Who will win League 1?

Sheffield United unfortunately lost the playoff final last year on penalties against Huddersfield Town and are now facing a second season in League 1. But the team from Yorkshire are the favourites to win promotion and this is a very real possibility as they should really have gone up automatically last year but were just beaten to second place by neighbours Sheffield Wednesday. However, they were beaten yet again on penalties by Burton Albion in the Capital One Cup which will have surely damaged a bit of confidence in the camp. So far they have largely kept the same team as last year so will be very competitive and are rightly the favourites.

 

The nearly men of the division MK Dons will be hoping that this is their year and definitely won’t want to go through playoff heartache again. The play the best football in the league and love to pass the ball and Karl Robinson has to be given a lot of credit for that but at times they do seem to lack another option which cost them at times. The signing of Ryan Lowe could be crucial as he is a very good finisher and even though things didn’t quite go right for him at Sheffield Wednesday, I think he will suit his new clubs style of play.

Newly promoted Swindon Town are also considered one of the leading clubs in the division this year and with Paolo Di Canio in charge anything can happen there as he always demands the best from his players and his methods even though they can be slightly unorthodox seem to be doing the trick. The signing of James Collins and Andy Williams could prove to be a stroke of genius as they were brilliant defensively last year but didn’t have that striker to get 20 goals which they will need to get promoted from this league.

Bournemouth under Paul Groves could be considered contenders because they have a decent squad but I am still slightly surprised that so many teams are backing them because they don’t have a striker that has really scored a lot of goals in League 1 and their top scorer last year was Marc Pugh who got 12 goals. The team maybe didn’t quite live up to their chairman’s expectations last year so he will be wanting to see an improvement this time around.

Relegated Coventry City seem to have the best chance of all the teams that came down from the Championship last year to return at the first time of asking and this is definitely a make or break season for manager Andy Thorn who had to work with a lot of young players last year. Maybe they were always doomed because of this but Thorn definitely needs to put up a challenge if he wants to keep his job. They have signed a few decent players this summer, some with experience in Kevin Kilbane and others that had been tipped for big things like John Fleck so if they can get the right blend then the good times could return.

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Who will be relegated from League 1?

League 1 may not have the likes of Charlton Athletic, Sheffield Wednesday or Huddersfield Town anymore but there are still some big teams with big budgets in the division and this makes it very hard for the promoted teams and those with lower budgets to have a good season.

But it is definitely one of the relegated teams from the Championship that are the favourites to go down. Portsmouth are in a lot of trouble and are barely still alive as a club never mind one that is in the third tier of English football. Who knows what their starting 11 will be at the start of the season and how many of them have any experience whatsoever. Manager Michael Appleton has the potential to be a good manager and will obviously come out of this with credit but he is fighting a losing battle.

Next are a team that have just been promoted to the league and that is Shrewsbury Town who have had an interesting summer with a few key players departing in particular one of their strikers James Collins who may have scored the goals to keep them up. So they will have to hope that Marvin Morgan, Terry Gornell and Ryan Doble can do the business in League 1. They have possibly their toughest fixture of the season first which is Sheffield United away so at least that will be out of the way early.

Walsall have been in League 1 for a number of years now and seem to be one of the clubs that will always finish towards the bottom half of the table but avoid relegation and it could be the same yet again. Their top two scorers from last years, Jon Macken and Alex Nicholls have left the club and they weren’t exactly prolific themselves so it is easy to see where they need improving and hopefully their 1-0 win over Brentford in the Capital One Cup will give them the confidence to go on and compete for a place higher up in the table.

Yeovil are another club that seemed to be struggling at the moment and may have a long season in front of them especially as they have lost their main man from last year, Andy Williams, who scored 16 goals in 35 league games but decided to join league newcomers Swindon Town. They have brought in James Hayter and Reuben Reid who I think can score goals at this level so if they remain solid at the back it will be another season in League 1 for them.

