With Peterborough United, Derby County, and Barnsley dropping down into Sky Bet League One from the Championship, we take a look at those three clubs as well as the four clubs promoted from Sky Bet League Two last term - Forest Green Rovers, Exeter City, Bristol Rovers, and Port Vale.
Peterborough will have hoped to have stuck around in the Championship longer than a single season following automatic promotion from League One in 2020/21, but things didn’t quite go to plan in an increasingly difficult division.
Out of the drop zone on ten occasions during a 46 match season, United were pretty much always in with a fighting chance of survival, but the concession of 87 goals proved to be a major issue – shipping four or more goals in a single game, on six occasions.
Capable on their own patch, the Posh’s form away from home made things difficult and in February the club parted ways with long-serving boss Darren Ferguson who was replaced with departing Hull City Manager, Grant McCann. McCann was of course a popular player at London Road and also had a spell as manager of the club between 2016 and 2018.
Jamaica international forward Jonson Clarke-Harris has been the club’s top scorer for the last two seasons, and retaining his services whilst managing to keep him fit and firing, will likely be a priority for McCann. Jack Marriott is a talented forward player who was leading the line for a promotion-chasing Derby County side only a few years back. He could turn out to be an effective partner for Clarke-Harris in 2022/23.
The chances of a Derby County survival were pretty slim from the get-go last term, with the Rams deducted a total of 21 points for going into administration and admitting to breaches of the EFL’s profitability and sustainability rules. Without the deductions, Wayne Rooney’s side would’ve recorded a 17th-place finish in the Sky Bet Championship.
With recruitment hindered significantly by their situation, County had to turn to a talented crop of academy graduates last season, to join a squad also bolstered by players at the back end of their career but with bags of experience – the likes of Curtis Davies, Phil Jagielka, and Colin Kazim-Richards.
The Rams never quite recovered from their setback and were relegated with three matches remaining following a 1-0 defeat at Queens Park Rangers. County fans will certainly have a wish list going into the summer. New owners and a fresh start will be top of that list, but retaining Wayne Rooney and the majority of their talented young players would also go a long way to giving them renewed optimism heading into their first season in the third tier since 1986.
Having reached the Sky Bet Championship play-offs under Valérien Ismaël in 2020/21, following the latter’s departure to take over at West Bromwich Albion, the Tykes never clicked into gear in 2021/22 – with three managers at the helm during the season.
Their three-year stay in the second tier came to an end last term with relegation confirmed following defeat at Huddersfield Town. Ultimately, the South Yorkshire outfit finished 24th – 11 points from safety.
With the club still searching for a new boss, it’s hard to predict what to expect from Barnsley during the next twelve months, but they will fancy their chances in the third tier given the fact both of their last two seasons at the level ended with promotion back to the Championship. A few of the Tykes’ star players will likely attract potential suitors higher up the ladder and the Oakwell club will hope to retain the likes of Carlton Morris, Callum Styles, and Cauley Woodrow.
FOREST GREEN ROVERS
Promoted to the third tier of English football for the first time in their history at the climax of the 2021/22 season, Rovers were never outside of the automatic promotion places in Sky Bet League Two last term and topped the table for all but three matchdays. A remarkable achievement and a promotion that many thought would have been sewn up a fair bit earlier than it was.
Key-man and top scorer Matty Stevens is a long-term absentee after sustaining an ACL knee injury in April, but the presence and power of 20-goal Jamille Matt could be key for the Nailsworth outfit this coming campaign.
Rob Edwards guided the club to the title but departed The New Lawn shortly after the end of the campaign to take over at newly-relegated Championship side, Watford – with the Hornets installed as early favourites for promotion to the top flight. The former England youth coach has since been replaced by Notts County boss Ian Burchnall who is in an EFL managerial role for the first time in his career. Dale Vince and the leadership at Rovers will be hoping to see the team establish themselves in League One in their maiden outing at the level.
After losing in three play-off finals in three seasons between 2017 and 2020, and following consistent Wembley heartbreak and a decade in League Two, Matt Taylor guided the Grecians to a long-awaited promotion last term.
The play-offs were taken out of the equation this time around, with the Devon outfit finishing second in the table, losing out on the title on the season's final day to Forest Green Rovers. Continuity seems to have been key at St. James’ Park with Chorley-born Grecians boss Matt Taylor preparing for his fifth season in charge and he currently carries an impressive win percentage of 44.1%.
City lost frontman Ryan Bowman the pre-season prior but retained the services of captain Matt Jay who scored 16 goals this term. Player of the Year Timothee Dieng enjoyed an excellent season in the heart of the midfield also, and like Forest Green Rovers they will be hoping to establish themselves in the third tier.
Rovers were promoted automatically from League Two following a remarkable 7-1 home victory against Scunthorpe United at the Memorial Stadium that saw Northampton Town dramatically drop into the play-off positions with a Cobblers promotion looking much the likelier outcome going into the final day’s fixtures.
It took a while for Joey Barton to get his team into second gear following their drop into the basement division and after a home defeat to Port Vale shortly before a COVID-enforced break in December, Rovers were 16th in the table.
But, the Gas hit form to climb into the play-offs with 10 games to go before nicking the final automatic promotion spot on the last day of the season. Aaron Collins led the line with 18 goals in his debut season following a move from Forest Green Rovers, with Antony Evans and Newcastle United loanee Elliot Anderson also starring for Barton’s team. A well-supported football club within a two-club City, Rovers will be aiming to carry momentum into the 2022/23 season.
Vale were this season’s League Two Play-Off winners following a resounding 3-0 victory against Mansfield Town at Wembley Stadium courtesy of goals from Kian Harratt, James Wilson, and Mal Benning,
Following a slow start to the 2021/22 season, Vale got back on track and were as high as second in the table in late October. Darrell Clarke’s side fell off track a little bit but never dropped into the bottom half after that, regaining a play-off spot with nine games to go.
Three consecutive defeats leading up to the final game of the season put paid to their genuine hopes of automatic promotion, and an impressive victory on the final day of the season at Exeter City secured a spot in the play-offs.
Beating Swindon Town over two legs in the play-off semi-finals, victory set up a meeting with Mansfield Town, and promotion ended a spell of five seasons in the basement division following their relegation from League One in 2016/17. Vale finished 9th in League One in 2013/14, the last time they had just achieved promotion from League Two, and the Burslem outfit would probably harbour hopes of finishing in a similar position next term.