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

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Join us as we assess each of Sunderland’s League One counterparts - ins and outs, key players and predicted finishes. In part two, we review newly-promoted MK Dons all the way down to Wycombe Wanderers.

Plymouth Argyle v Shrewsbury Town - Sky Bet League One

MK Dons

Manager: Paul Tisdale

Last season: 3rd (promoted from League Two)

Key player: Kieran Agard

Ins: Harim Boateng (Exeter, compensation), Brennan Dickinson (Colchester, free), Joe Mason (Wolves, free), Jordan Bowery (Crewe, free), Regan Poole (Manchester United, free), Rhys Healley (Cardiff, undisclosed), Laurie Walker (Hemel, free)

Outs: Ryan Watson (Northampton, free), Mitch Hancox (Solihull, free), Ousseynou Cisse (Gillingham, free), Chuks Aneke (Charlton), Mathieu Baudry (Swindon, free), Finn Tapp (Oxford City, free), Oran Jackson (IBV, free)

Prediction: 12th

Whilst they are a club no one outside of Milton Keynes has any real affection for, MK Dons have made some pretty impressive signings in pre-season.

The experienced Joe Mason has came in on a free and imposing midfielder Hiram Boateng joined from Exeter - however they did receive a set back by losing key man Chuks Aneke to Championship newcomers Charlton Athletic.

Despite losing Aneke, MK have held onto top scorer Kieran Agard whilst adding further firepower in Mason and Crewe’s former Aston Villa academy product Jordan Bowery. They’ve bought well and I would expect them to consolidate in League One with consummate ease.

MK Dons v Mansfield Town - Sky Bet 2 Photo by John Cripps/ MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Lincoln City

Manager: Danny Cowley

Last season: 1st (Promoted from League Two)

Key player: John Akinde

Ins: Joe Morrell (Bristol City, loan), Jack Payne (Huddersfield, free), Jorge Grant (Nottm. Forest, free), Jack Brown (free), Alex Bradley (West Brom, free)

Outs: Matt Rhead (Billericay, free)

Prediction: 10th

The Imps dominated League Two last year and won the title by a clear 6 points, racking up 85 points.

Like many promoted teams, it appears manager Danny Cowley is looking to put faith in the side that got him into League One with minimal signings and zero departures.

Momentum is a huge thing in football and it would be no surprise to see Lincoln aim for the play-off spots, and if John Akinde can replicate his form further up the Football League, there’s no reason they can’t.

I expect them to have a great first half of the season before being unable to sustain their form and trail off, finishing just outside the play-off spots.

Lincoln City v Colchester United - Sky Bet League Two - Sincil Bank Photo by Richard Sellers/PA Images via Getty Images

Oxford United

Manager: Karl Robinson

Last season: 12th

Key player: Cameron Brannigan

Ins: Kevin Berkoe (Wolves, free), Sam Allardyce (Bury, free), Alex Gorrin (Motherwell, free), Tarique Fosu (Charlton, undisclosed), Wai-Tsun Dai (FC Utrecht, loan), Chris Cadden (Columbus Crew, loan), Ben Woodburn (Liverpool, loan)

Outs: Charlie Raglan (Cheltenham, free), Curtis Nelson (Cardiff, free), Jonathan Obika (released), Armani Little (Torquay, free), Gavin Whyte (Cardiff, £1.98m)

Prediction: 15th

As shown in their performances against us last season, Oxford United are a tidy little team that can cause almost any team issues with their attacking prowess.

With the likes of Tarique Fosu, James Henry and Cameron Brannigan in the midfield, Karl Robinson’s team possesses solid League One quality. However, the loss of captain and key man Curtis Nelson is sure to hit Oxford hard.

The U’s have no out-and-out striker either, which was so often their Achilles heel last year. They’re good enough to stay up comfortably but unless they bring in more quality up top and in defence, I can’t see them troubling the higher echelons of the table.

Rangers v Oxford - Pre-season Friendly - Ibrox Stadium Photo by Ian Rutherford/PA Images via Getty Images

Peterborough United

Manager: Darren Ferguson

Last season: 7th

Key player: Marcus Maddison

Ins: Mark Beevers (Bolton, undisclosed), Serhat Tasdemir (AFC Fylde, undisclosed), Frazer Blake-Tracy (King’s Lynn, undisclosed), Christy Pym (Exeter, free), Dan Butler (Newport, free), Mo Eisa (Bristol City, undisclosed), Niall Mason (unattached, free), George Boyd (Sheff. Wed, free), Serhat Tasdemir (AFC Flyde, undisclosed), Frankie Kent (Colchester, £360k)

Outs: Ryan Tafazoli (Hull, free), Morgan Penfold (Barrow, free), Darren Lyon (released), Sebastian Bassong (Volos NPS, free), Lewis Freestone (Brighton, free), Matthew Stevens (Forest Green, free)

Prediction: 3rd

The Posh have underachieved for far too long in League One, but their summer transfer dealings indicates they mean business, and I expect them to be right up there.

