Who will be the top goalscorer in League 2?

Finishing top scorer in any division would be a very good achievement and for the players in League 2 their goals could get their team promoted.

It is always difficult to predict who is going to finish top scorer because it is impossible to predict what injuries will occur and whether players will be able to maintain their form for a whole season but it can always be fun to try and choose.

The first player that caught my eye is the Portsmouth striker David Connolly because he has a lot of experience and knows where the back of the net is. I think Portsmouth will be the team to beat in League 2 and he will get a lot of chances to score so as long as he manages to be first choice then he will definitely be a contender. Seven goals in 17 games was not a bad return for the 36 year old in the league above so he should be confident this season.
David Connolly
Fellow Portsmouth striker Tom Craddock may also be in the running for exactly the same reasons. Portsmouth are expected to challenge and this is because they have a talented strike force and will cause everyone in the division problems. At Oxford United he had a pretty good record although not as prolific as he would have liked he still showed his potential and 10 in 32 league games last year is not a bad return but I am expecting a lot better this season.
Tom Craddock
Deon Burton is another experienced striker that knows where the back of the net is and he will probably feel a little disappointed that he is not playing in League 1 next season because he helped Gillingham to promotion by scoring 11 times in 37 games. Burton has nearly 150 career goals and I am certain he will surpass that mark comfortably next season as he has had success before under manager Brian Laws.
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Chesterfield’s new signing Eoin Doyle will be hoping to make a positive impression in England after signing from Hibernian in the summer. I haven’t actually seen Doyle play that much but he did reach double figures in the SPL last season in a team that struggled for long periods so he obviously can be a threat to League 2 defences. His time at Sligo Rovers was successful and if he can get close to his tally of 25 in his last season at the club then he will be near the top of the scoring charts.
Eoin Doyle
My final choice is yet another older professional but I just think experience could be more vital than ever in the Football League this season. Jamie Cureton is a goal scorer and has proved it time and time again throughout his career and had another phenomenal season last year with Exeter City and I think he will do even better at Cheltenham Town with them being one of the most consistent teams in the division. They will be a good shout for the playoffs and if Cureton is on form then they could even finish in the top three this year.
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I think Jamie Cureton will finish as top scorer this year with Tom Craddock not too far behind.

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Portsmouth have been relegated to League 2

Portsmouth may have been relegated from League 1 but they probably have the happiest fans in the country right now.

It has been tough being a Pompey fan in the last couple of years (this is a massive understatement) but finally they will be able to start again and support the team that they love and hopefully they can get back to where they belong. The Pompey Supporters Trust now own the club and they will put the club first rather than any of their other owners recently and this has just lifted the whole club and with the 3-0 win over Sheffield United, the future looks bright for the club that many believed would go out of business.

One thing that does need sorting now though is the future of the caretaker manager Guy Whittingham and personally I believe he should be given the job as he has done remarkably well under the circumstances. The 48 year old who also had two spells at the club as a player has been in charge since November and although results haven’t always been the greatest he has at least kept up morale in the squad and seems to have got some players playing quite well at times.

It is unclear who will stay at the club over the summer but there are still a few that the fans will be hoping stay. One of those is Jed Wallace who has impressed me every time I have seen him and will get even better as he is only 19. Six goals in 21 league games is a good record for any midfielder in any division and if Portsmouth can keep hold of him, he could be crucial to the ambition of the team and whether they want to come straight back up from League 2. Johnny Ertl is another that has been quite impressive this season even when things haven’t been going well, he has always been committed and one that will definitely perform a lot better now that the future of the club is secured. Another player that has been quite impressive is the former Republic of Ireland striker David Connolly who has seven goals in 17 appearances which yet again is quite good. If he stays then the 35 year old could grab a few more important goals for the club.

The problem with assessing how well Portsmouth are going to do next season is that it is unclear what players are staying, what sort of budget the manager is going to receive and simply what their ambitions are? Maybe as it is their first season owned by the fans they will just want to consolidate and make sure they stay in the league and build from there. However, right now it must be an exciting time being a Portsmouth fan and how many clubs can say that after suffering yet another relegation in just a few short years. I am happy that Portsmouth have sorted out their problems because it doesn’t matter who you support nobody wants to see a club die.

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.