A surprising team that are tipped for relegation are Carlisle United because at times last year they looked good and were playing some decent stuff under Greg Abbott but they are another team that has lost one of their better players in Francois Zoko. They still look like they have a good enough side though and should be considered an outside tip for promotion through the playoffs because they have Frank Simek, Jon-Paul McGovern, Matty Robson and Lee Miller (if he can stay fit).

Four teams get relegated from League 1 so obviously there are more contenders but I see these with the exception of Carlisle to be the ones that struggle the most and are in a relegation battle come the end of the season.

Shrewsbury Town are promoted to League 1

Shrewsbury Town will be playing in League 1 next year despite a final day 3-1 defeat by AFC Wimbledon but that won’t stop the fans celebrating a fantastic season.

Shrewsbury Town will be proud of their season and finished with 88 points

Graham Turner had just won the April manager of the month award and would have been hoping to end the season on a high but it wasn’t to be and he will be looking forward to competing in a higher division next year. He will be proud of his team’s home record this year as they have gone unbeaten and won 18 of their 23 games while only conceding 12 goals. It was their home form that has got them promoted with their away form being slightly inconsistent, only winning eight games and losing 10 of them so if they want to succeed next year and avoid relegation they will need to improve on this, although if they win eight games away from home next year I would expect them to stay up.

But onto the players and they need all the experience they can get as moving up a division is never easy and there could be some strong teams in League 1 next year although the club will be happy that both Charlton Athletic and Sheffield Wednesday got promoted. Maybe the fans and players were hoping they would not as they would love to visit those stadiums. But they do have players that have been there and done it before like defender Shane Cansdell-Sheriff who came through the Leeds United academy and went on to play for Tranmere Rovers for a couple of seasons. He has played 36 of their league games this season and his versatility could be very important next season with him able to play at both left back and centre back. Also three goals from him this season have been an added bonus.

Midfielder Nicky Wroe has impressed me whenever I have seen him play this season and I remember him coming through at Barnsley where I thought he would become a mainstay of their side for many years to come especially after playing 35 times for them in the 2004-05 season. But unfortunately it didn’t quite work out for him, so now the 26 year old is working his way back up the leagues and scored four goals in his 37 appearances this season. He can grab a goal from midfield and he may be slightly disappointed with his return but if he gets the chance next season I think he will get a few more goals.

The top scorer James Collins will be looking forward to next season as he has proved that sometimes leaving a Premier League side, in Aston Villa, where he was never going to get a chance and joining a team in the Football League can really kick start your career. He has impressed this season and will be hoping to build on his growing reputation next year and show even more teams they should have took a risk on him.

It will be difficult for Shrewsbury next year but they have the foundations of a good squad as I haven’t even given a mention to winger Mark Wright who can grab goals from the midfield and also Matt Richards who is too good for League 2. Also adding the firepower of Marvin Morgan there is a real chance they will surprise a few teams next season and they have the experience of Graham Turner in charge and he will not allow his team to give up without a fight and will make them battle for every point.

Gabriel Agbonlahor named new Aston Villa captain

Gabriel Agbonlahor has been named the new Aston Villa captain after the news that Stiliyan Petrov was diagnosed with acute leukaemia.

 

Gabriel Agbonlahor has scored over 50 goals for Aston Villa

Everyone will be hoping that he makes a full recovery and he can play football again whether it be next season or even the season after. It would be fantastic to see him leading out the team again at Villa Park but for now the club has to look at securing their place in the Premier League. They had to name a new captain and Agbonlahor was a very good candidate. Although they could have went for James Collins or Shay Given who have a little more experience, they decided that Gabby’s love for the club would be the better option.

So let’s have a look at Agbonlahor’s career and see if he has the potential to lead out the team and be a good captain. He made his Premier League debut at the age of 19 against Everton and scored in the game, unfortunately the team went on to lose 4-1 but he showed enough potential and ability to the Villa fans that he was a promising player and will be very good in the future. He did have two loan spells before this at Watford and Sheffield Wednesday where he didn’t make much of an impact.

