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Ask Steve Claridge

Steve Claridge
Claridge is a pundit for The Football League Show and Football Focus

The last action of an exciting Football League season saw Millwall and Dagenham & Redbridge win the League One and League Two play-off finals at Wembley.

This week, in my final column of the season, I take a look at how both promoted teams will do next season, and also name my teams of the season in the Championship and each of the other divisions.

Thanks for all your questions over the last few months. I look forward to answering more next season - see you then.


How well can Millwall do in the Championship? Is their squad strong enough or will boss Kenny Jackett have to bring in lots of players?
Steve, London

Millwall v Swindon

Millwall 1-0 Swindon

There is a huge difference between League One and the Championship and most of Millwall's players are unproven at the level they will be playing at next season - I think only Neil Harris has got decent experience at that level.

But they should be given time to show whether they can cut it by Jackett. Managers like to be loyal to the players that have served them well, but that approach can only go so far.

Torquay did that last season, when manager Paul Buckle gave his squad time to show they could step up from the Blue Square Premier to League Two, before realising they were not good enough and freshening things up. I'd imagine most of the Millwall squad will get an opportunity to show what they can do - they certainly should because we don't know enough about most of them in the Championship.

Have Dagenham & Redbridge got any chance of staying up in League One next season?
Mike, England

Rotherham's Ian Sharps is tackled by Dagenham's Scott Doe

Dagenham and Redbridge 3-2 Rotherham

I'm sure everybody is more than aware it is going to be a real struggle for the Daggers next season, but I certainly wouldn't write them off and I think they are going to enjoy themselves whatever happens. I don't say this very often but they are in a no-lose situation.

Having seen how their manager John Still works, I have a sneaky feeling they might just survive but the biggest problem for them is going to be keeping hold of their best players. There is a limited shelf-life for good players at smaller clubs who are doing well because they get snapped up by bigger teams.

You are always battling to keep a team together - when I was with Cambridge at the start of the 90s we went through the divisions and very nearly got into the Premier League before that squad started to break up. If a few key players leave Dagenham, then it might be difficult to replace them.

My teams of the season: Championship, League One and League Two

The reason I haven't included any players from Newcastle or West Brom in my Championship selection is because their squads were so much stronger than everybody else so it was far easier to play in those teams than it was in anyone else's.

STEVE'S CHAMPIONSHIP TEAM OF THE SEASON
GK: Camp (Nott'm Forest)
D: Rangel (Swansea)
D: Williams (Swansea)
D: Monk (Swansea)
D: Bertrand (Reading)
M: Sigurdsson (Reading)
M: Adam (Blackpool)
M: Whittingham (Cardiff)
F: Chopra (Cardiff)
F: Maynard (Bristol C)
F: Hooper (Scunthorpe)

You look at their squads and their budgets and they were far, far stronger. Only Nottingham Forest's squad came remotely close in terms of strengths in depth, and that was a massive advantage to their players.

Out of the players I've chosen, I was particularly impressed by Garry Monk at Swansea, who did a great job at the back for them and was very under-rated. In midfield Gylfi Sigurdsson came on leaps and bounds for Reading and scored lots of goals too.

And, up front, Nicky Maynard and Gary Hooper were prolific despite playing for teams that had difficult seasons.

The battle at the top of League One was a lot more evenly-matched, which was part of the reason it was such an exciting one.

STEVE'S LEAGUE ONE TEAM
GK: Forster (Norwich)
D: Harte (Carlisle)
D: Clarke (Huddersfield)
D: Robinson (Millwall)
D: Richardson (Charlton)
M: Hoolahan (Norwich)
M: Bailey (Charlton)
M: Lallana (Southampton)
M: Snodgrass (Leeds)
F: Holt (Norwich)
F: Lambert (Southampton)

Grant Holt's goals for the champions Norwich got them up but it is a close call whether he or Southampton's Ricky Lambert was the best striker at that level.

In midfield, Charlton's Nicky Bailey did as much as he could to try to get them promoted - ultimately in vain - but he never gave up and is a player you'd want on your side.

Leeds' Patrick Kisnorbo deserves some recognition for a strong season in defence but instead I plumped for Millwall's Paul Robinson. He scored some very important goals towards the end of the season and led by example to help them win promotion via the play-offs.

There were lots of players to shine in League Two too, but special mention has to go to Brett Pittman, who was so prolific for Bournemouth and helped win them promotion despite their terrible off-field problems.

STEVE'S LEAGUE TWO TEAM
GK: Schmeichel (Notts C)
D: Kennedy (Rochdale)
D: Pearce (B'mouth)
D: Dawson (Rochdale)
D: Brayford (Crewe)
M: Davies (Notts C)
M: Wroe (Torquay)
M: Dawson (Bury)
F: Pitman (B'mouth)
F: Le Fondre (Rotherham)
F: Hughes (Notts C)

Hopefully, he and people like Rochdale's Craig Dawson will get a chance to prove they can play at a higher level because Dawson has already done so well after stepping up from non-league.

Bury were another team to fall short of the play-offs but their captain, midfielder Stephen Dawson will be playing in League One next season anyway after agreeing to join Leyton Orient and I'm sure he will fit right in.


Steve Claridge is a BBC Football League pundit who played more than 800 matches for 15 clubs over the course of a 24-year playing career. He was talking to Chris Bevan.



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