Whilst all you Premier League fans still have another week to wait, for those EFL supporters, the time has come, ten months of joy, pain, highs and lows begin from this weekend. Tuesday nights in the likes of Accrington, Plymouth, Grimsby or Middlesbrough have never been so eagerly anticipated - until you get to those destinations, on a cold, wet, Tuesday evening (you get where we're going). So, without further ado, let's crack on with our first of three EFL league previews prior to this weekend, looking at those who'll be towards the top, at the bottom and, a dark horse which may well do you proud this term in the League Two!
Following relegation to the fourth tier, Coventry have done some great business this summer as Mark Robins looks for an instant return to League One. Marc McNulty should score plenty of goals, having produced the goods last time he was in the division on loan at Portsmouth a couple of seasons ago. Defender Rod McDonald is another to have arrived on a free and he’s someone who has experience of winning this division. Peter Vincenti’s dropped down to League Two after opting to leave Rochdale, whilst Michael Doyle and Liam Kelly bring leadership qualities after signing from Portsmouth and Leyton Orient respectively.
It’s been another encouraging summer signing-wise for fans of Luton Town as they look to get over their play-off heartbreak last term by going a step or two further this time around. Nathan Jones may have lost Jack Marriott to Peterborough United for an undisclosed sum, but he’s spent well in replacing him with proven goalscorer James Collins from Crawley; a man who has three promotions out of League Two in his career. Also arriving at Kennilworth Road is Jack Stacey from Reading and Marek Stech, who played his part in Yeovil’s run to the Championship a few years ago. The Collins and Danny Hylton striker partnership could be absolutely deadly this season.
As a supporter of a League Two club, the author of this blog is amazed to find Mansfield Town as favourites for the title, even with a serial winner in the form of Steve Evans in charge at the One Call Stadium. Lee Angol may be one of a number of players coming in, but there’s not been one stand out signing, for us, so far. Will Atkinson opted to return north and join after turning down a new deal at Southend, whilst defensive pair David Mirfin and Zander Diamond have also joined the project with the Stags. Goalkeepers Conrad Logan and Bobby Olejnik are also new recruits as Evans looks for another promotion in his career.
The Play-Off Contenders…
We’ve seen what happens when teams get momentum after coming up from the Conference and Lincoln will be hoping to join the likes of Crawley in earning back-to-back promotions in recent years. One signing that certainly raised an eyebrow was the capture of Peterborough United’s Michael Bostwick, who, after turning down an opportunity to join League One Blackburn, moved to the Imps. Danny Cowley also acquired former loanee Harry Anderson, whilst journeyman striker Matt Green has also moved to Sincil Bank. Green will likely be joined in a front two with fellow new boy Ollie Palmer and Cowley will be hoping for big things from Billy Knott, who’s another new capture having spent time on loan last term.
Another relegated team and another club with a new boss now as all eyes look at the town with the abundance of roundabouts, that’s right folks, it’s Swindon. David Flitcroft was appointed in the summer and, to be fair, it looks a great choice. The ex-Bury boss won promotion from this division with the Shakers and will have a number of contacts in the game and know the players needed in the fourth tier to possibly get promotion at the first time of asking. The signing of Chris Hussey looks very shrewd indeed considering the left back was part of the Sheffield United squad who won League One last term, whilst the likes of Amine Linganzi, Chris Robertson, James Dunne and Paul Mullin are new signings with League Two experience as well. They’ll fancy their chances.
U’s boss Sean Derry has been a busy man this summer – just as he was this time last year – and has brought in a number of high calibre players – such as Gary Deegan, David Forde and Ade Azeez – who have all won promotion from League Two at one stage or another. One big name in Barry Corr has been let go after having his injury troubles over the last 18 months or so and it will be interesting to see whether ex-AFC Wimbledon frontman Azeez can eclipse Corr’s goal record at the U’s having found strikes hard to come by during his time up in Scotland.
The Dark Horse…
FOREST GREEN ROVERS
They may well be small in stature and size, but Forest Green Rovers have big plans, led by owner Dale Vince, who believes promotion this season could well be on the cards. Known for their eco-friendly outlook, their stadium doesn’t serve meat and their players’ food from the club is all vegan. So, who is now a vegan? Well the experienced Scott Laird has moved to the New Lawn after leaving Scunthorpe United, as has Bradley Collins and Alex Iacovitti, who have joined on loan from Chelsea and Nottingham Forest respectively. Lee Collins is another with plenty of League Two experience. A good start for FGR and they really could be the surprise package.
The Relegation Candidates…
Another Gloucestershire club now and whilst their county rivals could well be sitting pretty in the top six come the end of the campaign, Gary Johnson’s Cheltenham Town are expected to be fighting for survival – just as they were last term. However, Johnson’s attempted to ensure it’ll be a far more comfortable season this time around by bringing in experienced pair Kevin Dawson – who he worked with at Yeovil Town – and Nigel Atangana, who can count Leyton Orient and Portsmouth as his previous clubs in England. Defenders Jordan Forster and Jamie Grimes have also moved to the home of racing, too.
One of Gary Johnson’s old clubs, Yeovil are now overseen by two of his former players as ex-Yeovil team-mates Darren Way and Terry Skiverton look to ensure safety in the EFL for another campaign. One of the smaller clubs in the division, it’s been a pretty depressing last couple of years for the Glovers. Way has been adding reinforcements, with James Bailey coming in and being appointed new skipper. Jake Gray has also arrived from Luton Town, as has Connor Smith, who earned promotion with Plymouth last season. Alefe Santos and Daniel Alfei are another couple of new signings from Way. Survival will be the aim.
The same with every season preview, it’s almost a given that Newport are written off and that’s what’s happening this year as well. The Welsh outfit survived by the skin of their teeth last season on the final day of the season, thanks to a dramatic, late goal, which ultimately sent Hartlepool down to non-league instead. Due to his exploits in charge in the second half of the campaign, Newport-born Mike Flynn has been handed the reigns on a permanent basis. There have been a number of signings, including a return to Wales for Robbie Wilmott. The much travelled Frank Nouble has signed, alongside highly rated striker Lamar Reynolds and midfielder Matt Dolan. They’ll surely be hoping for better – they can’t afford to get much worse.
The Shrimps have defied the odds for years now but their favourites for relegation for a reason and, with their financial issues throughout 2017 with late payment from owner Diego Lemos, they could really be in trouble this time around. Kevin Ellison continues to go strong for Morecambe, but he’s another year older and it’s difficult to pin all your hopes on one man in the twilight of his career. Another ageing midfielder in Garry Thompson has returned to the club where he made his name, whilst a move out of the blue is that of Steven Old, who’s a New Zealand international who was on the books at Swedish side GAIS last term.
So that’s it. Do you agree with our choices? Is there one or two surprises in there or have we missed a certain team out? Let us know in the comments section below, or via our social networks.
Love the EFL? Why not read our Championship Preview, here!
You can also take a look at our preview of League One, here!
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