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Page last updated at 13:50 GMT, Tuesday, 4 August 2009 14:50 UK

League Two club-by-club guide

Brentford celebrate winning the League Two title
Brentford will play in League One after winning the League Two title last season

The new football season begins with 24 clubs looking to escape the Football League's bottom tier.

League Two welcomes Burton Albion and Torquay United after both clubs were promoted from the Blue Square Premier last season.

For Burton, it is their first season in the Football League and they line up with Crewe Alexandra, Cheltenham Town, Hereford United and Northampton Town after all four were relegated from League One last season.

Here is BBC Sport's club-by-club guide.


How did they do last season? Stanley avoided the drop and ended the season in a more comfortable position than many predicted. A seven-game unbeaten run during March and April cast aside any lingering worries about relegation.

John Coleman

Who's the gaffer? After 10 years at the club alongside assistant manager Jimmy Bell, John Coleman is due to have a testimonial this season. He joined the club in 1999 and has seen the club win three promotions to take them from Northern Premier League Division One to the Football League. A terrific character and motivator of players who fully appreciates the financial restraints he has to work under.

Jimmy Ryan

Who's the player to watch? Talented midfielder Jimmy Ryan has taken on the goalscoring mantle following Ian Craney's departure to Huddersfield. Found the net 10 times last season to end as the club's leading scorer.

How will they do? "The priority is to avoid relegation and improve on last year, but the club have cut the playing budget for this season which has already seen the departure of keeper Kenny Arthur and striker Paul Mullin being transfer listed," says BBC Radio Lancashire's Andy Bayes. "A lot depends on the quality of players Coleman is able to bring in permanently and probably more importantly, in the loan market."


How did they do last year? Finished 15th, which most fans would have settled for after promotion. Had an excellent start to the season, where the Shots flirted with the play-offs and were unbeaten at home until Christmas, before fading alarmingly and only winning four games in 2009.

Gary Waddock

Who's the gaffer? Ex-QPR, Luton and Republic of Ireland midfielder Gary Waddock loves his team playing passing, attractive football. Known as 'the Ginger Mourinho' for his tactical substitutions and lovely black coat.

Shots ready for new season

Who's the player to watch? Striker Danny Hylton. The 20-year-old showed glimpses of his potential last season, notably against Bury and at Dagenham and Redbridge, and should play more of a role in this campaign after a very good pre-season.

How will they do? "With a more solid looking formation and all four summer signings being of a defensive nature, the Shots should be harder to beat," says BBC Sussex's Gavin Denison. "But with goals at more of a premium after last season's top scorer, Scott Davies, returned to Reading, I'm going for a more consistent season this time out and the Shots, making the top half and finishing 11th."


How did they do last season? The large point deductions handed to Rotherham, Bournemouth and Luton had Barnet resting on their laurels. A young, inexperienced side did not win until late September - 10 matches into the season. Ian Hendon took over as manager from Paul Fairclough at Christmas and sparked a revival, thanks largely to some shrewd loan signings. In the end, the Bees were comfortably housed in mid table.

Ian Hendon

Who's the gaffer? Former Tottenham Hotspur, Sheffield Wednesday and England Under-21 defender Hendon teetered with stardom as a player, but was a popular appointment as manager after captaining Barnet to promotion to the Football League. A single-minded character, he has never been afraid to speak his mind and criticise players if they don not carry out his orders. Hendon has carried his uncompromising style of play in to management.

Who's the player to watch? Barnet have two. Albert Adomah is a flying right winger, who was discovered playing at grassroots level by Paul Fairclough. Few in League Two can match his pace. There is also the prolific John O'Flynn, who scored 18 goals in 35 games last season. If both men are not not lured to a higher level, then Barnet have every right to be optimistic.

How will they do? "In the second half of last season, Barnet were beating the likes of Bradford, Gillingham and Rotherham with some to spare," says BBC London's Barry Swain. "If they take that sort of form in to the new season and add some consistency then a push for the play-offs is a possibility. Hendon will make them hard to beat and no one likes visiting Underhill's notorious slope, so they could be a dark horse for promotion."


How did they do last season? The Cherries pulled off an amazing escape from relegation, overcoming a 17-point deduction to seal their league survival with a game to spare. That, despite having three different managers, no money and a transfer embargo placed on them.

