So here we are on the eve of yet another season for the less glamorous, League One and Two sides in Scotland. Glebe Park, Gayfield and Galabank Stadium sit proudly among the salubrious venues our part time players will visit this season as always and, each and every Saturday (not for them the last-minute, thoughtless fixture changes to a Sunday) our well run part time clubs, will haul their entourage around the country in an attempt to gain promotion, avoid relegation, or maintain mid table mediocrity. I still can’t get my head round that we’re not calling them Division Two and Three as we were in my day, or at the very least, something a little more original than cloning the monickers from the Sky-laden English Premiership, but League One and Two it is.
So here’s my preview of the season ahead and in particular, which teams to look out for and which teams may face the dreaded drop.
As always there has been a huge turnaround of players in both Divisions, none more so than at Dunfermline who seriously under achieved last season by not even reaching the play-offs. They have recruited a young, hungry manager in Allan Johnston, who will be looking to bounce back up to managing at a higher level and proving he can be successful. There’s no better way of doing that than by winning a Championship. He has recruited well in the summer with two experienced goalkeepers and in particular signing two terrific full backs in Jason Talbot and Calum Fordyce from Livingston. Building from the back and relying on players with previous Championship experience will be key in the coming months and should they start the season well and bring the crowds back to East End Park, i’m sure the Board will back a final push in January and, for that reason, i’m tipping The Pars to end their lower League exile and top the Division (sorry League 1) come May.
Of the rest, the Angus teams, Brechin and Forfar will put up their usual fight. They are perennial challengers at the top of the League and I would see no reason either shouldn’t be aiming for the Play-offs yet again. Dick Campbell knows how to organise teams and get them into good positions and Darren Dods will be looking to prove himself as a rookie boss and with both having reasonable budgets, the play-offs should be a viable target. Ayr United and Stranraer should be strong enough to maintain mid table positions and as long as Peterhead retain the scoring prowess of Rory McCallister, that should be enough to steer them clear of any relegation trouble.
Stenhousemuir could be this season’s surprise package in League One. They have recruited well in the summer with Gilhaney, McShane and Smith all experienced forward players having played at a higher level and, with Colin McMenamin giving them their usual goal threat, they may well prove to be closer to the top than they were to the bottom last season. My old club Airdrie should have enough experience among their ranks to avoid flirting with the relegation play-offs, but in my opinion they won’t have enough quality to challenge at the top. All of which leaves Albion Rovers and Cowdenbeath to slug it out and preserve their League One status. Neither will have a competitive budget and Cowdenbeath in particular have had a massive turnaround of players this summer and I can see them struggling and facing the drop for the second successive season. Darren Young and Billy Stark will hopefully have the organisational skills and experience to overcome adversity at my old club in Coatbridge and steer the Rovers to safety against the odds.
League Two could prove a very tight affair with quite a few teams fancying their chances of lifting the silverware come the end of a long hard season. East Fife, Annan, Stirling Albion and Arbroath have all been busy in the free transfer market over the summer. East Fife were my tip for the title last season and they got it going all too late to secure a play off spot only to lose to Stenhousemuir. They will again be challenging this season but Gary Naysmith will be pleased to hear they’re not getting the Farrell donation this season.
Annan are always in or around the play-offs and I see this season being no different. The plastic pitch down there is always a guarantee of a few extra points for them and in Jim Chapman they have an experienced campaigner who knows the division well. Arbroath have lost their main goal threat from the past few seasons and will be looking for fresh impetus from players like Grehan and Coult, but whether they have enough firepower about them to take the title, i’d doubt. Stirling Albion, Queens Park and Berwick will have their usual flirt with the promotion play-offs before settling for a mid table slot. All three have the difficulties of a tight budget to overcome and it would be a surprise to see any of them sustaining a challenge for a play off spot throughout a long, arduous season.
Elgin have lost their main man up front, Shane Sutherland and that allayed to the geographical nature of the club making it difficult to attract players will see them struggle alongside fellow relegation candidates Montrose and East Stirling, but for me, it will be Elgin who have most to fear from the dreaded pyramid system.
So all that leaves us with my tip for the top, Clyde. Barry Ferguson now has a season’s experience as a manager behind him and he will be hoping to use that in order to gain promotion. There seems to be some money flying about Broadwood, judging by the summer recruitment policy. Bringing in players with the experience of Higgins, Mitchell, Linton, Smith and Campbell alongside Hugh Murray, Scott McLaughlin and Mark Roberts doesn’t come cheaply, and Barry will be looking for that experience to see him over the line.
With the obvious pressures that go with having a big budget (relative to the level), it will be interesting to see how they start, but I can see Clyde putting together a consistency that the others will find difficult to match. For that reason, it’s Clyde to win League Two for me.
And there you have it. My predictions for the League One and Two season 2015-2016 and now you know which teams to avoid, you can happily have your punt in the knowledge that having studied Farrell’s tips, you are now in a better position to know which ones to AVOID, rather than which ones to put the mortgage on.
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