After a testing campaign where they avoided relegation by the narrowest of margins, Scunthorpe United can look forward to another season in the Football League next season.
How they’ll line up on the first day of the 2021/22 season, however, is anyone’s guess after 17 players departed the club at the end of the season.
With the Iron sure to roll out a new-look side next year, staying in the league may well be a priority again in the new season. But the fourth tier is full of quality and some teams will be eyeing the title after their 2020/21 campaigns.
Forest Green Rovers
Narrowly defeated in the playoff semi-finals despite a 4-3 second-leg victory over Newport County, it was a second such loss in three years for England’s greenest club. Propelled into the playoff places by 17 goals from Jamille Matt, it looks as though Rovers have their striker of the future, if not their manager of the past. Mark Cooper’s departure after five years of management came after a torrid winless streak of six games that derailed their automatic promotion bid.
If Forest Green can avoid the mental slump they faced after the loss of star striker Christian Doidge in 2019, they surely have the quality in the squad to challenge for the top three. Former England under-16 coach Rob Edwards inherits a team with young stars like Udoka Godwin-Malife and Jake Young, around whom he could build a fourth-tier contender.
One of the biggest names in the fourth tier on the basis of their superstar ownership, if not for their on-field play, Salford City were two points off seventh-placed Tranmere Rovers in their pursuit of playoff football. In the end, what doomed them may have been inconsistency – with four managers in the dugout at different stages of the season, Salford’s task was ultimately too great as they bounced in and out of the top seven all campaign. Football betting markets are always bullish on the Ammies and next season will be no different with them placed at 5/1 favourites.
With Gary Bowyer leading the side to 6 wins and 2 draws in his 11 matches in charge, the likes of Gary Neville and co. may believe they have the answer to their coaching woes in the former Blackburn manager. If Bowyer takes that form into 2021/22 – and stays in charge for the whole season – Salford could be on the verge of a maiden season in the third tier of English football.
Say hello to our new Manager 💼
We are delighted to announce the appointment of John McGreal as First Team Manager at the club
Welcome, John!#STFC 🔴
— Swindon Town FC (@Official_STFC) May 26, 2021
Relegated from League One this year after managing only 43 points from 46 games, Swindon Town were a third-tier side for only a single season. In the shortened 2019/20 season they were crowned League Two champions, and Robins fans see themselves as a League One side by nature. Three times this century Swindon have been relegated to the fourth tier – the first two times they were promoted immediately the following season, with that League Two title in 2019/20 coming in their third year.
Indeed, Swindon have the look of a team who could cause anyone problems in League Two again next year and are fifth-favourites at 14/1. Former Colchester manager John McGreal is the new man at the helm, and he’ll hope to hold on to the likes of Brett Pitman, whose 12 goals led the side in their relegation season. Further back, they have a young pairing in 21-year-old Scott Twine and 22-year-old Tyler Smith, who each contributed 7 goals in the third tier last season. Given their propensity for going back up at the first time of asking, the Robins could come out firing and become an early favourite for promotion next year.