Burton Albion FC

Key player: Ryan Edwards

No, not that one. Burton signed Ryan Edwards – the Australian version – on a free transfer in 2019. Edwards was actually born in Singapore, and has picked up caps for Australia at youth levels amongst spells at the likes of Perth Glory, Partick Thistle and Reading. He’s clearly well-travelled, but it’s his exploits on the field that may well determine how Burton perform across the forthcoming campaign.

Edwards was virtually ever-present for the Brewers last season as part of a midfield three alongside Stephen Quinn and Scott Fraser. He notched 7 goals and added a further 4 assists, but the real creative outlet in midfield was Fraser, who ended the year with 23 goal contributions (9G, 14A) to his name. Edwards has good numbers for goals in midfield, but will need to step up his assist numbers now Fraser has departed. Whether he can or not may well define Burton’s season.

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Manager: Jake Buxton

The backroom acts as the great unknown for the Brewers heading into the new season. Across the years, Nigel Clough and Burton have gone hand-in-hand. The now 54-year-old first took the reigns in 1998, and had two fairly lengthy spells in charge. However, reportedly owing to the pandemic, Clough left the club this summer, and has been replaced by rookie Jake Buxton.

Perhaps best known for a seven-year spell at Derby which came to an end in 2016, Buxton has had a solid spell as a player across the football league. With two spells at Burton, he clearly knows the club well, but management is a different kettle of fish. How will he do? It’s impossible to say for sure. 

Mansfield looked good heading into last season, but rookie manager John Dempster couldn’t deliver. The year before, Bury gave a certain Ryan Lowe his first full season in the dugout, and reaped the benefits. Burton have certainly taken a risk by handing the reigns to somebody so untested, but that’s not to say they don’t stand to gain.

Danger man: Lukas Akins

Before Lucas Akins joined Burton the UK was still in the EU, the world record transfer fee was well under £100 million, and nobody really cared about the family of coronaviruses. Plenty changes, but much still remains the same. Akins is as vital for Burton now as he has been ever since his adventure with the Brewers began in 2014. He’s experienced two promotions in that time, as the club reached the second tier for the first time in their history, one relegation, as they fell back down again, and he’s made 275 appearances for the club with which he finds himself synonymous.

He was at it again last season. Nobody played more minutes for the Brewers than him, and only Liam Boyce beat his goal tally of 10. He may now be 31, but there’s no sign of a let-up – if his goalscoring return against Accrington in the cup is anything to go by, Akins could be set for another productive season at the Pirelli Stadium.

Last season: 12th in League One

Stop-start would probably be the best way to describe the Brewers’ 2019/20 campaign. They rarely strung back-to-back wins together, but only lost twice in a row in the league on one occasion. They touched the play-off places in January following a 1-0 win over Milton Keynes, but a run of one win in ten after that saw them swiftly drop away.

In the end, they had nothing to gain or lose from the season’s curtailment. Had the season resumed, they’d have had a challenge on their hands to make the top six, but they’d have never been in relegation trouble. All in all, their campaign was no more or less than average.

Key departure: Scott Fraser

It feels remarkable to me that Scott Fraser has yet to find a club this window. One can only assume that he and his agent are holding out for the best financial package before committing his future, because there’s no reason for him to be a free agent on talent alone. As previously mentioned, he had comfortably more goal contributions than anybody else in Burton’s side last season, and his goal tally alone was only beaten by Lucas Akins and Liam Boyce.

When he left Burton this summer, it appeared to be with the proviso of interest from a number of other clubs. Indeed, we suggested in our available free agents series that he’d be a superb signing for Argyle, but probably a little unrealistic. Since then he’s been linked to the likes of Sunderland, Stoke and Hull, but hasn’t signed on the dotted line anywhere. Unless he makes a sensational return to the Pirelli Stadium, Burton will have a headache replacing his creativity.

Target: Top-half

Honestly, I can’t believe I willingly took up the opportunity to cover Burton for this preview – their season just feels impossible to call. With the likes of Edwards and Akins, they have the talent to challenge the higher reaches of League One, but there’s every chance that the upheaval, off the field, this summer will stunt them. To expect that they challenge immediately would be to put immediate pressure on Buxton to succeed.

Following 9th and 12th-place finishes in their previous two campaigns, there is an argument that there is a solid base there to build towards a play-off push this term. But a mid-table target may be far more realistic in a season of transition following Clough’s five-year reign.

 

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League One Season Preview 2020/21