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 be Burnley’s next manager?

Burnley may not have had the greatest starts to the season but they probably didn’t think they would need a new manager at this stage.

Eddie Howe, left the club for a team in a lower division and this may be quite hard for some fans to take, as surely there is more potential in a Championship side than there is in a League 1 side. But, if the reports are correct, then he left for personal reasons and nobody can really stand in his way if these are true because he wouldn’t have been able to perform to the best of his abilities if he wasn’t happy. So, they have to now look to the future and if they can keep hold of Charlie Austin then they have a good chance of getting in the playoffs this season, if they appoint the right man because someone that has already scored 15 goals should be in a team competing near the top of the table. It wasn’t too long ago that they were in the Premier League and they will have hoped that Eddie Howe was building towards taking them back there, but, in my opinion, it never looked likely under him. The big question is who will they appoint?

The favourite for the job is, Michael Appleton. I do understand why they would be looking at him, but the fans may not be overly enthusiastic about this appointment because he does have limited experience and even though he is performing fantastically at Portsmouth, is he really a promotion manager? Or, is he just overachieving because of the adversity he is facing at his current club? I think he will stay at Fratton Park a while longer but who knows maybe he will want a secure future and he is more likely to get that at Burnley.

Former player, Graham Alexander, is also heavily linked with the job, but yet again he does lack managerial experience and is this really the right option in the Championship? It worked out for Chris Hughton at Newcastle United, but was this a one-off? One thing that Alexander does have is the fact that his playing career was phenomenal, with him playing over 1000 games and so should get the respect of the players straight from the off. It hasn’t bothered the fans before that he has such an affiliation with rivals Preston North End, so I don’t see it being a problem if they bring him in as manager.

Finally, and the one most likely in my opinion, is Mick McCarthy. Yes, he has been linked with every Championship job available since he got sacked as manager of Wolves but Burnley are the first team in public that have confirmed their interest in the former Republic of Ireland manager. He has a good record in the Championship and has got teams promoted in the past, so even though he may not play the best football, it is effective and he has proven methods that work in the Championship and that is exactly what Burnley need right now.

Graham Alexander retires from football

Graham Alexander has retired from professional football after a fantastic career which has seen him play for four different clubs as well as represent his country.

Alexander took penalties with the outside of his foot which is quite unorthodox

Alexander also became only the second outfield player to play over 1000 professional games during his career. For every club he played for he played a minimum of 150 league games which just shows how brilliant and consistent he has been since his debut for Scunthorpe United in the 1990-91 season. Remarkably, in the very next season he became a first team regular and was virtually an ever present for the team for the next four seasons. Even though he was usually deployed as a right back or a holding midfielder he could also score goals and in his 159 league games he got 18 goals.

Luton Town was the next club he signed for and continued to play in most games for them too. His £100,000 price tag did not faze him and there was no doubting his commitment for the cause with him playing 152 league games and added 15 goals to his career tally. Although his first season ended in relegation he stayed with the club in the old Second Division and played over 50 games for the first time in his career, the first year they were down in the Second Division.

Unfortunately for him and the club he could not help them get promoted and joined Preston North End in the 1998-99 season. In his second season at the club he helped the club gain promotion to Division One after scoring 10 goals in 58 appearances. It is not very often you get a player that can score that amount of goals from the positions he played for the club. After securing Preston’s place in the league for a number of years, he was appointed club captain and was taking all of their set pieces including penalties which accounted for many of his goals. During his eight years he did not suffer many injuries and was able to play in most of the games and was one of the first names on the team sheet. He made exactly 400 appearances for the club and was named in the PFA Championship’s Team of the Year in the 2004-05.

But he did eventually leave the club for rivals Burnley which was seen as slightly controversial and a little strange after he had turned them down earlier in his career. The transfer was completed for £200,000 so Preston could not really complain after all the years of service he had given them. At the age of 37 he gained promotion to the Premier League for the first time in his career and played in an amazing 61 games in all competitions that season and in the next season became the oldest player to make his Premier League debut. In his only season in the Premier League he scored seven goals in 33 games and was one of their better players in a season which ultimately ended in relegation. For Burnley, he played in his 1000th professional game when he came on as a sub in a game against Swansea City.

He left Burnley and returned to Preston North End where he has ended his career. To make it even more special in his very last game in his career he scored against Charlton Athletic which both supporters applauded.

It was a fantastic career and he will be proud of every moment of it and I am sure the fans will have some wonderful memories of his time at their club. Alexander will also be proud of his 40 international caps for Scotland and his only disappointed will be that he didn’t score for his country.