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Last Updated: Saturday, 6 August 2005, 10:47 GMT 11:47 UK
Countdown underway to new season
The Football League season starts on Saturday - the first day in what promises to be an enthralling campaign that will last more than nine months.

Three divisions, 72 clubs and an amazing 1,656 matches will determine all the promotion and relegation issues before the drama of May's play-offs.

The focus of attention will be on the Championship teams vying for a place in the promised land of the Premiership.

Norwich are favourites to go up while Southampton will want to bounce back.

Both teams were relegated from the top flight last season along with Crystal Palace.

Attendances rose by 10% to 9.8 million in 2004/05
It is the fourth best attended division in Europe
Nine clubs had something to play for on the final day of the last campaign

Saints have had a summer of turmoil losing their leading strikers Peter Crouch and Kevin Phillips and manager Harry Redknapp has also had to contend with the high-profile arrival of former England rugby union coach Sir Clive Woodward.

Woodward has taken on the role of technical director, an appointment that has put the club firmly in the public eye.

A good start is crucial, otherwise we could witness a south coast soap opera in the coming months.

With only two automatic promotion places up for grabs the competition will be fierce and Norwich and Crystal Palace have been buoyed by keeping hold of their key men up front.

The Canaries have Dean Ashton and Darren Huckerby leading the line - two strikers with proven track records in the second tier - while Palace boss Iain Dowie has worked wonders in holding on to England international Andy Johnson.

Wolves, under Glenn Hoddle, Sheffield United, Ipswich, Leeds and last season's play-off final losers Preston will also be in the mix.

At the other end of the table Brighton and Crewe face a dog-fight to avoid the relegation trap-door that will suck three clubs into the third tier.


League One is a notoriously competitive league and this term it features former European champions Nottingham Forest.

They start the season as favourites for the title and will want to arrest their recent decline, however all their 23 rivals will be eyeing them as the season's big scalp.

Bristol City, Hartlepool, Huddersfield and Tranmere will maximise on any Forest slip ups, while new boys Yeovil could maintain the momentum they built up last season.

The Glovers won the League Two title and will want to follow Hull's lead, the Tigers having gained promotion in successive seasons to book a berth in the Championship.

Northampton are favourites to follow Yeovil in winning League Two, and have prepared for the campaign with a pre-season training camp in Austria - the usual preserve of the likes of Arsenal.

Their big push could come under pressure from Wycombe, while League new boys Barnet and Carlisle will want to prove worthy additions to League Two following promotion from the Conference.


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