Big spenders and coin counters meet in the division where the lines between ambition and foolhardiness often become blurred. We sought out the opinions of real football fans, their thoughts on the year gone by and hopes for the season to come. At the crossroads of the Football League we’re looking to sort the sinking ships from the deadly submarines. Here is part three of our preseason preview:
Manager: Paul Warne – Assistant: Richie Barker
Tenure: Rolling contract since 2016
Ownership Situation: Mr Tony Stewart OBE. Local company based 1 mile from the ground. His trade is in designing and selling lights/bulbs and fittings – ASD Lighting PLC
Nickname: The Millers
Main Fan Forum: MillersMad
- Star Player: Will Vaulks, although he will probably leave during this transfer window / So Joe Mattock who was players player of the year last season
- Underappreciated Gem: Michael Smith signed from Bury has a stellar season bagging 8 goals. Gets no help from refs gets battered every game but holds the ball up brilliantly. If we keep hold of him I expect him to bag 20+ this season.
- Top Prospect: Ben Wiles broke into side last season just 19 and already looking like a quality player
- Potential 19/20 Breakout Year: Akeem Hinds
- Fan Scapegoat: Been a few over the season. Antony Forde come’s in for a bit of stick sometimes
- Waste of Space: I wouldn’t say any of them are bad Paul Warne only signs good people with work ethic
- Dream Transfer Target: Realistically, Marek Rodak quality goal keeper. Fulham want to keep him though. Had a great 2 seasons with us. I would like us to really go for it.. if we get the rumoured 3 million for Vaulks. I would like to see us go for somebody like John Marquis at Doncaster. Not only will it upset their fans (because they hate us) he also knows where the net is
18/19 Season Review:
The championship is unforgiving, we had a budget of around 7 million approx. Bolton who are millions in debt had twice that. Some players in the division are on 50k a week, we cannot compete with that! Not in a million years. I think our downfall was not recruiting in January. Wages come in to play and some players don’t want to scrap it out at the bottom of the league for less than they would get sat on the bench at a mid table side. Don’t get me started on how sky and parachute payments have messed up the league system. Even though we went down we did better than last time.
We lost over 30 points from winning positions, more than anybody else in the 4 divisions. There were some highlights, we did get victories over Derby, Swansea and held the likes of Sheff Wed to 2 draws and completely outplayed Sheffield United
We played 4,5,1 last season with the 2 wingers as auxiliary forwards. However I expect us to play 2 up top this year with the signing of Carlton Morris on loan.
Plans & Priorities for Preseason:
We need a goal keeper, probably another forward, 2 wingers and a full back. He might play something completely odd ball – Warney likes to mix things up. 3 out of the 4 of our wingers have left the club. 1 has gone to Hibs & the others are looking elsewhere.
Overall I expect us to be top 6. We have some really good players at this level and will have one of the biggest budget in this league to add to the squad.
Contributor: PokerMillersSwinton from the MillersMad Forum
2018/19: 22nd in the Championship
Ground: The AES New York Stadium (12,021) – Although due to segregation 11.750 is the most you can usually get in
Milton Keynes Dons
Manager: Paul Tisdale
Tenure: 1 season
Ownership Situation: Pete Winkelman has owned the club since 2003 when it was brought out of administration, he has established the club in MK and the Stadium and infrastructure are a testimony to his commitment to bringing top level football to the community. Fans concerns generally come from a lack of investment in the playing side (what fans don’t think this though?) particularly after promotion to the Championship and the much mooted new training ground remains at the planning stage.
Nickname: The Dons
Main Fan Forum: The Concrete Roundabout
- Star Player: Alex Gilbey
- Underappreciated Gem: Joe Walsh (This is tough as the fans are pretty fair and we only have 16 players in our books!)
- Top Prospect: Dylan Asonganyi or Recoe Martin
- Potential 19/20 Breakout Year: Callum Brittain
- Fan Scapegoat: Was Kieran Agard (20+ goals not enough for some)
- Waste of Space: Ryan Harley
- Dream Transfer Target: anyone we pay for is the general consensus – but for me a dynamic winger who can beat a man
18/19 Season Review:
The bottom line was job done, after 3 years of rubbish no-one knew what to expect however Tis settled in quickly and an immediate return looked on the cards. This was halted by a terrible run of injuries particularly in defence but we were helped by the arrival, in January, of Russell Martin. We went on a strong run towards the end of the season before we stumbled badly (along with Bury and Mansfield) leaving us in a winner-take-all game against the Stags on the last day of the season, thankfully David Wheeler’s early goal saw us triumph in a mixture of elation and relief.
We are a methodical and well organised possession based team, with Tisdale’s mantra being about controlling the game, a lack of flair and dynamism hinders us when we fall behind or face a packed defence.
