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Which manager will win League Two?

Michael Flynn has reached two play-off finals with Newport
Michael Flynn has reached two play-off finals with Newport

The stage is set, stadiums are ready for fans, and all 24 managers are in place and ready to roll. So, who will get their managerial mitts on the League Two title in what looks to be a very open contest.

Michael Duff, in his third season in management, claimed the spoils with Cheltenham last season which subsequently produced this epic celebration. Mark Bonner (Cambridge) secured the other automatic promotion spot, then Derek Adams (Morecambe) made a mockery of pre-season predictions and delivered a stunning promotion via the play-offs.

There are a number of wily operators in the League Two dugout this season: Adams is now at Bradford, Nigel Clough will be looking to rejuvenate Mansfield, Micky Mellon has returned to Tranmere, and most surprisingly Leyton Orient lured over Kenny Jackett.

This is contrasted with a catalogue of young guns looking to make a name for themselves on the touchline, including new faces Rob Edwards (Forest Green Rovers) and Matthew Taylor (Walsall).

Below, we take a look at a range of contenders and their prices for title glory…

(League Two title odds in brackets)

Gary Bowyer: Salford (6/1)

Is this the season Salford deliver in League Two?

Graham Alexander was rather harshly axed in October, then his replacement Richie Wellens was sent packing a week after winning the EFL Trophy. Gary Bowyer was borrowed from Derby and came within a couple of points of the top-seven, before signing a permanent contract. 

Strong defensive foundations are in place but goal-shy Salford just need to up the ante going forward. If the trigger-happy owners let Bowyer - a former League Two promotion winner with Blackpool - get on with his business without unnecessary distraction then this could be the year the Ammies claim that elusive promotion. However, at 6/1 it’s difficult to be fully convinced by a side that have previously fallen way short of their favourites tag.

Derek Adams: Bradford (10/1)

Shortly after he miraculously led Morecambe into League One, Derek Adams was back down in League Two after the Scot agreed terms with Bradford. Adams has four promotions on his CV, including two at this level and he’ll be eyeing up a third with the Bantams who have been romped through seven managers in three seasons. 

Adams has the record, the experience, the know-how, and a winner’s mindset to galvanise a frustrated fanbase and lead his new employers back into League One. A decent bet at 10/1.

Derek Adams is seeking a fifth promotion
Derek Adams is seeking a fifth promotion

Joey Barton: Bristol Rovers (12/1)

A disastrous 2020/21 season has been followed by a sea of negative headlines surrounding manager Joey Barton. For now, he’s still at the helm as he bids to bounce back from last term when he was unable to save The Gas from relegation.

On the plus side Rovers have recruited well and are expected to field a number of new faces in the starting-11: Barton has raided former club Fleetwood for Paul Coutts, Sam Finley, and Harvey Saunders, Mark Hughes, and Brett Pitman will supply the goals.

Recent League Two title champions

2020/21: Michael Duff (Cheltenham)

2019/20: Richie Wellens (Swindon)

2018/19: Danny Cowley (Lincoln)

2017/18: John Coleman (Accrington)

2016/17: Paul Cook (Portsmouth)

Nigel Clough: Mansfield (12/1)

16th place and 15 points adrift of the play-offs simply wasn’t good enough for Mansfield last season. Graham Coughlan was sacked after a woeful winless start and in came the experienced Nigel Clough who picked up the pieces. Clough is one of the best operators in the division and after a bedding-in period he’ll now be tasked with transforming the Stags from underachievers into promotion contenders.

Matt Taylor: Exeter (14/1)

In at 14/1 are Matt Taylor’s Exeter who have been knocking on the promotion door in all three seasons since he succeeded the long-serving Paul Tisdale. In his first campaign Taylor’s side missed out on the top-seven by a single point, then they reached the play-off final in his second term but were comprehensively beaten, and last time out the Grecians fell two points short of the play-off places.

