92 clubs favourite players – Crystal Palace – Dwight Gayle

Crystal Palace are back in the Premier League and they will be hoping to last longer than they did the last time and under Ian Holloway they should be entertaining.

The player I have chosen as my favourite is someone that a lot of people will have heard a lot about because he certainly has an incredible story and one that will be mentioned basically every time he is on the pitch. Dwight Gayle has had an incredible rise and for someone that was playing in League 2 at the start of the last season probably did not think he would start a league game at Old Trafford this season.

At Dagenham and Redbridge last season he started impressively and was probably just happy to be a player in the Football League. He scored seven times in 18 league games and even though he was only their for half a season, the goals he scored and points he gained for the club arguably kept them in League 2. John Still was the manager at the time and he was very good at picking up talent from non league football and turning them into good footballers, he certainly helped a lot in his development and I’m sure will be proud.

He then decided to move on and joined Darren Ferguson’s Peterborough United where he got better and better and was soon getting more headlines for his performances. I personally felt that this was a great move for him because like Still, Ferguson has been able to pick up players, particularly strikers and make them better and then eventually make a profit on them when they finally leave. But I don’t think even Ferguson expected him to get a move to the Premier League and because they got relegated to League 1 at the end of the season he probably felt he could not stand in his way even if he does eventually end up just playing Championship football next season. Gayle did try his best to keep Peterborough up and 13 goals in 29 games proves that he certainly is good enough for that level but the big question is whether he can make the step up once more.
Gayle
I do feel that he will end up back in the Championship and Crystal Palace overspent on him but he will give them a great opportunity to get promoted at the first time of asking. I was very happy to see him get first goal in the Premier League against Sunderland and even though it was only a penalty he had to put it away and with it being such a crucial moment in the match it showed me that he has the mental strength to be able to compete at the top level.

Ian Holloway will hopefully get the best out of him and let him express himself but he has been criticised so far by how he is playing him because he is getting pushed out wide a little more than he would want and maybe that is why he hasn’t quite had the chances to prove his worth but I do hope he manages to get double figures in the Premier League.

Who will be relegated from League 1?

Four teams get relegated from League 1 and that makes it just a little bit harder to avoid the drop and drags more teams into it.

This can lead to a lot of nerves towards the end of the season and a good start to the season is essential just to get a lot of points on the board.

Shrewsbury Town are the favourites to get relegated and it is hard to argue against that because they are not the biggest club and their budget will be the best. I was surprised to see a few of their players leave but maybe it was down to financial reasons. Players like Marvin Morgan, Mark Wright and Matt Richards have all been good players during their time at the club but they have gone now and they have to look to the future. Tamika Mkandawire is a decent enough signing and will hopefully make them stronger at the back.

Colchester United seem to be struggling at the moment and I just feel that this could their year to go down, Joe Dunne has done an ok job but he could be fighting a losing battle this year. Signing former Arsenal youngsters Sanchez Watt and Craig Eastmond is a good start to recruiting players to keep them up butI doubt we will see much more movement from them. Ryan Dickson at left back could also be a good signing but he has not played regularly for a while.

Greg Abbott is in a similar position at Carlisle United and just staying up will be a great achievement for him and his team. I am really not convinced by his signings so far in Lewis Guy who works hard and is versatile but he does seem to lack that final ball. David Amoo is a similar player, someone that just has not been able to really take a chance anywhere he has been but he is only 22 and this could be the club for him. Keeping Lee Miller could be the best bit of business they have done for a long time.

I am a little surprised that Stevenage are one of the favourites to relegated because under Graham Westley they play effective football although it is not pretty it certainly does get the job done. They have lost one of their best defenders in Mark Roberts and midfielders in Anthony Grant so maybe it will not be easy for the returning manager. Jimmy Smith as a youngster had a lot of potential but has not quite lived up to it but maybe under Westley he will be successful. Oumare Tankara is a bit of a wildcard and that could work to Stevenage’s advantage.

