As someone with a wicked sense of humour and a deep love of schadenfreude, League One will doubtless bring me lots of joy every season as long as my own team aren't stuck in it. It's a beautiful combination of full-time clubs who feel the seaside leagues are beneath them - and whose players too often play as if they feel the same - and part-time sides who range from battle-hardened, dangerous units to a complete omnishambles (sometimes both in the same season) with everything in between.
It seems fair to begin with Falkirk, who seem to have Mr Burns' 'You're Stuck Here Forever' demotivational plaque and are onto their gazillionth manager since they crashed down here just over three years ago. The thing is, this time said supremo is John McGlynn, whose wonderful achievements at Raith Rovers included getting them out of this hellhole. It's hard to believe he can't at least make this motley crew the sum of their parts, which in itself would probably be enough to win the division. It just seems mad that players like Coll Donaldson, Paul Watson, Stephen McGinn, Kai Kennedy, Callumn Morrison, Aidan Nesbitt and Gary Oliver are here instead of in the Championship. The trouble will come if they feel the same way, particularly after a scudding or two.
Dunfermline Athletic are the other big fish in this particular rockpool after a catastrophic relegation. They too have a new manager in James McPake, who I didn't rate at all at Dundee. He has so far mostly stuck with the bunch that went down, either believing he can bring them back to form or because they're all on contracts the club can't get shot of. Again, there are lots of names that on past history belong in the second tier; Aaron Comrie, Graham Dorrans, Chris Hamilton, Kevin O'Hara, Craig Wighton, Nikolay Todorov. You'd think they'll be challengers, but the last time they were relegated to League One we thought the same, and they were stuck for three years until they got the right man in the dugout. Time will tell if they've managed that already.
Also coming down from the Championship are Queen of the South who didn't really improve much after Wullie Gibson took over from Allan Johnston. Perhaps Gibson deserves a Mulligan now that the veteran player-boss has a chance to mould his own squad. Improving the defence with Stuart Morrison, Ciaran McKenna and David McKay is a good start; bringing back Iain Wilson, Gavin Reilly and Connor Murray was also impressive; but the icing on the cake is the retention of striker Lee Connelly. They are giving this a good go, not least because it's hard to see them being able to remain full-time if they're stuck down here for multiple seasons.
The last of the full-time (-ish in this case, as they have a bit of a hybrid scheme going on) clubs, Airdrie have had a tumultuous summer with manager Ian Murray leaving for Kirkcaldy and taking star attacker Dylan Easton with him. At the time of writing the club have a tiny squad which includes player-boss Rhys McCabe (only 31 years old!) and his assistant, centre-back Calum Fordyce (age 30!). It's hard to see them repeating last year's second place finish unless McCabe is the next Alex Neil and he gets to sign a platoon of new players by the end of August.
Of the part-timers, Montrose have been the most consistently impressive in the division in recent years with a string of promotion playoff appearances on the back of a remarkably settled squad and a miracle-worker coach (Stewart Petrie) who doesn't want to give up a lucrative day job to manage at a full-time side. That said, the Gable Endies have brought in minimal reinforcements whilst also losing both Cammy Ballantynes (yes, there were two). There's still plenty of quality though which should stop them slipping too far back.
They might be usurped by the upstarts from Kelty Hearts though. Kelty breezed through League Two at the first attempt and have aspirations to emulate Cove Rangers. They should be competitive at this level from the word go with a decent sized budget that has allowed them to field the likes of Jamie Barjonas, Michael Tidser, Joe Cardle and Nathan Austin among others. Kevin Thomson's decision to leave in the summer wasn't ideal but they have high hopes for replacement boss John Potter. Can they immediately challenge at the right end?
Alloa Athletic also fancy they can get in the promotion playoffs, having improved immeasurably after replacing Barry Ferguson with Brian Rice in the dugout. They'll be relying more on Rice's acumen and improving the squad they've got than on making lots of signings but an attack with Ross MacIver and Connor Sammon should score plenty and immortal defender Andy Graham is still there along with other longstanding players such as Scott Taggart, Kevin Cawley and Jon Robertson. It'll be weird without Alan Trouten though.
As for those perhaps more worried about the drop, FC Edinburgh are obvious candidates given they came fourth in League Two last season before fighting their way through the playoffs. They were much more impressive after Alan Maybury took charge in the spring and have strengthened with the signings of veteran Liam Fontaine and full-back Kieran MacDonald (a regular with Raith and Hamilton the last few seasons) as well as signing Innes Murray permanently. Whether that'll be sufficient to enable them to make the step up is another matter. And the less said about the godawful name change the better...
There's not a lot of optimism to be found at Clyde who of course no longer have He Who Must Not Be Named scoring shedloads and masking their deficiencies, and who are now playing at New Douglas Park after getting ejected from Cumbernauld. There's been a clearout - including a number of players who declined new deals - and Danny Lennon somehow has to mould a new team without being able to take them to an island for five years first. Holding onto keeper Neil Parry, midfielder Barry Cuddihy and forward Ross Cunningham helps but it could be a tough first campaign as Hamilton's tenants.
