Football League Expert & Columnist
Can Paolo Di Canio take Swindon up? Beags ponders that and more in his League Two preview.
Last Updated: 05/08/11 10:07am
The biggest story of League Two during the summer has been the appointment of Paolo Di Canio as Swindon manager - and I'm sure the Sky Sports cameras will be focussed more on him in the dugout than his team on the pitch!
Robins fans will be hoping the Italian can get more out of the players that are already there to complement the host of signings he has brought in.
It has been an intensive recruitment drive with 12 players already joining, including Algerian striker Mehdi Kerrouche, Namibia midfielder Oliver Risser and Etienne Esajas, a flying Dutch winger who used to play for Sheffield Wednesday.
The Swindon supporters - who are used to big-name managers following spells in charge for Glenn Hoddle, Ossie Ardiles, and Dennis Wise - have certainly bought into Di Canio, with 4,500 season tickets being sold.
Whether their side can operate at the very top of the division will depend on how all the new players gel. When you make that amount of changes and you have a manager who is inexperienced at this level, it is always going to be a toss of a coin.
Paul Buckle just missed out on promotion with Torquay last season but he will go again this term as Bristol Rovers boss - and he has recruited well.
Attacker Joe Anyinsah has joined from Charlton and will be a great purchase if he stays fit, while former Shrewsbury target man Matt Harrold has also arrived to bolster the strikeforce.
The Pirates' problem has never really been scoring goals, though; their downfall in every division they have been is their defending.
Experienced midfielder Matt Gill (Norwich), who will serve as skipper, and centre-back Adam Virgo (Yeovil) have been acquired and should shore Rovers up a bit. They play a lovely brand of football and if they are as defensively tight as they should be, they'll be right up there.
I look at Shrewsbury as another side who should be right in the mix for automatic promotion. Manager Graham Turner will be looking to improve on last year's fourth-placed finish - and subsequent play-off defeat - and has plumped for experience in the transfer market.
Reuben Hazell - a stalwart at Oldham - has headed to Greenhous Meadow; he's a leader, a talker and will organise things from centre-half. Up top, they have also drafted in Aldershot's success story from last season, Marvellous Marvin Morgan, and they'll be hoping he can replace Harrold's goals.
Oxford should also be a major threat this term. They have a very impressive and ambitious young manager in Chris Wilder, who was a team-mate of mine at Sheffield United, while they have also recruited very astutely.
Veteran centre-back Michael Duberry will bring some knowhow to the back four, while Peter Leven - an arrival from MK Dons - will be a general from midfield, as well as a goal threat from both open play and set-pieces.
Those two seem like guys with ambition, determined to make an impact and have not just headed to League Two to earn a living. That will have a knock-on effect on the younger lads in the U's dressing room.
Reigning Conference National champions Crawley will expect to cause a stir. Their squad is big and talented; their manager, Steve Evans, knows this level having been here before with Boston United; and they also have momentum on their side.
Point to prove
Micky Adams has returned to Port Vale and will have a point to prove following a tough time at Sheffield United. He has signed Tom Pope from Rotherham on a permanent basis after a successful loan stint last year, and the 25-year-old could be one to watch.
Speaking of Rotherham, much of their success could depend on whether Adam Le Fondre stays. The goal machine - who has been persistently linked with a move away - should receive even better service this year from summer signing Danny Schofield, who is an excellent creator.
And I'm delighted that Terry Brown will be managing in the Football League with AFC Wimbledon, having spent his life as a fan, player and boss in non-league. Brown did wonderfully well as Aldershot manager in the 2000s before leaving because of his wife's illness and fully deserves his chance in League Two.
A former advocate of long-ball football - typical Wimbledon! - Brown now likes his side to play out from the back. Their aim will be to stay up this year so that they have something to build on for 2012/13.
It should be a very exciting division because League Two could be described as the new Championship - there is so little between the teams. There are that many young managers who are new or relatively new to their clubs trying to put their slant on things.
The sides who find that consistency, and avoid injuries and suspensions to their better players, will be the ones celebrating next May.
So you've heard Peter's views, but what do you think will happen in League Two? Can your team go up? Will they encounter a season of struggle? Who will be your side's stand-out performers? Carry on the debate by filling in the feedback form below...