League One preview 2006/7

July 27, 2006
By Richard Jolly
(Archive)

Coca Cola Football League Season 2006/7
Championship | League 1 | League 2


Blackpool

Last season: 19th
Manager: Simon Grayson

In: Rhys Evans (Swindon), Paul Tierney (Livingston), Michael Jackson (Tranmere), Adrian Forbes (Swansea), Wes Hoolahan (Livingston, loan).

Out: Les Pogliacomi (Oldham), Stuart Anderson (released), Tony Butler (Forest Green), Matt Shaw (released), Rob Edwards (released), Danny Warrender (released), Jason Wilcox (released), Kevin Lee (Southport) .

After Colin Hendry's undistinguished reign came to its conclusion, Simon Grayson's salvage job prevented relegation to League Two. The targets ought to be higher this time around, however, under new president Valery Belokon.

Bringing in goalkeeper Rhys Evans from Swindon and the experienced centre-back Michael Jackson should ensure a better defensive record, while Adrian Forbes adds pace on the right flank.

But, though Keigan Parker scored 12 times last season, John Murphy and Scott Vernon will have to contribute more if Blackpool are to rise above mid-table.

Key man: Peter Clarke.


Bournemouth

Last season: 17th
Manager: Sean O'Driscoll

In: Tareq Khalil (Cardiff), Conal Platt (Liverpool), Daryl Taylor (Walsall), Danny Hollands (Chelsea).

Out: James O`Connor (Doncaster), Jason Tindall (released), James Rowe (released), Dani Rodrigues (New Zealand Knights), Adam Griffiths (Brentford).

Sean O'Driscoll's success in bringing through younger players has proved profitable for Bournemouth, but counter-productive for him. Brian Stock followed Wade Elliott and Garreth O'Connor out of the Fitness First stadium last season, and Bournemouth suffered accordingly.

That they were rarely in any danger of going down owed much to 20-goal James Hayter, and O'Driscoll's next task is deterring interest in the striker.

But with Hayter lacking support and O'Driscoll short of funds, survival will again represent an achievement for Bournemouth.

Key man: James Hayter.


Bradford City

Last season: 11th
Manager: Colin Todd

In: Jermaine Johnson (Tivoli Gardens), Matt Clarke (Darlington), Eddie Johnson (Manchester United), David Graham (Sheffield Wednesday, loan).

Out: Darren Holloway (released), Lee Crooks (released), Andy Cooke (released), Owen Morrison (released), Tom Kearney (Halifax), Steve Claridge (released), Danny Forrest (released), Bobby Petta (released), Danny Cadamarteri (released), Damion Stewart (QPR), Craig Mawson (Halifax), Jake Wright (Halifax).

Dean Windass' Indian summer is turning into the most productive spell of his career, as 43 goals in the last two seasons alone suggests. But even Windass cannot carry on forever, so Colin Todd's acquisition of two rather younger strikers in the shape of Eddie Johnson - almost two decades the released Steve Claridge's junior - and on-loan David Graham is timely.

Bradford were enigmas for much of last season, when a bit more consistency might have yielded a play-off place, but the defence, who only conceded 49 goals, proved reliable and ought to remain unchanged.

The evergreen pair of Windass and David Wetherall apart, Bradford are starting to shed their 'Dad's Army' tag and their younger players have enough potential to suggest a play-off push is possible.

Key man: Eddie Johnson.


Brentford

Last season: 3rd
Manager: Leroy Rosenior

In: Jo Kuffour (Torquay), Chris Moore (Dagenham & Redbridge), Adam Griffiths (Bournemouth), Thomas Pinault (Colchester, free), Gavin Tomlin (unattached, free).

Out: Michael Dobson (Walsall), Ricky Newman (released), Scott Fitzgerald (released), Paul Brooker (released), Jay Tabb (Coventry), Isaiah Rankin (Grimsby), Michael Turner (Hull), Eddie Hutchinson (Oxford), Marcus Gayle (Aldershot), Sam Sodje (Reading).

After back-to-back play-off defeats, the idiosyncratic Martin Allen departed. His replacement Leroy Rosenior is a promising appointment, but he inherits too few of Allen's players.

Instead, it is a much-changed team. The charismatic Sam Sodje will be missed most, though in attack Brentford never really recovered from the sale of DJ Campbell in January.

