The 2019/20 League Two season welcomes Leyton Orient back into the Football League after two seasons, and there's a brand-spanking new face in the form of the ambitious Salford City. Plymouth Argyle, Walsall, Scunthorpe United, and Bradford City have all descended from League One.
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 Two season will end up.
The following categories:
- Manager of the Year
- The Sack Race
- Golden Boot
- Bombs & Belters
Harris Stimpson - Mansfield Town
Last season was agonising for Mansfield Town, having narrowly missed out on automatic promotion by just three points with a trio of end of season defeats, including a 1-0 loss on the final to MK Dons who benefited to go up. The Stags also fell to a cruel semi-final defeat at the hands of Newport County in the play-offs. However this season, after some shrewd and heavy investment, Mansfield look set to banish the demons of the previous campaign, and claim promotion as champions.
Harry Sidebotham - Plymouth Argyle
Plymouth Argyle were unfortunate to land relegation from League One last season due to goal difference. New manager Ryan Lowe has been a busy boy in the market since switching from the Shakers to the Pilgrims; he has since snapped up five of his former players from last season's debt-ridden Bury side who finished second in the table.
Jack Kitson - Mansfield Town
Mansfield suffered play-off agony last season, but this year they will bounce back by winning League Two. They may have a rookie boss at the helm in John Dempster but he knows the club inside-out, and after heavy investment over the course of the last couple of years, they will hope it now all comes to fruition.
Jack Porter - Plymouth Argyle
Lowe took Bury to promotion with the most swashbuckling attacking sides in the league last season, and has recruited five Shakers players to join him in the West County. Backing the Pilgrims because of Lowe’s proven ability to get high.
Kieran Spratt - Bradford City
All eyes will probably be on newly-promoted Salford City next season but I think it's another squad of League Two newbies, Bradford City, who were relegated from League One last season, that look good value to return to the third-tier as champions.
Simon Lillicrap - Plymouth Argyle
With Ryan Lowe getting promoted with Bury last term, they have a manager at the helm who knows what it takes to succeed at this level. He has brought in five players from Gigg Lane including Danny Mayor who is far too good for this level.
Harris - Bradford City, Plymouth Argyle, Carlisle United
By League Two standards, Bradford are a huge club, and after clever recruitment this summer, they should have the sufficient infrastructure to gain promotion this season. After taking advantage of Bury’s financial struggles, Plymouth also look well placed for promotion. The acquisition of Danny Mayor could prove to be one of the signings of the summer, while manager Ryan Lowe has already shown he knows how to deal with the rigours of League Two. I’m also backing Carlisle to shock a few and sneak up through the playoffs.
Harry - Bradford City, Mansfield Town, Salford City
Gary Bowyer bringing in fresh faces to what looks like a brand new Bradford side. Ten new signings include James Vaughan from Wigan, who plied the majority of his trade in the Championship with Wigan last season. I’m expecting bigger things this campaign after a poor finish in League One and the quality in their squad should get them over the line. Mansfield Town finished 4th last season and have a very strong side with financial backing and were very unfortunate to miss out on the play-off final after losing on penalties to Newport County. They’ve picked up Nicky Maynard, last year’s third-top goalscorer in League Two with Bury. With the financial support and assistance from The Class of '92, I’m backing Salford City to bag back-to-back-to-back promotions. Adam Rooney will score goals in League Two and when you go around making signing Championship-standard players in Richie Towell, it’s hard to find reasoning against the newly promoted side.
Jack - Plymouth Argyle, Scunthorpe United, Forest Green Rovers
Plymouth have snatched boss Ryan Lowe from Bury, with whom he led up to League One last season. They also nabbed a host of Shakers players too. It promises to be an exciting season for the Green Army, and one that could end with a swift return to the third-tier. Rivals Exeter have been knocking at the play-off door for some time, and look reasonable value at 6/1 to secure a spot in League One, while Scunthorpe with be boosted by the appointment of Paul Hurst. Forest Green Rovers will also be there or thereabouts once again.
JP - Newport County, Bradford City, Scunthorpe United
Backing last year’s play-off finalists under homegrown boy Mike Flynn, with this amount of camaraderie and squad retention. Bradford and Scunthorpe to bounce back up.
Kieran - Mansfield Town, Scunthorpe United, Salford City
Joining Bradford in the promotion race, I'll have to go with Mansfield, who cruelly missed out on automatic promotion on the last day of the season and lost on penalties in the play-offs. Scunthorpe are a team hoping to bounce back to League One at the first time of asking, and finally I'll go with Salford City. They're not everyone's cup of tea but the ambitious club will be looking to make it five promotions in six years and shouldn't be written off.
