Chris Powell's Flat Cap

Home » Season Previews » Chris Powell’s Flat Cap League One Season Preview – Part Two

Chris Powell’s Flat Cap League One Season Preview – Part Two

Part One


Chesterfield

Having reached the play-offs in 2014/15, admittedly exceeding all expectations and punching well above their perceived weight in doing so having won promotion from League Two in the previous campaign, last season was quite the decline for Chesterfield. 

Ultimately finishing a relatively comfortable seven points above the relegation zone, and not actually spending time in the bottom four, but large parts of the season were spent little more than a point above the drop zone. The reasons for which more obvious than simply the notion of any potential play-off hangover that might have followed the defeat to Preston North End.

Manager Paul Cook, overseeing a League Two title win, a sixth place finish in the third tier, and boasting an impressive win percentage just shy of 45% during his three years in charge, leaving to join Portsmouth as one of many departures that derailed the Spireites’ development.

Dean Saunders, hindered by the sales of Gary Roberts, Sam Clucas and Tendayi Darikwa without over £2m in transfer fees being reinvested, losing 11 of his 19 games in charge, and steady if unspectacular improvement under replacement Danny Wilson required to cement Chesterfield’s League One status.

Enough to create optimism ahead of the new season? It depends if you’re defining optimism has a more comfortable campaign, or one where they can compete for a play-off place again.

This squad remains much weaker than the one that achieved a top six finish. The failure to retain top scorer Lee Novak, for example, not helping, and replacing him with the controversial signing of Ched Evans hardly the most encouraging of moves.

But Wilson being in charge, experienced and relatively successful at League One level, for the duration of the campaign means stability and a more stress free season can undoubtedly be hoped for. At the very least, trauma like a run of eight defeats in nine that left the Spireites one point from the relegation at the end of 2015 should be avoided.

The Manager – Danny Wilson

With over 1,000 games as a manager, many of those coming while leading a club in the third tier of English football, there are few bosses in the country, let alone this division, who have a CV as stacked as Danny Wilson’s.

Such experience making him the perfect man for a crisis, and it showing as he addressed the mess left behind by Saunders. Comfortable survival always looked likely from the moment the 56-year-old was given the job on Christmas Eve, as a more organised under Wilson’s stewardship became tougher to beat.

The sort of brain, too, that can deal with the pressure that comes with awarding Evans another chance in football while baggage and uncertainty still remains. Wilson getting the Welshman to play the best football of his interrupted career at Sheffield United, allegedly maintaining a strong relationship as a consequence, and hopeful that this gamble of sorts is more likely to pay off than it would be in different surroundings.

But for all of Wilson’s attributes and achievements, including League One play-off final appearances with Swindon Town and the Blades this decade, he hasn’t led a sign to promotion since claiming second in League Two with Hartlepool United in 2006/07. Just one further promotion, though an impressive one as he took Barnsley to the Premier League in 1996/97, in a 22-year career.

A man that can certainly stabilise the Spireites, but a combination of conditions at the club and his own record suggest emulating Cook’s success of two seasons ago is unlikely.              

Transfer Business

There is, unfortunately, only one place to start. Chesterfield’s decision to sign Evans after a four-year absence from football.

That four year absence meaning there’s a question of whether he remains the player he was at Sheffield United, prior to his prison sentence, before the moral dilemma is even considered. At the very least, it’s a brave call for Chesterfield to face a possible heavy backlash should Evans’ re-trial not go as is seemingly predicted.

In the less mucky waters of the club’s other transfer activity, it’s been a case of a clear out of those no longer required, and signings largely made on the basis of promise or potential.

Forwards Emmanuel Dieseruvwe, Byron Harrison and Jordan Slew depart with a combine total of one goal to their collective names in 46 appearances, Chris Herd returns to his native Australia to play for Perth Glory having been in and out of the side last season, while Drew Talbot moves on to Portsmouth having made well over a double-century of appearances for the Spireites.

In their place come 26-year-old Kristian Dennis, a forward who scored freely for Curzon Ashton, Stockport County and Macclesfield Town in non-league football, 25-year-old full-back Paul McGinn, a regular for Dundee in the previous two seasons, and 24-year-old Jon Nolan, who was part of Grimsby’s promotion-winning side.

Winger Reece Mitchell, 20 and yet to make a first-team appearance, also joins the club having turned down a new contract at Chelsea to sign for Chesterfield, while goalkeeper Ryan Fulton, who spent part of last season at Portsmouth, arrives on loan from Liverpool to provide competition to long-standing stopper Tommy Lee.

But maybe just a touch of frustration still existing that the money made from big-name departures last season has not been reinvested in the squad again. Frustration that only increased with Novak opting for the Addicks over a return to Chesterfield.

The Squad

It’s certainly not got the quality of the squad that took Chesterfield into the play-offs two seasons ago, but there’s a reasonable amount of ability within the side nonetheless.

The defence reasonably solid. New signing McGinn likely to earn a place at right-back, experienced duo Sam Hird and Ian Evatt form a competent centre-back partnership, and supporters will be hoping that Daniel Jones, a very good left-back with attacking qualities at this level, will avoid injury in the coming campaign. Liam O’Neil and Charlie Raglan, who both possess a degree of versatility, providing cover both centrally and in the full-back positions.

O’Neil can also play in a deep midfield role, giving Wilson plenty of central options, though many of them still need to properly prove themselves at the club. Captain Gary Liddle effectively assured of his place, with Dion Donohue, a bit-part player in the previous campaign, Dan Gardner, who spent part of last season on loan at Bury, and Angel Martinez, returning from a long-term injury, among those competing for a place in the middle in addition to new signing Nolan.

Decent options in the wide areas, too, with 20-year-old Connor Dimaio signing a contract extension after arriving on a short-term deal from Sheffield United in the winter. Jay O’Shea and Gboly Ariyibi possibly ahead of him in the pecking order, while new signing Mitchell provides another alternative.

As does Bermudan forward Rai Simons, who has agreed a new deal having performed well under Wilson’s stewardship, but is far greater suited to a central striking role. A position, which will see a partnership with Sylvan Ebanks-Blake formed, he is likely to compete alongside Dennis and Evans for. Ebanks-Blake, who proved himself to still be effective last season after a number of goal-shy seasons, most certainly the leader of Chesterfield’s attack with Novak no longer around.

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Some points to prove among this squad, undoubtedly, but it’s not in bad shape for one that was involved in a relegation battle last season. A bit of strengthening at the back is the only realistic demand you could really make.

