FL 125 League One
As Sky Sports picks out 125 players to watch in the Football League, here's the best from League One. All 24 clubs are covered, but have we got it right?
By Chris Burton
Last Updated: 26/07/13 5:16pm
With the Football League currently celebrating its 125-year anniversary since inception and with the new season to get underway in earnest at the weekend, we've spread our net across the Sky Bet Championship, League One and League Two to pick out 125 shining lights outside of the Premier League for the 2013/14 campaign.
Even if you're the type of supporter that doesn't have to debate whether the glass is half-full or half-empty because you've long-since since drained the contents, there's no need for despair as we've picked out at least one player from every club.
In total, we've ranked 65 players from the Championship and selected 30 each from Leagues One and Two respectively as those most likely to make a significant impact this season.
It's all a matter of opinions though and we'd love to hear yours. So if we've got your club's star man all wrong or missed a young kid all set for a breakthrough campaign let us know by filling in the feedback form below.
Bradford City - Nakhi Wells
The face of a remarkable 2012/13 campaign for Bradford, Wells saw his stock skyrocket as the Bantams enjoyed success in the league and cups - taking in two memorable trips down Wembley Way. Wells was by no means an unknown quantity heading into last season, having earned an extended stay at Valley Parade on the back of a number of eye-catching displays. It was, however, to be a standout year for the 23-year-old Bermudan. He netted 27 times in all competitions, including three on a fairytale run through to the final of the League Cup, and is believed to be attracting plenty of interest from higher up English football's food chain.
Brentford - Harlee Dean
Brentford knew what they were getting when they snapped Dean up in the summer in 2012, having seen the promising defender impress during a loan spell at Griffin Park. They made their move after seeing him become a free agent, and Southampton's loss has certainly been their gain. Dean, in his first full season as a League regular, made 53 appearances for the Bees last term - becoming a rock at the heart of their back four. Still only 21 years of age, there would appear to be plenty more to come from a man who agreed improved terms in June - taking him through to 2016.
Brentford - Clayton Donaldson
Only four players found the target on more occasions than Donaldson last season, with his efforts taking Brentford agonisingly close to automatic promotion out of League One. He netted 18 times in the league, while he broke through the 20-goal barrier for the third time in his career when taking into account all competitions. The powerful frontman has entered the final year of his contract at Griffin Park and various clubs - including a number from outside of Britain - are believed to be closely monitoring his situation.
Bristol City - Albert Adomah
How long Adomah remains a Bristol City player remains to be seen, with the Robins having already fielded a number of bids for his services during the summer transfer window. They were always going to face a fight to hang on to him after enduring relegation heartache in 2012/13, with the 25-year-old winger having spent the last three years terrorising second tier defences. If City are able to keep Adomah at Ashton Gate, he will be expected to provide the creativity which sparks a sustained push for promotion back to the Championship at the first time of asking.
Carlisle United - Matty Robson
The fact that Carlisle made the offering of fresh terms to Robson a top priority once the 2012/13 campaign came to a close speaks volumes about how integral he is to the Cumbrians' plans. The 28-year-old is as good a left-back as you could wish to find in the third tier, and has also not looked out of place when operating further up the field. Should he steer clear of injury this season, he will surge past the 200-appearance mark for Carlisle and further justify the new two-year deal he penned in May.
Colchester United - Jabo Ibehre
Deemed surplus to requirements at MK Dons, Ibehre initially linked up with Colchester in September 2012. He made an immediate impact with the Us and offered enough during a loan stint at the Weston Homes Community Stadium to earn a permanent switch in January 2013. He has remained a model of consistency since then, netting a further four times over the second half of the season, and landed himself a new - and thoroughly-deserved - two-year contract in June. Colchester will now be looking to Ibehre to help steer them clear of another relegation battle in 2013/14.
