The 2022/23 season is now upon us, a year undoubtedly filled with thrills, spills and all sorts of drama. I’ve been given the impossible task of predicting one of the world’s most unpredictable divisions and this year looks set to be another in which I’m shovelling humble pie after tipping the future playoff winning side to be relegated. But, I shall try my best to sum up my thoughts on the top and bottom ends of the table whilst trying to back it up with a little bit of logic.
Disclaimer: this piece was written the week of the 2022/23 season opening game week meaning there is still over a month of transfer business to be done. I will also add that growing up on the blue and white side of Sheffield may well have shaped my football outlook in certain directions. I have tried my best to put aside any kinds of bias however feel free to let me know just how tinted my specs are looking.
Relegation: Cheltenham, Forest Green, Morecambe, Accrington Stanley
Sorry Cheltenham fans but this was one of the easier picks for me. A summer of hurt for The Robins who lost their miracle-working manager Michael Duff to Barnsley after a four-year spell in which he took over a side towards the lower regions of League Two and transformed them into a promotion-winning team. The former Cheltenham man played over 300 times for the club in his playing days and rounded off his time with a comfortable season in the third division last year, an achievement almost as impressive as the previous season’s promotion. Worth noting the new Barnsley boss had little more than a shoestring for a budget at the Whaddon Road and his departure will certainly be felt.
Along with Duff, Cheltenham also lost one of League One’s most dominant defenders in Will Boyle on a free transfer to Huddersfield Town. Replacements Tom Bradbury from national league Halifax and 19-year-old Caleb Taylor on loan from West Brom both have a huge task ahead of them and I feel that Boyle’s presence will be a massive loss at the back.
At the other end, last year’s super striker Alfie May is still in the building following an unbelievable 23 goal season which is somewhat of an anomaly in the 29-year-old’s EFL career. Even if May does stay, I struggle to see the forward repeating last season’s feat and this may well feel like another loss to Cheltenham.
Wade Elliott was given the gig this summer after being a huge part in the recent success as Duff’s assistant. It’s not a ridiculous statement to suggest that Elliott will know how his ex-manager went about things and there may not be too much change. There is a world in which the new boss is able to continue the previous philosophy, Alfie May keeps up the form of his life and the Town recruitment team build a solid backline. However, I don’t see that as a world that we live in and feel that Elliott’s lack of managerial experience may also be a downfall as The Robins face the drop.
Forest Green Rovers
Similarly, to Cheltenham it’s been a summer of change down the road at Forest Green. Despite a title-winning campaign last season, the newly-promoted side were unable to keep hold of many of their most prized assets with key players Ebou Adams (Cardiff), Nicky Cadden (Barnsley) and Kane Wilson (Bristol City) all departing as well as manager Rob Edwards completing a move to Watford which left a sour taste in the Forest Green mouths.
Cadden and Wilson were both hugely influential to Rovers’ success in the wing-back roles with the pair contributing to a large number of goals directly with Wilson claiming 3 goals and 13 assists whilst Cadden smashed 6 goals and 12 assists. Both were a huge factor in Edwards’ team’s style and incomings Corey O’Keefe and Harry Boyes have some act to follow. O’Keefe joins following a decent season in League Two with Rochdale whilst Boyes comes in on loan from Sheffield United.
In the midfield the loss of Adams will also take it’s toll on Rovers with the Gambian international one of the most impressive fourth division players over the last few years. However, Forest Green are a club who know what they’re doing off the pitch and their recruitment this time around should give The Green Army some encouragement. They’ve snapped up Armani Little who comes off the back of a brilliant season with Torquay grabbing 15 goals in 38 games in the National League. The club have also brought Reece Brown back to the club after a three-year spell away at Huddersfield and Peterborough. The forward-thinking midfielder hit double figures the last time he was here in 2018/19 and will be hoping to rediscover that form after his big move didn’t go as planned.
Adding insult to injury it appears that last season’s top scorer Matt Stevens will be out for a while with an ACL injury meaning the League One new boys may well need some more fire power.
