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League One Preview: Predicting where all of Sunderland’s competitors will finish! (Part One)

Join us as we assess each of Sunderland’s League One counterparts - ins and outs, key players and predicted finishes. On part one, we review AFC Wimbledon all the way down to promotion favourites Ipswich Town.

Oxford United v Coventry City - Sky Bet League One Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

AFC Wimbledon

Manager: Wally Downes

Last season: 20th

Key player: Scott Wagstaff

Ins: Nesta Guiness-Walker (Met. Police, free), Adam Roscrow (Cardiff Metro, free), Nathan Trott (West Ham, loan), Luke O’Neill (Gillingham, free), Michael Folivi (Watford, loan)

Outs: James Hanson (Grimsby Town, free), Toby Sibbick (Barnsley, undisclosed), Tom Soares (released), Adedeji Oshilaja (Charlton, free)

Prediction: 14th

The Dons performed well at the turn of the year, escaping relegation comfortably, despite looking odds on to be relegated after sitting bottom of the table for weeks.

They’ve added more non-league unknowns to their squad but managed to keep the nucleus of the side who performed so admirably, so I’d expect them to consolidate themselves in the middle of the table this term.

Bradford City v AFC Wimbledon - Sky Bet League One Photo by George Wood/Getty Images

Accrington Stanley

Manager: John Coleman

Last season: 14th

Key player: Billy Kee

Ins: Joe Pritchard (Bolton, free), Zaine Francis-Angol (AFC Flyde, free), Ben Barclay (Brighton, free). Lamine Sherif (Leicester, free), Joe Maguire (Fleetwood, free), Colby Bishop (Leamington, undisclosed)

Outs: Ben Richards-Everton (Bradford, free), Jonny Maxsted (Exeter, free), Scott Brown (Harrogate, free), Will Wood (Dag & Red, free), Piero Mingoia (Boreham Wood, free)

Prediction: 20th

Stanley’s made a quick start to last season and shot themselves into play-off contention, but they tailed off horribly mid-season before a few good results at season’s end kept them clear of a crazy relegation dogfight.

They’ll have been a surprise package last year, with their small ground and questionable pitch causing many League One teams problems, but teams will now be aware of what to expect at the Wham! Stadium and I can see Accy having a real battle to stay up, though I think they’ll benefit from Bolton and Bury’s 12 point deductions and just survive.

Accrington Stanley

Blackpool

Manager: Simon Grayson

Last season: 10th

Key player: Armand Gnanduillet

Ins: Adi Yussuf (Solihull, free), Ryan Edwards (Plymouth, free), Ben Tollitt (Tranmere, free), Jamie Devitt (Carlisle, free), Ryan Hardie (Rangers, free), Sulley Kaikai (NAC Breda, free), Jak Alnwick (Rangers, loan)

Outs: Christopher Long (Motherwell, free), Mark Cullen (Port Vale, free), Scott Quigley (Barrow, free), Donervon Daniels, Chris Taylor, Max Clayton (all released), John O’Sullivan (Morecambe, free)

Prediction: 8th

Considering the turmoil that surrounded the Seasiders for the first half of the season, they were one of the better sides in League One last year and with a few more victories would have achieved a play-off place.

The whole club looks healthier with the Oyston’s gone and Blackpool fans now happy to re-enter Bloomfield Road, they also have a good League One manager in Simon Grayson. I think they’ll do better than last year, but will still miss out on the play-offs.

Good to see them get their club back though.

United Kingdom - Blackpool - Blackpool Versus Portsmouth Football Match Photo by Colin McPherson/Corbis via Getty Images

Bolton Wanderers

Manager: Phil Parkinson

Last season: 23rd (relegated from Championship)

Key player: Jason Lowe

Ins: None.

Outs: Mark Beevers (Peterborough, free), Joe Pritchard (Accrington, free), Mark Little (Bristol Rovers, free), Clayton Donaldson (Bradford, free), Craig Noone (Melbourne, free), Ben Amos (Charlton, free), Sammy Ameobi (Nottm Forest, free), Mark Little (Bristol Rovers, free), Josh Maggenis (released), Ertun Oztumer (released), Pawel Olkowski (Gazisehir, free), David Wheater (released)

Prediction: 21st

Where do you start with the mess that is Bolton Wanderers?

They’re starting the season on minus 12 points and practically all of their players have left, with only Jason Lowe remaining on the ‘payroll’.

It’s almost impossible to see what is going to happen to them. Can they even field a team? I think they’ll manage to muster together eleven players in time for the season, but with their pre-season basically non existent, they’ll surely suffer a second successive relegation.

