League Two Preview: How every team is shaping up for 2018/19
There are three clear favourites in the League Two race for the automatic promotion spots. Notts County missed out in the playoff semi-finals last year. The Magpies are frontrunners this term, closely followed by relegated MK Dons and Lincoln City, who also fell in the playoff semi-finals. Bury, Northampton and Oldham were the other three clubs relegated from League One. All expect an immediate return.
At the other end of the table, Morecombe only stayed up on goal difference last season. The Shrimps and Yeovil Town are the two favourites to drop out of the league. That would end Morecambe's run as longest League Two tenants. Tranmere Rovers will be tested in their first season back in league football, as well.
Here's a brief look at all 24 sides.
Manager: Ryan Lowe
Last season: 24th League One, Relegated
Season outlook: Ryan Lowe took over as manager last season but was unable to keep the Shakers three-year spell in League One from ending. He must re-establish a winning mentality if they are to challenge for promotion.
Remaining needs: Upfront, Bury have enough quality to score at this level. Their defence will keep the boss awake nights. At the writing, Lowe had signed 15 players, a handful of defenders among them. Will the overhaul work? Stay tuned.
Manager: Joe Dunne
Last season: 12th
Season outlook: Dunne was placed in temporary charge to end last season. He delivered largely positive results. However, his hands are tied. United made the fewest signings of any League Two club, just three. A mid-table finish would be a job well done.
Remaining needs: They haven’t paid anything for their summer signings. That isn’t Dunne's fault but it won’t take a huge amount to put pressure on their small squad.
Manager: John Sheridan
Last season: 10th
Season outlook: The Cumbrians will be looking towards the playoffs, having missed out last year. John Sheridan has taken over after leaving Fleetwood Town but hasn’t yet done much recruiting.
Remaining needs: Hallam Hope can be the key man at Brunton Park if he starts firing, but his inconsistency could leave the side in trouble with a lack of proven options up top.
Manager: Gary Johnson
Last season: 17th
Season outlook: Johnson will have his work cut out transforming the side into playoff contenders. With so many departures recalling rats and sinking ships, a relegation fight is more likely.
Remaining needs: Mo Eisa has left for Bristol City for £1.7 million while Harry Pell has also gone for £100k. Replacing these two will be crucial otherwise the Robins won't last until spring.
Manager: John McGreal
Last season: 13th
Season outlook: Colchester have a great chance to be the division's surprise package, not just for the playoffs but the automatic spots. A young side, but one with potential if they start well.
Remaining needs: Have bought every week and sport a good all-round squad. On paper, they will be happy with what they have got but it's turf at the Community Stadium.
Manager: Harry Kewell
Last season: 14th
Season outlook: Fourth favourites to drop out of the league despite a mid-table finish under Harry Kewell last season. Filipe Morais is the pick of their new signings. From Bolton, he could prove a real difference-maker.
Remaining needs: Depth in defence is the Reds main concern. In a league where the bottom half of the table is hard to separate, they will need to be more solid in the early going than last term.
Manager: David Artell
Last season: 15th
One of the many sides in the middle of the pack who could go either way. If I'm honest, the Railwaymen are more likely to slip into a fight at the bottom than at the top.
Remaining needs: New signings Nicky Hunt, Paul Green, Alex Nicholls and Shaun Miller are all in their 30s. They bring experience. That will be key to helping a defence that had the third-worst record in the league last season.
Manager: Matt Taylor
Last season: 4th
Season outlook: Exeter reached the playoff final last season but are down the pecking order of the promotion favourites for the new campaign. Taylor has a huge job to replace key names. If he can, those that have stayed can push them to another playoff spot.
Remaining needs: Taylor is rebuilding in the wake of several departures. The new players will need to gel quickly if the Grecians are to challenge.
Manager: Mark Cooper
Last season: 21st
Season outlook: Rovers' first campaign at this level was a struggle. This season looks set to be another battle. Cooper must build on the momentum from the run-in last season.
Remaining needs: In central midfield and defence, Forest Green have lost key players that kept them on the path last season. It's been a slow preseason replacing them.
Manager: Michael Jolley
Last season: 18th
Season outlook: Fans are expecting to move up and challenge for the playoffs but another season of turmoil looks more likely. If the Mariners can navigate the early season's rough waters, they'll have done well.
Remaining needs: Grimsby need a proven goal poacher to stave off relegation, either that or a youngster to step up.
Manager: Danny Cowley
Last season: 7th
Season outlook: The Imps are certainly on the rise. Cowley has worked wonders since taking over. He followed promotion with a playoff appearance and a trophy last season. Everything is set for a full charge to automatic promotion this year.
Remaining needs: Have made very good signings, with squad depth the only question mark.
