Big League Two Preview – The Outsiders

Following an in-depth look at the potential League Two strugglers and also rans, Jacob Daniel takes a look at the promotion outsiders in the third part of his 2018/19 preview… 

Bury

Manager – Ryan Lowe
Best signing – Nicky Adams
Biggest strength – Good, deep squad
Biggest weakness – Unproven manager

Bury had a nightmare of a season in League One last year, despite some eye catching summer signings and plenty of experience in the team, but I think that they look well set to rebuild and have a decent season. Ryan Lowe is unproven but had a chance to cut his teeth in a difficult situation last season, whilst they’ve kept hold of players such as Harry Bunn, Joe Murphy and Jay O’Shea who are all capable of making big contributions to this level. Nicky Adams is a fantastic signing and arguably the most productive winger in the division, whilst Chris Stoke also arrives on the back of promotion with Coventry City.

Grimsby Town

Manager – Michael Jolley
Best signing – John Welsh
Biggest strength – A club that finally has some momentum
Biggest weakness – Their signings have been a bit uninspiring

I really admire Grimsby for going for Michael Jolley, a manager who has taken an unconventional path through his career, in a position where their league status was on the line last season. Jolley kept them up fairly comfortably and will feel that he can take this squad on and into the top half of the table, although he hasn’t been able to sign the quality that he might have liked. John Welsh should be a great addition and provides real leadership, but Jordan Cook, Harry Davis and Elliott Whitehouse have played quite a lot in this league without ever really excelling.

Port Vale

Manager – Neil Aspin
Best signing – Manny Oyeleke
Biggest strength – A club that finally has some stability
Biggest weakness – Expectations could be too high

Port Vale was the big success story of my preview last season – my Twitter feed was unreadable for a good ten minutes with literally tens of Vale fans telling me how wrong I was to predict a struggle. They ended up avoiding relegation by one point. Things look brighter this year, though – Neil Aspin had an immediate impact upon his appointment before things tailed away a bit, but he has made some astute signings in Luke Joyce and Louis Dodds. Ricky Miller is the kind of risk that rarely works, but Peterborough loanee Idris Kanu and Aldershot player of the season Manny Oyeleke are both exciting. From what i’ve seen, the expectation is for a big turnaround – their summer hasn’t been that good, but they should certainly feature in the top half.

Stevenage

Manager – Dino Maamria
Best signing – Scott Cuthbert
Biggest strength – A fantastic summer in the transfer market
Biggest weakness – A totally unproven manager

They’ve done it quietly, but Stevenage and their rookie manager Dino Maamria have had a great summer. They may have lost Matt Godden, but his form wasn’t as impressive last season anyway, and the money has been reinvested wisely. Scott Cuthbert is a great signing, whilst Jamal Campbell-Ryce, Joel Byrom and Michael Timlin are all impressive and experienced additions in midfield. They may be overreliant on Danny Newton for goals, but I wouldn’t back against him kicking on after a decent first season in professional football.

Tranmere Rovers

Manager – Micky Mellon
Best signing – Paul Mullin
Biggest strength – Momentum
Biggest weakness – Some pretty ropey signings

Tranmere’s stay in non-league didn’t prove to be too lengthy, with Micky Mellon leading them to promotion via the play-offs last season. The positives for Tranmere going into this year are that they have kept the bulk of a good side together, and it will be interesting to see how players like James Norwood and Oliver Norburn take to the Football League. Potentially, I think it could be very well. Their summer hasn’t been that inspiring, though, with Jake Caprice joining off the back of an unconvincing season at Leyton Orient, and neither Cole Stockton or Zoumana Bakayogo being particularly exciting. The momentum gained from promotion should be enough to see them comfortably safe and potentially contenders for a play-off bid.

Colchester United

Manager – John McGreal
Best signing – Harry Pell
Biggest strength – Added intelligently to an already good side
Biggest weakness – Have flattered to deceive the last two seasons

There was a stage of last season where Colchester threatened to barge their way into the promotion race, but things went a bit sour for John McGreal’s side after Christmas. They’ve reacted by making some exciting summer signings, particularly in attack. Frank Nouble has joined from Newport, Aaron Collins from Wolves, and Harry Pell from Cheltenham to provide some more creativity from midfield. Add this to Sammie Szmodics and Mikael Mandron, and you have a team that could be one of the most entertaining and free scoring in League Two. They also conceded fewer than Wycombe and Exeter last season, so the defence should have enough to back up their more exciting talents going forwards. In fact, they could easily have slotted in as one of the genuine promotion contenders.

Look out for the next parts of the Big League Two Preview as we count down to Notts County’s opening day encounter with Colchester. 

Jacob Daniel

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