One month to go: 5 August, National League South big kick-off
It’s nearly upon us. 98 days on from the dramatic conclusion of the NLS title race that saw Maidenhead United pip Ebbsfleet to the crown and earn their place amongst non-league football’s elite, the National South will return for another exciting instalment.
And this time the league is reformed with 2nd to 7th now eligible to fight for a spot in the National Premier come May. It’s the biggest shake up since the formation of the National League in 2004 and it will keep the season alive a little longer for the sides in and around the play-off mix.
The National League computer kicks into gear at 1pm on 5 July, one month prior to the start of the season on 5 August. Here, in a pre-season exclusive @StonesGoals reviews all twenty-two runners and riders ahead of the starting gun.
And don’t forget, once you’ve read the preview, you can vote for who you think will win the league here.
Quick skip – previewing all twenty two clubs
East Thurrock United
Hampton & Richmond Borough
Havant & Waterlooville
Hemel Hempstead Town
St Albans City
Please note: transfer information and retained player lists have been sourced from a variety of different websites including, but not limited to: official club sites; the official National League site; club forums; The National League forum; and occasionally official Twitter feeds of National League South member clubs. Every effort has been made to carefully validate all information for accuracy but with twenty two clubs to cover and with the transfer market moving quickly @StonesGoals acknowledges the risk that this information could become quickly out of date. If you do spot any omissions or errors from any other these listings please drop me an email email@example.com and I will happily amend.
In the meantime I will continue to add as more signings come to light – thanks for reading and enjoy!
Last season: 9th.
An indifferent season on the field was bookended by the completion of the community ownership scheme which saw the supporters’ society become the majority shareholder just two years after launching the Big Bath City ownership bid.
The 2017/18 season will be Bath City’s sixth consecutive campaign at this level following relegation from the National in 2012.
Average attendance 2016/17: 612 (8th)
Interesting fact: Eric Cantona was a high profile backer of the Bath City ‘fans buyout’ campaign.
In June 2017, footballgroundmap.com voted Bath City’s Twerton Park (below) as the ground with the ‘best atmosphere’ in the National League South.
Retained players: Naby Diallo, Jack Batten, Frankie Artus, Nick McCootie, Billy Murpy, George Rigg, Marvin Morgan
Players in: Anthony Straker (Aldershot), Darren Jones (Newport County), Jamie Lucas (Bristol Rovers), Nat Jarvis (Hungerford Town), Miles Welch-Hayes (Oxford United).
Players out: Steve Phillips, Stuart Fleetwood, Lee Marshall, Josh Hutchinson (all released); Chas Hemmings (work commitments).
Club target: top five finish as quoted on bathcityfc.com
Talking point: Striker Shawn McCoulsky returns to parent club Bristol City after an impressive season on-loan at Twerton Park where he netted 8 times to add to his 7 strikes for Weston earlier in the campaign. Nat Jarvis has arrived from Hungerford to fill the void, whilst supporters’ player of the year and last season’s top scorer Andy Watkins looks likely to sign for his fifth successive season.
There is further excitement up top with the signing of highly rated Jamie Lucas (right). The youngster, who scored regular goals throughout his time in the Bristol Rovers youth system, has also been prolific for Weston-super-Mare, scoring 13 times in 21 games. Lucas was let go by Rovers at the end of last season, having spent the majority of the past two seasons on loan at National outfit Boreham Wood. The 21-year-old target man was coveted by several clubs this summer so his signature represents a coup for Owers and Bath.
“I am pleased to commit to the next two years and the hard work begins now to build a squad capable of achieving a top five position.
“I feel I have been given a reasonable opportunity to better our position in the League with a significant improvement in the budget.
“It is up to me to spend it wisely and it is exciting times for the club with the community buyout and hopefully the start of a successful period in the club’s history.”
Gary Owers, who signed a new two-year deal in May.
Bookies odds: 12/1. Worth a tenner.
“(Anthony) Straker’s 28, we’ve signed him from Aldershot, and he’s also played for Grimsby, York, Motherwell, Southend and Wycombe. Oh, and he’s an international, having played ten games for Grenada – as well as a couple of games for the England under 18s.
“(Darren) Jones is 33, and has been a frequent face with the Exiles, as well as spells at FGR, Hereford, Wimbledon, Shrewsbury, Cheltenham and Bristol City. He retired from the full-time game at the end of the season, but was convinced by Owers to continue part-time, as he’d worked with him in the past.”
Bath City forum on two of the new signings.
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Bognor Regis Town
Last season: Runners-up, Ryman Premier (promoted as play-off winners).
The Boggies overcame a stubborn Dulwich Hamlet side in the Ryman play-off final to ensure an impressive campaign as league runners-up did not end fruitlessly. After relegation from the National South in 2009 – they’re finally back!
Average attendance 2016/17: 550 (5th best in Ryman Premier)
Retained players: Doug Tuck, Jimmy Muitt, James Crane, Gary Charman, Ollie Pearce, Harvey Whyte, Alex Parsons, Chad Field, Jimmy Wild, Sami El-Abd
Players in: Corey Heath (College football)
Players out: James Fraser (Worthing), Darren Budd (Horsham)
Club target: Survival.
Talking point: The future of goalkeeper Dan Lincoln. The supporters’ player of the season could yet sign a new deal despite being courted by a clutch of top non-league outfits. The 21-year-old had a spell in Reading’s youth academy before dropping down into non-league where he attracted interest from Arsenal last season.
Star man: Nike football academy star Alex Parsons (right) is no stranger to the limelight having featured in The Sun’s ‘hunk hunt‘ competition two years ago. Having played for Bournemouth earlier on in his career, the 24-year-old midfielder netted four times last season.
Ollie Pearce is another to watch. A product of Bognor’s youth system, the young striker bagged 12-goals for the RPL runners-up.
Manager: Club captain Sami El-Abd was named as the surprise managerial replacement for Jamie Howell’s in the final week of June following the latter’s shock decision to quit for Sussex rivals Eastbourne Borough.
It remains business as usual on the training field with Bognor coach Darin Killpartick under no illusions about the forthcoming requirements.
“Fitness will be the biggest priority of the season. Players will need to look after their bodies and there will be more emphasis on preparation for matches and recovery.”
Darin Killpatrick, Bognor first team coach. Read more
Bookies odds: 20/1. No value here. In danger of the drop.
