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.

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Who will be the next Reading manager?

Reading are looking for a new manager to try and keep them in the Premier League after Brian McDermott left the club.

Four successive defeats have left the club bottom of the table and four points away from safety and it would seem that they need to go in a different direction to make sure they do stay in the Premier League but personally I feel McDermott should have stayed in charge for the rest of the season. After leading the club to promotion last season they were expected to struggle and the signings they made did not give me any confidence that they were going to survive this season but they are still in there battling away and a lot of credit does have to go to the manager for that. Recent losses to Wigan Athletic and Aston Villa both at home must have been hard to take and obviously the board felt that these results were simply not good enough. In his 169 matches in charge of Reading he won 76 games, giving him a 44.97% win rate. But they need to bring someone in that can have an immediate impact, so who will be given the chance to succeed?

The current favourite is Paolo Di Canio and I would love to see him managing in the Premier League but maybe not because of his managerial ability, more to do with the entertainment factor and unpredictability he will bring. But to be fair to him he did have a good record at Swindon Town and his crazy methods seemed to be working and he probably should not be unemployed right now. If they do go down then I think the Italian can do a good job in the Championship and at least give them the opportunity to bounce straight back.
Paolo Di Canio
Maybe a more realistic target and a more sensible one would be Nigel Adkins. He is another manager that should not be unemployed and it looked as though he was going to keep Southampton in the Premier League before being replaced. He does not have a lot of experience in the top division but yet again looking more long term he would do a very good job in the Championship. Would he take the job? I think he would be tempted to have another go at the Premier League even if it is only for a few more games.
Nigel Adkins
Another early favourite is Roberto Di Matteo and if they could convince him to join the club then it would be a fantastic appointment. He is a Champions League winner and he, yet again, maybe should not have been sacked by his former club Chelsea. He does have experience in the Premier League and should get the respect of the Reading players straight away and if he can lift their spirits a little he may just do enough to keep them up. He also got promoted with West Brom so he may even stay if they go down. I think they need to look long term and not just try and bring someone in to keep them up and change again in the summer if they fail.
Roberto Di Matter
Others that are linked with the job are Dick Advocaat, Steve McClaren and Alan Curbishley

Who will be Swindon Town’s next manager?

Swindon Town may be top of League 1 after beating Tranmere Rovers but they are in search of a new manager.
Paolo Di Canio left the club after new owners were not in place before a deadline. It is such a strange time for him to leave as the club are doing well under him and could have secured back to back promotions however Di Canio had not been happy for quite a while and the sale of Matt Ritchie to Bournemouth was hard to take. It was surprising when he decided to join the club as manager as I thought he would have been able to get a job higher up the football pyramid simply because he is well known. I respect the fact that he wanted to make his name down the leagues and be known as a good manager but his decision to leave does still seem to suggest that his ego is quite big and wants everyone to know that he is the boss and is getting things his way. With a record of 54 wins in 94 games you could argue that he has proved himself and I am sure a few Championship clubs will be interested in him. But onto Swindon and who will be the next manager?

The current favourite for the job is Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink. I think this would be a strange decision, it may have worked for them last time going for a big name with no experience as a manager but can it work twice in a row? The former Chelsea striker has had a spell as a coach at Nottingham Forest so he will have learned something from manager Sean O’Driscoll but maybe not enough to lead a club battling for promotion. However, there would be slightly less pressure on him and he would get time.

Second favourite and yet again a little surprising is Paul Buckle. He has managed in the Football League before but he has been a little hit and miss. At Torquay United he was very highly rated but when he went to Bristol Rovers, a team that should have been challenging for promotion he wasn’t so successful. He has just recently left Luton Town because of personal reasons that haven’t been disclosed yet and maybe he could become the new Swindon manager and be a success but I don’t think it would be a great appointment.

Finally, Kevin Blackwell has been linked with the job and this at least seems like someone that has experience and could be a good appointment. But yet again, he is currently at Bury and has only won 6 of his 29 games in charge there. Obviously he would have a better squad at Swindon and in the past he has done quite well at both Leeds United and Sheffield United. I am not sure what the fans would make of this because he certainly won’t be as passionate as Paolo Di Canio but maybe he will bring a cooler head to their promotion charge.

Others that have been linked with the job are Mike Newell, Chris Wilder and Dave Hockaday.

Who will be Nottingham Forest’s next manager?

Alex McLeish has left his job at Nottingham Forest after just 40 days in charge of the club.

