It’s never too early to get to know your rivals. We’ve spent the past couple of days contacting the forums of League One sides to get the genuine fan perspectives on the teams that will make up next season’s division.
This round up will contain a full rundown of each team’s past season, their managerial and ownership situations, preferred way of playing the beautiful game and of course fan opinions, rumours and speculation on what is to come this summer, as the 24 sides plot their plan of attack in the transfer market, bicker in the boardroom and prepare for pre-season.
We’ll start with the team you all know and love already.
Manager: Micky Mellon
Tenure: 2 1/2 seasons
Ownership Situation: Very positive, no wealthy benefactor though.
Nickname: The SuperWhites
Main Fan Forum: thecowsheds.co.uk
- Star Player: James Norwood (CF, 28yo)
- Underappreciated Gem: Connor Jennings (n10, 27yo)
- Top Prospect: Harvey Gilmour (CM, 20yo)
- Potential 19/20 Breakout Year: Sid Nelson (CB, 24yo)
- Fan Scapegoat: Liam Ridehalgh (LB, 28yo)
- Waste of a Wage: Chris Dagnall (CF, 32yo)
- Dream Transfer Target: Totally pie in the sky but Rhian Brewster on loan would be lovely
After a great initial start to life back in the football league Tranmere’s form sagged heading into the Xmas period. January additions at center mid and on both wings in Perkins, Morris and Pringle helped bolster the team’s fortunes and a 7 game winning run pushed us from Mid-table back up in to the Playoffs of League Two where we remained until the end of the season. After beating Forest Green in the semi final we had to go to the final minute of extra time for Connor Jennings to head home the goal that put us back in the third tier. James Norwood finished the season on 32 goals, in the FL Team of the Year and of course with the Golden Boot, while our reliable shot stopper Scott Davies bagged the L2 Golden Gloves for 19 (21 including play-offs) league clean sheets.
Micky has never been afraid to change our shape in his time in charge, nor our style of play. After losing Andy Cook to Walsall (the large of our classic 442 little n large) we switched to playing more to the strength of our other 20 goal a season man, James Norwood, whose pace allows him to play off the shoulder of the final defender. For much of the season we opted for a 433 where both wingers looked to cut inside onto their stronger foot to play Nors in or shoot. This setup allowed Ollie Banks to act as a deep lying playmaker in the middle, as he would be paired with two of our three more industrious midfield options in Luke McCollough, Jay Harris and later Dave Perkins. Manny Monthe was our rock at the back, paired with a rogues gallery of partners due to terrible luck with injuries and the decline of the once mighty Steve McNulty. When we were overwhelmed or outmatched Mellon tended to switch to 3ATB, allowing our full backs Caprice and Ridehalgh to get further up the pitch and whip balls in from wider areas. However we line up Micky insists the frontmen press hard, we aren’t often pretty but we’re definitely effective.
Plans for Preseason:
The elephant in the room is that Norwood’s contract is expired, and his exit for a pay rise well outside Tranmere’s budgetary constraints appears inevitable. So the main thing to be keeping your ear out for is news of potential striker signings. Rumours have attached us to bringing back the now relegated and supposedly unsettled Cook from Walsall, paying out to Flyde for Danny Rowe or taking Callum Lang on loan. The club will want to wrap up new deals for CB pairing Monthe and Nelson, both 24, who showed enough to make fans confident they would handle the step up to L1. While much of the squad seems likely to stay we will also need to find some new wide-men, as Ben Pringle, Keiron Morris & Johnny Smith were only here on loan deals last season. The squad looks a little thin for the moment but if we can stave off supposed approaches for manager Mellon and key assists maker Connor Jennings, and of course find a way to replace some of Lord Norwood’s goals members of the SWA will be confident we can do enough on our resources to target mid-table safety.
Contributor: SuperJase from the Cowsheds Forum
2018/19: Sixth in League Two before winning promotion via the play-offs
Ground: Prenton Park (16,587)
Manager: Jack Ross
Tenure: 1 full season
Ownership Situation: Owned by Stewart Donald (with support from shareholders Charlie Methven and Juan Sartori) but SD is currently looking for investment from abroad. Takeover/investment pending.