At the helm, Ian Burchnall was appointed as the new head coach following Edwards’ departure and comes in with an interesting CV at just 39 years old. Beginning his managerial experience with Norwegian side Viking in tough circumstances before becoming Graham Potter’s successor at Ostersund in Sweden makes for unusual reading for an English manager. After a good two-year spell in Sweden, Burchnall took the reins at Notts County for just over a year before joining Rovers in May. The ex-magpies boss divided opinion amongst supporters as his side missed out on promotion in the National League two years on the spin. Often criticised for his team being ‘too soft’ whilst at County, it can be seen as a progressive appointment and perhaps a look at a longer-term project rather than immediate success in League One.
It was certainly a tough decision, especially considering Forest Green’s recruitment set up, however I feel that the departures will hit too heavy and the lack of third tier experience amongst the squad as well as with the manager will ultimately cost Rovers their place in the league.
I really had to convince myself with this one. Yes, I’m saying that the club who have never been relegated, will sadly experience the cruel drop this year.
There’s a lot telling me that this can’t happen. Morecambe are a club renown for pushing beyond their resources and finding a way to defy expectation. And with Derek Adams back too it feels like they may well do it again, and I’ll hold my hands up if they do. But I just look at the squad and have my doubts. Morecambe stayed up with just two points to spare last term and in what I believe to be a more competitive division this time around, especially at the bottom, I feel like it’s a big ask of this Shrimps team.
Goalkeeper Connor Ripley, defender Donald Love and winger Ashley Hunter all come in following uninspiring spells in League Two with Salford. It may be a big ask to throw all three straight in at the deep end of the League One relegation fight. It’s also a huge challenge for youngsters Caleb Watts and Jensen Weir who join the Seaside club on loans. Morecambe lost their star left back Greg Leigh to Ipswich this window whilst replacing him with Max Melbourne who featured just seven times for Lincoln last season.
Other incomings include centre back Farrend Rawson and midfielder Jake Taylor who’ve both enjoyed League Two football over the past few years. Maybe it’s slightly harsh but I just feel that Morecambe having recruited strongly enough and their squad lacks much League One quality.
Avid Morecambe supporters may well be screaming the name of Coke Stockton whilst reading this and it’s not without reason. Whist the striker enjoyed a remarkable scoring season last time out netting 23, similarly to Alfie May, I anticipate a fair drop off from last year’s high benchmark.
The wildcard they have at their disposal is the fact that it is Morecambe football club and Derek Adams. The experienced manager has two League Two promotions to his name one of which was with The Shrimps as he became the first ever manager to get the club into the third division at the end of his first spell in 2021. If anyone will get a team up for the fight it’s the Scotsman and only a fool would completely write them off. However, too an extent, I am in fact writing them off and believe they will be back in League Two in 2023.
Perhaps a brave shout and another that I’m uncomfortable in predicting but I feel like Accrington have had some really big losses this summer that they’ll struggle to replace.
The colossal Ross Sykes at the back has moved on to Belgium side Union SG for a healthy fee and his presence will be missed at the back as will Matt Butcher’s in the centre of midfield as he heads to Plymouth. Both players right at the very core of the Stanley side who won’t be the same team without them, I fear. Ryan Astley arriving on loan from Everton is the only defensive reinforcement but the 20-year-old certainly has his work cut out.
Up top, Colby Bishop moved South to Portsmouth with a proven replacement yet to arrive for the man who bagged 11 times in League One last season. Alhagi Sisay signs from Cymru premier side Haverfordwest County having got 6 goals in 19 games but at 22-year-old may be one for the future. 34-year-old Shaun Whalley is joined this summer adding some League One expertise but with him and 33-year-old Sean McConville as the wide options Accrington’s attacks may become a little predictable.
A few things could turn the fortunes at The Wham Stadium. Firstly, John Coleman’s team have been competitive at this level for a number of years now with the likes of Sean McConville, who ranked 17 assists last term, all proving their worth in the third division. Seamus Connelly, Harry Pell and Ethan Hamilton give the squad some strong midfield options which could yet give them the advantage against the drop. Don’t put it past Coleman to find a few gems out of nowhere this summer, as him and Accrington Stanley have done so often over the years.
However, sadly I just feel the departures have been too much and this time around Accrington will suffer a perhaps surprise relegation. What I will say though is that I wouldn’t be shocked if Stanley made me eat my words and find themselves battling at the other end of the division either.