Fans View: Demetri Loizou (@demetri_loizou) 

A play-off place two seasons ago, and a relegation battle last year. Is finishing somewhere in the middle of those two extremes Chesterfield’s realistic goal for this campaign?

I hope so! Last season was painful, witnessing the decimation of what really was a fantastic squad put together by Paul Cook. If we could have kept it together for another year I’ve no doubt we’d have won promotion (many of our players from that year are now at a higher level). However, it is what it is and we football fans have to put up with it. Wilson’s made about five signings this summer but we still lack talent in central midfield. Without that last piece of the jigsaw, I am fearful.

“Last season was painful, witnessing the decimation of what really was a fantastic squad”

Danny Wilson is an experienced boss who has a decent record at this level, and did a commendable job in steering the Spireites clear of trouble in the latter half of last season. Does he have the full support of Chesterfield fans or will that only be achieved with a competitive effort during this campaign?

He has our support. We know his hands are tied to a certain extent and most of the shortcomings on the pitch have arisen because of the austerity imposed by the board. Many expected him to leave after keeping us up and allow Chris Morgan to take over, but he’s stuck around. I think he’s very steady but not spectacular, which might well be what we need at the moment – but not forever. He’s better than Dean ******* Saunders.

Over £2m was made in player sales last summer, but there has yet to be any real investment in the squad. A sensible call, to provide financial stability, or a frustrating lack of ambition?

The owner wants his money back. I think it’s pretty clear he wants to sell up and get out. We made £2m but we only just broke even. Something is seriously wrong at the club. Both our sets of supporters might know something about inept chief executives. I think the owner pulled the plug a year too soon; he cut off his nose to spite his face and as a result has suffered for it, along with the rest of us.

In other questionable recruitment decisions, is signing Ched Evans, especially prior to his retrial, the correct call?

It’s a gamble. We have gambled on a Not Guilty verdict, but (as the argument goes) it needed to be done before the re-trial otherwise little old Chesterfield would be at the back of the queue. And of the case itself, the momentum does seem to be in Evans’ favour. From what I know of the incident, there’s no argument from me that he is a bad egg, but I’m not sure if he’s a guilty one. I hope for nothing more than for justice to run its course, whatever the result.

Charlton supporters will be keen to know what they can expect from Lee Novak. A useful signing for a club with promotion ambitions?

Wonderful striker. He took a short while to settle in here, but his talent is obvious and abundant at this level. A shame we couldn’t keep him. In a good team he might shine even more.

And finally, where will you finish this season?

Anywhere in the bottom half. Hopefully top half of the bottom half.

Summary

A considerably less stressful campaign. 14th

Chesterfield_v_Aldershot


Coventry City

From the opening weekend of last season until their 33rd game, Coventry City occupied at least a play-off spot.

Sixth not simply held by the skin of their teeth, but the top two flirted with for the majority of that period. The Sky Blues, an organised unit under Tony Mowbary which utilised the threat loanees Adam Armstrong and Jacob Murphy offered on the break, serious promotion contenders. wgwgwrgrwgerw

Serious promotion contenders for the first time since their relegation to League One in 2012, and a distraction finally offered from the continued uncertainty that has marred the Sky Blues for a number of years. Despite a continued attempt by rugby club Wasps and Coventry City Council to make the football club appear like squatters in a home that was primarily built for them, you could find undemoralised home supporters at the Ricoh Arena on a Saturday afternoon. A rare sight.

But by the conclusion of the season, not even a run of four victories from five was enough to inject any sort of hope and optimism into the rightfully beleaguered fans of this club. A play-off position, with three wins in the calendar year prior to that mini-revival, spectacularly thrown away, and there no distraction positive enough to turn attention away from the genuine concern that the football club of Coventry is being forced out.

Having fought so hard to return to the city while sharing with Northampton Town in 2012, there’s now a suggestion that moving to a new ground on the outskirts of the city, outside of the jurisdiction of Coventry City Council, is best for the football club. An outcome that doesn’t exactly look likely, but nor does finding another ground within Coventry or remaining at the Ricoh. The Council in support of making Wasps the city’s main sporting attraction, which has resulted in the Sky Blues being tenants at the Ricoh on unfavourable terms, both financially and symbolically.

All this while Coventry, a club whose status suggests they should be playing above League One level, have to rebuild from last season’s disappointment while struggling to compete in the transfer marker under the ownership of the Sisu group.

Coventry’s chances of progressing, or even replicating the sort of challenge made for a top six place last season, limited further by the continuing sense of uncertainty and discomfort not having a real sense of belonging to a home ground provides.

The Manager – Tony Mowbray

That Coventry were forced to deny rumours of Rotherham United making an approach for their manager in May, irrespective of their disappointing end to the season, is a reflection of the respectable job that Mowbray has done in charge of the Sky Blues despite being unable to maintain a place in League One’s top six.

For not only is there an acceptance that managing a club in the uncertain position that Coventry find themselves in is a tough ask, but the former West Brom and Middlesbrough boss did, for a large part of the season, have his side playing a brand of football more threatening and exciting than anything else seen at the Ricoh in recent seasons.

That, however, does not mean Mowbray should escape without criticism for last season’s capitulation. In the same way the continued success he had with his counter-attacking football, led by loanees no longer at the club, was impressive, his inability to find a way to stop the rot once it had started was infuriating for supporters of Coventry. The respect gained during the more promising period of the season not entirely lost, but certainly damaged.

It means the Mowbray starts the season with a reasonable amount of pressure on him to prove he can organise a much-changed, and arguably weaker, Coventry side to compete once again. And compete with a backdrop of uncertainty and impending crisis.

Transfer Business

This summer, given the apathy, disappointment and uncertainty that exists around Coventry, was quite an important one. At the very least, a need to create some sort of hope and positivity ahead of the new season.

But the club’s transfer activity has been quite disappointing, and has probably had the opposite effect. Key players departing, and the replacements less than impressive.

John Fleck’s move to Sheffield United, especially considering he’s joined a club in the same division as the Sky Blues, probably the most frustrating. The diminutive playmaker providing consistent quality in the middle since arriving from Rangers four seasons ago, and his class and creativity will be greatly missed.

As will the tenacity of Roman Vincelot, with the midfielder sold to Bradford. The Sky Blues much weaker in the middle.

But few tears shed over the likes of Marc-Antoine Fortune, Darius Henderson and Stephen Hunt departing, Joe Cole failed to make the impact many hoped he would do, and Jim O’Brien always likely to leave having spent the end of last season on loan at Scunthorpe.

