The 2019/20 League One season will see Bury and Bolton swimming against the tide, and all eyes are on whether Sunderland and Portsmouth can finally make good on a resurgence and back up the divisions.
The Sportsman contributors cast their beady eyes over all 24 teams and sniff out the main stories with their beaky noses to offer up their predictions as to how this League One season will end up.
The following categories:
- Manager of the Year
- The Sack Race
- Golden Boot
- Bombs & Belters
Harris Stumpson - Portsmouth
Portsmouth were incredibly unlucky last season after cruelly falling short in the playoff semi-finals, but with the additions of Marcus Harness and Rangers-loanee Ross McCrorie, coupled with Kenny Jackett’s knowhow of how to combat League One, I feel they are a great shout to finish on top of the pile this campaign.
Harry Sidebotham - Sunderland
I can’t see Sunderland finishing anywhere but firmly in the top six. Actually I'm going all out: they have all the fire power in their squad to win the League One title.
Jack Kitson - Sunderland
An obvious choice perhaps, but Sunderland fans deserve some cheer and after missing out last year, Jack Ross’ men will have learnt from the disappointment which they will use as fuel to seal a return to the Championship.
Jack Porter - Sunderland
Only a really boring person would say Sunderland. So I’m saying Sunderland.
Kieran Spratt - Sunderland
Disclaimer: I’m an Ipswich Town fan so there should be some bias spread across these predictions. However, as an Ipswich fan of nearly 30 years you begin to develop a certain degree of cynicism when it comes to success and for that reason, I’m going to say Sunderland.
Simon Lillicrap - Sunderland
I really really really don’t want to put Sunderland but their signings this summer have been excellent. They are favourites for a reason and Jack Ross will be a failure if he doesn’t get them up this term.
Harris - Ipswich Town & Sunderland
The signing of James Norwood is a tremendous piece of business for Ipswich, and his arrival could very well be the difference between the Tractor Boys fighting it out in the play-offs, or achieving automatic promotion. Sunderland undoubtedly have one of the strongest squads in the division, however, last season’s play-off heartbreak is likely to weigh heavy on the players minds, and they may have to once more brave this pathway.
Harry - Portsmouth & Ipswich Town
Having won the title with Wolves in 2013/14 and earning promotion with Millwall in 2009/10, Kenny Jackett really knows what it takes to succeed in League One. Portsmouth were unfortunate to miss out last season after falling to Sunderland in the play-off semi-finals. The club of course won the 2018/19 EFL Trophy and I’m expecting Pompey to have a successful League One campaign.
Despite having a nightmare in the Championship last season, I’m expecting Ipswich to bounce straight back. The Tractor Boys have a squad that is more than capable and have made a great addition to the side in the potent James Norwood. The forward was the top goalscorer in League Two last season and looks set to run rampant once again with his fine pre-season form.
Jack - Doncaster Rovers & Lincoln City
Doncaster have recovered from the disappointment of losing Grant McCann by appointing Darren Moore. With the former Baggies boss at the helm Rovers have what it takes to record another top-6 finish, while they could be worth a look at 11/1 to bag an automatic promotion spot. Lincoln continue to thrive season after season, and it would be no surprise to see Danny Cowley’s men in the mix for a sport in the Championship.
JP - Portsmouth & Peterborough United
Portsmouth to return to the Championship in a tight battle with the Black Cats for the top of the table, having finished eighth and fourth in previous seasons. Peterborough to join them with Play-Off success.
Kieran - Ipswich & Portsmouth
Although I’m certainly not expecting the Tractor Boys to walk League One next season, I do believe Ipswich will be there or thereabouts come May and if they don’t go up automatically, fingers crossed I’ll witness our first play-off success in over 20 years. Joining Ipswich, I’ll take a punt on Kenny Jackett’s Portsmouth to gain promotion this season.
Simon - Portsmouth & Coventry
Portsmouth are another side who can count themselves unlucky to not go up last season and although I believe the relegated sides will compete, Coventry are my surprise pick to go up. Playing at St Andrews will be tough but Mark Robins is a genius and the Sky Blues can ruffle a few feathers and win the play-offs.
