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Coca-Cola Divisions: League 1 Preview 2006/07 - Ups and downs!

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posted on Jul, 31 2006 @ 01:57 PM
It has been another busy summer for Coca-Cola League One chairmen, begging and borrowing and wheeling and dealing as best they can to strengthen their clubs for the new campaign ahead. Last season, League One proved the tightest of all the divisions in English football, with the lower-placed sides easily capable of causing an upset. This time around could well be the same, with none of the Championship's relegated sides fancied to streak ahead, while those who finished the season in or close to the play-offs will fancy their chances of going one better.

Equally, those sides promoted from League Two have nothing to fear. Southend were crowned champions for the second successive season, Swansea narrowly avoided joining them in the Championship this season and both Yeovil and S#horpe avoided relegation. But this year, the players have had company on the close-season merry-go-round, as the division's reputation as a hotbed for young managerial talent grows.

Come August 5, six League One clubs will kick off the new season with new managers - with some having swapped one third tier side for another. Where better to start than bookies' favourites Nottingham Forest, where former player Colin Calderwood has taken over the reins - weeks after guiding Northampton into the same division?

Anything but promotion will fail to satisfy Forest fans, who will begin the season in optimistic mood after an impressive end-of-season run saw them climb into the play-offs before falling at the final hurdle. The Reds have a wealth of attacking ammunition with Nathan Tyson, Grant Holt, Jack Lester, David Johnson and Scott Dobie all among their ranks, but finding a potent formula has proved more difficult.

Gary Johnson swapped League One sides only last season and like Forest, his Bristol City side finished strongly, laying down a marker for the forthcoming campaign. The Robins are always among the favourites, but have previously failed to deliver, though Johnson's return to old club Yeovil for goalkeeper Chris Weale and striker Phil Jevons makes a play-off place attainable at the very least.

Another manager widely linked to the managerial merry-go-round is Doncaster's Dave Penney. But the Rovers boss has remained at the Earth Stadium, declaring promotion is his target this season. A gamble on former England Under-21 striker Bruce Dyer - once one of the country's most expensive teenagers - could launch Penney's promotion push, with the ambitious South Yorkshire club hell-bent on avoiding another season of mid-table mediocrity.

Only eight days after leaving Oldham, Ronnie Moore found himself in the Tranmere hot-seat. Both sides have failed to deliver in recent seasons, but a glut of new signings - including former Forest striker Gareth Taylor - mean Rovers could be a force to be reckoned with.

Swansea will hope to avenge May's play-off final penalty shoot-out heartache by going one better. Kenny Jackett is spoilt for choice up front with Lee Trundle, Rory Fallon and Leon Knight all at his disposal, but questions remain over the Swans' defence.

Huddersfield and Brentford - who lost Martin Allen to MK Dons - will again rely on Andy Booth and Lloyd Owusu respectively for goals. Automatic promotion may prove one step too far for the relegated Championship sides, but all should harbour play-off ambitions. Dario Gradi's 24th season at Crewe may prove one of his toughest. The experienced Neil Cox will help, but the Railwaymen have never recovered from the sale of Dean Ashton, with goals at a premium. Missing out on loanees Taylor and Eddie Johnson will not help, but the now trademark crop of talented youngsters will no doubt soften the blow.

One man certain to score at this level is new Millwall signing Darren Byfield - Gillingham's leading scorer last season. The additions of Chelsea duo Lenny Pidgeley and Filipe Morais also give the Lions the best chance of the three relegated sides to bounce straight back up.

At the other end of the table, the first aim this season for League One's other newcomers - Carlisle (who have seen Paul Simpson depart for Preston), Northampton, Leyton Orient and Cheltenham - will be survival. But the Cumbrians will hope Karl Hawley can repeat the form which made him League Two's top scorer last season. S#horpe will hope their strikeforce of Billy Sharp and Andy Keogh can again score the goals to ensure a strong challenge, but the Irons' second season in League One may prove harder than their first.

But there is one team nobody envies in League One - Rotherham. After going into administration, the Millers find themselves 10 points behind their rivals before a ball has even been kicked, so should prepare themselves for another relegation struggle. The departure of strikers Martin Butler and Paul Shaw to help clear the debt will hardly help.


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