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Some concern, however, over an almost complete clear out of defensive options. Allowing the aging Reda Johnson and Peter Ramage to leave, neither featuring a great deal in the previous campaign, makes sense, but letting Aarons Martin (Oxford United) and Phillips (Northampton Town) join other League One clubs is a little odd.

Particularly with no defensive signings made deep into pre-season. Few signings made at all, in fact, despite sanctioning the departure of so many.

18-year-old winger Jodi Jones, who has shown plenty of potential at Dagenham & Redbridge and spent the final weeks of last season on loan at the Ricoh, making his move a permanent one probably the most exciting signing Mowbray has been able to make.

Former Addick Marvin Sordell no longer a signing to excite, while fellow forward Kwame Thomas joins from Derby County without a senior goal to his name in 32 appearances. Neither likely to emulate the impact that Newcastle United loanee Adam Armstrong had last season, who has returned to his parent club having scored 20 times last season.

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Speaking of loanees, experienced midfield Chris McCann has joined the club on loan until January having signed a permanent deal with new MLS franchise Atlanta United. The 28-year-old will maintain fitness with the Sky Blues ahead of his move to America and, having won the league with Wigan last season, will hopefully make an impact in what is both a youthful and rather weak-looking side.

Oddly, though, the loan can’t be confirmed until August 1, when the contracts Atlanta have awarded become official. Coventry supporters will be hoping that a few more deals will be announced before McCann is pictured holding a City shirt.

The Squad

It almost certainly in defence where the greatest need for strengthening is required, though Jordan Willis’ return to fitness is a huge boost.

The 21-year-old versatile defender missed most of last season after sustaining an ankle injury in August, but it only he with any sort of experience in the centre-back position. Cian Harries, 19, made his first-team debut on the final day of last season, but a gamble to rely on a teenager in the heart of defence.

Options in the full-back positions, however, slightly less concerning, with right-back and skipper Sam Ricketts an almost ever present last season, and left-back Chris Stokes having arrived from Forest Green Rovers. Ryan Haynes, having returned from a loan spell at Cambridge United, provides back-up on the left, but another right-back wouldn’t go a miss.

Maybe Coventry could ask their goalkeeper to persuade his brother to join the club on loan. Reice Charles-Cook, brother of Charlton’s Regan, the Sky Blues’ first choice stopper for the majority of last season.

Charlton’s Charles-Cook can also play in the centre of midfield, another area where the Sky Blues lack depth, even after McCann’s arrival. Bulgarian Vladimir Gadzhev, who signed towards the end of last season following a successful trial, and Andy Rose, who has impressed having joined from Seattle Sounders in January, the main options.

Also a chance, possibly, for 19-year-old Jack Finch. Potential shown in a handful of appearances during the 2014/15 season, but the midfielder didn’t play a single first-team game last season.

A young winger stepping up would also be useful, with Jones and Ruben Lameiras the Sky Blues only real options out wide at present. Kyle Spence, with the 19-year-old having impressed during pre-season, might well provide competition, but another winger surely needed.

While in attack, a partnership between forwards that spent time on loan at Charlton during the 13/14 season looks likely. Marcus Tudgay linking up with Sordell, with support provided from Kwame Thomas and, no relation, George Thomas.

Like Kwame, however, George doesn’t have a senior goal to his name, and greater proven potency is probably required in attack.

Greater proven quality probably required all over, with it appearing that the Sky Blues will be relying on a number of youngsters to make the step up this season.

Fans View – Charlie Harris (@_CharlieHarris)

You’ve obviously experienced plenty of disappointment in recent years, but where does last season’s capitulation rank among it all?

Out of all the seasons I’ve witnessed I’d probably put last season as the absolute worst, even topping the relegation season from the Championship. It’s just the absolute crushing disappointment of actually thinking that we may finally do something, only for us to completely collapse when we took the advantage.

You’re effectively being forced out of your home by the City Council and a rugby franchise. Is the future of the club under threat?

I would say so yes, no-one really knows how things are going to turn out for us at the moment. Wasps owning the Ricoh basically puts a glass ceiling over us as a club, we’ll never be able to own the stadium in our own city because Wasps have a 100 year lease, and without ownership we’re severely restricted in how much we can earn from playing there. Without access to decent revenue it’s hard to see how the club can progress at all.

“Wasps owning the Ricoh basically puts a glass ceiling over us as a club”

Off-the-pitch uncertainty undoubtedly having an impact on recruitment and retention of players. How concerned are you about the state of your squad, and how much weaker is it without last season’s loanees?

At the moment, the squad is extremely weak, there is no doubt about it. However, I’m relatively optimistic that Mowbray will be able to bring in some decent recruits. The loan signing of Chris McCann is already a positive sign, and shows the quality of player that Mowbray can attract to the club. Marvin Sordell is a bit of an underwhelming signing as his career seems to be falling off a cliff at the moment, but there is obviously some sort of player in there given his early career.

The main issue with signings is the slow speed in which we bring players in, not the overall quality.

Last season’s loan players will be missed, but I trust in Mowbray’s ability to utilise the loan market to its full strength.

How much pressure is on Tony Mowbary, or is there an acceptance that his job is a difficult one in the circumstances?

It’s difficult to say really, and it depends on who you ask. There are certain members of the fan base who wanted Mowbray out last March when our collapse was becoming apparent but more level headed supporters know that Mowbray is doing a pretty good job given the circumstances and the financial situation that the club finds itself in.

There is a concern over Mowbray’s ability to sustain a challenge over a whole season seeing as he has history with both us and Middlesbrough of horrific second half of the season collapses, but hopefully that will be addressed this season. If it’s not then I’m not confident that Mowbray will still be in charge here come May.

And finally, where will you finish this season?

It’s hard to say at the moment, with a few signings we could push for the play-offs but with the current squad I’m not sure we’d finish top half. 18th.

Summary

An unpleasant situation off-the-pitch, which isn’t going to provide any assistant on it. 20th. 

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Fleetwood Town

The last time the football club that played their home games at Fleetwood’s Highbury Stadium failed to improve upon their league table position from the previous season, that club were known as Fleetwood Freeport and had slipped from 5th in the North West Counties League Division One in 2000/01 to 14th a year later. download

Last season, therefore, the first that Fleetwood Town have failed to improve upon their finish in the campaign prior to it. The drop from 10th in League One to 19th, and a season-long flirt with relegation, largely the consequence of a change in strategy.

Not a change in strategy designed to hurt the club. Quite the opposite, in fact. But chairman Andy Pilley’s desire to make the club self-sufficient, as appose to investing large and potentially irresponsible sums to move the Cod Army forward at pace, was always likely to have a short-term negative impact on the chances of success on the pitch.