In his first full season in the first team he played 42 games scoring 10 goals after new manager Martin O’Neill decided he would be in his first team plans. Starting O’Neill’s first game in charge away to Arsenal on the right wing where he played much of the season which just shows the versatility of the player and how he is willing to play in any position the manager tells him to. He is equally effective in both, with clever movement and frightening pace, he is always on the mind of opposition defenders.

In the following three seasons, he played over 40 games yet again scoring over 10 goals in each which is quite impressive as at times his goal scoring record has been overlooked by pundits and fans alike as well as England managers. Three years in a row he scored over 10 goals in the Premier League (11,11,13) so to me he has proven his worth to Villa and should have more England caps than he currently has. He only has three caps for his country.

Last season was one of his worst but that may have been down to the fact that played less games than usual, only contributing five goals. But the season wasn’t the greatest for the club with O’Neill resigning and them having a pretty bad start to the season especially away from home where they were beaten 6-0 by Newcastle. The squad seemed very unhappy under Gerard Houllier and Gary McAllister which may have been another reason why he personally underperformed.

This season, started very brightly for him putting in some fantastic performances and scoring and creating chances for his team mates. Now he has played over 250 times for the club and putting him for eighth in the all time Premier League appearance list for Aston Villa.

He may not have as much experience as some other players in the squad but he has definitely played a lot of games for a 25 year old and at the same club which means he knows it inside and out therefore he is a great choice for captain.

Shrewsbury Town heading for promotion

To win the league or gain promotion a team has to keep winning games when they don’t play at their best and this is exactly what Shrewsbury Town did against Crawley Town.

They were under severe pressure for most of the game especially in the first half and even in the second when they were more in the game, they only had 40% of the possession. They scored two goals from only three shots on target which shows that they have the quality upfront to punish teams even when they are underperforming.

Graham Turner proved yet again that he is one of the best managers in the division as his half time substitutes were exactly what his team needed and Marvin Morgan scored the winner after some battling work from Jermaine Grandison. Grandison won the ball and played through Morgan who cooly slotted it past the advancing keeper. Turner, realised he had to change things as his team were under a lot of pressure however his team had just equalised through Mark Wright before halftime and this may have made some managers change their team talk and give the players on the pitch another 15 minutes to change their performance. But, he stuck to his guns and this proved decisive as they went on to win the game.

I was really impressed with Shrewsbury and they had some standout performances all over the pitch. Goalkeeper Chris Neal pulled off some brilliant saves including a fantastic reaction stop from Sanchez Watt. He did keep them in the game at times and couldn’t really do much about the goal as it was a very good finish from John Akinde but he definitely deserves a lot of praise for his performance. Ian Sharps, at the back also impressed me and his experience could prove vital if the team are to get promoted this season. He led the defence well and was rarely beaten in the air and although he may not be the quickest his positioning was usually perfect which gave him a few yards so he did not get outrun by the fast forward line of Crawley.

I really like Mark Wright on the wing for Shrewsbury as well because he has the pace and directness to frighten defenders and isn’t afraid to try a trick. Also his goal scoring rate is really impressive for a winger and he must contribute to a lot of goals with assists too. It is quite rare to find a winger that will add a substantial amount of goals but in Wright they definitely have a constant threat. Matt Richards caught my eye too and I am surprised he is playing in League 2 as he looked like he had a lot of potential when he was a youngster at Ipswich Town. He plays the game simple and keeps the ball very well for his team. When the team were under pressure he used his experience to slow the tempo down and dictate the game.

Now the strikers is where Shrewsbury really show their quality as in my opinion they have three strikers that will score goals in this division. James Collins looks like a goal scorer who will get a lot from inside the box and quite a few of them with his head. Terry Gornell who did not have the best of games in fairness is usually a very clever striker and will perform better than this and will score a lot more goals for the club. Finally, they have Marvin Morgan who is very tall but this isn’t why he is a good striker, it is his ability with the ball at his feet and his turn of pace. He also showed that he can finish when the opportunity comes along.

Shrewsbury are a good bet for promotion and I for one will not be backing against them because they have quality all over the pitch and a manager that deserves some more success in his long career.