Gillingham are promoted to League 1

Gillingham are the first team in England to gain promotion this season and they will now have eyes on the League 2 title.
Gillingham
I expected Gillingham to do well this season, especially with Martin Allen in charge because he is a very good manager in League 2 and has produced many times in the division, particularly in relegation battles with Barnet but he has made the step up. In all competitions he has been in charge of 48 games, winning 25 of them and only losing 10 which is a fantastic record and I believe he should be managing at a higher level anyway.

But onto the team and what has been successful this year is the strike force because even though they haven’t exactly put much pressure on the top scorers in the division they have been very consistent. Danny Kedwell has got 13 league goals in 36 games and Deon Burton has 11 in 38 therefore they have caused defences problems and have each popped up with important goals and whenever the score has been 0-0 you would always expect either of them to produce something. The only problem with Burton is the fact that he is 36 and the big question is whether he will be good enough to compete in League 1, however his experience could be vital.
Deon Burton
Winger Myles Weston is another that has contributed goals to the team and sometimes these goals from wide players are actually more important for the strikers because you expect the wingers to cause problems and if they can add goals then they are worth their weight in gold. 7 goals in 35 games is quite an impressive return. Another player that has got 7 goals from midfield is Chris Whelpdale and since he has joined the club permanently, he is another player that has consistently found the net with 19 goals in 78 league games. Both of these players will be very important in League 1 and if they are to succeed they certainly need to keep up their goal scoring form.

In goal they have Stuart Nelson who I actually rate quite highly and have liked him since his days at Brentford. Unfortunately his career has quite blossomed as well as some hoped but now it seems like he is getting it back on track under Martin Allen. But a defender that has impressed a lot this season is Matt Fish, the 24 year old right back has been very consistent defensively and has also grabbed two goals this season. Defensively I think they are a little light and will need to bring in some more experience but they have only conceded 33 goals in their 43 games so they all know what each other are doing and have been solid all year.
Matt Fish
Do I think they will succeed in League 1? I think they will but only if they improve their home form because even though it does look quite good if they had a similar record to their away form they would have ran away with the league more than they have. They have only lost one game away from home and concede just 14 which is impressive in any division.

August Players and Managers of the month

The first awards of the seasons have been announced and they are the player and manager of the month awards in the Football League.

First, let’s look at League 2 and the winner of the manager of the month award went to Martin Allen who has had a fantastic start to life as manager of Gillingham. The club are sitting top of the table after five games with 13 points and if they can continue this sort of form they will comfortably win promotion back to League 1 although it is early days yet and anything could happen. Allen finished the last season very well keeping Barnet in the Football League so it is no surprise at a club with a bigger budget he is surpassing expectations slightly. Player of the month for League 2 has went to Oxford United captain Jake Wright and the defender has been in impressive form so far this year helping Oxford start the season very well winning their first three games and only conceding one goal. Unfortunately for them their form has dipped slightly but I believe they will be in the promotion shake up come the end of the season.

In League 1 the awards went to a player and the manager of Tranmere Rovers as they also started the season very quickly and have surprised a lot of teams already. Ronnie Moore is in his third spell at the club as manager and are still unbeaten in League 1. They have already scored 11 goals and only conceded 2 so their goal difference is already very healthy (some of these have came in September but it is still worth noting). They were seen as outsiders for the playoffs this year because they don’t have as big a budget as some teams but that hasn’t stopped them so far and they may be a shoe in for the playoffs if not more. Andy Robinson won the player of the month award after scoring a hatrick against Carlisle United. The 32 year old has been named in the team of the year in League 1 twice before so he is no stranger to the division and will need to continue to be as influential in the coming months if they want to get out the league.

The Championship awards followed the same pattern as the league before as both the awards went to player and manager of the same club. Blackpool were the beneficiaries of the awards and Ian Holloway is looking to guide his team back to the Premier League. He is still doing a magnificent job in my opinion as they had no right to get promoted in the first place and after losing so many players has still managed to challenge at the very top of the league. Holloway is an entertaining man on the sidelines and his team are very attacking on the pitch so they are a perfect combination and he seems to get the best out of every player. One of these is Thomas Ince who was linked with moves away in the summer and it is no surprise after his performances in August. In the first three games the young winger scored four goals and got four assists so there doesn’t need to be any explanation why he won it really.