A sense existing that this as far as a club of Fleetwood’s size can realistically progress, and making the club sustainable a more realistic ambition. The breakdown of Jamie Vardy’s potential move to Arsenal denying Fleetwood cash, through a sell-on clause, that might have altered those short-term ambitions slightly.

At the very least, without the playing budget offering Fleetwood an advantage over the larger clubs in the division, simply remaining a League One club, and one that is financially secure, would again be an overachievement of sorts.

Especially given that with less than two weeks to go before the season begins, boss Steven Pressley has opted to resign. His departure making all pre-season planning effectively meaningless.

A difficult season awaits for the Cod Army.

The Manager – Vacant

Managing Fleetwood is no longer the job it once was. The boss at Highbury doesn’t have access to a pool of financial resources comparatively larger than what is available to divisional opponents, with there now a need to be wiser, grittier and overall a more determined leader. The job requirements having more in common with managerial roles at other clubs arguably punching above their weight.

There can, therefore, be few complaints about the job Steven Pressley did after taking over Fleetwood in October 2015. Unspectacular, but a mission accomplished. A side that lacks the quality of others in the division organised in such a way that it was able to pick up enough points to avoid the threat of relegation that lingered throughout the entirety of last season.

And even if opposition to Pressley did exist, there can only be an acceptance that the timing of his resignation is a damaging one. Stability lost prior to the season beginning.

The question, of course, is who can Fleetwood appoint that will do a better job? Who’s willing to work under the financial restraints they now have, and with a relatively poor squad?

A young and inexperienced boss most likely.

Transfer Business

A summer of high turnover at Highbury, and not just in the dugout, in a manner that reflects Fleetwood’s financial pragmatism and relative status.

Some of the departures disappointing, but arguably to be expected. The impressive Tyler Horny-Forbes, a 20-year-old attacking full-back, unlikely to stay at the club after Brighton showed interested, goalkeeper Chris Maxwell, Player of the Year in 2014/15 and a regular between the sticks, snapped up by Preston, and creative midfielder Antoni Sarcevic, who scored the goal to take Fleetwood into League One and has made over 100 appearances for the club, joining fellow League One club Shrewsbury.

Additionally, centre back Marcus Nilsson has departed despite the club exercising an option to extend his contract this summer having impressed at Highbury since arriving in February. The Swede, who has one cap for his country, joining Stabeak for an undisclosed fee. A deal “which suits both parties” according to technical director Gretar Steinsson.

Whether that means further additions to the ones already made can now happen remains to be seen. A number of steady performers at this level joining the club that improve the overall strength of Fleetwood’s squad.

Important, too, that the disappointing departures have been replaced. Alex Cairns and Chris Neal, signed from Rotherham and Port Vale respectively, to fight it out for the number one jersey, full-back Michael Duckworth, having impressed in League Two, joins from Hartlepool United, and Ricardo Kip, a 24-year-old Dutch midfielder who scored 24 times in 117 games for Almere City, will look to provide a creative influence.

Elsewhere, centre-backs Cian Bolger and Ashley Eastham arrive with decent reputations from Southend and Rochdale, young defender-cum-forward Aaron Holloway signed from Wycombe having spent time on loan at Oldham last season, and a third goalkeeper, 22-year-old Matty Urwin, arrives from AFC Fylde.

Urwin not the only signing made from a non-league club this summer, with a relatively risk-free gamble taken on two young forwards. Both Ashley Nadesan, who scored 99 goals in two seasons for Horley Town, and Dion Charles, with 18 goals to his name at AFC Fylde in the previous campaign, will do well to avoid the obvious Jamie Vardy comparisons.

The Squad

Pressley’s departure particularly concerning given the need to shape together what remained of last season’s side with the new additions. The squad a little bit untidy.

Bolger and Eastham likely to form a new centre-back partnership, ahead of Joe Davis and long-serving captain Nathan Pond, but Amari Bell, who played 44 times at left-back last season, will attempt to maintain his place in the side despite the arrival of Duckworth.

Some doubt, however, as to whether the man that started regularly at right-back last season will remain. A desperate need to retain full-back Conor McLaughlin, with the Northern Ireland international rumoured to be sought by both Leeds United and former club Preston North End. The versatile Victor Nirennold the most obvious understudy.

Understudies lacking in the centre of midfield, though, with Nick Haughton providing the only real cover for former Addick Eggert Jonsson and new signing Ricardo Kip. A better situation out wide, helped by the versatility within the squad, as natural winger Jimmy Ryan is supported by McLaughlin and Duckworth’s ability to play further forward, in addition to forwards David Ball and Bobby Grant.

Devante Cole and Ashley Hunter provide two further forward options to whoever the new boss may be, in addition to new signing Holloway, while it remains to be seen if Nadesan and Charles will be given an immediate opportunity in the first team.

Fans View: Curtis Sandercock (@Curt_1992)

Pressley’s resignation seems incredibly bizarre from the outside. The decision itself, but more so the timing. What’s the feeling among Fleetwood supporters?

To be honest, it has been coming. Most fans wanted him gone end of last season. He just wasn’t good enough.

What sort of boss do you need to replace him – an experienced one who can steady the ship, or a young manager who can build something?

I’d prefer a young manager with experienced back room staff. We need to get rid of most of the current back room staff from Alexander’s reign.

With the club much more considered in its spending than it was a few seasons ago, how difficult is it for Fleetwood, irrespective of who is in charge, to compete in a division well above their perceived status?

It’s obviously going to be difficult because we are a small team compared to some teams in the division and can’t compete financially.

You’ve had quite the turnover of players this summer, with useful-looking additions and relatively heavy losses. Has it made your squad stronger or weaker?

Just the same as last season. Not enough height or a player who looks like he is going to score 15+ goals a season. Think we might have a season like last year.

I must ask about Eggert Jonsson, who put in one of the worst performances I have ever seen by anyone in a Charlton shirt during a brief loan spell in 2012. A steady performer for yourselves?

Personally I think he is being a good player for us. Looked a bit dodgy start of season when he played centre back but since being moved to holding midfield he has made that position his own.

Finally, where will you finish this season? 

Around 17th. 

Summary

Not entirely sure that a manager resigning with less than two weeks to go until the season starts at a club who were struggling to compete anyway is ideal. 23rd

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Gillingham

Last season concluding with frustration and disappointment at the Priestfield Stadium as Gillingham, who were seriously flirting with the idea of a return to the Championship for the first time since their last second tier appearance in 2004/05, ultimately threw away what appeared for much of the campaign a play-off position that was theirs to lose. gwgwegewgewgew

Two victories in their final 15 games seeing the Gills drop to ninth. A finishing position that was just punishment for that end of season capitulation, but one that didn’t necessarily reflect how impressive they were prior to it.