Harris - Bury, Bolton, Accrington Stanley, Tranmere Rovers
The season is practically a write-off already for Bury and Bolton with their 12-point deductions set to see them plummet out of the division. Despite good work last season, Accrington are likely just to fall short of safety, while Tranmere are likely to struggle for goals after the departure of James Norwood.
Harry - Gillingham, Southend, Bolton, Bury
Gillingham only finished six points from safety last season and have now lost their star striker Tom Eaves to Hull City. Eaves finished the campaign with 21 goals, and without his contributions the club would have most certainly been relegated. Therefore I question whether Steve Evans’ side will have enough quality to stay up.
Southend avoided the drop on goal difference last season, maintaining their League One status after a surprise victory against Sunderland on the last day of the campaign. I think the Shrimpers lack reliable, consistent quality in their side and expect them to struggle once again this season.
Both Bolton and Bury start their campaigns with a 12 point deduction each. Along with their off-field problems, it looks worrying for both clubs.
Jack - Bolton, Bury, Accrington Stanley, Rochdale
It may not be the best of seasons for North West clubs. You’ve got to feel sympathy for both Bolton and Bury who have both been handed a 12 point deficit. Accrington enjoyed a decent campaign following their promotion, but the dreaded second season syndrome could hit them this time around. Last season Rochdale finished four points above the drop zone, and they survived by only a point in 2017/18. This could be the season their luck runs out.
JP - Bury, Bolton, Rochdale, Accrington Stanley
Perhaps the easiest decision in this prediction-fest, or at least half of it. A 12-point deduction for the Shakers makes this an unfortunate but obvious choice, and it’s not looking good for beleaguered Bolton either. Making it a North-West descension convention with two final choices of Accrington Stanley and Rochdale.
Kieran - Bolton, Bury, Accrington Stanley, Tranmere Rovers
It’s never nice to see a team fall apart off the pitch like Bolton and Bury have recently, and with a point deduction inbound for both clubs, I find it hard to believe either can avoid the drop this season. With them, I’ll take a punt on Accrington and the newly-promoted and Norwood-less Tranmere Rovers.
Simon - Bury, Bolton, Rochdale, Southend
It would be a miracle if Bury stay up after their off the field issues and points deduction and the same can be said of Bolton. Awful situations that the Football League must take responsibility for. Rochdale are always lurking about the depths of League One and this could be the year they drop out and Southend scraped by last season but Kevin Bond doesn’t do anything for me.
Manager of the Year
Harris - Kenny Jackett (Portsmouth)
I’m backing Portsmouth to storm the league, so in turn, Jackett should pick up the prize.
Harry - Kenny Jackett (Portsmouth)
Portsmouth's Kenny Jackett is no stranger when it comes to winning the League One Manager of the Year after doing so in 2013/14 with Wolves. Having secured promotion with two separate clubs from this division during his career, I think he can make Portsmouth his third.
Jack - Danny Cowley (Lincoln City)
The man is already an absolute icon at Lincoln, but he could enhance his status further by conjuring up a third promotion in four seasons. He’s already won the National League and League Two, and while lifting the League One trophy could be a stretch to far, another promotion could be on the cards.
JP - Jack Ross (Sunderland)
Jack Ross in his sophomore season at Sunderland.
Kieran - Jack Ross (Sunderland)
Jack Ross was unfortunate not to seal promotion in his first season at the Stadium of Light and with a full season in League One under his belt and the core of last season’s squad still in place, I expect the Scot to go one better this year.
Simon - Mark Robins (Coventry City)
Coventry are going up without a home. All hail the king.
The Sack Race
Harris - Steve Evans (Gillingham)
Steve Evans never seems to stick around, so if Gillingham get off to a bad start, expect the axe to fall quickly.
Harry - Kevin Bond (Southend United)
I really can’t predict this one at all, so I’m just going to say Kevin Bond as I believe Southend will struggle this season.
