Coming Up - A Lower League Preview
Welcome along to our soon to be regular lower league feature, we've realised here @ 442 that we have a lot of fans following the lower leagues and while the main spotlight is on the Premiership the "Big Four" (or five?) with their "loadsamoney look at my wad" mentality have started to make each season a fairly predictable scenario.
A dip into the lower leagues will show some quality young players, goals and action that some people may be missing out on. The Premiership teams have always been sniffing around the lower Leagues looking to unearth a gem, Connor Wickham - snapped up by Sunderland was wanted by a host of clubs in the top tier before signing on the dotted line for Steve Bruce and Arsenal's pursuit of Oxlade-Chamberlain is well documented, the lower leagues are also used by the "Big Boys" to blood their own youngsters and get vital first team experience in a tough physical league.
It's not just just the players either with a fresh crop of young and more importantly (to me anyway) English managers starting out on their careers in the lower divisions, when meanwhile on the top table you'd be hard pushed to find an Englishman.
The hardest to get out of and the one offering the biggest prize, teams that have been relegated the season before will be looking to bounce straight back up, getting in some experienced players up for a dogfight or two and trying desperately to hold onto the stars they have.
West Ham will be early favourites to come back up and with Big Sam in charge they have arguably not only one of the most experienced managers for getting the best of out his players but in Kevin Nolan one of the signings of the season (in any division)
Elsewhere, a Thai revolution is taking over at Leicester City and some of the Premiership-style fortune has fluttered it's way down a league into Sven Goran Eriksson's pockets, who's been snapping up new players like a fat kid in a sweet shop. Whether those players can gel and also whether Sven can stay there long enough are two factors to be looked at though.
Elsewhere in the league there's the return of another England manager to club management "the wally with the brolly" (he must be sick of that!) Steve McClaren who's been practising his Nottingham accent, Chris Hughton (probably one of the nicest blokes in football) taking charge at Birmingham who have the odds staked against them financially but could still come straight back up, Ollie @ Blackpool no doubt still adopting a cavalier approach to the game and a wicked sound bite in a press conference and amongst overs Brighton - under Gus Poyet playing the sort of sexy football his one time boss Ruud Gullitt would be proud of.
Predictions: Champions - West Ham; Promoted - Leicester City & Notts Forest
Moving on down to League One doesn't necessarily mean a drop in quality and with two former Premiership clubs in the shape of The Blades of United & Owls of Wednesday renewing their local rivalry it's a great time to come from Sheffield.
Other clubs worth looking out for include Huddersfield Town who narrowly missed out on promotion last term under Lee Clark with the help of Kevin Keegan's former number two Terry McDermott, League Two's runaway Champions Chesterfield who were packing them in @ their new stadium last season will be a welcome addition, Brentford with one time Man City striker Uwe Rosler taking over a team that's on the rise who'll be hoping for more heroics from their highly rated 'keeper Richard Lee, the MK Dons who's set up may not be everyone's cup of tea (and a cheeky hob nob) but young English manager Karl Robinson could be one to watch for the future and on a personal note two local teams we here @ 442 who will be looking out for Leyton Orient and Stevenage.
Predictions: Champions - Huddersfield Town; Promoted - Sheffield Wednesday & Leyton Orient
In League Two teams have the added threat of relegation out of the Football League entirely (and possibly in some cases, existence) to contend with as well as trying climb up and out at the top.
This season the two teams which came up will be on every lower league watchers radar, Crawley Town who after last seasons FA Cup exploits are one of the favourites to continue their ascent, while another chapter in the fairytale that is AFC Wimbledon will be written as the club aim to build on the hard work that has been put in by players and fans alike after the demise of the parent club from Plough Lane.
Other teams of note will include Swindon Town where former West Ham, Sheffield Wednesday & Celtic cult hero was a surprise appointment earlier this year, whether he'll be a success or not is anyone's guess but it's sure to be entertaining, Shrewsbury Town you have a great record of making the play-offs - can they go that extra step this season? And over @ Crewe Dario Gradi (who with 24 years in residence was the longest serving manager in English football) is well respected for finding and coaching young players that have gone on to bigger things including Neil Lennon, Danny Murphy & David Platt so his team could be one to watch for you the talent spotters out there.
Predictions: Champions - Crawley Town; Promoted - Torquay United, Accrington Stanley & Shrewsbury Town
So, that's my little bite-sized nugget of a preview, any lower league fans out there feel free to drop us a line or comment. It's going to be a regular feature so look out for the next installment.