Leeds with points to make after penalty

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Feeling sorry for Dennis Wise is a concept not everyone finds easy to embrace, but after nine months in which he has presided over the final decline of a once- peerless club, the position of the Leeds United manager is as unenviable as can be imagined.

In other circumstances, Leeds might by now have recovered from the shock of beingrelegated to the third rung of the domestic ladder for the first time in the club's history and been favourites for an instant return to the Championship. Instead, after losing player after player while barred from signing any replacements – and unable to pay those left behind – Wise must now contemplate starting the season at Tranmere on Saturday with a 15-point penalty imposed because of the club's failure to comply with the Football League's insolvency rules.

The punishment, subject to an appeal by Leeds likely to be heard within days, was announced on Friday evening, until which time it had been uncertain whether the Champions' League semi-finalists of 2001 would even be allowed to participate in the new season, let alone finish it in a promotion position.

The lifting of the transfer embargo means Wise canfinally embark on what is likely to be a frenzied signing spree. But as his predecessor, Kevin Blackwell, found, buying a new team is one thing, turning it into a functioning unit quite another. If the points deduction stands, Wise will be a contender for manager of the season if he can finish above mid-table.

The League One race promises to be highly competitive, with almost two thirds of the division fancying their chances. Blackwell's Luton have made a clutch of signings, including veteran strikers Paul Furlong and Paul Peschisolido.

Nottingham Forest look equipped for automatic promotion, having captured the former Celtic captain Neil Lennon and spent about £1.5m on Yeovil midfielders Arron Davies and Chris Cohen, plus defenders Kevin Wilson (Preston) and Matt Lockwood (Leyton Orient).

Expect competition from Swansea, who have parted with striker Lee Trundle but allowed manager Roberto Martinez to sign reinforcements who include Guillem Bauza Mayol, a striker from Espanyol, and the highly rated Liverpool reserve winger Paul Anderson.

Relegated Southend have lost Freddy Eastwood but signed another prolific non-League goalscorer in Charlie MacDonald. Doncaster Rovers, whose signings include Bournemouth striker James Hayter for aclub-record £200,000 andOldham's highly regarded midfielder Richie Wellens, could be surprise contenders.

League Two could witness a head-to-head between one-time Manchester United team-mates Darren Ferguson – at Peterborough United – and Paul Ince, who has taken charge at MK Dons after performing a near-miracle to keep Macclesfield Town in the League last season. Terry Butcher's Brentford and Stuart McCall's Bradford City could also be in the hunt but newcomers Morecambe and Dagenham and Redbridge may be content merely to survive.

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