By the skin of their teeth: Burton Albion, Fleetwood Town
These two are both sides that I feel may just about edge it. At different stages I’ve had both these sides to go down but ultimately just feel like their squads have the slight edge over those below them.
Starting in Burton where the mood is a pessimistic one amongst many. The jury is out on boss Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink who after an unbelievable start to his tenure in 2021, had an up and down season last time out with Brewers fans often left puzzled by some of the manager’s decisions. I feel like the Hasselbaink ride is on it’s final loop and that there may be a new man in the hot seat at some point this season.
I think when that happens there’s enough in this Albion team to keep them afloat. There’s experienced heads at the back with Michael Mancienne, John Brayford and Adedeji Oshilaja. Along with that a sprinkling of decent attacking options in Joe Powell, Jonny Smith as well as new recruits Davis Keillor-Dunn and Victor Adeboyejo. The Keillor-Dunn deal I particularly like with the 24-year-old notching 15 goals from the midfield of relegated Oldham in League Two last season.
In a similar vein, I feel that the quality within the ranks at Fleetwood should see them over the line. With experienced backline options in Toto Nsiala, Tom Clarke and Danny Andrew The Cod Army have a strong base whilst Paddy Lane, Ellis Harrison and Callum Morton should give them enough goal-scoring threat.
Jordan Rossiter may be a big loss in the midfield following his move to newly promoted Bristol Rovers, but Fleetwood have had a productive window bringing in Josh Vela and Brendan Wiredu as two good options in the middle. Shaun Rooney arrives from St Johnstone with a good reputation up in Scotland with Josh Earl coming in from Preston giving Town some exciting full-back options.
The phrase ‘skin of their teeth’ perfectly sums up Fleetwood’s survival last year as the club stayed up on goal difference with a points tally of 40, which was the lowest total a third division side has stayed up with since the 1980s. So, it wouldn’t be too wrong to suggest the new man in charge, Scott Brown, has quite the task on his hands for his first job in management. Though he spent last season as assistant at Aberdeen, the Celtic legend has no other managerial experience, of which may be the downfall of Fleetwood’s season. So, this one may rest with just how good a manager Brown turns out to be, although I have a voice telling me alike Burton, Fleetwood could need a mid-season appointment if they want League One football again next season.
Dark horses: Lincoln City
I’ve seen a lot of people tipping The Imps to finish towards the bottom of the table, but I feel like this side is being slightly underestimated. Remember it’s not too ling ago since Michael Appleton took City to within a game of promotion to the championship via the playoffs. Since then it didn’t quite go to plan for Appleton but I still feel that there’s some genuine quality at Sincil Bank.
Starting at the back they’ve loaned Brighton’s Carl Rushworth between the stick after he had a good year with Walsall last season. Strong defensive options include Regan Poole, Joe Walsh, Adam Jackson and Lewis Montsma who have been bolstered by new additions young Jay Benn from Halifax and former Bradford City skipper Paudie O’Connor. Midfield options of Lasse Sorensen, Max Sanders and Teddy Bishop were added to with exciting youngster Tashan Oakley-Boothe. However, Connor McGrandles switched to Charlton this window meaning that The Imps may yet want to add another central midfielder to the mix before the deadline passes.
Boyhood City fan Charles Vernam moved back to his hometown this summer with a move and if fit could be a real threat for Lincoln with the attacker boasting a very decent goal return.
Another exciting signing is that of Daniel Mandroiu from Shamrock Rovers. The 23-year-old creative midfielder has 35 goals in 90 games in the Irish topflight and could be one to keep an eye on this season, although reports of a hamstring injury may halter his start to the campaign.
Options like Hakeeb Adelakun, Chris Maguire and Anthony Scully along with the new signings mean manager Mark Kennedy has some real creativity at his disposal. The only real thing I feel the Lincoln side lacks is an out-and-out goal-scoring striker. If they can get their hands if a 20 goal a season man they could make a real go if if this year.
Question marks may also be on the new boss Mark Kennedy who has very little managerial experience. Given a four-year-deal, Kennedy is highly thought of in coaching circles having worked as a coach at Ipswich, Colchester and even Manchester City. He served as Lee Bowyer’s number two at Birmingham City before the Blues boss was evicted. The Imps board are certainly confident in Kennedy’s vision having given the 46-year-old a long-term deal and if he’s able to get the best out of his squad it may well be a gamble that pays off.
