A division of sleeping giants and wide awake also rans is how the third tier is often described. But what do the real fans think about their teams for the coming year? At the crossroads of the Football League we’re looking to sort the sinking ships from the deadly submarines. Here is part two of our preseason preview:

Southend United

Manager: Kevin Bond
Tenure: Since April
Ownership Situation: Property Developer Ron Martin. Ron took control in the late 90s as he wanted to use the land at Roots Hall to build a supermarket and promised us a new ground at Fossetts Farm. We’re still waiting.

Nickname: The Shrimpers

Main Fan Forum: Shrimperzone.com
  • Star Player: Dru Yearwood (CM 19) – although I think most would say forward Simon Cox
  • Underappreciated Gem: Elvis Bwomono (RB 20)
  • Top Prospect: Isaac Hutchinson (Goalscoring midfielder 19)
  • Potential 19/20 Breakout Year: Elvis Bwomono
  • Fan Scapegoat: Theo Robinson, but he’s had enough and is likely to move to Swindon.
  • Waste of Space: Michael Kightly – more of a waste of wages than space. Our highest earner but struggles to play 90 minutes/consecutive matches. Ex Prem but is glacially slow these days.
  • Dream Transfer Target: The next Nicky Bailey. We signed him as an unknown from non-league in 2007 and someone with his box-to-box attributes would transform this team (and then our finances when we sell him on).

Season Review:

Injuries, injuries, injuries. Most of our central midfield had a disrupted pre-season and never really got going. By September we were picking centre-mid based on who was less injured. October then saw 3 ACLs (including our top scorer) and a broken leg. We limped through November and December with basically one forward. We then signed one in the January window and he then got injured scoring his 4th goal in 7 matches. From mid-table we slipped down the league and manager Chris Powell was fired after going 11 games without a win. Kevin Bond came in for the final handful of games and a dramatic win on the final day v Sunderland was enough to keep us up.

Tactical Overview:

Difficult to say as the gaffer has only been in charge a handful of matches. He liked picking a lot of defenders but hopefully that was just because we were mired in a relegation battle and trying to stop the rot.

Plans & Priorities for Preseason:

Fitness! We’ve got a lot of players rehabilitating and won’t be fit for the start of the season. For the rest the feeling was that pre-season wasn’t vigorous enough (probably because we went easy because of those injuries) and we lacked stamina. The team also desperately lacks pace. We don’t currently have a left-back and need to strengthen central defence and get a versatile hardworking midfielder able to play wide or in the middle at a minimum.

Contributor: Yorkshire Blue from the Shrimper Zone Forum

2018/19: 19th

Ground: Roots Hall (12,392)

Bristol Rovers

Manager: Graham “Coggers” Coughlan
Tenure: 6 months. Rumoured to have 2 year deal
Ownership Situation: Fans are divided on our owners. Some say they are the only skint Arab bankers in the world and others predict greatness is just round the corner.

Nickname: The Pirates / The Gas

Main Fan Forum: Gaschat.co.uk
  • Star Player: Johnson Clarke Harris.
  • Underappreciated Gem: Ollie Clarke. Voted players player of the season yet derided by many.
  • Top Prospect: Michael Kelly & Alfie Kilgor are two promising young defenders
  • Potential 19/20 Breakout Year: Alfie Kilgor
  • Fan Scapegoat: Tom Nichols. Though not strictly a scapegoat because he actually is sh**. 
  • Waste of Space: Stephan Payne. Possibly the poorest player to ever “play” for Rovers.
  • Dream Transfer Target: A goal keeper would be nice as we don’t currently have one having had 3 first choice keepers last year!

Season Review:

Painfully poor at home all season. 
A change of manager at Xmas saw us eventually climb out of the bottom 4 and eventually end up safe with a game to spare. 

Tactical Overview:

Impossible to say. Our new manager took over with us in the bottom 4 and a terribly imbalanced squad with absolutely no width. He promised us ugly wins and delivered ugly but ultimately successful football and led us to safety. 
I can’t see many people wanting to put up with watching more of the same next season though and most of us are waiting to see what kind of players Coggers brings in. Despite the success the new manager had in getting the job done last year, some fans are still on the fence on the man in charge. 

Plans & Priorities for the Off-season:

Would be nice to actually have a decent preseason for a change. Loved our previous manager but we literally didn’t have a good preseason during his entire reign.

