Friday, 24 August 2012

My thoughts pre-season

I was recently asked to help out with a post for ItsRoundAndItsWhite, who were after previews from fans of every club. In case you missed it on their website or via Twitter, here are my thoughts:

How did last season measure up, compared to your expectations?
I didn’t expect us to take it down to the final game again – I honestly thought we’d finish between 14th and 18th. There was so much optimism and even talk of the play-offs at one stage. Sanchez was a let down, and despite the team looking good on paper, injuries (particularly long-term) cost us. Typical Barnet – always doing it the hard way.
What do you think of your club’s summer transfer activity, are there more arrivals/exits on the horizon?
We’ve lost a few players; we all knew McLeod would leave (on a free), but didn’t expect to lose captain, Hughes and Deering (now at Cheltenham). Robson has pretty much rebuilt a squad, the majority of which are former West Ham youth. I’m not too sure what to expect really as the average age must be 21, if that. We need a couple more experienced faces, I think – and I’d like to have a more experienced keeper, as the ones we have are young and bound to be prone to error. We need a solid keeper with the abysmal back four we have most seasons!
What would be a dream new season for you?
Anything higher than 22nd and being nowhere near the drop zone!
What would be your worst nightmare?
Relegation in our final season at Underhill.
Who will be your most important player/s this season?
We didn’t have a problem scoring goals last season and we have two new strikers in Jake Hyde and Jon Nurse, so I expect them to do the job – as well as Ricky Holmes, who unfortunately was out-shadowed by McLeod last season. He’s a decent player that doesn’t get enough credit for what he does. Mark Byrne as well will be instrumental in midfield (or right back if the manager decides to permanently play him there!)
Any players you would happily see the back of?
I haven’t seen any of them in action yet, so maybe get back to me on that one.
Do you have the best manager for the job?
Ask me again at the end of December. He seems alright, and already has Football League experience as a coach. He’s popular with fans already for creating a new footballing mantra – after last season, it’ll be nice to see the ball played on the floor a lot more!
Opposition players that you respect?
I’m really struggling to think here. I suppose I have to say former-Bee, Ben Strevens. He’s a genuinely lovely guy – glad to see him still playing at this level.
Opposition players that you despise?
Danny Hylton of Aldershot. There was an incident of racial abuse last season at Underhill resulting in an altercation with another one of our players. I just don’t like him. He won’t be getting a good reception this season! Mohsni of Southend (if he’s even still there?) also deserves a mention here for his theatrics and general annoyances.
Best away fans/ground in your league?
Last season, Plymouth brought the best fans. Considering their off-the-field issues at the time and position in the table, I was really impressed with amount that travelled to North London. They were vocal throughout as well – even though they lost! My favourite ground has to be Sixfields – it’s so easy to create a decent atmosphere in the away end, and for a modern ground it’s pretty smart. It gets bonus points for being perfectly positioned near a TGIs as well!
Which teams do you really want to beat this season?
The Crawley of 2012/13, Fleetwood – that’d be nice. I’d also love to smash AFC Wimbledon at home again, that was a pretty good game! Although I’d take any win against any team, to be honest. We don’t really see that many!
Finally, where do you honestly think you will finish?
Heart says 17th, head says 22nd.

Follow – @RoundAndWhite

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Fans’ season preview 2012/13 – part four

Tom – @Lange88
24th in League One – “Never seen worse”
Honestly, after last season we didn't have any key players! All our ‘key’ players left the summer beforehand along with our manager! We had a massive clearout and we've brought in a few good signings though. Ryan Edwards is a highly rated defender from Blackburn and looks excellent so far. Tutte in the middle will be a great player some day.
After last season I'd be happy simply seeing good football and passionate players. That's what I've seen so far so I'm encouraged. A play-off push will be a bonus but one I think we're well capable of.
Bradford away is one of my favourite away days, as is Wycombe, so I'd say those two. I'm looking forward to going to York too
Rotherham United
David – @davidrawson
10th in League Two – “Early promise unfulfilled”
There's been a huge flow of players arriving and leaving over the summer, but most of the players who left in the summer were players that the new manager decided he didn't want. Lewis Grabban, last year's top scorer, was one player it looks like we wanted to keep, but he was keen to move back South, so Bournemouth have the benefit of his enigmatic, but occasional brilliant, talent. Personally, I think we might regret releasing Ryan Cresswell, who joined Southend: if he can stay clear of injury, he's potentially a very good defender, who weighs in with his fair share of goals, too.
