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.

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Who will be the top scorer in League 1?

League could have an interesting race for top goal scorer because there are some good players in the division that should be able to hit the back of the net often.

Going straight into it the clear favourite to win the golden boot in the division is Leigh Griffiths. He has come back to Wolves and not only will he have a point to prove he will also be very confident after getting 28 goals in 40 games for Hibernian last season. If he can get that many in the SPL you would think he could at least replicate it in League 1. But he does need the service and hopefully his teammates can support his efforts.

Clayton Donaldson has always been a good goal scorer throughout his career and although he has never quite got enough to be the top man this year could be different. He hit 24 goals in all competitions last year and with Brentford looking like they are going to be contenders again it would not be surprising if he surpassed that mark.

Bristol City striker Sam Baldock may have made some mistakes in choosing who he is going to sign for but he will be a very important player for the Robins. After a fairly poor spell at West Ham United where he suffered from too much competition and injuries he is hoping to find the form he had at MK Dons. In the Championship last season he got 9 in 24 games so he is definitely back in the groove and has remembered where the goal is once more.

Leon Clarke is another player that has made a few mistakes in his career and has not really lived up to his potential but he seems to have found somewhere that he is happy and confident. There may be problems currently at Coventry City but if he can do the business on the pitch then that will make the fans a little happier. At Scunthorpe he got 11 goals in 15 games and then followed that up with 10 goals in 14 games so if he has that goal scoring record over a full season then nobody will be able to stop him.

Another Brentford striker makes the list and it is their new signing Will Grigg. To me he is more of an outsider because looking at his career he has only had one prolific season and in his other years his record is not too great. But he is only 22 and maybe now he has developed and is starting to fulfil his potential. If him and Donaldson can get a good partnership going then it will be a profitable season for both players.

I think that Leigh Griffiths will finish top scorer but I think if Leon Clarke was at a club with a little more security then he would have got very close to him.

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 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.

Doncaster Rovers in the Championship

Doncaster Rovers are back in the Championship but will have to try and stay in the division with a new manager.
Doncaster Rovers
Paul Dickov was appointed over the summer and this was a very strange decision in my mind because he is not a very experienced manager and I felt that they needed someone that knew the league and exactly what was needed to avoid relegation. Dickov did have a good playing career where he played in the Premier League for a number of years and also got 10 international caps for Scotland so he will have a lot of knowledge but his time at Oldham Athletic as a manager was certainly nothing special and the FA Cup last season is the only reason why he may have even been given this opportunity. His team beat Liverpool but then he resigned shortly afterwards because of how poor they were doing in the league and this was in the division below the Championship so there has obviously been some negativity about his appointment. It will be very interesting to see if he can perform better at a higher level but I do not have high hopes for them next season and I would be very surprised if they did not finish towards the very bottom of the table.

That is not to say they have a terrible team because I do like quite a few of their players. Tommy Spurr is someone that I believe should never have been playing below the Championship in the first place and was linked with moves to the Premier League earlier in his career. James Husband is another player that I think is good enough for the Championship and with him only being 19 he will get even better and may even get a move to the Premier League in the future.

Spurr previously played for Sheffield Wednesday in the Championship

Spurr previously played for Sheffield Wednesday in the Championship


The standout midfielder from last season, particularly at the beginning of the campaign was David Cotterill. He will have to prove he can make the step up this time because he has had opportunities at Sheffield United and Swansea City in the past and hasn’t quite lived up to his potential. I am surprised that he is still only 25 because he seems to have been around for a very long time. James Coppinger is another that hasn’t quite lived up to his potential in the Championship but with him getting the goal on a remarkable last day of the season his confidence should be sky high and will be looking to make a very positive impression.
Cotterill has played over 250 times in his career

Cotterill has played over 250 times in his career


Scoring goals may be a problem for Doncaster next season because I do not think that Billy Paynter, Chris Brown and Iain Hume have enough goals between them to keep them in the league. I think they will need to buy a new striker to compliment one of these players because I do think any of these would be good enough to partner a prolific striker. Paynter and Brown both got into double figures last season but neither have scored many goals in the Championship throughout their careers.
Paynter has scored 109 goals in his career

Paynter has scored 109 goals in his career

Bristol City in League 1

Bristol City will be playing in League 1 next season after finishing bottom of the Championship and not even coming close to staying up.
Bristol City
Sean O’Driscoll was in charge for 20 games and although he lost 11 of them, he should not get much of the blame because they just simply were not good enough last season and they have been struggling for a number of years at the wrong end of the table so maybe it was time they got relegated. O’Driscoll has got one promotion from League 1 in his career with Doncaster Rovers and is a manager that I feel should be in the Championship so it will not surprise me if they return at the first time of asking. They have lost a few players that would have been good in League 1 and the club will feel they did not get the best out of some of these players like Jon Stead, who only scored five goals in 30 games last season. Cole Skuse is another that has left and he will be missed because he has a lot of experience and played over 300 games for the club. Another loss will be Tom Heaton who conceded a lot of goals but was still impressive.

