Sammy says: "I thought Terry Brown's side did brilliantly last season considering it was their first season in the npower Football League but the Achilles Heel which held them back was definitely in defence. They were green, a little bit naïve, conceding 40 times on their home patch but now that they are fully acclimatised to the division I expect that figure to drop. The manager has also clearly addressed the issue this summer bringing in several defenders like Pim Balkestein, Angus Macdonald and Warren Cummings which he'll no doubt be hoping stems the tide. In attack I felt the Dons did ever so well last year, particularly Jack Midson, and at times they were a very entertaining team to watch. However, in the pro ranks you have to be streetwise and know when the time is right to keep things tight at the back and when to impose yourselves physically as well which I'm sure they now realise. The next obstacle in their way is likely to be 'second season syndrome'. Can they take their game to the next level? Will they be able to cope with opponents who have a much better idea of what they're all about? Only time will tell on that one but they should take plenty of confidence with them from their debut campaign. I believe they'll concede less but sadly I do think it will be another tricky season for AFC Wimbledon."
Sammy's Prediction: 20th
Last Season: 16th
Sammy says: "I know Cookie (Paul Cook) well and he's a brave man stepping into the legendary John Coleman's shoes at Accrington Stanley. He's one heck of a tough act to follow, not least because in recent years the club has challenged for play-off places, which was a remarkable feat given the financial restrictions they work under at the club. It may not be realistic for Stanley to be pushing quite as high in the table this season but knowing Cookie as I do he'll still be striving to do so. Having taken the reins midway through last season the side is beginning to adapt to his style and methods now. Under Coleman they were renowned for their hardworking pressing game but these days the side tends to focus more on getting possession of the ball, retaining it and playing a lovely passing game. They look different to how they did under Coley for sure. My big concern for Stanley is the fact that they've lost a lot of talented players in the last two years, and I'm not wholly convinced that they have the funds or wherewithal to replace them adequately. Youngsters will be handed their chance to shine, and they'll be encouraged to play with freedom but this is a tough league and I fear they may find it hard to shine. A difficult season lies ahead."
Sammy's Prediction: 22nd
Last Season: 14th
Sammy says: "When Dean Holdsworth turned down the opportunity to leave Aldershot for Crawley Town this summer it turned more than a few heads and I hope that he doesn't end up regretting the chance to go up a division. I've spoken to Dean a number of times and he's a top bloke. He's a football man that knows his stuff but he's also got this old school attitude about him which I like greatly. He's a throwback in many ways to coaches of years gone by and I don't think there's anything wrong with that at all. By staying at the Rec he's shown tremendous belief in his team and in the club to progress and for swathes of last season I did think they showed outstanding promise. When in form they were so, so solid at the back, yet at other times they didn't look like the same side at all. They had a funny old season. Experienced defender Guy Branston has come in, and he'll be a big presence in the heart of defence but the question I'd ask is will they score enough goals to propel themselves into the play-off region? The signs suggest they have the potential to make a move this season but npower League 2 looks even stronger this term and I worry that may count against them, especially during the second half of the season when bigger squads can make a huge difference."
Sammy's Prediction: 15th
Last Season: 11th
Sammy says: "Survival is usually the name of the game for the Bees and it will be more of the same I suspect in 2012/13. Hats off to them for digging in and showing the character to avoid the drop at the back end of last season because any team that concedes 79 goals shouldn't really be able to stay up. Sadly for Barnet, the man who delivered most of their goals last term, Izale McLeod, has moved on a free transfer which leaves a gaping hole in their attack to fill. Striker Jon Nurse, who has joined from Dagenham & Redbridge could be a decent acquisition but whether he can notch a hatful remains to be seen. New boss Mark Robson is somebody I know reasonably well and he's a nice, intelligent footballing man who will be well aware of the job he needs to do but all this upheaval in terms of managerial turnover (seven bosses in two years) can't be helpful to the players themselves. Mind you this summer a healthy number of players have also arrived at Underhill, with ex-Charlton defender Jonathan Fortune the biggest name to sign on. Crowds will be low, and Barnet will face their usual uphill battle, so despite wishing them all the best I have a sneaky feeling that their luck may run out and there may not be a great escape this time."