“Here’s some perspective. In the Ryman/Bostik the likes of Billericay (obviously) Margate, Leatherhead, Dulwich & even Worthing have hugely strengthened & if we hadn’t got promoted even the play offs would be unlikely this year & we are trying to compete in a stronger league! Nobody can deny as things stand we will be relegated.”
Taken from Bognor fans forum, June 2017
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Last season: Relegated from the National League Premier (finishing 22nd)
Despite a first-ever FA Cup 2nd round appearance, The Iron struggled in the National and even a change of manager in September failed to prevent their slide back to the National South.
After replacing Jamie Day, Hakan Hayrettin won 15 of his 41 matches in charge but that wasn’t enough as a final-day defeat condemned Braintree to relegation and cost Hayrettin his job.
Average attendance 2016/17: 725 (22nd National Premier)
Interesting fact: Only homegrown winger Joe Maybanks and reserve goalkeeper Ben McNamara have been retained from Braintree’s relegation squad signalling the size of the rebuilding process for new manager Brad Quinton.
Retained players: Joe Maybanks, Ben McNamara
Players in: Nathan McDonald (Enfield Town), Xavier Vidal (Mertsham), Roman Michael-Percil (Met Police), Jonathan Muleba (Enfield Town), George Sykes (Canvey Island), Scott Schulton (Enfield Town), Samir Bihmoutine (Enfield Town), George Craddock (East Thurrock United), Marc Okoye (Dulwich Hamlet), Ricky Gabriel (Enfield Town), Nigel Neita (Enfield Town), Connor Bolton (Enfield Town)
Players out: Lee Barnard (Chelmsford City), Michael Cheek (Dagenham & Redbridge), Manny Parry (Dover), Jack Midson (Leatherhead), Sam Beasant (Chelmsford), Harry Lee (Chelmsford), Jerome Okimo (Wealdstone)
Club target: Consolidation.
Talking point: The club’s target and what they actually achieve may be two different things with Braintree not only contesting in a new division but doing so with a completely new squad. Depending on how quickly the manager and his players can gel, The Iron could be in for a difficult first season back in the National South.
One to watch: Xavier Vidal (pictured) was on the verge of breaking into the professional game whilst at Dulwich. The 22-year-old attacking midfielder spent time on trial with Birmingham, Bolton, Brentford and Oxford United. Though he didn’t secure a pro deal, he signed for then-National Premier side Welling in 2015, playing 28 times in all competitions, before spending time at Mertsham Town last season.
Manager: Brad Quinton, fresh from guiding Enfield Town to a fourth placed finish in the RPL, arrives at The Iron with a rebuilding process to undertake. At least he can be comforted by familiar surroundings as he holds the club’s all-time record appearances accolade having featured over 500 times competitively.
“I’m really enjoying management and it feels right to come back to a club where I spent so many years.
“I like to get the ball down and to play with energy and pace.”
Brad Quinton setting the tone for the style of football he expects his side to play.
Bookies odds: 14/1.
Supporters say: Quinton will be afforded the luxury of leeway that other managers won’t have as supporters have berated the rumoured budget for the new season with several believing it has “relegation written all over it.”
Chairman Lee Harding says that relegation from the National League could cost Braintree Town around £150,000 – such sentiments echo the supporters’ belief that it could be a tough year ahead.
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Last season: 4th (lost to Ebbsfleet United in play-off final)
It was a cruel end to the season for City who were 15-minutes from the National Premier when they led at ten-man Ebbsfleet United in the Play-off final. A quick-fire double from Fleet turned the game on it’s head and ensured the Kent outfit exited the National South at Chelmsford’s expense.
Average attendance 2016/17: 945 (4th)
Interesting fact: Like Boyzone? No, me neither. The Irish “heart throbs” are playing the Chelmsford City Racecourse ground on 2 September. The Racecourse ground is not to be confused with Chelmsford City’s Melbourne Stadium, however the former is owned by Essex-based Betsi Limited who hope to complete a takeover of Chelmsford City FC by August.
Players retained: Mark Haines, Chris Bush, Ashley Miller, Danny Blanchett, Michael Spillane, Luke Daley, Kane Haysman, Max Porter, Anthony Church, Chris Dickson
Players in: Lee Barnard (Braintree Town, pictured left), Scott Davies (Oxford City), Paul Rodgers (Bishop’s Stortford), Mike West (Whitehawk), Kudus Oyenuga (Greenock Morton), Matt Johnson (Billericay Town), Aaron Greene (Bishop’s Stortford), Craig Braham-Barrett (Welling United), Elliot Omozusi (Whitehawk), Jim Stevenson (Dover), Sam Beasant (Braintree Town)
Players out: Robbie Willmott (Newport County), Louie Theophanous (Billericay Town), Matt Young (released), Max Cornhill (East Thurrock United), Harry Morgan (Heybridge Swifts), Josh Hill (Wealdstone), Elliott Buchanan (released), Bagasan Graham (Ebbsfleet), Josh Rees (Bromley), Harry Lee (joined from Braintree Town, left before kicking a ball)
Club target: Fancying promotion automatically.
Star man is off? Former England U19 international Shaun Jeffers (right) hit 21 league goals last season in his first (and only?) campaign at the Melbourne Stadium. Boasting an impressive array of ex-clubs including appearances in the Championship for Coventry City, the 25-year-old marksman remains hungry for a return to the pro game. With Theophanous departing for Bostik money men Billericay Town, it was believed Jeffers would spearhead City’s attack. That was until Rod Stringer signed three new strikers including former-Spurs and Southampton star, Lee Barnard.
Loose lips sink ships: At the time of writing, there remains strong rumours over the future of Shaun Jeffers with the striker’s profile disappearing from the Chelmsford website yet the club officially remains silent on his future.
In another striker plot twist the club failed to contact Harrow-born hitman Elliott Buchanan over a new deal. It’s even more remarkable when you consider the 27-year-old won the division’s golden boot just 12-months ago smashing 28 in 34 for Bishop’s Stortford. Buchanan has since signed for Staines Town.
Manager: In his inaugural campaign Rod Stringer guided City to the play-off final and, at one stage, just 15-minutes away from the National Premier. Knows what it takes to get out of this division having previously guided Braintree Town to the NPL in 2011.
“It’s a big club, a local club for me, and I’m really excited to get started now.
“I’ve spoke to Rod [Stringer] before. I know about the Club, it’s ambition, and it’s something that I want to be a part of.
“I’m 32 now, even at my age I want to win things and do well. The whole thing about Chelmsford is going in the right direction and I’m pleased to be a part of it.”
