The new League Two season will get underway this weekend and two sides that disappointed last term, Bradford and Mansfield (Both 9/4 – To be promoted), look set to be in the automatic promotion race this time around.
Bradford (9/1 – To win title) faltered badly towards the end of last season, with a run of just one point from their final seven matches dashing their play-off hopes as they ultimately finished 15th.
However, the Bantams have pulled off something of a coup by bringing in promotion specialist Derek Adams as manager. He masterminded Morecambe’s surprise rise to League One last term and will now be looking to repeat that trick at Valley Parade.
Mansfield (10/1 – To win title) also have an experienced manager in charge in Nigel Clough, who steadied the ship last season when the Stags were flirting with relegation.
Clough has added striker Danny Johnson to his squad during the off-season – he netted 17 times for Leyton Orient last term – while former Republic of Ireland international Stephen Quinn will provide some extra experience to what was an already a talented squad.
Big-spending Salford (13/8 – To be promoted) are also among the promotion favourites, with Gary Bowyer the latest manager tasked with steering them out of the fourth tier for the very first time, while Joey Barton’s Bristol Rovers (11/4 – To be promoted) should also be in the mix following some eye-catching summer additions.
Tranmere (11/8 – Top 7 finish) and Newport were both beaten in last season’s play-offs and both teams will expect to be battling for a top-seven finish once again, while perennial play-off contenders Exeter also look strong, with the core of their squad coming from their renowned academy.
Carlisle (15/8 – Top 7 finish) were top of the table in January, but a Covid outbreak derailed their season and they ultimately missed out on the play-offs. Chris Beech will expect his side to last the distance this time around, although their squad is small and could once again be tested over the winter months.
At the other end of the table, newly-promoted Sutton United (7/2 – To be relegated) will be contesting their first ever campaign as a Football League club, but it could be a season struggle for Matt Gray’s team alongside fellow promoted side Hartlepool (9/2 – To be Relegated).
The good news for both those teams is that clubs promoted from the National League rarely suffer an immediate relegation, with Barrow and Harrogate both having survived last term.
Scunthorpe (4/1 – To be relegated) perhaps look the most vulnerable side heading into the new season. The Iron finished just a place and three points above the drop zone last term and they have been under a transfer embargo throughout the summer.
It has been a similarly chaotic pre-season for Swindon (9/2 – To be relegated), with the takeover of the club finally being completed last month, although new boss Ben Garner has since been playing catch-up in pre-season and avoiding a second-successive relegation may be their sole aim.
Rochdale (8/1 – To be relegated) could also face a battle to avoid back-to-back relegations, with Dale having lost manager Brian Barry-Murphy over the summer, while new boss Robbie Stockdale has also seen key players such as leading scorer Stephen Humphrys depart.