Football League Daily - League One Preview
The third tier of English football once again offers a fascinating mix of fallen giants and upwardly mobile teams as it prepares for the big kick off on Saturday. League One features four teams who have played in the Premier League, and five teams who have risen from the Conference in recent years. It will also undoubtedly attract two of the biggest attendances outside the top flight with the return of the Steel City derby.
The decline of Sheffield United has been a dramatic one. Four years ago they were in the Premier League and it was just two years ago that they missed out on a return to the top flight with a play-off final defeat to Burnley. However, following the early season dismissal of Kevin Blackwell, the Blades went into free-fall. Gary Speed did little to halt the slide before jumping ship to manage Wales and Micky Adams failed to save his boyhood heroes from sliding into the third tier for the first time since the 1980s.
Confidence is low on the red side of Sheffield, and the appointment of former Sheffield Wednesday boss Danny Wilson as the man to haul the Blades back to the Championship has done little to raise expectations. Wilson was greeted upon his arrival with banners calling for his sacking, and he knows he must turn things round quickly if he is to be given any time by the Bramall Lane faithful.
Getting out of this division though is no easy task, as Nottingham Forest, Leeds United and Southampton in recent years can testify. The team from the other half of the Steel City will also have dreams of returning to the second tier, but also found the division difficult last season.
They, unlike the team across the city, have one of their own in charge in Gary Megson. He steadied the ship last season as the Owls threatened to drop into the bottom tier. Wednesday are expected to fare better than United this season, with the bookies making them one of the favourites for promotion.
The side possibly under the most pressure to succeed this season are another Yorkshire club, Huddersfield Town. Lee Clark’s men have missed out in the play-offs for the last two seasons, most recently in May, as the Terriers crumbled in spectacular fashion against Peterborough at Old Trafford. The concession of three goals in quick succession ruined the aspirations of one of the game’s most highly rated young managers. After being granted a substantial budget in recent years, the former Newcastle United midfielder will be expected to deliver this season, and the bookmakers have them as the favourites for the title.
Charlton Athletic are also expected to be in the mix in their third consecutive season in League One. They will feel they will have to succeed at the third time of asking, as Leeds and Forest did, if they are not to be sucked into this level for the foreseeable future. The bottom end of the table will see the smaller sides battle for survival, with Yeovil Town favourites for the drop along with newly promoted Bury and Stevenage.