Wednesday, 31 July 2013

League Two Preview 2013-14

With the new season fast approaching most of the transfer business throughout the Football League should now be done and dusted. We all have a good idea of the comings and goings in the Oxford United squad but how do we fare when it comes to the other clubs in the league? If you are anything like me you will have seen the odd piece of transfer news but don't really know what has gone on during the summer at the other clubs in our division (old and new).

At a glance, there are two teams whose transfer activity really stands out - for very different reasons! Plymouth have brought in eleven new players, while Hartlepool have added just one. This in itself sends out a message to each of the other League Two clubs. Plymouth are obviously looking to make a serious push for promotion and reclaim their place in the third tier of English football at the third time of asking. Hartlepool, on the other hand, are either very content with the squad they already have or are financially in a tight situation. In contrast to their one signing they have let eight players go from last season either via the transfer market or due to contracts not being renewed. This leaves them needing to sign seven players just to make up the shortfall from last season's relegated League One squad. Of course, in the end it makes no difference how many players you do or don't sign, if the results don't come on the pitch during that 90 minutes it's going to be very long and and stressful season!

Out of all the signings that have been made by all the clubs there are a few that stand out as those marquee signings and a couple that will have that 'one to watch' tag attached to them.

Rory Delap
Ex-Republic Of Ireland international Delap has joined Burton on a one-year deal from Stoke after being released. He is predominantly a midfield player but can also ply his trade in defence and is famous for his long throws, having been touted to represent Ireland at the Olympics after these throw-ins were noticed during Stoke's promotion winning season. He is known for his fitness and work-rate during games and is sure to be one of those calming influences in the centre of the park. Able to break up play and and hold the ball up well he will be a valuable asset to Burton, who just failed to make the promotion grade last season.

Gary Deegan
Gary Deegan has enjoyed football at clubs such as Bohemians, Coventry and Hibernian. He is another midfield player with real quality who was a fans' favourite at Hibs. He joins Northampton Town on a one year deal after a successful trial period and will be looking to help the Cobblers recreate the successful season they had last time around after narrowly missing out on promotion to League One in the play-off final.

Richard Cresswell
Cresswell is another one of the old and bold in the league this season. He was pivotal in helping York avoid relegation towards the back end of last season, scoring twice in five appearances. A forward having played a lot of his career at Premier League and Championship teams such as Leicester, Preston, Leeds and most noticeably Stoke with Delap he will add a wealth of experience to a York side who struggled last season.

Sander Puri (One to watch)
25-year-old Sander is a relative unknown in the world of English football having played the majority of his football abroad  so far. The Estonian international who has 52 senior caps to his name started his professional career at the age of 19 at one of Estonia's biggest clubs, FC Levadia Tallinn. He was close to signing with German Bundesliga team Borussia Dortmund twice in 2008 and Scottish Premier League club Celtic in 2009. The winger subsequently went on to sign for fellow SPL club St. Mirren in March 2013 until the end of the season before signing for York City on a two year contract in June.

Predicting the outcome of the season is always a tricky one to call, but I think the likes of Northampton, Burton, and Cheltenham know what it takes to reach that play off position and with them all strengthening their squads it would surprise me if they didn't have a good season again. From the four teams that have come down from League One I'm expecting Portsmouth to have a half-decent season (as much as it pains me to say it!). I also think Scunthorpe were unlucky not to avoid the drop last year and with them adding nine new faces to the squad they already have they will have a good season.

As we all know though our league is a tough one. The teams that have came down shouldn't think they will go straight back up and that they will 'walk' the league. The two newcomers from the Conference will have a difficult time cementing the place they have earned. Newport have added some familiar faces with Football League knowledge to their team sheet and Mansfield have been there and done it and know exactly what is required by a Football League team. Both will work hard I'm sure, but sometimes it takes more than blood, sweat and tears, sometimes you need a little bit of good old lady luck!

For those interested you can find all the coming and goings within the league here. It's fairly comprehensive but it doesn't take into account youngsters who have turned pro - they will ultimately add something to the team if played.

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