Who will be League 2’s top scorer?

A difficult thing to predict is always who will top scorer be at the end of the season because so much can happen in a season including injuries and loss of form.

Sacking of managers can also be influential because even if someone is in goof dorm they may get dropped simply because the new man doesn’t fancy them or wants to bring in his own players. So, League 2 is obviously 46 games long and this could be a very tough choice as top scorer could be from a team that is challenging for promotion or it could easily be for a team that are struggling and this one player has become their star and is doing everything he can to save them as we saw last season with Izale McLeod at Barnet.

New Fleetwood Town signing Steven Gillespie could be considered the favourite as he does have a very good scoring record over the years but has unfortunately struggled with injuries. But just looking at his record he should be one of the most feared strikers in the division, he scored 25 goals 98 league games for Colchester United in League 1 and a lot of his appearances were from the bench so that makes his record look even worse. It was his 21 goals in 67 games for Cheltenham Town that convinced Colchester to sign him but he was struck down by injuries regularly and couldn’t get a good run of games going.

His main competition could come from Stuart Beavon of Wycombe Wanderers who were relegated to League 2 last season. The only problem with backing him is if he starts the season well then he could be sold if an offer comes in for him because he did score 20 goals last season while the club were playing in a higher division. But, if he does stay he should score goals for fun because he must be confident and will cause a lot of problems.

Billy Kee could be an outsider for the award as the 21 year old plays for Burton Albion who I think could struggle this season but obviously that will not stop this man from scoring as they weren’t exactly great last year and he still managed to score 12 goals in just 20 games. I would expect him to get to double figures but maybe it is a little too early for him to be considered top goal scorer.

Daniel Nardiello signed for Rotherham United this summer and will be hoping that he can score the goals to get them into League 1. Nardiello, who was once capped by Wales, has had an up and down career and never seems to settle at a club for very long will be hoping that manager Steve Evans gets the best out of him. The longest he has stayed at a club is two years but this may be where he shines so he may stay for longer and what better way to start than win the Golden Boot in League 2.

Finally, yet another Fleetwood Town signing David Ball could be an outsider especially if him and Gillespie form a good partnership. Ball, came through the Manchester City academy and will be hoping to show his quality in League 2 this year and he did do quite well for such a young lad at Peterborough United in the last few years where he scored nine goals in 41 games. He is an outsider but definitely in with a chance.

Who will be relegated from League 2?

Being relegated from League 2 could possibly be the worst relegation in England as it means you are no longer a Football League club and teams often struggle to return at the first time of asking.

In recent years, Luton Town, Darlington (this could have been more because of financial problems that affected them for years) and Stockport County have been some of the bigger names to be unable to win promotion from the Blue Square Premier. I am going to look at the five teams that could be likely to battle against relegation even though I could be way off with the league being very unpredictable.

Barnet are the first team I believe will struggle simply because they have been unable to improve for years now and keep on avoiding relegation on the last day, eventually this is going to catch up on them and they will fail and this could be the year. With the loss of 22 goal Izale McLeod they need a replacement and have brought in Jon Nurse but he only got eight goals last season so he will need to improve if they are to stay up.

Burton Albion fresh off their penalty victory over Sheffield United in the Capital One Cup will need to start off their season just as quickly if they are to comfortably mid table. They definitely have goals in their team with Calvin Zola, Billy Kee and Justin Richards so they shouldn’t struggle in this department if they manage to keep them for the whole season but the defence looks a little light and a few injuries may completely derail their season.

Morecambe, another team that caused a shock in the cup will be hoping this is what is to come from their season however I don’t think this will be the case and they could be dragged towards the bottom of the table. The key person for me could be manager Jim Bentley as he clearly loves the club but his managerial inexperience could work against him but at least the fans know that he will be putting his all in.