Eddie Howe

Who's the gaffer? At the age of 31, Eddie Howe is the youngest manager in the Football League. A cool, calm, meticulous figure, he achieved a miracle last year and will have the team well prepared this time around, despite working with next to no resources.

Firmer foundations for Cherries

Who's the player to watch? Defender Jason Pearce is a whole-hearted character and led a rock-solid Bournemouth backline in the second half of last season. Goal-hungry Brett Pitman continues to mature, but still needs an arm around him occasionally.

How will they do? "Don't bet against Eddie Howe leading the Cherries into the top seven," says BBC Radio Solent's Kris Temple. "This will be his first full season in charge, and don't underestimate the achievement if he takes them to the play-offs."

You can hear commentary on every Bournemouth game on BBC Radio Solent.


How did they do last season? After having possibly the biggest playing budget in the division, Bradford were runaway favourites for promotion and started the season well. Despite some poor performances they were never out of the top six in the first half of the season but faltered badly in the new year before falling away completely in March and April. Frustratingly, the sides around them also struggled to pick up points and despite appalling end to the season, City only missed out the play-offs by two points.

Stuart McCall

Who's the gaffer? Yorkshire-born Stuart McCall is a Bradford legend, having captained them to the Premier League in 1999. He is into his third season in charge at Valley Parade having previously worked as Neil Warnock's assistant at Sheffield United.

Gareth Evans

Who's the player to watch? They have a few. Young left-back Luke O'Brien broke into the first team last season and won the player of the year award. New striker Gareth Evans is expected to do well, as is Pakistan international central defender Zesh Rehman, who has now joined the club on a full-time deal.

How will they do? "It will be harder for Bradford this season," says BBC Radio Leeds' Derm Tanner. "Budget cuts have seen experienced players like Paul McLaren and Graham Lee leave, while matchwinner Omar Daley will not have recovered from injury until Christmas. City will have learnt from the huge disappointment of last season and will be harder to beat away from home. They should be contenders for the play-offs."

You can hear coverage of every Bradford City game on BBC Radio Leeds 774 AM.


How did they do last year? Won promotion to the Football League for the first time in their history after being crowned champions of the Blue Square Premier. Albion lost manager Nigel Clough to Derby County in January while 15 points clear at the top of the table, with Roy McFarland taking charge at Clough's request. McFarland moved them 19 points clear before confidence collapsed and, in the closing weeks of the season, the wins dried up. In the end, when Cambridge failed to win on the last day, Burton fell across the line by two points.

Paul Peschisolido

Who's the gaffer? Former Birmingham and Stoke striker Paul Peschisolido has arrived at the Pirelli Stadium for his first job in management, with Gary Rowett as his assistant. He brings a wealth of contacts to the club and has already set about strengthening the squad across the board. The Canadian is ambitious and easy to get along with, but also has the hidden strength a successful manager requires. Could be very successful the Pirelli.

Russell Penn

Who's the key man? Burton have paid a club record £20,000 to Kidderminster Harriers for England C international midfielder Russell Penn. Burton already have a strong midfield in the shape of Michael Simpson and John McGrath, so Peschisolido has options. Goalkeeper and goalkeeping coach Kevin Poole is set to become the oldest player in the Football League.

How will they do? "Burton will finish in the top half of League Two," according to BBC Radio Derby's Charles Collins. "And, if they are lucky in terms of injuries then they could challenge for a place in the play-offs."

You can hear every Burton game on BBC Radio Derby 1116 AM.


How did they do last season? Bury agonisingly missed out on automatic promotion to League One, finishing fourth on goal difference by a single goal, after spending the majority of the campaign in the top three. There was then heartbreak in the play-offs, as they were then beaten 4-3 on penalties by Shrewsbury at Gigg Lane.

Alan Knill

Who's the gaffer? Former Shakers centre-back Alan Knill returned to the club in February 2008 as manager with the team fighting to avoid relegation from the Football League, and led them to safety. Last season he became the first Bury boss to win two manager of the month awards in the same campaign as the club pushed for promotion. Knill has recently signed a contract extension that will keep him at the club until 2011.