I do like that Oldham Athletic have given a young manager an opportunity in Lee Johnson but I do fear for them this season. They were more known for their FA Cup exploits last year than their league form which will be a concern for the new manager because staying in League 1 is very important to this club. The signings he has made do seem to have potential, like Mark Oxley in goal and Charlie MacDonald and Adam Rooney as their new strike force. They could have a lot of goals in their team and with James Drayton also joining they have someone that can try and create chances for the forwards.

Out of these five teams I do think Stevenage have the best chance of staying up.

Who will win League 1?

League 1 ended in spectacular fashion last year and hopefully this year will have an equal amount of excitement.

There are once again some very big teams in the division and it is tough to call as they do not always adjust to the league as quickly as they should. Sometimes it is the littler teams that triumph and end up in the promotion picture, just look at Yeovil Town last year, who would have bet on them at the start of the season.

Wolves are the clear favourites to win the title and they should challenge because they have suffered two consecutive relegations and still actually have some Premier League players in their squad. I like new manager Kenny Jackett he has come in and it seems like he got rid of the negative vibes around the club and will be successful. So far he has not had the opportunity to sign many players but Sam Ricketts at the back could be crucial and the returning Leigh Griffiths will surely score a lot of goals.

Another relegated team are also one of the favourites and this one is not surprising as Peterborough United have been in this situation before and returned to the Championship swiftly. However it has not been as champions so it makes me think that second place or the playoffs may be their best bet. They haven’t signed many players either but they were very unfortunate to get relegated on the final day so why change anything? Dwight Gayle has left for Crystal Palace and they will need to replace his goals.

Brentford were probably the most unlucky team in League 1 last season and in all honesty should already be in the Championship so it is no surprise to see them as one of the favourites. Manager Uwe Rosler really wants promotion this season and the players he has brought in should help them achieve that. Loan signing Ben Nugent should be good enough for League 1 and striker Will Grigg showed that he knows where the back of the net is for Walsall last season. I also think the signing of experienced player Alan McCormack is very good and he may not get the headlines but is always reliable.

The final relegated team Bristol City cannot be discarded either though because Sean O’Driscoll is a great manager and he should never have to drop down to League 1 to have a job in my eyes. He should still be manager of Nottingham Forest really. But he is at City and he has a tough job, he lost two of his best strikers In Jon Stead and Steve Davies and will be hoping that some of his signings can step up like Jay Emmanuel Thomas and Marlon Harewood. I also think that Marlon Pack and Scott Wagstaff are great signings and they will be brilliant under O’Driscoll who likes to play football the right way.

The final pick is Sheffield United but I am a little unsure about them as their new manager David Weir has no experience of being a league manager and they really needed someone that knew the league and how to get out of it in my opinion. But saying that they still do have a great chance of winning the league as they have not lost anyone from last season’s squad that should be in their starting 11 and bringing in players like Febian Brandy and Stephen McGinn are positive moves. Weir will also have a lot of contacts so they may use the loan market very well this year.

It is tough to back against Wolves but I just feel that it could be Bristol City that take the title.

Who will be the top goalscorer in League 2?

Finishing top scorer in any division would be a very good achievement and for the players in League 2 their goals could get their team promoted.

It is always difficult to predict who is going to finish top scorer because it is impossible to predict what injuries will occur and whether players will be able to maintain their form for a whole season but it can always be fun to try and choose.