Just missing out: Barnsley, Bolton, Portsmouth
I’ll briefly fire through these one’s who I feel ultimately just miss out based on the quality of their squads.
Starting with Barnsley where it’s been a busy summer after a hugely disappointing season. They’ve done typical Barnsley business bringing in players in their early twenties with the likes of Robbie Cundy, Connor McCarthy, Nicky Cadden and Luca Connell coming with good reputations but are as of yet untested at this level.
James Norwood comes in as an anomaly and a great track record in the league below. A mostly disappointing time at Ipswich has led him here. If he can rediscover his best self he could be in for a decent season, but he doesn’t set the typical mould of a Barnsley signing.
You’d expect most of their bigger players like Callum Styles, Michal Helik and Mass Andersen still to leave, if not they could well be a few spots higher.
Michael Duff is probably the best appointment the Tykes could have possibly named and I’d back him to be successful at Oakwell though feel they will need at least a year to rebuild and for the new boss to get implement his philosophy.
Portsmouth will be hoping for a playoff place this time around after ending last season not a million miles away. They’ve lost one of their biggest threats in Marcus Harness who joins Ipswich but gained two potentially lethal strikers in Colby Bishop and Joe Pigott. They’ve also loaned Tottenham teenage forward, Dane Scarlett who could be a wildcard for them.
Danny Cowley will set his side up well and with players like Michael Morrison, Sean Raggett and Clark Robertson at the back along with a combative midfield including Marlon Pack, Pompey won’t be an enjoyable team to play against. See them making more of a fight of it this year but just missing out.
Bolton Wanderers also weren’t too far out in the end after a brilliant second half to their 2021/22 season. The side whose manager, Ian Evatt, once claimed were the ‘best in the league’ lost just 3 of their last 22 games last season, form which would see them promoted if they were able to maintain it for a whole campaign.
A huge part of that run was down to the Trotters’ midfield, with options such as MJ Williams, Aaron Morley, Kyle Dempsey and Josh Sheehan giving Bolton a lovely balance in the middle.
They’re also a threat going forwards, with Amadou Bakayoko, Jon Dadi Bodvarsson and Dion Charles all capable. The latter bagged 19 times in 20/21 for Accrington Stanley before making his switch to The Macron Stadium.
Although Bolton haven’t made too many additions to their squad this summer there’s still plenty of time. With the way they ended last term this team clearly has something about it as it is and Ian Evatt will be hoping they can carry on that excellent form and make a real playoff push.
Playoffs: Derby, MK Dons, Plymouth, Peterborough
The fact that Derby are at this end of the article rather than the beginning is testimony to the summer they’ve had. A club in crisis now reinvigorated with a bunch of new signings and a squad of genuine quality.
James Chester, Connor Hourihane, Korey Smith, Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, Tom Barkhuizen, David McGoldrick and James Collins all top talents in League One. Connor Hourihane in particular a standout addition with many amazed the midfielder was willing to drop down.
Derby further bulked their squad with goalkeepers Joe Wildsmith and Scott Loach alongside loan defender Hayden Roberts.
Midfielders Max Bird, Jason Knight and Louie Sibley are all still at the club but I wouldn’t be surprised to see any of the three depart before the end of the window. If not, all would also be very handy players at this level.
There’s certainly no doubting the quality of the Rams squad as well as the wealth of experience with the likes of Curtis Davies and Richard Stearman also still amongst their ranks, however I do have some question marks around Derby County this season.
Firstly, although it’s great on paper, bringing in all these big names in over the hill of 30-years-old isn’t good long-term thinking. It’s pretty much now or in the near future for Derby or they’ll be constructing another rebuild in the third tier.
Secondly, the issues with these players is again to do with their age. I fear that Derby may not have the legs when coming up against these younger, fresher sides who will relish against the likes of Derby.
Thirdly, there’s unanswered questions on Liam Rosenior. Though he’s done a remarkable job getting these signings over the line in such a short space of time, he’s yet to prove his worth on the pitch as a manager. It’s thought Rosenior was heavily involved whilst Wayne Rooney was in charge and a lot of the credit Rooney got should also have been accredited to his Rosenior. The 38-year-old has a massive job on his hands and his lack of experience is bound to bite Derby at some point this season.
