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The start of the new season brings with it the inevitable dosage of unsubstantiated optimism, with fans the length and breadth of the country happy to bask in the warm glow of blissful ignorance.
This, after all, is definitely going to be the season in which their luckless troop of no-hopers suddenly morph into world-beaters and crush those who dare to cross their path. How could things possibly play out any differently?
Of course, for followers of nine Football League sides these dreams will be painfully laid to rest come May 2010 when pre-season predictions of greatness only serve to produce relegation heartache.
For others, though, the thrill of a title-winning campaign, play-off glory or Cup run heroics awaits, with life away from the Premier League spotlight providing a fitting stage for some of England's less recognisable - but equally as talented - performers.
Those sides expecting to prevail over the course of the 2009/10 marathon will need to be at the top of their game in order to succeed, with established stars and unpolished diamonds needing to come to the fore.
Here skysports.com takes a look at a few of those who fall into the above categories, with an eclectic mix of talent extracted from tiers two to four.
Perhaps one of the most flamboyantly-named stars to currently be gracing the English game, Miles Vivien Esifi Addison is currently causing quite a stir at Derby County. The burly youngster only turned 20 in January, but has already displayed a maturity well beyond his years. Addison was awarded a first-team debut by the Rams back in 2005, but was forced to wait until the start of last season before being offered an extended run in the side. Derby's torrid beginning to the 2008/09 campaign gave him his chance, and he never looked back. Able to operate in either defence or midfield, Addison quickly became an integral part of the Pride Park set-up. A stress fracture of the foot forced him to sit out the final throes of the season, but he was still awarded the club's Young Player of the Year award and will be back to defend that crown in 2010.
Having made a name for himself during an eye-catching three-year stint at Barnet, Bailey was tipped to reach the very top at a young age. Further development at Southend only served to raise his profile, with a move to Charlton in the summer of 2008 seeing him arrive in the Championship - one step from his destiny. Unfortunately, he was unable to halt the Addicks' alarming slide towards the foot of the table last season and suffered the heartache of relegation. While League One may not have been where he saw himself 12 months after a switch to the Valley, he has given no indication that he is keen to move on. Bailey will then start the new season in the third tier, but if past displays are anything to go by - and providing Phil Parkinson can hang onto him - he could be the man to lead a title charge in the coming months.
Leeds United ace Beckford should need no introduction as he is already established as one of the Football League's most potent frontmen. While his form in recent times ensures he does not fall into the unknown quantity category, issues surrounding his future mean he will still be worth tracking. Having turned down a new deal at Elland Road at the start of the summer Beckford was subsequently placed on the transfer list. Leeds were understandably reluctant to part with a man who had plundered over 30 goals during the previous campaign, but they were left with little choice as the striker looked set to run down the final 12 months of his deal. No move has been forthcoming, though, and the 25-year-old has now been taken off the available list. It remains unclear whether the 2009/10 campaign will be his swansong with the Whites, but Leeds will be in a much better bargaining position in regards to persuading him to stay should his goals help them back into the Championship.
Crystal Palace are forming quite a reputation for moulding stars of the future, with the likes of Wayne Routledge and Ben Watson having graduated through their ranks in recent times. Clyne is the latest promising youngster to roll off the production line, having burst onto the scene during the 2008/09 season. Eagles boss Neil Warnock has always insisted that he will not prejudice against players because of age, with his managerial philosophy based on the concept that 'if they're good enough, they're old enough'. That stance proved beneficial to 17-year-old Clyne in October 2008 as he was handed a senior bow against Barnsley. Now a year older and a year wiser, the talented teenager is expected to make even more of an impression at Selhurst Park in the immediate future. A spot on the right-hand side of Palace's back four appears to have his name all over it and should he steer clear of injury he will be expected to fill that role for some time yet.
