With the new Sky Bet League Two season approaching and the highly anticipated return of full capacity stadiums, here is everything you need to know heading into the 2021/22 campaign, with VAVEL UK's guide to the fourth tier of English football.
As with every new season in League Two, there are six new sides ready to challenge in a new division, with four looking to bounce back from the dismal feel of relegation from League One, whilst two look to hit the ground running when making the step up from the Vanarama National League.
Nickname: The Dale
Ground: Spotland Stadium (10,249)
Manager: Robbie Stockdale
Last season: 21st in League One
Key player: Eoghan O'Connell
Nickname: The Cobblers
Ground: Sixfields Stadium (7798)
Manager: Jon Brady
Last season: 22nd in League One
Key player: Mitch Pinnock
Nickname: The Robins
Ground: The County Ground (15,728)
Manager: Ben Garner
Last season: 23rd in League One
Key player: Jack Payne
Nickname: The Gas
Ground: Memorial Stadium (12,269)
Manager: Joey Barton
Last season: 24th in League One
Key player: Luke Thomas
Nickname: The U's
Ground: Gander Green Lane (5013)
Manager: Matt Gray
Last season: 1st in the National League
Key player: Enzio Boldewijn
Nickname: The Poolies
Ground: Victoria Park (7858)
Manager: Dave Challinor
Last season: 4th in the National League (Promoted via the play-offs)
Key player: Nicky Featherstone
There’s always that one team who take the league by storm and are brilliant enough to lift the silverware at the end of the season; who could that be this year?
The Ammies have been on quite the upwards spiral since the Class of '92 took over in 2014, but their promotion spree has come to a standstill since their promotion to the Football League.
A roster of new signings, a new refurbished look upon the stadium, 12,000 season tickets sold and a promotion expert of a manager, it's an exciting time to a Bantams supporter with the club seemingly only heading in one direction.
After coming so close last season and for so many years, this might be the year that Michael Flynn's Exiles take that extra step.
Newport have so far brought in 11 new faces with further signings expected, and certainly aren't lacking quality. With plenty of depth and skill all over the pitch, as well as a manager who has proven he knows how to get the best out of his players, the Exiles will be hoping to avoid the play-off process all together this season.
The return of Micky Mellon as manager has got Tranmere fans itching with excitement ahead of the new campaign, and it's hard to blame them.
With 12 new faces through the door and even a new badge along with it, Rovers have built a promotion-challenging squad, and with Mellon back at the helm it's something he knows he can do from this division. Along with that, Tranmere showed their quality in pre-season by defeating a strong Rangers side.
Along with every title challenge, there’s the battle of the play-offs too.
The Valiants have recruited sensibly throughout the Summer, bringing in the likes of Jamie Proctor and Ryan Johnson, but Darrell Clarke’s men are promotion contenders if there end-of-season form is anything to go off of.
Clarke’s side lost just two of their final 11 games last campaign, and nearly broke into the play-offs but inevitably ran out of time before the end of the season.
The ambitions have been set this year, and with Clarke’s own signings and squad which he has built, it’s a season for hope for the Vale.
Forest Green Rovers
A fantastic last season which unfortunately came crashing down towards the latter end, the Green Devils will be itching to set the record straight.
Edwards hasn’t brought in too many new faces but has proven he has a collective level of trust in the current squad, but the club have had a positive pre-season by losing just two of their six friendlies.
Last season was less than enjoyable for Walsall fans, but there’s a certain buzz around the club this season.
The appointment of Matthew Taylor was welcomed, but it’s the level of signings that the Saddlers have brought in that has brought the excitement, with 11 new faces, including the likes of Joss Labadie, Ash Taylor and Manny Monthe.
The Stags have been disappointing in recent seasons, but it’s time for a fresh start for Mansfield.
With Nigel Clough at the helm and a strong playing squad, Mansfield look like a force to be reckoned with, as Clough has brought in nine new players, including the power of Ollie Hawkins and Danny Johnson. With firepower like that up top, it’s expected that Mansfield should be setting their targets high.