Nickname: The Black Cats
Main Fan Forum: readytogo.net
- Star Player: Jon McLaughlin/Aiden McGeady
- Underappreciated Gem: Luke O’Nien
- Top Prospect: Denver Hume
- Potential 19/20 Breakout Year: Denver Hume/Bali Mumba/Elliott Embleton
- Fan Scapegoat: George Honeyman (our captain)
- Waste of Space: Charlie Wyke
- Dream Transfer Target: Ryan Kent.
Started very positive. We had new owners, a new manager, a team full of unknown players and even brand new red seats in our stadium. We looked exciting during pre-season beating St Mirren 0-6 on the road and all the new players looked to have a role to play. Lots of excitement surrounded a season at a level that a couple of generations had never experienced. I was personally excited about visiting afc Wimbledon & Accrington Stanley! Josh Maja was bagging goals for fun & looked a real talent (albeit at a poorer level) but then it became clear that he was off. Our owners didn’t piss about, told him to sign up for SAFC or he’d be sold in January. Maja decided he was staying then decided he wasn’t staying and he was off! Season fell apart from there. We signed Grigg with about 30 seconds of the window left, no-ones convinced the manager wanted Grigg but he was signed anyway and well… he’s since competed with Wyke for the ‘waste of space’ tag. When your two strikers are both falling into that category it’s not a good sign. Always felt confident we’d go up until around April time when our games in hand disappeared before our eyes and we were playing catch up with no ‘games-in-hand’ to fall back on! 20 (TWENTY) draws later and we finished 5th! Not good enough but play offs it was! Very few felt confident of beating both Portsmouth and (most probably) Charlton to earn promotion but as it transpired our hopes of promotion lasted until the 94th minute of the play off final. Another season in league one it is. Hard to take but we’ll be back at it come August.
I’ll be honest. I’m not really sure. Probably the most disappointing aspect of Jack Ross’ reign so far is the high intensity football that seemed to be his “thing” at St Mirren appears to be non-transferrable from St Mirren. We seen it at St Mirren in pre-season but haven’t seen it since! Our record of 20 draws tells it’s own story. We’re very conservative. We never batter anyone. Everything seems a struggle. We experimented with old school 4-4-2 which was quickly scrapped when Coventry came up here, overran our midfield, tortured our 2 very slow centre halves and scored 5! We tend to ‘settle’ for what we have too early which usually involves making subs to make us compact and leaves us with nowhere to go when the inevitable happens, we can’t defend and see the game out for 25 minutes and now have a team set up to be compact whilst needing to push and get a goal. We had the lead in both the play off final and checkatrade trophy final and lost both. We subbed our only striker off in the CT final and when Pompey equalised with 7 minutes to go we were facing extra time with a team set up for a draw. It’s one major change I want to see from Ross this coming season. We need to accept that we should be much stronger than everyone at this level so winning 1-0 with 25 minutes to go doesn’t mean we should settle for that. Man City and Liverpool don’t start subbing De Bruyne or Salah when they’re 1-0 up. We must try and play the game on our terms for 90 minutes.
Plans & Priorities for the Off-season:
New investment and get the board situation sorted asap then look at backing Jack Ross with a new striker and pacey defenders and get Elliott Embleton tied down to a long term deal. We lost Maja because we didn’t show enough urgency then started making silly demands and forced him into a corner. Embleton’s situation is rapidly heading towards panic and silly demands again. I’d like to see Sunderland show ambition and go and sign Curtis Tilt from Blackpool. Word on the street is that John Park from Celtic would be joining the new investors but there’s no use in having a top director of football when the window’s closed so we need to get a move on quickly so we’ve got time for Park to strengthen the squad for Ross!
Good luck for the new season. I’ll see you at Prenton Park!
Contributor: Doberman from the RTG Forum
2018/19: Fifth before losing in the play-off final to Charlton
Ground: Stadium of Light (49,000)
Manager: Brian Barry Murphy
Tenure: 3 months, took caretaker role in March and then given 2 year deal.
Ownership Situation: Positive – Unlike some, we don’t live beyond our means. Wary of big boardroom changes at the start of the year though.
