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.

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Who will be Stevenage’s next manager?

Stevenage are looking for a new manager after Gary Smith was sacked after failing to challenge for promotion this season.

After a run of 14 losses in 18 games the board obviously felt the club were going backwards and did not want to fall any further down the table. The latest defeat a 2-0 loss to Bury must have been tough to take because Bury are struggling and will probably get relegated this season. But, Smith may feel hard done by as they had just beaten Sheffield United 4-0 at home at the weekend, so at least he will be happy with that performance and gave the fans one last thing to cheer while he was in charge. They are currently 15th in the table and personally I do not think that is bad for a team like Stevenage who have only been back in the Football League for a few years and maybe the board’s ambitions are set too high at the moment. They obviously feel that promotion was a realistic target again this season and they need someone in that can get them back up there next season, however it is a tough league and it will not be easy as the teams dropping from the Championship this season will have a lot of quality.

The favourite for the job is Graham Westley and if he did get the job then it would be a third spell in charge for him. He may not be the most likeable manager and the way his team play may not be the most eye catching but he does have a fantastic record at Stevenage and if he can work his magic again then they will always be in with a chance next season. His time at Preston was very poor but sometimes it just doesn’t work for you at a club and that could be the case here.
Graham Westley
Since leaving Luton Town, Paul Buckle has been linked with quite a few jobs and I still find it strange because he was doing ok with them but it still seemed like they were going to fall short and not get promoted so why should he get a job in a higher division? But, he has had some good times as a manager and maybe somewhere like Stevenage would be good for him and he could do a decent job. However, I don’t think this will be likely but I wouldn’t be surprised if he accepted it, if it was on offer.
Paul Buckle
Finally, and possibly even stranger than Buckle, Gary Waddock has been linked with the job and it is a surprise because he has been out of management since leaving Wycombe Wanderers in 2012. It wasn’t a good end for him there either, with the club in 21st place in League 2 they may have suffered another relegation under him. The one positive is that he does have a promotion on his CV and that could certainly work in his favour.
Gary waddock
Others linked with the role are Iain Dowie, Peter Taylor and Paul Dickov.

Who will be Preston North End’s new manager?

Preston North End are looking for a new manager after Graham Westley was sacked and are hoping that a new manager can improve results.

The club are currently 17th in League 1 only five points above the relegation zone but more worrying for the board and everyone involved with Preston is the fact they have only won one league game since November. The club were hoping for more stability, but this hasn’t happened and it is now the fourth season in a row that they are searching for a new manager. Westley was given a lot by the board because in the summer he was allowed to bring in a completely new squad so he cannot use the excuse that they weren’t the players that he wanted at the club. I expected a lot more from both Preston and Westley this season and am surprised that they are towards the bottom of the league. Westley was in charge for 62 games but could only manage 16 wins leaving him with a win percentage of 25.81% and after his time at Stevenage he probably thought he could get this team back in the Championship. So who will take the job and guide them to at least safety this season?

The favourite for the job is currently Simon Grayson, who has been very successful in League 1 in the past, guiding Blackpool, Leeds United and Huddersfield Town to promotion from the division. He would be a great appointment and even though Huddersfield were on a bad run, I believe he would have kept them in the Championship this season. Unfortunately though for Grayson it does look like he has to drop down into League 1 to get another job as I can’t see many Championship teams giving him a chance yet.

A surprising manager that is linked with the job and is one of the early favourites is Gareth Ainsworth. He is currently player manager at Wycombe Wanderers and even though he does have a decent record of only losing 10 of his 27 games in charge, surely that is not yet good enough to make the jump to a higher division with a team that wants to get promoted. I do like Ainsworth and would want to see him get a chance but I just don’t think he would be the right appointment at the moment. However, he is a former player and had one of his best seasons as a player at the club, getting 11 goals in 38 league games during the 1993-94 season.

Finally, Owen Coyle has been linked with the job and this would be an interesting one because he failed to get Bolton Wanderers back to the Premier League and will have to rebuild his reputation slightly and Preston could be the perfect club for him. It is just a question of whether a manager with Premier League experience with two clubs wants to drop down to League 1.

Others linked with the job are Steven Pressley, Paul Dickov and Gary Megson

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 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 the League 1 playoffs?

