League One Preview: The ‘Not The Top 20’ 1-24 prediction

1) Rotherham

Last season: 23rd in the Championship

Paul Warne will be looking for his third successive promotion from League One, after his second Championship relegation, but in truth they were better than their results showed last season. There may be sexier squads, but no team will be fitter or better drilled than the Millers and there seems little reason to doubt their title credentials.

2) Ipswich

Last season: Ninth in the League One

Ipswich Town, or the “League One All-Stars”, have undoubtedly caught the eye with their recruitment. The money spent looks like money well spent, which isn’t always the case, as the Paul Cook and Ipswich’s new owners haev hoovered up some real talent at this level, including Scott Fraser and Joe Piggott. The only worry is whether this whole new team will gel, and if Cook is as effective without right-hand man Leam Richardson.

3) Sunderland

Last season: Fourth in League One

Sunderland’s squad at the moment is thin, but for the first time in a while the off-field structure looks set to bring success back to Wearside. Sporting Director Kristjaan Speakman and Head Coach Lee Johnson have cleared the deadwoon will surely bring in the necessary reinforcments to support the likes of Aiden McGeady, but questions remain as to how they will repace Wigan bound Charlie Wyke’s goals.

4) MK Dons

Last season: 13th in League One

Russell Martin’s imminent departure to Swansea will certainly dent MK Dons’ hopes of returning to the Championship, but he has built a phenomenal squad for the level and, with the right appointment, there is no reason why they can’t still go well at the top end of League One. Mo Eisa and Max Watters should mean goals are no issue.

5) Lincoln

Last season: Fifth in League One

Last season’s Play-Off finalists Lincoln have the unenviable task of replacing loanees Brennan Johnson and Morgan Rogers, but boss Michael Appleton has an unparalleled recruitment record at this level and we can expect the likes of Southampton’s Dan N’Lundulu to step up. Chris Maguire is another savvy signing and a player that Appleton has managed before at both Portsmouth and Oxford.

6) Charlton

Last season: Seventh in League One

This has been a very solid summer for the Addicks, as to be expected with Nigel Adkins at the helm. Jayden Stockley and Akin Famewo remain at the club after good loans, and Craig MacGillivray is an upgrade in goal.

7) Portsmouth

Last season: Eighth in League One

Danny Cowley’s arrival at the club saw an immediate improvement on the pitch, but this feels like this first season of a long-term project for the Cowley brothers at Pompey. Plenty of Kenny Jackett stalwarts have moved on, and fans are very excited about striker Gassan Ahadme on loan from Norwich.

8) Wigan

Last season: 20th in League One

Wigan are back from the brink with new owners, and are building a squad that has fans dreaming of a return to where they believe they belong. The Wyke signing is a real statement of intent, but the squad still looks thin and this feels like transition season as promising manager Leam Richardson continues to learn on the job.

9) Oxford

Last season: Sixth in League One

It’s never dull with Karl Robinson, with an exciting brand of attacking football normally bringing both long winning and losing runs. The loan signings of Nathan Holland and Gavin Whyte mean there are plenty of exciting attacking options, but they are incredible thin in defensive areas and need to rectify that before any talk of another top 6 finish.

10) Sheffield Wednesday

Last season: 24th in the Championship.

With a suspended points deduction hanging over them and an exodus of first team players, Wednesday look set to be the latest giant to drop into League One and struggle to get out. Fans are excited by the signings of Lewis Wing and Olomide Shodipo, but promotion rivals have brought better in.

11) Bolton

Last season: Third in League Two

Ian Evatt endured some tough times early last season, but his Bolton side then blitzed their eay through the league and look well set to continue that progress. Josh Sheehan could be one of the best bits of businss in the EFL this summer.

12) Wycombe

Last season: 22nd in the Championship

Gareth Ainsworth may have used a certain EFL podcast’s pre-season 24th prediction to inspire his team to promotion back in 19/20, and it’s a sign of how far they have come that Wycombe fans will see 12th as too low. How they cope without Uche Ikpeazu and Fred Onyedinma will be key, with Sam Vokes needing to rediscover some form after signing from Stoke.