In Marcus Maddison they have arguably one of the most talented players in the league, whereas Ivan Toney has matured nicely into one the best strikers in the division. They’ve still got Matt Godden, and have added genuine top quality League One players Mo Eisa and Niall Mason to their already impressive ranks.

I’ve taken them to finish third, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they pipped Sunderland or Ipswich to automatic promotion.

AFC Wimbledon v Peterborough United - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ker Robertson/Getty Images

Portsmouth

Manager: Kenny Jackett

Last season: 4th

Key player: Ross McCrorie

Ins: James Bolton (Shrewsbury, free), Ryan Williams (Rotherham, free), Paul Downing (Blackburn, free), Ellis Harrison (Ipswich, free), Sean Raggett (Norwich, loan), Ryan Williams (Rotherham, free), Ross McCrorie (Rangers, loan)

Outs: Matt Clarke (Brighton, £3.5m), Dion Donahue (Mansfield, free), Nathan Thompson (released), Adam May (Swindon, loan)

Prediction: 4th

As much as we all hope they fail miserably there’s no denying Pompey are one of the more talented sides in this league, whilst also have the nous and shithousery of the third tier down to a tee.

They’ve lost both of their best player in Matt Clarke and may soon be without Jamal Lowe, but they haven’t messed around in bringing in replacements - although how many of them turn out to be adequate is still to be known.

If Ronan Curtis can return to form, the loss of Lowe will be far less significant. Ross McCrorie is an excellent addition though, and is a huge step up on Tom Naylor.

I think that, once again, Kenny Jackett’s side will challenge for automatic promotion but will tail off and battle it out in the play-offs.

Portsmouth v Coventry City - Sky Bet League One - Fratton Park Photo by Mark Kerton/EMPICS/PA Images via Getty Images

Rochdale

Manager: Brian Barry-Murphy

Last season: 16th

Key player: Liam Henderson

Ins: Ryan Norrington-Davies (Sheff. Utd, loan), Rekeil Pyke (Huddersfield, loan), Robert Sanchez (Brighton, loan), Jimmy Ryan (Blackpool, free)

Outs: Daniel Adshead (Norwich, £325k), Brad Inman (Brisbane, free), Jordan Williams (AFC Flyde, free), Kgosi Nthle (Scunthorpe, free)

Prediction: 19th

It’s hard to judge Rochdale really, with their squad staying much the same as last term.

The team as a whole is fairly average and spent most of last season battling against relegation, so I would expect them to have an almost identical campaign this time around.

Key player and veteran forward Ian Henderson is capable of scoring twent-plus goals, which means they should manage to keep their heads above water.

Rochdale v Huddersfield Town - Pre-Season Friendly Photo by John Early/Getty Images

Rotherham United

Manager: Paul Warne

Last season: 22nd (relegated from Championship)

Key player: Freddie Ladapo

Ins: Shaun MacDonald (Wigan, free), Freddie Ladapo (Plymouth, £600k), Julien Lamy (Plabennec, free), Carlton Morris (Norwich, loan), Dan Barlaser (Newcastle, loan), Matthew Olusunde (Man. Utd, loan), Trevor Clarke (Shamrock Rovers, undisclosed), Jamie Lindsay (Ross County, undisclosed), Daniel Iverson (Leicester, loan)

Outs: Joe Newell (Hibernian, free), Will Vaulks (Cardiff, £2.1m), Darren Potter (Tranmere, free), Dominic Ball (QPR, free), Ryan Williams (Portsmouth, free), Semi Ajayi (West Brom, £1.65m), Ben Purrington (Charlton, undisclosed)

Prediction: 5th

Paul Warne’s side plummeted out of the Championship last year, finishing four points adrift of Millwall in 22nd place and, as expected, there has been some change in personal as a result.

Midfielder Will Vaulks made a big money move to Cardiff City, whereas Joe Newell left England to join up with Hibernian in Scotland after rejected a new deal at The New York Stadium.

Rotherham have reacted well though, boosting their ranks with Wigan’s Shaun McDonald and splashing the cash on Plymouth’s star man Freddie Ladapo, beating other promotion hopefuls to his signature.

They have enough quality to push for automatic promotion, but I think they’ll have to settle for battling it out in the play-offs come season end.

Rotherham United v Middlesbrough - Sky Bet Championship Photo by George Wood/Getty Images

Shrewsbury Town

Manager: Sam Ricketts

Last season: 18th

Key player: Steve Morrison

Ins: Ethan Ebanks-Landell (Wolves, undisclosed), Daniel Udoh (AFC Telford, free), Aaron Pierre (Northampton, undisclosed), Steve Morrison (Millwall, loan) Ryan Giles (Wolves, loan), Donald Love (Sunderland, free), Joe Murphy (Bury, free), Luke McCormick (Chelsea, loan), Daniel Udoh (Telford, undisclosed), Ryan Giles (Wolves, loan), Max O’Leary (Bristol City, loan)

Outs: Steve Arnold (Northampton, free), James Bolton (Portsmouth, free), Lee Angol (Leyton Orient, undisclosed), Mat Sadler (Walsall, free), Aaron Amadi-Holloway (Brisbane, free), Sam Jones (Harrogate, free), Christos Sielis (APOEL N, free), Ryan Haynes (Newport County, free), Alex Gilliead (Scunthorpe, undisclosed)

Prediction: 16th

Shrews had a difficult season last year as they struggled to replicate their form under former manager Paul Hurst, moving from promotion favourites to relegation candidates almost overnight.

