2015/16 League One Season Preview
2015/16 League One Season Preview

The new Football League season gets underway this weekend, and League One kicks off on Saturday with all 24 teams in action at the traditional time of 3PM as they bid to get their campaigns off to the perfect start with three points.

Millwall, Wigan Athletic and Blackpool have all been relegated into the division, whilst Burton Albion, Shrewsbury Town, Bury and Southend United were all promoted from League Two, and they will each be looking to settle into League One quickly to achieve their aims for the season.

Race for promotion

The three recently-relegated sides will come into the season with the shared goal of achieving an immediate return to the Championship, most favourably through an automatic top two spot, though going up via the play-offs will not be frowned upon by any.

Yet, the favourites to win the league this season are Sheffield United, by a long stretch. Having finished in the play-off places three times in the last four seasons but crumbled under the pressure every time, the Blades will know that they need to finish in the top two if they want to return to the second tier after a four year absence. With Nigel Adkins at the helm, a man who has experienced success in the Football League frequently throughout his career, they have their best chance yet of doing so, but need to ensure they keep their cool in the big moments.

Alongside Sheffield, Doncaster Rovers are a big contender for the top two as many of last year's big teams look to have weakened over the summer. Rovers have recruited goal-scorer Andy Williams and defender Gary MacKenzie, amongst others, to strengthen all areas of their team and, when these additions are combined with the likes of James Coppinger and Harry Forrester, they can propel the team back into the Championship following relegation in 2014.

Dark horses

Walsall and Rochdale could certainly find themselves contending for promotion this season, driven by the goal-scoring heroics of Tom Bradshaw and Ian Henderson respectively, but one team who have strengthened well all over and look to have a squad capable of sending them up are Bradford City. A mix of experience and youth has been recruited in the off-season, and, if they can put the finishing touches on the job done so far, they are certainly a team who can achieve at least a top six finish, especially after falling just short and finishing seventh last year.

Another team who have had a good transfer window are Scunthorpe United, acquiring a trio of promoted-Preston North End players to add some winning experience to the team, whilst successful loanee Jamie Ness has joined on a permanent basis. The Iron looked promising in spells last year, and, if they can find some consistency, then they are a good shout for a play-off finish this term.

Burton are another team who could surprise a few this season by maintaining the momentum gained from promotion to the third tier. Led by Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, and bolstered by a number of clever signings and promising loanees, the 2015 League Two champions can certainly achieve a top half finish this year, but have the ability to go even further.

Shrewsbury too look to have more than enough quality to crack the top 12 at the very least this year and could be battling out for a play-off place with Burton if they apply themselves properly.

Teams to underwhelm

As aforementioned, the three sides relegated from the Championship last season will be looking to achieve promotion back to the second tier in the coming campaign, yet none of them look capable of doing so.

Millwall's sudden lack of experience in their squad means they are unlikely to sustain a real push for promotion, whilst the downward spirals of both Blackpool and Wigan make them unlikely to do so as well, with the latter perhaps looking in the best position to defy this expectation thanks to fantastic signings, such as that of Will Grigg, and a manager who knows the club inside out in Gary Caldwell.

The top six looks set to take very different shape this year as many of the teams defeated in the play-offs last season have weakened too. Swindon Town have lost too many key players to bounce back from play-off final defeat to Preston, whereas Chesterfield, who only just managed to clinch that final top six spot in the 2014-15 campaign, have failed to really bolster their squad over the summer to compete with their League One rivals.

Relegation contenders

Whereas Burton and Shrewsbury look good enough to establish themselves in the third tier, whilst Bury have made enough key additions to keep themselves out of the relegation battle, Southend United look set to rely on the experience of manager Phil Brown to keep them afloat.

The team has not recruited a lot over the summer, with just three players arriving whilst key striker Barry Corr has dropped back into League Two with a shock move to Cambridge United. The Shrimpers have plenty of fight in their team though and will hope that this, combined with Brown's guidance, can keep them in League One.

The other big contenders for this year's relegation scrap are those who struggled last year. Crewe Alexandra are on a downward spiral, as are Colchester United, and neither have done much summer business to prevent their problems from continuing in such a tough division. The former have promoted plenty of academy players to the first team, taking a huge risk by putting youth first, whilst Colchester have brought in a number of released and unproven youngsters from other teams, which also brings with it a large gamble.

Coventry City have problems both on and off the pitch as well and will be another team tipped for a poor season. Their thin squad does not look to have the ability to improve on last year's close call finish, and, with the newly-promoted sides looking extremely strong, they could suffer.

Another potential struggler this campaign could be Blackpool. The recently-relegated Seasiders could easily emulate the downfall of Yeovil Town, who have now endured two successive relegations, given that everyone has jumped ship at Bloomfield Road due to a number of problems involving the club's owners. The experience of Tony McMahon, Gary MacKenzie and David Perkins has all gone, and with 20 departures and nine incomings, the complete upheaval in the squad looks more likely to lead to failure than success.

Players to watch

If Sheffield United are to lead the way this season, then Che Adams will be a man who plays a big role. The youngster, who was recruited from the non-league last season, found opportunities hard to come by under Nigel Clough, but found goals easy to come by when he got the chance, even scoring two in the second leg of the Blades' play-off semi-final against Swindon at the end of the season. His raw talent and goal-scoring ability can help the team to promotion this year, and he could boast the achievement of top-scorer come the end of the season in the process.

Another youngster who could light the league up this year is Bradford's new signing, Jonathan Lewis. The 18-year-old winger, recruited from across the pond, has been impressive in pre-season for the Bantams, and could be set for added opportunities with Filipe Morais ruled out for the season. Lewis has shown that he is physically capable of playing in League One, despite his young age, and his creativity, speed and clever decision-making can help lead the Yorkshire club to a top six finish if he if allowed enough chances.

At the other end of the table, if Blackpool are to avoid successful relegations, then they will look for a super debut season from new signing Brad Potts. A promising 21-year-old midfielder who has made great strides with Carlisle United in the last three years, especially last season as he fulfilled his desire to score more goals by netting eight in all competitions, Potts adds both physicality and creativity in midfield, and the Seasiders will hope he can offer plenty at both ends of the pitch this year.