Oldham's acquisition of Furman this summer proved to be quite a coup, with the youngster spurning offers from elsewhere in order to pen a deal at Boundary Park. A product of the Rangers academy system, the South African midfielder was offered a new one-year deal at Ibrox before deciding his future lay elsewhere. Having spent the 2008/09 campaign on loan at Bradford, the 21-year-old was also wanted back at Valley Parade. The Latics won the race for his signature, though, and are expecting big things from their new recruit. A spell in League One will provide Furman with an ideal platform on which to further aid his development, while Oldham will be hoping he can play an integral role in helping lift them back into the second tier.
Johnson was in danger of becoming the forgotten man at Middlesbrough as he tried to free himself from the sizeable shadow cast by fellow wing wizard Stewart Downing. Ousting an established England international from the first-team fold was never going to be an easy task, and Johnson was often forced to play second fiddle when it came to playmaking duties for Boro. However, he has finally been unleashed from his shackles following Downing's summer switch to Aston Villa. Often linked with a move himself, with reports even suggesting Real Madrid once cast a beady eye over his talents, Johnson may not stick around the Riverside Stadium for long. Having waited so patiently for his opportunity to shine, though, it appears unlikely that he would depart before the January transfer window. How Boro are faring at that point could play a key role in any decision regarding his future, with the England U21 star more than capable of plying his trade at a higher level.
Not much went right for Darlington during the 2008/09 campaign, with financial troubles off the field eclipsing their efforts on it. The Quakers had looked good for a play-off spot at worst heading down the final stretch, but a 10-point penalty for entering administration put paid to their promotion dreams. The North East outfit can, however, take heart from the fact that a largely forgettable season did see Main continue his rise to prominence. Having become the club's youngest-ever player upon making his debut as a 15-year-old in May 2008, Darlington were always looking to utilise him more last term. Such talents rarely go unnoticed by the vultures circulating further up the League ladder, and needless to say Main has proven to be no exception. Fulham and Middlesbrough have both taken a look at the youngster during recent trials and will continue to monitor his progress throughout 2009/10.
It is fair to say that the 2008/09 season did not go entirely to plan for Nottingham Forest prodigy McGugan. Having starred for the Reds in their promotion-winning campaign the previous year, the local boy-made-good was expected to sparkle in the more forgiving surroundings of the Championship. In reality, the goal-scoring midfielder flitted in and out of the side early on, before picking up a succession of niggling knocks. His return to the first-team fold then saw him regularly overlooked by boss Billy Davies, with the Scot raising concerns over his weight. McGugan has looked bright in pre-season, though, and at 20 years old he could be about ready to fulfil his undoubted promise.
The second Crystal Palace player on our list is already a household name despite being just 18 years old. Having blazed a trail through the youth set-up at Selhurst Park it was only a matter of time before the Eagles were forced to unleash Moses on the senior game. By then he had already attracted interest from Premier League giants Chelsea, with Palace chairman Simon Jordan revealing he had been forced to fend off several approaches from the Blues. Moses then burst onto the scene during the 2007/08 season, belying the fact that he was only 16 at time. Cross-capital rivals Arsenal were then reported to have joined the lengthy queue of admirers tracking his development, but the England U19 international penned a four-year deal with Palace at the end of the season. It remains to be seen whether he will see out that contract, but for now Eagles supporters will be delighted to know he will be on their side when the new campaign gets underway.
Multi-talented Reid could have been a professional cricketer, having turned out for Gloucestershire's second XI, but made the right decision when opting to focus his attention on his football. He may have feared that a disappointing stint at Plymouth, where he spent more time out on loan than he did at Home Park, had curtailed his promising career before it had even begun. However, a move to Rotherham in 2007 proved to be a shrewd call as the drop into League Two allowed him to showcase his ability on a regular basis. Just one season with the Millers was enough for him to start his ascent back up the League ladder, with West Brom suitably impressed by his goalscoring exploits at the Don Valley Stadium to snap him up this summer. He will now find himself coming up against former employers Plymouth this season, and he will be desperate to show the Pilgrims just how big a mistake they made in letting him go.
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