Bolton Wanderers v Norwich City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Andrew Kearns - CameraSport via Getty Images

Bristol Rovers

Manager: Graham Coughlan

Last season: 15th

Key player: Jonson Clarke-Harris

Ins: Mark Little (Bolton, free), Tom Davies (Coventry, free), Josh Hare (Eastleigh, free), Jordi van Stappershoef (FC Volendam, free), Anssi Jaakkola (Reading, free), Tyler Smith (Sheff. Utd, loan), Luke Leahy (Walsall, free)

Outs: Chris Lines (Northampton, free), Stuart Sinclair (Walsall, free), James Clarke (Walsall, free), James Clark (Walsall, free), Adam Smith (Forest Green, free), Stefan Payne (Tranmere, free), Tom Lockyer (Charlton, free), Joe Partington (Eastleigh, free), Daniel Leadbitter (Notts County, free), Joe Partington (Eastleigh, free)

Prediction: 13th

The Pirates went a bit stale last year under long serving manager Darrell Clarke and looked to be sleepwalking towards relegation, however the sacking and subsequent appointment of Graham Coughlan completely changed fortunes at the Memorial Stadium.

Rovers have done a lot of work early in the transfer window, and whilst they’ll be heavily effected by the loss of star defender Tom Lockyer, they’ll hope a full season of free scoring Jonson Clarke-Harris will allow them to go through the season relegation worry free - and I’d expect them to do just that.

Sunderland v Bristol Rovers - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Burton Albion

Manager: Nigel Clough

Last season: 9th

Key player: Liam Boyce

Ins: John-Joe O’Toole (Northampton, free), Richard Nartey (Chelsea, loan), Kieran O’Hara (Man. Utd, loan), Ryan Edwards (Hearts, free)

Outs: Kyle McFadzean (Coventry, free), Jamie Allen (Coventry, undisclosed), Damien McCrory, Will Miller, Harry Campbell (all released), Marcus Harness (Portsmouth, free)

Prediction: 6th

Burton are a strange team. One of the best managers in the division, one of the best squads and often toppled the top six last year, yet never really troubled the promotion places.

I do, however, expect them to do that this year. With the likes of Liam Boyce and David Templeton in their squad they have more than enough fire-power to get them into the play-off spots if they show more consistency. Teams don’t make the League Cup semi-finals by sheer luck, so they definitely have something about them.

They were probably nursing a relegation hangover last year, having being demoted from the Championship in heartbreaking fashion and Cloughie’s boys should show what they’re all about more consistently this term.

Burton Albion v Manchester City - Carabao Cup Semi Final: Second Leg Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images

Bury

Manager: Paul Wilkinson

Last season: 2nd (promoted from League Two)

Key player: The fans, currently.

Ins: N/A

Outs: Sam Allardyce (Oxford United, free), Scott Burgess (Port Vale, free), Nicky Adams (Northampton, free), Jay O’Shea, Tom Aldred (both to Brisbane, free), Danny Mayor, Will Aimson, Callum McFadzean, Dom Telford, Byron Moore (All to Plymouth, free), Nick Maynard (Mansfield, free), Joe Murphy (Shrewsbury, free), Chris Stokes (Stevenage, free). Scott Burgess (Port Vale, free), Eoghan O’Connell (Rochdale, free), Joe Adams (Brentford, undisclosed),

Prediction: 24th

Bury did ever so well to gain promotion last year, with Ryan Lowe managing them to second place despite off-field turmoil.

However, everything that could go wrong at Gigg Lane has went wrong and they enter their League One season in a complete mess. Their financial struggles mean they, like Bolton, begin the season with a 12 point deduction, whilst Lowe has departed to recently relegated Plymouth Argyle and took a bulk of their first team squad with him. They’ve signed absolutely nobody and have spent almost the entire pre-season fielding a team of trialists.

If Bury survive, it’ll be an absolute miracle. I think they’ll struggle terribly this year and plummet straight back to League Two, which is heartbreaking for fans of The Shakers. Hopefully they manage to save their club and roar back, as nobody likes to see the struggles they are under.

Bury v Liverpool - Pre-Season Friendly Photo by John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

Coventry City

Manager: Mark Robins

Last season: 8th

Key player: Wesley Jobello

Ins: Kyle McFadzean (Burton Albion, free), Marko Marosi (Doncaster, free), Ben Wilson (Bradford, undisclosed), Fankaty Dabo (Chelsea, free) Wesley Jobello (Ajaccio, undisclosed), Michael Rose (Ayr, free), Josh Pask (West Ham, free), Daniel Bartlett (Southampton, free), Gervane Kastaneer (NAC Breda, undisclosed), Jamie Allen (Burton, undisclosed)

Outs: Tom Davies (Bristol Rovers, free), Lee Burge (Sunderland, free), Jordan Willis (Sunderland, free), Tony Andreu (St. Mirren, free), Jack Grimmer (Wycombe, free), Liam O’Brien, Chris Camwell (both released), Reece Ford (Stratford, free), Stewart Beaven (Nuneaton, free), Conor Chaplin (Barnsley, undisclosed)

Prediction: 7th

In the crazy world of League One football, here we have a team who look like one of the stronger sides, full of exciting new signings and a fantastic group of academy graduates - the (albeit funny side) is that they are homeless. Oh well.

