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.

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Who will win League 2?

League 2 is getting underway soon and it is a good time to look at who is going to win the league as it should be a very competitive division.

It is always a strange league because sometimes teams that have come straight from the Blue Square Premier League can carry on their form and go straight up again and quite often teams that get relegated into struggle initially.

The favourites to win the league are Portsmouth and it is obvious why. They are building a good squad and for the first time in a long while they have sorted themselves out off the field and the fans are very happy resulting in more season tickets being sold. They are bringing in the right sort of players that will get them out of the division at the first time of asking and I believe Simon Ferry could be the best player in the league next season. It is the striking department that really impresses me with Patrick Agyemang and Tom Craddock able to score goals at this level.
Portsmouth
Fleetwood Town are another team that I think will challenge and I think will get at least the playoffs this season and they have invested wisely in their squad this summer. Defenders like Ryan Cresswell and Mark Roberts will certainly make them stronger at the back and I really like the signing of Steven Schumacher as he proved last season that he can score goals at a higher level and will be a threat running from deeper positions. The only worry I do have about them is that manager Graham Alexander does have limited experience as a manager but he more than makes up for it when looking at his playing career.
Fleetwood
Another team that I think could have a great season is Chesterfield because they do have a lot of potential in their squad and although they have lost their regular scorer over the years Jack Lester they should still have enough quality upfront to compete. Once again they have made some good signings, particularly in midfield with Jimmy Ryan coming in as well as the experienced Ritchie Humphreys and the winger Gary Roberts. They will have to hope that new striker Eoin Doyle recaptures his form from his Sligo Rovers days when he was managed by current Chesterfield manager Paul Cook.
Chesterfield
Bristol Rovers should not be overlooked this season as they finished last year very well under John Ward and will hoping to continue that kind of form in the early part of the new season. They haven’t changed the squad too much this summer and that could work in their advantage as the players will all be familiar with each other and with the addition of John-Joe O’Toole they have a player that should be at least in a League 1 midfield. Ward is a decent manager and it would not surprise me at all if they lifted the League 2 title at the end of the season.
Bristol rovers
The final pick is Scunthorpe United. They got relegated from League 1 last season and that would have hurt manager Brian Laws and he will be hoping to get the club promoted at the first time of asking. Laws has turned to players that he trusts and thinks will do well in this league. Deon Burton, Sean McCallister and Etienne Esajas all played for him at Sheffield Wednesday. Other players that he has signed have experience at a higher level and Chris Iwelumo could turn out to be a good goal scorer in this league. Andy Dawson also has Premier League experience and has a number of promotions under his belt so that will be vital.
Scunthorpe
I can’t look past Portsmouth but I think Scunthorpe will run them close.

Who will 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.

Bury are relegated to League 2

Bury have been relegated from League 1 this season but there may be more problems on the way for the club.
Bury
Recently it was reported that they need another £1 million just to survive and this could be a real problem as it is a lot of money especially for a club that will be playing football in League 2 next season. They have only picked up 37 points from their 44 games this season but their victory over Scunthorpe United would have been a moral boosting performance for everyone involved with the club, most importantly the fans because they haven’t had much to shout about for a long time.

Their current manager is Kevin Blackwell and I was actually quite surprised when he took the job as I thought he might have been holding out for a job closer to the top of the league or even a lower positioned Championship club. It hasn’t all been his fault but only nine wins in 41 games is quite a poor record and maybe he owes it to the club to stay and try and get them promoted at the first time of asking. Blackwell has recently talked about Bury’s plight and does fear they could drop out of the Football League which isn’t the greatest thing to say but at least he is being honest with the supporters and letting them know how bad the situation is.
Kevin Blackwell
On the playing side of things obviously the players haven’t performed that well but there is still some good players at the club. Midfielder Stephen Schumacher is definitely someone that deserves praise as he has 10 goals this season which is a good haul but unfortunately he is their top scorer and that certainly isn’t good enough. So, you would have to point to the strikers and wonder what has happened this year, and there are some quite recognisable names in the squad with the most notable being David Healy. Healy has over 100 goals in club career and has 36 international goals so he clearly does have a lot of quality but it simply has not worked out for him and 1 goals in 19 appearances is very poor for someone that could have had the potential to have played at a much higher level. Craig Fagan is another player that during his career has played at a higher level and even though he may not have been prolific at any point, he should still have a better record than 1 goal in 10 games. Finally, Nicky Ajose is also at the club and unfortunately for him, he couldn’t recapture his form the last time he was at the club when he scored 13 goals in 28 games, this time only contributing 3 in 17.
David Healy
Obviously you cannot just blame the strikers as the midfielders haven’t chipped in and at the back at times they haven’t looked the greatest. It is going to be very tough for them now to get straight back up and may just want to concentrate on making sure the club stay alive.