Who will be relegated from the Championship?

A lot of big teams have been relegated from the Championship over the years including Sheffield Wednesday, Nottingham Forest and Southampton so nobody is safe really and anything could happen. Last year we saw Coventry City, Portsmouth and Doncaster Rovers were unable to stay up so who will it be this year?

Barnsley struggled in the second half of last season especially after the departure of Ricardo Vaz Te who was their talisman and top scorer so it is easy to see why they are one of the favourites for the drop. Losing Jacob Butterfield will also be a blow and they will need their experienced players to perform well if they are to stay up. One of their main signings of the summer Mido has also been injured and he is unpredictable anyway so they may to rely on the goals from Marlon Harewood and Craig Davies to keep them up.

Peterborough United did ok last year and manager Darren Ferguson will want them to push on however I see this as a season of struggle for them. They did ease past Southend United in the Capital One Cup beating them 4-0 so that will give them confidence but I think they may have took a little risk this year especially in the goalkeeping department as they have signed Robert Olejnik who was one of the best keepers in League 2 last year but he may struggle to step up and with their defence also not being the best it could be their downfall this year.

Another team that struggled for large periods of the season were Bristol City and they were defeated by Gillingham in the Capital One Cup so optimism can’t be high among supporters at the minute. They also lost one of their main strikers when Nicky Maynard decided to leave which leaves them with only three out and out strikers in Jon Stead, Brett Pitman and Ryan Taylor and none of these have ever been considered prolific. They do however have strength on the wings in Paul Anderson and Albert Adomah so if they can get these playing to the best of their ability then they do have a good chance of staying up.

Dougie Freedman in my opinion overachieved at Crystal Palace last year and I think it will be very difficult for them to achieve what they did last season and finish as high up the table and 21st place could be seen as an achievement this year. They have so far kept hold of Wilfried Zaha but I do expect a few teams to be interested in him before the end of the transfer window. He is key to them and I hope he doesn’t feel the weight of the expectation on his young shoulders and have a bad season.

Nigel Clough must be tearing his hair out at the moment after witnessing his team throw away a 3-0, 4-1 and 5-3 lead and still failing to beat Scunthorpe United in the Capital One Cup and eventually going out on penalties. I always thought they would struggle and I know it is only the cup but there is clearly something wrong at the back or at least in the confidence and concentration of their players. I doubt they will score five past many Championship teams but I do think they could ship five past quite a lot of them.

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.

Will Jermain Defoe leave Tottenham Hotspur this summer?

Jermain Defoe may be the only experienced striker at Tottenham Hotspur but surprisingly he has been linked with a move away.

Defoe has scored 15 goals in 48 games for England

Last season was a frustrating one for the former Portsmouth striker as he only started 11 Premier League games and was constantly overlooked because Harry Redknapp wanted to play with Rafael Van Der Vaart just behind Emmanuel Adebayor. He wouldn’t have fit into their system that well last year in my opinion and that is the reason why he struggled for game time. When he on the pitch though he mostly produced the goods scoring 11 times in his 25 appearances and 17 in 38 games in all competitions so he has proved he does still have the quality to succeed in the Premier League and his career isn’t coming to an end. I was very surprised to see him linked with a move away but maybe he just isn’t an Andre Villas-Boas type of player but with a deal for Adebayor not completed yet he may be forced to use Defoe at least for the start of the season. The England international has 195 goals in his career so far and will be desperate to get to 200 goals as quickly as possible and to do that he may have to leave if he isn’t guaranteed first team football.

QPR have been heavily linked with him and they do have the funds to buy him and pay the wages so I can’t see why this transfer wouldn’t go through unless the player himself wants to play for a team challenging at the top of the table. However, QPR are building a good squad and may be outsiders for a European place in the coming season and could be a good shout for a cup win. He could compliment Bobby Zamora very well and has been a more consistent goal scorer than both Andy Johnson and Djibril Cisse so he could help push the club onto the next level.

Martin O’Neill is also keen on Defoe and Sunderland could do with a goal scorer as they haven’t really replaced Darren Bent and Asamoah Gyan in recent years with Nicklas Bendtner coming in on loan last season. It is unclear whether he will come back either on loan or permanently again so they will have to look elsewhere. A major problem could be that Defoe hasn’t played for anyone in the north so he may be reluctant to move to the area.