I'm not sure that we've got one player who'll net the twenty-odd goals that Grabban did, but there seem to be more goals in the squad as a whole. The central midfield players look particularly impressive, especially Icelandic international Kari Arnason, who, in pre-season, has looked as complete a midfield player as I've seen for many years in the fourth division. Some of the interplay in midfield and the movement of the side has been really good.
Expectations in general are pretty high. Our new ground, the New York Stadium, is terrific and is even better in comparison to the sterile Don Valley Stadium, and that alone has fuelled optimism. The general standard of the players arriving is pretty good and the pre-season performances have been impressive. Promotion, if not expected, is at least a realistic ambition.
Personally, I wonder if we've quite got the efficiency in front of goal to tip the tight games in our favour and there's a question about whether there's enough cover in central defence, if suspensions or injuries really bite. Overall, I think we should be one of the four or five sides in the mix for the automatic promotion places and a top three finish is probably achievable.
I think the games against the more local teams will be the stand out fixtures, especially because I think both Bradford and Chesterfield are likely to be right up there. The Bradford fixtures have a little extra spice, given the mass brawl at Valley Parade, when our manager's former team, Crawley, turned up there last season. Disappointingly, our seaside trip to Fleetwood is on a Tuesday in November.
In truth, though, it's the home fixtures that excite. After being exiled in a half-full athletics stadium for four years, the New York Stadium, where you're right on top of the action and right in the middle of town, is a thrilling experience. We're justifiably proud of it and, for this season at least, it'll probably be more of a highlight than any of the away trips coming up.
Southend United
Gareth – @Bucket_Spade_fc
4th in League Two – “Very heart breaking”
We haven’t lost any key players in my eyes yet others would disagree with the possibility of losing Bilel. The one summer signing who stood above the rest must be Rotherham captain Cresswell (future Southend captain).
It’ll be another season where on paper we look strong and above 90% of the other teams in League Two, but I can see it being no different to last season so I will say play off spot.
Well the game I was looking forward to was The Wombles, but that's on a Tuesday night now. So I would have to say the only three grounds I haven’t been to in League Two which are Rochdale, Fleetwood and York.
Torquay United
5th in League Two –
Wycombe Wanderers
Tracy – @Bluebellewwfc
21st in League One – “Bugger not again...”
The only player I was sad to lose was Ben Strevens, but it was the right decision for both parties. We’ve got some decent players in such as Matt Spring, Gary Doherty and Sam Wood and I expect them all to do well. Got three other new players Richard Logan, Dennis Oli and Lee Angol. If by some miracle we keep the ginger genius, Stuart Beavon he'll do very well I'm sure as will some of the players who came through our Youth system (Anthony Stewart, Charles Dunne, Jesse Kewley-Graham and Josh Scowen).
Expectations aren't that high considering we were recently taken over by our Supporters Trust as money is tight and the focus is very much on stabilising the club. Upper mid table flirting with the playoffs will do me fine.
I'm most looking forward to going to Dagenham in September to meet up with a couple of very good Twitter mates.
York City
Tom – @ycfc_sisso
4th in Blue Square Premier – “Wembley, trophies, promotion”
We lost James Meradith to Bradford City which was a blow as he’s a talented left back and actionable midfielder; however this loss will open up a place for other defenders like Danny Blanchett. Lee Bullock came back to us as an experienced player. We’ve gained a few strikers and they’ve been playing well in the pre-season matches. Jonathan Smith also came back to York and brings experience with him, John McReady, a midfielder from Darlington is a player to look out for next season, as is Michael Coulson (winger/striker). 
My expectations of next season are good – I personally think the team is strong enough to challenge for a play-off place.
The team I am looking most forward to playing is Oxford United, as we lost to them the last time we got to a play-off final. Fleetwood Town is another team I am looking forward to as they were promoted with us last season and win against them in the Football League would be great. Doncaster in the Capital One Cup is a third, largely because they were the team to send us down to the Conference eight years ago. To play Doncaster in our first competitive game as a League Two club since then seems fitting.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Fans’ season preview 2012/13 – part three

Michael – @mikeywoods89
8th in League Two – “Just fallen short”
We lost a few players, in particular Paulo Gazzaniga who has joined Southampton, but we have brought in some good replacements and perhaps strengthened in areas that were otherwise weak last season such as the defence.
