League One 2015/16 preview: Sheffield United, Wigan among favourites, Crewe face scrap

Bristol City's players celebrate winning the league during the Sky Bet League One match at Ashton Gate, Bristol.
Image: Bristol City's players celebrate winning League One in 2014/15

With the new Football League season fast approaching, we take a detailed look at what to expect from League One. Who will go up? Who will go down? Which players are worth keeping an eye on? Read on to find out...

Battle for promotion

Sheffield United - 6/4 for promotion with Sky Bet

They fell at the play-off semi-final stage last season, marking the end of Nigel Clough’s tenure at Bramall Lane, but new boss Nigel Adkins knows what it takes to step up a division.

Adkins earned four promotions in six years between 2006/07 and 2011/12 - two each with Scunthorpe and Southampton - and after four years in League One, Blades fans will feel this could finally be the year.

Adkins has been reunited with striker Billy Sharp - who played under him at Scunny, Saints and Reading - while also luring Conor Sammon from Derby on a season-long loan. Throw in Jamie Murphy - the club’s Player of the Year in 2015 - youngster Che Adams and playmaker Jose Baxter and the Blades have a wealth of attacking options.

Image: New Sheffield United manager Nigel Adkins knows what it takes to earn promotion

Wigan - 5/2

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The favourites among the three relegated sides, Gary Caldwell takes Wigan into his first full season as manager after a dreadful five months under Malky Mackay.

Caldwell has been busy in the transfer window, bringing in strikers Will Grigg and Craig Davies, and the former certainly knows how to get out of this league - he's done it in successive seasons with Brentford and MK Dons.

Millwall - 7/2

Millwall followed Wigan down to League One - and they took four seasons to come back the last time they were here.

Club legend Neil Harris is the man tasked with a return to the second tier, and there will be an element of the unknown going into the season.

With many leaving The Den and just a few faces coming in, a young, inexperienced squad could sink or swim under a man still unproven as a manager. No wonder Harris has asked fans for patience.

Image: Millwall were relegated from the Championship last season

Fight to avoid the drop

Crewe 5/6 to be relegated

After finishing 20th and surviving on the last day for the second successive season, Crewe are favourites for the drop.

The gap between League One and League Two is often considered minimal, and with promoted sides Burton, Shrewsbury, Bury and Southend on a high throughout the summer, the bookies have marked the cards of those sides who struggled last year.

Colchester - Evens

Colchester were another side who survived on the last day of the season; the U’s have finished 20th, 16th and 19th in the past three years.

Tony Humes has added to his defence over the summer, and for a side that conceded the fourth-highest goals total in the Football League last season, it was needed. But will it be enough?

COLCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 03:  George Moncur of Colchester United (c) celebrates scoring his side's first goal during the Sky Bet League One match between
Image: Colchester United stayed up on the final day of last season

Port Vale - 6/4

A late-season slump saw Rob Page’s side finish 18th, winning just one of their last 11 games in League One.

They should be fine this time around, having recruited Remie Streete, Uche Ikpeazu and Ryan Inniss from the Premier League, but that losing streak can often leave a sour taste throughout the summer and into the new season...

Dark horse

Barnsley - 11/2

Not exactly outsiders for promotion, but Lee Johnson’s impact on the side was clear to see last season, arriving in February and winning four on the trot.

A promotion charge was not to be as they won just one of their next 10 games, albeit losing only three. But with a few astute signings, the Tykes have a good chance of at least a top-six finish.

Players to watch

Che Adams (Sheffield United)

Signed from non-League Ilkeston last term, the 19-year-old forward burst onto the scene last winter, starting five games and scoring three goals in all competitions.

Two of those came against Tottenham in the Capital One Cup semi-final in January, and Adams has continued his form into pre-season, impressing with his pace and eye for goal.

He is eligible for Antigua & Barbuda, Scotland and England, and was called up to the Three Lions' C squad in November.

Che Adams of Sheffield United celebrates
Image: Che Adams is one of the hottest prospects in the third tier

Callum Camps (Rochdale)

Still raw with under 20 appearances to his name, 19-year-old midfielder Camps impressed in just over 500 minutes of action for Rochdale as they finished a respectable eighth in League One.

The creative midfielder's performances against Nottingham Forest and Stoke stood out, and his development will be furthered with a long League One season under his belt.

“Callum does things that you cannot coach; he always has done since the age of 13 or 14,” said Chris Beech, youth team manager at Spotland.

Alfie Mawson (Barnsley)

The 21-year-old centre-half now has a 50-game season under his belt after starring for Gareth Ainsworth's Wycombe in their run to the play-off final and coming third in the Sky Bet League Two Player of the Year award.

A composed head, years ahead of his age, Mawson signed for Barnsley on a three-year deal in June having spent his youth years at Brentford, including short loans at Maidenhead, Luton and Welling.

"We believe that this lad is Championship quality minimum, and potentially even higher," Barnsley boss Lee Johnson told The Star. 

Image: Alfie Mawson starred for Wycombe in League Two last season

Opening weekend fixtures (August 8 – 3pm)

Burton v Scunthorpe

Chesterfield v Barnsley

Colchester v Blackpool

Coventry v Wigan

Gary Caldwell
Image: Former Wigan defender Gary Caldwell is now tasked with stopping the rot

Crewe v Port Vale

Doncaster v Bury

Fleetwood v Southend

Gillingham v Sheff Utd

Rochdale v Peterborough

Shrewsbury v Millwall

Swindon v Bradford

Walsall v Oldham

Opta facts

- Scunthorpe kept a league-low three clean sheets last season.

- No side scored more penalties than Swindon (8). However, the Robins also missed a joint-league-high four spot-kicks last season.

- Walsall received the fewest yellow cards last season (45) and were also the only side not to be shown a red card.

- Peterborough's Marcus Maddison scored six goals from outside the box, more than any other player.

- Crewe scored just 19 times in the second half last season, a League One low.

- Barnsley dropped 28 points from leading positions last season, the most in League One. By contrast, Sheffield United claimed the most when trailing (21).

Image: Barnsley are 11/2 to be promoted to the Championship

- Burton only lost three times in 30 games after Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink took charge last November.

- Fleetwood Town were shown 92 yellow cards last season, more than any other League One side.

- The last time Wigan played in the third tier of English football, in 2002/03, they won their opening game of the season 2-0 away from home.

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