Plans & Priorities for Preseason:
A steady mid-table would be very nice thank you, especially if we could see wins over AFC, as well as Posh, Oxford and Wycombe! If we have a good transfer window we may be in the play off picture but if not we may hover just above the relegation picture. I expect a few big crowds at Stadium MK with Sunderland and Coventry having the potential to be 20k+, if we can add a cup run too (hopefully we draw QPR as we seem to beat them regularly) we can get the home fans – who have drifted away in the last few years – back ready for a promotion push in 2020/21
Contributor: MKAylesburyDon from The Concrete Roundabout Forum
2018/19: 3rd in League Two
Ground: Stadium MK (30,500)
Manager: Steve Evans
Tenure: A few weeks
Ownership Situation: Stable with Paul Scally being here since 1995 but not without his critics
Nickname: The Gills
Main Fan Forum: Blues Rock Cafe
- Star Player: Barry Fuller is player of the year, so him since Holy is gone and Eaves is going.
- Underappreciated Gem: Not sure we have one, although Connor Ogilvie is a decent prospect in central defence. Shame he’s spent most of his time here at left back.
- Top Prospect: Although he’s played in the last year Brandon Hanlon looks good.
- Potential 19/20 Breakout Year: Matthew Willock. Former Man Utd youth team player. How he adapts to the rough-and-tumble of league 1 could define our season.
- Fan Scapegoat: If we have one, Max Ehmer. He’s fine as a league 1 central defender goes but gets the blame for what went on in front of him.
- Waste of Space: Brad Garmston. Not his fault but isn’t fit often enough.
- Dream Transfer Target: If Tom Eaves stayed that would be amazing. Failing that Kieran Agard. Either way we need strikers.
18/19 Season Review:
Fairly good under Steve Lovell. Finishing 13th is better than we’ve done in a long time, although it was helped by an odd division last year that allowed us to finish nearly halfway up the league despite being hopeless at home.
We seem to be playing either 4-4-2 or 3-5-2 next year. Last year the 4-4-2 diamond was the primary formation, but it didn’t really work.
Plans & Priorities for Preseason:
Stay up, improve the home form and possibly have an outside chance of the play-offs. Failing that, have a team who can get 5,000 people into the ground on a fortnightly basis.
Contributor: TownEndGill on the Blues Rock Cafe
Ground: Priestfield Stadium (11,582)
Manager: Mark Robins
Tenure: 2 and a bit full seasons (second spell)
Ownership Situation: Would solve a lot of problems were SISU to leave but they continue to show absolutely zero interest in leaving and continue to back the manager to a reasonable extent.
Nickname: The Sky Blues
Main Fan Forum: Sky Blues Talk
- Star Player: Tom Bayliss
- Underappreciated Gem: Dominic Hyam
- Top Prospect: Sam McCallum
- Potential 19/20 Breakout Year: Jordan Shipley
- Fan Scapegoat: Now Lee Burge is gone, possibly Conor Chaplin
- Waste of Space: Hard to think of anyone
- Dream Transfer Target: John Marquis
18/19 Season Review:
After relegation and promotion in the previous two seasons, last year was decidedly normal, bordering on dull. In a thoroughly unremarkable campaign, we managed to put together our longest winning streak since 1998 but then followed it up with a nine-game winless run. An extended flirtation with the play-offs towards the end of the campaign threatened to make the campaign interesting, but an inability to consistently put away the division’s weaker sides at the Ricoh Arena became our undoing, despite some eye-catching results – particularly away at Charlton and Sunderland – against the better teams.
From around the mid-way point of last season onwards, Mark Robins made the team more possession-oriented, although there was devastating pace on the counter-attack via wide players Jordy Hiwula and Luke Thomas. The impressive Chelsea loanee Dujon Sterling supporting from right-back was utilised to great effect in our tougher away games. Liam Kelly became the lynchpin of the team in defensive midfield, not only breaking up the play effectively but helping control possession with his range of passing. After the addition in January of a natural number 10 in Wolves loanee Bright Enobakhare, the change in style really came to fruition in the closing months of the season.
Plans & Priorities for Preseason:
Having brought in a ball-playing centre-half in Kyle McFadzean, Robins looks set to persist with the current tactical template. The success of this change in approach this campaign probably hinges on securing Enobakhare (or another similar player) for the season to link midfield and attack, while also finding the major missing piece of last season’s jigsaw, a goalscoring centre-forward. Of course, Robins’ task of building on last season appears to have been massively turned on its head by the move to Birmingham City’s St Andrew’s Stadium as the dispute over the Ricoh Arena depressingly shows little sign of abating. The manager has done well thus far to present a defiant front and has gone about his business in the transfer market in typically organised and decisive fashion. With Robins in charge, the stadium issue may have little impact on the team for a season or two, but the longer-term prospects for the club seem pretty depressing.