With the quality of players we have this season and Martin Allen in charge (hopefully he'll last the season), I expect us to make the play-offs as a minimum. I believe the highest we can aim for is 3rd but there are some strong teams in this league.
Rotherham and York are of particular interest – Rotherham because of the new ground and York because of the place itself, and it's a team I haven't seen us face before. Also looking forward to Burton Albion as it's the final game of the season and I have yet to visit Burton.
Jack – @MorecambeJack
15th in League Two – "Room for improvement"
We have lost Lawrence Wilson our left back with a great attacking threat who I think we will miss terribly. We have brought in Robbie Threlfall as a replacement but it remains to be seen whether he can fill his boots. Garry Hunter was released, despite being Morecambe born and bred, but we have brought in Championship-level experience through Andy Wright from Scunthorpe.
Expectation is to stay in the league and with a reduced squad this year, anything more than that will be a success. We are going to heavily rely on youth this year and hope that we do not suffer many injuries. Showing relegation form over the last 7 months of last season, we really need a good start again this year to avoid being in a scrap at the bottom.
I think most Morecambe fans are looking forward to the Fleetwood games this year, as they become our nearest "rivals" once more. The York game also has some interest as we beat them in the play-off semis the year we got promoted (with a bit of controversy!). Other than that, I am looking forward to the Bradford games particularly at home on New Year's Day and our away game at Accrington which for the first time I can remember, is on a Saturday in spring rather than a cold Tuesday night in winter!
Northampton Town
20th in League Two –
Oxford United
Jennie – @x_Jen_xx
9th in League Two – “Disappointing, frustrating, inconsistent”
We've kept a lot of our key players, I'm not sure whether that's a good thing or a bad thing, because something needs to dramatically change in our squad! I’m glad that we've kept Constable and Craddock, so I’m expecting a lot more from them this season. We've signed a couple of players who could be vital for next season and have a couple more on loan, such as McGinty and Cox, which should hopefully get the players fighting for their places instead of becoming too complacent!
I think a lot of Oxford fans will expect us to be in the play-offs by Christmas and if we're not... then I think Wilder will be sacked. It's a shame because I do like Wilder, but we can't just keep finishing in mid table in League Two because people will just stop going. By the end of the season, I think realistically we would be lucky to get in to the play-offs, but anything less would be heartbreaking for the club. We have a new chairman so hopefully that should push the club forward. A play-off place will be good enough.
I’m looking forward to Wycombe away – bit of a local derby and it's always a game that we look forward to. Exeter away too, just because there's some old rivalry there from when we were in the Conference with them! I’m hoping for a good cup run going as we haven't had one in a very long time, but knowing Oxford, this will not happen this season either!
Plymouth Argyle
Edward – @ArgyleEd
21st in League Two – “Difficult, stressful, successful”
Our biggest loss is Simon Walton who we let go to Hartlepool for personal reasons. Walton was never universally popular but in my opinion really came through for the club last season during difficult times. He was made captain after Fletcher became manager and I believe his leadership made a big difference to a young and inexperienced team that were really struggling. He was also our top scorer, they were mostly from the penalty spot but by keeping his head under pressure he scored several goals that turned out to be vital in our League survival. He was never as good as we thought he would be considering what we paid for him back in our Championship years and some fans always held that against him but I believe that in League Two he'll be missed. Other than Walton our only losses are the loan players who returned to their clubs, they all played a part in our improvement in the second half of the season, MacDonald, Hemmings and Tsoumou all gave us a greater attacking threat that what was provided by our permanent players.
