2023-4 League One: Who’s Who, What’s What & Why, Why, Delilah…

By Pete H

For the first time in a decade, Boro’ are back in the third tier – huzzah! If nothing else, it gives us the chance to banish the demons of the 2013-4 campaign; a season that (apart from 1987-8) stands apart as the only time we’ve ever experienced relegation as a club. During the nine years we’ve been locked in League Two, some things have changed – while others haven’t. So, here is a little looksie at what we can expect from the 2023-4 League One season.

2023-4 League One: Who’s Who

It’s now easily more than 10 years since Boro’ first entered the Football league – despite our worst efforts that was the 2019-20 season. Such a stretch has given us the chance to tick off many new clubs and grounds; the sort of folk who got their ticket into the top four divisions in nineteen-hundred-and-ages-ago and never had to rise through non-league. So, there will be a good few clubs in League One this term with whom we’re already familiar.

For those who get a buzz out of seeing new sights and stadia, rest assured there’s still much to keep you keen in 2023-4. Even if one of them is Barnsley and the other is Wigan. Hey – we aren’t playing in the south of France league here. Any new destinations we have lined up are functional – not aspirational. As long as there’s a Travelodge and a Popworld, however, there will always be a good time to have. It’s merely a case of what you choose to make it…

League One action returns to the Lamex during the 2023-4 season.
Photo: Facebook/Northampton Town

Anyway, here’s some hoo-hah on who’s who for the 2023-4 League One campaign:

Barnsley

A brand-new prospect for Boro’ straight off the bat. Located in Sheffield’s shadow, the Tykes lost out to Wednesday in the playoffs last term. Once found playing Premier League football, it’s the first time since 2015-6 they’ve been in the third tier for two successive seasons.

Prediction: 3rd

Blackpool

One of those away days that feels more appealing in theory than in practice. It doesn’t help that any seaside trip we get is either midweek or in deepest winter. The Seasiders paid us a visit in League Two in 2016-7; winning both meetings to nil. Well, it can’t get worse for us…

Prediction: 6th

Bolton Wanderers

It’s now more than 10 years since the Trotters were a Premier League side. The back half of that period has found them either struggling in the Championship or battling at the top of League One. We’ve already had the pleasure courtesy of their League Two mis-step in 2020.

Prediction: 7th

Bristol Rovers

We spent a long time avoiding this lot – and it felt like we’d got back to that state of affairs. Both times we’ve met have been in League Two. And both times saw them promoted. Yet, it doesn’t alter the fact that three wins from five puts us on top in the head-to-head for now.

Prediction: 15th

Burton Albion

It’s been a while for us and the Brewers. And it should be fun when we get back together in 2023-4 too. That’s because we’ll be going up against ex-gaffer Dino Maamria. A brief spell in the Championship aside, this is a side who look pretty set in the lower half of League One.

Prediction: 18th

Cambridge United

The closest we’ll come to a derby during the 2023-4 League One season. It’s good to link up with the Us again. When they left us down in League Two, we’d just got into a habit of going to theirs and returning with three points. Imagine losing 4-0 at home to our class of 2020!

Prediction: 23rd

Carlisle United

Get off this page Carlisle, you’ve done what matters…

Prediction: 21st

Charlton Athletic

On the scene when we arrived in League One back in 2011, us taking three points off them at the Lamex didn’t stop them romping to the title that year. We met them in a Football League Trophy in 2018 apparently – but we can’t seem to find any record of the game *ahem*.

Prediction: 2nd

Cheltenham Town

One of the more familiar faces on the League One scene. To be honest, we can’t quite figure them out. This will be their third straight season at this level; spending much of our time in the League in League Two. Lest we forget their one-season return to non-league in 2015.

Prediction: 22nd

Derby County

Time to stick our necks on the line. The Rams are comfortably the biggest fallen giants to be in League One this term. Like others, off-field problems are the main cause of their downfall. But that’s not our concern. It’ll be intriguing to see how we measure up against them.

Prediction: 1st

Exeter City

Aww, must we? Six wins from 31 meetings puts the Grecians on a hitlist of teams we’d rather not face if we could get away with it. We’ve not beaten them since April 2018 and we haven’t won at Sid James’ Park since 2006. Not a fixture we’re particularly looking forward to.

Prediction: 13th

Fleetwood Town

Can you believe we’ve got this far without ever crossing paths with The Fishermen? After all, they’ve been a Football League side for 11 years! Eleven! In that time, all they’ve done to get our backs up is take Robbo from us. Meanwhile, their owner is now doing a stretch for fraud.