Thomas Pinault brings his passing ability to the midfield while, in Sam Tillen and Callum Willock Rosenior has some promising younger players. But is surely unrealistic to expect a third successive top-six finish.

Key man: Thomas Pinault.


Brighton and Hove Albion

Last season: 24th (Championship, relegated)
Manager: Mark McGhee

In: Alex Revell (Braintree Town).

Out: Jason Dodd (Eastleigh), Alexis Nicolas (released), Mark McCammon (released), Chris McPhee (released), Federico Turienzo (released), Seb Carole (Leeds).

Both Brighton and Mark McGhee possess a recent record of promotion to the Championship, but an immediate return to the second flight is a tough ask with Albion's resources still limited by the delay over a new stadium.

It will be all the harder without Seb Carole but, in Albert Jarrett and Colin Kazim-Richards, Brighton have two gifted, quick youngsters to complement an experienced core to the team.

But, hindered by the sale of Leon Knight after his row with McGhee, they scored just 39 goals last season. A promotion push may depend on whether someone can become the prolific scorer Brighton desperately require.

Key man: Colin Kazim-Richards.


Bristol City

Last season: 9th
Manager: Gary Johnson

In: Jamie McCombe (Lincoln), Phil Jevons (Yeovil), Liam Fontaine (Fulham, tribunal), Enoch Showunmi (Luton), Chris Weale (Yeovil).

Out: Ollie Barnes (Bristol Rovers), Luke Wilkshire (released), Clayton Fortune (released), Jamie Smith (MK Dons), Nathan Abbey (released), Bas Savage (released), Ryan Hartley (released), Steve Phillips (Bristol Rovers).

Gary Johnson ended the flirtation with relegation and, as Bristol City ended the season in form to rival the teams at the top of the table, they start among the favourites this time around.

Jamie McCombe's aerial presence and Chris Weale's goalkeeping should bolster a defence that proved too porous on their travels last year, conceding 40 goals away from home.

Phil Jevons, who has followed Johnson from Yeovil (as has Weale), should join Steve Brooker in an attack to rival any in the division. With Scott Murray offering the promise of another 10 goals from the right wing, City look to have the firepower to be one of the contenders.

Key man: Jamie McCombe.


Carlisle United

Last season: 1st (League Two, promoted)
Manager: Neil McDonald

In: Kevin Gall (Yeovil), David Raven (Liverpool).

Out: Brendan McGill (released), Lee Andrews (Torquay).

The optimism generated by two successive promotions may have dissipated in the wake of Paul Simpson's departure, but Neil McDonald has other reasons to be positive.

With 84, Carlisle were comfortably the highest scorers in the entire Football League after Reading, and prolific strike partnership Karl Hawley and Michael Bridges remain, the latter rejecting a move to Darlington.

Indeed, the continuity in the squad, coupled with the momentum they have acquired suggests Carlisle stand a chance of repeating Southend's feat by going up at the first attempt. The alternative is that players who were in the Conference 18 months ago and a new manager will find League One an altogether tougher division.

Key man: Karl Hawley.


Cheltenham Town

Last season: 5th (League Two, promoted)
Manager: John Ward

In:

Out: Scott Musgrove (Stamford), Michael Taylor (Halifax), Gary Bradshaw (released).

John Ward's young team managed the double of a profitable FA Cup run and promotion, via the play-offs, in perhaps the best season of Cheltenham's brief history as a league team.

Staying in League One may prove harder and, indeed, was beyond Cheltenham in their only previous season in English football's third tier.

Ward has kept faith with the players who took Cheltenham up and, while there is opportunity for young defenders Gavin Caines and Michael Townsend and striker Kayode Odejayi to improve further, it is a squad that lacks pedigree in League One.

Key man: Kayode Odejayi


Chesterfield

Last season: 16th
Manager: Roy McFarland

In: Phil Picken (Manchester United), Paul Shaw (Rotherham), Kevan Hurst (Sheffield United), Michael Jordan (Arsenal, free).

Out: Colin Heath (Macclesfield), Tcham N`Toya (Notts County), Carl Muggleton (Mansfield).

A final position of 16th did not tell the whole story, for Chesterfield were play-off contenders for two-thirds of the season before a late slump.