Sammy's Prediction: 24th
Last Season: 22nd
Sammy says: "It's a mystery why Bradford City have endured such poor seasons in recent years but you sense that this summer they are really going all out to buck that trend. Phil Parkinson has been splashing the cash on a number of impressive new signings that include Alan Connell, Stephen Darby, Nathan Doyle, Gary Jones and Will Atkinson, and I wouldn't be at all surprised to see them pushing in the top half of the table between now and Christmas as a result. After a succession of different managers the club seem to have settled down with Parkinson and with his preferred players on board now, you may see a very different Bradford side in 2012/13. I don't think there are too many managers out there that take their jobs more seriously than Phil - he is one of the most thorough and hardworking coaches in the English game - so if they don't succeed it won't be for a lack of trying. Pressure and high expectations always exist at Bradford, and with crowds averaging well over 10,000 that won't change a bit, but the class of 2012 look much better equipped to handle it. Promotion is perhaps too much to ask as the rebuilding process takes shape but you'll see a far improved Bantams side this year."
Sammy's Prediction: 10th
Last Season: 18th
Sammy says: "12 months ago I was predicting a title triumph for Bristol Rovers but manager Paul Buckle didn't even last the season in the job. It all went horribly and unexpectedly wrong for him at Rovers and it's difficult to understand why it went so pear-shaped because he's a top coach with a fine track record. Towards the end of the season Mark McGhee came on board and the side visibly improved, so with his wise head now guiding them, and with confidence much higher, the signs suggest they won't disappoint again in a similar manner. The ship has been undoubtedly steadied, and despite the sale of Mustapha Carayol to Middlesbrough the Pirates squad remains very strong on paper. Away from home they have to improve though. Just five wins and 41 goals conceded on their travels is a poor return for a team of their abilities. A disastrous start also cost them dearly in 2011/12, which is why it's paramount that they get out of the blocks quicker this time. With them ending the season so powerfully, a positive opening spell might give them the impetus to mount a serious promotion effort. It's a club that belongs at a higher level and it wouldn't surprise me if they were plying their trade at one this time next year."
Sammy's Prediction: 4th
Last Season: 13th
Sammy says: "The Brewers set off like a train on fire last August and September but the longer the season went on, the worse they got. It must have infuriated Paul Peschosolido, who eventually paid for their sudden decline with his job. Stepping into his shoes is rookie boss Gary Rowett and I suspect that it will be an extremely tough test for him, a baptism of fire. I've taken teams to Burton on many occasions and the fans there expect their team to win things, but with his current squad I do fear he may be up against it to satisfy their demands. Away from the Pirelli Stadium last season they defended appallingly, letting in 49 goals - more than anyone else - and it was in the centre back department that they struggled most. That's why Rowett has signed Zander Diamond and Marcus Holness to play alongside one another and they should improve the side nicely. Up front the likes of Billy Kee and Calvin Zola are excellent forwards but both men are targets of bigger clubs, so it may not be easy to keep hold of them. I hope they fare well but my gut feeling is that Burton Albion are in for a long, hard season in npower League 2."
Sammy's Prediction: 23rd
Last Season: 17th
Sammy says: "Can the Robins raise themselves for another major effort? That's the question that we'll see answered in the coming months because it's never easy to bounce straight back from a play-off final defeat at Wembley Stadium, and they would have been so disappointed to be beaten by Crewe Alexandra back in May. I remember losing to Dagenham & Redbridge in the final with Morecambe, and we all thought we'd be at the top the following season, especially in a new stadium, but it wasn't our year at all. There's no divine right for a good side to be at top end of the table for two successive seasons. I like new signings Chris Zebroski and Shaun Harrad, who are two decent goalscorers but they'll miss loan goalkeeper Jack Butland and Luke Summerfield who has joined Shrewsbury Town. I must confess that Cheltenham's heroics took me by surprise last season but I don't think it was a flash in the pan, as they have some fine players. The difference they'll find is that opposition teams will respect them more now, and prepare accordingly. They are now the hunted, rather than the hunters and that might take some adapting to. Will they be in the play-off mix again? I tend to think they may just fall short this time but they won't be a million miles away."