Bold and brash attacking football, the consequence of manager Justin Edinburgh instilling confidence and cohesion into a group of young players that few predicted to challenge prior to the season getting underway, ultimately undermined and exposed as May approached, but not to the extent where the positivity created could be overwritten.

That capitulation, for example, not meaning that the Gills begin this campaign without the confidence and self-belief to attempt to mix with those clubs that carry a greater status in this division.

The circumstances heading into this season undoubtedly a little different, with Edinburgh’s side possibly lacking the element of surprise that they had for large parts of the previous campaign, but still possessing much of the quality that allowed them to match and outshine opponents that were perceived as stronger. At the very least, the impressive Bradley Dack still leads an energetic, pacey and potent attacking threat at the time of writing.

A harder challenge to compete on this occasion, and to make sure that they compete for the entirety of the season, but not one that is impossible.

The Manager – Justin Edinburgh

Despite falling away at the last, Edinburgh’s reputation had still grown considerably come the end of the campaign. A result of taking a side he had led away from the prospect of relegation in the previous season on a serious promotion challenge that lasted a sizeable proportion of the campaign.

Not just the fact that Edinburgh’s side competed with serious intent for a play-off position, but the way in which it was done earning the 46-year-old plenty of plaudits. Only champions Wigan Athletic, the always free-scoring Peterborough United, and a potent Millwall side scored more times in the league than Gillingham.

The former Newport County boss getting the best out of League One Player of the Year Dack, who was supported well in forward play by the exciting Emmanuel Osadebe, Reading loanee Dominic Samuel, and relatively potent Rory Donnelly, among others. Edinburgh giving his side the freedom to play an attacking brand of football.

A brand that will undoubtedly be allowed to be replicated in the coming season, but with the sort of adaptations that will prevent the form at the end of the previous campaign becoming more permanent. Edinburgh still relatively young, and therefore still learning, in managerial terms, and will need to show he and his side have learnt from that slump.

Transfer Business

A positive summer for the Gills, and not just because Dack remains locked away deep in the bowels of Priestfield.

In fact, it is the departure of John Egan, with the impressive centre-back joining Brentford, which provides the only real disappointment to supporters. Egan replaced by Deji Oshilaja, who returns for a third loan from Cardiff having made a strong impression in the previous two last season.

Oshilaja joined by a number of additions that provide a reasonable amount of excitement, or at least increase the quality available to Edinburgh.

Interestingly, there’s quite a heavy Charlton connection among those signed. Winger Lee Martin, who did a decent job while on loan at The Valley in the horrendous 2010/11 campaign, joins having not quite managed to maintain a permanent place in Millwall’s starting XI, the ever-popular and Roland Duchatelet-hating Scott Wagstaff arrives from Bristol City, with League One a tier the wide man can excel in, and a bit of coup to get one-time England left-back Paul Konchesky, who played 34 times while on loan at QPR, to agree a deal with the club.

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Elsewhere, midfielder Billy Knott, who has proven himself to be a decent performer at this level, arrives having been released by Bradford City, central man Mark Byrne has been snapped up after he impressed in League Two with Newport County, and 6’4 forward Joe Quigley joins on loan from Bournemouth, giving him an opportunity to play league football for the first time having spent time at non-league Woking last season.

Experience and quality signed, with a chance offered to 19-year-old Quigley. A positive summer of activity for the Gills indeed, though there is certainly an argument for more being needed.

The Squad

That argument the result of their squad looking a little stretched in certain areas. One of the many sides in this division where the starting XI looks promising, but you fear for them should they encounter injuries.

That probably most true at the back. Even in the goalkeeper position, there’s no senior backup to Stuart Nelson.

Minimal competition for places in the backline itself, with Bradley Garmston’s need to prevent Konchesky from claiming his left-back position the only real battle. The versatile Aaron Morris providing cover to centre backs Max Ehmer and Oshilaja, and Wagstaff could fill in for Ryan Jackson at right-back, but that’s not an ideal scenario. More options in defence needed.

A completely different story in midfield, where the options are plentiful and impressive. Byrne and Knott competing with Josh Wright, Jake Heesnthaler and Morris.

While it is in the more advanced midfield positions where the Gills are at their strongest. Emmauel Osadebe, at just 19, raising almost as many eyebrows as Dack did last season, while Martin and Wagstaff provide additional quality. Knott, and youngster Elliott List, providing alternative options if required.

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But up top, there are concerns. Quigley untired, the goals drying up for Cody McDonald, and Luke Norris unpopular among supporters. Rory Donnelly, despite scoring just ten times last season, Gillingham’s most potent threat. A more natural goalscorer required.

And though Edinburgh has spoken of signing another forward, who is capable of running off the shoulder of another, it would appear the Gills are currently better suited to playing a formation that accommodates five in midfield. The major benefit of which would be allowing Dack a degree of freedom.

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Last season. One of promise, or ultimately a disappointing capitulation and a missed opportunity?

Without doubt the latter. We had been inside the top six for each and every one of the first 33 games, and let it slip right at the end where we failed to win any of our final 8 matches. We were 17 points clear of eventual play-off winners Barnsley towards the end of February, that highlights how drastically we capitulated.
At the very least, it would appear that Justin Edinburgh has made you more competitive and brought a better standard of football to Priestfield. Support still there for him?
The backing is certainly still there for him. We were virtually unstoppable in the first half of the season, and he played a huge role in that. That said, we only won four games in 2016, so should the new campaign begin with a continuation of that form, then people may perhaps start asking questions.
“We only won four games in 2016, so should the new campaign begin with a continuation of that form, then people may perhaps start asking questions”

Does all hope of competing again this season vanish without Bradley Dack, or are you much more than that?

Well Justin Edinburgh has stated this week that there’s been no approach for him this summer, and it’s looking rather likely that he’ll still be here when the season begins at least, and perhaps even beyond the transfer window. Last season we were far too reliant on him, but our transfer business this summer should take away some of the load, or fill the void should he move on.

I’m sure you’ll be delighted to hear that Scott Wagstaff is as Charlton as they come, and someone well-respected among Addicks. How would you assess your transfer activity overall? You still look a little short in a couple of areas…

Wagstaff was one of three I put on a wish list the day after last season finished, and us Gills fans are delighted to have him! Our business in terms of personnel has been excellent so far, but as you say, we are still short in areas.