Simon - Mansfield Town, Bradford City, Stevenage
Moneybags Mansfield have to get promoted at some point and this year could well be that year. Bradford have made some good signings since being relegated and will hope James Vaughan can fire them to promotion. My outside pick is Stevenage. Dino Maamria is going to put his stamp on the squad and lead them to play-off glory.
Harris - Morecambe, Macclesfield Town
Jim Bentley has done a sterling job at Morecambe, however, I fear after a couple of seasons of narrowly avoiding the drop, this could finally be the campaign that sees the The Shrimps plummet out the League. They are likely to be joined by Sol Campbell’s Macclesfield. The Ex-England man was instrumental in turning around their campaign last time around, however, this season is likely to see reality hit home hard, with Big Sol crashing back down to earth.
Harry - Cambridge United & Grimsby Town
That’s right I’m a Macclesfield fan: The Silkmen are staying up! Cambridge United have problems off the pitch and with a shocking ending to their 2018/19 campaign in League Two, I can see the U's struggling. I’m also expecting Grimsby to be in the lower end of the table. The Mariners didn’t have the best league form in 2019, they also don’t have the best of quality in their squad and I don’t see where improvement can come from in Michael Jolley's side.
Jack - Macclesfield Town & Port Vale
Macclesfield survived by the skin of their teeth last season, in part due to the appointment of Sol Campbell. I believe they won’t be so lucky this year after losing a couple of key players, and could be joined in League Two by the team that their former promotion-winning manager John Askey is currently in charge of: Port Vale.
JP - Cambridge United & Morecambe
After teetering on the edge last season, it’s back down to the National League after a six-year spell for Cambridge (with apologies to Max Rushden). Morecambe haven’t yet rectified the defensive frailties that were exposed last season, with just one backline recruit. Though they were improved from 17/18, I’m backing last year's instinct and the Shrimps won’t be saved.
Kieran - Macclesfield Town & Morecambe
Sol Campbell did a stunning job at Macclesfield last season keeping the Silkmen up but sadly money is tight for the Cheshire club and Campbell will have his work cut out for him this season if the club wants to avoid the drop again. Alongside Macc, I'm going to go for another club with a manager who's done a fantastic job in recent years, Jim Bentley's Morecambe.
Simon - Crawley Town & Grimsby Town
Jim Bentley will not get relegated with Morecambe and Sol Campbell will lead Macclesfield to mid-table. That leaves a few candidates but I’m plumping for Gabriele Cioffi’s Crawley and miserable, miserable Grimsby.
Manager of the Year
Harris - John Dempster (Mansfield Town)
If, as predicted, Mansfield storm the division this season, it will be almost impossible to look past John Dempster.
Harry - Ryan Lowe (Plymouth Argyle)
Earning a 2nd place finish and an automatic promotion with Bury last season, I’m expecting the newly recruited Ryan Lowe to repeat a similar feat this season. Winning three Manager of the Month awards last campaign, he clearly knows what it takes in this division. With some quality additions to his side, I can see Plymouth pushing for the title.
Jack - Ryan Lowe (Plymouth Argyle)
Ryan Lowe may still be a relative newbie to the managerial arena but in his one and only season so far he catapulted Bury up to League One, in extremely difficult circumstances. Uncertainty surrounding the club’s future meant he switched jobs to Plymouth earlier this summer, and now he has the chance to add another promotion to his CV, which would be another superb accomplishment and deserved of an accolade of sorts.
JP - Gary Bowyer (Bradford City)
Having signed a contract until 2021, Bowyer is likely committed to at least a full season in charge of Bradford and bag a successful promotion at the first time of asking.
Kieran - Paul Hurst (Scunthorpe United)
It was 149 days to forget for Paul Hurst when he took over at Ipswich Town before the start of last season but the former Shrewsbury Town man has proven before that he can do wonders in the lower tiers and there's potential to achieve a lot at the helm of promotion-chasing Scunthorpe this year.
Simon - Ryan Lowe (Plymouth Argyle)
Stick with Plymouth. Back-to-back promotions will earn Ryan Lowe this award.
The Sack Race (1st Manager To Leave Post)
Harris - Sol Campbell (Macclesfield Town)
The bubble is well and truly going to burst for Big Sol. Expect Macc to struggle badly, and for Campbell to be shown the exit before November is out.
Harry - Colin Calderwood (Cambridge United)
A dismal ending to the 2018/19 season with Cambridge and a poor season overall for the club, I don’t see much improvement.
