With the Football League season just a few days away, it's time to preview the coming season.
First up, it's League Two.
Expect the usual teams to struggle in League Two. Macclesfield and Barnet often struggle to compete at this level but usually manage to avoid the drop. However, this season the division looks tougher than recent years with the promoted teams looking strong, the relegated teams unlikely to struggle and no teams with points deductions to use as a safety net.
Macclesfield have strengthened the side with the signings of experienced heads such as ex-Lincoln duo of Paul Morgan and Nat Brown. Yet Morgan's form is on the descent since it peaked around 2005, and Brown has been playing non-league football with Wrexham for the past year.
Meanwhile, Barnet have failed to significantly improve their squad for the new season, having to recruit a mix of untried youngsters such as Yannick Bolasie and veteran players like ex-Watford midfielder Micah Hyde. They have also lost key players such as Neale Bishop, Michael Leary and Adam Birchall which will make their survival task all the more difficult.
Accrington Stanley's summer has been shaken by the punishments of four former Stanley players after breaching Football League betting rules. That is unlikely to affect the club going into this season, but again the lack of recruitment this summer has only added to the feel of a club that seems to be stagnating. Manager John Coleman and his squad have a long season in store.
The final pick to struggle could well be considered controversial. After almost making the playoffs last season, Dagenham and Redbridge would certainly not be a team that somebody would tip for relegation- certainly not on face value alone. However, the loss of imposing centre half Magnus Okuonghae coupled with continuing speculation about the future of striker Paul Benson, could be massive.
The Surprise Package
For some reason, teams promoted to the Football League do so well in their inaugural season. Burton Albion were convincingly promoted to League Two. During the course of the season, they lost manager Nigel Clough to Derby County, drafting in Roy McFarland to replace him on a temporary basis.
After securing promotion, Burton decided to appoint the unproven Paul Peschisolido as his replacement. Such a young, fresh manager seems to be the catalyst for an optimistic pre-season buzz around the Pirelli Stadium. The high quality signing of ex-Bristol Rovers striker Richard Walker will provide goals, while Paul Boertien and the rumoured arrival of Marc Edworthy should provide stability at the back. A playoff push is more than possible.
For a club that was in the second tier of English football six years ago, Grimsby Town’s fall from grace has been remarkable. However, with manager Mike Newell’s arrival last season came a better quality of football and a renewed sense of buoyancy. Players were actually interested in joining a club in a footballing backwater. Signings such as Adam Proudlock, Jean Louis Akpa-Akpro and Peter Sweeney followed and, despite the Mariners only avoided relegation by one position, this season will undoubtedly bear greater fruits.
Like Grimsby, last season was a disappointing one for Port Vale. But with a new manager—and a very good, experienced one at that in Micky Adams—Vale will almost certainly not find themselves in such disarray this season. Adams has an ability to get the best out of his players and has done some of his best work in the lower leagues, most notably at Brighton.
The club on the lips of everyone this summer has been Notts County. After a les