Wagstaff, along with Mark Byrne, Billy Knott and Lee Martin are all excellent additions to our midfield options. Paul Konchesky (another ex-Addick) is a real coup for us at the back, and his experience will be worth its weight in gold. That said, we are still threadbare in defence, as we currently only have one fit central defender, with no cover to either full-back. Edinburgh claims he’s working on two or three more signings, so I don’t believe our business is complete as of yet.

Finally, where will you finish this season?

Anything above last season’s 9th place would be welcomed. However, if Edinburgh can bring in a couple of quality additions at the back, then another play-off push is certainly not beyond us. I’ll side with my heart and predict an ambitious 5th.

Summary

An argument that greater depth is required, but new additions can help Gillingham find the form shown in the early parts of last season. 5th

18400781926_2f1dd61f17_b


Millwall

Defeat to Barnsley in last season’s play-off final was an obvious disappointment for Millwall, but it certainly wasn’t a sign of failure. That there was such disappointment, a consequence of supporters reconnecting with their club, meant the season could be claimed as a success of sorts despite the heartbreak at Wembley. regergergergergerg

For the disconnection that grew while Ian Holloway led a largely unlikeable group towards relegation from the Championship has been replaced by a strong bond with Neil Harris and his cohesive cohort of Lions. A bond shaped by the manner in which a club legend gelled together a hard-working group of players, and strengthened by their relative overachievement of reaching the play-off final in a season that began without expectation.

But going into the second full campaign of Harris leadership, the unavoidable consequence of increased trust and relative success is the birth of expectations. Expectations, with a strong base from which to build upon, that aren’t unrealistic. The manager with a year of experience in the dugout to draw upon, his tight squad undamaged, and those added to it over the summer increasing the individual quality available.

The Barnsley defeat disappointing, but not damaging. Not to what Harris is attempting to build, and not to the confidence and faith in Millwall among the club’s supporters.

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The Manager – Neil Harris

There’s something particularly special about your club being led not only by someone who perfectly understands the ethos of it, but by someone who is submerged within that ethos. Harris the perfect representative and leader of the Lions.

And not just because of his record-breaking 138 goals as a player, in addition to holding the sort of positive fight and gritty determination that’s required to be accepted among The Den crowd. Harris’ managerial efforts last season proved him to be much more than simply a figurehead. The 39-year-old a very fine coach.

The refreshed squad, replacing a disjointed and unimpressive one, of young talent and more experienced pros whose commitment couldn’t be questioned gelled together impressively under Harris’ stewardship. Not too dissimilar to the impact Chris Powell had in his first full season in charge at The Valley.

A hard to beat attitude adopted, with just three league defeats suffered in 2016, but that isn’t to say the Lions weren’t capable of playing attractive attacking football when the situation allowed. The confidence instilled in forwards Lee Gregory (scoring 27 goals in all competitions), Steve Morison (19), and Aiden O’Brien (13) among Harris’ greatest successes.

And the danger of the defeat to Barnsley resulting in some sort of capitulation going into the new season? It’s going to take much more than a play-off final defeat to knock the self-belief, confidence and determination of a man who has overcome testicular cancer.

Transfer Business

There were two objectives at the start of this summer for the Lions – add some additional quality to a very stable base, and don’t let Lee Gregory escape from the dark room he’s being kept him.

And as the season approaches, it seems like that those objectives have been achieved. A disappointment to lose Mark Beevers to Bolton, given that the centre-back played 52 times in all competitions last season, but this has otherwise been a decent summer of activity for Millwall.

Beevers aside, the outs not damaging. Carlos Edwards’ days as a footballer, unfortunately, numbered, Lee Martin and Ed Upson not major parts of last season’s successful side, and John Marquis never living up to the early promise shown.

The ins useful, especially in the fact they replace those that have departed. Shaun Hutchinson, capable of playing at centre-back and in midfield, struggled to make an impression at Fulham but still appears a very decent signing at this level, winger Gregg Wylde was mightily impressive for Plymouth Argyle last season, and fellow wide man David Worrall arrives from Southend having been an important part of their side in recent seasons.

And most importantly of all, interest in prolific forward Gregory has been minimal. Barnsley said to be chasing the former Halifax man, but the Tykes ultimately signing Tom Bradshaw. He remains in his dark room, for now.

The Squad

It was the collective strength of a well organised Millwall side that allowed them to compete last season, but that isn’t to say the Lions are lacking in individual quality.

Particularly not between the sticks, where young goalkeeper Jordan Archer kept out David Forde for the majority of the campaign and won the club’s Player of the Year award in addition to the League One Player of the Month for February.  Not a bad effort for his first full season at the club, having been released by Tottenham.

There will, however, have to be an alteration to the backline that stands in front of him, given the departure of Mark Beevers. New signing Hutchinson the most likely to partner Byron Webster, but youngster Sid Nelson, who has already worn the captain’s armband despite being just 20, and the considerably more experienced Tong Craig, a veteran of armband wearing throughout his career, will provide useful alternatives.

So too is there a reasonable amount of strength in depth in the full-back positions, helped by the emergence of 20-year-old right-back Mahlon Romeo, and some excitement over 18-year-old left-back Noah Chesmain. Shaun Cummings, the versatile Joe Martin, and Northern Ireland international Shane Ferguson, who can play further forward if required, the more senior options.

The signing of Wylde probably means that Ferguson will start at left-back, and combine down the flank with the summer arrival from Plymouth. Ferguson presence giving a feel of there being plenty of depth in the wide positions, with Worrall, promising but frustrating youngster Fred Onyedinma and fellow academy graduate Aiden O’Brien, who made a huge impression last season, also available.

That, of course, assuming that Harris opts to play a basic 4-4-2 this season. Three in attack occasionally deployed last season, with Gregory (18 goals) and O’Brien (10) either side of Steve Morison (15). Potent.

To play such a formation would probably require the addition of an extra body in attack, with academy graduates Jamie Philpot and Alife Pavey the only options available in reserve, and possibly another body in the centre of midfield, though Hutchinson can be moved further forward.

Quality in the centre of midfield, though, with Shaun Williams consistently performing since his arrival from MK Dons, Nadjim Abdou still not sick of playing for the Lions after 321 league appearances, and the emergence of the slightly more creative Ben Thompson, 20, another plus point from last season. Onyedinma, who can play centrally, another option.

And whatever formation they choose to play, it’s likely to be incredibly organised and really well drilled. Annoyingly, there’s not too many holes to be found in this Millwall side.