Sammy's Prediction: 9th
Last Season: 6th
Sammy says: "The step up to npower League 1 proved too much for the Spireites last term and that surprised me because they were absolutely outstanding when gaining promotion the year before. That disappointment will have hurt John Sheridan greatly because he's a proud man who would have expected his side to handle life at that level better than they did, so rest assured they will be very determined to return to the place they've just left. Chesterfield have a beautiful new stadium and in truth belong in npower League 1 but it's down to them to earn the right to return there. They're a footballing side that tries to attack as often as possible, so you'll enjoy their style, but last term they did concede a lot of goals too. Working on the back four and defending as a team will be the top priority for Sheridan and his coaching staff. That said, knowing most of the managers at this level I do believe that many of them will perceive Chesterfield as one of the big dangers and teams to beat this season. They have the ability to hurt you if they're on their game. Their prospects will rest on the way they mentally approach their return to this level. If they are professional, look forward and not back, I think they'll do just fine."
Sammy's Prediction: 3rd
Last Season: 22nd in npower League 1
DAGENHAM & REDBRIDGE
Sammy says: "John Still is a genius at extracting the best from his Daggers players. He's been phenomenal and last season's late escape was nothing short of sensational; an unbelievable turnaround because they appeared to be dead and buried with three months of the season left to play. The club has spent most of the summer busy convincing their best young talents to stick around and they've enjoyed lots of success in that regard, and in particular it will have been a huge relief that top scorer Brian Woodall signed a new deal. He's a player to watch, no question. As a manager I didn't like travelling to Dagenham & Redbridge and I know that many visiting teams felt the same because it's not the nicest of grounds. These days with a new stand it's actually miles better but they must try and continue to use the fact that they're not glamorous because it is an advantage to them that players don't fancy going there. When you're one of the smaller clubs, as the Daggers are, you have to wheel and deal, while forging a tremendous team spirit and unity. That's how the club have earned their success to date and I believe they can maintain it. I don't see them anywhere near the play-off race but I don't see them going down either."
Sammy's Prediction: 21st
Last Season: 19th
Sammy says: "Golden oldies Jamie Cureton and Matt Oakley have come on board as part of sweeping changes at St James' Park this summer and they are two clever additions to the Grecians squad. In npower League 2 you'll always see plenty of young players but they need guidance around them and these two guys will no doubt supply this in abundance as Exeter City return to the fourth tier. I am a bit surprised to see Paul Tisdale's team in the division to be honest as they always seemed to cope well with life in npower League 1 but this is where they find themselves and they must adapt fast. This year there will be a different kind of pressure on the team, they're no longer underdogs, and I wonder how they will deal with that. I'm sure under Tisdale they will be fine as he's a manager I admire a lot. For me the loss of striker Daniel Nardiello to Rotherham United is a big, big blow. He's got pedigree and class, and I fancy him strongly to bang in more than his fair share of goals this year but sadly for Exeter it won't be for them. They'll be fancied strongly to go up locally, and I do think they'll do well, but with a pitiful two wins away from home last season, drastic improvements have to be made in that department and it's unlikely to come overnight."
Sammy's Prediction: 11th
Last Season: 23rd in npower League 1
Sammy says: "The money is there. No club in npower League 2 is more ambitious than Fleetwood Town who have made amazing progress in recent years and history suggests that clubs with financial muscle tend to occupy the top places. Crawley Town came into the division 12 months ago in a similar position and handled the step up easily, so there's no reason why Fleetwood, whose confidence is sky high, shouldn't replicate their achievements. The £1million sale of top scorer Jamie Vardy leaves a large void but they've more than made up for his absence by bringing in a dozen or so newcomers, many of whom have vast experience in the npower Football League. Jon Parkin, Damien Johnson, Youl Mawene and many more have swelled the ranks, and there's still a chance that Joey Barton could come on board for six months too. The Cod Army must be pinching themselves, and I'm sure that their lovely Highbury stadium will be rocking for much of the upcoming campaign. Micky Mellon's men scored so many goals last term that I just can't see things drying up despite Vardy's departure. If I were a Fleetwood Town fan I'd be looking ahead to the next few months with an awful lot of excitement. It's clear for all to see that the club are going places."