13) Accrington

Last season: 11th in League One

Stanley have improved their position in the league pyramid almost every season of the 17 years that John Coleman has been in charge (across two spells). A miracle maker who says that the club is in such a good place, this season they could be ‘reaching for the stars’.

14) Doncaster Rovers

Last season: 14th in League One

A brief flirtation with the play-offs last season collapsed spectacularly after the departure of Darren Moore. Former Donny midfield general Richie Wellens takes charge – a savvy tactician who is looking to build a squad that relies a little less on loanees. Expect them to upset some big teams this season as they look to grow under Wellens.

15) Crewe Alexander

Last season: 12th in League One

A top half finish following promotion from League Two underlines the progress of Alex under David Artell, and explains their confidence this season. The departures of key men Ryan Wintle and Harry Pickering – on top of Perry Ng in January – will be sorely felt, but as ever with Crewe, there are new academy-developed starlets to step in.

16) Wimbledon

Last season: 19th in League One

Head Coach Mark Robinson has brought an incredible new energy to the club. Performances in securing survival were encouraging and, despite the loss of top scorer Joe Pigott, there’s confidence they can avoid a relegation scrap while playing a much more exciting brand of football.

17) Burton

Last season: 16th in League One

Burton went from being relegation certainties to performing at a Play-Off level in a season of two distinct halves. They will be aiming higher than this under Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, but it will be tough to maintain the results of the 2nd half of the campaign, and with a more competitive division it seems more likely they will be comfortable in a mid-table position.

18) Gillingham

Last season: 10th in League One

Steve Evans is the perfect manager for a Gillingham side that have to punch above their weight at this level. With a direct style that often puts opposition managers’ noses out of joint, they can win games through physicality and desire if their opponent is not up for it. They lack quality compared to some peers but as a collective should be good enough to avoid the drop.

19) Cheltenham

Last season: First in League Two

The most consistent team in League Two for over two years gets its chance in the league above, and Michael Duff is sticking with the players that got them promoted. With defensive structure their key strength, they should be comfortable in their own skin if involved in a relegation scrap. Watch out for that long throw!

20) Morecambe

Last season: Fourth in League Two

Favourites for relegation, as they were for most of the last decade in League Two! Instead they won promotion. New manager Stephen Robinson has big shoes to fill after Derek Adams’ miracle promotion, but they’ve reinvested money from the sale of Carlos Mendes Gomes and look to have a strong squad able to hurt teams on the counter attack.

21) Shrewsbury

Last season: 17th in League One

Favourites for relegation, as they were for most of the last decade in League Two! Instead they won promotion. New manager Stephen Robinson has big shoes to fill after Derek Adams’ miracle promotion, but they’ve reinvested money from the sale of Carlos Mendes Gomes and look to have a strong squad able to hurt teams on the counter attack.

22) Fleetwood

Last season: 15th in League One

A club that looks to be cutting its cloth due to COVID-impacted finances, there’s a lot of minutes to replace from last season and Fleetwood’s era of punchy recruitment seems to have come to an end. Don’t expect Simon Grayson’s side to be a pushover, but with a worrying lack of depth at both ends of the pitch, they look to be in for a battle.

23) Plymouth

Last season: 18th in League One

Argyle’s exciting brand of play under Ryan Lowe is consistently undermined by defensive failings. Lowe must go for a ‘clean slate’ approach given their tailspin in the second half of last season, but so far the summer signings don’t convince.

24) Cambridge

Last season: Second in League Two

A promotion from League Two in which Mark Bonner got every last drop from a squad that exceeded all expectations. Wes Hoolahan will continue to create chances consistently, but who will finish them off in the same manner as departed 30-goal striker Paul Mullin?

You’ve read the summary, now get the full thinking behind the 1-24 by listening to Ali & George on the podcast

And check out our League One columnist Al Dudman’s season preview for all the best bets