Accrington Stanley lack a goal scorer in their squad and last season their star striker was Padraig Amond who only got eight goals and they will certainly need to improve here which is why they have brought in Karl Sheppard who does have a good record so far in his career and looks like he could be a vital addition.

Dagenham and Redbridge struggled last season but a good run of form towards the end of the season saw them safely avoid the drop but they may need a little more in the coming season. The loss of Jon Nurse to rivals Barnet could be key as his goals may just make the difference between the two sides. Brian Woodall had a decent year and will be hoping to build on that and manager John Still knows what it takes to be successful in this division so even though I am tipping them for a struggle this year, they could also be the surprise package.

Out of the five I think it could be Barnet and Accrington Stanley to go down.

Who will be Gillingham’s next manager?

Andy Hessenthaler has agreed to join the board of directors after stepping down from his post as manager of Gillingham.

Gillingham picked up 70 points from their 46 games

One of his first tasks will be to find a manager to lead the club back into League 1 which he unfortunately failed to do. They only finished one place and two points off the playoffs but this was deemed a failure because the club were expecting to get promoted this season. But if they can keep hold of most of their players they do have a squad good enough to achieve their ambitions in particular I think if Danny Kedwell stays then he can score a lot of goals and win them a lot of games.

So choosing a new manager with similar ambitions is vital and the favourite for the job is Martin Allen who will get the respect of the players and is arguably too good to be a manager in League 2 anyway but that is where he finds himself as he is currently the manager of Barnet where he is in is third spell. He kept them up this season with an impressive two wins out of three and as his past shows he doesn’t mind leaving clubs, especially Barnet, after only a few games. In his second spell as manager he was only in charge for three games. In my opinion he would be a good choice as all through his career he has won a lot of games and makes his teams difficult to beat. However, a word of caution would be that if a better opportunity comes up he will leave, no matter what position his club are in.

The man who Allen replaced at Barnet is also linked with the role. Lawrie Sanchez, the former Northern Ireland manager has had an interesting managerial career and I think he believes he is a lot better than what he actually is. Yes he did well with Northern Ireland and achieved a lot when there were such low expectations on the team but looking at the rest of his career, he has been average at best. At Fulham, he only won four of his 24 games in charge. At Barnet he probably was going to keep them up anyway and was harshly sacked by the board but they struggled all season and you can defend him and maybe say he didn’t have the players or the funds but only winning 15 of his games out of 53 is not good enough. So why should he get given the job of a team that is going for promotion?

Finally, Paul Ince should be in with a shout for the job because even though his career got damaged slightly by his time at Blackburn Rovers, he has achieved some good things in the lower leagues and maybe tried to go to the Premier League too quickly. He saved Macclesfield Town from relegation after they looked dead and buried winning 14 of his 35 games in charge. It was a remarkable effort and shows that he can do a good job in League 2. Add this to the fact that he won League 2 with MK Dons and I think Ince deserves another shot at League 2 and could bring glory to Gillingham. After Blackburn, his second spell at MK Dons and Notts County were solid but not very spectacular and he was doing a good job for both in my opinion.

I would like to see Paul Ince get the job and hopefully get Gillingham promoted because the club deserve to be in a higher division and he deserves to manage at a higher division so it could be a match made in heaven.

How will Swindon Town do in League 1 after promotion?

Swindon Town have been promoted and will be wanting to win the league in their next fixture at home to Port Vale.

Strangely though there have been rumours that Paolo Di Canio wants to leave at the end of the season however this doesn’t seem very likely and I would be very shocked if he did go unless he got offered a Championship job. Di Canio has won 35 of his 56 games and also guided his team to the final of the JP Trophy which they unfortunately lost. Some fans may have thought that this was a terrible decision at the start of the year especially as the team did not start of fantastically but the gamble has paid off. But the big question is will he and his players be able to perform at a higher level? Personally, yes I think Di Canio will be able to cope with the promotion simply because he is a big personality and he may even be able to attract even better players to the club which will only be a good thing.