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A club legend leading a cohesive and committed squad, with a healthy number of homegrown players amongst it all. Despite previous campaigns in the Championship and last season’s play-off disappointment, is this a good time to be a Millwall fan?

Well the easy answer is of course that it’s always a good time to be a Millwall fan! Seriously however, it is certainly an interesting time in the club’s rebuilding process. Last season represented very much an unexpected surge into the play-offs after the serial disasters that were the late period Kenny Jackett, Steve Lomas and the unmentionable clown Ian Holloway. Relegation and the clear-out of the accumulated mercenary dead-wood, meant an enforced faith in the traditional Millwall virtues of home grown youth and a no-nonsense attacking style.

As the season wore on, the initial consensus that mid-table respectability would be a good season, gave way to a gathering hysteria that the play-offs were reachable (even top two in our wilder moments – of which there were plenty). As always at The Den, the volcanic support that fuels such adrenalin rushes as the two Bradford play-off games can spill over into mayhem. But if you don’t like roller-coaster rides, my advice is to avoid the big dipper…

“Relegation and the clear-out of the accumulated mercenary dead-wood, meant an enforced faith in the traditional Millwall virtues of home grown youth and a no-nonsense attacking style”

The job that Neil Harris has done in not only forming a useful side but reconnecting supporters with their club can even have some applause from a Charlton fan. Begrudgingly. No chance of hidden faults being exposed in his second full season in charge, is there?

I think our biggest fault last season really wasn’t very hidden at all. We were a full on, traditional English side, full of running, maximum effort and with enough steel to scratch draws from defeats and wins from draws. Well certainly against three-quarters of League One anyway. Our problems came where teams passed and moved around us. Pace kills – and we lacked a Plan B as the cliché has it. We’re hoping that our Plan A is good enough to get past the remaining quarter of sides we couldn’t beat last season.

You’ve maintained the core of your side, and kept Lee Gregory in a dark room, while making some useful additions. Are you in a strong place to challenge again?

Absolutely. Lee Gregory would be a 25 goal loss if he is indeed lured to the glittering bright lights of Rotherham, but we do have strikers in reserve in the wily old soak Steve Morison and the young Irishman Aiden O’Brien. If the promise of Fred Onyedinma, Jamie Philpott and Kris Twardek come good. Make no mistake however, retaining Gregory might be the difference between a promotion run and another developmental season.

Regardless, it isn’t uncommon for teams who suffer defeat in the play-offs to struggle in the following season. Are there any concerns about a ‘hangover’?   

The only hangovers at Millwall were the ones on the Sunday morning after that Barnsley defeat. There is a real sense of promise at The Den and both the players and fans can’t wait to get stuck into a far more southern League One. I fully expect this optimism to last until the end of August when our expectations may have to be managed…

How much are you looking forward to continuing your unbeaten record against Charlton?

The Charlton hoo-doo is a strange beast. Like you, I have seen SE London ‘classico’ games where Millwall didn’t deserve to earn their bus fare home, let alone take three points away. But somehow someone crosses, it hits someone’s aris, a Charlton defender swings and misses and the ball deflects in off the cushion of Katrien’s sofa that just fell into the six yard box. I think it exists entirely in the minds of the Addicks and you should seek hypnotherapy to banish the mental loop. What was the question? Oh yes, of course we look forward to it. Who wouldn’t?

And finally, where will you finish this season?

I hope top two. Apart from the obvious reason, I can’t abide the plastic corporate hell that is Wembley. I think we will however finish in the top six. Anything less will be a failure.

Summary

Emulating, and potentially bettering, last season isn’t exactly going to be a simple task, but the retention of a cohesive group with promising additions provides a reasonable amount of hope that it can, in fact, be bettered. 2nd (Sorry)

1


Milton Keynes Dons

That it was their first season in the Championship, and the comparative strength of the opposition, provided no excuse. By their own admission, MK Dons’ immediate return to League One amounts to a huge failure. gwegewgwegew

Enough mistakes were made to suggest relegation, in part, was self-inflicted. The money received from the sale of Dele Alli, both in the opinion of Karl Robinson and Pete Winkelman, not spent wisely enough. Three points clear of the relegation zone with eleven games to play, but failing to win any of those remaining fixtures. Leads thrown away against Fulham, Wolves and Brentford in that final block of fixtures, and Robinson’s management questioned.

The immediate return made even more frustrating by the fact three unsuccessful League One play-off campaigns, two of which were overseen by Robinson, occurred in the six seasons that preceded the second place finish in 2014/15. Something that had required a great deal of perseverance and determination to achieve immediately lost.

As such, there is a great deal of pressure on the Milton Keynes club to achieve this season. Pressure, having admitted failings and chairman Winkelman suggesting Robinson’s job was not completely safe over the summer, that they have placed on themselves. Pressure that may be tough to deal with, without the advantage that fellow relegated clubs Charlton and Bolton have in terms of status, and other League One clubs have in terms of financial clout.

But they do, unlike the Addicks and the Trotters, have stability. Winkelman and Robinson, who have been able to get this club to challenge for promotion from League One before, will be leading the Dons once again, despite the murmurings from themselves that they wouldn’t be.

They know this club, they know it’s capable of achieving, and they’re fully aware of the mistakes made previously. They’ll be determined to respond to the disappointment of last season.

30

The Manager – Karl Robinson

The third-longest serving manager in the Football League remains so by the skin of his teeth, and not just because he turned down an approach from Leeds United in May. The Elland Road club rejected after Robinson’s current employers had had a think about his future.

It took Winkelman just over a week from suggesting that the 35-year-old’s future was not certain to confirming he would lead the club in League One, but that dismissing the boss was considered implies Robinson has something to prove.

Once seen as one of the most exciting young managers in the Football League, not least for his assistance in developing Alli, his reputation has been somewhat damaged after a tough season in the Championship. The wider footballing community no longer as convinced of his ability, Dons supporters no longer as committed to their boss of almost six years, and the club evidently possessing a touch of an uncertainty.

You worry a slow start will result in Robinson panicking, and making more mistakes. The normally patient Winkelman ultimately losing faith in his man, who he has insisted on praising while suggesting his future wasn’t guaranteed, and dismissing him. Adaptability, given Robinson’s insistence on playing an attractive brand of football, may be needed, with a focus on results.

The real pressure, arguably, on Robinson rather than the club itself.

10

Transfer Business

The summer activity that the Dons have conducted has only increased the pressure on both Robinson and his chairman, with the squad left in a flimsy state as the season approaches.