Sammy's Prediction: 2nd
Last Season: 1st in Blue Square Premier
Sammy says: "Who hasn't Martin Allen managed? He's now pitched up in Kent at Gillingham and I believe it's an excellent appointment by a club that's desperate to get out of this division. The Gills see themselves as a big club, and they are, but as a result the chairman there expects promotion this season, no question at all about that. The pressure is on. Martin isn't everyone's favourite character but he is a master at mind games, and his famed enthusiasm almost always rubs off in a positive fashion on his players. For a club with promotion aspirations Gillingham let in too many goals last season though. You have to be able to close matches out and that's something they failed to do on numerous occasions, so I guess the new manager's first task will be to make them much harder to beat. Up front they don't have as many issues and Danny Kedwell will be a danger man for them again once more, with service supplied by a number of promising youngsters who have come through the youth system. There's no shortage of work to do at the Priestfield, and they have to be much more defensively savvy, but I quietly fancy them to shine in 2012/13 under Martin Allen's unusual tutorship."
Sammy's Prediction: 6th
Last Season: 8th
Sammy says: "Only Crawley Town lost fewer times away from home than Morecambe did last season and that's an outstanding statistic for my former side. To remain undefeated on 16 occasions was a wonderful effort. I also thought it was admirable for Morecambe to end up in 15th place in a comfortable mid-table spot in Jim Bentley's first full season at the helm. My former skipper is doing a really good job in charge and I know that he's working harder than most to ensure the club moves forward under his tenure. I'm sure Jim and his team will be hopeful of improving their home record this time around, because if they can replicate the away day record they showed previously, it would transform them into promotion contenders. I think they will improve on their defence by bringing in a couple of new faces before the end of the month but as always with the Shrimps, finances are tight so it's never easy to attract targets that are also wanted by other clubs at this level. Honestly speaking I don't think expectations should be any higher than another mid-table finish but if the team clicks and gets onto a roll early on they could surprise a few people by targeting the top seven instead. Whatever happens I don't think they will flirt with the bottom two."
Sammy's Prediction: 18th
Last Season: 15th
Sammy says: "The Cobblers were arguably last season's biggest disappointments so I expect them to perform miles better in 2012/13. At one stage you feared Northampton Town would be sucked into a proper relegation battle but Aidy Boothroyd dragged them out of the mire with some half decent results at the back end of the campaign and in fairness to the players they did well to turn their fortunes around, showing fight and character when it mattered most. In the rather broad shape of Adebayo Akinfenwa they had a proper centre forward that knew where the back of the net was too and he'll be vital to their prospects once again. He must stay fit and healthy. As expected some of their better players have followed Gary Johnson to Yeovil Town during the last two months but on the plus side I do like the look of new signings Joe Widdowson from Rochdale and former Millwall star Chris Hackett who will add steel and experience in midfield. For a club of their size, money isn't awash at Northampton but Boothroyd is a well-connected manager who will unquestionably use that to his advantage in the coming weeks. Watch out for some interesting loan signings. They'll improve but not as dramatically as they'd like. A steadier season is in store for Northampton Town."
Sammy's Prediction: 16th
Last Season: 20th
Sammy says: "Ninth place was a serious disappointment for Oxford United last year, as I was convinced they had a team that was more than good enough to secure either automatic promotion or a play-off spot at worst. I know Chris Wilder and he'll have had his own inquest during the summer break, scratching his head and wondering what went wrong. From the outside looking in they fell away weakly. Just when they had to step up to the mark and win a game, they dropped points and eventually the team ran out of second chances. Losing impetus at the business end of the season always leaves a sour taste in the mouth, so Wilder will have put his troops through their paces this month in a bid to ensure they are 100 per cent ready for the battles that lie ahead. James Constable earned himself hero status by rejecting a transfer to local rivals Swindon Town and he's a popular figure there but I do feel he needs to enjoy a better season this time. A return of 11 goals isn't bad, but this is a player capable of scoring twice as many as that in my opinion. Turning draws into wins will improve the club's fortunes but this year the division looks even tougher so I suspect they may fall short."