Wayne Allison and Paul Hall defied their advancing years to provide the goals though there is a danger that this will prove one season too many for some of Roy McFarland's experienced campaigners.

On the plus side, the industrious Paul Shaw gives him more options in attack. On the minus, McFarland has less cover than many of his managerial rivals and cannot afford many injuries.

Key man: Paul Hall.


Crewe Alexandra

Last season: 22nd (Championship, relegated)
Manager: Dario Gradi

In: Neil Cox (Cardiff), Julien Baudet (Notts County), Darran Kempson (Morecambe).

Out: Richard Walker (Crewe), Juan Ugarte (Wrexham), Kenny Lunt (Sheffield Wednesday), Stephen Foster (Burnley), Chris McCready (Tranmere), Steve Jones (Burnley), Justin Cochrane (Rotherham).

The reason for Crewe's relegation is simple enough: they conceded 86 goals.

Dario Gradi's tradition of attacking, passing football may require a greater devotion to defensive duties this time around.

So summer signings Neil Cox and Julien Baudet could be vital while further forward, the loss of proven Championship performers Kenny Lunt and Steve Jones weakens the side.

Under Gradi, that merely allows more opportunities for other graduates of Crewe's outstanding youth policy, though it remains to be seen if Michael Higdon, Luke Varney and Billy Jones can develop at such a rate as to ensure an immediate return to the Championship.

Key man: Neil Cox.


Doncaster Rovers

Last season: 8th
Manager: Dave Penney

In: James O'Connor (Bournemouth), Adam Lockwood (Yeovil), Kevin Horlock (Ipswich), Bruce Dyer (Sheffield United), Gareth Roberts (Tranmere), Jonathan Forte (Sheffield United).

Out: Leo Fortune-West (Rushden), Alun Armstrong (released), Mark Albrighton (Boston), Jermaine McSporran (Chester), Simon Marples (Chester), Richard Offiong (released), Tonny Neilsen (released), Phil McGuire (released), Neil Roberts (Wrexham), Dave Mulligan (Scunthorpe), Michael McIndoe (Barnsley).

Sidetracked by a wonderful cup run and hampered by a poor start, Doncaster's play-off push didn't really get off the ground until it was too late. This year, it should be different for Dave Penney's side, especially with the impetus a new ground could provide.

Despite the loss of Michael McIndoe, whose left foot was such a feature of their rise from the Conference, Penney now has strength in depth throughout the squad (and a strangely high number of goalkeepers).

Kevin Horlock should prove an influential figure in midfield but, as McIndoe top-scored from the left wing last season, the onus is on new signing Bruce Dyer, or one of the other strikers, to get enough goals to make Doncaster contenders.

Key man: Bruce Dyer.


Gillingham

Last season: 14th
Manager: Ronnie Jepson

In: Mark Bentley (Southend), Duncan Jupp (Southend), Dean McDonald (Ipswich), Gary Mulligan (Sheffield United), Guylain Ndumbu-Nsungu (Cardiff), Kelvin Jack (Dundee), Clint Easton (Wycombe).

Out: Paul Shields (Livingston), Chris Hope (Rushden & Diamonds), Richard Rose (Hereford), Jonathan Wallis (Hereford), Gavin Grant (Millwall), Akwasi Fobi-Edusei (released), Darren Byfield (Millwall), Jason Brown (Blackburn), Danny Knowles (released), Mark Cornielle (released), Paul Crichton (Cambridge).

A revival under Ronnie Jepson helped Gillingham to 14th, uncharted territory for them for most of the season. Poor away form was eventually cancelled out by an excellent record at the Priestfield Stadium.

Jepson now has a very different squad for his first full season in charge with Kelvin Jack completing a trio of Trinidad & Tobago internationals in Kent and top scorer Darren Byfield perhaps the most significant of the departures.

The nomadic Guylain Ndumbu-Nsungu is his replacement, and that only Michael Flynn, of those remaining at Gillingham, scored more than three league goals should be a concern. Mid-table may be the best they can hope for again.

Key man: Guylain Ndumbu-Nsungu.


Huddersfield Town

Last season: 4th
Manager: Peter Jackson

In: Matt Glennon (St Johnstone), Luke Beckett (Sheffield United).

Out: Tony Carss (released), Junior Mendes (Notts County), Phil Senior (Northwich Victoria).