The club who have come so close and unlucky in recent years with the play-offs, Exeter will be hoping to take that extra step this year.
With star player Matt Jay being elected as captain and ten new faces through the door, it’s an exciting time to be a Grecian fan with quite the rebuild going on.
With Matt Taylor at the helm and a strong squad being built, Exeter will look to right the wrongs of last season and to this time break into the play-offs.
Whilst they may not be fancied by many, Leyton Orient are a club on the rise, and are a sneaky tip for promotion this season.
The appointment of former Portsmouth manager Kenny Jackett was a fantastic one to replace the outgoing interim manager Jobi McAnuff, but it’s the quality of signings that the O’s have completed that has raised eyebrows.
The likes of Connor Wood, Darren Pratley, Omar Beckles and Paul Smyth are all players capable of playing in League One, but have instead opted to join Leyton Orient. With a manager as talented as Jackett and a squad as strong as the O’s, it’s hard not to be intrigued by the prospects of this team.
Another side who will be looking to right the wrongs of last season are Colchester, who majorly underachieved last campaign.
However, the arrival of four different experienced, proven Ipswich Town players is enough to get the fans excited, with the quality of the playing squad massively improving across the Summer.
The relegation candidates
Relegation is a damaging fate that no fan or club ever wants to suffer, but as usual, there will be an unlucky two dropping out of League Two at the end of the season.
The Bluebirds are rightly excited for their first ever season in the Football League with supporters, especially with the appointment of former Forest Green manager Cooper.
But with fourteen players leaving the club and seven new faces coming through the door, the squad is looking thin and a plague of injuries could damage any good run that Barrow need. Nevertheless, the Bluebirds defied expectations last season, and it’s likely that could happen again.
A similar situation to Barrow as the two were promoted together last year, Harrogate will also be looking towards their first Football League season with fans.
The Sulphurites have done well in holding onto a number of key players, and have even brought in some good players, but the club’s stature and lack of financial wealth may come back to bite them compared to some of the richer clubs in the division.
We feel it’s best to start off this segment the same way we did last year- it’s never a dull day at Oldham Athletic.
The same applies this year, with the problems ongoing with the current owner, a stand still being clothes and with the clubs ninth different manager in three years, stability is badly needed at Boundary Park.
However, with an experienced manager like Keith Curle in charge and some promising additions such as Jayson Leutwiler and Hallam Hope, the Latics will be hoping to pull some strings and upset the odds this season.
A team who were fortunate to stay in the Football League two years ago, Stevenage surprised many by surviving so comfortably last season.
Alex Revell has done a fantastic job as manager so far, but the Boro haven’t strengthened their squad too much compared to the rest of the league and this could punish them.
However, the signings of Jake Taylor and Jake Reeves could prove brilliant pieces of business with two experienced midfielders who can take this division by storm potentially.
The tip for top scorer
If last season wasn’t enough for Exeter fans and Jay, this season expect even more.
The newly appointed club captain of the Grecians, the 25-year old had an excellent year last season, netting 18 goals in 44 games and finishing in the Sky Bet League Two team of the season.
Despite playing in either an attacking midfield position or up front, Jay is pivotal in the Exeter attack, and is involved in most forward moves for the club so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him picking up the golden boot this season.
A player who seems to score goals everywhere he goes, Cook has had a fantastic start to his career at Bradford.
The forward netted seven goals in 11 games for the Bantams last season before his move was made permanent in the Summer, and even throughout pre-season the 30-year old has been bagging.
The former Manchester United prospect has seemed a little lost since his United days, but may have found a new home in Vale Park.
Formerly of Salford City last season, Wilson didn’t exactly set the world alight but a new club and new tactics could bring the best out of the 25-year old.
Clarke knows how to get the best out of his strikers and Wilson should be no exception.
Depending on where Clough opts to play his new striker, Hawkins could be a real asset to Mansfield this season.
The towering forward can bully defenders and should hope to do so in this division, creating opportunities but also netting them himself, especially if long-ball becomes a tactic the Stags adopt.