Coventry City - Leon Clarke
At the age of just 28, Clarke has already turned out for 14 different clubs. It is difficult to see why he has struggled to put down roots as he possesses all of the attributes required to be a top marksman. A striker blessed with power and pace, Clarke is a handful to any back four. He has, at times, struggled for consistency, but has enjoyed goal-laden spells at Chesterfield, Scunthorpe and Coventry in recent times. He remains on the Sky Blues' books for now and offers a rare chink of light in the gloom which has descended on the Midlands club amid their much-publicised financial struggles.
Crawley Town - Billy Clarke
Tipped for the top after graduating out of Ipswich's academy system while still in his teens, it has taken a switch to Crawley for Clarke to really find his feet and add the consistency to his game which makes him one of the first names on the team sheet. There is no question that he enjoys such a standing at Broadfield Stadium, with his movement and eye for goal marking him out as one of the most elusive frontmen in League One. Should Clarke maintain the standards he has set over the past 18 months, he could find himself back on the path he started out on at Portman Road.
Crewe Alexandra - Max Clayton
Looking for the next prodigiously-gifted teenager to roll off the production line at Crewe? Then look no further than promising playmaker Clayton. Still only 19 years of age, he has been a regular for the Alex in each of the past two seasons - making 42 appearances for the club last time out. He also registered nine goals in 2012/13, suggesting he could be about to follow in the footsteps of some illustrious names who have used Gresty Road as a stepping stone en route to the top. Crewe would like him to stick around for at least another year, but they know he is reluctant to extend a contract which runs out next summer and could see their resolve tested before the summer window slams shut - and again in January if Clayton continues to develop at pace.
Gillingham - Adam Barrett
Now 33, Barrett would appear to be getting better with age. Gillingham handed him a one-year contract last summer, but it quickly became apparent that he would be sticking around for longer than 12 months. His combative approach has made him a firm fans' favourite and he collected two awards voted for by supporters at the end of last season. He has also landed the captain's armband and was named in the League Two Team of the Year as the Gills swept to the fourth tier title. Very much leader of the pack at Priestfield.
Leyton Orient - Dean Cox
Type Dean Cox into your search engine of choice and you will find the words 'unbelievable' and 'goal from the halfway line' figure prominently in the results list. The 25-year-old midfielder netted a spectacular 60-yard strike during a meeting with Walsall in October 2012. While that strike will follow him around for the rest of his career, Cox is much more than a one-trick pony - he provided 14 assists last term. He is about to enter his fourth season at Leyton Orient and has become one of the aces in the Brisbane Road pack. A lively playmaker with a penchant for the spectacular, Cox is guaranteed to get supporters on their feet.
MK Dons - Patrick Bamford
When a club like Chelsea splashes out over £1million on a teenage striker with only a couple of senior appearances on his CV, you know you are talking about a special kind of talent. The Blues did just that in January 2012 when they lured Bamford away from Nottingham Forest. They were prepared to take a gamble on his undoubted potential and have been happy for him to showcase that talent away from Stamford Bridge. The 19-year-old will be back with the MK Dons for 2013/14 and looking to build on his efforts from last term, when he grabbed his first professional goals in League One and offered glimpses of what an exciting future could hold.
MK Dons - Dean Bowditch
Mr Reliable at MK Dons, you know what you are going to get from Bowditch when he crosses that white line. It could be argued that the 27-year-old does not get the recognition he deserves outside of Milton Keynes, but his exploits in 2012/13 deserve to be noted. Despite often being deployed in a deeper, creative role, Bowditch topped both the Dons' scoring and assist charts last term - finding the target 12 times in all competitions and laying on 11 for grateful team-mates in League One encounters. More of the same will be expected from him this term, and you can bank on him delivering.
Notts County - Gary Liddle
Defenders who are happy to just do their job and live life away from the spotlight are all too often overlooked when it comes to the identification of true stars. Liddle, though, is rightly held in high regard at Notts County - with the 27-year-old having become virtually untouchable after just 12 months at Meadow Lane. He played every second of County's League One campaign in 2012/13 and ended the season with a clean sweep at the club's award night - landing Managers' Player, Players' Player, Fans' Player and Supporters' Club Player of the Year gongs. Not a bad return in your debut campaign.
