Who goes up? Who is the surprise package? Which players should we look out for in Sky Bet League One?
The long-awaited 2022/23 EFL season kicks off this weekend and ahead of what promises to be another exciting and unpredictable League One campaign, EFL pundits Jobi McAnuff, Andy Hinchcliffe, Ali Maxwell and George Elek answer some of the key questions…
Who will win League One and why?
Jobi McAnuff: I’ve gone for Sheffield Wednesday as champions. I felt at the back end of last season their form at Hillsborough was incredible and I think they’ve gone out and strengthened in key areas, particularly with the signing of Will Vaulks in midfield and they’ve added a goalscorer in Michael Smith who is proven at this level.
They'll both be big factors in them doing well and then of course we’ve got to talk about Barry Bannan. For me, he’s one of the best players in the league. If they can give him the license to go and make things happen he’s going to have another standout season and I certainly feel that as a club they’re heading in the right direction to be able to go that one step further this season.
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Andy Hinchcliffe: There are some really big Clubs in League One at the moment, it’s almost like a second Championship division. But I’ve got to go with my old team Sheffield Wednesday as well, they came very close last season just missing out in the Play-Off Semi-Finals. The signing of Michael Smith is a huge statement and with the fans behind them I think they can really take the title this season.
Who will the other promotion contenders be and why?
Jobi McAnuff: Ipswich Town will be up there I think. Kieran McKenna has done very well since his arrival. To go into a club mid-season and be able to put your style and stamp on a side takes a lot of work and he’s done that.
There was a bit of criticism for them last season for dominating games, having lots of possession but lacking that cutting edge. But the signing of Marcus Harness coming will give them the opportunity to break sides down and possibly provide some individual brilliance. The signing of Freddie Ladapo will also add to that.
Andy Hinchcliffe: Derby County will be up there. Since the takeover has happened things are looking really positive there, Liam Rosenior is a fantastic guy, a great coach and deserves his opportunity. They’ve signed some really solid, experienced players for League One in Conor Hourihane, James Collins and James Chester, so players like that will have a huge impact at this level.
Who will be the surprise package and why?
Ali Maxwell: I fancy Shrewsbury Town to have a strong campaign in 2022/23. They massively improved last season as time went on, they were so well drilled, they were difficult to break down and going forward they carried a threat. They’ve had a very good summer transfer window and bought in some excellent individual players so I’m predicting an improved season for them.
George Elek: Exeter City for me are a possible surprise package following their promotion from League Two last season. I think it’s always difficult for any team coming up from League Two to fight their way into the top half of the League One table, but Exeter come into this season having made very few signings but they finished last season so strongly and have kept their whole squad together which is going to count for a lot.
One player to watch and why?
Jobi McAnuff: It’s got to be Barry Bannan for me. Whether he’s playing deep and pulling the strings or controlling the tempo of the passing and Sheffield Wednesday's play, he's crucial for them. He can play higher up the pitch and when you look at the quality of some of the goals he’s scored, especially his goals from outside the box, he’s the difference maker, the driving force and when he’s on song and playing well, Sheffield Wednesday play well.
Andy Hinchcliffe: Another Sheffield Wednesday player for me, it’s Michael Smith. I was surprised to see him leave Rotherham and I think his signing is a huge boost for Wednesday. We know what he can do at League One level, he’s a big target man and a bit of a throwback to what we used to see 15 years ago in terms of his physicality, he causes defenders a lot of problems and he’s a regular goalscorer. You need someone who can score 15-20 goals a season and I'm banking on him doing just that this season.