Who will be Notts County’s next manager?

Notts County are looking for a new manager as Keith Curle has been sacked after less than a year in charge.

A defeat to Hartlepool United was the end for Curle and he will be pretty disappointed with this as he had been doing a decent job with the team and they were only five points off a playoff place. Last season they only missed out on the playoffs because of goal difference and the board obviously didn’t want a repeat of that this season. I thought the club would be after a bit of consistency after having six manager since October 2009. Chris Kiwomya is currently the favourite for the job as he is the caretaker manager, however a 2-0 away loss to Stevenage wouldn’t have helped his cause and he probably needs a victory against Crewe to make sure that his name is still in the hat after the weekend. County are 10th in League 1 and if they can put a good run between now and the end of the season then they could find themselves in the playoffs but it certainly won’t be easy. The board will be hoping that the new manager can improve their home form and continue the fantastic away form that they had under Curle.

If the board don’t want to go with Kiwomya then Gary McAllister has been linked with the role recently. McAllister has had two spells as a manager so far at Coventry City and Leeds United. At Leeds he had a pretty good record where he won exactly half of his games. However, he was unable to get the team promoted and was sacked after a string of bad results. Also the fact he has been out of management since 2008 may work against him. He may be a good appointment and could inspire the players
Soccer - Coca-Cola Football League One - Play Off - Final - Doncaster Rovers v Leeds United - Wembley Stadium
A more experienced option could be Gary Megson as he has managed over 600 times in his career so far and has been quite successful. Some people will argue he was harshly sacked by Sheffield Wednesday with the club in the playoffs and if he could replicate his form there then he could get Notts County in contention for promotion. Some County fans wouldn’t be happy with this appointment because his football is not always the most attractive and it has been criticised in the past. I think he could do a good job but it just matters how much emphasis the board are putting on good football.
Gary Megson
A little surprising name linked with the job is Ian Baraclough and although he is a former player, I didn’t expect to see him as one of the favourites, however he is doing a solid job at Sligo Rovers and won their first league title for 35 years. He played over 100 times in both of his spells at the club as a player so he obviously knows the club and will not take a lot of time to settle. His previous spell as manager in England did not go so well, only winning eight of his 34 games in charge of Scunthorpe United.
Ian Baraclough
Others linked with the job are Nigel Worthington, Simon Grayson and Alan Knill.

Who will be Wycombe Wanderers next manager?

After losing three games in a row Wycombe Wanderers and only four points from seven games the club have sacked manager Gary Waddock.

Waddock, had been in charge since 2009 and won promotion to League 1in the 2010-11 season, however they only lasted one season at the higher level and were relegated. They were expected to challenge at least for the playoffs this season even though they lost a few key players and Waddock will be disappointed he wasn’t given more time to turn it round. But, the board have decided that a change is needed and there is still an air of negativity around the ground and will hope that a new man will get them back where they believe they belong.

This job will surely interest quite a few out of work managers and this is the route that the club will most likely take because they will not want to pay compensation to another team for a manager. So, let’s look at the options, the favourite for the job is currently Brian Laws, and this may come as a surprise to some people because he has managed in the Premier League recently with Burnley and it will be quite a big drop to League 2. However, he hasn’t had a managerial job since his sacking at the Championship club in 2010 so he does need to find a way back into English football. Another reason why he may be a good choice is because he has won promotion from this division twice before, both times with Scunthorpe United, so he knows exactly what it takes and which players he will need to achieve promotion again.

Another manager linked with the job is former Sheffield Wednesday manager, Gary Megson. Many people believe he was harshly sacked as their manager as the team were performing pretty well and were comfortably in the playoff places, although in the end it did turn out to be a good decision as the team got promoted, he still deserves a lot of credit as he signed a lot of the players. His style of football is usually criticised too as it is very long ball and feeding off the scraps which could be a good thing in League 2 and may work to the teams advantage, however, if Wycombe don’t have the players then the fans will have to accept a transitional period while they get in the right players to play his tactics.

Finally, Paul Ince could be in the running for the job, and it just shows that Wycombe can attract good managers because all three of these have managed in the Premier League at one point. Ince didn’t have the best of times at Blackburn Rovers but he has proved in the lower leagues he can be a success with both Macclesfield Town and MK Dons. His win record of 43.37% is not bad either and if he can replicate this at Wycombe then he would surely get them challenging for the playoffs at least.