Had Huddersfield not faltered on the run-in, they would be preparing for Championship football. Instead, keeping all their first-choice players, Peter Jackson's squad must rank among the favourites for promotion.

Luke Beckett, a proven goalscorer at this level, is the most prominent and promising of the summer signings, though Jackson may struggle to accommodate him, Andy Booth and Pawel Abbott in the same forward line. Beckett, in an Oldham team that missed the play-offs, outscored his new team-mates.

Danny Schofield and Gary Taylor-Fletcher provided pace and penetration from the flanks but Huddersfield conceded more often than anyone else in the top eight last year; with better defending, they may even earn automatic promotion.

Key man: Martin McIntosh


Leyton Orient

Last season: 3rd (League Two, promoted)
Manager: Martin Ling

In: Wayne Cordon (Scunthorpe).

Out: Gabriel Zakuani (Fulham).

Martin Ling finally realised Barry Hearn's dream of escaping the lowest rung of the English league ladder thanks, to a large degree, to outstanding away form. Orient earned 42 points and lost just three times on their travels.

Given a higher calibre of opposition, they may find it easier to garner points at Brisbane Road this year, though several of Ling's squad - particularly left back Matt Lockwood and striker Gary Alexander - have long suggested they could play in a better division.

But centre back Gabriel Zakauni, signed by Fulham, has jumped three. Despite a policy of continuity elsewhere, Orient's prospects may depend on how much of the proceeds of his sale Ling has to spend, and who he recruits.

Key man: John Mackie.


Millwall

Last season: 23rd (Championship, relegated)
Manager: Nigel Spackman

In: Gavin Grant (Gillingham), Zak Whitbread (Liverpool), Lenny Pidgley (Chelsea), Darren Byfield (Gillingham), Felipe Morais (Chelsea), Derek McInnes (Dundee United), Richard Shaw (Coventry), Chris Day (Oldham), Tom Brighton (Clyde), Adam Cottrell (Charlton).

Out: Barry Hayles (Plymouth), Carl Asaba (released), Carlos Fangueiro (released), Joe Healy (released), Sammy Igoe (released), Andy Marshall (Coventry), Trevor Robinson (released), Josh Simpson (released), Curtis Weston (Swindon), David Livermore (Leeds).

After a dramatic season of four managers, countless players and relegation, there is an obvious need for stability at the New Den. Instead, Nigel Spackman, in the hottest of hot seats, has to rebuild a decimated squad.

In an otherwise young squad, he has opted for the veterans Derek McInnes and Richard Shaw to provide leadership while Lenny Pidgley, fresh from understudying Petr Cech and Carlo Cudicini, will be first-choice goalkeeper and Zak Whitbread, formerly of Liverpool, has the youth to complement Shaw's experience in defence.

Captain David Livermore and striker Barry Hayles headed the list of the summer departures. Without the latter, Darren Byfield has the responsibility of leading the attack. But, after so many changes, Millwall may have to settle for a season of consolidation.

Key man: Derek McInnes.


Northampton Town

Last season: 2nd (League Two, promoted)
Manager: John Gorman

In: Andy Holt (Wrexham), Sam Aiston (Tranmere), Joe Burnell (Wycombe).

Out: David Rowson (released), Gavin Johnson (Oxford), Matthew Gearing (released), Jason Lee (Notts County), Luke Graham (Forest Green), Martin Smith (Darlington), Ashley Westwood (Chester), Josh Low (Leicester).

Big spenders - by League Two standards - Northampton now no longer have the burden of being favourites. They also no longer have Colin Calderwood, hired by Nottingham Forest.

In his place comes John Gorman, manager of an attacking Wycombe team, taking over a Northampton side who set a club record for clean sheets (24) in a season. Unsurprisingly, he has not felt the need for a defensive overhaul over the summer.

Midfielder Joe Burnell has arrived, treading what could become a well-worn path from Wycombe, but with Calderwood's complement of strikers - led by Scott McGleish and Andy Kirk - and the battle-hardened experience of Ian Taylor and Eoin Jess, Northampton should be well-placed to consolidate their League One status.

Key man: Luke Chambers.


Nottingham Forest

Last season: 7th
Manager: Colin Calderwood

In: Paul Smith (Southampton).

Out: Paul Gerrard (released), Gareth Taylor (Tranmere), Paul Evans (released), Eugen Bopp (released), Eugene Dadi.

