League One Season Preview 2020/21

Welcome to the Argyle Life Ultimate League One Season Preview! 

League One begins on Saturday 12 September, with all but seven teams set to play their first league matches since March. With the countdown now measured in hours, we’ve reviewed all 24 teams in depth and made our prediction for what the final league table will look like.

Please note, all previews were written on or before September 9th and transfers may have occured since the time of writing.

From the entire team at Argyle Life, we hope you enjoy this season preview and wish every fan out there the best of luck for the season ahead – enjoy!

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Accrington Stanley FC

Accrington Stanley

Manager: John Coleman

Key Player: Ross Sykes

Last season: 17th in League One

Key departure: Jordan Clark

Target: Avoid relegation

Accrington Stanley have been predicted to be relegated for the last five seasons, so yes, this is a fairly lazy prediction. Yet, speak to anybody associated with the club, and they’ll tell you that staying in League One will be their primary goal.

 

Read the full review
Blackpool FC

Blackpool

Manager: Neil Critchley

Key Player: Sullay Kaikai

Last season: 13th in League One

Key transfer: Jerry Yates

Target: Play-offs

Blackpool have made a plethora of impressive signings which should see them improve greatly on their uninspiring 13th place finish last season. The likes of former Swindon duo Jerry Yates and Keshi Anderson, Bez Lubala and CJ Hamilton should more than provide enough attacking return to push them into the top six.

 

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Bristol Rovers FC

Bristol Rovers

Manager: Ben Garner

Key Player: Max Ehmer

Last season: 14th in League One

Key departure: Johnson Clarke-Harris

Target: Top-half

Bristol Rovers have improved considerably in defence but it appears as though they will struggle for goals again this season, perhaps even more so after the departure of Clarke-Harris, meaning they could find themselves fighting to avoid a return to League Two.

 

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Burton Albion FC

Burton Albion

Manager: Jake Buxton

Key Player: Ryan Edwards

Last season: 12th in League One

Key departure: Scott Fraser

Target: Top-half

Burton Albion have managed mid-table finishes since relegation from the Championship so there should be a base there to build towards a play-off push. Yet, a mid-table target may be far more realistic in a season of transition following Clough’s departure.

 

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Charlton Athletic FC

Charlton Athletic

Manager: Lee Bowyer

Key Player: Jake Forster-Caskey

Last season: 22nd in the Championship

Key departure: Lyle Taylor

Target: Play-offs

Charlton Athletic are in a state of turmoil, so okay I understand, it seems ambitious. But, amidst protests and thin squad depth it looked ambitious that they could do it in 2018/19 too. If their takeover goes through soon, they might even have a shot at the automatic spots.

 

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Crewe Alexandra FC

Crewe Alexandra

Manager: David Artell

Key Player: Charlie Kirk

Last season: 2nd in League Two

Key transfer: Omar Beckles

Target: Top-half

Crewe Alexandra aren’t exactly the biggest club at League One level, but there’s no reason why Crewe cannot survive with comfort this year. Mid-table seems likely, so why not aim for the top-half?

 

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Doncaster Rovers FC

Doncaster Rovers

Manager: Darren Moore

Key Player: Fejiri Okenabirhie

Last season: 9th in League One

Key departure: Ben Whiteman*

Target: Top-half

Doncaster Rovers definitely have some quality in their squad but there is little to be excited by. They are stronger than some sides near the bottom, but it seems unlikely they will be troubling many of the teams near the top of the division.

 

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Fleetwood Town FC

Fleetwood Town

Manager: Joey Barton

Key Player: Ched Evans

Last season: 6th in League One

Key transfer: Callum Camps

Target: Play-offs

Fleetwood Town will look to push on from what was a successful 2019/20 campaign, although I think it’s safe to say a push for automatic promotion would be a tall ask given the significant strength in League One .

 

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Gillingham FC

Gillingham

Manager: Steve Evans

Key Player: Kyle Dempsey

Last season: 10th in League One

Key transfer: Jacob Mellis

Target: Play-offs

Gillingham will be looking to improve on last season and that can only mean a play-off push. Get off to a good start and Steve Evans may just lead the Gills to the second tier for the first time since 2005.

 

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Hull City AFC

Hull City

Manager: Grant McCann

Key Player: Richie Smallwood

Last season: 24th in the Championship

Key transfer: Gregg Docherty

Target: Promotion

Hull City fans might not realise, but I think they’re favourites to go up. They’ve built a good squad, particularly by being very clever in the transfer market. I detailed Greg Docherty as their key signing but I could have picked any of a handful of players.

 

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Ipswich Town FC

Ipswich Town

Manager: Paul Lambert

Key Player: Freddie Sears

Last season: 11th in League One

Key transfer: Oli Hawkins

Target: Play-offs

Ipswich Town should be looking at the top of the table in theory. However, theory and reality are often far from the same thing. Theory would have had them at the top end of the table last season too, but reality came to bite.

 

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Lincoln City FC

Lincoln City

Manager: Michael Appleton

Key Player: Jorge Grant

Last season: 16th in League One

Key transfer: Jamie Jones

Target: Top half

Lincoln City can expect to make progress with Appleton able to shape the club over the summer, however their recruitment hasn’t been as polished as other clubs. A play-off run certainly isn’t off the cards, but finishing in the top half would be an achievement this season.