Who will be Bury’s next manager?

Bury are still without a manager after Richie Barker left them just days before the season started for Crawley Town and interviews are expected to take place this week.

The club are currently 23rd in League One with only two points from their opening five games and caretaker boss Peter Shirtliff is not expected to be the man to take the club forward and this is largely down to the start they have made. However, it is worth pointing out that he was put in a very difficult situation and he not being able to succeed is not really a surprise.

But, he may still be considered by the board so it is not a drastic change at the club over the next few months at least. They will want to stay in League One though so they will have to make a decision soon if they do not believe Shirtliff can keep them up, so who are the contenders? Current Wrexham player manager Andy Morrell seems to be the favourite at the moment and it is not surprise to see why as he has been performing brilliantly at Wrexham and has won 33 of his 53 games in charge, and only losing nine of them. The fact that he had two years at Bury will also work in his favour because he will know the area and be able to settle down easily and get on with his job as quickly as possible. He scored 18 times for Bury in his 79 appearances.

Another former Bury player to be linked with the job is David Flitcroft. Flitcroft, is currently assistant manager at Barnsley so it may be difficult to get him, especially if there is a compensation package to be agreed, but if they can get him then it could be very risky as he has never managed before and has always been a number two. He will have learned a lot from Keith Hill as he has been with him at both Barnsley and Rochdale so if he can replicate his success in the lower leagues then he will be a decent manager.

Surprisingly in my opinion, Chris Brass has been linked with the job and it is a slight surprise because he has actually had the job once before on a caretaker basis and managed to lose three out of his four games in charge and not even pick up a single win. Brass hasn’t managed since then but like the rest of the candidates he did play for the club and has been their assistant manager under Alan Knill. He is currently still with Knill at Scunthorpe United so yet again a worry over money could be a problem.

It seems like the board want someone that knows what the club is about and that can sometimes be a good thing as they will really understand what the fans want and I am sure right now all the fans want is safety in League One.

Who will be the next Chesterfield manager?

Chesterfield have sacked their manager John Sheridan after not winning any of their first three games in League 2.

To sack a manager this early in my opinion is a little crazy but now there have been two sacked already, (Andy Thorn at Coventry City) so maybe now you need a quick start to the season to keep your job especially if you are expected to be one of the favourites for promotion. But, I think they need to take a step back and it may be clichéd but the Football League is a marathon and not a sprint, you cannot get promoted in the first three games and certainly can’t get relegated. John Sheridan must have split opinion because he did very well at times by winning them the League 2 title in the 2010-11 season and then followed that up with the Football League Trophy the season after, but in League 1 they struggled and were rightfully relegated because they just weren’t good enough. Now, was that because of Sheridan’s tactics or something else? He had a decent record as manager winning 63 of his 163 games in charge which gives him a 39.38% win record so I fully expected them to be up there come the end of the season. Tommy Wright and Mark Crossley have been placed in temporary charge.

First name to put forward for the job permanently is Brian Laws who has been quite successful in Yorkshire before when he was manager of Sheffield Wednesday so at least he knows the area and it won’t take him long to settle down and can focus on the job straight from the off. He has also gained two promotions from League 2 in his career, both at Scunthorpe United, so he knows exactly what is needed in the division. Plus, he has Premier League experience and there may not be a lot of them linked with the job so he could have a few contacts to call upon to bring in decent players.

Next, is a manager that I feel was harshly sacked at his last club and that is Sean Dyche. He led unfancied Watford to 11th in the Championship last season and they looked very good under him, playing good football and on the whole looking very solid. Dyche, had to work on a small budget an use a lot of the youth players so this would also be beneficial to Chesterfield. Also, the icing on the cake and what makes him favourite for the job in my mind is the fact he started his career at the club and played 231 league games for them scoring eight goals. I’m sure he would be a fans favourite and popular choice.

Finally, another manager that has links to Yorkshire, Mark Robins, who has managed both Rotherham United and Barnsley. This would be an interesting choice because of the rivalry between Rotherham and Chesterfield but he has been successful in this division before and performed admirably at Rotherham when they were going through quite a turbulent time, starting one season with a 17 point deduction. His time at Barnsley didn’t go as well but he still achieved their targets and kept them in the Championship and only left because of differences with the board so he may even still be there now if they could have worked it out.

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.

Graham Alexander retires from football

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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