New players, new managers and new Clubs. The 2022/23 Sky Bet League Two season is upon us and ahead of another season of twists and turns, former players and Sky Sports pundits Jobi McAnuff and Andy Hinchcliffe answer some of the key questions…
Who will win League Two and why?
Jobi McAnuff: I’ve got to go with one of the big Clubs in Bradford City. I know it’s not always the case in League Two that the big Clubs win the league, but I think under Mark Hughes and with the backing of the fanbase, there’s a lot of positivity and optimism around the club now which hasn’t always been the case recently.
There has been a sense of edginess at Valley Parade at times which I feel has now shifted. The signing of Vadaine Oliver is huge; he’s been one of the best target men in League One recently let alone League Two. Richie Smallwood from Hull City is another fantastic addition to the squad; he’ll bring experience and leadership to what is already a really good group.
Andy Hinchcliffe: I’m going to go for Stockport County. I have a bit of a vested interest in them as they’re my hometown Club and I’ve watched them progress in recent years. Dave Challinor as head coach is doing a brilliant job and Paddy Madden has rediscovered his goalscoring form (he scored 23 goals last season). I think that run could continue for him and Stockport’s rise could continue. I feel that it was always the plan for Stockport to get the right head coach in place, bring in the right players and move up the divisions.
Who will be the other promotion contenders and why?
Jobi McAnuff: I think Northampton will be up there again this season. They'll be devastated with how last season finished. I like John Brady a lot; he’s got his team very well organised and hard to beat with a real set-piece threat. They’re all really big factors at this level and I can’t overemphasise the importance of that. There'll be a real desire from them to win promotion this season, I don’t think anyway saw what happened on the final day last season coming and I’d fancy them to use that as a bit of fuel this year to go one step further.
Andy Hinchcliffe: Mark Hughes is a very well-regarded coach and manager, for him to be at Bradford City is a real boost for them. He’s starting to assemble a really good squad and I think with a pre-season under him they’re in with a really good chance of promotion.
Similarly, Mansfield Town under Nigel Clough will be up there. They’ve managed to keep some key players such as Rhys Oates from last season and I feel they’ve really got what it takes to push on, especially under Nigel and there seems to be a feel good factor there at the moment.
I also always go for Salford City in League Two because of Gary Neville’s involvement at the Club and the backing that they have. Clearly the plan was to get Salford into League One as quickly as possible which hasn’t happened, but this season might be there season, most likely through the Play-Offs.
Who will be the surprise package this season and why?
Jobi McAnuff: I’m going to go with my old Club Leyton Orient. They had a mid-table finish last year but I certainly feel they’ll go on to do better than that this season. I think Richie Wellens coming in gave everybody a boost, I feel they’ve got players there who should be competing a bit higher up in the table and a lot of young talent too.
I remember Richie Wellens at Swindon in League Two a couple of years ago and the style of football he had them playing was as good as I’ve seen at that level so I certainly feel from his point of view with a pre-season, the chance to build and the additions made they’ll improve on last season and maybe make the Play-Offs.
One player to watch and why?
Jobi McAnuff: I’m going to go with the maverick that is Harry McKirdy. He’s a bit of a marmite character whether he’s playing for your Club or not but in terms of his on-field ability and his goalscoring ability; he’s a great player at this level.
He had a great campaign last season and I think he’s found somewhere that he’s settled and comfortable now. He was able to go out and express himself on the pitch which seemed to give him confidence and if he can carry that into this season, I expect him to go on and have a really good campaign with goals aplenty.
Andy Hinchcliffe: Paddy Madden for me. He’s a goalscorer and that’s what everyone needs, no matter what division you’re playing in or who you’re playing against. If you’ve got a player who can regularly stick the ball in the back of the net it’s invaluable and Madden did that in the National League last season. The step up to League Two won’t bother him because he’s been around football for a very long time and he’s the type of player who can score many goals if he gets the service.