New striker former-Spurs and Southampton star Lee Barnard on Stringer’s ambition
Remember when: Rod Stringer walked out on Braintree Town over a company car dispute. Read more.
Bookies odds: 7/1. Second favourites but much hinges on how quickly a completely new side gels. The loss of wingers Robbie Willmott (right) who returns to Newport County and last season’s play-off final goalscorer Bagasan Graham to Ebbsfleet mean that much pressure will be on Mike West and Aaron Greene, two of the players bought in as direct replacements.
“He [Mike West] destroyed us in the 2010/2011 play off semi final and it was no suprise he made it to the football league with Crewe. He’s had big injury problems but played 49 times for Whitehawk last year so he seems to be over his issues. If he still has his turn of pace he could be a class addition.
“I know nothing of Paul Rodgers. I’ll be honest and say i’m a bit sceptical about signing a defender from a team [Bishop’s Stortford] who conceded over 100 goals last year.”
Chelmsford fan on new signings taken from National League South forum.
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Last season: Winners, Southern Premier Division.
Chippenham set a Southern Premier League record winning the league with 103-points. The 2017/18 campaign will be the club’s first at this level.
Average attendance 2016/17: 459
Interesting fact: Established in 1873, the Wiltshire club have a proud recent history reaching the FA Vase final in the 1999/00 season before losing to Deal Town. The following season signalled the first of successive promotions when they first finished runners-up in the Western Football League, and then finished runners-up in the Division One West of the Southern League. That promotion earned them a place in the Southern Premier where they have played ever since. Until now.
Retained players: Darry Chitty, Rhys Baggridge, Dan Bowman, Will Richards, Jon Beeden, Nuno Felix, Greg Tindle, Chris Allen, Gary Horgan, Alex Ferguson, James Guthrie, Michael Pook, Matt Smith, Matt Jones, David Pratt, Andy Sandell
Players in: Dean Evans, Mark Cooper, Jason Matthews (all Weymouth)
Club target: Consolidation
Key men: Striker Andy Sandell was voted into the Pitchero Non-League team of the year and struck over 30-goals in all competitions as The Bluebirds marched to the title. Sandell is one of several players who have experience higher up the footballing pyramid with the 33-year-old listing Bristol Rovers and Newport County amongst his previous clubs. He also boasts the impressive feat of winning the Southern League golden boot for the past two seasons hitting 22 in 2015/16 and 27 in 2016/17. Punters may fancy him as an outside bet for that accolade in this division.
Midfielder Michael Pook is another experienced head within the side. The 31-year-old played over 100 times for Swindon Town in the Football League and has previous experience in the National League with Maidenhead and Oxford City.
Manager: Mark Collier will oversee his fourth season in the Hardenhuish Park dugout and has already retained the services of 16 players from the Southern League Championship team not out of loyalty but, in his words, because “they are good enough to play at this level.”
The former Swindon Supermarine manager admits business isn’t quite completed yet as he targets a striker to round off his squad:
“If the season was to start tomorrow we’d have a competitive team but we are speaking to people and I expect to have decisions in the next couple of weeks.
We need to bring in a forward and I am speaking to another one at the moment. I am sure something else will happen, but it might not be until later in the summer.”
Bookies odds: 33/1. Disrespectful to suggest a side that won the Southern Premier so convincingly last season will struggle but The Bluebirds are likely to be in for a tough season in a competitive league – the bookies odds reflect that.
“I would like to get a long away trip out of the way somewhere like eastbourne and billericay*. but anyone at home apart from bath, leave them to boxing day”
A Chippenham Town supporter on who he would like on the opening day – *proving that the newbies need to do some research on the opposition first.
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Last season: 18th.
Adam Flanagan’s Concord had a lengthy flirtation with relegation last-term winning just one of their opening 12 league fixtures – a run which saw them rooted to the foot of the table. Nine wins and nine draws from their following 30 games proved enough to steer them safely away from the drop.
Average attendance 2016/17: 287 (22nd)
Interesting fact: Rangers had a friendly cancelled with Billericay after chairman Ant Smith upset Glenn Tamplin (‘Ricay manager) with a tweet jibing his deep pockets. Smith claimed Concord won promotion from the Ryman Premier on a budget of £2,500 per week – while Tamplin is apparently on record as saying he is paying £25,000 per week on players next season.
“The club is aware of some negative comments on social media, made by Concord chairman Antony Smith… we do not feel it appropriate to expose our travelling supporters to such open negativity.”
Billericay Town FC statement on friendly debacle.
And that was that.
Players in: Lewis Taaffe, Khale Da Costa, Jordan Cox (Maidenhead United), Jason Williams (Southend United), Jordan Sanderson, Billy Roast (Maldon & Tiptree), Jordan Brown (Welling United),
Players out: James White (East Thurrock United), Lyle Della-Verde (Dartford), Jordan Chiedozie (looking to trial at pro club), Tony Stokes
Club target: Survival.
Talking point: Concord were indirectly exposed to the limelight last season as part of the Dan Cowley / Lincoln City success story. Few Wealdstone fans will ever forget the Cowley histrionics at the end of the Ryman Premier fixture some five seasons ago. Cowley’s Concord famously played Wealdstone off the park and held a 1-0 lead over their Ruislip-based counterparts going into the final three minutes. What followed was two late goals for Bartlett’s Wealdstone meaning a very painful defeat for Rangers. Let’s just say emotions boiled over (below).
Concord have been active in the transfer market with striker Jordan Cox re-joining from Maidenhead – possibly as a direct replacement for Tony Stokes who has mutually agreed not to return for the new season after 123 goals in 236 appearances.
The pick of the new boys is former Maldon & Tiptree defender Billy Roast – a headline writer’s dream. The 22-year-old centre-back was named Isthmian North defender of the year and the former Colchester United U21s captain is keen to get back into the pro game, citing this move as the perfect platform to showcase his talent.
“Personally I won some awards and I think this move is a step closer back into the Football League.
“I was at Colchester for eight years, but played at Maldon for the last two years and played a great deal last season.”
Billy Roast on his move to Concord, June 2017
“I am happy with the players that have been retained”
Adam Flanagan on Concord squad for 2017/18. Read more
Bookies odds: 50/1. Could be a long slog for the Essex outfit with relegation more likely than a title tilt.
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Last season: 3rd
Average attendance 2016/17: 1,075 (2nd)
Interesting fact: Goalkeeper Deren Ibrahim is a full international with Gibraltar and made his debut against Belgium last October (don’t mention the score! Benteke scored a hat trick in a 6-0 rout). The 26-year-old stopper also scored from his own half last season when his free kick caught the wind and flew into the Hungerford net.