Nickname: The Dale
Fan Forum: rochdaleafc.com
- Star Player: Ian Henderson (CF, 34yo)
- Underappreciated Ollie Rathbone (CM, 22yo)
- Top Prospect: Daniel Adshead (CM, 17yo)
- Potential 19/20 Breakout Year: Ryan McLaughlin (RB 24yo)
- Fan Scapegoat: Josh Lillis (GK 32yo)
- Waste of Space: Calvin Andrew (CF (allegedly), 32yo)
- Dream Transfer Target: Ethan Hamilton back on loan from Man United would be nice but can’t see it. Failing that we need a left back, two centre backs, a defensive midfielder, a creative midfielder, a wide man and a striker but I doubt we will get even half of that.
A win on the opening day got us a little bit giddy with thoughts of a good season but it didn’t turn out that way. Some important signings in the form of David Perkins, Aaron Wilbraham, MJ Williams and Brad Inman among others looked great on paper but didn’t work out. Inman has now been released, Williams couldn’t command a place in the team, Wilbraham waited until April to turn up for the season and Perkins was let go to Tranmere.
A combination of our manager making ridiculous decisions with team selection, rotating goalkeepers on an almost hourly basis, inability to defend, overly relying on Ian Henderson and poor recruitment ultimately led to our greatest ever manager being sacked and although gut wrenching to see it end that way, it was the right decision. Hill wasn’t the same man who took us up twice and had us finishing in the top half of League One.
Brian Barry-Murphy took temporary charge and our fortunes completely reversed and we ended up staying up comfortably in the end when it all looked like we were down.
God only knows what Hill’s tactics even were half the time but whatever they were, they rarely worked. Our tactics were basically, give the ball to Henderson and hope his goals can keep us up because we were conceding 4 or more on a ridiculous frequent basis.
Since BBM took over, we’ve seen a more solid approach and even saw us go three at the back on occasion which I was a fan of, with two wingbacks and I’d have no problem with us lining up like that next season if we’ve got the correct personel but I don’t believe our defensive options are good enough presently.
Plans for Preseason:
We offered new deals to Ollie Rathbone, Aaron Wilbraham, Kgosi Ntlhe, Jimmy Keohane, Matty Done and a couple of others but none of them have signed up for next season which has made us think they may have been offered reduced terms, thus making us worry about this seasons budget.
We’ve got home games against Blackburn, Bradford and Huddersfield in pre-season but haven’t even announced the away ones yet for some reason.
We’ve not been linked with any new players and we’re seeing players we would have liked go elsewhere so while I’m trying to remain positive and open minded and keep reminding myself it’s only June, I’m anxious about this summer.
Another season of struggle is what I’m expecting.
Contributor: ChaffRAFC from the Rochdale Forum
Ground: Crown Oil Arena (10,000)
Manager: Karl Robinson (38)
Tenure: 1.5 seasons
Ownership Situation: Promising board of wealthy investors, most investment has been into training and youth facilities. Don’t own our stadium which is our major issue.
Nickname: The Yellows
Main Fan Forum: YellowsForum.co.uk
- Star Player: Cameron Brannagan (CM, 23)
- Underappreciated Gem: Rob Dickie (CB, 23)
- Top Prospect: Shandon Baptiste (CM, 21)
- Potential 19/20 Breakout Year: Mark Sykes (AM, 21)
- Fan Scapegoat: Jamie Hanson (CM, 23)
- Waste of Space: Can’t think of anyone I’d like to sell
- Dream Transfer Target: A striker (Norwood would be nice!), Ellis Harrison perhaps.
Well. Had a horrendous start, think mostly down to signings being made late and injuries, especially to Eastwood (GK). Also didn’t have a fit striker to begin with. Wouldn’t have been a surprise to have seen KR lose his job before January, but survived and had an excellent window to bring in some brilliant loan signings. Definitely a season of two halfs; our form in 2019 would have got us into the play offs if it had been the same all season, but spent most of 2018 in the relegation zone. Looking forward to this season.