The young, hungry squad will surely be in contention throughout the campaign as they bid to get over the final hurdle. Keeping hold of Matt Jay is huge.

Kenny Jackett: Leyton Orient (16/1)

It’s still somewhat of a surprise to see Kenny Jackett line-up in League Two this season. In his last job he was challenging in the upper echelons of  League One with Portsmouth, who finished in the play-offs twice. He’s previously led Millwall and Wolves into the Championship, and won cups with Swansea. His experience will be invaluable, although it’s still a big ask to suddenly elevate Leyton Orient into contention, but you never know!

Rob Edwards: Forest Green Rovers (16/1)

There’s a real hope that new head coach Rob Edwards can hit the ground running in his first senior position at a club who have two top-seven finishes in three seasons. The experienced youth coach will hope to now thrive at senior level where he’ll inject fresh ideas and impetus into a talented squad.

READ: Three EFL managers set for blockbuster breakout seasons

Micky Mellon: Tranmere (16/1)

Micky Mellon is back at Tranmere after a year away. A superb manager who memorably led Rovers from non-league into League One, and has three other promotions on his CV from spells at Fleetwood and Shrewsbury. Tranmere reached the play-offs last season and will be expected to challenge once again with Mellon bringing in a cluster of signings, including the highly-rated loanee Paul Glatzel from neighbours Liverpool. James Vaughan is a big loss though.

Chris Beech: Carlisle (18/1)

Carlisle were breaking records and bang in the mix for automatic promotion last season but then hit a dead end and eventually fell to a 10th-place finish. Chris Beech has won many plaudits for his work there so far but will need to rejuvenate his troops as they bid to whip up another promotion push. Consistency will be key. Hopes are high that Zach Clough can sparkle.

Darrell Clarke: Port Vale (16/1)

Took Port Vale from 17th to 13th after replacing John Askey in the New Year, with his side ranked 6th in the form book since his appointment. Darrell Clarke will look to take the momentum from last term into the new campaign as the former Bristol Rovers boss seeks his second promotion at this level. 

However, in truth it’s difficult to know what to expect given that a plethora of players were released over the summer months, whereas a host of newbies have come in through the entrance door.

Michael Flynn: Newport (20/1)

Twice reached the play-off final since his appointment in 2017, Michael Flynn then hinted that he could leave this summer and was linked with a move away. The Exiles have, however, kept hold of their very impressive manager, along with veteran Kevin Ellison, and while there won’t be too many backing them for automatic promotion, you simply can’t rule Flynnster out.

- Value Title Pick: Rob Edwards (FGR) @ 16/1 with Betfred

- Value Promotion Pick: Micky Mellon (Newport) @ 9/2 with Bet365

League Two Outright Odds

Forest Green Rovers
WIN PROB: 28%
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Port Vale
WIN PROB: 9%
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9/1
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8/1
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Harrogate Town
WIN PROB: 8%
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Swindon Town
WIN PROB: 8%
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9/1
Leyton Orient
WIN PROB: 7%
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Bradford City
WIN PROB: 5%
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Salford City
WIN PROB: 5%
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Tranmere Rovers
WIN PROB: 5%
1
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Exeter
WIN PROB: 5%
1
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Northampton
WIN PROB: 4%
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Sutton United
WIN PROB: 4%
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Hartlepool
WIN PROB: 1%
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Newport County
WIN PROB: 3%
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Bristol Rovers
WIN PROB: 2%
1
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Rochdale
WIN PROB: 1%
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Barrow
WIN PROB: 1%
1
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Colchester
WIN PROB: 1%
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Crawley Town
WIN PROB: 1%
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Mansfield Town
WIN PROB: 1%
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Walsall
WIN PROB: 1%
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Carlisle
WIN PROB: 1%
1
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Stevenage
WIN PROB: 1%
1
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Oldham
WIN PROB: 0%
1
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Scunthorpe
WIN PROB: 0%
1
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Each Way Terms
Odds correct as of 2021-10-22 11:50 Odds subject to change.
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