Retained players: Deren Ibrahim, Danny Harris, Keaton Wood, Elliot Bradbrook, Lee Noble, Alex Brown, Tom Murphy, Ryan Hayes, Andy Pugh, Duane Ofori-Acheampong, Tom Bonner, Ronnie Vint
Players in: Lyle Della Verde (Concord Rangers), Mark Onyemah (Thurrock)
Players out: Luke Wanaido (Bromley), Tom Wynter (Margate), Kaka Dembele (Welling United), Ben Francis (released), Alfie Pavey (Welling United).
Club target: Win the league
Manager: Tony Burman. One of the league’s longest serving managers Burman has been at the club since 2005. He steered Dartford to an 8th placed finish in the National Premier just five seasons ago meaning Dartford were the “best part-time football team in the country” (the top-7 were all full-time). Dartford’s stock has risen considerably since he’s been at the helm with the club enjoying three promotions prior to relegation from the National Premier two seasons ago. Burman is ambitious and will be looking for The Darts to once again rejoin non-league’s elite.
“We did well this year [2016/17] so if we can add a few more quality players, I don’t see any reason why we can’t be right up there again.
“The plan has to be to improve again. If we made it into the play-offs this time, I see no reason why we shouldn’t be trying to push to win the league. Everyone wants to win the league. That’s going to be the aim next year.
“Rarely will you find a team that’s successful who have just brought in a load of new lads that haven’t been together before. You need that core group that’s been together for a long time and we’ll have a group of 10-12 that have been together for over a season.”
Elliot Bradbrook, Dartford captain
Talking point: The loss of highly-rated winger Luke Wanaido who scored 12 times in the league last season will be a cause for concern amongst Darts fans but Burman responded by tying up the signature of former Tottenham youngster Della Verde with the winger seen as a direct replacement for Wanaido. Burman remains keen to add a defender and front man but, Wanaido aside, has re-signed the nucleus of last season’s side which leaves the bookies favourites well-placed to mount a serious title challenge.
Read more about Dartford under Burman here.
Bookies odds: Opened as 6/1 favourites – have since drifted to 13/2.
Supporters say: Fans want a star striker with Charlie Sheringham, recently released by Ebbsfleet, touted as a possible target. His name has divided supporter opinion on the club’s forum with his well-documented injury struggles and supposed prima dona attitude meaning that some label him as a risk signing; others, meanwhile, champion the player who spent time on loan at The Darts in 2013.
“He’d be a good addition to the squad. He’s a good player and someone I think a lot of. We’ll just have to see what happens.”
Tony Burman on Charlie Sheringham, June 2017
UPDATE: In July 2017, Charlie Sheringham decided to join Hemel Hempstead.
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Last season: 11th
Average attendance 2016/17: 539 (10th)
Interesting fact: 2016/17 was the season Eastbourne finally parted company with manager of five years Tommy Widdrington. The dugout at Eastbourne’s Priory Lane ground is one of the safest seats in English football, with an average managerial tenure of eight and a half years since they became a senior club in 1983. New boss Jamie Howell, who last season guided Bognor back to this level, is just their fifth manager in 34-years.
Retained players: Ian Simpemba, Jamie Taylor, Kiran Kinda John, Miguel Baptista, Gavin McCallum, Nat Pinney, Billy Crittenden (academy), Adam Lovatt (academy), Josh Street, Ryan Worrall, Charlie Horlock
Players in: Sergio Torres (Whitehawk, pictured left), Leon Redwood (Burgess Hill)
Players out: Lewis Carey (released), Mark Hughes (released), Craig Stone (Tonbridge Angels), Josh Hare (Maidstone United), Bouwe Bosma (Lewes)
Club target: Top-half finish
Talking point: Can Howell’s appointment kick-start Eastbourne’s push up the table? Finishes of 12th, 10th, 11th, 17th and 11th in the past five seasons mark The Sports as a side that specialises in consolidation. Howell is a realist and accepts that progression is important.
The new manager has not rushed to sign swathes of new talent but has added sensibly with the acquisition of Sergio Torres from Sussex rivals Whitehawk. The Argentinean ace will be 36 by the time new season kicks off but his experience will be vital in helping to realise Howell’s long-term aim of bedding local players into the first-11 on a regular basis.
“I do want to get to the Conference National and I don’t want to be mid table for ever, but we measure our progress one win at a time, not with grand statements.
“In the short term, we want simply to play attractive football and win games. In the medium and longer term, I envisage a team built on predominantly local players – not just Eastbourne of course, but Sussex players. Then people identify with them and want to come and watch them.”
Jamie Howell, appointed May 2017. Full interview here.
Bookies odds: 14/1.
“I find myself slightly concerned at the lack of depth in the squad… we look a little thin. Two signings and a fair few departures. I imagine we must be seeing a couple of new faces arriving soon?”
Supporter concern taken from Eastbourne Borough forum
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East Thurrock United
Last season: 13th
Widely regarded as a successful first-term for East Thurrock who are likely to target another season of consolidation at this level.
Average attendance 2016/17: 305 (19th)
Retained players: Lukas Lidakevicius, Ryan Sammons, Sammy Knott, Simon Peddie, Marvin Ekpiteta, Lee Burns, Ben Marlow, Reece Harris, Kye Ruel, Harry Honesty, Sam Higgins
Players in: James White (Concord Rangers), George Allen (Canvey Island), Brad Warner (Bowers & Pitsea*), Lewis Smith (returns from FA suspension for breach of betting guidelines prior to joining last Summer), Max Cornhill (Chelmsford City)
*Brad Warner has since done a u-turn and signed for Hornchurch instead.
Players out: Tom Wraight (Maidstone United), George Craddock (Braintree Town), Michael Freiter, Ade Osifewa, Marvel Ekipeta (all released), James Walker (Canvey Island)
Club target: Survival
Talking point: The departure of highly-rated 22-year-old left winger Tom Wraight who weighed in with 18 goals in the NLS for East Thurrock last season (21 in all comps) will leave a void in a team that scored 73 times in 42 games.
A possible replacement for Tom Wraight is Lewis Smith, who was once described as a ‘prolific gambler’ by the FA, slapped with a 17-month ban and fined almost £23,000. His ban expires on 1 August and John Coventry has confirmed he will be part of the Rocks squad for next season.
