By Sam Goff
Another Football League season beckons, another campaign of highs and lows in what the Blues fans have become accustomed to. A ten-point deficit will need to be overcome but survival is essential for Portsmouth this season.
In this brief preview I’ll take a look at both potential title and relegation candidates as well as a couple of players to watch on away trips.
League One looks like an open division this campaign and you could put up a strong argument for nearly half of the sides to bounce into England’s second tier come next April. Sheffield United head the market at 6/1 (Coral). The Blades finished 3rd last season but fell at the last hurdle in the play-offs. They are Ched Evans-less after he was convicted of rape and will need to replace the 29 goals he weighed in with to challenge at the top-end again.
Notts County 16/1 (Betfred) are another candidate that will have a say at the business end of the season. Goal difference prevented them from achieving a play-off place last season but they will significantly improve with the signings they’ve made. Expect them to go extremely close under Keith Curle.
Portsmouth have been installed as 5/6 (William Hill) favourites to record back-to-back relegations after a massive ten-point deduction was put on their heads. With the calibre of players currently on trial I think that’s a mighty short price and would definitely leave that alone.
The last two League One seasons has seen Walsall scraping away at the bottom half of the division but I think it could be a losing battle this time round. Emmanuel Ledesma won’t be around to save their bacon this season and I don’t think they have enough technical ability left in their squad to survive. 6/4 (William Hill) is short but I can see it happening.
Players to Watch
Matt Ritchie (Swindon): A player we know well! Ritchie is a talented player who started his ‘balling career with Portsmouth’s academy but has now progressed into a classy goalscoring midfielder at first-team level. He is much sought after but Paolo Di Canio won’t let him go without a fight. Expect a big season from him.
Hamza Bencherif (Notts County): Notts narrowly missed out on a play-off spot last season but have reacted by making some shrewd signings, one of them being Hamza Bencherif. Hamza has joined from Macclesfield and arrives with a solid reputation. A classy midfield player who plays with no fear. Often breaks into the opponents box and isn’t scared to unleash from range. Free-kick specialist.
Freddie Sears (Colchester): Sears burst onto the scene with West Ham but he has since failed to fulfill his potential after a series of loan moves. A permanent transfer to Colchester will settle him personally and it could be the perfect springboard for him to show everyone what he can do. Needs a big season! A bright pre-season suggests it will be for Freddie Sears.