The mid-season appointment of Sam Ricketts did halt the slide slightly at New Meadow, but they still don’t look like a side capable of pushing for promotion the way they did under Hurst.

The signing of experienced brute Steve Morrison is a shrewd move though and I expect them to do slightly better than they did last term, especially with the signing of the Scottish Cafu, Donald Love.

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

Southend United

Manager: Kevin Bond

Last season: 20th

Key player: Simon Cox

Ins: Brandon Goodship (Weymouth, free), Mark Milligan (Hibernian, free), Nathan Ralph (Dundee, undisclosed)

Outs: Michael Turner, Ben Coker, Stephen Hendrie (all released)

Prediction: 23rd

Escaping relegation by the skin of their teeth, I do worry for Southend this season.

Despite beginning last term just outside the promotion spots, they completely unraveled and were lucky to face an out of form Sunderland to save themselves on the final day. The permanent appointment of Kevin Bond is a worry, as it felt more like he was a manager to patch things up to season end before starting afresh in the summer. He feels like the safe option.

As a team they’ve not added anyone that stands out, whilst key man Simon Cox isn’t getting any younger. They’ve also released Michael Turner, who was their best defender last term.

Sorry Southend pals, but I think you’ll plummet this year.

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

Sunderland

Manager: Jack Ross

Last season: 5th (lost in play-off final)

Key player: Aiden McGeady

Ins: Conor McLaughlin (Millwall, free), Lee Burge (Coventry, free), Jordan Willis (Coventry, free), Mark McNulty (Reading, loan), George Dobson (Walsall, undisclosed)

Outs: Lamine Kone (Racing Club Strasbourg, undisclosed), Bryan Oviedo (Kobenhaven, free), Reece James (Doncaster, undisclosed), Lee Cattermole (released), Donald Love (Shrewsbury, free), Robbin Ruiter (PSV, free), Max Stryjek (Eastleigh, free), Connor Shields (Aldershot, free)

Prediction: 2nd

Whilst there’s nervousness around these parts in the run up to a huge season, Jack Ross’s squad has been began to take shape over the past week or two with the signings of Jordan Willis and George Dobson replacing ageing high earners such as Lee Cattermole and Bryan Oviedo.

Jordan Willis will be a huge improvement on what we had last season at the back and should shore up a leaky defence and, alongside former Fleetwood star Conor McLaughlin, Sunderland have been astute in bringing in younger, hungrier reinforcements.

Although the new faces in the door are significantly less than last summer, the fact key areas of weakness have been identified and improved should see the Lads have no play-off heartbreak this term. Haway!

South Shields v Sunderland: Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Tranmere Rovers

Manager: Micky Mellon

Last season: 6th (won League Two play-off)

Key player: Connor Jennings

Ins: Darren Potter (Rotherham, free), George Ray (Crewe, free), Callum Woods (Bradford, free), Stefan Payne (Bristol Rovers, free), Sid Nelson (Millwall, free), Kieran Morris (Walsall, free), Corey Blackett-Taylor (Aston Villa, free), Jordan Ponticelli (Coventry, free)

Outs: James Norwood (Ipswich Town, undisclosed), Cole Stockton (Morecombe, free), Ben Tollitt (Blackpool, free), Steve McNulty (York, free), Paddy Wharton (FC United, free)

Prediction: 17th

After a few years in the wilderness the Wirral club seem to be shooting back to prominence, and are back in the English third tier for the first time in five years.

Their preparations took a huge blow when they were powerless to losing main man James Norwood to big hitters Ipswich Town, and a lot will depend on if they can cope without his goals.

They’ve added experience in Darren Potter and Stefan Payne whilst signing Sid Nelson and Kieran Morris to permanent deals, so have acted quickly to add to their squad - I’d expect Prenton Park to become something of a fortress.

Tranmere Rovers v Newport County - Sky Bet League Two Play-off Final Photo by Kevin Barnes - CameraSport via Getty Images

Wycombe Wanderers

Manager: Gareth Ainsworth

Last season: 17th

Key player: Joe Jacobsen

Ins: Paul Smyth (QPR, loan), Alex Pattison (Middlesbrough, free)

Outs: Paris Cowan-Hall (Colchester, free), Nathan Tyson, Marcus Bean, Yves Makabu-Makalambay, Michael Harriman, Darius Charles (all released)

Prediction: 18th

Let’s be honest here - there’s a severe lack of talent in the Wycombe side, but they know how to play to their strengths, as we saw in both games against them last year.

Like it or lump it, the way Ainsworth sets his team up is effective as is it frustrating and I have no doubt they’ll continue to pinch points from promotion chasing sides, whilst adding enough wins on home soil against teams in and around them.

Wycombe won’t pull up any trees, but they’ll be safe.

Wycombe Wanderers v Sunderland - Sky Bet League 1 Photo by MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

* All transfers up to date as of 25/07