Elsewhere across the park Coventry has recruited physicality with Concord captain James White and 6″3 defender George Allen (formerly of Canvey Island) coming in.
“I had a good idea Tom [Wraight] wouldn’t be with us come the start of the season and if you look at my squad, you will see that the left side is well stocked with players able to fill that position.
“I am spoilt for options in some sense. I wanted to keep Tom but it just wasn’t to be and good luck to him.”
Gaffer John Coventry on signing left-footers Brad Warner and Lewis Smith and the shoes they have to fill.
Bookies odds: 33/1. Bookies odds reflect a potentially tough season.
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Last season: 10th in Conference North (transferred across to Conference South this season)
Average attendance 2016/17: 483
Interesting fact: Gloucester are set to move out of the county for the first time when they ground-share with Evesham United next season. The club has been in exile since the 2007 floods destroyed their Meadow Park ground.
Retained players: Darren Mullings, Lewis Hall, Spencer Hamilton, Zack Kotwica, Ethan Moore (back from year out with injury), Keiran Thomas, Sam Avery, Joe Hanks, Tom Webb, Chris Knowles, Reece King, Ed Williams, Joe Parker, Karnell Chambers
Players in: George Forsyth (Kidderminster), Will Morford (Shortwood United – joins as player/coach), Kieran Parselle (Newport County, right), Alex Harris (Hereford)
Players out: Jack Deaman (Hereford), Luke Hopper (Hungerford), Jaz Singh (AFC Telford)
Club target: Mid-table.
Talking point: How will the club adapt to another new ground-share and a move to a different division?
Top scorer Luke Hopper, who netted 19 times last term, has moved to rivals Hungerford but 30-year-old Will Morford, who returns from a spell at Shortwood where he was assistant manager, may plug the gap.
“Not just building a stadium, we’re building a legacy” says Gloucester owner Eamonn McGurk. It’s been an exciting summer with work finally underway to level and then raise the ground at Meadow Park, Gloucester could make an unlikely return to their county of origin as early as the next season.
The momentum has been underpinned by major additions at boardroom level with the appointment of former company secretary of global clothing brand Superdry, Wendy Edwards, and managing director of Dowdeswell Estates, Rod Jenner. Both have been sounded out for tremendous business acumen and corporate governance with the club boldly aiming to emulate the likes of Swansea, Blackpool and Hull by rising through the divisions.
McGurk said of the appointments:
“Their combined expertise means we’re now closer than ever to providing the structure to grow the club but more importantly, building a brilliant new stadium to bring the team back to where it belongs in the heart of Gloucester with the aim of obtaining Football League status.”
Manager: In the wake of all the summer excitement off the field boss Tim Harris is convinced the worst times are behind The Tigers and that they can finally look forward again. In the meantime, the club has to adapt to the switch south and the unfamiliar surroundings of Evesham so a challenge to get out of this league at the first attempt may be unlikely.
“In that league [National North] there are some big clubs as everyone knows. I would say there are 8-10 teams who are very, very competitive. There’s a lot of money and a lot of talent, it is quite a daunting league now.
“The South won’t be easier at all. I’ve experienced it with Newport County, it’s a great standard make no mistake so we’ll need to be ready.”
Tim Harris on making the switch to the National South
Bookies odds: 25/1. Generally not regarded as one of the sides to gatecrash the promotion party. Mid-table looks more attainable but might be worth an each way flutter.
“I think it is good that the decision has been made not to spend on the team until we get the ground built. Getting back to Gloucester has to be the priority and then we can think about getting a team that can get us promoted.”
Supporter comment taken from the Gloucester forum
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Hampton & Richmond Borough
Last season: 7th
A disappointing end to a campaign that began with so much promise as the Beavers narrowly missed out on the play-off places but did qualify by virtue of the ground grading irregularities that saw Poole & Hungerford miss out. The loss of several key players to league football undoubtedly hurt what, on paper at least, appeared to be a powerhouse outfit who threatened a real title challenge in the early months of the season. That challenge ended when first Jamal Lowe and then Nicke Kabamba departed for Portsmouth leaving a void up front – the pair had, up until then, netted 31 league goals between them.
Average attendance 2016/17: 635 (7th)
Interesting fact: Several changes at boardroom level during the close season distinguished by the resignation of Chairman Steve McPherson who steps down after ten years of service. McPherson was installed during a difficult period for The Beavers who were on the verge of going bust before he steered them to healthier times overseeing a promotion and a relegation before sealing promotion again. He leaves the club with no debt and a consolidated place at step two of the non league ladder. Long-time Beavers fan Graham Wood, who was previously Chairman of Gateshead, has returned to replace him.
Retained players: Billy Bishop, Josh Casey, Sam Gallagher, Tom Jelley, Kieran Murphy, Michael Kamara, Leon Solomon, Nathan Collier, Jerome Federico, Brendan Kiernan, Duncan Culley, Christian Jolley
Players in: Ryan Moss (Kingstonian), Charlie Wassmer (Maidenhead United), Harry Crawford (Welling United), Claudiu Vilcu (Wingate), Max Kretzschmar (Woking)
Players out: Jay Gasson, Joe Hicks, Charlie ten-Grotenhuis, Stiven Rivic, Shaquille Hippolyte-Patrick (Wealdstone), Jermaine Osei, Harold Odamatey (Maidenhead United)
Club target: Play-offs
Talking point: The Beavers will have a tough job to replicate last season’s early form but have moved quickly in an attempt to fill the void still felt by the loss of Kabamba and Lowe.
Ryan Moss joins from Kingstonian where he hit 25-goals in a difficult campaign for the Ks. Moss is no stranger to the Beveree stadium having featured for Hampton in 2013.
25-year-old Harry Crawford, who had a spell at Welling last year, could partner Moss in attack. Not sure how poor Harry would feel if he reads the National South fans forum where he’s been described as “one of the worst centre forwards i’ve seen at CP in recent times. Managed to miss a penalty and get sent off in one of his last games.”
The marquee signing has to be that of Max Kretzchmar (pictured). Still only 23 the wide man played 73 times in League Two for Wycombe Wanderers before registering a further 22 appearances in the National League Premier for Woking last season.
Manager: Alan Dowson who signed a full-time contract this Summer. Read more.
Bookies odds: Opened at 15/2 third favourites – have since drifted to 8/1. The bookies must be Beavers fans. Finished 7th last season but are arguably weaker this time around – another top-10 finish is more likely.
“The only outstanding position to fill is a keeper.