League 1 playoffs could be the most exciting they have been in a number of years as I cannot see an outsider out of Sheffield United, Huddersfield Town, MK Dons and Stevenage.

Sheffield United will play away to Stevenage in the first leg while Huddersfield travel to MK Dons. So will the club from Sheffield be able to get their season back on track after losing out to Sheffield rivals Wednesday in the race for the automatic spots. Or will Stevenage continue their good form under Gary Smith? Can Huddersfield go one better than last year and win in the playoff final? Or will MK Dons passing style be good enough to get them into the Championship.

Sheffield United finished in third place an therefore you would think that they would be favourites but with everything that has gone in recent weeks will get their fans worried and they may not be as confident as they should be. With them running out of strikers with James Beattie the latest to get sent off they may struggle to get the goals needed to win the semi final and then the final. But they do have experience in their squad and should be able to deal with the pressure, the fans will also play an important part as Bramall Lane can be a difficult place to go when the fans are fully behind the team. A key player to watch is Lee Williamson who can get goals from the midfield and will cause problems for the Stevenage defence, he has scored 13 goals this season which is a good return for a midfielder and is the top scorer in the squad currently.

Huddersfield Town now with Simon Grayson in charge have been slightly inconsistent since he took over from Lee Clark but he has managed to guide them to the playoffs. He does have history of being in the League 1 playoffs and has won it on one occasion with Blackpool in the 2006-07 season but unfortunately has lost a playoff when in charge of Leeds United.  So the key player for Huddersfield in my opinion will no doubt be Jordan Rhodes who has got 38 goals this season and if they can keep him fit for the playoffs they will score goals but one worry is that there will be too much pressure on him and he may not be able to perform as well as we all know he can.

MK Dons go into the playoffs on the back of a 1-0 home defeat but this shouldn’t make them feel any less confident as they were already comfortably in the playoffs. Karl Robinson deserves a lot of praise for what he has done at the club and has made his team play good football. He likes his side to keep possession and no matter what happens he wants his team to keep the ball on the floor which is very rare in League 1. A key player could be Dean Lewington and although this may strange because he is a left back, he can be very influential and has played 53 games and added four goals this season. He has a good left foot and is a very solid defender for the club.

Stevenage secured their place in the playoffs on the last day of the season with a 3-0 win over Bury. The club may have been criticised by some fans because of their direct tactics but they are only getting criticised because it is working for them and it is very difficult to stop. The recent 2-2 draw away to Sheffield United will give them confidence to go there and take the game to the Blades and they have a very good home record so they have a really good chance. Also beating off the competition to secure their place in the playoffs will give their players a massive lift. Scott Laird will be vital for the team during the playoffs and he is actually the second top scorer for the club with nine goals this season. He has very good delivery and sets up a lot of goals for his teammates.

I think Stevenage will beat Sheffield United over the two legs because they will be very confident and it will be hard for Danny Wilson to pick up his players for the two games and Stevenage will put a lot of pressure on their defence. If United ‘s defence can stay strong they may have a chance but I don’t think they will. In the other semi final, I think MK Dons passing game will be good enough to beat Huddersfield as they are too over reliant on Jordan Rhodes at times and if he struggles they will most likely lose. The final will be a game of two differing styles of football and I think because of that Stevenage will come out on top and achieve their third promotion in three seasons.

Who will be the next Burton Albion manager?

After suffering six consecutive league defeats Burton Albion have decided to sack their manager Paul Peschisolido with Gary Rowett and Kevin Poole taking temporary charge.

Burton are currently 17th in League 2

Both of these are in the running for the full time managerial position and they have the chance to stake a claim for the job when Burton face Northampton in what could be crucial game come the end of the season with both teams struggling at the wrong end of the table. Although relegation from this position was unlikely the team had been on an alarming slide and will have been dragged into a relegation dogfight if things had continued the way they were. The Brewers haven’t won for 14 games and whoever takes over needs to get results and rebuild the teams’ confidence. They clearly have goals in their side with their top three scorers all level in the goal scoring charts. With Justin Richards, Calvin Zola and Billy Kee all hitting 12 goals so far this season in all competitions which is quite impressive, however it does also show where there problems lie. They need someone to come in and get the defence organised then the team have a very good chance of challenging for the playoffs at least next season.