Prediction: 24th

Leyton Orient

Last season’s League Two champions. As if you didn’t already know that…

Prediction: 12th

Lincoln City

Last time we paid a visit to Sincil Bank, Ilias Chair worked his magic to get us back from two goals down. So, who’s gonna step up this time? Big Goal Reidy is our bet. Our league double over the Imps during the 2010-1 campaign are the only times we’ve beaten them.

Prediction: 9th

Northampton Town

Bogey-wogey team. Honestly, we’ll be glad to see the back of them for a much longer period than we’ve managed recently. They’ve also got Jon Brady, who once said f**k you…

Prediction: 20th

Oxford United

Here’s another club for whom it’s been a while. And another club against whom’ we’ve got a piss-poor record. Mind you, if you count the Papa Don’t Preach Trophy, the momentum now rests with us; our 2-1 win at their place in October 2021 the last time we met the Us.

Prediction: 11th

Peterborough United

Yeah, we still don’t know how they hugely titted up their playoff semi-final against Sheffield Wednesday last season. All we do know is that Posh are normally there or thereabouts. And normally know where the goal is about the place too.

Prediction: 5th

Port Vale

The second-best team in Stoke – and the second-best “Port Vale”, just behind the salubrious thoroughfare in Hertford. Things between us are, on the balance of things, pretty level; Boro’ with five wins, them with four, and eight all-squares makes up the head-to-head to date.

Prediction: 17th

Portsmouth

We think Pompey will have much to say in deciding the outcome of the promotion battle. We just ain’t sure they’ll actually be a part of it come the final reckoning. Still, there’s the added carrot of Southampton being only one division above being dangled before them.

Prediction: 8th

Reading

The Royals were docked six points last term, which all but condemned them to a relegation they ultimately suffered. Still in the EFL’s crosshairs, they’ll be one of the stronger teams in the division if they hold it together. Our League Cup win there last season will give us hope.

Prediction: 4th

Shrewsbury Town

The Shrews came down from League One along with us in 2014. The big difference between us, however, is that they went straight back up. By doing so, you get the answer to that age-old question: “why haven’t we played Shrewsbury Town since January 2015?”.

Prediction: 16th

Wigan Athletic

Ah, Wigan. Now, here’s the reason why maybe a dozen League One clubs are thinking they’re a step closer to survival this season. Unburdened by the EFL to the tune of eight points with a ball yet to be kicked, they’ll be bottom of the table for at least two matches.

That sort of handicap doesn’t normally end in a promotion charge.

Prediction: 19th

Wycombe Wanderers

The 2023-4 League One campaign will be the first in six that we’ve met the Chairboys on, let’s say, equal billing. We dived into our soul to find whatever emotion was stirred by the thought of them. But we came back with no firm feelings either way. Live and let live, we say…

Prediction: 10th

Our 2023-4 League One predictions

2023-4 League One: What’s What

We won’t bore you with hyperbole about this being the most exciting League One season or how competitive the division is. You can see for yourself that we’re going to be stepping out with some big teams during the 2023-4 campaign. At the same time, these are clubs that are down where they are for a reason. And it says something too. Bolton Wanderers, for example, were founded more than 100 years before us.

That’s enough head-start to not be in the same division as us, right?

One of the big talking points, we reckon, will be the off-field fortunes of certain teams. We’ll be eight points better off than Wigan before the first kick, while Reading aren’t exactly being held up as the definition of a well-run club. Fleetwood’s owner is in a bit of trouble with the law, while Derby County partly owe their place in the third tier to a financial meltdown that’s now behind them. It’s hard to believe another club won’t encounter money issues either.

Away from Boro’, we have two alumni taking charge at Burton Albion and Northampton Town respectively. Dino Maamria and Jon Brady were members of the same Boro’ squad during the mid-2000s. It’s almost worth being a fly on the wall to see how cordial relations are when the two sides meet over the course of the season.

And what about us? Well, Boro’ have scores to settle with regards to League One. Looking at the numbers behind our 2013-4 relegation season, you can genuinely argue that we could – and should – have stayed up. Now, we have a second chance to cement ourselves in League One. It’s not beyond us, we’d say. Burton, Cheltenham, even Wycombe; all examples that we can follow. Stevenage is rarely a club that’s happy just make up the numbers – if ever.

And if we do survive come the end of the 2023-4 League One season, it will mean that we’ve spent more time in the third tier than we did in the entire United Counties League. Target.

2023-4 League One: Why, Why, Delilah?

Forgive us Delilah, we just cannot write anymore…

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