“With regards to [Sam] Howes (who was on-loan last season), the word is that he may join a Premier league team. They might be interested in lending him out , but his new manager may well want to assess him at close quarters before deciding what the best route is in his development.”
“Dowse and the club may be very happy to have him on a season loan and the player likewise would not be adverse to returning, but the final decision rests at his new club.”
Hampton supporter on securing a keeper with last season’s West Ham loanee Sam Howes a fans favourite.
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Havant & Waterlooville
Last season: Winners, Ryman Premier
The “Newcastle United of the National League”, The Hawks were cruelly relegated by a single goal on goal difference two seasons ago but saw off a strong challenge from a resilient Bognor outfit to ensure automatic promotion from the Ryman League last term – ensuring their NLS exile lasted a solitary season.
Their 2015/16 relegation was surprising given the considerable outlay manager Lee Bradbury made on players with the Hawks expected to build on their 5th placed finish the campaign before.
On relegation Bradbury, clearly disappointed, said at the time ‘It is an absolute joke really that with the quality we have in our dressing room that we are going down.’
Average attendance 2016/17: 713
Interesting fact: Striker James Hayter holds the record for the fastest Football League hat-trick ever which he achieved whilst playing for Bournemouth against Wrexham in 2004. Coming on as an 84th minute substitute with The Cherries 3-0 up, Hayter hit three in less than 140-seconds. Read more.
Better than that, in 2011 a game at West Leigh Park prompted one of the most bizarre sending offs in modern footballing history when opposition player/manager Ashley Vickers of Dorchester Town decided to tackle a Borat impersonator who had pitch invaded.
Wanna see what happened? Course ya do…
Retained players: Jordan Rose, James Hayter, Alfie Rutherford, Wes Fogden, Jason Prior, Ryan Woodford, Brian Stock, Rory Williams, Mike Carter, Bradley Tarbuck, Ed Harris
Players in: Matt Tubbs (Eastleigh)
Players out: Matt Paterson (Oxford City)
Club target: Will be expecting to stay up comfortably though mid-table might be the best they do this time round.
Manager: Former Bournemouth star Lee Bradbury has been at the helm for five seasons and was once infamously referred to on the Hawks fans forum as “the man many believe to get us out of this division.” It was unfortunate for him, and them, that he achieved that prophecy – just in the wrong direction. Havant have shown faith however and Bradbury has been rewarded with a new two year deal.
“This league is going to provide a big challenge to the club and we’ve got to be ready for it.”
Lee Bradbury keen to keep moving Havant forward.
Bookies odds: 14/1. Bookies believe The Hawks are dark horses for a play-off spot.
“Have we strengthened enough to have us finish 20 or so places higher than last season ?
Probably not, like it or not the squad we have so far is more or less the squad we were relegated with.
Now I know that there is a far better atmosphere in the team but is the team any stronger ? Not in my opinion. I don’t think we will be in a relegation battle but, at present I can’t see us challenging at the top end either.”
Supporter concern ahead of the season. Read more.
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Hemel Hempstead Town
Last season: 12th
Hemel rounded off last season in unconvincing style grabbing just nine points from their final eight fixtures as they floundered in 12th place. Their record against the top-11 was poor – registering just three wins from 22 outings in contrast to games against the ten sides below them where they won 12, lost 7 and drew once.
Average attendance 2016/17: 487 (13th)
Interesting fact: There were 157 goals in games involving Hemel last term – making them the choice club for goal thirsty neutrals.
Retained players: Kyle Connolly, Ben Greenhalgh, James Kaloczi, Jonathan McNamara, Jordan Parkes, Matt Saunders, Cameron Brooks (promoted from academy), Ben Johnson (promoted from academy) and Colm Parrott (promoted from academy)
Players in: Tom Hamblin (Wealdstone), Ismail Yakubu (Woking), Joe Howe (Leatherhead), Taylor Miles (Lincoln City), Alex Osborn (Whitehawk), David Moyo (Brackley Town), Phil Walsh, Laurie Walker, Callum Driver (Maidstone United), Charlie Sheringham (Ebbsfleet United)
Players out: Mitchell Weiss (King’s Langley)
Club target: Challengers. A string of impressive signings on paper puts Hemel firmly in contention.
Manager: Dean Brennan believes his side could mount an outside challenge for the title. And his players have responded by volunteering for an extra night’s training in pre-season, in a bid to be in prime condition for the new campaign.
Bookies odds: 33/1. Possibly the best value you’ll get. Expected to shorten by the start of the season, Hemel are a good bet for the play-offs.
“Hemel 33/1 according to Betway. £100 e/w please Mr Bookie.”
Confident Hemel fan on National South forum
“A settled squad with good experience, mixed with some young players is the aim this season, they [the management] think supporters will be impressed with the squad they have assembled, with Taylor Miles and Tom Hamblin getting singled out as massive signings. Driver is another player who they are very pleased to get back into the fold, with several clubs showing an interest in the player. With at least four more to come we should have a squad that is more than capable of mounting a challenge in this campaign.”
Hemel fans forum, June 2017
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Last season: 6th
Last season’s surprise package were denied an unexpected play-off place by a ground grading irregularity that meant the addition of 100 seats at the club’s Bulpit Lane stadium had to be completed by the end of March.
Hungerford were sixth at the time the grading issues came to light and subsequently appealed the decision. The FA upheld the original ruling however and, as a result, the Berkshire based outfit’s form dipped as they lost two of their final three fixtures to finish on 70-points.
The Crusaders are another side with boardroom changes this Summer; Ian Passey, formerly the Sports Director, has been voted in as new Chairman replacing previous incumbent Nigel Warrick who has stepped down.
Average attendance 2016/17: 322 (18th)
Interesting fact: No side faired better from losing positions at half-time than Hungerford in the last campaign. They recovered 12-points from a trailing position at the break – recording three wins and three draws.
Players in: Callum Willmoth (Newbury), Luke Hopper (Gloucester), Paul Stonehouse (Slough Town)
Players out: Nat Jarvis (Bath), Hary Goodger (Whitstable Town)
Club target: After the success of last season, The Crusaders will feel another play-off tilt is possible.
Talking point: new Chairman on board, Ian Passey.
The club has lost the goals of Nat Jarvis but have arguably upgraded with the signing of Luke Hopper from rivals Gloucester. Hopper hit 19 last time out.
“We’re 95 per cent there, may one or two could still come in but we’re not desperate. We came very close but we know it will be difficult to repeat what we achieved.
“That doesn’t mean we won’t try thought – we’re already looking forward to getting back out there.”