Oldham Athletic - Jose Baxter
It is refreshing in an era of eye-watering transfer fees and multi-million salaries to see a young player resist the temptations laid at his door in favour of committing to the club that gave him his big break. Baxter's decision to pen a new deal at Oldham last season came amid mounting speculation linking him with a move away from Boundary Park. It is easy to see why the 21-year-old was generating interest, with the former Everton trainee having blossomed with the Latics to become an attacking midfielder who plundered 13 goals last season and did not look out of place mixing it with the Premier League elite during a memorable FA Cup run.
Peterborough United - Tommy Rowe
With Peterborough having slipped back into League One after two years in the Championship, they will have been bracing themselves for a flurry of activity in the transfer market. They must have expected club captain Rowe to attract admiring glances from afar, and they have duly arrived. Leeds have been sniffing around the highly-rated winger - with it suggested that he is looking to move closer to his Lancashire roots - but the Posh are understandably reluctant to part with a man they want to lead a promotion charge in 2013/14 and return both himself and the club to a level they believe they belong.
Peterborough United - Michael Bostwick
Darren Ferguson was said to have made Bostwick his 'number one target' last summer, and it is easy to see why. The 25-year-old was drafted into London Road from Stevenage, after helping them climb out of the non-league ranks and up into League One. Another step up in class saw him presented with a Championship challenge and, while the Posh suffered relegation agony, Bostwick more than held his own in second tier company. He is something of a dead-ball specialist and can be relied upon to produce a few moments of free-kick magic over the course of a 46-game campaign.
Port Vale - Tom Pope
The reigning League Two Player of the Year will be looking to take the third tier by storm in 2013/14. Pope will have to go some to better his efforts from last season, though, as he enjoyed a remarkable campaign which delivered a phenomenal goal return and automatic promotion. Pope was without question the Valiants' leading light, with a man who had only previously registered double figures in terms of goals scored just once in his career finding the target on 33 occasions - including three hat-tricks. Strong in the air but also more than useful on the deck, few defenders will be relishing an encounter with Pope this term.
Preston North End - Jeffrey Monakana
Players released by Arsenal tend to make a bit of a splash when they land in the free agent pool, with managers on the lookout for a bargain aware that they will be getting someone who is comfortable in possession and determined to prove their previous employers wrong. Monakana may not be knocking on the door at the Emirates just yet, but he may do in time. The 18-year-old was handed a one-year deal at Preston in 2012 and made the most of his 12-month window at Deepdale. The teenage midfielder adapted to League One life with ease and is now being tipped to go from strength to strength in 2013/14.
Rotherham United - Michael Tidser
He hasn't played a game in English football yet, but Tidser arrived at Rotherham this summer with a good pedigree. The 23-year-old is a goal-scoring midfielder and could prove to be a real find if he hits the ground running with the Millers. He netted 13 times for Greenock Morton last season, which is a decent return for someone who isn't charged with the task of getting goals. Tidser also landed the Scottish First Division Player of the Year award for 2012/13, with his exploits rightly recognised by others. Rotherham believe they have pulled off quite a coup in acquiring Tidser's services - it is now up to him to prove them right.
Sheffield United - Harry Maguire
Sheffield United's youth ranks have produced a steady stream of talent down the years, and Maguire would appear to be the latest graduate destined for big things. Already a commanding centre-half with over 100 appearances under his belt, the Blades starlet only celebrated his 20th birthday in March. He broke into the England U21 set-up last season and will be eyeing further international recognition and promotion in 2013/14 - with Sheffield United having been knocking on the door which leads back to the Championship for some time now.
Sheffield United - Kevin McDonald
If Sheffield United are to finally get over the promotion line, and put their play-off defeats of previous seasons behind them, then they need key men to step up to the plate. That means McDonald must continue to drive things in the midfield engine room. The Scot is an athletic performer who is not afraid to put his foot in and battle when the going gets tough. He will be disappointed to have only offered one goal to the collective cause in 2012/13, but his job is more about plugging gaps than exploiting them.