Stephen Dawson

Who's the player to watch? Striker Andy Bishop will get the headlines and rightly so, having scored 61 goals in 132 starts since joining the Shakers three years ago, but Stephen Dawson is the player that embodies the team's work ethic and attitude. The 23-year-old is a no nonsense central midfielder who works incredibly hard to regain the ball and break down the opposition's attacks. He was named as the club's player of the year award last season in his first year at Gigg Lane.

How will they do? "Alan Knill surprised everyone last season by challenging near the top of League Two despite having one of the smallest squads of the division," says BBC Manchester's Bill Rice. "This summer he's added two strikers - Carlisle's Danny Carlton and Ryan Lowe from Chester on free transfers to bolster the club's attacking options. With a small squad a lot depends on good fortune with injuries, but if Bury display the same team ethic then expect them to be challenging for promotion again this season."


How did they do last year? Badly. Relegated from League One on the penultimate Saturday, although given the fact that did not win a league game for four months between December and March, Cheltenham did well to take it that far. Too many players used, over 100 goals conceded, not enough continuity and all against a backdrop of tightening finances. League Two should suit Cheltenham far better.

Martin Allen

Who's the gaffer? Former Brentford manager Martin Allen was brought in after a bad start to last season with the aim of avoiding relegation, but he could not do it. Has a reputation for unorthodox methods, but has a new and more traditional assistant in former Lincoln boss John Schofield. Pre-season has included five days at an army training camp and a sponsored bike ride by Allen to try and raise money for players' wages.

Julian Alsop

Who's the player to watch? Apart from Julian Alsop - the veteran striker who has signed a part-time monthly contract - none of the current squad have scored more than eight goals for the club. Someone has to fire the attack, and the supply could come from David Hutton, a tiny right winger released by Tottenham. He's only 19, but in his seven appearances on loan last season showed good pace, tidy close control and the ability to make things happen.

How will they do? "Cheltenham have been through the mincer in the last 12 months, the squad is relatively new and has several players with little experience" says BBC Radio Gloucestershire's Ian Randall. "In terms of average crowd and budget, they should be mid-table, any better should be regarded as a good, stable season - which is what the club needs."


How did they do last season? Got themselves into a play-off position but blew it by winning just one of their last eight games. Their best performances were often away from home, including a 6-1 win at Exeter, but the Spireites struggled to win matches on home soil.

John Sheridan

Who's the gaffer? Former Oldham boss John Sheridan is the new man in charge after being appointed as Lee Richardson's successor earlier this summer. He had a good record at Athletic and has a reputation for playing attractive football.

Jack Lester

Who's the player to watch? Without doubt, Jack Lester. The 33-year-old striker has scored 50 goals in his first two seasons with the club and should still be playing at a higher level.

How will they do? "I fancy them to challenge for at least a play-off spot," says BBC Radio Sheffield's Paul Walker. "It's important that Jack Lester stays fit as once again he will be pivotal to their success. The re-signing of fans' favourite Ian Breckin will add much needed to steel and leadership to a back four that leaked too many goals last season."


How did they do last season? Crewe suffered relegation to the bottom tier of the Football League for the first time in 15 years in what was a season to forget. Steve Holland was sacked as manager in November, with Dario Gradi taking temporary charge before Gudjon Thordarson was appointed at Christmas. The Icelander led the Alex out of the relegation zone, only for them to run out of steam and a run-in of 11 games without a win saw them lose their League One status.

Gudjon Thordarson

Who's the gaffer? Former Iceland manager Thordarson returned to English football in December having previously managed Stoke, Barnsley and Notts County. He demands hard work and commitment from his players, but is willing to share a joke at the right time. He is usually seen working his way through a packet of sweets during matches.

Luke Murphy

Who's the player to watch? Crewe are renowned for producing their own players, and despite relegation, the talent is still there. The likes of Byron Moore, Ashley Westwood andLuke Murphy will all be looking to push on this season and become key players.

How will they do? "If Crewe start the season with a bang then they can be real contenders for promotion," says BBC Radio Stoke's Graham McGarry. "Any team that suffers relegation has to show that they have the mental strength to overcome the disappointment. I think this will prove to be the Alex's biggest test."


How did they do last season? Missed out on the play-offs on the final day of the campaign, when, needing only to draw with Shrewsbury, the Daggers lost 2-1. However an eighth-placed finish should be seen as a miraculous success as Dagenham have one of the smallest budgets in the division and were in just their second season as a Football League club.