Bobby Wilkinson, who guided Hungerford through several promotions, from 20th position in the Southern League to the National South – finishing sixth last term.
Bookies odds: 11/1. BetWay have placed Hungerford as sixth favourites but @StonesGoals predicts a tougher second season with a mid-table finish more realistic.
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Last season: 14th
Average attendance 2016/17: 302 (20th)
Interesting fact: Oxford City will boast a 3G pitch next season after a major summer overhaul at their ground, Court Place Farm. The club have already laid a rubber ‘shockpad’ with the artificial surface in place by the end of June – almost a year to the day since drainage issues forced City to postpone plans of replacing their notoriously poor grass pitch (pic below courtesy of Ric Mellis).
Retained players: Reece Fleet, Craig Hill, Ezra Forde, Lee Henderson & Godfrey Poku, Guri Demuria, Freddie Grant, Sammy Khawaja, Jordi Ngathe, Jack Tutton
Players in: Justin Bennett (Salisbury City), Joe Oastler (Gosport), Matt Paterson (Havant), David Pearce (Chesham), Eddie Jones (AFC Telford), Zac McEachran (Banbury United), Horatio Hirst (Sheffield United, loan deal), Mamadou ‘Mo’ Fofana (free agent, last club Barrow)
Players out: Scott Davies (Chelmsford), Jefferson Louis (Banbury), Mike Fondop (released), Shaun Macauley (released), Tommy Winters (Banbury) and Wilson Carvalho (released), Akin Abiola-Daramola (released), Jean Niate (released), Matt Peake-Pijnen (Banbury)
Friends reunited: Former Gosport duo Justin Bennett and Matt Paterson (right) will link up once more to form a deadly attack – the pair have smashed over 110 goals between them in the past two seasons.
City have retained the bulk of last season’s group and plan to integrate the pick of their talented teenagers, who reached the FA Youth Cup third round last season.
Club target: Play-offs; could be surprise dark horse.
Manager: Mark Jones took over in December after Justin Merritt resigned. Jones has been on the coaching staff at City since 2014. In his playing days he represented the club over 100 times after starting his career as an apprentice at Watford FC in the mid-nineties; he has also played for Aylesbury United, Harrow Borough and Thame United.
“People can see we are investing in the new pitch. It was definitely a negative over the last few seasons, it didn’t help attract new players. Everybody is looking forward to having a consistent surface to play on.
“We pushed the boat out a bit to get some proven strikers in, but we have worked to the budget. Sometimes players wait to try to keep their options open, but as you get further into pre-season people who were non-committal before suddenly become available. What you don’t want is to completely spend the budget at this point, because if a couple of gems become available you would miss out.”
Mark Jones on transfer business.
Bookies odds: 9/1, fifth favourites – bookies a little too favourable however. Play-offs, maybe. Promotion, no. Look elsewhere.
“I imagine there will be a turnover in players at Oxford City as our 3G has begun to be put down, sure they’ll be players not keen on playing on an artificial surface.”
Supporter disagrees with the manager over the new surface taken from National South forum.
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Last season: 5th
Poole Town missed out on last season’s play-offs due to ground grading irregularities but enjoyed an otherwise fine season that saw them dubbed the surprise package just 12-months on from their Southern Premier title triumph.
Average attendance 2016/17: 569 (9th)
Retained players: Jamie Whisken, Carl Pettefer, Steve Devlin, Jake Smeeton, Luke Roberts,
Players in: Tony Lee
Players out: Marvin Brooks (Salisbury)
“One of my biggest objectives is to create an environment where people are happy. I hope we have got that and I want people to stay. We may bring in one or two but it will be very low key, in terms of acquisitions. And if I have to start next season with the same group of players, that is what I will do.”
Talking point: The departure of Marvin Brooks is a surprise as the versatile midfielder-cum-striker decided to drop two divisions and join Steve Claridge’s Salisbury City. Brooks became the first Dolphins player in six years to hit the net in five successive matches and finished the campaign with 13 goals from 31 appearances. In 2015/16, his 17 strikes had made him Poole’s top scorer when Tom Killick’s team won the Southern Premier title.
Club target: play-offs
Manager: Tommy Killick
“What an incredible achievement it is, to have established ourselves as a National League South outfit. Established both on the field and in ground grading terms. We have a team and ground to be proud of but we have a massive task to keep all the financial balls in the air. It is a constant keep pace with our operational costs.”
Chris Reeves, new Chairman. Read here.
Bookies odds: 8/1. Odds based purely on last season’s finish. The club will be targeting the play-offs again but will be in for a tougher season.
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St Albans City
Last season: 10th
Just three wins from their final 20 matches saw The Saints nosedive from title challengers to mid-table also-rans. The Clarence Park club’s poor run of form was mitigated to an extent by a host of injuries and suspensions which cost them several key players at vital times.
The mid-season departure of 19-goal prized-asset Louie Theophanous to promotion rivals Chelmsford compounded their difficulties.
Average attendance 2016/17: 710 (6th)
Interesting fact: Wilfred Minter, with a staggering return of 356 goals in 362 games, is the Saints all-time top goalscorer and can be found in record books as the player to have scored the most goals for the losing side in a FA Cup tie. The Amateur England international struck seven times as City went down 8–7 to Dulwich Hamlet in a 4th Qualifying Round replay on 22 November 1922.
Retained players: Tom Gardener, Jack Savile, David Noble, Soloman Sambu, Charlie Walker, Sam Merson, Kieran Monlouis, Tom Bender, Jamie Cureton, Ben Herd, Shaun Lucien
Players in: Zane Banton (Luton Town), Percy Kiangebeni (Enfield Town), Harold Joseph (Enfield Town), Layne Eadie (Harlow Town), Rhys Murrell Williamson, Dean Snedker (Cambridge City),
Players out: Matt Ball (Hendon), Lee Chappell, Ben Martin (both released).
Club target: Play-offs
Manager: Ian Allinson will oversee his second full season at the helm and knows what it takes to get out of the division having guided Boreham Wood to promotion three seasons ago. Allinson has recruited well with the signature of 21-year-old striker Zane Banton the pick of the bunch. Banton was chased by several clubs following his release by Luton Town earlier in the close season but the frontman has decided to return to Clarence Park where he spent time on-loan at the back end of last season.
“This is a fantastic signing for the club as I know four or five teams were chasing Zane’s signature. He really enjoyed his loan spell with us last season and we have managed to convince him that we are the club to put him back into the Football League. I’m sure the signing of Zane will prove to be very popular with our supporters.”