Jamie Lowry was brought in not long after Walton's departure, he's got a poor injury record but fans of his previous clubs mostly think well of him and think he'll do a good job in League Two, unfortunately he has suffered an ankle injury that will keep him out for three months. I'm hoping to see Luke Young play a big role for us, he's only 19 but has shown a lot of promise despite mostly playing out on the wing which is not his best position, if he gets a chance in centre midfield I believe he could have a very good season. We really lacked a genuine goal-scorer last season, it was a position that needed sorting, I like Nick Chadwick and Warren Feeney but neither of them will score the goals to keep us out of a relegation scrap. Fletcher's solution appears to be Welsh striker Rhys Griffiths, he's got a fantastic record in the Welsh league (180 goals in 181 appearances for Llanelli) but no experience at a higher level and at 32 years old quite a bit older than most players who make the step up to League football. If he can reproduce anything like the coring form he's had in Wales it'll be a fantastic signing but if he can't then we'll be left with a real goal-scoring problem. Andres Gurrieri signed after being released by Burton, he impressed here on trial last summer (supposedly we couldn't sign him then due to his previous club wanting compensation) and Burton fans seem to think he was ok for them, I'm happy enough with the signing and he's not the only new winger, we've also signed Johnny Gorman from Wolves on loan until January. If they can replace what we had with Hemmings and MacDonald and allow Luke Young to play in the centre of midfield rather than on the wing I'll be very pleased. Our only other signing so far is goalkeeper Rene Gilmartin who was released by Watford who says he has signed to challenge Jake Cole for the number one spot rather than to be back up, Cole however was impressive for us last season and I'd expect him to at least start the season as number one.
I honestly don't know where we'll finish this season. I'm not expecting a promotion challenge despite our owner's comments on expectations and wage budget. We came very close to going down last season and at the moment I'm not convinced our team is much stronger, what we've lost has mostly been replaced but as yet the quality of the replacements is yet to be proven. Without the stress of administration and no wages and the experience gained last season I don't think we'll be in quite the same struggle as we were last season but I'm expecting to be paying more attention to the bottom of the table than the top. I don't think we'll get relegated but if we are to leave League Two at the end of the season it seems likely it would be into the Conference rather than League One. It's important for our fans to remember that rebuilding from the disastrous period in administration will take time and if we can't yet afford to immediately compete for promotion then we shouldn't try to, if spending within our means signing cheap, unproven players for now and having a few disappointing seasons then that's a price worth paying, I hope our fans don't demand we put our future at risk again if things don't go too well. Right now I'd be content with a mid table finish and a season without the constant worry of relegation, after four desperately stressful relegation battles in a row I think we deserve a relaxing year. I'm also hoping to see some more attacking football, our ultra defensive set up worked for us in the desperation of last season but it was not much fun to watch, Fletcher has said he'd prefer a more attractive style of football and I think we have the players to do it if they're allowed to and there's not the immediate pressure to get results that a relegation battle creates.
With all three of Devon's League clubs in the same division the obvious fixtures to look forward to are the derbies between us, Torquay and most importantly, Exeter. However, as I am not too confident about our chances there's a fair bit of worry mixed in with the excitement and as I'm not a season ticket holder I won't be able to get tickets for the away games and so will have to follow them from home which never helps the nerves. Living in London I usually look forward to our away trips to the capital and some shorter journeys to make, AFC Wimbledon will again be my local game so that's a game I'll definitely be attending.
Port Vale
Matt – @pvfc_matt
12th in League Two – “A complete mess”
We saw a few of our key players take up offers from clubs elsewhere.  The main two were definitely last season’s top scorer Marc Richards and tough tackling midfielder Anthony Griffiths.
Richards leaving was always on the cards and once Chesterfield offered him a substantially better wage than what we could he was on his way; mixed views from Valiants as to how much he will be missed. The bigger and more surprising loss was that of Anthony Griffiths who decided to make the move to London to join Leyton Orient.  A tough tackling, fully committed, hard working midfielder who would put his body on the line for the sake of breaking up an oppositions attack.  His distribution was not always the best but was certainly a part of his game he had improved upon during the last season.
We have completed the ‘signings’ of six players to date, although these are still currently subject to the ongoing administration process.  At time of writing this we are under the belief that the Football League have authorised us to complete the deals whilst still in administration.  These players are:
Goalkeeper Chris Neal who played a full part in Shrewsbury’s promotion from this very league last season and will make a very adequate Number 1 for us.
Defenders Dave Artell, who captained Crewe to playoff victory last season and is a natural leader and Richard Duffy who played in League 1 with Exeter last season and comes to Vale with a lot of good reviews.