Sammy's Prediction: 13th
Last Season: 9th
Sammy says: "It's the dawn of a new era at Home Park and I wish the club all the very best in their prolonged recovery from last season's dramatic scenes. Financially I hope everything is OK now for Plymouth and their fans, who have handled a difficult period really well. On the pitch it was all a bit hairy in 2011/12 with relegation looking to be almost certain at times, but they recovered nicely with a strong second half of the season under Carl Fletcher. This really is a sleeping giant, so if they perform well the stadium will be filled but for now I reckon it's more sensible to take one step at a time. You can't expect to struggle one minute and top the table the next, which is why I hope fans at Argyle will keep their immediate expectations in check. In a way I suspect all the off-field problems will have galvanised the Plymouth supporters and staff, and this fresh start will feel pretty exciting. I played down there this summer in a veteran's game and it's a lovely club. Carl Fletcher has brought in promising players such as Rene Gilmartin, James Lowry, Johnny Gorman and Rhys Griffiths so the rebuilding has begun but they still have work to do before they can think about challenging at the top of the table."
Sammy's Prediction: 17th
Last Season: 21st
Sammy says: "Just when you thought Port Vale were in position to put their troubles behind them and move forward, it seems that they receive another setback. It really has been a horrible period for the club. Last season as a team I felt they'd have definitely finished in the play-off spots had the club not received a ten point penalty, but it seemed to knock the heart out of Micky Adams' men understandably. A few weeks back everything looked to be brightening up with the acquisition of several new faces but as it stands today the proposed takeover is once again in doubt. On the eve of a new season it must be so frustrating for the players to be spending their time worrying over the validity of their contracts, ahead of solely focussing on the upcoming games. It's not helpful at all. As for Adams, he's a passionate man that cares deeply for the club, so his own determination to succeed won't have changed a bit. You just have to hope that he's going to be in a position to fight on. If the takeover issues are resolved I feel that Vale have a strong enough squad to do OK and be dark horses this season but with so many gloomy clouds hanging over them right now it's impossible for me to tip them to achieve anything better than a mid-table finish."
Sammy's Prediction: 14th
Last Season: 12th
Sammy says: "It will have hurt John Coleman personally that he was unable to keep Rochdale in npower League 1 after taking the plunge and leaving his spiritual home at Accrington Stanley midway through last season. He wouldn't have left if he'd thought Dale would drop back down a level, so his disappointment will have been palpable. However, knowing him as I do there won't be any sulking, it will just inspire Coley to bounce straight back at the first attempt. Can they do it? Perhaps they can but I don't think they will find it all going their own way in what looks to me to be an exceptionally strong bunch of clubs in npower league 2 this year. It's no surprise to me that he's signed Peter Kavanagh and Kevin McIntyre, two boys he's managed before that have a great deal of talent, and they will strengthen his side. On paper they have a very good all-round side and I don't envisage a huge relegation hangover from them. Defensively they must be more resilient but you'd expect them to be on the front foot in many more matches this season than they were last year. So all in all, Rochdale are definitely capable of grabbing a play-off spot - or perhaps a top three finish - but my gut instinct tells me that they might just miss out."
Sammy's Prediction: 8th
Last Season: 24th in npower League 1
Sammy says: "The Millers have been made the bookmaker's favourites and I wholeheartedly agree that they will be the team to beat this season. New boss Steve Evans has a formidable reputation and whether you like him or not you can't argue that he doesn't have a history of success at this level. Certainly I admire some of the signings he's made which include Daniel Nardiello, Michael O'Connor, Lionel Ainsworth, Ian Sharps, Nicky Hunt and Kieran Agard to name but a few, who could all have a major impact for Rotherham United this season. When you have the combination of a talented side, and a manager that knows how to succeed in the league it's a potent mix. Another lift for the club is their departure from the awful Don Valley Stadium, as they move into the marvellous New York Stadium instead. It may take a while to adapt to their new surroundings but take it from me the switch is a positive not a negative for their prospects. Every player will be buzzing to have moved from a home they despised to their luxury new surroundings, and the lift it will provide the fans could inspire them too. They didn't perform to expectations in 2011/12 but this is a very different looking Rotherham side, with an altogether more powerful look about them. I fancy them strongly to be in top three and they're my tip for the title too."