 

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Milton Keynes Dons FC

Milton Keynes

Manager: Russell Martin

Key Player: Kieran Agard

Last season: 19th in League One

Key departure: Alex Gilbey

Target: Avoid relegation

Milton Keynes have lost key players but not replaced them and have a rookie manager at the helm. There is still time left in the transfer window to turn it around, particularly with the money generated from player sales, but it doesn’t look good.

 

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Northampton Town FC

Northampton Town

Manager: Keith Curle

Key Player: Nicky Adams

Last season: 7th in League Two

Key departure: Charlie Goode

Target: Avoid relegation

Northampton Town might gain from being one of seven teams to have played professional football over the summer but after another big squad turn over and the loss of key players they will probably require some time for the new squad to click.

 

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Oxford United FC

Oxford United

Manager: Karl Robinson

Key Player: James Henry

Last season: 4th in League One

Key transfer: Matt Taylor

Target: Promotion

Oxford United have kept the vast majority of the squad that so narrowly missed out on promotion to the Championship last season. With increased competition for places and squad depth, they should be able to turn last season’s draws into three points.

 

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Peterborough United FC

Peterborough United

Manager: Darren Ferguson

Key Player: Siriki Dembele

Last season: 7th in League One

Key transfer: Ivan Toney

Target: Promotion

Peterborough United might have lost Ivan Toney and attacking midfielder Marcus Maddison over the summer but with replacements and existing players already in place to take over, the transition into the new season should be a comfortable one.

 

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Plymouth Argyle FC

Plymouth Argyle

Manager: Ryan Lowe

Key Player: Danny Mayor

Last season: 3rd in League Two

Key transfer: Ryan Hardie

Target: Top-half

Plymouth Argyle certainly have the capability to push higher in the league and aim for the play-offs, but they may take time to adapt to better quality opposition, so the club should be happy to enjoy a comfortable finish with great potential to do more.

 

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Portsmouth FC

Portsmouth

Manager: Kenny Jackett

Key Player: Ronan Curtis

Last season: 5th in League One

Key departure: Christian Burgess

Target: Play-offs

Portsmouth have the personnel in their squad to achieve a play-off finish, but the struggle to bring in fresh faces so far this summer and pressure from the fans on manager Kenny Jacket means that it may be an underwhelming season for Pompey who continue to be desperate for success at this level.

 

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Rochdale AFC

Rochdale

Manager: Brian Barry-Murphy

Key Player: Matty Lund

Last season: 18th in League One

Key departure: Ian Henderson

Target: Avoid relegation

Rochdale probably look like an easy pick for relegation but their side is stronger than some would give credit for. The question is whether they have the goals in them to avoid the drop.

 

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Shrewsbury Town FC

Shrewsbury Town

Manager: Sam Ricketts

Key Player: Jason Cummings

Last season: 15th in League One

Key departure: Josh Laurent

Target: Avoid relegation

Shrewsbury Town look a bit more creative now with the change in formation, but when they inevitably ship a pile of goals early on they’ll probably switch back to a more defensive style. Yet, good organisation and efficiency is often very effective.

 

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Sunderland AFC

Sunderland

Manager: Phil Parkinson

Key Player: Chris Maguire

Last season: 8th in League One

Key departure: John McLaughin

Target: Play-offs

Sunderland should be aiming for the league title no matter what. Although Sunderland fans still aren’t convinced by Parkinson, I feel that they will have enough to do better than last season and make the play-offs, but it doesn’t seem like they have strengthened enough to reach the automatic spots.

 

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Swindon Town FC

Swindon Town

Manager: Richie Wellens

Key Player: Johnny Smith

Last season: 1st in League Two

Key departure: Eoin Doyle

Target: Avoid relegation

Swindon Town will probably end the season in midtable, but the thing is it’s hard to predict that when the team has changed so much. Wellens crafted a superb counter-attacking team, but they have lost literally all of their key attackers.

 

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Wigan Athletic FC

Wigan Athletic

Manager: Leam Richardson

Key Player: Lee Evans

Last season: 23rd in the Championship

Key departure: All of them

Target: Avoid relegation

Wigan Athletic have been decimated on and off the pitch over the summer. Their target for the season isn’t just to survive relegation, but to survive liquidation. Many fans would surely embrace the possibility of starting next season in League Two if it means they have a club to support.

 

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AFC Wimbledon

Wimbledon

Manager: Glynn Hodges

Key Player: Joe Pigott

Last season: 20th in League One

Key transfer: Ollie Palmer

Target: Avoid relegation

Wimbledon have added Palmer and Woodyard who could propel them to the next level, but odds on they will still fight against relegation. That said, the new stadium has come at considerable expense and there is a record of clubs tending to underperform in their first season at a new stadium. It feels so unusual to them that home advantage tends to disappear.

 

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Predicted table

1 OXFORD UNITED
2 PETERBOROUGH UNITED
3 SUNDERLAND
4 BLACKPOOL
5 HULL CITY
6 PORTSMOUTH
7 FLEETWOOD TOWN
8 IPSWICH TOWN
9 PLYMOUTH ARGYLE
10 GILLINGHAM
11 CHARLTON ATHLETIC
12 CREWE ALEXANDRA
13 LINCOLN CITY
14 BRISTOL ROVERS
15 DONCASTER ROVERS
16 NORTHAMPTON TOWN
17 WIGAN ATHLETIC
18 SWINDON TOWN
19 BURTON ALBION
20 ACCRINGTON STANLEY
21 WIMBLEDON
22 MILTON KEYNES
23 SHREWSBURY TOWN
24 ROCHDALE
Read our writers’ full predictions