Jack - Steve Evans (Gillingham)
In his last three jobs Steve Evans has overseen 38, 76, then 52 matches. In other words, he hasn’t stuck around for too long, and should he endure a tough start to life at Gillingham he could flee voluntarily, or even be sacked.
JP - Steve Evans (Gillingham)
Steve Evans at Gillingham, meaning the Scots’ departure from his fourth club in four seasons.
Kieran - Paul Wilkinson (Bury)
Paul Wilkinson has a hell of a job to do at cash-strapped Bury, having signed for the North West outfit at the beginning of July, just two weeks after signing a contract with Truro City. A tough start to the season could see Wilkinson leaving yet another managerial post in the space of just a few months.
Simon - Paul Wilkinson (Bury)
Could become a stunning appointment but faces an impossible task and will be let go if the Shakers get new owners in. Can’t imagine it would cost too much to sack him after his move from Truro City.
Harris - James Norwood (Ipswich Town)
Norwood was the top-scorer in England last season, and I fully expect him to tear it up for Ipswich this campaign.
Harry - James Norwood (Ipswich Town)
League Two’s top goalscorer last season by a country mile with 30 goals, eight more than Tyler Walker who finished second in the leaderboard. Norwood has been snapped up by League One favourites Ipswich and looks in fine form during pre-season.
Jack - Brett Pitman (Portsmouth)
Brett Pitman can still be backed at 20/1 to grab the Golden Boot, which looks like great value. He has 35 goals in his last two seasons in League One, and if Portsmouth are going to challenge for promotion again his goals will be crucial.
JP - Mohamed Eisa (Peterborough)
Peterborough’s club-record signing Mohamed Eisa. A real shot in the dark this one, as the move for the Sudanese could either rock or blow up in Posh’s face.
Kieran - James Norwood (Ipswich Town)
Signing James Norwood, the highest scorer in England’s top four divisions last season, has been a real coup for Ipswich and he could be the difference in the race for promotion for Paul Lambert’s men.
Simon - James Norwood (Ipswich Town)
Believe the hype. My mate Nors is going to tear up this league for Ipswich but it won’t be enough for the Tractor Boys to get promoted.
Harris - Bolton Wanderers
The lowest ever recorded tally in League One was 25 points, I expect Bolton to fall well short of that.
Harry - Gillingham
I think the loss of Tom Eaves will have a huge impact. The Gills didn’t necessarily have the greatest of campaigns last time out, finishing six points from safety and I don’t think they’ll do enough without Eaves.
JP - Rotherham United
For those who expect Rotherham to continue their Championship see-saw, prepare to be sorely disappointed, though Paul Warne will stay on.
Kieran - Bury
I don’t think it’s likely to happen, but were Bury to survive the drop this season, it would be one of the biggest shocks in the upcoming football season. Paul Wilkinson’s men are as short as 1/12 to go down!
Simon - Peterborough United
The entire club. Do not believe the hype. They can spend all the money they want and their chairman can be vocal on Twitter, but they are not going anywhere come May. Frauds of League One.
Harris - James Norwood (Ipswich Town)
Norwood to hit over 30 League goals in a sensational campaign.
Harry - Shrewsbury Town
Manager Sam Ricketts has made some good signings ahead of the 2019/20 season and I reckon the Shrews will be a surprise package.
JP - Blackpool
Blackpool brushing off the Oyston cobwebs for a real and mercifully welcome play-off pursuit under gaffer Simon Grayson, making the Oranges a decent side to watch again as well as a strong defensive unit.
Kieran - Andre Dozzell
More of a one to watch than a stunner, but Ipswich’s Andre Dozzell, son of club legend Jason, is certainly one to keep an eye on. The academy product is already being tipped for the top with a host of Premier League sides keeping tabs on the midfielder. Expect a big season from the 20-year-old.
Simon - Accrington Stanley and John Coleman
They are third favourites to go down but they are looking good for me and could finish in the top half which would be a remarkable achievement given their budget. Sean McConville is a joy to watch.