Sammy's Prediction: 1st
Last Season: 10th
Sammy says: "Southend will be ruing the fact that they didn't go up last season. Having led for a large part of the campaign they fell away towards the end but they weren't helped by a number of injuries and other unfortunate setbacks. Fortune didn't favour the Essex side when it mattered that's for sure. As for this year, I feel they have the character to challenge once more. Paul Sturrock is a terrific manager with so much experience, and he knows exactly what it takes to get promoted. Not too many of his squad have departed and two or three decent players have been added such as centre half Ryan Cresswell and wide man Kevan Hurst who I worked with at Morecambe. He's a player that on his day can be a genuine match winner and you won't find many better set piece specialists in the division either. Perhaps the best new signing of all is old boy Freddy Eastwood, who has returned on a permanent basis from Coventry City. He wasn't fully fit when on loan in March, April and May but still looked classy, so if he's back to 100 per cent fitness he will be outstanding at this level. Do the Shrimpers have enough to make the top three? It's touch and go, so I'll predict them to grab another well-deserved play-off position."
Sammy's Prediction: 5th
Last Season: 4th
Sammy says: "How do they keep doing it? Torquay United always seem to be there or thereabouts when it comes to the promotion picture, yet they are unquestionably one of the division's smaller clubs. I felt Martin Ling was brilliant at the helm last season, and his team produced a cracking campaign for him. At one point they seemed unbeatable, going on a fabulous winning streak that propelled them to the top of the table but like Southend they did run out of steam towards the end which was a pity for them. The key to their success will once again be Plainmoor, where they tend to be extremely difficult to beat. It's not the biggest of stadiums but the fans really get behind their team and that benefits them no end, as does the fact that most teams have to travel a long, long way to get there - sometimes on the day. But let's not take anything away from Ling's team because they are pretty strong. They will miss Euan O'Kane, Mark Ellis and outstanding keeper Bobby Olejnik who have all been snapped up by teams from a higher level but as you'd expect, some good looking replacements have been recruited. Hand on heart I think they'll find it harder to succeed this season but it wouldn't shock me at all if they forced themselves into the promotion picture."
Sammy's Prediction: 12th
Last Season: 5th
Sammy says: "Wycombe have been very entertaining to watch under Gary Waddock so I see no reason why they won't go out there and score a lot of goals in npower League 2 this season. Retaining the services of prolific centre forward Stuart Beavon has been top priority during the close season and no wonder because he was fantastic last year. Scoring 25 goals for a struggling side was a phenomenal effort by him and the fans will be hoping he stays. Traditionally the Chairboys are strong at home and I expect that to be the case once more, but they will perhaps need to make changes to the way they approach away fixtures because 50 goals were shipped on the road last season and that's a statistic that none of them will look back on with pride. The acquisitions of Gary Doherty, Sam Wood, Matthew Spring, and Richard Logan will help and they will give Wycombe a more experienced spine, and with that in mind I do feel that they'll be right up there with all the big guns. The disappointment of relegation will still sting a little but when I weigh up who's looking in good shape for the new season it's hard not to fancy Waddock's group of players to shine. An immediate return to npower League 1 isn't out of the question."
Sammy's Prediction: 7th
Last Season: 21st in npower League 1
Sammy says: "They might not have expected promotion back to the npower Football League in May but that doesn't mean that they didn't deserve it because every time I saw York City play they impressed me enormously. This isn't a kick and rush outfit, they play football the right way and are lovely to watch. They're understated in many ways, and manager Gary Mills isn't the type of guy that creates too many headlines either but quietly and confidently York have been raising the bar in recent times and I firmly believe that this team has grown and is ready to make the step up. Will they be a top half outfit? No I don't think so, but I certainly don't see them being out of their depth. Watch out for striker Jason Walker, who scored 18 last season, as well as Jamie Reed, Patrick McLaughlin and Matty Blair who all made it into double figures with goals last season too. These guys aren't known widely at this level but from what I've seen they can thrive. All newly promoted clubs go into the npower Football League riding on the crest of a wave, I know that from personal experience, so the players will be extremely fired up for the challenge. Underestimate York City at your peril."
Sammy's Prediction: 19th
Last Season: 4th in Blue Square Premier