Finally, Aston Villa could be looking at the striker and this would be an interesting move as Darren Bent is also at the club and when they were both at Tottenham together they didn’t really play that often and that could mean that they weren’t a good partnership. I can’t see them working well together but maybe I will be proved wrong. If he did sign then they would have a quick attack with Bent, Defoe and Agbonlahor so they would be very threatening on the counter attack and would cause a lot of problems for their opposition.

Who will be the next West Brom manager?

Roy Hodgson is leaving West Brom to become the new England manager and it will be difficult to replace him but that is the task that their board have been set.

When looking at Hodgson’s record at West Brom it would seem that he hasn’t done a great job with him winning only 37.04% of his games in charge but it is another example of when stats don’t tell the full story. Last season he managed to keep them up quite comfortably and with a few more additions he has guided them to 10th place this year. He won’t be easy to replace and the next manager has a tough job but he made some good signings like Shane Long, who are good enough now for the Premier League and will improve even more in the coming years.

So looking at the contenders and the favourite is Chris Hughton and rightfully so in my opinion. What he has done in charge of Birmingham City this season has been sensational and they were unlucky to lose in the playoffs. In just one season, he has took charge of 62 games which just proves that he has a good pedigree in cup competitions and I’m sure the Baggies would love a good cup run. Out of the 62 games, he has only lost 15 games. He has already proved in his short managerial career that his teams do not lose a lot of games and firstly makes them difficult to beat so he has a similar style to Hodgson. He was harshly sacked as manager of Newcastle United and there he had an even better record as he only lost 14 of his 70 games in charge and was keeping them in the Premier League comfortably.

Another candidate for the job is ‘The Tinkerman’ Claudio Ranieri who has been without a job since being sacked as manager of Inter Milan. This rumour interested me the most as he has had a lot of jobs since leaving Chelsea in 2004 and has on the whole struggled with him only winning one trophy and that being the UEFA Super Cup with Valencia in 2004 even though he has managed such huge clubs like Juventus, Roma and as previously mentioned Inter. But in his defence he does have decent winning percentages for each club however he wasn’t meeting their expectations and if he doesn’t do that at West Brom they will be in serious trouble of relegation. I like the idea of Ranieri coming back to England as he did a good job for Chelsea but personally I don’t see him and West Brom as a good fit.

Finally, the last name to put forward is Michael Appleton who is the current manager of Portsmouth and this is another strange one because they have just been relegated from the Championship. The reason why I think he could be a good choice is the positive response he gets from everyone, whenever asked a question, he always answers very openly and is honest with what is going on, which a lot of managers are not these days. He previously played for West Brom and was their first team coach under Roberto Di Matteo so he knows the club and some of the players so it will be easy for him to settle into the role. It is a long shot but who knows maybe he is in with a shout.

I would go for Chris Hughton as he has done a fantastic job at every club he has been and deserves another shot at the Premier League. He may not be able to push the club onto the next level but a bit of stability would be nice at a club that is known for going up and down the divisions. With Hughton in charge there would be no threat of relegation.

Can Southampton survive in the Premier League?

Southampton will be playing Premier League football and will be hoping they have enough quality in the squad to stay up.

Manager Nigel Adkins has done a magnificent job and replicated Norwich City in achieving back to back promotions and ending up in the Premier League. Adkins has won 60 of his 98 games in charge which is remarkable and deserves to be praised and in my opinion will be a success in the Premier League either with Southampton or in the future with another club. I think he deserves a chance in the Premier League as all of his teams play football in the right way and love to get the ball forward and attack. The passing game the Saints have employed this year has been very good to watch and has cut open many opposition defenses. The only disappointing thing for Adkins is that he has failed to win both League 1 and the Championship but I don’t think the fans should care as they have gained promotion and are now back in the big time, which seemed very unlikely when they were relegated to League 1.

Looking to the future, do they have the players to stay in the Premier League? Starting in goal I believe they have two very good goalkeepers in Kelvin Davis and Bartosz Bialkowski. Davis is the number one and is very consistent having played nearly every game this season, and with over 600 games in his career he will not be fazed by playing in the Premier League.