We need a complete rebuild this summer having had a few leave and releasing others.

Contributor: Hugo the Elder from the GasChat Forum

2018/19: 15th

Ground: Memorial Stadium (12,300)

Shrewsbury Town

Manager: Sam Ricketts
Tenure: Since December 2018
Ownership Situation: The club is owned by a local business man that runs the club very well, for a club our size. We consistently make profit and are one of the few clubs to not have any debt within the football league. The criticism aimed at him would be that he doesn’t spend enough money but I personally think we go about things in the right way.

Nickname: Salop

Main Fan Forum: Blue and Amber
  • Star Player: Shaun Whalley
  • Underappreciated Gem: Omar Beckles
  • Top Prospect: Fejiri Okenabirhie
  • Potential 19/20 Breakout Year: Ro-Shaun Williams
  • Fan Scapegoat: Luke Waterfall
  • Waste of Space: Aaron Ahmadi-Holloway
  • Dream Transfer Target: Greg Docherty

Season Review:

After the unexpected highs of the 2017/18 season, where we finished 3rd, this one was always going to bring us back down to earth. There was a lot of upheaval with a number of key players being out of contract or returning to their parent clubs, after successful loan spells. John Askey was the man who came in and he made an awful start (1 win in our first 11 league games). Askey soon lost the fans confidence and he was sacked in December. Eric Ramsey (26 year old academy coach) and Danny Coyne (Goalkeeper coach) took charge of the team for 6 games and won 5 of them. We then appointed Sam Ricketts after he enjoyed a successful spell at non-league Wrexham. Ricketts’s spell so far has been very inconsistent but he did just about enough to keep us up. We also enjoyed a successful cup run where he had quite a few memorable games. At Stoke City away, we were 2-0 down at half time but came back to win 3-2. We then got Wolves and we ran them close by drawing 1-1 at home and then losing 3-2 at Molineux. Overall, it has been a bit of a disappointing season due to how good we were in the previous one. The jury is still out as to whether Ricketts is the right man but he has done an adequate job so far.

Tactical Overview:

Ricketts took over in December. It took him a few games to tinker but he settled on a 3-5-2. Tactically, we will be playing a 3-5-2 for the forthcoming season but it is hard to see what Rickett’s style will be. We have seen a a team that will high press and play some nice football but this has only happened in a handful of games. He has stated this is how he wants his team to play but we need to be far more consistent if we want to have a good go in League One. We have some very pacy centre backs in Beckles and Williams. Whalley is the guy who makes things happen in attack. He is extremely quick and is always running at defenders and is a real handful for any defence in this league. 

Plans & Priorities for the Off-season:

We need to sign quite a few players and get rid of some of the deadwood.

We currently have 1 GK on the books and have just sold our number one, Steve Arnold , to Northampton. This is a key position that we need to get right. The key to playing a 3-5-2 successfully at this level will be the wing backs and we currently don’t have any up to the required standard. We also need another CM to replace the top quality Greg Docherty, who has returned to Rangers. There are a couple of really decent prospects that we have to keep hold of. 23 year old, Fejiri Okenabirhie scored 15 goals last season, despite being out of favour under the previous manager. He is a real live wire and is clinical in front of goal. I expect some bigger clubs are looking to sign the talented forward. Also, Ro-Shaun Williams is a rolls royce of a defender. We signed the 20 year old centre back from Manchester United and he has been a revelation. I really do think this lad is destined to be a Premier League regular in a few years time, he is a superb player but we need to keep him for this year. It would be nice to see us spend a bit of money to try and get in and around the play offs. I am expecting a decent season with us probably finishing 10th to 14th.

Contributor: TheFoz from the Blue and Amber Forum

2018/19: 18th

Ground: Montgomery Waters Meadow (9,875)

(Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images)

Burton Albion

Manager: Nigel Clough
Tenure: Arrived for the second time in December 2015 – taking over from Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and leading the club to promotion at the first attempt.
Ownership Situation: Owned by Ben Robinson BEM MBE he has overseen the fantastic rise from the Brewers from non-League football to the Championship, all of it done by running the club properly, generally making small profits along the way.

