Manager: Dave Challinor
2021/22 season finish: 1st in National League
Stadium: Edgeley Park
Star man: Antoni Sarcevic
Ex-Hartlepool boss Dave Challinor’s Stockport were a major force in the National League last season, and tallied an impressive 94 points in their title-winning campaign. Their final league position saw them defeat the likes of Wrexham, Notts County, Grimsby and Chesterfield to the top spot - clubs that all still await their returns to the football league.
The Hatters made some eye-catching signings before the season started, having already captured bagsman Paddy Madden from League One Fleetwood midway through the season previous. County picked up ex-Portsmouth midfielder Andy Cannon on loan from Hull City, Myles Hippolyte from now relegated Scunthorpe United, Antoni Sarcevic who started the season with 14 league one appearances as captain of Bolton Wanderers, and Barrow’s 2020/21 top scorer Scott Quigley - just to name a few.
Quigley will return to League Two with skipper and strike partner Paddy Madden who excelled this season, scoring 23 goals in 43 appearances. Madden is certainly a figure accustomed to the football league, achieving six double-figure goal tallied seasons in his league career with Yeovil Town, Scunthorpe United and Fleetwood Town.
Manager: Paul Hurst
2021/22 season finish: 6th in League One (play-off winners)
Stadium: Blundell Park
Star man: John McAtee
Paul Hurst’s Grimsby had the most challenging route to League Two last season, having to win three consecutive dramatic play-off games to achieve their return to the football league at the first time of asking. The first win came against Notts County when Gavan Holohan’s 96th minute equaliser sent the tie to extra-time in Nottingham. Mani Dieseruvwe then dramatically struck in the 119th minute to secure the Mariners a spot in the semi-final against favourites Wrexham.
The semi-final was mega and ended 4-4 in normal time after Grimsby found themselves behind twice in the game. Again the winner was clinched in the 119th minute when Luke Waterfall struck his second of the game.
The final was held at the London Stadium as Solihull Moors took the lead a minute before the half-time break through 6”9 striker Kyle Hudlin. However, Hurst’s men were used to coming from behind and again took the tie to extra-time thanks to John McAtee’s excellence.
Ex-Red Jordan Maguire-Drew was the man whose goal was decisive in taking Grimsby back to the football league as the Mariners celebrated a historic 1-2 win in extra-time to round off a miraculous play-off campaign.
Captain Luke Waterfall was a standout player for Grimsby last season, playing 45 games and even scoring eight goals, proving a massive threat from set-pieces. John McAtee is another player that has caught the eyes of many after a campaign of 16 goals and many moments of individual brilliance.
Manager: Johnnie Jackson
2021/22 season finish: 23rd in League One
Stadium: Plough Lane
Star man: Jack Rudoni
AFC Wimbledon struggled majorly in League One last season, finishing 23rd with a total points tally of 37 points from 46 games. The club suffered departures of both Joe Pigott and ex-Red Ollie Palmer which tore apart a previously successful attack which had 25 league goals between it in the season previous, meaning consistent goals were harder to come by last time around.
However, 22-year-old Jack Rudoni stepped up last season, netting 12 league goals and playing in a range of positions, as 20-year-old Ayoub Assal played 42 league games up top, scoring eight times. Wimbledon played out the 2021/22 campaign with a remarkably young squad of players, putting trust into teenagers and academy graduates as well as Premier League loans throughout the year.
Crawley fans will remember our fantastic FA Cup second round win over the Dons in the 2020/21 season when we came from behind to win 1-2 at Plough Lane with goals for Ashley Nadesan and Max Watters, sending us into a historic third-round tie with Leeds United.
Manager: Neil Harris
2021/22 season finish: 21st in League One
Stadium: Priestfield Stadium
Star man: Vadaine Oliver
It was last day despair for Neil Harris’ Gills who lost out to promoted Rotherham United on the final day of the League One 2021/22 season. A tough campaign and a 21st place finish meant that Gillingham would join the Reds in League Two, despite a slight resurgence under ex-Millwall boss Neil Harris after Steve Evans’ era came to an end in January.
Their last day defeat meant they finished below Fleetwood Town on goal difference, a side who will take on the third tier again next season under ex-Celtic captain Scott Brown. Gillingham are a side that Crawley have taken on in our previous two seasons. We suffered a 2-1 loss at Priestfield in the Papa John’s Trophy in 2020, before losing out in August of 2021 in the first round of the Carabao Cup to the Gills on penalties, after Archie Davies scored a dramatic 97th minute 2-2 equalising goal.
Established football league forward Vadaine Oliver led the line mostly on his own last season for Gills, scoring nine times in the league - not quite reaching the impressive tally of 17 from the year before. Gillingham have plenty of experience within the rest of the squad, especially in their midfield, with the likes of Olly Lee, Ben Reeves and Stuart O’Keeffe in their ranks.
Manager: Gary McSheffrey
2021/22 season finish: 22nd in League One
Stadium: Eco-Power Stadium
Star man: Adam Clayton
Doncaster Rovers suffered their first relegation into League Two since 2016 after a disappointing campaign which saw them finish with a tally of 38 points. Rovers struggled mainly in defence, conceding 82 goals. In December, manager Richie Wellens was sacked by the club after just 199 days in charge with the club sitting 23rd in the table with the club having picked up just thirteen points from nineteen matches. Wellens is now in charge of Leyton Orient and will face his former club in Doncaster next season.
Experienced midfielder Adam Clayton is a stand out name for the Robins after his January move to the club last season. Leaving Birmingham to join Doncaster, Clayton played most of his football in the Championship, playing for the likes of Leeds United, Huddersfield, and Middlesborough, where he spent over six years.
Manager: Alex Morris
2021/22 season finish: 24th in League One
Stadium: The Mornflake Stadium
Star man: Christopher Long
Crewe Alexandra have certainly had a rough time of it over the past two seasons, losing key players such as Charlie Kirk, Perry Ng and Harry Pickering to Championship clubs. These players were instrumental in ex-Manager David Artell’s 2019/2020 promotion winning season, where they lost out on top spot to Swindon on goal difference after the season was curtailed early due to COVID-19.
That season Kirk scored seven and assisted 14, and the Railwaymen cried out for a player like him last year, as a stripped squad finished bottom of League One, only scoring 37 goals and conceding 83. Artell was let go by Crewe in April and replaced by Alex Morris, who remains manager today, yet this change did not affect form, with the Alex sealing their relegation weeks before the final day.
Amongst a pool of out of form players last season, Christopher Long was a standout, scoring ten from wide after his return to English football. The winger joined following his release from Motherwell in 2021, and tallied up 32 League One appearances last campaign. Long will return to League Two with plenty of experience at 27 years old, playing formerly at the likes of Burnley, Northampton and Blackpool.