John Still

Who's the gaffer? The father of John Still was a Daggers season ticket holder, and the manager is Dagenham through and through. Still has managed on a shoestring, unearthing players like Craig Mackail-Smith, Sam Saunders, Shane Blackett and Paul Benson from non-league and turning them into stars. He is a great communicator whose passion for the game is unrelenting, even as he nears his 60th birthday.

Paul Benson

Who's the player to watch? Striker Josh Scott has arrived from Hayes and Yeading with fans hoping he's another gem discovered by Still. Paul Benson's goals will be vital to their hopes.

How will they do? "The Daggers have lost four of last season's successful squad and their third season in the Football League will be a real test," says BBC Essex's Glenn Speller. "It's difficult to predict, but in a division that is much of a muchness, but a top-half finish looks achievable."


How did they do last season? Darlington probably would have been gearing up for League One this season had they not gone into administration last time around. Without the 10 point deduction they would have ended up in the play-off places and many Quakers fans believe that the momentum they had in mid season would have taken them up automatically if financial meltdown had not dawned.

Colin Todd

Who's the gaffer? Former Derby manager Colin Todd has been charged with breathing new life into Darlington. He has massive experience of working at clubs with financial problems having previously been in charge of Middlesbrough and Bradford City during difficult times. He has recruited Dean Windass as his assistant which could prove to be a masterstroke.

Who's the player to watch? Striker Curtis Main has great potential. He was the subject of strong interest from Fulham last season but in the end he decided to stay with his hometown club. He picked up some invaluable experience during last season's struggles and scored some terrific goals. There is much more to come.

How will they do? "After all the trials and tribulations of the last six months in administration and the serious threat of the club going out of existence, Darlington fans will be only too happy to finish in the top half of the table," says BBC Tees' Ray Simpson.


How did they do last season? Finished third-from-bottom of the Football League and were the main beneficiaries of Luton's massive points deduction. It is a measure of how poor they were that Rotherham and Bournemouth, who also had points deducted, finished above them. The Mariners struggled all season due to poor recruitment the previous summer. Mike Newell is the man credited with saving Town after Alan Buckley, for once, could not work his magic at Blundell Park.

Mike Newell

Who's the gaffer? Former Luton boss Newell seems to be the right man for the job. The fans believe in him and he does not suffer fools. Having seemingly loosened the purse string in terms of player recruitment, he did his summer business quickly and efficiently.

Who's the player to watch? Young centre-half Ryan Bennett is the one bringing the scouts to Blundell Park. Peterborough made a determined attempt to land him this summer but Grimsby resisted and tied him to a new four-year deal, however that does not mean he won't be on the move in January. Striker Barry Conlon could yet be the hero of the season, his goals on loan at the end of last term kept Town up and the fans are getting ready to worship him.

How will they do? "I have a sneaking fancy that Grimsby will go up this year," says BBC Radio Humberside's David Burns. "Mike Newell has shaken the club up and based on summer recruitment, they could do well."


How did they do last season? Least said, soonest mended as the Bulls finished 24th in League One after gaining automatic promotion from League Two in the previous season. In fairness, they had no luck with injuries and managerGraham Turner refused to break the bank to try and buy survival. Most fans would agree that promotion probably came too quickly for United, but there were good days along the way, including a home win over Leeds United and a 5-0 demolition of Oldham Athletic.

John Trewick

Who's the gaffer? Former West Brom and Newcastle midfielder John Trewick has taken over the Edgar Street hotseat in place of Turner, who relinquished the manager's job to focus solely on his role as chairman and director of football. Trewick is hardly a newcomer to the Bulls as he was coach under Turner for five years, but this will be his first managerial role in the Football League.

Kenny Lunt

Who's the player to watch? Such has been the turnover of playing staff at Edgar Street since the end of last season, it is hard to pick just one man, but the stand-out signing is probably midfielder Kenny Lunt. The former Crewe man has already shown up well in pre-season and will provide the experience needed in a key area.

How will they do? "With so many new players it could take time for things to gel, but there have been some positive signs in pre-season," says BBC Hereford and Worcester's Trevor Owens. "John Trewick's signings have been generally well received by supporters and, while automatic promotion could prove a step too far this season, they might well have a say in the play-off picture."


