It’s back! After many long weekends wondering what on earth to do on a Saturday afternoon, the football season has finally returned. There have been no World Cups or European Championships this summer to keep us busy but our Lincolnshire clubs will be ready for another season of thrills and spills.
Lincolnshire Reporter has taken a look at how our county’s main five teams will get on in the 2017-18 season, which promises to be another one to remember.
Last season’s campaign in Sky Bet League One was one of frustration for Iron fans as they occupied the automatic promotion spots for the majority of the season before finishing third and losing to eventual winners Millwall in the play-off semi-finals.
Top scorer Josh Morris, who finished the season with 19 goals, tailed off towards the end of the season which means a transfer away from Glanford Park may look less likely than it did in January.
Graham Alexander’s Irons will be hoping to secure a play-off spot again this time around and have boosted their squad by signing veteran goalkeeper Matt Gilks and defender Rory McArdle, who was part of the Bradford City side to make it to the League Cup final in 2013.
Recently promoted Plymouth Argyle, Portsmouth, Doncaster Rovers and Blackpool will all be hoping for a top-half finishes while one-time Premier League champions Blackburn Rovers and recent FA Cup winners Wigan Athletic will be hoping to bounce straight back up to the Championship, with the former doing so in 2015-16.
Lincolnshire Reporter predicts: A tougher season may now be in prospect with the league full of big teams. A top half finish is realistic and a play-off space would be a huge overachievement considering the new teams in the league.
The Mariners’ return to the Football League started brightly with Omar Bogle hitting 19 league goals before a big-money move to Wigan Athletic on deadline day in January which subsequently ended Grimsby’s play-off push as they struggled to find someone to replace the striker’s goals.
Losing manager Paul Hurst to Shrewsbury Town was a huge blow for Grimsby while replacement Marcus Bignot’s 27 games in charge resulted in just nine wins before Russell Slade returned to the team he managed between 2004 and 2006 for the last five games.
Experienced centre-back Nathan Clarke has joined the Mariners while 20-year-old Siriki Dembele, who joined from the Nike Academy, could be an exciting prospect despite being unknown to the most avid football fan.
Lincolnshire Reporter predicts: Grimsby have so far failed to sign a replacement for Bogle this summer which could be detrimental if they want to push for the play-offs meaning a season just below-mid table looms.
Where do we start? It was an incredible season for Lincoln City who won the National League with 99 points, reached the semi-finals of the FA Trophy before becoming the first non-league team to reach the FA Cup quarter-finals in over 100 years.
Danny and Nicky Cowley have worked wonders in the last 12 months and now will be relishing the opportunity to manage in the league for the first time in their careers.
Alex Woodyard, last year’s National League Player of the Season, has signed a new contract and Sean Raggett may have been linked with moves to the Championship and Premier League earlier on in the window but the speculation seems to have stopped.
The Imps have been very busy in the transfer market with released Mansfield Town striker Matt Green and Peterborough United’s player of the season Michael Bostwick, who reportedly turned down a move to Blackburn Rovers, some of the highlights.
Even the most pessimistic fans will be hoping for a top-half finish, though bookmakers are predicting play-offs and maybe even back-to-back promotions.
Over 5,500 season tickets have been sold so expect Sincil Bank to be rocking throughout the season as Lincoln hope to continue their fantastic form.
Lincolnshire Reporter predicts: At least the play-offs. The Cowley’s look like the most exciting young coaches in the lower divisions, and as long as Lincoln can keep hold of them, fans can expect another entertaining season at Sincil Bank.
It’s been 10 long years since Boston United were last in the Football League and with the ever-growing amounts of money in the National League North being invested it looks a greater challenge than ever for the Pilgrims to even reach the National League.
Adam Murray’s men will have their work cut out once again this season and have made over 10 signings already this summer as they aim to improve on last season’s 15th place.
Former Mansfield winger Ashley Hemmings could be a shrewd signing for the Pilgrims and 19-year-old striker Kabongo Tshimanga has a lot to prove after turning down a variety of National League teams to join Boston.
A rule change has meant that six teams now qualify for the play-offs, however FA Cup specialists Blyth Spartans have been promoted to the league while York City have been relegated and will both be vying for play-off spots.
Lincolnshire Reporter predicts: A mid-table finish for the Pilgrims, however if Murray’s new-look squad clicks quickly, a push for the play-offs could be on the cards if teams with bigger budgets flounder.
After staying up by the skin of their teeth it looks to be another tough season for Gainsborough who secured only eight wins last campaign.
Unlike league rivals Boston, Trinity haven’t been too active in the transfer market this summer. The signing of Alex Simmons from Lincoln City could be huge for the club if they hope to avoid relegation, but only if the 21-year-old can prove his doubters wrong.
Simmons scored nine goals while on loan at Boston and Halifax last season, so the goalscoring ability is there as he hopes to become another Sam Clucas and prove coaches at Lincoln City wrong.
It’s also worth noting that Trinity only managed 12 points out of a possible 63 on the road last season.
Former Lincoln United boss Dave Frecklington, who joined mid-way through last season, has undoubtedly a difficult job on his hands.
Lincolnshire Reporter predicts: Sadly another relegation battle. Unlike last season there are not three teams clearly worse than Trinity on paper and fans could expect a frustrating season that will end in disappointment.