We haven’t lost any major players, luckily we managed to keep hold of the likes of Amond, Nasalia and Hatfield –players I believe to be key this season. New signing Shepherd looks good.
I’m positive for this season and have fairly high expectations. I’m hoping for a push for play-offs or, at worst, a top half of the table finish.
The main game to look forward to is Rochdale’s return to League Two – for obvious reasons. In terms of moving forward, they’ll prove to be a test as they have a lot of our former players and management. From my point of view (like others), I think that’ll prove to be the most interesting game.
16th in League Two – “Baptism of fire”
In the close season we released Jack Turner, Chris Bush, Fraser Franks, Gareth Gwillim, Bret Johnson, Jamie Stuart, Reece Jones, Ricky Wellard, Kieran Djilali; in addition to Ryan Jackson, Lee Minshull, James Mulley and Max Porter who were all told in January that they would be leaving. Replacements include a Venezuelan goalkeeper Jaimez-Ruiz, left-back Warren Cummings from Bournemouth and right-back Curtis Osano. We have permanently signed centre back Pim Balkestein, who was on loan last season as well as Angus MacDonald (defender) on loan from Reading.
I expect our Goalkeeper Seb Brown to have a good season along with Jack Midson who will hopefully top the goal scoring league. I expect this season to be very tough and anywhere outside the relegation zone would be nice and fancy a decent run in the FA cup.
I’m looking forward to a better trip to Barnet this season without the rain and thumping defeat. Wycombe is a ground I went to with Wimbledon FC so fancy a day out there too!
We have lost our captain, fans’ player of the season and player of the season, Darren Jones, to Shrewsbury; as well as Straker to Southend. Our replacements – Sonny Bradley and Troy Brown – both were on loan last season. Troy has signed permanently and Sonny is on a season long loan from Hull City. We have signed Tonkin from Oxford as a replacement for Straker.
We have broken our transfer record this summer, signing Craig Reid from Stevenage and have so much strength in depth. In other years it’s been easy to predict the starting 11, but this season it is very difficult. My season expectations are to finish in the top half and once again challenge for the play-offs. I think we can sneak into the play-offs and maybe finish 7th.
On a personal level, my aim is to do 20 away games this season. The fixtures I looked for when they were released were Oxford away Wimbledon away as their both excellent away days normally; as well as the first and last game which are Plymouth and Rotherham away. Wycombe at home is always a home game to look forward to as it’s the return of Gary Waddock the man who guided us into the football league. Exeter is the first home game and I am looking forward to once again being on my beloved East Bank chanting for 90 minutes. I am also looking forward to York away and hitting The Stone Roses bar – and York will be a new ground for me.
22nd in League Two – “No real surprise”
We released a fair few players at the end of last season, most of which, were out of contract. Whilst a lot of players in May, the remaining players to depart left once the new manager (Mark Robson) took over. The stand-out players, for me, to leave would be McLeod, Mark Hughes and Sam Deering (who’s now at fellow League Two club, Cheltenham). We all knew McLeod would leave, and despite his goals in the first half of the season, he didn’t really seem to have his heart in the club anymore. We were all surprised to see Mark and Sam leave though, as both were influential last campaign, and Hughesy was our skipper (who kept us in the League with that winner at Burton!). Whilst we’ve not really found that 20-goal a season striker to replace McLeod, we have signed Jon Nurse (ex-Dagger) and Jake Hyde has returned to the club after a stint up in Scotland. We’ve also signed the majority of West Ham’s former youth squad, with the pick of the bunch probably being Ahmed Abdulla, who’s had league experience after brief loan-spells with Swindon and Dagenham.
I really don’t know how we will get on this season, but it’s fair to say, I don’t set my expectations very high after the last three seasons. Part of me expects a similar performance, riding chances and maybe even running out of luck! I’d be happy with anything above 18th, to be honest. New manager, new squad and new philosophy, what could go wrong? It’d be nice to end our football at Underhill on a high, and have something to be happy about for once.
Like every other season, I’m looking forward to Northampton away – even though it’s on the final day! Our penultimate game is our last at Underhill, so I’m looking forward to that, although part of me will feel sad as I’ve grown up with the stadium for the last 18 years or so. York and Fleetwood, both promoted last season, will be new grounds and should be fairly good weekends, in very different parts of the country! Living in Essex, I suppose I have to mention the local games in Southend and Dagenham as well – not that we ever have much luck at either!
It was sad to see Dave Syers and Simon Ramsden depart for Doncaster and Motherwell respectively. Both players were popular amongst the fans but unfortunately injuries meant they didn't get a chance to shine last season. The pair were offered new deals but on heavily reduced terms, so it was understandable that they decided to move on. I feel we have brought in some good replacements in Gary Jones and Nathan Doyle though, the latter is an especially popular signing after an impressive loan spell in 2006-2007. Our marquee signing is undoubtedly Andrew Davies. Having spent much of last season at Valley Parade on loan from Stoke City, it looked inevitable that his future lay much higher than League Two. However to our surprise he opted to stay with the Bantams, signing a one-year deal. He is a cut above at this level and will look to continue his central defensive partnership with last season's Player of the Year, Luke Oliver.
Despite our brush with the relegation zone last season, I believe that we possessed the nucleus of a potentially good team. We very rarely got beat by more than the odd goal so it makes sense that rather than making wholesale changes, Phil Parkinson has focused mainly on adding to the existing squad. For the first time in a few seasons we have not seen a large-scale 'clear out' of the squad so I feel that continuity could be a crucial factor in any success we have this season. Most of our fans seem to be enthused by the signings we have made and there is an air of positivity around the club once again. We have sold nearly 9000 season tickets and our supporters seem excited for the new season. Bearing all this in mind, I predict a finish of 5th for Bradford City.
League Two seems to have a more 'Northern' feel about it than in recent seasons, so there will be a nice selection of local trips for our fans. I am particularly looking forward to Fleetwood Town and York City. An early meeting with our old friend Steve Evans at Rotherham United is another to whet the appetite!
Most of the players that we’ve cut were either loans or deadwood, the only real loss being winger Mustapha Carayol, who left for Middlesbrough after some Twitter shenanigans. Of the players Mark McGhee has brought in, David Clarkson looks the pick; assuming we can keep him fit he should rack up a decent goal tally in League Two.
Scottish centre back Garry Kenneth also looks a quality acquisition on paper after he was released by Dundee United, but we could still do with another player in central defence. The main issues are up front, we look very light on options and lack somebody with enough pace to frighten the opposition. McGhee has said he’s still in the market for another four players, and some experience in midfield would be especially handy, but he’s cutting it quite fine!
I’d like to say we’re going for promotion, but without some quick recruits I expect us to fall short. It’s difficult to see where the goals are coming from and we look rather flimsy in the middle but, with the right additions, a play-off spot would please most supporters.
As I’m at university in Plymouth, Argyle away was the first fixture I scoured the list for, and hopefully we might beat them for once so I can avoid more ridicule!
With Swindon going up last season Rovers have lost all their traditional local rivals, which is a bit of a disappointment, leaving Cheltenham as our closest opponents. It doesn’t quite have the same edge that games against Bristol City or Swindon do, but it’s a great day out and we’ll be sure to pack the away end.