Manager: Mark Yates
Last season: National League Champions, Promoted
Season outlook: Despite achieving promotion, Yates squad has deteriorated. The Silkmen face an uphill battle to stay in the division for more than one season.
Remaining needs: Yate's title-winning squad has dispersed. Attacking and central midfield need to be improved but Macclesfield haven't the resources to cope at this level.
Manager: David Flitcroft
Last season: 8th
Season outlook: Flitcroft came in near the end of last season, but the wheels came off after automatic promotion looked certain. His squad can make the top seven but should be aiming higher. They are the bookies fourth favourites for the title.
Remaining needs: Stability is needed still after Steve Evans left last season. Losing the boss rocked the boat and ultimately cost them a chance at promotion. If Flitcroft can marshal his troops, they have enough quality to go up.
Manager: Paul Tisdale
Last season: 23rd League One, Relegated
Season outlook: Tisdale has brought in quality players hoping the Dons can bounce back at the first time of asking after a few horrible seasons. Fans are expecting to go straight back up. It won't be easy but they are one of the title favourites.
Remaining needs: With the new manager, they have bought well with experience in defence and midfield. Despite this, goals are where they have struggled in recent years. Scoring is vital for a promotion bid.
Manager: Jim Bentley
Last season: 22nd
Season outlook: Morecombe only stayed up on goal difference last season and are second favourites to go down. They have been close to dropping out of the league for many years. Their time may be up.
Remaining needs: They scored the least number of goals in the division last time around and a proven striker is still needed. Jason Oswell scored a lot for Stockport County in the National North but it is a big step up for the new signing.
Manager: Mike Flynn
Last season: 11th
Season outlook: County overachieved last year by finishing in the top half. Another such season will be the target for the Welsh outfit, but they will find it hard.
Remaining needs: Flynn lacked goals from up front. He's made midfield signings to strengthen the supply line. Time will tell.
Manager: Dean Austin
Last season: 22nd League One, Relegated
Season outlook: Despite relegation, fans will expect to challenge for promotion even if it is via the playoffs. Dean Austin has come in to steady the ship. Despite his knowledge of the club, it is his first permanent manager's role.
Remaining needs: The Cobblers are inexperienced in midfield and goal. Austin's signings are as inexperienced as he is. That could be a problem.
Manager: Kevin Nolan
Last season: 5th
Season outlook: Favourites for the title ahead of MK Dons and Lincoln City after their playoff semifinal defeat last year, anything less than automatic promotion has to be seen as a disappointment.
Remaining needs: Nolan's signings look more than good enough for this level although experience has been sacrificed for youthful vigour.
Manager: Frankie Bunn
Last season: 21st League One, Relegated
Season outlook: Similar to Northampton and Bury, Oldham must rebuild following their return to League Two football. However, the Latics look more vulnerable than the others who fell with them. Teams often struggle to pull out of their tailspin, ending up in another relegation battle. New boss Frankie Bunn is charged with preventing that.
Remaining needs: Oldham's choice of manager could backfire. If they start badly, the club may have to change before it is too late. Bunn has never managed in the Football League before. With a club on the slide, it could end badly.
Manager: Neil Aspin
Last season: 20th
Season outlook: The Valiants underachieved last season but are many people’s outsider to finish in the top half, maybe even the playoffs this time.
Remaining needs: Aspin has only made six summer signings. Emmanuel Oyeleke, arriving from Exeter, is the pick of the bunch. He must support the strikers. Port Vale failed to reach the 50-goal mark last season.
Manager: Dino Maamria
Last season: 16th
Season outlook: Dino arrived from Nuneaton towards the end of last season. He will be looking to push Boro away from the relegation places. The bookies aren’t convinced he can. The first weeks will be key.
Remaining needs: Maamria's recruitment looks good, but he still lacks pace on the wings and someone who can cause damage in the final third.
Manager: Phil Brown
Last season: 9th
Season outlook: The Robins missed out on the top seven last season. Fans expect that as a minimum this year. Brown's squad is too light to target more than a playoff spot.
Remaining needs: After the starting XI, there is little cover at the back and no proven goal scorer for this level.
Manager: Mickey Mellon
Last season: 2nd National League, Promoted
Season outlook: Promoted back into the league last year, they look better than Macclesfield. If all goes well, Tranmere can avoid trouble and finish mid-table. I said if.
Remaining needs: James Norwood is key up front, following the loss of Andy Cook. Bringing in a partner for him is crucial.
Manager: Darren Way
Last season: 19th
Season outlook: Yeovil are the bookies favourites to go down after a poor season last year. Way has now been at the club for three seasons. They have not improved in that time, raising the double entendre that asks whether he is the way to go. He must prove the doubters wrong immediately or be replaced.
Remaining needs: The glovers lost some key players from last season, leaving a small squad short on quality. Definitely not the way to go.