As has so often been proven, making pre-season predictions about league football is the most certain way for a journalist, blogger or pundit to make an absolute fool of themselves. Placing your words and reputation on the line before a ball has been kicked is, in 90% of cases, a true recipe for disaster.
It is far more sensible to take a step back, wait for the dust of the first few weeks to settle, before rolling up the sleeves and delving into the tricky task of calling what the score will be come May. A bit cowardly, but sensible.
So I’ll be doing what I call my Quarter Season Predictions for each division of the English Football League, starting with League Two. Who will be promoted and relegated? Read on for the cast iron truth:
First of all, who will be celebrating promotion? Usually the relegated sides are the safe option, and had I written this in August, I would most likely have predicted that Leyton Orient would have been in with a shout. Things have not changed for me.
The disastrous Italian experiment of Fabio Liverani has been disposed of. Instead the very capable Ian Hendon, notable for giving Barnet a sniff of League One in previous years, has been handed the reins. They are in third at the moment and looking well placed, with a stronger squad than Plymouth and Wycombe who sit above them.
Just behind Orient, this looks like finally being the season in which Portsmouth deliver on their size and potential and begin to rise up the leagues. This is their third season at this level, and there is a real risk of League Two normality setting in, trapping them at this level – see Bradford City in the 2000s for example. Yet if Paul Cook is willing to drop from League One play-offs with Chesterfield to League Two, you must know something is about to happen.
Third place, meanwhile, is a tricky proposition – particularly as, I will readily admit, I have seen less of League Two than the other three divisions. What I do know is that, in order to get out of this division, you need hardiness, experience of tougher times, and the rare ability to put the ball in the back of the net. Carlisle United have been scraping around the foot of the table for a couple of years, but I’m going to say they will finish third.
I may have passed over early pacesetters Plymouth Argyle for promotion, but I see them as a play-off winner, with talent like Josh Simpson, Gregg Wylde and Reuben Reid, who all have the experience of at least one league higher, and the innate talent to go with it. Also, whether or not you think he should be anywhere near a football pitch, Luke McCormick is a cracking keeper for a League Two team.
For relegation candidates, it might be lazy to go for the current bottom club, but Newport County seem to have the most problems of a team at this level than Doncaster Rovers in the late 90s. They have got their first win under new boss John Sheridan. With no cash for players and an embryonic supporter’s trust in charge, rebuilding in the National League may be a target.
The other team I tip for the drop is Yeovil, in an unprecedented third straight relegation. Their greatest achievement in making the second tier is now a great disaster, destabilising the club and causing them to rely too heavily on loan mercenaries than the spirit that took them to new heights. Their natural non-league home awaits.