Contributor: Dominic Jerams aka Sideways Sammy – sidewayssammy.com
Ground: Temporary ground-share at the St Andrew’s Stadium (29,408)
Manager: Joey Barton
Tenure: 1 full season. Good young promising manager who is learning his trade in the Football league.
Ownership Situation: Chairman Andy Pilley. We have one of the best owners in the Football League he is very generous and gives things back to the fans and also invests a lot of money into the club!
Nickname: Cod Army
Main Fan Forum: The Club’s Facebook Page
- Star Player: Ash Hunter, little magician who can provide magic and take a player on and score and assist a lot of goals over 70 goals created since his time at the club.
- Underappreciated Gem: Ashley Eastham never awful but never stands out but our consistent rock at the back who is calm on the ball and a leader!
- Top Prospect: James Hill, Good young lad with a massive throw and seems confident when he’s played in the first team. Only going to improve.
- Potential Breakout Player: Ryan Rydel. A player who came in towards the back of last year and played left back seems a good young player.
- Fan Scapegoat: Morgan normally got a mistake in him but fans always seem to blame him if a mistake was made at the back.
- Waste of Space: Dean Marney on high wages and high expectations hasn’t performed up to a standard and has been very poor.
- Dream Transfer Target: Harry Soutter had him on loan last season and was amazing brilliant in air and no nonsense centre back.
Last season was we were good and bad, so inconsistent but played some good football. We weren’t in any danger of going down just a bit short of the play offs. Thought our strike force was great; Paddy Madden, Ched Evans and Ash Hunter scoring and assisting 50 goals between them. Just hopefully we can back more wins up and concede fewer sloppy goals.
Honestly we just have to stop this zonal marking on corners as last year we conceded a lot of corners and it cost us a few points we should have picked up. Also making sure we don’t drop our heads if we go 1-0 down as last year we didn’t pick many points from going behind, morale is a bigger factor than how we set out.
Sign a defender. Otherwise its very important this year just to get off to the best start, sure try and win as much as possible in preseason and rise to the challenge but really just make sure each player gets minutes in them ready for the season as we need as many of our current players fit for next year as possible. Hopefully we can win a few games and take confidence into the new season.
Contributor: Ben Knappers from the YouTube channel ‘Cods Vlogs’
Ground: Highbury Stadium (5,327)
Manager: Darren Ferguson
Tenure: 6 months, but in his third spell in charge.
Ownership Situation: We’re owned by an Irishman who made his money selling dodgy villas in Marbella and Bulgaria and a couple of Canadians who run a dodgy sports and entertainment business
Nickname: The Posh
Main Fan Forum: London Road
- Star Player: Marcus Maddison
- Underappreciated Gem: Sirike Dembele
- Top Prospect: Serhat Tasdemir
- Potential 19/20 Breakout Year: Louis Reed
- Fan Scapegoat: Alex Woodyard
- Waste of Space: Rhys Bennett
- Dream Transfer Target: Someone like George Thorne
Some excellent summer transfer business so far, actually filling the holes we have in our squad – including record transfer fee signing striker Mo Eisa. Beevers brings much needed experience to our back 4, Frankie Kent is hopefully the next Ryan Bennett not the next Rhys Bennett, Dan Butler and Niall Mason look like they could both be good full backs, and we hopefully have signed a decent keeper too. Keep the rest of the squad together and we may even be dreaming of top 2 this coming season.
We have Darren Ferguson back for a third spell as manager and there is every hope he can bring back the great times we had in his first spell. He’s a manager who tries to play football the right way (as opposed to his predecessor) and deserves a bit of luck.
Negatives, Barry Fry seems to have returned early from holiday and is in the press mentioning transfer fees.
Our new co-owners are still an unknown quantity, it remains to be seen whether they are happy to spend a few bob this summer and recoup the rewards in the future, or will they want a big sale this summer to counter the Mo Eisa transfer fee.
We are looking this season to secure the future of our council owned ground, and to determine whether we move to an all-seater ground further out of town, or patch up our current stadium.
In truth our dream transfer target would be a top quality central midfielder, a 25 year old Grant McCann!
Contributors: PoshHammer and JimPosh from the London Road Forum
Ground: London Road Stadium (15,314)
Apologies for the minor delay in posting this section – there has been a lot of positive things going on with the site! Another massive thank you to our contributors from around the league, please do check out the links to their sites, youtube pages and the forums they’ve represented here. We’ve encountered difficulty sourcing contributors from Pompey, Donny, Accrington, Wimbledon and of course understandably Bury, but hope to have something put together for next week. If you know anyone who might be interested in putting in their insights on the remaining clubs for the final section please get in touch on the email at firstname.lastname@example.org