The Sky Blues have made some great signings, including Wesley Jobello, who I think will be one of the stars of the season. However, they have lost key defender Jordan Willis to yours truly (snigger).

I think Coventry will go one better than last year and finish narrowly outside the play-off spotS, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they finished in the top six such is their strength in depth, despite being homeless.

Northampton Town v Coventry City - Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images

Doncaster Rovers

Manager: Darren Moore

Last season: 6th

Key player: John Marquis

Ins: Reece James (Sunderland, undisclosed), Brad Halliday (Cambridge, undisclosed), Madger Gomes (Alaves B.), Ben Sheaf (Arsenal, loan)

Outs: Tommy Rowe (Bristol City, free), Danny Andrew (Fleetwood, free), Andy Butler (Scunthorpe, free), Marko Marosi (Coventry, free), Liam Mandeville (Chesterfield, free)

Prediction: 9th

Donny have really been hit hard in pre-season after a hugely impressive season last term. Rumours key man John Marquis could be due to leave would be catastrophic for Rovers, but so far they hold onto him. Key midfielder Herbie Kane has returned to Liverpool following his loan move too.

The shock departure of manager Grant McCann to Hull City was counteracted by the impressive appointment of Darren Moore, but the upheaval coupled with losing the likes of Tommy Rowe and Danny Andrew could derail and hope of a similar promotion push.

They won’t struggle, but I’m not tipping them for promotion.

Doncaster Free Press

Fleetwood Town

Manager: Joey Barton

Last season: 11th

Key player: Ashley Hunter

Ins: Danny Andrew (Doncaster, free), Josh Morris (Scunthorpe, free), Harry Souttar (Stoke, loan), Jordan Rossiter (Rangers, loan), Lewie Coyle (Leeds, loan), Paul Coutts (Sheff. Utd, free)

Outs: Ashley Nadesan (Crawley Town, free), James Wallace (released), Ryan Taylor (released), Joe Maguire (Accrington, free)

Prediction: 11th

The loss of lone-man Ched Evans could hit them hard this term, with the striker finishing Fleetwood’s top scorer in 18/19. The signings of Josh Morris and Jordan Rossiter could transform their midfield if they can find their form of yesteryear however.

All in all, Barton’s team have enough about them to cause any team problems with assist machine Ashley Hunter, but I would expect them to perform much as they did last year and finish in 11th once again.

Fleetwood Town v Wrexham - Pre Season Friendly Photo by Lewis Storey/Getty Images

Gillingham

Manager: Steve Evans

Last season: 13th

Key player: Max Ehmer

Ins: Connor Ogilvie (Tottenham, undisclosed), Jack Bonham (Brentford, free), Lee Hodson (Rangers, free), Stuart O’Keefe (Cardiff, free), Matty Willock (Manchester United, free), Nathan Thomas (Sheff. Utd, loan), Alfie Jones (Southampton, loan), Mark Marshall (Charlton, free), Mikael Mandron (Colchester, undisclosed)

Outs: Tomas Holy (Ipswich, free), Tom Eaves (Hull, free), Dean Parrett (Stevenage, free), Luke O’Neill (AFC Wimbledon, free), Billy Bingham (Bromley, free)

Prediction: 22nd

Losing a key player can be a real strain on any club, but when you lose two key players it can throw any team into disarray - and that’s exactly the issue facing new Gills boss Steve Evans.

With top scorer Tom Eaves and goalkeeper Tomas Holy both rejecting new deals to stay at Priestfield, they haven’t even managed to recoup a transfer fee to help them rebuild and will have to hope new signings Jack Bonham and Matty Willock hit the ground running.

Truth be told, I don’t think the Gills will recover and will be among the relegation places come May.

Blackpool v Gillingham - Sky Bet League One Photo by Kevin Barnes - CameraSport via Getty Images

Ipswich Town

Manager: Paul Lambert

Last season: 24th (relegated from Championship)

Key player: James Norwood

Ins: James Norwood (Tranmere, undisclosed), Tomas Holy (Gillingham, free), Luke Garbutt (Everton, loan)

Outs: Jonas Knudsen (Malmo, free), Ellis Harrison (Portsmouth, free), Dean Gerken (Colchester, free), James Collins, Tom Adeyemi, Grant Ward, Jordan Spence, Simon Dawkins (all released)

Prediction: 1st

After a horrific season last year, Ipswich will be desperate to bounce straight back and have bought very well already, improving the spine of the team by picking up giant goalkeeper Tomas Holy from Gillingham and purchasing goal-scorer James Norwood from Tranmere.

The Portman Road club already have a side more than capable of winning the league without the two excellent editions of Holy and Norwood and I fully expect them to walk the league this year, if I’m completely honest.

Ipswich Town v Leeds United - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images

*All transfers up to date as of 25/07.