Let’s look at the options, Mark Robins is currently the favourite for the job and he in my opinion would be a very good candidate as he has managed at this level before with Rotherham and at a higher level with Barnsley. He also already knows about the club and what it means to the fans as he finished his playing career with a spell at the club and although he only played nine games, he will surely have some inside knowledge of the club. He has done a good job wherever he has been and has a decent win percentage of 38.18% which you have to remember is quite high for a manager that was basically only expected to avoid relegation when he was at Barnsley. If he would come, then I think they should take him, however, he did leave his last job because of differences with the board and it shows that if things aren’t quite going his way he will walk away from a job.

Paul Buckle is another manager who has done well at this level before and he may be able to take the club to the next level and get them challenging for promotion rather than being stuck in the lower half of the table. He guided former club Torquay United to the Football League and then just missed out on promotion again when his side were beaten in the final of the playoffs by Stevenage. After this he decided to join Bristol Rovers who were expecting to get promoted straight back to League 1 however after the team only win six of their opening 23 games, the fans started to turn on him and the club sacked him leaving him unemployed. He could be a good fit for Burton as they would be underdogs and he performs better when his team are the underdogs, so it could work out well.

The last name I am going to put out there is, Martin Allen, because he has recently become available and he does a pretty decent job everywhere he goes and was possibly a little harshly sacked at Notts County (although they have pushed on further without him). He is a very good manager and if he was willing to drop into League 2 again then he will do a good job however he isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and this may make the fans not take to him that quickly. But he will win football matches and that will make him very popular.

The board have a difficult decision to make but there are currently quite a few good managers available, it will all just depend on how ambitious they want to be and whether they can attract them to the club. It didn’t quite work out well for Peschisolido but he had good words to say about the club and this is always a positive as other managers will look at that and think it must be a good place to work.

Stevenage on the promotion charge

I have been really impressed with Stevenage this season as they have been the surprise package in League 1 and could force themselves into the playoffs.

They gave Tottenham a real fright in the FA Cup actually taking the lead at White Hart Lane after earning a replay against them. Their league form has suffered slightly since the first game but still they have had a fantastic season and if they do end up in the playoffs they know they can give the bigger names in the division a really good game as results have proven this season. They are currently three points behind Notts County in sixth place but remarkably they have three games in hand so if they take full advantage they will comfortably overtake them.

Some people have criticised the way they play football because it is a lot of long balls but that is a harsh assessment of the team because they have some very good footballers especially in the midfield. They have also just confirmed the signing of Patrick Agyemang which could be a brilliant signing as he has fantastic ability with the ball at his feet and therefore will not want balls lumped up to him. If he produces to the standard he is capable then Stevenage have a really good player on their hands and could be the difference between winning the playoffs and just competing in them.

The only worry for the team is that they don’t have an out and out goal scorer but Agyemang may be able to change this. Currently their top scorer only has nine goals. However, Chris Beardsley adds so much to the game than just putting the ball in the back of the net and those nine goals could prove vital at the end of the season. He has fantastic work rate and holds up the ball fantastically, he knows he has to challenge for every ball and every defender who he has come up against leaves the field knowing they have been in a battle.

They do have some talent in their side and Scott Laird is one of them, he has now played over 200 games for the club and he has been very consistent for the team and might be attracting interest from clubs in the Championship. He has looked very composed at the back and rarely makes a mistake but it is also his attacking threat that makes him vital to the squad. He has seven goals this season and recently scored the winner away to Sheffield Wednesday.

Gary Smith hopes to lead Stevenage into the playoffs

It has not been an easy season for the club with former manager Graham Westley leaving after four years in charge and two promotions. He was replaced by Gary Smith who is adapting quite well to his first role in England and I’m sure will improve as time goes on. If they make the playoffs they are as dangerous as anyone and if I was another team in them I wouldn’t want to play them.

Do Sheffield Wednesday have the bottle to get promoted from League 1

Sheffield Wednesday are in danger of throwing away all of their good work throughout the season after suffering three defeats in a row against Exeter, Stevenage and now Chesterfield.

The game against Chesterfield was supposed to be a warm up to the big derby game against Sheffield United next week but with their recent results this could possibly be the worst upcoming fixture which is surprising as a few weeks ago the fans were all hoping the game would come quicker, this just shows how quickly football changes.