Midfielders Jennison Myrie-Williams who showed a lot of promise with his speed and trickery on the wing whilst on loan with us last season, Ashley Vincent who is another pacy winger and joins us from Colchester and finally Darren Murphy who we are lead to believe could do a similar job to what Griffiths has done for us in recent seasons.  Murphy was part of the Stevenage side which one back-to-back promotions from BSP to League One.
We also have Liam Dickinson who has agreed a deal in principle providing he can prove his fitness after fighting back from a broken ankle.  Hopefully Dickinson can prove to be the replacement to Marc Richards after scoring goals at this level for Southend, providing he proves to Micky Adams that his ankle is fully recovered.  We have also had Tadhg Purcell on trial following his release from Northampton and he’s been banging goals in for fun during our friendlies. All in all Vale fans are very impressed with the standard of players we have signed so far this summer after seeing plenty of dross and deadwood brought into our club on the ‘cheap’ in the past.
I’m not too sure how we will get on at the moment.  Back in July it seemed as though we had everything falling into place.  We had announced the signings of six players, all of which are so much better than the usual standard of player we bring in. Our preferred bidder was seemingly a signature away from taking control of the club and building on his vision to see us back in the Championship in the coming years.  There was a real buzz around Port Vale again (something we have not had for many years now) and there was genuine expectations of us fighting competitively in the top seven and finally getting ourselves back out of this league. Then everything just seemed to go stale and for weeks now there has been nothing positive coming out of the club.  It seems our ‘saviour’ Keith Ryder is struggling to complete his takeover with talk of him not having the funds to do so and we are now back to square one with our administrators re-opening the door to other prospective owners.  We apparently have two other bidders looking into buying us out of administration but this will mean the process beginning over and will almost certainly mean we start this season in administration. Despite this dark cloud hanging over us, we could still have a decent season providing the stories of the Football League allowing us to officially sign the players we have brought in during the summer are true, and providing the CVA we have in place stays in place for any new bidders and we are not hit with any further points deductions. If things take a turn for the worse with regards to the administration then who knows what this season will bring.  In fact I don’t even want to think about it.
Well we lost some of the closer games that Vale fans always looked out for. Crewe and Shrewsbury both went up and Macclesfield suffered relegation. These were all fixtures that saw a large away following from Vale and were always the ones to look for first. With the clubs that are in this league for this coming season, I think it has to be York followed closely by Torquay.  Never been to York’s ground so it will be another one ticked off the list plus I am told there is a cracking weekend to be had up there.  We always spend the weekend in Torquay and this season will be no different and can safely say it is one of the nicest places in the UK – there is nothing like an away win at the seaside!

Friday, 17 August 2012

Fans’ season preview 2012/13 – part two

Burton Albion
Adam – @adambafcdrew
17th in League Two – “Disappointing, stressful, forgetful”
We haven't lost any key players this summer. With Gary Rowett having been given the Burton job permanently not long after the season finished, he's been bringing his own players and staff in. And I was incredibly impressed when he signed up Zander Diamond in defence. Over the last three seasons Burton have had problems with a leaky defence, and I think Diamond seems like a big leader who can play a big part in sorting that. And he's still in his late 20s. Marcus Holness who we've signed from Rochdale seems decent too, despite being built like an overweight Sunday League player.
I am feeling confident we will be in a comfortable mid table position with the squad Rowett's building. It would be extremely disappointed if we find ourselves battling relegation for the third season running. Last season, we flirted with the playoffs a fair bit in the first half of the season, which shows what we are capable of; but then went on that shocking run and nosedived down the league which was depressing. I hope that kind of thing doesn't happen again. I think we'll finish in the top 14 of what is now a very tough league with some big clubs in.
There's a fair few good games I’m looking forward to, despite so many long midweek away games. I'm looking forward to these three the most – a weekender in Torquay when we play them on September 22nd will be brilliant, with many other Brewers staying over; Rotherham away on opening day will be a great occasion because it's the first league game at their new stadium and Gillingham at home on the final day because it’s the date of my dad’s birthday.
Cheltenham Town
James – @whyalwaysjimbo
6th in League Two – “Pride, Heartbreak, Wembley”
Summerfield has gone to Shrewsbury, we've bought Deering in from Barnet but not sure how well he could play a central midfield role-in a midfield two with Pack or Penn, see him more as an attacking midfielder maybe at the top of a diamond.