The first player that caught my eye is the Portsmouth striker David Connolly because he has a lot of experience and knows where the back of the net is. I think Portsmouth will be the team to beat in League 2 and he will get a lot of chances to score so as long as he manages to be first choice then he will definitely be a contender. Seven goals in 17 games was not a bad return for the 36 year old in the league above so he should be confident this season.
David Connolly
Fellow Portsmouth striker Tom Craddock may also be in the running for exactly the same reasons. Portsmouth are expected to challenge and this is because they have a talented strike force and will cause everyone in the division problems. At Oxford United he had a pretty good record although not as prolific as he would have liked he still showed his potential and 10 in 32 league games last year is not a bad return but I am expecting a lot better this season.
Tom Craddock
Deon Burton is another experienced striker that knows where the back of the net is and he will probably feel a little disappointed that he is not playing in League 1 next season because he helped Gillingham to promotion by scoring 11 times in 37 games. Burton has nearly 150 career goals and I am certain he will surpass that mark comfortably next season as he has had success before under manager Brian Laws.
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Chesterfield’s new signing Eoin Doyle will be hoping to make a positive impression in England after signing from Hibernian in the summer. I haven’t actually seen Doyle play that much but he did reach double figures in the SPL last season in a team that struggled for long periods so he obviously can be a threat to League 2 defences. His time at Sligo Rovers was successful and if he can get close to his tally of 25 in his last season at the club then he will be near the top of the scoring charts.
Eoin Doyle
My final choice is yet another older professional but I just think experience could be more vital than ever in the Football League this season. Jamie Cureton is a goal scorer and has proved it time and time again throughout his career and had another phenomenal season last year with Exeter City and I think he will do even better at Cheltenham Town with them being one of the most consistent teams in the division. They will be a good shout for the playoffs and if Cureton is on form then they could even finish in the top three this year.
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I think Jamie Cureton will finish as top scorer this year with Tom Craddock not too far behind.

Who will be relegated from League 2?

Relegation from League 2 can be tough and we have seen over the years that it can be difficult to come back from.

There are only two teams that get relegated and it is usually a close run thing so it is always tough to take and can cripple a club financially.

The favourites to be relegated are Morecambe and this is no surprise really because they usually have one of the smallest budgets in the league and in Jim Bentley they do not have an experienced manager that knows how to change things if they are going wrong. I like Bentley and think he could become a decent manager in the future but it would not surprise me if he was the first to be sacked this season if things are going badly.
Morecambe
Accrington are another team that will always be tipped for relegation simply because of the size of the club. They are still probably remembered more for the famous quote ‘Accrington Stanley? Who are they?’ than their actual football team. They have brought in Danny Webber who should score goals in League 2 if he gets the chances but they also have an inexperienced manager in James Beattie and I am happy he got the chance but just avoiding relegation would be a great achievement.
Accrington
Dagenham and Redbridge narrowly avoided the drop last year and it will be another year of struggle in my opinion. They do not have John Still anymore who I believe got the best out of their players and although Wayne Burnett did keep them up last season it will be even tougher this year and there is a lot of pressure on former Arsenal youngster Rhys Murphy to score the goals that keeps them up.
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Wimbledon, another team that had a very nervous end to the season will not be hoping for a repeat but I do think that they will be closer to the bottom of the table than even midtable. They are a very likeable club and Neal Ardley did well last year as manager but it might just be too much this season and the signings they have made are not that exciting but they are consistent and maybe this will be good enough. Barry Fuller was very highly rated until his recent injury problems so hopefully he can get over them and Andy Frampton is another that is experienced at this level and will not let the side down too often.
Wimbledon
The final team that could be relegated in my opinion are Newport County. They have just been promoted and will be hoping that the confidence and momentum will be enough to keep them up but I think they will struggle. Yet again I do think they have made some good signings in Harry Worley and Chris Zebroski but it is their first season in League 2 and it may be a lot tougher than some of them are expecting and they will have to show a lot of commitment and energy to survive the drop.
Newport
The two that I think will go down are Newport County and Dagenham and Redbridge

Who will win League 2?

League 2 is getting underway soon and it is a good time to look at who is going to win the league as it should be a very competitive division.

It is always a strange league because sometimes teams that have come straight from the Blue Square Premier League can carry on their form and go straight up again and quite often teams that get relegated into struggle initially.

