Preston Can Build on Promising Season
Preston finished fifth in League One last season and can build on that effort by gaining enough ground on the rest of the field and securing automatic promotion by finishing first or second this time. Peterborough are managed by a Ferguson but it is the son of Sir Alex who can manage the side to improve on sixth place from last season.
It is only 18 months ago that Bradford played in the final of the Capital One Cup at Wembley. However, the squad has declined since that day and relegation to the fourth tier of English football is a distinct possibility. Crewe will be relying on a squad of young players and inexperience could cost them towards the end of the season.
Preston won marginally fewer points over the second half of the season than the first. They finished fifth in the league, nine points behind the runners-up who claimed the second automatic qualification spot. In the play-offs they drew with Rotherham at home in the first leg of the semi-finals but lost in the second leg which meant elimination and not promotion to a higher level.
After some good transfer business over the summer Preston look a stronger outfit ahead of the new season. They have strengthened in the attacking third and thus a side that were third highest scoring at home last season can contend. In former Liverpool trainee Calum Woods they have a player proven at a higher level. However, the manager has not changed much of the relatively successful strategy from last season.
Preston have recorded two decent results in pre-season matches but the value of the form will be difficult to assess until after the first few weeks of the league schedule. They look a side full of confidence and can build on a good start and get in the mix for automatic promotion. If they come up short but make the play-offs experience gained last season can be crucial.
Each side plays 46 matches over the course of a League One campaign and matches in midweek are common. Injuries are often a factor so it’s a good sign for backers of Preston that they have a big squad of at least 27 players. They were solid and organised at the back so an improved forward line can help them finish in the top two and get promotion to the second tier of English football.
Darren Ferguson has been the manager of Peterborough since January 2011. That’s nothing compared to his Dads time with Manchester United but he is still the third longest serving manager in the division. There has been a significant turnover of players since last season with six arriving and as many departing. The changes have added pace up front and Ferguson Jr now has the players to challenge for promotion
Of the rest promoted Fleetwood are on an upward curve but the business plan suggests a season of consolidation. They may struggle for goals at this level and by the time the manager has addressed this issue they may be too far off the pace. Swindon had a good season last time but have suffered financially from a damaging court case. Given focus on the field they can improve on last season’s final position of eighth.
In January 2013 Bradford became the first side from the fourth tier of English football side since 1962 to reach a League Cup final and are the only team from that level to play in a major Wembley final. Promotion to the third tier followed but they could go down again at the end of this season. The midfield has been rebuilt following the departure of some key players over the summer.
Bradford have a young and experienced goalkeeper and a stronger squad finished eleventh last season so they could well be involved in a relegation struggle. Despite that historic Wembley appearance Bradford are not a rich club in the context of finances at this level. The squad has changed and not for the better since the start of last year and it looks inadequate to survive in this division.
Crewe are the team most likely to be relegated according to the bookmakers. Their squad is made up of an above average number of young players most of whom will have not experienced a relegation battle. They only kept their status last season after a run of four matches unbeaten when it mattered most. If they face a similar scenario at the end of this season the departed players will missed and relegation possibly not avoided.