Robinson himself has admitted that “there is a slight fear because the number aren’t where we want them to be” and that he’s “coming across a lot of closed doors” in his attempts to correct that. Rob Hall, for example, turning down a return to MK in order to join Oxford.

26

The lack of numbers largely a result of a number of first-team players departing. Forward Alex Revell, quite oddly, not offered a new deal and joining Northampton, winger Carl Baker rejecting one and heading to Portsmouth, while both centre-back Kyle McFadzean (Burton Albion) and Lee Hodson (Rangers) have been sold.

And with Jordan Spence, Matthew Upson and Anthony Kay all being released, it comes as some relief that the Dons have managed to make a couple of defensive additions. Centre-back Paul Downing arriving from Walsall having been a regular in their promotion push last season, and right-back George Williams, who began his career in Milton Keynes, returns to the club having been released by Barnsley.

But with midfielder Ed Upson, a steady if unspectacular performer for Millwall, the only other addition, Robinson’s group lacks both new quality and depth.

The Squad

In fairness, there’s a relatively strong starting XI available to the Dons, which contains a number of long-serving players.

Goalkeeper David Martin standing in front of a back four that is likely to consist of Williams, Downing, Joe Walsh and club captain Dean Lewington. Martin with 249 league appearances for the club, and Lewington boasting an impressive 515 after an ever present campaign last time out.

37

Darren Potter and Ed Upson likely to form the central midfield pairing, with Samir Carruthers and the fit again Ben Reeves, both relatively versatile in the sense they can play anywhere across the middle, the leading candidates to start out wide. Both Carruthers and Reeves into their fourth season with the Dons, and Potter is eight games away from a double century of league appearances.

While in attack, Nicky Maynard, who agreed a new deal at the end of last season, and Dean Bowditch, more effective in a wide role but players available probably demanding he plays centrally, would appear the leading candidates to start in attack.

16

The problem is, there’s so little in reserve in every area of the pitch. Even in reserve to Martin, with young goalkeeper Charlie Burns all that’s available.

At the back George Baldock, who can also play in the middle, offers an alternative at right-back, but there’s no reserve centre-backs with any sort of experience, while winger Daniel Powell is the only real cover in midfield. Youngster Giorgio Rasulo, who impressed on loan at Aldershot last season, may well be given a chance.

And another chance, potentially, for the previously forgotten pair of Simon Church and Tom Hitchcock to make an impression. Former Charlton man Church returns after a productive spell at Aberdeen, while Hitchcock is yet to score for the Dons since arriving in the summer of 2014 and has been out on loan on three occasions.

13

In fact, it’s probably in attack where the greatest strength in depth is available to Robinson. That in itself quite worrying.

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After flirting with promotion for so long, you would have thought that you’d have been prepared for the Championship. What went wrong, and are you in a weaker position now than two seasons ago?

The season started poorly and never picked up. Our chief scout Andy King died and it took its’ toll on the whole club.  It destroyed our recruitment process.  We relied so heavily on loans, especially in forward positions and we couldn’t get another gem like Patrick Bamford, Benik Afobe or Will Grigg.  We spent no money and brought in seven or eight players, five of whom were gone by January. We also lost our ability to win games against our closest rivals, losing 4-0 to Rotherham at home a prime example, which pretty much condemned our fate.

Is pressure mounting on Winkelman and Robinson, and do they have to return you to the second tier at the first attempt?

The majority of our fanbase have not known anything other than Winkelman and the Winkelman/Robinson combination does work well, especially when you compare it to some other combinations up and down the league. I don’t think there is any pressure and what pressure there ever has been in the past, they’ve dealt with fantastically and bounced back. I think this season will be our best chance of bouncing back and after that it may be difficult to hold on to our best players, people will soon go back to seeing us as a stable League One club again.

“This season will be our best chance of bouncing back”

Was there both frustration and pride in watching Dele Alli for Tottenham and England last season, knowing that the money received for him was not reinvested wisely?

We all knew Dele Alli wouldn’t be our player for long. Any MK Dons fan who begrudges someone who gave us what he did success because of how the club has reinvested the price tag he earned for himself playing for our club is ludicrous.  Any time he does another miraculous thing on the pitch, we’re mentioned.  He’s helped put our club on the map, he’ll be part of what history our club has forever and he still gives the club great publicity whenever we’re brought up.  It’s inevitably frustrating that the money hasn’t been reinvested, but it’s not the first time (Sam Baldock, Sheyi Ojo, George Williams). It’s becoming the norm, but it doesn’t affect how I see his career at all.

There’s a decent, long-serving, core to your squad, but little beyond that. Are you concerned about the state of your side?

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about the depth. two centre backs, central midfielders, one striker and one winger in the whole squad is a worry, but that’s what happens when loan players go back and your squad is decimated every 12 months.  Robinson is adamant he just wants players who will improve the group and keeps missing out to Championship clubs, but eventually (and very soon) he’ll have to just concentrate on getting a squad that can actually take to the field every Saturday, because whatever recruitment process is in place clearly isn’t working.

6

Begrudgingly, I’ll ask a question about AFC Wimbledon. What do they mean to you, and what are your thoughts about playing them in league fixtures?

The move should never have happened, let’s get that straight.  But it did. They’re hypocrites. When they got promoted last season, they were a club that’s come through the football pyramid in no time at all. When they got Liverpool at home in the FA Cup, they were the club that won the cup in 1988.  Why can’t they just make their mind up? They’re utterly obsessed with every move we make and simply can’t move on.  It was an option to move Wimbledon FC and give them an opportunity to still follow the club if they wished, or the whole club ceased to exist and nobody have a club at all it, it was done with good will, but it was still totally wrong.  They abandoned their club two years before the move, yet it’s always someone else’s fault but theirs. If they’re the real Dons, someone please explain how AFC Wimbledon and Wimbledon FC were playing in the football pyramid at the same time.  Strange bunch.

And finally, where will you finish this season?

I think the league this year is really weak.  In previous seasons there’s always been a big fish in the pond, Leeds, Southampton, Norwich, Sheffield Wednesday, Wolves etc. This year it’s wide open, but I think we’ll be play-offs.  At the moment, the squad is too weak in numbers to push for anything more, few injuries and we’re in big trouble.

Summary

Start to the season important. If Robinson can find his way again, and gel together a competitive squad, then they’ve got a reasonable chance of recovery. Early struggles, or issues with injuries impacting a small squad, and you worry about their ability to recover in a competitive league. 6th

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Part Three will be out in the next few days. All information, or at least it should be, correct as of 26/07/2016. All photos my own, or labelled for reuse by others. 

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