The favourites to win the league are Portsmouth and it is obvious why. They are building a good squad and for the first time in a long while they have sorted themselves out off the field and the fans are very happy resulting in more season tickets being sold. They are bringing in the right sort of players that will get them out of the division at the first time of asking and I believe Simon Ferry could be the best player in the league next season. It is the striking department that really impresses me with Patrick Agyemang and Tom Craddock able to score goals at this level.
Portsmouth
Fleetwood Town are another team that I think will challenge and I think will get at least the playoffs this season and they have invested wisely in their squad this summer. Defenders like Ryan Cresswell and Mark Roberts will certainly make them stronger at the back and I really like the signing of Steven Schumacher as he proved last season that he can score goals at a higher level and will be a threat running from deeper positions. The only worry I do have about them is that manager Graham Alexander does have limited experience as a manager but he more than makes up for it when looking at his playing career.
Fleetwood
Another team that I think could have a great season is Chesterfield because they do have a lot of potential in their squad and although they have lost their regular scorer over the years Jack Lester they should still have enough quality upfront to compete. Once again they have made some good signings, particularly in midfield with Jimmy Ryan coming in as well as the experienced Ritchie Humphreys and the winger Gary Roberts. They will have to hope that new striker Eoin Doyle recaptures his form from his Sligo Rovers days when he was managed by current Chesterfield manager Paul Cook.
Chesterfield
Bristol Rovers should not be overlooked this season as they finished last year very well under John Ward and will hoping to continue that kind of form in the early part of the new season. They haven’t changed the squad too much this summer and that could work in their advantage as the players will all be familiar with each other and with the addition of John-Joe O’Toole they have a player that should be at least in a League 1 midfield. Ward is a decent manager and it would not surprise me at all if they lifted the League 2 title at the end of the season.
Bristol rovers
The final pick is Scunthorpe United. They got relegated from League 1 last season and that would have hurt manager Brian Laws and he will be hoping to get the club promoted at the first time of asking. Laws has turned to players that he trusts and thinks will do well in this league. Deon Burton, Sean McCallister and Etienne Esajas all played for him at Sheffield Wednesday. Other players that he has signed have experience at a higher level and Chris Iwelumo could turn out to be a good goal scorer in this league. Andy Dawson also has Premier League experience and has a number of promotions under his belt so that will be vital.
Scunthorpe
I can’t look past Portsmouth but I think Scunthorpe will run them close.

Who will win the League 2 playoffs?

The League 2 playoffs will be very exciting this year and it is one of the toughest to call.

Burton Albion, Cheltenham Town, Northampton Town and Bradford City are all hoping to get through the semi finals and win the playoff final so they can be competing in League 1 next season. They will be hoping to join Gillingham, Rotherham United and Port Vale in getting promotion this year and now I will look at each team and give my verdict on who I think will go up. Each team could easily win it so it is quite difficult to choose.

Fourth place Burton Albion should be confident going into the playoffs as they were the closest to getting automatic promotion and have just beaten Gillingham 3-2. However, in recent weeks they did also lose 7-1 to Port Vale. I am surprised that they are actually in the playoffs because I expected them to struggle this season but they have proved me and many others wrong. One thing that has been impressive is the amount of goals they have scored, particularly at home. Jacques Maghoma has scored 15 league goals this year with Billy Kee and Calvin Zola also scoring double figures this year.

Next are another team that have a fantastic home record but for a completely different reason. Cheltenham may not score as many goals as their rivals but they certainly have a very good defensive record. They also have some good midfielders and I believe they have the ability to play at a much higher level. Marlon Pack is the standout player for me and has already played over 150 games in his club career even though he is only 22. Darren Carter and Jermaine McGlashan will also be key in these playoffs. The club are hoping to go one better than last year when they were beaten in the final.

Northampton Town are probably the most out of form team in the playoffs but that does not mean you can count them out. With a striker like Adebayo Akinfenwa they will also cause problems to any defence even though he is not in the greatest form himself. Getting a victory over Barnet on the final game of the season will also give the team confidence. They have a good manager in Aidy Boothroyd and I would like to see him managing higher up in the English leagues once again.

Bradford City will be hoping they can visit Wembley for the second time this season after getting to the League Cup Final earlier this year. Phil Parkinson has done a fantastic job and to get a promotion would be just a cap off an amazing season for the fans and the players. I do like their attacking players, especially Nahki Wells who has scored 18 goals in 39 league games. But they also have James Hanson who adds more than just goals to the side and he will be vital. I would like to see Bradford go up and get back to where they once were.

I think Bradford will beat Burton Albion and Cheltenham will beat Northampton in the semi finals. So the final will be against two teams that have lost at Wembley in the last year. But, I think this time Cheltenham will come out on top.