I think we should expect play-offs at a minimum. We've only lost one player we didn't want to lose, the others (Low, Lewis and Smikle) were all released and were really squad players. However the league is very strong-so I'd be happy with a play off place as long as we make it count this time.
I’m mostly looking forward to the ones local to me because of where I live; Northampton for example. I’m also looking forward to York because a lot of my family live there and other games where I'd get to see my favourite twitter followers, such as Barnet away.
22nd in League One – “Disappointing, underperformed, unbelievable”
The club released ten player including our longest serving at the time, Derek Niven and a key player in Gregor Robertson who was a good defender for us but struggled a lot with injury over the past few seasons. So far during the summer break we have made five signings and we have promoted three youngsters from the youth team. To replace defenders Gregor Robertson and Simon Ford we have brought in Sam Hird from Doncaster Rovers who will be our new captain for the new season and Terrell Forbes, former Leyton Orient defender to improve our defence overall. We’ve also signed former Scunthorpe midfielder Sam Togwell who is very experienced and will prove to be an important asset within the team. The most exciting signing that Chesterfield has made this summer for me has to be Marc Richards from Port Vale who is a proven goal scorer at League Two level scoring 15+ goals for Port Vale in previous seasons. Richard O’Donnell is a goalkeeper which we have signed from Sheffield Wednesday who will challenge current Goalkeeper Tommy Lee for a place in the starting line-up.
After the disappointment of not being able to stay a League One club the fans expect a strong season ending in promotion come next May. I predict that Chesterfield will finish 5th and hopefully we can achieve promotion through the playoffs. The fans expect to bounce straight back to League One at the first time of asking however League Two is looking very strong next season and this will be a very difficult ask.
I am looking forward to Plymouth away because it is a new ground for me and it should be a very good day out, perhaps even make a weekend of it if the weather is nice. Rotherham away is also a match I am looking forward to most because it is a brand new stadium and Rotherham is close to Chesterfield therefore we will take a lot of fans and hopefully create a very loud atmosphere. Finally I am also looking forward to Fleetwood away which is scheduled to be our last away match of the season. This will be a very tough match as both teams should be at the top end of the table still pushing for promotion if nothing has been decided by this point. A weekend in Blackpool is also too good to turn down.
Dagenham + Redbridge
Nick – @NickDRFCMurphy

19th in League Two – “Disappointing and injury-ravaged”
We've lost a wealth of experience in Mark Arber, Peter Gain and Jon Nurse along with Damien McCrory – however that was necessary in order to stay sustainable. The acquisition of Gavin Hoyte looks to be a good one from what I've seen so far though, he's a very quick and energetic player. I expect the likes of Mickey Spillane, Billy Bingham and Brian Woodall/Dwight Gayle to perform well in the coming season, they're young and will be looking to build on their last campaigns.
I'd be more than happy with a mid table season to be quite honest, although I can realistically see us pushing towards a play-off place should everything come together and we avoid a mass of injuries this year. I'd take a punt at a nice mediocre 10th at this current stage.
I'm quite looking forward to Barnet and Southend as they're two of the more local games. For a new ground though I'm quite excited about visiting Bootham Crescent as it seems quite old fashioned – I like a ground with a bit of personality to it!
Exeter City
Rodney – @roddersecfc
23rd in League One – “Not good enough”
We’ve lost several players with our player of the year, Troy Archibald-Henville being sold to Swindon. Others we lost include: Daniel Nardiello, David noble, James Dunne and Richard Duffy who all took better offers at other clubs. Despite losing these players we look to have signed some adequate replacements – Kevin Mmankwaah, an experienced right back. We’ve also signed defenders: Craig Woodman and Pat Baldwin, and midfielders Tommy Doherty and Arron Davies, all who have a wealth of experience at this level and higher.
At the end of the season and the loss of several players I wasn't feeling confident, but with the squad Paul Tisdale has assembled so far I’m feeling quietly optimistic for the new season. I think we can manage a top half table finish, even the playoffs.
It’s no real surprise to the game I’m most looking forward to – the renewal of our rivalry with Plymouth Argyle. There’s nothing like a derby game and I’m looking forward to our game at Christmas and the trip to Home Park near the end of the season.
