Their Shoulders

Swindon Town

Remember last year when Swindon were the apple of the public eye, thanks in most part to their charismatic leader, decorum’s Paolo Di Canio? That seems a long time ago. The County Ground now reels in the trail of fire left by the departed Italian, their tale one of genuine woe and relegation a very real prospect. Di Canio’s replacement, the able and diffident Kevin MacDonald, has walked out on the club having never really settled into the hearts of the fans. The Robins’ close ties with Tottenham are the only bright spot on the horizon, with young Spurs Massimo Luongo, Alex Pritchard and Grant Hall charged with filling the patterned gaps left by the likely departures of the likes of Adam Rooney and James Collins. Fans hope that former Spurs and Swindon legend Glenn Hoddle will soon join them. A friend of this parish had the joy of sitting in front of Hoddle at a recent Test Match, the faith fan spent the whole day noting when the England team had, in the style of a chirpy East End costermonger ‘had their Donald’. Swindon will be hoping that Glenn does turn up, and brings the vocally challenged duck with him.

Verdict: Looking Over Their Shoulders

Tranmere Rovers

You mightn’t expect any more from a 50 something year old man who uses Boots own brand hair gel, but Ronnie Moore seems to be hanging Tranmere’s hopes on a bunch of old stagers producing one last hit. After his team’s charge to the summit of League 1 last year, Moore seems to know a little about constructing a Hollywood fairytale, but you have to venture that side based on the attacking prowess of Andy Robinson, Akpo Sodje and Ryan Lowe (combined age 100) might sputter up short. That said, they’ll provide everybody with plenty of entertainment as they trot through a hackneyed lower league greatest hits set – a Robinson lollipop into the top bucket at Crewe, a Lowe drilled finish into the bottom corner at Wolves and Akpo clambering over a much taller man to nod home from a yard at Prenton Park. Expect to see Moore in the dugout in a Nudie Suit by Christmas. Uh-huh-huh.

Verdict: Middle of the Road

Walsall

Of all League 1’s sob stories, the defenestration of Walsall over the course of this summer is in many ways the sorriest. Last year, along with Yeovil, they carried the ‘little club done good’ mantle with aplomb – their attacking trident of Febian Brandy, Will Grigg and Jamie Paterson was the envy of their peers. So much so, in fact, that they head into this season shorn of all three players and the onus is back on the brilliant Dean Smith to build his own Walsall Mk II – no mean feat. Their roles fall to the untested Troy Hewitt, and the much travelled Chelsea loanee Milan Lalkovic. Saddlers fans will be praying that they make a swift start, or trouble could ensue.

Verdict: Looking Over Their Shoulders

Wolverhampton Wanderers

Righto, so they’re here with their massive stadium, their magically affable gaffer and their lower Premier League squad. Whilst no-one expects all of Jamie O’Hara, Roger Johnson, Wayne Hennessy, Kevin Doyle, Leigh Griffiths and Stephen Hunt to be at Molyneux by the end of August; even a trifle of their talent will be enough for Wolves to win League 1 at a canter. Many of you will point to Leeds, Forest, Wednesday and Sheffield United’s woes as evidence to the contrary. The X-factor for Wolves is Jackett – they have not only the best squad in the league, but the best manager. Good luck to any team seeking 3 points from the West Midlands this season.

Verdict: Automatic

John McGee
thinks about Carlisle United all the time. His stock in trade is viewing the world of football in embittered fashion with a Cumbrian bias. Seldom does he fail to invalidate an opinion by slipping into lamp-jawed gobshitery. Like any sane man, he prefers his defensive midfielders to read the play and only ever pass sideways.

7 Comments

  1. Lanterne Rouge
    July 23, 2013

    Spot on with Wolves – I could have seen them slash and burn but Kenny Jackett is far too sensible a man for that to happen as Millwall fan Stanley’s recent post for us indicated.

    As for PNE, a 4-0 hiding by Liverpool was excusable; the same outcome at Fleetwood, less so and yet, as you say, Grayson does habit of turning round those supertankers. They lacked a bit up front and bringing Iain Hume in from the cold after he was cast out by the Westlet regime is another boon.

    I can see Peterborough doing OK and perhaps Coventry but thye did rely heavily on David McGoldrick last season.

    Reply
  2. IggyIggings
    July 23, 2013

    A great read. Cap doffed, sir.

    Reply
  3. Chris
    July 25, 2013

    Very strange write up on port vale. Would like to know how we are focussing on youth? The youth players signed join the development squad. The players signed for the 1st team are all experienced championship and league 1 players, such as Dickinson, Robertson, lines possibly doumbe.

    Reply
    • Dave Macbeth
      July 28, 2013

      My thoughts exactly. Obviously the amount of research put in by the author on Vale was somewhere between none and sod all.

      Reply
  4. bill brunt
    July 29, 2013

    More nonsense about port vale from a backwoodsman . Micky Adams is no Paul Jewel lookalike With that chin more like Desperate Dan with tichy legs. If we can find room for Doumbe in the centre The Vale forward line with his Mouldiness the Tope and Yosser Hughes and hopefully a more consistent Mary Williams along with Lines and Robertson should give anyone a run for their money in this league which after all is the defacto third division in real terms.

    Reply
    • John Mc
      July 31, 2013

      Given so many Vale fans seem so affronted by my ‘research’ (self confessed as dreadful) I’ve deigned it appropriate to offer an addendum.

      ‘Vale’s fans have taken succour in signing a hearty bunch of honest League One pros who they reckon will see them straight. With they exception of Chris Lines they are of dubious quality – hanging your hat on Matthias Doumbe and Chris Robertson? Pride, or in this case, whinnying on to an uninformed welt like a bunch of childish berks, comes before a fall.

      Reply
  5. Tebby
    August 1, 2013

    Brentford’s notoriously direct and robust style?

    Eh?

    Reply

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