At the back they are quite strong with Jose Fonte who has been linked with a few Premier League clubs over the years therefore must be too good for the Championship which he has shown this season with some very strong performances and has been a major influence in the dressing room. Danny Fox at left back may be seen as a weak point because at times he can struggle defensively but he adds to the team going forward and has the ability to put in a very good cross with his left foot. He does have Premier League experience with Burnley but that season was pretty much a disaster for him and the club and ended in relegation so he will be hoping for more success this time.

The midfield has a lot of promise with Jack Cork and Morgan Schneiderlin who can control a game from the middle of the park and both have the potential to be Premier League players for a lot of years to come. They are at the right club right now because Adkins will give them the confidence to go out and play and will progress them further. But their real star in the midfield is winger Adam Lallana who has scored 11 goals in 41 league games this year. He has been very impressive and has ran rings round the best of the Championship’s defenders. He likes to play on the left wing and cut in to shoot and bend balls into the box and it is because of his talents that the strikers have found it easy to score over the years.

So to the strikers and this could be where they struggle in the Premier League as they don’t have anyone that has consistently scored in the top flight. But they shouldn’t be worried as Rickie Lambert who has scored 27 goals in 39 games in the Championship and is a similar player to Grant Holt who has done fantastically well for Norwich City. Alongside him they have Billy Sharp who is also a brilliant goal scorer and after a slightly slow start now has nine goals in 15 games. But the big question is will they have enough ability to score the goals to keep the team in the league.

I believe Southampton have a good chance of staying up and St Mary’s will be rocking next season as they entertain the big boys of the Premier League once again. To make the season even sweeter while they are gaining promotion their local rivals have slipped into the third tier of English football.

 

Portsmouth suffer relegation from the Championship but that is the least of their worries

Portsmouth will be playing their football in League 1 next season if they are able to sort out their financial problems which have dogged the club for years now.

Portsmouth have 40 points from 45 games

It is difficult to talk about Portsmouth without referring to the finances these days and I think that it is very harsh and the media should talk more about their loyal fans and committed staff who continually work through all their problems even when their job is constantly in danger. But let’s just focus on the actual football rather than anything else. Michael Appleton first of all deserves great praise because he has had been very dignified throughout the whole time and without the 10 point deduction they probably would have stayed up comfortably. Although he has only won eight games in charge of Pompey at least he has stayed the course and this is not having a go at Steve Cotterill who was in charge for 61 games. But maybe he should have tried to keep some stability at the club but when a more secure offer comes along, you can’t blame him for taking it.

There is an expected exodus from the club in the summer and some of the players will be missed as they have been great servants for the club. Jason Pearce looks as though he will leave and Leeds United are heavily linked with him at the moment. Even though he has only been at the club for one season he has put his in some brave performances and deserves a lot of praise from the fans and I’m sure they will wish him well in the future. Joel Ward is another that has been linked away from the club, Ipswich Town are chasing him and he will most likely leave. In the last two seasons he has played over 40 games for the club and he has actually benefitted from all their problems and lack of players because it has allowed him to show off his potential and possibly get a move back to the Premier League in the future.

Other players that have been at the club for years have not been as helpful to the club in my opinion because they have huge wages and not really performed when they have had the opportunity. Tal Ben Haim is one of these players because he must still be on a Premier League wage and has played 33 games this season but has he really helped the cause by staying?

One player that has impressed me this season is David Norris who should be a hero to the Pompey fans now after scoring that dramatic equaliser against Southampton which will be one of the high points from this season. He is the top scorer of all the players still at the club and would be a good addition to any team in the Championship next season so they will do well to keep hold of him.

Up front they have not performed that well with Benjani only scoring one goal in his 18 games. Although 12 of his appearances have came from the bench. Kanu also only has one goal in 11 games but yet again most of his appearances have been as a substitute. These players need to leave the club and they have in the past done a very good job for the team but they have should have been let go when all of their problems started and resigning them may have pleased the fans to begin with but they must realise that it is time to move on and start again.

I personally hope that Portsmouth recover because they have such fantastic fans who are very loyal and do not deserve any of this that has happened to them. Some people need to realise that the fans are the most important part of any club and the Portsmouth fans deserve a lot of praise because it would have been easy for them to become disenchanted but they haven’t and still go to Fratton Park optimistic every week that their club will finally turn the corner.

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.