Fleetwood Town
Sam – @SamFTFC
1st in Blue Square Premier – “Unbelievable, exciting, nerve-racking”
We lost Jamie Vardy, the greatest ever player to play for Fleetwood Town. I have never seen a player like him; 34 goals and a load of assists. Quick, agile and an eye for goal, he’s now applying his trade in the Championship. He was key to our promotion campaign last season. I think the signing that will replace him is David Ball. He has already cut it in the Championship, he is sharp and can certainly finish as he has already proved pre-season. We have made a lot of signings and every single one looks promising so I expect them all to stand out come competitive matches.
With the current squad I fully expect us to gain promotion to League One. We have higher-league experience in the team and we are a club that like to push forward forever aiming high. I can see us securing at least a promotion place and hopefully we will do the business and then be in League One.
The games I’m looking most forward to have to be Morecambe and Accrington Stanley home and away. I absolutely love derby games and I am fully looking forward to them. I think they will be well battled matches and hopefully we'll come out on top in each.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Fans’ season preview 2012/13 – part one

Accrington Stanley
Mel – @melstanley01
14th in League Two – “Could do better”
We haven’t lost any major players, luckily we managed to keep hold of the likes of Amond, Nasalia and Hatfield –players I believe to be key this season. New signing Shepherd looks good.
I’m positive for this season and have fairly high expectations. I’m hoping for a push for play-offs or, at worst, a top half of the table finish.
The main game to look forward to is Rochdale’s return to League Two – for obvious reasons. In terms of moving forward, they’ll prove to be a test as they have a lot of our former players and management. From my point of view (like others), I think that’ll prove to be the most interesting game.
AFC Wimbledon
16th in League Two – “Baptism of fire”
In the close season we released Jack Turner, Chris Bush, Fraser Franks, Gareth Gwillim, Bret Johnson, Jamie Stuart, Reece Jones, Ricky Wellard, Kieran Djilali; in addition to Ryan Jackson, Lee Minshull, James Mulley and Max Porter who were all told in January that they would be leaving. Replacements include a Venezuelan goalkeeper Jaimez-Ruiz, left-back Warren Cummings from Bournemouth and right-back Curtis Osano. We have permanently signed centre back Pim Balkestein, who was on loan last season as well as Angus MacDonald (defender) on loan from Reading.
I expect our Goalkeeper Seb Brown to have a good season along with Jack Midson who will hopefully top the goal scoring league. I expect this season to be very tough and anywhere outside the relegation zone would be nice and fancy a decent run in the FA cup.
I’m looking forward to a better trip to Barnet this season without the rain and thumping defeat. Wycombe is a ground I went to with Wimbledon FC so fancy a day out there too!
Aldershot Town
Rhys – @rhys9emberson
11th in League Two – “Record breaking season”
We have lost our captain, fans’ player of the season and player of the season, Darren Jones, to Shrewsbury; as well as Straker to Southend. Our replacements – Sonny Bradley and Troy Brown – both were on loan last season. Troy has signed permanently and Sonny is on a season long loan from Hull City. We have signed Tonkin from Oxford as a replacement for Straker.
We have broken our transfer record this summer, signing Craig Reid from Stevenage and have so much strength in depth. In other years it’s been easy to predict the starting 11, but this season it is very difficult. My season expectations are to finish in the top half and once again challenge for the play-offs. I think we can sneak into the play-offs and maybe finish 7th.
On a personal level, my aim is to do 20 away games this season. The fixtures I looked for when they were released were Oxford away Wimbledon away as their both excellent away days normally; as well as the first and last game which are Plymouth and Rotherham away. Wycombe at home is always a home game to look forward to as it’s the return of Gary Waddock the man who guided us into the football league. Exeter is the first home game and I am looking forward to once again being on my beloved East Bank chanting for 90 minutes. I am also looking forward to York away and hitting The Stone Roses bar – and York will be a new ground for me.
22nd in League Two – “No real surprise”
We released a fair few players at the end of last season, most of which, were out of contract. Whilst a lot of players in May, the remaining players to depart left once the new manager (Mark Robson) took over. The stand-out players, for me, to leave would be McLeod, Mark Hughes and Sam Deering (who’s now at fellow League Two club, Cheltenham). We all knew McLeod would leave, and despite his goals in the first half of the season, he didn’t really seem to have his heart in the club anymore. We were all surprised to see Mark and Sam leave though, as both were influential last campaign, and Hughesy was our skipper (who kept us in the League with that winner at Burton!). Whilst we’ve not really found that 20-goal a season striker to replace McLeod, we have signed Jon Nurse (ex-Dagger) and Jake Hyde has returned to the club after a stint up in Scotland. We’ve also signed the majority of West Ham’s former youth squad, with the pick of the bunch probably being Ahmed Abdulla, who’s had league experience after brief loan-spells with Swindon and Dagenham.
