It has been just a matter of months since Southend United's dramatic Play-Off Final victory over Wycombe Wanderers concluded the Sky Bet League 2 2014/15 campaign.But the new season is now here, and we are ready for another 10 months of ups, downs, twists and turns as we watch on eagerly to see how 2015/16 unfolds.
The action gets under way for all teams at 3pm on Saturday afternoon, with the 24 clubs seeking to gain an early initiative in the race for the League 2 crown. Here, we take a look at some of the storylines to watch out for this term.
New boys ring the changes
Ricardo Moniz and Paul Sturrock arrived at Notts County and Yeovil Town respectively towards the end of the 2014/15 season, with the latter taking charge with the Glovers’ League 1 relegation all but confirmed.
Moniz couldn't guide the Magpies to safety either, suffering relegation on the final day of the campaign, and the duo have made wholesale changes to their squads in their bids to bounce back.
Eighteen new faces have arrived at Meadow Lane with a number of additions coming from around Europe, and it will certainly be interesting to see how the recent recruits settle in English football.
Meanwhile, Yeovil - who have suffered back-to-back relegations to find themselves in League 2 - have made 15 new summer signings to date, as Sturrock bids to stop the rot.
Moniz and Sturrock will have a job on their hands to get the new faces gelling on and off the pitch, and it will be intriguing to see how the two clubs fare in 2015/16.
Back in business
Mark Yates and Ian Hendon return to Sky Bet League 2 this season following their respective appointments at Crawley Town and Leyton Orient.
Both clubs were relegated from Sky Bet League 1 last term, and have opted for new men at the helm for 2015/16.
Yates is more than familiar with the division, having spent five years in charge of Cheltenham Town. However, the 45-year-old was dismissed in November last year, and Hendon suffered a similar fate during his tenure at Barnet, being relieved of his duties in North London at the back-end of the 2009/10 season.
Following the sacking of Yates, Cheltenham slid down the table and ultimately suffered relegation. Barnet narrowly survived following Hendon’s departure, but both managers will perhaps feel they have unfinished business going into the new season.
The young ones
A vast array of talent was on show in Sky Bet League 2 last term, with players such as Dan Bentley, Alfie Mawson and Ryan Woods setting the division alight with a number of top-drawer displays.
That trio will be playing in the league above this time around, but there are still plenty of youngsters ready to shine, and we’ve taken a look at a few of them, who were voted into the Football League’s Emerging XI.
Brad Walker – Hartlepool United:
The 19-year-old, who picked up the League 2 Apprentice of the Year in 2014, played his part as Pools produced a stirring fightback to retain their Football League status last term, and the teenager will be aiming to produce the goods to help his club fight at the higher end of the table this season.
Ben Kennedy – Stevenage:
Kennedy burst onto the scene at the beginning on 2015, scoring a brace in just his second start and earning a professional contract shortly after.
The attacking midfielder was a regular fixture after that as Boro reached the League 2 Play-Offs, and he is most definitely one to keep an eye on for in his first full season as a pro.
Regan Poole – Newport County:
Poole made his debut for the Exiles just 94 days after turning 16, and the central defender's performance belied his years as the Welsh club earned a 0-0 draw at Shrewsbury Town.
The Welsh teenager made a further 10 appearances through the campaign and spent a week training with Liverpool in May - it can't be long before the youngster cements himself as a regular at the heart of Newport's defence.
Read more: Football League emerging XI - who to watch out for in 2015/16
Another one to watch?
Conor Chaplin – Portsmouth:
Pompey are well-fancied this term following the appointment of Paul Cook, who worked wonders with Chesterfield in League 1 last year, and the new boss has brought Gary Roberts along to provide support for the prolific Matt Tubbs – Sky Bet League 2’s top scorer last year.
But there is another attacker who will be looking to make his mark this season, and that’s 18-year-old Conor Chaplin. The youngster picked up the League 2 Apprentice of the Year award back in April after breaking into the Pompey first team, making nine appearances over the course of the campaign.
Chaplin likes to play a role behind the striker and could be a perfect fit into Cook’s system, and there is no doubt that the teenager has a bright future ahead of him.
A league above
Barnet and Bristol Rovers are back in Sky Bet League 2 after brief spells outside of The Football League, and they aren’t returning just to make up the numbers.
The pair went head-to-head throughout the Conference campaign, taking their battle to the very last day, when three points for Barnet sealed the title. It came as no surprise to see the Pirates join them, when they sealed promotion via a Play-Off Final win over Grimsby Town soon after.
The feat from both sides was impressive, with the Conference proving a notoriously difficult league to get out of once you slip through The Football League trapdoor. Rovers, under the stewardship of Darrell Clarke, bounced back at the first time of asking while Barnet’s title-winning effort came just two years after relegation from League 2.
The Gas strung together a 20-game unbeaten run in their bid for the title and still fell short, which just goes to show the high standard set by Martin Allen’s Bees.
It is often claimed that the gulf in standard between League 2 and the Conference is no longer that substantial, and it’s will be interesting to see if The Football League’s ‘new boys’ can carry their form into 2015/16.
One step beyond
The three losing teams in the Sky Bet League 2 Play-Offs last season will be looking to go one step further this time and achieve promotion to the third tier.
Stevenage, Plymouth Argyle and Wycombe Wanderers were the trio to miss out, and the former pair go into 2015/16 with new men in charge.
Teddy Sheringham takes up a first managerial role at the Lamex Stadium for Boro, while Derek Adams has made a long trip down south for his first foray into English football, the Scotsman having been appointed as the new Pilgrims boss.
But Wycombe have unsurprisingly kept faith with Gareth Ainsworth, after the 42-year-old took the Chairboys from strugglers in 2013/14 to within seconds of promotion last term.
The loan market was crucial to Wycombe's success last season, with Nico Yennaris, Sam Saunders and Mawson on loan from Brentford, along with Millwall's Fred Onyedinma, regular fixtures in the matchday XI.
Ainsworth has again highlighted the importance of the loan market, although he has made a handful of permanent signings.
"The loan market was crucial for us last year and it will be again, due to the small size of our squad,” the manager said, to wycombewanderers.co.uk, when re-signing defender Michael Harriman.
Read more: Gareth Ainsworth highlights importance of loan market after re-signing Michael Harriman
Opening day fixtures
Saturday 8th August
Accrington Stanley v Luton Town
AFC Wimbledon v Plymouth Argyle
Bristol Rovers v Northampton Town
Cambridge United v Newport County
Exeter City v Yeovil Town
Hartlepool United v Morecambe
Leyton Orient v Barnet
Mansfield Town v Carlisle United
Oxford United v Crawley Town
Portsmouth v Dagenham & Redbridge
Stevenage v Notts County
Wycombe Wanderers v York City
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