O’Driscoll has moved quickly to bring in former Derby County and England Under 21 goalkeeper Frank Fielding to the club. This is a good signing and he will certainly be one of the best keepers in League 1 and I am surprised that he was not snapped up by a Championship team. Another new signing that will be vital is Aden Flint. Flint has been an important part of Swindon Town’s team in the last few years and is someone that they did not want to let go. Central defender Louis Carey who is closing in on Bristol City’s all time appearance record will need to be a rock at the back if they are to be successful.

Flint has played 128 career games

Flint has played 128 career games


Albert Adomah will probably leave the club in the near future so they will miss his pace and creativity but that is not to say they don’t still have some good midfielders. Marvin Elliott will be a very good player in League 1 and Paul Anderson is someone that at Nottingham Forest was an exciting player to watch when he got on the pitch and will need to produce a lot more quality next season.
Anderson played four time for England under 19s

Anderson played four times for England under 19s


Upfront they have Sam Baldock who last time he was in League 1 looked fantastic and earned himself a move to West Ham United. That move didn’t quite work out for him but he still managed five goals in 22 games which doesn’t seem great but he did have limited playing time and was never really given a fair chance. His strike partner will most likely be Steven Davies who scored 13 goals last season and will be expecting to get more next season in a lower division. They also have Ryan Taylor and his time at Bristol City has not been the greatest so far and will want to make up for his slow start next season.
Baldock has scored over 50 career league goals

Baldock has scored over 50 career league goals

Wolves in League 1

Wolves suffered their second relegation last season from the Championship and will now be hoping to stop the slump.
Wolves
To do this they have hired Kenny Jackett and this is a fantastic appointment and although I don’t think Dean Saunders was to blame fully for their relegation he should have never got the job in the first place. But I am much more confident that Wolves will finish towards the very top of the table next season under Jackett. He did a very good job at Millwall winning 130 games and during his time their winning promotion to the Championship through the playoffs. He may not be the biggest name or even the most adventurous appointment but he is exactly what Wolves need right now, a steady and consistent manager that may not excite the fans but he will certainly get the points on the board. I was surprised to see him leave his last job but sometimes managers do need a change and I really do hope it works out for both himself and Wolves. In my opinion it would not be a surprise if at the end of the coming season Millwall get relegated and Wolves get promoted.

Jackett does not have it easy because there are still a lot of players at the club that were there in the Premier League and they will be on high wages and need to leave the club. Karl Henry, Stephen Ward, Roger Johnson and Jamie O’Hara have all been transfer listed. Looking at the players that are still at the club and will stay they should still have a good defence with Danny Batth already experienced in League 1 after a loan spell with Sheffield Wednesday and new signing Sam Ricketts a capable player that can do a job in any of the four defensive positions.

Batth has only played 15 times for Wolves

Batth has only played 15 times for Wolves


The midfield is another story though and is looking a little light of experience so they will have to look towards David Davis who has played quite a lot but has maybe not quite shown his true potential. Anthony Forde is another that will have to play to his potential next season because there could be a reliance on him to create chances. He has played 31 times in his career and I would expect him to at least double that number next season. David Edwards will also be crucial to the team if as expected he stays at the club.
Davis has got 1 career goal in 87 games

Davis has got 1 career goal in 87 games


Next season Wolves could play with a young but exciting strike force with Leigh Griffiths coming back from his loan spell at Hibernian. Griffiths should be very confident after hitting 28 goals in 40 games last season. League 1 will be a different challenge but I think he could replicate this form and fire Wolves to promotion. He could be partnered by Jake Cassidy who has played in League 1 before at Tranmere Rovers and over two loan spells scored 16 league goals in 36 games. Kevin Doyle is still at the club but it may be better for both if he left because he has not had a great time and has not lived up to expectation.
Griffiths has only played in one cup game for Wolves