So, it’s down to the players and Gary Megson to prove they have the bottle in one of the biggest ever games to be played in the third tier of English football. This will not be easy but it could galvanise the team and a win could catapult them up the table and on a long unbeaten run so the fans need to get behind the team even though I can imagine a few of them are wishing they never purchased tickets for the game now. Another worry for Wednesday is that Jermaine Johnson had to go off in the first half against Chesterfield and he looks to be the only player that can produce a moment of magic.

Why have the Owls struggled recently, is it because of the manager and the way he wants to play? Or is it because Megson doesn’t know his strongest team?  Is it because of the players?

It’s obvious Megson doesn’t know his strongest team with him changing his line up regularly in recent weeks, most notably at centre back with him being unsure whether to partner Danny Baath next to Rob Jones or Miguel Llera and with this uncertainty in a very key area of the pitch it is no surprise that the team have started looking more shaky than usual at the back. Another position he is unsure of is equally important and that is upfront. Gary Madine looks out of sorts since coming back from injury, Ryan Lowe has not hit the heights expected and looks like he is lacking a bit of confidence. Then you have Chris O’Grady who will work hard but the goals have never flowed for him and Clinton Morrison who still on his day can produce some magic but this has been far too infrequent for the fans.

He has problems in all departments, even goalkeeper where he has to choose between Stephen Bywater and Nicky Weaver and I know competition is good but sometimes you just need to have a number one so the keeper knows the manager has 100% confidence in him. The midfield is a real worry, David Prutton has been put on the right wing and will not influence the game from that position and will not add any threat from the wing. Mike Jones signed from Bury in January but he has hardly had a kick and it seems that if Megson wanted him then he would have been well down the list he gave to the chairman to replace Ben Marshall.

So do Wednesday have the bottle to get out of this division this season. We will certainly find out against United in front of a packed stadium.

Praise for Sheffield Wednesday fans

The support of Sheffield Wednesday has never been in doubt but the Owls have probably even surpassed their own expectations by selling out a game in League 1. Yes it is the Steel City Derby but this is still an astonishing achievement as teams in the Championship and Premier League will be looking at Hillsborough in envy when the two sides take to the field, only wishing they had the same passionate support as the blue and white half of Sheffield.

What makes it even more remarkable is that the game has been sold out a whole month before the fixture is going to be played. League1 will never have seen a fixture like this and will probably never see it again. 12,500 seats were sold within three days of going on general sale which means that the fans know the importance of this game because it is not only a local derby but the two teams are currently level on points in the league and pushing for an automatic promotion place.

This is most certainly the most anticipated derby for a long time as both sides know that it could determine which division they are playing in next season. However, Wednesday need to make sure they keep up their good run at home as lately they have been beaten by Charlton and let a lead slip against Hartlepool, but other than these results their home form has been close to impeccable. Gary Megson though needs to keep his players minds focused because they have some crucial games coming up including games against promotion rivals MK Dons and Stevenage. Also they have a game against Chesterfield scheduled for the week before the big derby which will be their opponents biggest game of the season and therefore they will be up for it.

The January transfer window will be closed by the time the game comes around and the players that are brought in and sold could be vital in which team wins the game. With plenty of Blades players linked away from the club, such as Ched Evans and Stephen Quinn, the team could be substantially weakened for the rest of the season not just for the game against Wednesday.

Wednesday also seem to be linked with a few players and could be in need of a more creative midfielder with the latest being Ferrie Bodde. Who was very influential in getting Swansea promoted from this division but has suffered horribly with injuries in the last couple of years. The long running transfer saga of Ben Marshall needs to be sorted too as they either need to sign him or bring in someone to replace him as they look short on the wings. However, fortunately for the Owls it seems that Jermaine Johnson is beginning to find the kind of form which will frighten the life out of the Sheffield United defenders. With two wonder goals against Hartlepool and Scunthorpe he could be seen by many as the important player in the match. As all Wednesday fans know he can be infuriating with his sometimes poor final ball but they also know that he is one of the few players at the club to get them off their seat and when he gets the ball against United there is always an expectancy from the fans. Which could be crucial when the stadium is full and if Johnsons is flying the crowd will be too.

So back to the fans, this is a tremendous effort for a team that has struggled over recent years but the fans have stuck by the club and continue to support in huge numbers which makes Sheffield Wednesday still one of the biggest clubs in England. The players need to realise how lucky they are to play in front of this magnificent crowd and it is time for them to deliver.