Portsmouth have been relegated to League 2

Portsmouth may have been relegated from League 1 but they probably have the happiest fans in the country right now.

It has been tough being a Pompey fan in the last couple of years (this is a massive understatement) but finally they will be able to start again and support the team that they love and hopefully they can get back to where they belong. The Pompey Supporters Trust now own the club and they will put the club first rather than any of their other owners recently and this has just lifted the whole club and with the 3-0 win over Sheffield United, the future looks bright for the club that many believed would go out of business.

One thing that does need sorting now though is the future of the caretaker manager Guy Whittingham and personally I believe he should be given the job as he has done remarkably well under the circumstances. The 48 year old who also had two spells at the club as a player has been in charge since November and although results haven’t always been the greatest he has at least kept up morale in the squad and seems to have got some players playing quite well at times.

It is unclear who will stay at the club over the summer but there are still a few that the fans will be hoping stay. One of those is Jed Wallace who has impressed me every time I have seen him and will get even better as he is only 19. Six goals in 21 league games is a good record for any midfielder in any division and if Portsmouth can keep hold of him, he could be crucial to the ambition of the team and whether they want to come straight back up from League 2. Johnny Ertl is another that has been quite impressive this season even when things haven’t been going well, he has always been committed and one that will definitely perform a lot better now that the future of the club is secured. Another player that has been quite impressive is the former Republic of Ireland striker David Connolly who has seven goals in 17 appearances which yet again is quite good. If he stays then the 35 year old could grab a few more important goals for the club.

The problem with assessing how well Portsmouth are going to do next season is that it is unclear what players are staying, what sort of budget the manager is going to receive and simply what their ambitions are? Maybe as it is their first season owned by the fans they will just want to consolidate and make sure they stay in the league and build from there. However, right now it must be an exciting time being a Portsmouth fan and how many clubs can say that after suffering yet another relegation in just a few short years. I am happy that Portsmouth have sorted out their problems because it doesn’t matter who you support nobody wants to see a club die.

Bury are relegated to League 2

Bury have been relegated from League 1 this season but there may be more problems on the way for the club.
Bury
Recently it was reported that they need another £1 million just to survive and this could be a real problem as it is a lot of money especially for a club that will be playing football in League 2 next season. They have only picked up 37 points from their 44 games this season but their victory over Scunthorpe United would have been a moral boosting performance for everyone involved with the club, most importantly the fans because they haven’t had much to shout about for a long time.

Their current manager is Kevin Blackwell and I was actually quite surprised when he took the job as I thought he might have been holding out for a job closer to the top of the league or even a lower positioned Championship club. It hasn’t all been his fault but only nine wins in 41 games is quite a poor record and maybe he owes it to the club to stay and try and get them promoted at the first time of asking. Blackwell has recently talked about Bury’s plight and does fear they could drop out of the Football League which isn’t the greatest thing to say but at least he is being honest with the supporters and letting them know how bad the situation is.
Kevin Blackwell
On the playing side of things obviously the players haven’t performed that well but there is still some good players at the club. Midfielder Stephen Schumacher is definitely someone that deserves praise as he has 10 goals this season which is a good haul but unfortunately he is their top scorer and that certainly isn’t good enough. So, you would have to point to the strikers and wonder what has happened this year, and there are some quite recognisable names in the squad with the most notable being David Healy. Healy has over 100 goals in club career and has 36 international goals so he clearly does have a lot of quality but it simply has not worked out for him and 1 goals in 19 appearances is very poor for someone that could have had the potential to have played at a much higher level. Craig Fagan is another player that during his career has played at a higher level and even though he may not have been prolific at any point, he should still have a better record than 1 goal in 10 games. Finally, Nicky Ajose is also at the club and unfortunately for him, he couldn’t recapture his form the last time he was at the club when he scored 13 goals in 28 games, this time only contributing 3 in 17.
David Healy
Obviously you cannot just blame the strikers as the midfielders haven’t chipped in and at the back at times they haven’t looked the greatest. It is going to be very tough for them now to get straight back up and may just want to concentrate on making sure the club stay alive.

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.