How did they do last season? Last season was a season to forget for Lincoln. Away from home City did well enough to mount a play-off challenge but their form at Sincil Bank was dire. In fact, when this season gets underway it will be 294 days since the Imps last won at home on a Saturday. A positive to take from the last campaign came in the second half of the season as some of Peter Jackson's signings, particularly in defence, began to bed in.

Peter Jackson

Who's the gaffer? Former Huddersfield boss Peter Jackson has been in post for more than a year-and-a-half and is a larger than life character who knows the power of a good quote. Like all managers, he starts the season under some pressure as Imps fans are still somewhat disgruntled after unfulfilled predictions about promotion last time around. His big test is to mould a relatively inexperienced squad into a unit able to compete at the right end of the table.

Chris Fagan

Who's the player to watch? Now the defence has been solidified, the attention will be on how Lincoln create and score goals. Whilst Jamie Clarke has looked sharp on the wing in some pre-season matches, Chris Fagan looks like the one to watch. Once on the books at Manchester United, the 20-year-old striker joined the Imps from Glenn Hoddle's academy in Spain. After the departures of Dany N'Guessan and Adrian Patulea, perhaps an unfair amount of expectation is being heaped on Fagan, but judging by the comments of Jackson and Hoddle, and some of his goals in pre-season, he may be up to the task.

How will they do? "I would like to be able to say that Lincoln will win automatic promotion but last year I got caught up in the pre-season hype and erred towards that in error," says BBC Radio Lincolnshire's Michael Hortin. "Taking a level-headed look at it I think if the Imps can find some goals and home form to go with what looks like a better defensive base then the play-offs are possible. Then again, I'm sure every team in the league thinks the play-offs are achievable."


How did they do last year? Finishing 20th in League Two represented a poor season for the Silkmen as they narrowly avoided relegation. The Moss Rose club started badly, rallied briefly in mid-season but plummeted after the exits of Terry Dunfield and Martin Gritton.

Keith Alexander

Who's the gaffer? Former Lincoln boss Keith Alexander is an immensely likeable character but has been hamstrung by a lack of funds. Word on the grapevine is that he has until Christmas to win over the faithful who dislike his long-ball style.

Who's the player to watch? Attacking right-sided midfielder Izak Reid, who began life as a defender, scored his first goal for the club last season in his debut year as a professional. A product of the Town youth set-up, Reid is also happy playing in the pocket behind the strikers.

How will they do? "To suggest Macclesfield will suddenly be play-off hopefuls is living in fantasy land," says BBC Radio Manchester's Simon Carter. "As relegation contenders for four years, making mid-table would be very welcome but hugely unlikely. Will probably finish in the bottom six again."


How did they do last season? After a shocking start to the season, where Morecambe won just one game in the first 17, the Shrimps picked up after Christmas and went on an excellent run at the end of the campaign that took them to the fringes of the play-offs.

Sammy McIlroy

Who's the gaffer? Former Northern Ireland manager Sammy McIlroy was a legend as a player with Manchester United and has made similar headlines as a manager by becoming the first man to get two teams promoted to the Football League. One of the best-known bosses in the lower leagues, McIlroy is set for his fourth full-season as boss after taking over from Jim Harvey.

Barry Roche

Who's the player to watch? Goalkeeper Barry Roche was the star man last season with a string of fine performances throughout the campaign. Much though is expected this season of young midfielder Mark Duffy, who joined from Southport towards the end of last season after earning rave reviews for the Sandgrounders. The 22-year-old made a handful of appearances towards the end of last season without really making his mark but those games, and a good, full pre-season may see him fulfil that promise this season.

How will they do? "On the face of it the squad is stronger than it was last year and the Shrimps will be looking to make progress and build on their excellent finish to last year's campaign," says BBC Radio Lancashire's Derek Quinn. "They do however need to find someone to hit the back of the net on a regular basis if they are to really challenge for a play-off spot."


How did they do last season? Northampton were relegated from League One on the last day of the season, losing 3-0 to Leeds United as other teams around them won. Injuries to players like Giles Coke and Adebayo Akinfenwa, and the failure of Leon Constantine to score regularly, meant that the Cobblers performed well below expectations.

Stuart Gray

Who's the gaffer? Former Southampton boss Stuart Gray has managed the club since January 2007. He finds himself under pressure from the fans and chairman David Cardoza, to take the club straight back into League One.