Nickname: The Brewers

Main Fan Forum: Clough the Magic Dragon
  • Star Player: I genuinely don’t think we have one.
  • Underappreciated Gem: Stephen Quinn
  • Top Prospect: Ben Fox
  • Potential 19/20 Breakout Year: Not sure
  • Fan Scapegoat: Steven Bywater or maybe Nigel Clough
  • Waste of Space: None
  • Dream Transfer Target: I don’t think I have one, I’m happy generally with what we have got. I probably won’t have heard of anyone realistically we can afford.

18/19 Season Review:

After relegation after two desperately difficult seasons in the Championship, the odds were against us. The financial rules on a relegated club with such a small fanbase mean that we had very little chance. Luckily we have an excellent manager and after a slow start, where we lost too many matches that previously we would not have (call it a relegation hangover), we improved and finished quite well. Overall mid table was a good result. Reaching the semi-final of the league cup was just brilliant.

Tactical Overview:

Some of the football we played last season was some of the best I have ever seen at the Pirelli, pass and move, Quinn being the fulcrum for this. I expect more of the same. I also expect us to do pretty similar to last season. I hope for an improvement, but I still think we will be a bit inconsistent, as we can get dragged down to a battle by teams that bypass midfield.

Plans & Priorities for Preseason:

Stay solvent, stay up. If that includes great entertainment and maybe a run the the playoffs, brilliant.

Contributor: IanMcGibbon from the Clough the Magic Dragon Forum

2018/19: Ninth

Ground: The Pirelli Stadium (6,912)

Lincoln City

Managers: Danny & Nicky Cowley
Tenure: 3 Glorious Seasons that have seen us win the National League, Checkatrade Trophy and League Two, reach FA Cup Quarter Finals and re-ignite a football club. Plus plenty of other records have been broken along the way.
Ownership Situation: Majority shareholder Clive Nates, a South African businessman, took over as chairman last year. He comes on to the forum to have a chat every now and then, and sits in with the fans when he’s over. He’s a top, top man.

Nickname: The Imps

Main Fan Forum: Vital Lincoln City
  • Star Player: A lot of choice with players such as Tom Pett and Bruno Andrade but I’m going for Michael Bostwick as he’s a fan favourite and an absolute rock at the back.
  • Underappreciated gem: Harry Anderson – does get praise but not enough in my eyes. The guy works so hard and is the ignition for many of our attacks. His run stats must be incredible.
  • Top Prospect: Ellis Chapman – Spent last half season on loan at Chesterfield but may step up to get some game time with us this season.
  • Potential 19/20 Breakout Star: Harry Toffolo – Best left back I’ve seen live. Always looking for the overlap. Quality shone through at the end of last season and should continue to show his class to more recognition this season.
  • Fan scapegoat: John Akinde, perhaps should have scored more goals last season but his link up play in a new system and role for him was incredible. Started almost all matches which shows his worth to the team. Record signing that people expected Premier League levels from. Plenty do recognise his quality however.
  • Waste of Space: Our IFollow Commentators? Never heard worse coverage. On the pitch and in the squad everyone has a role to play as a small squad. If pushed I’d completely unfairly say Grant Smith as he’s our 3rd choice keeper when perhaps we don’t need one. He’s definitely football league quality so that’s not a comment on his quality. However, should Gilks leave he’ll be vital considering Vickers injury issues.
  • Dream Transfer Target: We could do with a link up player from midfield to attack, Messi would fit. Sammie Szmodics at Colchester is more realistic but only a dream as he’s linked to Derby, Bristol and Hull at last check.

Season Review:

Back in League 1 after 20 years. Job done. In general the season went very well as we led from pretty much day 1 and had some fantastic performances such as at MK Dons in front of 5,000 away Imps. However, for every great there were some disappointments such as home draws against Stevenage and Macclesfield and a poor end to the season once the title was secured.

Tactical Review:

Mix it up and keep them guessing. Famed for long ball up to Matt Rhead, opponents can be shocked when Pett, Andrade and Anderson play through them. However before the opponents can settle with that Eardley will thump it up for Akinde to knock down to whoever is scampering around him. Tend to play the nicer stuff around your box rather than our own which draws criticism from opposing fans. Use the full backs to pump crosses into the box.

Plans and priorities for pre-season:

Keep our talent, managers and players. Plenty of Championship clubs reportedly sniffing around Cowleys, Andrade etc. which causes some concerns. Increase stadium capacity, sell out crowds most weeks these days and we need to satisfy demand whilst we still can. Keep the improvements coming, the club is on a real high at the moment and we can’t start to accept what we’ve got and continue to push ourselves. Luckily this is the only way the Cowleys are able to think.

