Who will be Stevenage’s next manager?

Stevenage are looking for a new manager after Gary Smith was sacked after failing to challenge for promotion this season.

After a run of 14 losses in 18 games the board obviously felt the club were going backwards and did not want to fall any further down the table. The latest defeat a 2-0 loss to Bury must have been tough to take because Bury are struggling and will probably get relegated this season. But, Smith may feel hard done by as they had just beaten Sheffield United 4-0 at home at the weekend, so at least he will be happy with that performance and gave the fans one last thing to cheer while he was in charge. They are currently 15th in the table and personally I do not think that is bad for a team like Stevenage who have only been back in the Football League for a few years and maybe the board’s ambitions are set too high at the moment. They obviously feel that promotion was a realistic target again this season and they need someone in that can get them back up there next season, however it is a tough league and it will not be easy as the teams dropping from the Championship this season will have a lot of quality.

The favourite for the job is Graham Westley and if he did get the job then it would be a third spell in charge for him. He may not be the most likeable manager and the way his team play may not be the most eye catching but he does have a fantastic record at Stevenage and if he can work his magic again then they will always be in with a chance next season. His time at Preston was very poor but sometimes it just doesn’t work for you at a club and that could be the case here.
Graham Westley
Since leaving Luton Town, Paul Buckle has been linked with quite a few jobs and I still find it strange because he was doing ok with them but it still seemed like they were going to fall short and not get promoted so why should he get a job in a higher division? But, he has had some good times as a manager and maybe somewhere like Stevenage would be good for him and he could do a decent job. However, I don’t think this will be likely but I wouldn’t be surprised if he accepted it, if it was on offer.
Paul Buckle
Finally, and possibly even stranger than Buckle, Gary Waddock has been linked with the job and it is a surprise because he has been out of management since leaving Wycombe Wanderers in 2012. It wasn’t a good end for him there either, with the club in 21st place in League 2 they may have suffered another relegation under him. The one positive is that he does have a promotion on his CV and that could certainly work in his favour.
Gary waddock
Others linked with the role are Iain Dowie, Peter Taylor and Paul Dickov.

Who will win the League 1 playoffs?

League 1 playoffs could be the most exciting they have been in a number of years as I cannot see an outsider out of Sheffield United, Huddersfield Town, MK Dons and Stevenage.

Sheffield United will play away to Stevenage in the first leg while Huddersfield travel to MK Dons. So will the club from Sheffield be able to get their season back on track after losing out to Sheffield rivals Wednesday in the race for the automatic spots. Or will Stevenage continue their good form under Gary Smith? Can Huddersfield go one better than last year and win in the playoff final? Or will MK Dons passing style be good enough to get them into the Championship.

Sheffield United finished in third place an therefore you would think that they would be favourites but with everything that has gone in recent weeks will get their fans worried and they may not be as confident as they should be. With them running out of strikers with James Beattie the latest to get sent off they may struggle to get the goals needed to win the semi final and then the final. But they do have experience in their squad and should be able to deal with the pressure, the fans will also play an important part as Bramall Lane can be a difficult place to go when the fans are fully behind the team. A key player to watch is Lee Williamson who can get goals from the midfield and will cause problems for the Stevenage defence, he has scored 13 goals this season which is a good return for a midfielder and is the top scorer in the squad currently.

Huddersfield Town now with Simon Grayson in charge have been slightly inconsistent since he took over from Lee Clark but he has managed to guide them to the playoffs. He does have history of being in the League 1 playoffs and has won it on one occasion with Blackpool in the 2006-07 season but unfortunately has lost a playoff when in charge of Leeds United.  So the key player for Huddersfield in my opinion will no doubt be Jordan Rhodes who has got 38 goals this season and if they can keep him fit for the playoffs they will score goals but one worry is that there will be too much pressure on him and he may not be able to perform as well as we all know he can.

MK Dons go into the playoffs on the back of a 1-0 home defeat but this shouldn’t make them feel any less confident as they were already comfortably in the playoffs. Karl Robinson deserves a lot of praise for what he has done at the club and has made his team play good football. He likes his side to keep possession and no matter what happens he wants his team to keep the ball on the floor which is very rare in League 1. A key player could be Dean Lewington and although this may strange because he is a left back, he can be very influential and has played 53 games and added four goals this season. He has a good left foot and is a very solid defender for the club.

Stevenage secured their place in the playoffs on the last day of the season with a 3-0 win over Bury. The club may have been criticised by some fans because of their direct tactics but they are only getting criticised because it is working for them and it is very difficult to stop. The recent 2-2 draw away to Sheffield United will give them confidence to go there and take the game to the Blades and they have a very good home record so they have a really good chance. Also beating off the competition to secure their place in the playoffs will give their players a massive lift. Scott Laird will be vital for the team during the playoffs and he is actually the second top scorer for the club with nine goals this season. He has very good delivery and sets up a lot of goals for his teammates.

I think Stevenage will beat Sheffield United over the two legs because they will be very confident and it will be hard for Danny Wilson to pick up his players for the two games and Stevenage will put a lot of pressure on their defence. If United ‘s defence can stay strong they may have a chance but I don’t think they will. In the other semi final, I think MK Dons passing game will be good enough to beat Huddersfield as they are too over reliant on Jordan Rhodes at times and if he struggles they will most likely lose. The final will be a game of two differing styles of football and I think because of that Stevenage will come out on top and achieve their third promotion in three seasons.

Stevenage on the promotion charge

I have been really impressed with Stevenage this season as they have been the surprise package in League 1 and could force themselves into the playoffs.

They gave Tottenham a real fright in the FA Cup actually taking the lead at White Hart Lane after earning a replay against them. Their league form has suffered slightly since the first game but still they have had a fantastic season and if they do end up in the playoffs they know they can give the bigger names in the division a really good game as results have proven this season. They are currently three points behind Notts County in sixth place but remarkably they have three games in hand so if they take full advantage they will comfortably overtake them.

Some people have criticised the way they play football because it is a lot of long balls but that is a harsh assessment of the team because they have some very good footballers especially in the midfield. They have also just confirmed the signing of Patrick Agyemang which could be a brilliant signing as he has fantastic ability with the ball at his feet and therefore will not want balls lumped up to him. If he produces to the standard he is capable then Stevenage have a really good player on their hands and could be the difference between winning the playoffs and just competing in them.

The only worry for the team is that they don’t have an out and out goal scorer but Agyemang may be able to change this. Currently their top scorer only has nine goals. However, Chris Beardsley adds so much to the game than just putting the ball in the back of the net and those nine goals could prove vital at the end of the season. He has fantastic work rate and holds up the ball fantastically, he knows he has to challenge for every ball and every defender who he has come up against leaves the field knowing they have been in a battle.

They do have some talent in their side and Scott Laird is one of them, he has now played over 200 games for the club and he has been very consistent for the team and might be attracting interest from clubs in the Championship. He has looked very composed at the back and rarely makes a mistake but it is also his attacking threat that makes him vital to the squad. He has seven goals this season and recently scored the winner away to Sheffield Wednesday.

Gary Smith hopes to lead Stevenage into the playoffs

It has not been an easy season for the club with former manager Graham Westley leaving after four years in charge and two promotions. He was replaced by Gary Smith who is adapting quite well to his first role in England and I’m sure will improve as time goes on. If they make the playoffs they are as dangerous as anyone and if I was another team in them I wouldn’t want to play them.