Overall, I think with another month left of the transfer window Derby are far from done and will yet attract some notable names to Pride Park before the deadline. And I think this side will have enough strength and experience to see them into the playoffs just about. I predict them to have a similar season to what Sheffield Wednesday did last year, uninspiring start as players gel and adapt but will grow as a group and finish strong.
MK Dons defied the expectations of many by finishing 3rd last season and I anticipate a slight drop off this time around but think they’ll still be a force.
They’ve lost League One’s star man Scott Twine who was simply out of this world last season, with Burnley paying a reported £5 million for his services. They’ve also sold Harry Darling to Swansea for a healthy fee, one of last season’s standout defenders who will also be a big miss. But surprisingly I still think it’s been a good summer at Milton Keynes.
They may have lost two key men but they’ve strengthened their squad as a whole whilst also keeping hold of Liam Manning who is one of the top young managers in the EFL. Jack Tucker comes in as an encouraging replacement for Darling at the back after some impressive years at Gillingham. They’ve also brought in you’ve defended Henry Lawrence on loan from Chelsea after the youngster enjoyed a productive year at AFC Wimbledon last year. MK have extended the loan of Jamie Cumming for the upcoming season on loan also from the Blues and will likely be one of the divisions top performing goalkeepers once again.
Bradley Johnson adds experience in the middle of the park whilst creative midfielders Nathan Holland and Connor Grant both join with plenty of potential.
Darragh Burns and Dawson Devoy also join the attacking midfield options coming in from the Irish topflight at the promising ages of 19 and 20. Both have decent records for their age in the Republic of Ireland and could be two names to remember for the future.
Will Grigg returns to the club where he has been so successful in the past, with 30 goals in 70 games for The Dons striker in two previous spells. Along with Grigg, Louie Barry joins on loan from Aston Villa. The teen signed by Barcelona at 16, undoubtedly has talent and Liam Manning could well turn him into one of the league’s top players this season.
MK Dons are one of those clubs who just know what they’re doing off the pitch. Their recruitment strategy is a well-oiled machine of unearthing gems before selling them on for a big profit. With their track record I would back Manning’s team to have picked up a few hidden talents this summer. Add the new lads to an already great squad and stadium MK will be a tough place to visit.
Warren O’Hora was also a big part of the MK defence last season and will likely be solid again. And at the other end Mo Eisa could be in for a top season up front. 11 goals in 34 last season and the pressure will be on his shoulders to chip in with more this season to ease the loss of Twine’s numbers.
They may take a bit more time to get going this season but I see Liam Manning guiding his team to a comfortable playoff place.
The Pilgrims won’t need reminding how last year ended for them, a 5-0 drilling at the hands of MK Dons on the final day as Argyle missed out on a playoff place after spending most of the season in the top six.
However, I don’t see Steven Schumacher’s side feeling any type of hangover from last April and think they’ll hit the ground running early doors in League One.
They’ve recruited with real strength; tough-tackling midfielder Matt Butcher joins from Accrington Stanley, wide-man Mickel Miller signs from promoted Rotherham, exciting attackers Morgan Whittaker and Finn Azaz come on loans along with young defenders Bali Mumba and Nigel Longwijk. All without any major departures, Argyle now boast immense strength in depths whilst also having a manager at the helm who was at the club for a number of years before taking the hot seat in December 2021 and maintaining a fabulous record ever since. Under Ryan Lowe Plymouth developed a clear style which brought great success before the Scouser moved North for Preston but his former number two Schumacher has been able to continue Lowe’s philosophy and it’s one that I feel can bring further success to Home Park.
Looking more in depth at their quality, Plymouth have one of the best keepers in the league with Michael Cooper with a sturdy defence in front of him including the likes of Macauley Gillesphey, Dan Scarr and James Wilson as well as the new boys.
Schumacher has somewhat of a headache selecting his best midfield with Matt Butcher and Finn Azaz joining the competition for places alongside Jordan Houghton, Conor Grant, Danny Mayor and Panutche Camara.
And the cherry on the cake for Plymouth is the choice of three very good striker options in Niall Ennis, Luke Jephcott and Ryan Hardie. The latter two in particular guarantee goals in League One with Hardie bagging 16 last year whilst Jephcott’s best return came in 2020/21 when he also hit 16.