Billy McKay

Who's the player to watch? Gray has four strikers at his disposal, but it's Billy McKay who has proved popular with supporters in pre-season. The 20-year-old was released by Leicester City and looks likely to give the Cobblers much-needed pace up front.

How will they do? "Anything less than the play-offs - and promotion - will be regarded as a failure for the Cobblers," says BBC Radio Northampton's Jon Wilkinson. "They've retained a good number of the squad from League One, and made some canny acquisitions. But, with one of the largest wage bills in the division, a good start will be vital in order to keep the fans happy."


How did they do last season? Finished 19th but were never in any real danger of relegation because of the points deduction handed to Luton. They did however finish behind Rotherham and only one point above Bournemouth, who also had points deducted.

Ian McParland

Who's the gaffer? Boss Ian McParland is perhaps the only manager in the division who will not have all eyes on him following Sven-Goran Eriksson's arrival as director of football. What McParland thinks of the arrival of the former England manager, only he knows, but a poor start to the season will inevitably lead to calls for the Swede to take the reigns at Meadow Lane.

Lee Hughes

Who's the player to watch? On the day Eriksson was appointed, former West Brom forward Lee Hughes joined Notts and will form a strike partnership with fellow new recruit Luke Rodgers. Plenty of new faces have arrived at Meadow Lane during the summer, but the loss of left-winger Myles Weston will be acutely felt. However, the experience of players like John Thompson, Jamie Clapham andGraeme Lee could make up for his departure.

How will they do? "Satisfactory answers to two key questions will determine whether Notts make a successful bid for, at worst, a play-off place," says BBC Radio Nottingham's Colin Slater. "The first is whether they can turn Meadow Lane into a fortress. To do so requires a massive turn-round in results compared to last season when Notts lost a club record 11 times at Meadow Lane, where they didn't win any of their last six games. The second is whether they've assembled a more lethal strike force after the summer's transfer market activity."

Your say - Discuss Notts County's chances on 606


How did they do last season? They started badly, and it got worse. After an opening day victory at doomed Luton, Vale won only one of their next six league games and manager Lee Sinnott was sacked. After a spell as caretaker, Dean Glover was named as the new boss and started brightly, with five wins from his first seven matches in charge. But the honeymoon period did not last, and the former fans' favourite soon became a target for their frustrations. A record of 11 home defeats from 23 league matches at Vale Park was not one to be proud of, and neither was their final league position of 18th. Before the final game of the season at Barnet, Glover was told he would be relieved of his first-team duties, and that a new manager would lead the club into the 2009-10 campaign.

Micky Adams

Who's the gaffer? Former Fulham boss Micky Adams brings a proven track record to the club, having achieved promotion with Brighton and Leicester in over a decade as a manager. It may be a surprise that he has dropped as low as League Two, but after supposed failures with Coventry and in his second spell with Brighton, Adams may feel he has something to prove. He has already stamped his authority on the team, adding three new faces to the squad and unleashing a tough pre-season programme on his players. Nothing less than 100% will be good enough for Adams.

Who's the player to watch? Striker James Lawrie has only made eight senior starts for the Valiants, but Premier League scouts are already sniffing around the 18-year-old, who made his international debut for Northern Ireland against Italy in June. He is small, quick and skilful, and possesses a good footballing brain. He may struggle physically at times, against big, bruising central defenders in League Two, but he has shown enough early promise to suggest he could be the latest gem to emerge from Vale's academy, which produced six players that featured for the first team in 2008-09.

How will they do? "No one should expect miracles from Vale in 2009-10," says BBC Radio Stoke's Phil Cartwright. "They do not boast the financial reserves of other clubs in the division, but they do have a talented young squad that on their day can beat anyone, as they proved, albeit rarely, last season. If Micky Adams can get the best out of the youngsters that made their first-team breakthrough last year, as well as keep top scorer Marc Richards fit for a whole season, they should finish comfortably in mid-table. There are a few teams in League Two that are worse than Port Vale. Unfortunately, there are a few that are better, too."


How did they do last year? Dale had outstanding success followed by heart-rendering disappointment for the second successive season. Losing in the semi-finals of the play-offs to Gillingham, 12 months after losing the final to Stockport, was cruel - even if they did finish eight points behind third-placed Wycombe.

