Football League Expert & Columnist
Beags on Leagues
Peter Beagrie says Preston and Portsmouth will prosper as he previews Leagues One and Two.
Last Updated: 01/08/13 2:01pm
Wolves are the standout side in League One but they are only a standout because of suffering successive relegations.
Wanderers have had such a public fall from grace, with a series of unfortunate events triggered by the majorly wrong decision to get rid of Mick McCarthy when the club were in the Premier League.
The board have made managerial mistakes - eyebrows were raised when the untested Stale Solbakken was handed the reins in a division as specific as the Championship and that move backfired - and they now find themselves in the grind of the third tier.
Wolves still have the parachute payments but they haven't been able to shift all of the big earners just yet and there will be the hangover factor, but they are now blessed with a very good manager in Kenny Jackett.
Jacket is in the mould of McCarthy in that he is a very solid citizen, and he did a great job at Millwall and at Swansea before that, but he will want to get out of League One as quickly as possible.
Big clubs with big fan-bases and great tradition, like Leeds and Nottingham Forest, spent many seasons trying to get promoted from the division and Wolves need to hit the ground running to ensure they aren't in danger of suffering the same fate.
Bristol City have a shot in League One because they have a tremendous coach in Sean O'Driscoll and have added pace and creativity over the summer, but the two teams I really expect to achieve automatic promotion are Preston and Brentford.
North End have a front four to rival anybody in the division, including Lee Holmes on the left-wing, the exciting talent Chris Humphrey, captured from Motherwell, on the other flank and the aerial threat of Kevin Davies up top.
Davies has dropped down a division after leaving Bolton but he has no ego and in the latter stages of his career will be looking to get a promotion under his belt; he should dovetail well with the likes of Stuart Beavon and Iain Hume.
Brentford, meanwhile, have what I consider to be the best squad in League One and after heartbreak on the final day of last season and then again in the play-off final, I don't think lightning will strike thrice.
I think Uwe Rosler will guide Brentford to automatic promotion this time as he has done cracking business, including tying up the very promising left-back Jake Bidwell from Everton following a successful season on loan.
Alan McCormack, a leader in the middle of the park, has also arrived from Swindon, while perhaps the most eye-catching signing is Will Grigg from Walsall, who is a real powerhouse and scored bags of goals for the Saddlers last year.
Javi Venta, the 37-year-old right-back from Villarreal, has been playing like an enthusiastic teenager in pre-season, and the Bees also have on-loan Chelsea man George Saville, who can tackle and see a pass and is set for a very big campaign.
Sheffield United, meanwhile, have suffered with a lack of goal threat in seasons past but Lyle Taylor, snapped up from Falkirk, could be their trump card after scoring 29 times in all competitions last term.
Plus, Gillingham and Bradford have momentum and x-factor managers in Martin Allen and Phil Parkinson - and they could be big threats in what is probably the most open division in the Football League.
Peter's Five to Watch
George Saville (Brentford)
Max Clayton (Crewe)
Chris Humphrey (Preston)
Nahki Wells (Bradford)
Jose Baxter (Oldham)
Portsmouth may have got relegated last season but they are in safe hands and there is now a wave of optimism around the club.
Over 10,000 season tickets have been sold and that passionate support both at Fratton Park, one of my favourite grounds, and away from home will galvanise the team and perhaps launch an upward spiral after years of disappointment.
Pompey have also made some very astute signings in the big and powerful Patrick Agyemang, former Swindon defender Joe Devera and ex-Middlesbrough and Oxford attacker Tom Craddock.
Another man who could be key is Simon Ferry (pictured above), who carried the flag for Swindon in their League Two promotion season; he is a real heartbeat in the middle of midfield and could be Pompey's driving force this year.
Scunthorpe, also relegated from League One last season, have plumped for experience in Matt Sparrow and Andy Dawson, who have been promoted with the club before, and the veteran striking pair of Deon Burton and Chris Iwelumo.
Burton, 36, and Iwelumo, 34, are not going to run away from you but they have the knowledge, nous and knowhow to score goals regularly at League Two level, and will receive ample service into the penalty area.
Bury, meanwhile, seem to have secured their future and manager Kevin Blackwell has a decent squad at his disposal, with the jack-in-the-box Ashley Grimes, who has impressed at Rochdale over recent seasons and capable of becoming a 20-goal-a-year man, someone I will be watching closely.
The fourth relegated club, Hartlepool, are probably not in a position to compete financially but have a new manager in Colin Cooper cutting his teeth and he will use his links with the North East clubs, Nottingham Forest and Millwall to aid what will be a very young side.
Fleetwood have gone from strength to strength since entering the Football League; they had a great debut season in 2012/13, finishing 13th, and I think they will be in promotion contention this time, as should one of last year's beaten play-off semi-finalists, Burton.
Albion have some decent business, including signing Rene Howe from Torquay and Rory Delap from Stoke, though they will have to operate without will-o'-the-wisp winger/striker Jacques Maghoma, who has joined Sheffield Wednesday after scoring 18 goals last season.
I think Northampton, Cheltenham and Chesterfield will be up there, too, and I would also like to mention Accrington Stanley, who will be managed this season by former England international James Beattie.
James has signed Dean Windass' son, Josh, and it will be interesting to see how the 19-year-old, who has a great footballing brain, acquits himself after being released by Huddersfield and trialling at various clubs.
Peter's Five to Watch
Simon Ferry (Portsmouth)
Deon Burton (Scunthorpe)
Gary Roberts (Chesterfield)
Rene Howe (Burton)
Ashley Grimes (Bury)
That's Peter's take, but who do YOU think will make waves in Leagues One and Two? Let us know using the feedback form below...