I really like this Argyle side and would be surprised if they’re not in and around the top six or even competing for the top two. The only reason I’m not backing them for automatics is down to just how good the top teams are but Schumacher’s team could definitely make a claim at the very top in my eyes. If I was pushed for a decision I would probably back Plymouth to win promotion through the playoffs.
Peterborough haven’t made too many changes over the last few years and still have a good core of their squad that helped them get promoted to the Championship just over a year ago in 2020/21. This time around they even have club legend Grant McCann in charge, who has previously guided Hull City to a League One title. This gives Peterborough a real familiarity as a team especially in this division and I could easily see them going straight back up at the first time of asking.
This Posh side is absolutely bursting with top quality League One players which make them hard not to back. Defensively they have Frankie Kent, Josh Knight, Nathan Thompson and Dan Butler all with excellent third tier pedigree. England under 19s centre back Ronnie Edwards is also a solid option having had an impressive breakthrough year in the Championship last term.
This summer Ben Thompson and Hector Kyprianou joined an already stacked midfield of Jake Taylor, Oliver Norburn and Jeando Fuchs giving some healthy depth.
Creatively Harrison Burrows, Joe Ward, Ryan Broom and Sammie Szmodics are all great options. The latter especially is a top playmaker at this level having contributed 15 goals and 8 assists in Peterborough’s last League One promotion.
To round it off up front Jack Marriott and Jonson Clarke-Harris make up possibly the best strike force in the division. Marriott bagged 27 the last time he played at this level whilst Clarke-Harris won the golden boot with 31 goals in the last promotion season at London Road. Both also contributed valiantly last year with 21 goals between them despite relegation.
Overall, Peterborough have a settle side who have some top quality for League One and will be looking to bounce back to the Championship at the first attempt. But I’m sorry Posh fans a playoff place will have to do for you this season, at lest in my humble opinion.
If you were impressed with the names on that Peterborough team, this Ipswich side will blow you away.
Luke Woolfenden, Cameron Burgess and George Edmundson represent a solid set of defenders in front of Christian Walton who is a solid keeper for League One.
Wing-back options include Matt Penney, Kane Vincent-Young, Janoi Donacien along with newcomers Grey Leigh from Morecambe and reported £1 million Leif Davis from Leeds.
In midfield Dominic Ball is a great addition in League One adding to Lee Evans Rakeem Harper and captain Sam Morsy making up an impressive set of midfielders.
And going forwards it’s dangerous, really dangerous. The pacey Wes Burns chalked up 12 goals and 7 assists often from right wing-back. Veteran Sone Aluko is among their ranks and always threatening, as is Kyle Edwards who will be hoping to improve on an uninspiring season. The Tractor Boys also splashed to add Marcus Harness to their weaponry after the winger struck 11 for Pompey last year and could be even more dangerous in Town’s system.
And finishing it off up front the East Anglian side mean business with Freddie Ladapo and Tyreece John-Jules adding further competition to a strike-force of Connor Chaplin and Kayden Jackson. It wouldn’t surprise me if both new signings in attack were to bag 20 plus goals or if they were to flop massively, though even if it is to be the later, I feel there’s enough firepower within the squad with Burns, Chaplin and Harness all likely to hit double figures.
The only real doubts for Ipswich would be firstly the fact that the squad that were favourites for League One last season failed so miserably, and who’s to say it won’t happen again. Another worry is head coach Kieran McKenna’s lack of managerial experience. The former Manchester United academy coach took the job at Portman Road coming in with a big reputation from Old Trafford and was quick off the mark to turn Ipswich’s fortunes round.
Similarly, to Bolton, The Tractor Boys enjoyed a brilliant second half of the season, finishing with an impeccable defensive record of just 13 conceded in their last 23. In those 23 games that McKenna was in charge, Town lost just 4 times.
After a good start and a summer to shape his squad and get his ideas across, I’d back the Ex-Man U coach to take Ipswich back to the second tier and finish in the automatic promotion spots.
I’ll admit there’s 100% some bias with this pick. However, I will say that I wasn’t one talking about Wednesday ‘walking the league’ last summer and actually predicted a 6th place finish which wasn’t too far off. But, whether it’s blind optimism or there’s genuine logic, I believe The Owls are in for a really good season this time around.
