We assess the best picks for promotion, relegation and more, as English football's fourth tier gets back under way.
It’s going to be a good year for: Mansfield
It probably didn’t feel like it at the time, but Mansfield’s fourth-placed finish after losing to MK Dons on the final day of last season marked another year of progress.
The Stags have now accrued more points than the previous season in each of their last five campaigns in League Two, and another improvement should see them break into the automatic spots.
Former academy manager John Dempster replaced David Flitcroft over the summer, and he has inherited one of the division’s most talented squads.
Defender Krystian Pearce, wing-back Mal Benning and winger CJ Hamilton were all named in the EFL League Two Team of the Season, while midfielder Jacob Mellis was directly involved in 12 goals last term.
The arrival of strikers Nicky Maynard and Andy Cook have also gone some way to negating the departure of top scorer Tyler Walker.
Maynard was the division’s joint-second top scorer for Bury last season with 21 goals, while Cook bagged 13 for Walsall in League One.
All but one of the last 11 years in League Two have seen at least one team that finished between fourth and eighth win automatic promotion the following season.
Given the difference in price, there’s much more value in backing Mansfield to finish top of the pile rather than simply go up.
Mansfield to win the League Two title
In the mix: Plymouth
If you can’t do it yourself, nick the players and backroom staff of a team that can.
Plymouth have done exactly that following last season’s relegation from League One, raiding crisis-club Bury after their second-place finish last season.
Former Shakers manager Ryan Lowe was the first to make the switch in June, bringing three members of his backroom staff with him.
Players Callum McFadzean, Dom Telford, Will Aimson, Byron Moore and Danny Mayor – all of whom made at least 43 appearances for Bury last season – have since followed.
The Pilgrim’s pillaging of the cash-strapped League One club has been so remorseless that owner Simon Hallett has admitted to feeling ‘a little bit of guilt’.
But, if Lowe can recreate the attacking verve that gave Bury the most impressive xG in the division (experimental361) last season, then he is unlikely to get too hung up about it.
Plymouth to win promotion
Biggest surprise: Crewe
Crewe have failed to finish higher than 12th since they were relegated from League One in 2015/16, but that could change this year.
The Railwaymen posted the fifth-best home record in the division last season, having taken points off top-seven sides MK Dons, Bury, Tranmere, Lincoln and Forest Green at the Alexandra Stadium.
They finished last term with four victories from their final five matches, which meant they earned 40 points during the second half of the season – more than any other side.
They’ve managed to keep hold of 21-year-old winger Charlie Kirk, who provided 11 goals and seven assists last season, while Chris Porter will once again lead the line after netting 15 times in all competitions.
If they can continue their momentum from the tail end of last season, the Alex are definitely worth a punt to finish in the top seven.
Crewe to finish in the top seven
Most likely flop: Salford
The majority of media attention in League Two has centred around newcomers Salford, who are joint-favourites for promotion, but it’s hard to get behind them.
The Ammies could only finish third in the National League last term, despite starting the season odds-on for the title following considerable financial backing by the Class of ’92.
Salford drew 10 and lost 11 of their 46 league games last time out, finishing four points behind champions Leyton Orient.
Combative midfielder Richie Towell is an eye-catching addition, having been a first-team regular for Rotherham in the Championship last season, but their business elsewhere has been underwhelming given their sizeable backing.
The average position for a side promoted from the National League is 13th, which feels like a more realistic target for the EFL new boys.
Salford to finish in the bottom half
It’s going to be a tough season for: Oldham
Former Monaco manager Laurent Banide had been working in the Far East since 2008 before accepting his first job in England this summer.
That makes him Oldham’s 12th manager in the last four years, where he has admitted that he is not involved with the recruitment of players.
The Latics’ transfer business has been puzzling, with players arriving from the Slovakian league and French third tier.
The addition of 33-year-old Chris Eagles on a free transfer, who has not played more than 20 games in a season since 2012/13, looks a strange one, too.
They have also lost centre-half pairing Peter Clarke and George Edmundson, with the latter named in the PFA League Two Team of the Season, while striker Jose Baxter has departed for Plymouth.
Oldham finished 14th last season under the stewardship of three different managers and, with a lack of clear direction going forward, things could get much worse.
Oldham to be relegated
Top of the charts: Nicky Maynard
Maynard netted 21 league goals for Bury last season, the joint second-most in the division behind Golden Boot winner James Norwood.
Norwood is now out of the picture – earning a move to Ipswich following his promotion with Tranmere – while Tyler Walker, who also netted 21, has been recalled from his loan in League Two.
That leaves Maynard as the player most likely to top the charts this time around.
Now in a Mansfield side who, like Bury last season, will be challenging at the top of the table, he should pick up where he left off.
Nicky Maynard to be League Two top goalscorer
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