But the most dire situation is in the Blue Toon; Peterhead were so short of numbers for the League Cup games that they drafted in players from the local non-leagues (I'd never even heard of Banchory St. Ternan or Rattray XI) to make up numbers. Geography is a big issue, and they cannot compete with Cove Rangers for the best local part-time players. If there is hope, it is in the return of Ryan Dow to the club and the permanent signing of impressive loanee Danny Strachan. But Jim McInally may not have faced a bigger challenge in his decade at Balmoor than keeping them up this season.
So here's the inevitably wrong predicted table...
2. DUNFERMLINE ATHLETIC
3. QUEEN OF THE SOUTH
4. KELTY HEARTS
5. ALLOA ATHLETIC
8. FC EDINBURGH
And the Twitter takes on the season ahead:
Montrose to win it Dunfermline and QOTS to fight relegation.— Robert (@Robert85733781) July 24, 2022
Dunfermline to win the league and straight out scrap for bottom between FC Edinburgh and Peterhead— BlueBrazilianToffee (@BrazilianblueT) July 24, 2022
Wide open at the top Dunfermline, Airdrie & QOS for the top spot.— David Hamilton (@dwham22) July 24, 2022
League of 3 parts, Falkirk, QoS, Dunfermline, Airdrie going for gold.— Retep (@pjah80) July 24, 2022
Alloa, Kelty, Montrose for the best of the rest.
FC Edinburgh, Peterhead, Clyde in the dog fight.
I think airdrie are weaker than last season and will probably be more in the middle group of teams, apart from that hard to argue at this stage.— Alastair Cameron (@Bully_Wee_Al) July 24, 2022
1. Anyone of 7.— Coatbridge Chancellor (@CCNo8GA) July 24, 2022
2 Clyde. Peterhead/Edinburgh fight for 8th.
Falkirk my favs to go up— Stephen (@Stephen88888889) July 24, 2022
Airdrie and Dunfermline likely challengers
Was at QOS when Annan beat them and would have had them favs for relegation on that performance however seem to have picked up a bit
Montrose too good to go down so I worry for FC Edinburgh
Falkirk & Dunfermline will be top too. John McGlynn is the best of business Falkirk have done in years. Fancy them to pip the Pars to 1st. Clyde to finish 10th. Edinburgh have giving a good account of themselves against Arbroath & St Mirren. Fancy us to stay up. Peterhead for 9th— Lewis Mitchell (@LewisGMitchell) July 24, 2022
QoS up heed doon— Dan (@Dan0li0) July 24, 2022
I think Peterhead are in massive trouble unless the can bring in some quality in the coming weeks.— Arron Myles (@ArronnMyless) July 24, 2022
FC Edinburgh could be in trouble too.
Fancy Dunfermline for the league though.
Falkirk to finally get their act together, FC Edinburgh back to whence they came— Alex Marr (@alexmarr98) July 24, 2022
Falkirk are going to have to pull their thumbs out their arses at some point. Kelty still flush with cash. Dunfermline, who knows. QOTS I’ve no idea… and Airdrie will hang about like a bad smell.— KRD (@KGOD1995) July 24, 2022
Straight fight between Falkirk and Dunfermline but I think McGlynn’s experience will get Falkirk through it. Queens and Alloa to make up the play offs. Montrose, airdrie and Kelty middle 3 a good bit ahead of us(Clyde), Peterhead and Edinburgh. Peterhead to be bottom— Alex Murray (@Alex_Murray92) July 24, 2022
My completely uninformed opinion:— Tom Pearson (@tom7p) July 24, 2022
Promotion between Kelty, Falkirk, Alloa, Dunfermline.
Relegation contenders: Edinburgh FC, Clyde, Airdrie.
Borderline pin the tail on the donkey.
Peterhead look a certain to go down unless they get in a bunch of players. Could see it coming right down to the wire with Dunfermline and Falkirk but will go with Dunfermline to just get it. Kelty could be in trouble though. Definitly not been impressed with them in league cup.— Cammy Hutton (@fatpirlo) July 24, 2022
Champions from Bairns, Pars and QoS. Then Montrose, Kelty and Airdrie - and Alloa if we can find a goalscorer - battling for 4th. Edinburgh, Clyde and Blue Toon in relegation scrap.— Donald Pollock (@DonaldPollock3) July 24, 2022
as a dunfermline supporter as it stands today we have no chance of winning the league, I'd say between 4-6. Falkirk or Queens to win it just based on decent size squads.— Colin (@Colin83334245) July 24, 2022
Falkirk, Dunfermline, Airdrie , Queen of the South, Alloa for top 4.— Douglas Reid (@douglasreid28) July 24, 2022
Edinburgh and Peterhead for the drop.
Wide open. Any 1 from 7. Bairns, dafc, qos, airdrie, Alloa, mo & kelty.— jay (@jay87174138) July 24, 2022
Falkirk— Lubo___ (@LouisOC94532880) July 24, 2022
The consensus around the group seems to be one of Dunfermline or Falkirk to win the title, then a very mixed bag in behind with the only constant being Clyde, Edinburgh and Peterhead to struggle.— That's Never 10 Yards (@TN10Y) July 24, 2022
Falkirk finally have a manager who knows how to get out of league 1. Between them and dunfermline for the league but both could go up as bottom of the championship isnt great— Chris Rex (@RexieCJ) July 24, 2022
Lawrie Spence has whinged about Scottish football on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007. He has a life outside this blog. Honestly.