So looking at the players, are they good enough? Goalkeeper Wes Foderingham at 21 has a lot of potential and playing 39 league games this season has proved he is a worthy number one and can progress further in the game. At the back they also have some good young players with a lot of potential which suggests that this is the way forward for Di Canio. Aden Flint is one of these and at the age of 22 playing 40 games can be tough but he has coped with it fantastically well and contributed three goals. Joe Devera has also had a good season and has progressed brilliantly throughout his career after starting out at Barnet, playing 177 league games which is a lot for a 25 year old which shows that he deserves his chance at a higher level.

The midfield also possess a lot of quality including the League 2 player of the year Matt Ritchie. The 22 year old has played 50 games and scored 10 goals, and contributed many more assists. He is a lot better than League 2 and he will be looking forward to showing Portsmouth next season that they should never have let him go. Even though he may not grab the headlines as much as Ritchie, Alan McCormack has been equally important, he does the job that not a lot of players do. He can either play as a holding midfielder or a centre back which he has done a lot somewhat surprisingly at Swindon Town.

Up front they do not really have a goal scorer that will get a lot of goals but they work hard and do a very good job for the team. Alan Connell and Paul Benson both have 12 goals this season and this does not seem high enough for a team that are going to be champions. Connell has got 10 of those goals in the league in 30 games. The undisclosed figure which is believed to be a six figure sum may not have quite been paid back yet but if he scores enough goals to keep the team in League 1 next year then the fans will be grateful. Paul Benson on the other hand has been a very good signing and 9 goals in 21 league games is impressive. I think he is a very good player and if given the opportunity I believe he will do well in League 1.

I hope Swindon do well in League 1 as I like a lot of their players and Di Canio. They have a lot of potential and if they progress in the right way they could be in the Championship within a few years. The relegation to League 2 must have hurt the fans and I’m sure they are proud of their team and will be hoping for more success.

Who will be Crawley Town’s next manager?

Crawley Town have had an interesting few days with their manager leaving and appointing Steve Coppell as their director of football.

This is Crawley Town's first season in League 2

Steve Evans has left for Rotherham which seems a strange decision seen as though Crawley are in 4th and pushing for an automatic promotion spot and Rotherham United are 10th and still have an outside chance of making the playoffs but will need results to go their way if they are to get there. So what are the chances that Rotherham and Crawley will meet each other in the playoffs?

Craig Brewster is the current caretaker manager and he guided the team to a 2-1 victory over Barnet which lets the board know that if he wants the job then he would be a very good candidate. Maybe they will just give him the job until the end of the season and if he gets them promoted, he will get the job permanently. But is Steve Coppell poised to takeover? He is a very experienced manager and throughout his career he has been successful but he had retired from management but he may be tempted into one last go at managing.

So who could Crawley appoint as their new manager if they decide to go in another direction? The current Dover Athletic manager Nicky Forster could be a good choice as he is performing quite well at his current club and did a decent job as caretaker manager of Brentford in 2011 losing only five of his 21 games and maybe should have been given the job permanently. He played most of his football in the lower leagues and therefore will have many contacts and will know a lot about it which will always give a young manager a slight advantage over someone who has been out of the game for a while.

Richard Money is also linked with the job and he has a lot of experience which maybe Forster lacks therefore he could be given the job. In his last job he was sacked by Luton Town which to me was very harsh seen as though his team were third in the league and he actually had the highest win ratio of any manager in Luton’s history. In his 83 games in charge, he won 45 but his downfall was that he couldn’t get the club promoted back to the Football League. However, he has got teams promoted from League 2 before when he was the manager of Walsall. Money, always gets his teams playing good attacking football and this would please the fans.

Finally, I would like to throw Mark Robins name in the mix as he has been out of work for a little while now but always had the potential to be a good manager and with a little guidance he could succeed at a much higher level. With Steve Coppell at the club already it could be a perfect partnership and he has a good record in League 2.

The board have a big decision to make, do they leave it until the end of the season and hope that Brewster is good enough to get them promoted or do they give the job to someone else and hope that they come in and give the squad a little boost. However, it is a very good position to come into a club, the team are near the top of the league and the players should be very confident