Shrewsbury Town - Chris Weale
Kasper Schmeichel's arrival at Leicester forced Weale down the Foxes' goalkeeping pecking order, but he was always far too good to be a back-up and was not expected to be available for long after dropping into the free agent pool in the summer of 2012. Shrewsbury were the ones to secure his signature and were rewarded with an ever-present return of 46 league starts. Weale is now the Shrews' undisputed number one and the current holder of their Player of the Year and Players' Player of the Year awards - not bad for an opening 12 months at new employers.
Stevenage - James Dunne
Another player to have secured an awards double at the end of the 2012/13 campaign, with fans and team-mates alike picking out Dunne as Stevenage's star performer over the course of a gruelling season. Having proven himself at a third tier level with Exeter, Stevenage snapped Dunne up last summer as they looked to cement their own League One standing. The 23-year-old midfielder shone from the off - netting on his debut - and it is clear to all of those who have seen the youngster in action that he took plenty from his early schooling in the Arsenal academy system.
Swindon Town - Wes Foderingham
An ever-present in the league last season, Foderingham made over 50 appearances for Swindon in 2012/13 as they made it abundantly clear who the number one at the County Ground is. Having taken a punt on Foderingham in 2012, the Robins have provided the ideal platform for the 22-year-old shot-stopper. He has already been on the books at Fulham and Crystal Palace, without making a senior appearance for either, but it would come as no surprise if he returns to a Premier League level at some stage in the future.
Tranmere Rovers - Owain Fon Williams
One of the best pieces of business carried out by Tranmere this summer saw them hand fresh terms to first-choice goalkeeper Fon Williams. The Welsh shot-stopper was said to be interesting clubs in the Championship, so convincing him to remain at Prenton Park says a lot about Ronnie Moore's negotiating skills. Fon Williams is about to enter his third season with Rovers, during which time he has been an unmoveable object between the sticks. Expect that situation to remain the same in 2013/14, with the 26-year-old looking to once again provide a reliable last line of defence.
Tranmere Rovers - Andy Robinson
With the Football League having become so competitive in recent years, experience has become an invaluable asset to managers up and down the country. Having players who have been there, done it and got the t-shirt is imperative if you are to take positive steps forward. In Robinson, Tranmere have a wily old campaigner who has twice been promoted out of League One in the past. He will be hoping to complete a hat-trick in the forthcoming campaign, and will be looking to repeat his exploits from 2012/13 when he burst out of blocks to help Tranmere set the early pace.
Walsall - Andy Butler
Captains should lead from the front. They should be the ones dragging the best from those around them and the ones ready to offer words of encouragement and inspiration when the chips are down. Butler is very much of the skipper mould and wears the Walsall armband with pride. He is a two-time winner of the club's Player of the Year award and will be looking to reclaim that crown in 2013/14 after missing out to the now departed Will Grigg last term. A no-nonsense defender who is also capable of popping up with the odd goal, Butler's value to Walsall should not be underestimated.
Wolverhampton Wanderers - Bakary Sako
Wolves will have done remarkably well if they start the 2013/14 campaign with Sako still on their books. The 25-year-old was snapped up from St Etienne last summer as Wolves set their sights on securing promotion back to the Premier League. He was one of few players at Molineux to end a campaign which brought a shock relegation with their reputation still intact, and he has generated plenty of transfer gossip this summer. A tricky winger who provided his fair share of goals and assists last term, Sako would be expected to illuminate League One if Wolves can retain his services.
Wolverhampton Wanderers - Jake Cassidy
While Kenny Jackett will have a proven Premier League performer in the shape of Kevin Doyle on his books this season, it is the return of strikers sent out on loan last season that is creating the biggest buzz at Molineux. Leigh Griffiths impressed at Hibernian, earning senior international recognition with Scotland in the process, while Cassidy caught the eye at Tranmere. During a second stint at Prenton Park, which has allowed him to get vital minutes under his belt, the 20-year-old frontman broke into double figures and offered a clear indication that he is an exciting prospect for the future.