Sunday, 12 June 2011

Early 2011/2012 English League 2 Winner Thoughts

Although its only mid June focus has already turned to next season for all the football clubs in all of the leagues! I am now looking forward to the new season, my research into possible league winners has begun and I have some early thoughts on what might happen next season.

This entry covers League 2.

Anyone who read the blog in January will be aware that I picked the 4 teams that won the 4 main leagues in England. You could say that this wasn't a difficult thing to do given at the time all of the clubs were top of their respective leagues, however it was a winning bet and thats all that ultimately matters.

Firstly I would like to just explain how my thought process works when looking for long range bets. The first thing to look for in my view is a club that is stable, well run and has a manager that has experience in the league they are in. I don't believe the best premier league managers make the best league 2 managers and vice versa. Some managers have been in certain leagues for many years and have extremely good knowledge of those leagues, the clubs and the players around them. The manager however needs a club to be stable and properly financed. In many cases we can look for one of the clubs that was relegated the previous season to get immediately promoted again and equally we can consider forward looking clubs that get successive promotions.

When looking for a team that will win a League we need to consider those teams that ended in the play off positions, the League 1 relegated clubs and the clubs coming up from the Conference, plus forward thinking teams that are already in League 2. The early favorites for the League title are the run away winners of the Conference Crawley Town. Crawley won the Conference by 15 points last season, massive investment has pushed the club into the league and the spending is continuing already. The Cheltenham chairman recently commented that one of his players was signed by Crawley and the deal was something that most League 1 teams could not afford. I feel at 3/1 this is a ridiculous price as no club has ever won the conference and then immediately won League 2. However Stevenage won the conference last year and then won th eLeague 2 playoff this year. Back to back league titles is a massive ask and something I believe is just beyond Crawley. Of the teams in the play offs that didn't get promoted I have no belief that any of those clubs could win the League outright. Shrewsbury, Accrington and Torquay are the teams and the current situation with these teams are; Shrewsbury made the play offs 3 times in the past 5 seasons but don't ever look like League winners. Their chairman is determined to get promotion but this isn't necessarily as League winners. On the positive side Shrewsbury have Graham Turner as their manager, a man with massive experience at this level having managed Hereford for 14 years. Torquay were the losing finalists in the playoff final against Stevenage. They got to the playoffs by finishing on the same points as Gillingham but having a better goal difference. However Torquay have lost their experienced manager Paul Buckle to Bristol Rovers so as they don't have a manager they cannot be considered as yet for the League title. Accrington lost to Stevenage in the playoffs however every player in their team are out of contract this summer. Accrington have a lot of work to do this summer to keep and build on their playing staff from the past season so again this side cannot be considered for a long term bet.

Now for the teams being relegated, Plymouth have a dire need to restructure the club and come out of administration. It looks likely that this will happen next week however there is still a massive amount of work for Peter Risdale and Peter Reid to do. I'm sure that they will sort out the mess at the Pilgrims however it might take a season to get ready for a tilt at promotion. Swindon finished bottom of the pile and were last in this league in the 2006/07 season, that year they finished 3rd and jumped up to League 1. They have the history to make a quick return and have a new manager in the very professional Paulo Di Canio. This is Di Canios first appointment in English football and it will be interesting to see how they get on. Given this lack of experience I cannot see this side winning the league, however with his connections in football around the world I'm sure Di Canio will have a successful season. Dagenham ended their short time in League 1 with a 5-0 defeat at eventual League 1 playoff winners Peterborough. Dagenham only missed out on survival by 1 point but that's all it takes in this world to be a survivor or a relegated side. They have already released 4 players as they look to rebuild for next season. Finally we have Bristol Rovers, last seen in League 2 in 2006/07 season when they finished 6th and went on to win the playoffs. They are in the market for a new stadium and recently made Paul Buckle their new manager. I believe that this is a good move for Mr Buckle (albeit I'm a Torquay fan) as he can hopefully have more resources to him than he had at Torquay or Exeter.

Of the teams that didn;t make the playoffs but were in League 2 last season, Gillingham are the only side I feel have the ability to possibly be involved in any title shake up. However they have lost out on a couple of key signings already so may not be as strong as they might have hoped.

So its Bristol Rovers for me, Mr Buckle clearly knows what is needed to get teams promoted and keep teams from relegation and I feel that Rovers are the team at this time to consider in any preseason flutter. Given their price of 12/1 I see this as realistic value given they meet my criteria for a promotion hunting club. As to whether they can get that top spot we will have to wait and see but I think Mr Buckle will get them close.

A further edit to this post. I have analysed how often a team gets relegated to League 2 and then wins the league the following season. In the past 10 seasons this has happened only once. On that occasion Hartlepool, Walsall, MK Dons and Swindon were all relegated and Walsall won the League the following season. Interestingly enough Hartlepool finished second, Swindon third and MK Dons 4th! MK Dons did fail in the playoffs but won the league the following season. Twice a team has won in their second season after relegation, MK Dons as per the above and Brentford. For this reason I need to also consider Southend as possibles as they fit this profile.
Southend are under the stewardship of Paul Sturrock (Luggy) who has seen and done it these leagues with Plymouth. Southend finished in mid table this season with 61 points, the season before Brentford won the league they had 59 points - so the profile is very similar indeed. Southend have had promotion up and down the leagues so are well versed in this situation as a club. At 25/1 they must be given some consideration.

Next week I will review League 1. If you have any comments on this please add them below.

To read my thoughts on the race for League 1 click here

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