Mediocre under Gary Megson and magnificent when Ian McParland and Frank Barlow took over, which Nottingham Forest will emerge under Colin Calderwood? The former were the division's biggest underachievers; the latter promised promotion this season.

Megson's man-management had its failings, but he often recruited wisely. The pace of Nathan Tyson and the strength of Grant Holt is a forward partnership to rival any in the division. David Johnson remains in reserve and, without the rancour of the Megson era, is due to prosper again.

Forest were too fragile on their travels last year, conceding 37 times. But their problems, defensive or otherwise, may not have been in personnel - Kris Commons, Wes Morgan and John Thompson are emerging talents while Nicky Eaden, Gary Holt, Alan Rogers, John Curtis and Johnson have Premiership experience. If Calderwood can get the team playing to their potential, the Championship should beckon.

Key man: Nathan Tyson.


Oldham Athletic

Last season: 10th
Manager: John Sheridan

In: Les Pogliacomi (Blackpool), Gary McDonald (Kilmarnock), Craig Rocastle (Sheffield Wednesday), Moussa Dabo (Racing Club Paris).

Out: Danny Hall (Shrewsbury), David Eyres (released), Richard Butcher (Peterborough), Terrell Forbes (Yeovil), Guy Branston (released), Chris Day (Millwall).

Ronnie Moore's surprise dismissal is an opportunity for the promoted John Sheridan, inheriting a team full of Moore's former charges from Rotherham. But not 18-goal Luke Beckett, whose absence is the biggest difference from the team Moore managed.

Without him, Sheridan is short of strikers though not, in the form of Andy Liddell, Richie Wellens and Paul Warne, of more creative players to supply them.

Craig Rocastle could complete the midfield but the fact that only one of the four relegated teams conceded more than Oldham away from home last year suggests there is work for Sheridan to do if Athletic are to achieve anything more than mid-table again.

Key man: Andy Liddell.


Port Vale

Last season: 13th

In: Colin Miles (Yeovil), Danny Whitaker (Macclesfield), Akpo Sodje (Darlington), Paul Harsley (Macclesfield), Richard Walker (Crewe), Jason Talbot (Mansfield).

Out: Jonny Brain (Macclesfield), Tony Dinning (released), Michael Cummins (Darlington), Hector Sam (released), Steve Rowland (released), Craig James (released).

Despite averaging little more than a goal a game, Martin Foyle's team made quiet progress in mid-table last time around, and that might be the summit of their ambitions again.

Even without Micky Cummins, midfield looks a strength with Dan Whitaker and Paul Harsley making the short move from Macclesfield to join Chris Birchall, who excelled for Trinidad & Tobago at the World Cup.

But Vale's joint leading scorer last season now plies his trade elsewhere so more goals are required from Nathan Lowndes, in particular, to support Leon Constantine and avert a relegation battle.

Key man: Nathan Lowndes


Rotherham United

Last season: 20th
Manager: Alan Knill

In: Delroy Facey (Tranmere), Michael Justin Cochrane (Crewe), Richie Partridge (Sheffield Wednesday), Ian Sharps (Tranmere), Pablo Mills (Derby), Scott Wiseman (Hull, loan).

Out: Martin Butler (Walsall), Andy Monkhouse (Swindon), Phil Gilchrist (Oxford), Scott Minto (retired), John Mullin (Tranmere), Paul Shaw (Chesterfield), Paul McLaren (Tranmere).

Rotherham diced with bankruptcy last year, and its implications are still being felt. Quite apart from the financial constraints on manager Alan Knill, they start with a 10-point deduction for going into administration.

It makes them the obvious favourites for relegation, especially as Knill's squad is short of goalscorers. There will be a reliance on Delroy Facey to find the net.

The midfield is weaker without Paul McLaren and Rotherham will need to display all the spirit in evidence last season if they are to beat the drop again.

Key man: Colin Murdock.


Scunthorpe United

Last season: 12th
Manager: Brian Laws

In: Joe Murphy (Sunderland), Ramon Calliste (Liverpool), Dave Mulligan (Doncaster).

Out: Richie Ryan (Boston), Tom Evans (released), Nathan Stanton (released), Paul Musselwhite (Eastleigh), Wayne Corden (Leyton Orient), Andy Parton (released), Tommy Johnson (Tamworth).