When KR joined, had a reputation from Charlton fans of only playing 4-2-3-1. Probably the formation he’s used most often with us, perhaps now more likely to play a 4-1-4-1 with only one defensive midfielder. Very rare to see us with two up front, most of our goals come from the attackers behind the striker. Full backs are usually defensive minded (which I prefer) but Josh Ruffels (LB) has a knack for scoring last minute worldies.
Yet to see any first team signings, have been one or two for the U23s. Arguably our best player Curtis Nelson (CB, 26) is almost certainly leaving on the free, hopefully to a Championship club which is where he belongs. Main priorities for signings are a CB and 2 STs. Secondary targets probably a DM and RB. Has been some rumours of interest toward Gavin Whyte, hopefully we can keep hold of him and others. Also need to get a few to sign contract extensions.
Contributor: GingerOx from the Yellows Forum
Ground: Kassam Stadium (12,500)
Manager: Gareth Ainsworth
Tenure: Forever (or since 2012 to be more precise)
Ownership Situation: Fan-owned, but currently seeking investors as even our moderate outgoings exceed our income
Nickname: The Chairboys
Main Fan Forum: gasroom.org
- Star Player: Adebayo Akinfenwa (CF, 37yo, strength 97 on FIFA 19)
- Underappreciated Gem: Curtis Thompson (CM, 25yo)
- Top Prospect: Scott Kashket (CF, 23yo)
- Potential 19/20 Breakout Year: A loanee as yet unknown
- Fan Scapegoat: Ryan Allsop (GK, 26yo)
- Waste of Space: No room for a waste of space at this club
- Dream Transfer Target: Being realistic, Fred Onyedinma (RW, 22yo) is a former loanee and would be an excellent signing.
Overachieved on both expectations and budget by surviving in League One for the first time in the last four attempts. Great start to the season followed by a slump after January when three influential loanees returned to their parent clubs. Finishing 17th was a job very well done. Repeating the achievement this year looks even more challenging given the state of our finances, and our more experienced players being another year older.
4-3-3 with two mobile wide players and Akinfenwa in the middle. Hard working all over the pitch. Tough to play against.
Plans & Priorities for Preseason:
The potential sale of Kourtney Hause to Aston Villa from Wolves might bring in much needed sell-on money. Given we currently don’t have enough players to fill a match day squad, and we don’t have the funds for transfer fees or high wages, we are hoping for Ainsworth to work his magic yet again and bring in some more cheap young talent. Expect heavy use of the loan market.
Contributor: Chris from the GasRoom 2.0 Forum
Ground: Adams Park (10,137)
Manager: Paul Lambert.
Tenure: 8 months to date.
Ownership Situation: Marcus Evans. Consistently kept the purse strings very tight in the Championship. With the financial impacts of relegation they will be tightened even further. No big transfer fees, but will still be seen as a big fish in the wages department and probably rightly so.
Nickname: The Tractor Boys
Main Fan Forum – TWTD.co.uk
- Star Player: Alan Judge
- Underappreciated Gem: Jon Nolan
- Top Prospect: Jack Lankester
- Potential 19/20 Breakout Year: Andre Dozzell, Flynn Downes
- Fan Scapegoat: Cole Skuse, Luke Chambers
- Waste of Space: Paul Hurst
- Dream Transfer Target: James Norwood
An abysmal summer transfer saga saw too many goals leave the squad (McGoldrick, Waghorn & Garner) and be replaced with average strikers who had proven average returns in L1 and L2. Paul Hurst walked into a very good dressing room, dropped a grenade and walked out again.
There is no doubt Paul Lambert is getting the Blues to play a lot better football but performances dipped after relegation was confirmed. Summer break will do everybody good, allow Paul Lambert to plan and prepare his season approach because whilst the fans were exceptional always throughout last season, the same won’t be said if results remain the same.
Plans & Priorities for Preseason:
Will be Paul Lambert’s first pre season at any club for a fair amount of time. Hope he drills in a plan and approach to the squad, a winning mentality that we know Lambert has has to likewise be taken on by the players or he must show them a meaner side to his persona. Dare I say it, hope he can replicate the work he produced up the road.
Contributor: MrTown from the TWTD Forum
2018/19: 24th in the Championship
Ground: Portman Road (30,311)
To be continued…