PAUL DICKOV COLUMN: League One has rarely been tougher – and it’s great

Paul Dickov has been impressed by Paul Cook's work at Chesterfield
Paul Dickov has been impressed by Paul Cook's work at Chesterfield

We’re around the half way point of the season now and I must say League One is a lot tougher than it has been in recent years.

I’ve got a good amount of experience of this division and I think it’s the toughest I’ve seen it.

Going back two or three years, there were two or three teams that were way ahead of everyone else. I think the standard has risen and there are more teams competing.

There’s probably 12 to 14 teams that are capable of getting in the top six, even now. There hasn’t been many years when you could say that.

I’ve been really impressed with what Paul Cook has done at Chesterfield and the good football that Walsall play. There’s a good group of clubs pushing hard for the top six with the likes of Fleetwood and Rochdale are picking up a lot of points,

Then you’ve got the big clubs, the likes of Preston, Bristol City, MK Dons and Sheffield United who are all right up there as you’d expect.

I don’t want to bleat on about money, but there’s a good few clubs with a lot of resources. I’ve spoken to managers up the top end, without naming names, and the sort of money they’ll be spending in January will make it difficult for a lot of other clubs.

To be a smaller club in this division and have a chance of competing, your recruitment has to be spot on. It’s not just about the ability of the players but also making sure you’re getting the right characters as well. If you’re leaving players out that you will rely on to come in when you make changes, you need to make sure you’ve got the right characters who will have reacted in the right way to not being picked. In the smaller squads, everything has to run like clockwork if you’re going to be pushing up the table.

It takes time. It’s about watching games and doing your homework on players. You don’t just sign players on a whim or because someone’s sent you a DVD or a YouTube clip. You need to know what you’re getting in the complete package. And I think that’s why some teams have had a slower start to the season.

What I think is most impressive about League One this season is the amount of clubs whose first thought it to play football. I’d say at least half the teams in the division have the intention to get the ball down and play. In previous years, those sorts of teams would have been few and far between.

It’s made the whole division a lot more unpredictable. We feel that now we’ve got a settled squad, we can push into the top half in the second half of the season.

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