Griffiths has only played in one cup game for Wolves

Peterborough in League 1

Peterborough United were relegated to League 1 after defeat to Crystal Palace on the last game of the season and will be hoping to bounce back.
Peterborough]
Some will say that they were unlucky because they finished the season in fantastic form but at the bottom of the Championship a lot of teams were playing well and if it was Barnsley or Sheffield Wednesday that went down then they would have been unfortunate so Peterborough were relegated when in most other seasons they would have stayed up but three teams do have to go down. Darren Ferguson is in his second spell in charge of the club and this relegation really hasn’t helped his CV at all and although he does have two promotions to his name he still hasn’t proved that he can keep a team in the Championship and challenge for promotion to the top flight which makes me think that he will not get any higher in his managerial career. However he has never really had the funds to work with and maybe if he was at a bigger club then things may be different but his time at Preston North End also was not successful but I do think he is the man to lead them back into the Championship.
Darren Ferguson
One thing that has been guaranteed over the years from the teams was excitement and this must be good for the attacking players but it does not make it easy for the defenders and goalkeeper Robert Olejnik found it tough in his first season in the Championship and I thought when they signed him he may not have been good enough. His performances were ok and I feel he will come back stronger now and there is a very good chance he will be the best goalkeeper in League 1 next year.

Their midfield did also lose something when George Boyd joined Hull City on loan part way through the season and they did seem to lack a little bit of creativity but there is still some talent in there. I think Grant McCann is a decent player and they will be hoping they can keep hold of him although there will be a few Championship teams interested in him. Another player that they have to try and keep hold of is Tommy Rowe who has been linked with Leeds United recently and will be a big loss if he left the club.

Rowe scored five times last season

Rowe scored five times last season


They will also have to replace striker Dwight Gayle who looks as though he will also leave with Crystal Palace being his most likely destination. But if they can get a decent transfer fee from him then they will be able to improve their options upfront as well as a few other areas of the pitch. Lee Tomlin could also be leaving and although he isn’t that prolific, he does chip in with enough goals to be vital to Peterborough. Tyrone Barnett someone that they signed for over a million pound has been largely disappointing but if he gets given the chance in League 1 he could be the man to lead them to promotion.
Tomlin signed for Peterborough in 2010

Tomlin signed for Peterborough in 2010

Who will win the League 1 playoffs?

League 1 had a very exciting finish to it with Doncaster Rovers winning the league and Bournemouth also going up automatically.

Now it is time to turn to the playoffs and with Brentford, Yeovil Town, Sheffield United and Swindon Town looking to secure a place in the Championship it will certainly be nail biting for all the fans involved. All of the teams were guaranteed a place in the playoffs before the final game so they didn’t have to worry about that too much and could concentrate on trying to get promotion.

Brentford may be coming into the playoffs in the worse position because they were a penalty kick away from gaining automatic promotion and that might have damaged the confidence of all the players, particularly Marcello Trotta who missed the chance to be a hero. However, this may drive the team on and with them finishing third they should be favourites to go up. A worry I do have about them in the playoffs is simply the fact that manager Uwe Rosler has criticised the whole team for missing the penalty. I don’t think he should have blamed anyone, especially when there is still possibly another three huge games before the end of the season.

Yeovil Town are the surprise team in the playoffs in my opinion because they cannot have a big budget and there are some big teams in the division this year. But under Gary Johnson, who I do think is a good manager, they have been brilliant and even if they don’t manage to go up this year, the fans and the club should be proud of what they have accomplished. Striker Paddy Madden has probably been the signing of the season not only in League 1 but possibly the whole of the Football League and he will be crucial in these playoffs.

Sheffield United will probably be most people’s picks to win promotion through the playoffs this season but they are out of form and certainly need a lift, they haven’t scored for three games and lost two of those. Chris Morgan has recently took over from Danny Wilson as manager and that to me was a very poor decision, Wilson was really unlucky to have missed out on promotion last season and I felt that he would have got them up this year. The problem for them is they are missing a regular goal scorer so will be relying on good defensive displays to win the playoffs.

Swindon Town are also another team that have had to appoint a new manager recently and this could prove to be a problem because they haven’t quite been as good under Kevin MacDonald. Swindon have an amazing goal difference with plus 33 and this is better than both Doncaster and Bournemouth. They lost their last league game to relegated Scunthorpe United 3-1 and this will not have put the team in the best of moods. It was very different under departed Paolo Di Canio and maybe the players just haven’t responded to MacDonald’s training methods.

I think Brentford will beat Swindon and Sheffield United will beat Yeovil in the semi finals and then the final is very difficult to call but I will go for Brentford as they have had a very good season and hopefully they can pick themselves up.