The Wednesday defence was often their downfall last term and Darren Moore has given the Hillsborough backline a complete overhaul this summer with Chey Dunkley and Sam Hutchinson leaving on frees along with Jordan Storey, Harlee Dean and Bailey Peacock-Farrell returning to their parent clubs.
Firstly, The Owls began by adding last seasons league one golden glove winner David Stockdale on a free transfer. The veteran picked up 20 clean sheets for Wycombe last time out and comes in to compete with Cameron Dawson who returns to South Yorkshire after an impressive loan spell at Exeter City. The Wednesday stopper fast became a fan favourite at St James Park and helped the Devonshire club secure automatic promotion from League Two.
In front of them, Wednesday also added one of last seasons standout defenders in Michael Ihiekwe who rejected a new deal at Rotherham United in aid of a move to Hillsborough. The 29-year-old has been promoted from third tier twice before and even earned a place in the 2021/22 League One team of the season. Alongside him are recent arrivals Ben Heneghan and Akin Famewo who both fill different voids in Wednesday’s defence. Heneghan joins on a free from relegated Wimbledon and comes in renown for dealing with aerial balls into the box, an Achilles heel for The Owls last term, whilst Famewo brings some balance to the backline being a much-needed left-footed centre back perfect for the left position of Wednesday’s back three.
The new arrivals join a replenished Dominic Iorfa who will be hoping to shake off his recent injury woes and get back to the good form he showed at the beginning of last season.
Further up the pitch Moore replaced the departing Massimo Luongo with an excellent coup in Will Vaulks who’s enjoyed a good number of year with Cardiff in the Championship whilst also boasting a League One promotion to his name in his time with Rotherham. The Welsh international was joined by Tareeq Bakinson who spent part of last season on loan at Ipswich, creating a real battle for places in the midfield. Barry Bannan is one of if not the best player at this level whilst George Byers was excellent in Wednesday’s playoff push last season, with a strong supporting cast of Dennis Adeniran and Fisayo Dele-Bashiru who both deputised well last year and now face further competition from the new boys.
Reece James comes in on loan from Blackpool with a great deal of League One talent to give Marvin ‘Neymarv’ Johnson some needed competition on the left whilst Jack Hunt and Liam Palmer are two solid options at right wing-back.
Up front The Owls also took another Michael out of Rotherham in the form of Michael Smith who netted 24 in all competitions last year and alongside Wednesday’s 2021/22 top scorer Lee Gregory gives Moore a lethal couple of strikers. Josh Windass will be hungrier than ever to hit the ground running this season with a frustrating time over the last 12 months struggling with injury, despite that though the versatile forward still managed a decent minutes per goal ratio last campaign.
And it appears Moore is still unsatisfied with his options as The Owls continue to chase another big name for their attack. Mallik Wilks had agreed terms on a move before Hull City pulled the plug on the deal by upping their price tag and although Wednesday are still keen it remains to be seen if the 23-year-old will complete his Hillsborough switch. The former Barnsley man would be another exciting addition to the squad at S6 having helped Hull to the 2020/21 League One title with 19 goals.
Reports also came out this week that Kemar Roofe was on the Wednesday target list. The Rangers man would certainly be an unbelievable signing if it were pulled off, but it’s a big if.
What there is no doubts about however is that Darren Moore is still to add to what is already one of, if not the strongest side in the division. The Wednesday boss saw his side enjoy and impressive second half to last season winning 15 of their final 22 games. It appears as though this Wednesday side might have clicked and after a strong transfer windows the sky could very much be the limit for The Owls.
Papa John’s Trophy: Plymouth Argyle
I really rate this Plymouth side and think they could give it a good go in the Papa John’s as well. Let’s make a really precise prediction for the culture and say they’ll beat Barnsley on pens in the final.
Top Scorer: Mo Eisa
A bit of an outside shout this but think there’ll be a bit more responsibility on the striker to better his tally of 11 last season. Think there’ll be more goals throughout this MK Dons team rather than relying on the brilliance of the departed Scott Twine. Other notable candidates for me are James Collins, Luke Jephcott and of course Jonson Clarke-Harris