Contributor: Imps2018 from the 100% Imps Vital Forum

2018/19: 1st in League Two

Ground: Sincil Bank (10,120)

Bolton Wanderers

Manager: Phil Parkinson, maybe?
Tenure: Since Summer 2016
Ownership Situation:

Nickname: The Trotters

Main Fan Forum: Bolton Nuts
  • Star Player: Last Season Gary O’Neill. But now we’ve got 6 players left on the books that aren’t boys in the youth set up.  2 keepers, two midfield ball winners and Magennis and Oztumer. I’d go for Erhun Oztumer even though the manager doesn’t rate him and hardly ever picks him. He scored 15  in a season for Walsall including one against Bolton
  • Underappreciated Gem: Jason Lowe
  • Top Prospect: Luca Connell. He’ll be gone before mid August.
  • Potential 19/20 Breakout Year: Any young professionals who are still on the books
  • Fan Scapegoat: Will Buckley
  • Waste of Space: Will Buckley
  • Dream Transfer Target: A fit Zach Clough

Season Review:

It was probably the worst in our 150 year history, lurching from financial winding up petitions on a seemingly daily basis, and a player strike in pre-season and another at the end of the season – the first game not to start in the history of English league football because of a strike!

If that’s not enough we’ve had an owner who had previously been banned from being a director for 8 years previously, our patron and the man who put over £200m of his personal wealth in the club died suddenly, and the local newspaper reporter seemingly lead a personal crusade against the club owner on twitter and stirring up lynch mob hatred amongst the supporters – which ultimately and quite rightly getting him banned from the club press box (as a professional journalist no matter what he thinks or knows he should be reporting and behaving in a proper manner and not with a clear personal agenda).

His banning was probably the point at which everything turned toxic, with club legend John McGinlay speaking out and getting banned, a well supported public protest outside the club deliberately coinciding with the cameras there to show a live game, and apparent threats of violence now being made to the owner and his family causing the police to advise that he no longer attended the ground and turning him into an absent owner.

Tactical Overview:

Things on the pitch were grim with a manager who would have been potted under any other circumstances for his turgid and life sapping defensive set ups and negative football – leading to a season record of 30 defeats.  It’s fair to say that many of the fans now hated the manager as much as the owner – but no one seemed to have any money to terminate his contract, resulting in him still being here.

Plans & Priorities for Preseason:

If that isn’t enough we eventually fell into the inevitable Administration following a bizarre attempt from a former ‘dodgy’ owner of Watford trying to buy the club without knowing what the debts were or having any proof of money of his own???

As it stands at the moment we only have six first team players under contract BUT they still aren’t being paid and could give notice and quit at anytime.

The hated manager is still here (I must point out though that he is well liked and respected as a person who has handled himself well and with dignity the whole time – even though he and his staff haven’t been paid for months either!), and many fans are refusing to renew their season tickets whilst he is still at the helm.

Chuck into the pot that we already have a 12 point penalty for going into Administration, are in theory at least under a two year transfer embargo, and the Administrator is seeking proof of funds from those wanting to buy this car crash of our club £25m, just to be able to move out of Administration – the season kicking off in just 42 days or something and nothing and no one knowing who will own us, who will manage us, what players we have, how many bodies we need to sign, nor even who will provide the team shirts?

Oh nearly forgot – and thanks to our gutless players who refused to stand on a pitch for 90 minutes we also have an unspecified penalty from the EFL to come for not playing a game – so we will suffer a further points deduction and/or cash fine – both of which will fall on players and owner in no way associated with those who struck, who they themselves will gaily be kicking a ball about at some other club (fully paid up by the way) whilst the club and its fans suffer because of their self-centredness. 

It’s just a joke really but unfortunately it has manifested itself in staff at the club having to attend foodbanks to feed their family’s.

That can’t be right can it?

Sorry I don’t think people don’t wish to fill in your questionnaire, its just that we simply don’t know the answers to much of what you are asking us!

Was that less than 200 words – anybody been counting!

Contributor: Sluffy from the Bolton Nuts Forum

2018/19: 23rd in the Championship

Ground: University of Bolton Stadium (28,723)

Part 3 to come next week.

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