Who's the gaffer? Ex-Rochdale defender Keith Hill has been in charge since December 2006. Friendly and media literate, Hill, alongside assistant David Flitcroft and the rest of the staff enjoy a deservedly outstanding reputation for harnessing young talent, such as strikers Adam Le Fondre and Chris Dagnall, alongside older, wiser heads.

Gary Jones

Who's the player to watch? Captain Gary Jones is not an exciting choice, but is one that diehard Daleians will fully understand. When Jones signed a new two-year deal at the club in May, manager Hill said he believed the midfielder has "unfinished business" at Spotland. Has been the heartbeat of the side in recent seasons.

How will they do? "Rochdale will be on the fringe of play-offs," says BBC Radio Manchester's Will Perry. "After achieving so much on such a tight budget for two seasons, Dale could be hard-pressed to make it third time lucky."


How did they do last season? United would have been in the promotion shake-up had it not been for their 17-point deduction. Did not lose in their first 10 games and took some big scalps in the cup competitions including Leeds, Sheffield Wednesday, Wolves and Leicester.

Mark Robins

Who's the gaffer? Former Manchester United striker Mark Robins is a bright, young manager who seems destined for success. Was linked with several other jobs last season including former club Norwich.

Tom Pope

Who's the player to watch? The departure of last season's leading scorer Reuben Reid will be a big loss but many will look to his big-money replacement, Tom Pope, who has joined the Millers from Crewe, to fill the void.

How will they do? "Rotherham should be contenders for automatic promotion," says BBC Radio Sheffield's Paul Walker. "They'll be strong defensively and should score goals, even without Reuben Reid. Fans expectations will be high, how they handle that could be their biggest challenge."


How did they do last year? Shrewsbury suffered the heartbreak of losing to Gillingham in the play-off final - thanks to a 90th-minute goal. They had sneaked into the final play-off spot by beating rivals Dagenham on the last day of the regular season, and then got to Wembley by beating Bury on penalties in a pulsating semi-final. Many felt they had the quality to make one of the automatic promotion spots, but a poor record away from the Prostar Stadium let them down.

Paul Simpson

Who's the gaffer? This will be Paul Simpson's second full season in charge. The former Preston, Carlisle and Rochdale boss was a stylish winger in his playing days at Manchester City, Oxford and Derby, and continues to chip in at training. He was appointed in March 2008 with Shrewsbury in a precarious position, but he kept them up - and then went close to sealing promotion last season.

Jake Robinson

Who's the player to watch? New strikers Nathan Elder, Kris Bright and Jake Robinson will be looked to for goals following the departure of Grant Holt. Omer Riza, an ex-Turkey B international, who was training with Shrewsbury last season while serving a lengthy ban in Turkey while with former club Trabzonspor, is now eligible to play.

How will they do? "Shrewsbury have the ability to go up, but they need to believe that," says BBC Radio Shropshire's James Bond. "Last season's poor results on the road sapped confidence, so a good record away from home is needed in the early stages. Top scorer Grant Holt completed a late-summer move to Norwich - he couldn't stop scoring for two thirds of last season before drying up in the closing stages, so perhaps a new-look front-line might actually pay off for the Shrews."


How did they do last season? A rollercoaster season started badly, leaving United close to the relegation zone in the Blue Square Premier. However, an amazing run in the second half of the season saw them clinch fourth spot and a place in the play-offs, where they beat Histon in the semi-finals and Cambridge United in the final, to return to the Football League after a two-year absence.

Paul Buckle

Who's the gaffer? Former Gulls midfielder Paul Buckle was appointed after Torquay's relegation out of the Football League in 2007. He cuts a cool, calm and collected figure on the touchline, and won't be overawed by the challenge ahead.

Chris Hargreaves

Who's the player to watch? A team without any star players is led by influential captain Chris Hargreaves. The midfielder was often United's spark in tight matches last season and he has the happy habit of scoring in big matches.

How will they do? "I think Torquay will be safe, but I can't see them following Exeter by going straight up to League One," says BBC Devon's Laura Joint. "Buckle will be relying on the spine of the team, where he has his most experienced players, and he will be hoping for another good season from striker Tim Sills. They will finish in mid-table."

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