Mid-table but by no means boring last season, Scunthorpe scored 68 times and conceded on 73 occasions. The former statistic owes much to the youthful pairing of Andy Keogh (11) and Billy Sharp (23) in attack.

But Peter Beagrie, the footballing pensioner who provided many of them, is gone now. In his place, Brian Laws' most intriguing signing is Ramon Calliste who, despite his name, has had spells on the books of both Liverpool and Manchester United.

Unless Sharp continues to live up to his name, Andy Crosby and Richard Hinds have the responsibility of tightening up the defence. Otherwise Scunthorpe could be in danger of a return to League Two.

Key man: Richard Hinds.


Swansea City

Last season: 6th
Manager: Kenny Jackett

In: Darren Pratley (Fulham).

Out: Roberto Martinez (released), Adrian Forbes (Blackpool), Sam Ricketts (Hull), Brian Murphy (released).

They paid two trips along the M4 to Cardiff last year but, after victory in the LDV Vans Trophy final, defeat in the play-off final to Barnsley was rather more costly.

But it, and particularly Kenny Jackett's mid-season spending, leaves Swansea well-placed to go one better this year. Despite the sale of Sam Ricketts, Jackett has real strength in depth.

In particular, he has the forwards to induce envy from many of his rivals with the bulk of Adebayo Akinfenwa, the speed of Leon Knight and the strength of Rory Fallon besides the joker in his pack, Lee Trundle. With midfielder Andy Robinson (17) also a goal threat, Swansea are potential champions.

Key man: Andy Robinson.


Tranmere Rovers

Last season: 18th
Manager: Ronnie Moore

In: Paul McLaren (Rotherham), John Mullin (Rotherham), Shane Cansdell-Sherriff (Aarhus), Kevin Ellison (Hull), Robbie Stockdale (Hull), Gareth Taylor (Nottingham Forest), Gavin Ward (Preston), Chris Shuker (Barnsley).

Out: Gareth Roberts (Doncaster), Ian Sharps (Rotherham), Delroy Facey (Rotherham), Michael Jackson (Blackpool), Sam Aiston (Northampton), Joe Fowler (Southport), Paul Martin (Southport).

Ronnie Moore likened his Rovers return to a reunion with his first girlfriend. Whether it has a happy ending remains to be seen; Moore's relationship with Oldham was brief while Tranmere's with Brian Little petered out after his strange reluctance to spend the available budget.

Despite the best efforts of Chris Greenacre (16), Tranmere's goals were too infrequent last year, while only Chesterfield and Hartlepool won less at home. Remedying both statistics should be a priority for Moore.

His first moves have been in midfield with Chris Shuker, Paul McLaren and Kevin Ellison all crossing the Pennines. Little's squad, largely intact, is among the better in the division, but Tranmere must display the cutting edge to win more games if they are to return to play-off contention.

Key man: Chris Greenacre.


Yeovil Town

Last season: 15th
Manager: Russell Slade

In: Darren Behcet (West Ham), Steve Mildenhall (Grimsby), Chris Cohen (West Ham), Jean-Paul Kalala (Grimsby), Terrell Forbes (Oldham), Wayne Gray (Southend) .

Out: Phil Jevons (Bristol City), Dale Williams (Shrewsbury), Adam Lockwood (Doncaster), Stephen Reed (released), Richard Cullingford (released), Michael Rose (Stockport), Kevin Gall (Carlisle), Steve Collis (Southend), Chris Weale (Bristol City), Colin Miles (Port Vale).

The route from Grimsby to Yeovil is lengthy, but becoming well-travelled. First Russell Slade ventured south, followed by Terrell Forbes (who has made the journey via Oldham), Steve Mildenhall and Jean-Paul Kamudimba Kalala.

But Slade's squad is without Phil Jevons, yet to be replaced, and there are few obvious candidates to contribute 16 league goals, as he did last year. Arron Davies, who has proved himself as a goalscoring midfielder, will be still more important.

The additions of Forbes and Jamie Vincent are an indication that defence is a concern, while no one in League One suffered more away defeats last year. Slade's exploits at Grimsby suggest he is capable of keeping Yeovil up but it will be no easy task.

Key man: Arron Davies.



Coca Cola Football League Season 2006/7
Championship | League 1 | League 2


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