There had been a lot of speculation that he was going to leave the club soon after the way the club conducted themselves in the January transfer window. With the biggest problem being the club pulling out of a deal for Peterborough United midfielder George Boyd because he failed an eye test. A lot of players and former players were saying that they have never even done an eye test during a medical. What makes it even more ridiculous is the fact that Boyd recently scored a goal from the halfway line. But back onto McLeish and his time at Forest will not really be remembered fondly after a lot of fans didn’t even want him in the first place and his record of just one win from seven games is not a great record at all, especially for a club that was challenging for a place in the playoffs under Sean O’Driscoll. McLeish’s last game was a defeat to his former club Birmingham City and after the game he refused to commit his future to the club and now a few days later he has left by mutual consent.

So, who will take the job now? The current favourite is former manager Billy Davies. Straightaway I am not sure about this one at all because he had problems with the board the last time he was at the club and I do not know whether he would get on with the new board. But if they could convince him to come back he would certainly bring good football back to Forest and give them a good chance of promotion this season. In his first spell he won 53 of his 126 games and would love to finish the job he started. However, it does look like he is going to join Blackpool.
Billy Davies
Nigel Adkins is also an early favourite for the job and it is obvious why and at the moment he will get linked with every job going in the Championship. He may want time away from the game after being harshly sacked by Southampton even though it looked as though he could have kept them up. He proved he is a good manager and would bring attacking football to the City Ground. I think it will be a long shot but if the board can convince him to join the club then the fans would be very happy with their new manager.
Nigel Adkins
Finally, a name that has been linked with the role is the current Kuwait head coach Goran Tufegdzic. This would be a ridiculous appointment but it certainly would not surprise me at all. He has been in charge of Kuwait since 2009 after being their assistant and he does have a decent record in charge but it is nowhere near the standard required for the Championship. Some fans will want to give him a chance but I can see the large majority wanting the board out, if they don’t already.
Goran
Other linked with the job are Roy Keane, Paolo Di Canio and Mark Hughes

Who will be Huddersfield Town’s next manager?

Huddersfield are looking for a new manager after Simon Grayson was sacked and the board are hoping that the new man will secure Championship football again.

Huddersfield Town
Grayson may feel this decision was a little harsh but they have been struggling lately and a 4-0 defeat against Watford was the last straw. It may be a good time to look for a new manager as it is FA Cup weekend and they have no realistic chance of winning the competition so the result against Leicester City does not really matter and I am sure any Huddersfield fan would rather go out at this stage and stay in the Championship than go through and end up getting relegated. Huddersfield are seven points out of relegation but with those teams at the bottom picking up points now and themselves not winning for 12 games they definitely need a change somewhere, maybe the board should have kept faith with the man that got them promoted but 12 games without a win is a very long time, especially in the Championship. Grayson was in charge for 49 games, winning 17 of those and losing 17 so it is fair to say that he did a decent enough job and personally I think he would have turned it around and kept the club up.

But looking at the candidates for the job and the board clearly feel that another manager can do a better job and give them more of a chance of staying up. The current favourite is recently sacked Nigel Adkins who was harshly replaced at Southampton and may want to get back into football as soon as possible. His record speaks for itself and he has been a success everywhere he has been. He got promoted with Southampton last season and was doing an ok job in the Premier League and this would be a great appointment for Huddersfield, if he doesn’t want to take a break from football.

Nigel Adkins

Maybe a more realistic appointment would be Owen Coyle, who has also been sacked this season by Bolton Wanderers. He largely underachieved at the Reebok after such a promising start where he took them to an FA Cup semi final. Would he be a good choice for Huddersfield though? In my opinion, yes he would be a good choice because there would be less pressure and maybe the problem at Bolton in the Championship was the fact that they were favourites for practically every game. He tries to play football in the right way and I would like to see him get another chance in the Championship to prove some of his doubters wrong.

Owen Coyle

Finally, a little bit more of a wildcard option would be Paolo Di Canio who has done a good job in charge of Swindon Town and won promotion from League 2 last season with them. With a 58.24% win record he is proving that he can get results on the pitch, however he has been criticised a few times and some of his antics on the touchline has been controversial to say the least. But, he does have a lot of passion and maybe this is exactly what Huddersfield need.

Paolo Di Canio

Others in the frame are Aidy Boothroyd, Billy Davies and Gareth Southgate.

Who will be League 1’s top scorer?

League 1’s race for top scorer could be a very contest as there are some very good strikers in the league this year who can score a lot of different types of goals.

