League One 2021-22 season preview | League 1
Candidates for automatic promotion
Quite rightly, the company formed to buy Ipswich in April is called Gamechanger 20 and the club are hoping to reap the rewards of a mass rebuild, with U.S. owners making it clear they have no plans to stay at tier three with a Football Manager-style summer overhaul. The investment will bring expectations, but it would be a surprise if Paul Cook, who knows the division well, fails to lead a title push. Only the relegated Bristol Rovers and Northampton scored fewer goals last season, but the profession of Scott Fraser, one of the 10 new faces, coupled with the firepower of Conor Chaplin, Joe Pigott and Macauley Bonne will remedy that. almost certainly.
Sunderland, also has big plans under the leadership of Kyril Louis-Dreyfus, the comfortably senior youngest English football president at 24. The suffering felt by fans since they left the Premier League four years ago continued last season with one exit from the play-offs. In Aiden McGeady and Alex Pritchard, who were fortunate enough to kick off their careers, they have a lot of creativity but they look lean in key areas, although 17-year-old Callum Doyle on loan at Manchester City will bolster their defense.
Wycombe almost stayed alive in the Championship and arguably started off with a stronger squad, with forward Sam Vokes acquiring notable. Gareth Ainsworth doesn’t have the biggest squad, but a longtime core can complement Anis Mehmeti and Sullay Kaikai, another exciting pickup. Lincoln exceeded expectations last season and under Michael Appleton, who returned to work after surgery for testicular cancer, they can continue to thrive. Lewis Fiorini, on loan from Manchester City, could be crucial and Chris Maguire will guarantee X-factor. Lincoln was in the lead in February.
The hopes of the play-offs
Nigel Adkins hopes to build on the foundations laid at Charlton last season, when they missed out on a top-six spot on goal difference after a solid finish. Jayden Stockley’s final arrival offers a goal fix and at the other end Craig MacGillivray will replace Ben Amos, who has joined a mini-revolution at Wigan, a club that is finally improving after a few disconcerting years. The arrival of Charlie Wyke has raised eyebrows and the signatures of Portsmouth couple Tom Naylor and Jack Whatmough reinforce the prospect of a promotional campaign funded by Bahraini businessman Abdulrahman al-Jasmi.
Portsmouth missed the playoffs by two points last season and Danny Cowley is hopeful that Norwich player Gassan Ahadme continues his successful pre-season form. Rotherham have been here before and should benefit from the lack of drastic changes as they seek a third promotion in five seasons.
The fitting wellness factor surrounding MK Donations dispelled after the departure of Russell Martin six days before the start of the season but their recruitment promises to be smart and a talented team is illuminated by Matt O’Riley in midfield and the attacking trio of Mo Eisa, Max Watters and the loaner by Tottenham Troy Parrott.
Oxford need to strengthen defensively while Crewe having a knowledgeable manager in David Artell and his young team, aided by the experience of Luke Murphy and Shaun MacDonald, could thrive. Accrington Stanley are poised to retain their batting duo Colby Bishop and Dion Charles, essential if John Coleman’s side are to eclipse last season’s average standings, their best since 1958.
Candidates for relegation
There was a summer exodus to Sheffield Wednesday and while they’ve kept Barry Bannan, a stylish midfielder who holds the key to their rebound hopes, they otherwise look ordinary and short of offensive sparks. Recruiting looks disappointing and Wednesday, which failed to pay its players on time on several occasions last season, accepted a suspended six-point deduction in case they accumulate salary arrears before January.
That Derek Adams was more drawn to another crack in League Two than to help Morecambe adapting to League One suggests he was considering a chore. Yann Songo’o and their top scorer, Carlos Mendes Gomes, are among the starts, we are interested in captain Sam Lavelle and we can’t see them giving themselves a lot of blood. Bolt after losing three of the 22 matches at the end of January and appear to be the best equipped of the four promoted teams, with Cheltenham and Cambridge, whose top scorer Paul Mullin has moved out of the league to join Wrexham, struggling to add reinforcements.
Fleetwood have lost reliable performers, especially at the upper end of the pitch, and it’s up to Simon Grayson to keep them above their weight. Plymouth endured a horrendous end last season – they’ve lost 11 of their last 15 games – and have to hope defensive reinforcements plug a leaky back line. AFC Wimbledon will rely on Brentford lender Aaron Pressley to fill the void left by Pigott, and Shrewsbury might also struggle to fill in the goals scored column.
Three young people to watch
Harry Darling, 21, MK Dons The center-back was the club’s young player of the year despite arriving from Cambridge in January, ably replacing Richard Keogh. Comfortable in possession and calm under pressure.
Nathanael Ogbeta, 20, Shrewsbury Signed from Manchester City in January, the left winger impressed with his athleticism. Unsurprisingly, given his inexperience, the versatile defender has work to do but he drew a summer candidacy from Peterborough.
Rio Adebisi, 20 years old, Crewe Another defenseman who made an impressive breakthrough at the end of last season and the academy graduate is expected to make the left-back his own following Harry Pickering’s exit. The emergence of Adebisi signals the start of a new wave of young people, Ryan Wintle joining Perry Ng in Cardiff.