I really don’t know how we will get on this season, but it’s fair to say, I don’t set my expectations very high after the last three seasons. Part of me expects a similar performance, riding chances and maybe even running out of luck! I’d be happy with anything above 18th, to be honest. New manager, new squad and new philosophy, what could go wrong? It’d be nice to end our football at Underhill on a high, and have something to be happy about for once.
Like every other season, I’m looking forward to Northampton away – even though it’s on the final day! Our penultimate game is our last at Underhill, so I’m looking forward to that, although part of me will feel sad as I’ve grown up with the stadium for the last 18 years or so. York and Fleetwood, both promoted last season, will be new grounds and should be fairly good weekends, in very different parts of the country! Living in Essex, I suppose I have to mention the local games in Southend and Dagenham as well – not that we ever have much luck at either!
Bradford City
Tim – @tjroche
18th in League Two – “Nearly a disaster”
It was sad to see Dave Syers and Simon Ramsden depart for Doncaster and Motherwell respectively. Both players were popular amongst the fans but unfortunately injuries meant they didn't get a chance to shine last season. The pair were offered new deals but on heavily reduced terms, so it was understandable that they decided to move on. I feel we have brought in some good replacements in Gary Jones and Nathan Doyle though, the latter is an especially popular signing after an impressive loan spell in 2006-2007. Our marquee signing is undoubtedly Andrew Davies. Having spent much of last season at Valley Parade on loan from Stoke City, it looked inevitable that his future lay much higher than League Two. However to our surprise he opted to stay with the Bantams, signing a one-year deal. He is a cut above at this level and will look to continue his central defensive partnership with last season's Player of the Year, Luke Oliver.
Despite our brush with the relegation zone last season, I believe that we possessed the nucleus of a potentially good team. We very rarely got beat by more than the odd goal so it makes sense that rather than making wholesale changes, Phil Parkinson has focused mainly on adding to the existing squad. For the first time in a few seasons we have not seen a large-scale 'clear out' of the squad so I feel that continuity could be a crucial factor in any success we have this season. Most of our fans seem to be enthused by the signings we have made and there is an air of positivity around the club once again. We have sold nearly 9000 season tickets and our supporters seem excited for the new season. Bearing all this in mind, I predict a finish of 5th for Bradford City.
League Two seems to have a more 'Northern' feel about it than in recent seasons, so there will be a nice selection of local trips for our fans. I am particularly looking forward to Fleetwood Town and York City. An early meeting with our old friend Steve Evans at Rotherham United is another to whet the appetite!
Bristol Rovers
Henry – @HJBurridge
13th in League Two – “Praise Lord McGhee”
Most of the players that we’ve cut were either loans or deadwood, the only real loss being winger Mustapha Carayol, who left for Middlesbrough after some Twitter shenanigans. Of the players Mark McGhee has brought in, David Clarkson looks the pick; assuming we can keep him fit he should rack up a decent goal tally in League Two.
Scottish centre back Garry Kenneth also looks a quality acquisition on paper after he was released by Dundee United, but we could still do with another player in central defence. The main issues are up front, we look very light on options and lack somebody with enough pace to frighten the opposition. McGhee has said he’s still in the market for another four players, and some experience in midfield would be especially handy, but he’s cutting it quite fine!
I’d like to say we’re going for promotion, but without some quick recruits I expect us to fall short. It’s difficult to see where the goals are coming from and we look rather flimsy in the middle but, with the right additions, a play-off spot would please most supporters.
As I’m at university in Plymouth, Argyle away was the first fixture I scoured the list for, and hopefully we might beat them for once so I can avoid more ridicule!
With Swindon going up last season Rovers have lost all their traditional local rivals, which is a bit of a disappointment, leaving Cheltenham as our closest opponents. It doesn’t quite have the same edge that games against Bristol City or Swindon do, but it’s a great day out and we’ll be sure to pack the away end.