The first player that could do the business this season is a striker that has a lot of responsibility on his shoulders this year and will be vital if the team want to achieve their targets. Chris Porter of Sheffield United has a really big season in front of him. He agreed a new two year deal in the summer so he now knows he has a bit of security and can go out and not worry about his future. He only scored 5 goals last season but one of those was in the playoff semi final against Stevenage so when the pressure is on he can score.

Andy Williams had a fantastic year last year and will be hoping he can perform to the same level for his new club Swindon Town and will be hoping that playing under Paolo Di Canio he can learn a thing or two in the process. He scored a lot of goals for former club Yeovil Town and now playing for a team that has realistic promotion ambitions he will surely get more.

Matt Tubbs had a good start to his career at Bournemouth by scoring on his debut but that was his only goal for the club last year as he struggled with injuries for the remainder of the campaign but there is no doubting his abilities and I am sure he will put away the chances in the coming season. He has proved his worth at every level he has played at so he will be hoping that League 1 is not a step too far and he can carry on his phenomenal goal scoring record.

New MK Dons signing Ryan Lowe will be hoping that he can get a good start to his time at the club and score the goals that finally get them promoted to the Championship. Lowe has been one of the best finishers in the lower leagues for a number of years now and even though he didn’t play as much as he would have liked for Sheffield Wednesday he still managed to get eight league goals. He will get more chances to start at MK Dons so I expect him to at least double that tally.

Dean Bowditch, yet another MK Dons player could also be a contender and that is down to the way they play football. They will create chances and it is down to the strikers to put them away and Bowditch has shown that he can score goals by getting into double figures for the last three consecutive seasons. He got 10 goals last season and you have to believe now he is 26 and more experienced he will be starting to hit his peak and will start getting more and more goals. However, he has played on the wing for them at times and this will lower his chances of scoring on a regular basis.

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.

How will Swindon Town do in League 1 after promotion?

Swindon Town have been promoted and will be wanting to win the league in their next fixture at home to Port Vale.

Strangely though there have been rumours that Paolo Di Canio wants to leave at the end of the season however this doesn’t seem very likely and I would be very shocked if he did go unless he got offered a Championship job. Di Canio has won 35 of his 56 games and also guided his team to the final of the JP Trophy which they unfortunately lost. Some fans may have thought that this was a terrible decision at the start of the year especially as the team did not start of fantastically but the gamble has paid off. But the big question is will he and his players be able to perform at a higher level? Personally, yes I think Di Canio will be able to cope with the promotion simply because he is a big personality and he may even be able to attract even better players to the club which will only be a good thing.

So looking at the players, are they good enough? Goalkeeper Wes Foderingham at 21 has a lot of potential and playing 39 league games this season has proved he is a worthy number one and can progress further in the game. At the back they also have some good young players with a lot of potential which suggests that this is the way forward for Di Canio. Aden Flint is one of these and at the age of 22 playing 40 games can be tough but he has coped with it fantastically well and contributed three goals. Joe Devera has also had a good season and has progressed brilliantly throughout his career after starting out at Barnet, playing 177 league games which is a lot for a 25 year old which shows that he deserves his chance at a higher level.

The midfield also possess a lot of quality including the League 2 player of the year Matt Ritchie. The 22 year old has played 50 games and scored 10 goals, and contributed many more assists. He is a lot better than League 2 and he will be looking forward to showing Portsmouth next season that they should never have let him go. Even though he may not grab the headlines as much as Ritchie, Alan McCormack has been equally important, he does the job that not a lot of players do. He can either play as a holding midfielder or a centre back which he has done a lot somewhat surprisingly at Swindon Town.

Up front they do not really have a goal scorer that will get a lot of goals but they work hard and do a very good job for the team. Alan Connell and Paul Benson both have 12 goals this season and this does not seem high enough for a team that are going to be champions. Connell has got 10 of those goals in the league in 30 games. The undisclosed figure which is believed to be a six figure sum may not have quite been paid back yet but if he scores enough goals to keep the team in League 1 next year then the fans will be grateful. Paul Benson on the other hand has been a very good signing and 9 goals in 21 league games is impressive. I think he is a very good player and if given the opportunity I believe he will do well in League 1.

I hope Swindon do well in League 1 as I like a lot of their players and Di Canio. They have a lot of potential and if they progress in the right way they could be in the Championship within a few years. The relegation to League 2 must have hurt the fans and I’m sure they are proud of their team and will be hoping for more success.