Jack - Sol Campbell (Macclesfield Town)
Sol Campbell may not be sacked, but I think he could leave Macclesfield by his own accord. Either because things aren’t working out as planned, or due to interest from another club.
JP - Graham Alexander (Salford City)
A rough start in a maiden Football League season might see the ruthlessness of the Class of ‘92 bare their teeth. A meeting with Alexander’s old side Scunthorpe at the end of October might be a date to keep an eye on; could it potentially be a death knell for his time with the Ammies?
Kieran - Sol Campbell (Macclesfield Town)
A tough one but, and I'd love to be wrong, I'm going to say Big Sol. For reasons mentioned above, he has a tough job on his hands at Macc and if results go against them early on into the campaign, it could be curtains for Campbell in his first managerial role, despite a fantastic maiden season.
Simon - Gabriele Cioffi (Crawley Town)
I’m predicting a poor start for Crawley which will lead to the sacking of Cioffi and turmoil at the club. Relegation to follow.
Harris - Nicky Maynard (Mansfield Town)
With Mansfield due to take the league by storm, I expect Maynard to play a pivotal role, continuing his Bury form to propel the Stags to the title.
Harry - Nicky Maynard (Mansfield Town)
A proven League Two goal scorer last season with 20 goals. Maynard has joined up with a strong Mansfield side who I expect to push for a top-three place. Following James Norwood’s departure to Ipswich Town and Tyler Walker’s return to Nottingham Forest, I’m backing the 32-year-old to fend off stiff competition from the likes of newbies Adam Rooney and James Vaughan.
Jack: Nicky Maynard (Mansfield Town)
Nicky Maynard enjoyed a stellar 2018/19 campaign, during which he fired in the goals to propel Bury up a division. Now at Mansfield - my favourites for the title - I’m backing his hot streak in front of goal to continue next term.
JP - Nicky Maynard (Mansfield Town)
The new Mansfield Town signing scored 20 goals for Bury last season, who wouldn’t bet against him to do it again in the same division, even on the wrong side of 30?
Kieran - James Vaughan (Bradford City)
A toss-up between two Bantams for me; James Vaughan or Clayton Donaldson. Vaughan just edges it though and I'm expecting the former Everton and England U21 player to contribute heavily for Bradford in his first tilt in League Two.
Simon - Nicky Maynard (Mansfield Town)
Proven goalscorer will fire Mansfield to promotion.
Harris - Sol Campbell
As I've said, I expect things to be really tough for Sol Campbell. Many are tipping him as a manager to move on to bigger and better things, however, come Christmas time he will likely be back spending his time as just another generic pundit.
Harry - Carlisle United
Despite finishing a respectable 11th last season, Carlisle may be taking a turn for the worse. With 13 departures from the club including star man Jamie Devitt, questions arise whether they’ll have enough fire power next season with their small squad.
Jack - My predictions.
JP - Salford City
Not a ‘bomb’ per say, but after four promotions in five seasons - not this year lads.
Kieran - Luke Varney (Cheltenham Town)
I was told that this shock could be "as bombastic as I wanted it," so I'm going to stick my neck out and say that Luke Varney, in what must be his 84th year as a Football League player, will finally realise he's fighting a lost cause with his rapidly receding hairline and will just shave it all off.
Simon - Salford City
The Ammies to get off to a flying start to whip Sky Sports into a spunk-filled frenzy. Then Gary Alexander’s side will capitulate over the second half of the season and Gary Neville and his chums will be great value on Twitter. The dream.
Harris - Carlisle United
I have a strange feeling Carlisle United are going to be this season's surprise package and somehow sneak themselves into the play-offs. Will I stick a tenner on it? Probably not.
Harry - Macclesfield Town
I'm backing my man Sol to do a madness. Up the boys!
Jack - Going to watch Salford with my sunnies on to check out the babes.
JP - Matty Warbuton (Northampton Town)
What a signing this could turn out to be! Stockport County’s Player of the Season helped them gained promotion to the National League with 27 goals He’s now moved up to the Football League with Northampton Town, and though it will be an unexceptional season for The Cobblers, Warburton won’t be.
Kieran - Sol Campbell (Macclesfield Town)
Sol Campbell stuns the footballing world by taking Macclesfield to 18 consecutive wins and a place at the top of the League Two table by Christmas before leaving the club for bitter rivals, Altrincham.
Simon - Sol Campbell (Macclesfield Town)
Having saved Macclesfield last term he will lead an assault on the top half of the table before getting himself a move up to League One. Probably somewhere like Oxford.