THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Friday 8 August ~

It was clear to League One supporters this time last year that Swansea and Nottingham Forest were the strongest teams in the division. And so it turned out in reality, as well as the WSC prediction table. At the bottom only Bournemouth were placed correctly, with Cheltenham, Leyton Orient and Northampton escaping the drop with points to spare.

In the light of yesterday’s 17-point deductions for both Rotherham and Bournemouth it seems Luton will at least have some company in a minus-point mini-league in League Two during the coming season. A lot has happened at Kenilworth Road since August 2007 and Luton fan John Earls’ optimistic prediction last summer does draw sympathy in hindsight: “Kevin Blackwell has brightened the place up... his recent transfers look good and we’ve got some good young talent coming through. Play-offs.” But Luton supporters were not alone in misplaced optimism; it was a recurring theme amongst the relegated clubs.

Port Vale’s representative, whose club finished second bottom only on account of Luton’s November points deduction, stated: “On paper, we have the best squad we’ve had for ten years, so I have to say play-offs, with an outside chance of automatic promotion if things go well.” They didn’t. Finishing 22nd were Gillingham: “Promotion is the goal but top six would be a major achievement. More likely lower mid-table.” The final relegation spot was taken by Bournemouth – supporter Rob Trent had expected “A season of consolidation, but we’re still heavily in debt. So mid-table”.

At the top Swansea fan Huw Richards was right to predict that “if the new signings do as well as hoped for, we’ve got a serious shot at promotion”. Nottingham Forest supporter Al Needham hoped only for the play-offs – “Now or never” – while Glen Wilson was right to fight his “natural Doncastrian pessimism” – his belief that “on paper our squad looks good enough to go up” proving correct for Doncaster Rovers. Three other clubs exceeded supporter expectations. Cheltenham Town’s Mark Herron predicted “23rd, although I’m at a loss as to who will finish below us”. In the end, the Robins secured survival with a 2-1 home win over Doncaster on the final day of the season to deny their opponents second spot in the process. Leeds Utd’s Duncan Young predicted that the odds must be on his side starting in League Two this season, so must have been pleasantly surprised by a play-off final. Despite a heavy second-leg play-off semi-final defeat to Doncaster, Southend Utd did much better than predicted by supporter, Steven Heath: “After two promotions and a relegation in succession, maybe another relegation is on the cards unless team spirit can be revived.”

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