Ian Allinson on Zane Banton.
Bookies odds: 16/1.
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Last season: 19th
Having been play-off semi-finalists in 2015-16, after finishing fourth in the table, the White Tigers dropped to 19th in 2016-17, letting in 99 goals from their 42 league games, more than any other side above the bottom three.
An exciting future is pencilled for Truro City with work expected to begin this summer on a stadium they will eventually share with rugby club Cornish Pirates. It is believed the ground will be suitable for League Two football, and is expected to open by the start of 2019-20 campaign.
Average attendance 2016/17: 402 (16th)
Interesting fact: Truro shipped more goals (99) than bottom of the league Margate (81) last time out.
Retained players: Stewart Yetton, Tom McHale, Jamie Richards, River Allen, Cody Cooke, Niall Thompson, Rocky Neal, Fletcher Williams (youth team), Austin Booth (youth team)
Players in: Jordan Copp, Stuart Yetton, Ben Gerring (Torquay United), Ben Harding (Gosport), Ed Palmer (Taunton), Jordan Copp (Weymouth)
Players out: Arran Pugh, Les Afful, Martin Rice, Aaron Bentley, Ryan Brett, Ben Adelsbury, Ollie Knowles (all released)
Club target: Play-offs
“We’ve underachieved by a country mile.
“We just couldn’t perform consistently for 90 minutes. We did better against the good teams so maybe it was about concentration levels. Over the season we lost more than 40 points from being in drawing (and I don’t mean 0-0) or winning positions and that’s the difference between a relegation battle and the play-offs.
“You’re not going to win all those, but even another 10-20 points would’ve made a massive difference. We just seemed to capitulate when we went through a bad spell instead of rolling up our sleeves. We lacked leaders.”
Lee Hodges on a frustrating 2016/17 campaign for The White Tigers.
Bookies odds: 25/1.
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Last season: 8th
Wealdstone recorded a best-ever National South finish having established themselves at this level following promotion from the Ryman Premier in 2014.
Last summer saw the appointment of Peter Marsden as club Chairman and his bold vision to awaken the sleeping giant of the non-league game revitalised supporter enthusiasm that had been drained by the two lethargic campaigns witnessed prior to his appointment.
Average attendance 2016/17: 728 (5th)
Interesting fact: Along with Chelmsford, no side won more games (9) last season when drawing at half-time.
Retained players: Danny Green, Ryan Sellars, Ciaron Brown, Dan Fitchett, Omar Koroma, Jonathan North, Matty Whichelow, Sam Cox, Ricky Wellard, Elliott Benyon, Eddie Oshodi, Elliot Godfrey
Players in: Benji Crilley (Chesham United), Abobaker Eisa (Uxbridge), Josh Hill (Chelmsford City), Shaquille Hippolyte-Patrick (Hampton & Richmond), Jerome Okimo (Braintree Town)
Players out: Sahr Kabba (Mertsham Town), Tom Hamblin (Hemel Hempstead Town), Joshua Urquhart (Billericay Town), Liam Goulding (mutual consent), Wes Parker (Wingate & Finchley), Johnny Wright
Talking point: Stones won nine of their final 15 to make an unlikely late surge towards the play-offs. With the top-7 now gaining entry to the play-offs, going one better than last term will remain the target.
Club target: top-7
Manager: Twenty-two years and counting for Wealdstone stalwart and club legend Gordon Bartlett who took over the hot-seat in May 1995. Survived arguably his toughest season yet with increasing supporter discontent leading to false claims he had been sacked on social media. Despite this he battled on and survived a dismal run of form to turn Wealdstone into unlikely late contenders for the play-offs.
“The incidents are moments of frustration, anger, disappointment, but they are not the concern, what really matters is how you react to them. I once got a text message, just one word, “Cock!” after a poor performance and a defeat…”
Bartlett summing up fan reaction in an extract taken from the excellent book Off the bench: A quarter of a century of non-league management
Bookies odds: 16/1.
Supporters say: Keen to see the back of a torrid run of indifferent home form, long-suffering Stones fans remain split on the club’s manager. Gordon Bartlett is about to begin his 23rd season at the helm and with the side now one season on from the Marsden revolution, the new Chairman will be expecting a return in investment. Supporters will tell you the expectation is the play-offs but the club remains coy as summer business continues to be frustratingly quiet.
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Last season: 16th
A disappointing 2016/17 campaign for Wings who were expected to perform better following relegation from the National in the spring of 2016.
They were the only side in last season’s National South who failed to overturn a half-time deficit losing all 9 games in which they trailed at the break.
Last season’s top scorer Adam Coombes (20 goals) left for Sutton United in February and Welling struggled since – winning just three of their final ten fixtures.
Average attendance 2016/17: 539 (joint-10th)
Interesting fact: Lost more games (9) last season than any one else in the divisions when drawing at half-time.
Retained players: Chris Lewington
Players in: Bradley Goldberg (Bromley), Conor Dymond (Bromley), Joe Healey (Dover), Tom Bradbrook (free agent after having a year out, previously Dartford), Kaka Dembele (Dartford), Alfie Pavey (Dartford), Jack Parkinson (free agent previously with Dover, joins as player/coach), Jack Parter (Tonbridge), Ian Gayle
Plus: new coach, Hugo Langton
Club target: Play-off push
Manager: Jamie Coyle, appointed this summer.
Coyle has been at Maidstone United since 2014 making 98 appearances. He has also played for Gravesend and Northfleet, Dartford and Dulwich Hamlet as well as the Wings, and was player coach at Maidstone last season.
Bookies odds: 14/1.
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Last season: 15th
No side in the division scored more goals or recorded better form in the final five games than Weston who hammered Hemel 5-0 on the final day of the season.
Average attendance 2016/17: 434 (15th)
Interesting fact: Weston-super-Mare are the only ever present side in the NLS since the competition’s formation in 2004. They’ve finished as high as 7th (2012/13) and as low as 21st (2009/10 & 2006/07) but were reprieved relegation on both occasions as other teams folded. Click to view ever-present league record.
Retained players: Luke Purnell, Liam Kingston, Chris Barker, Jamie Laird, Jason Pope, Dayle Grubb, Ash Kington, Jacob Cane, Gethyn Hill, Jake Lee and Jake Reid
Players in: Danny Greenslade (Bristol Rovers)
Players out: Lewis Powell, Jordan William
Club target: Mid-table
Talking point: Will Weston have enough in their locker to push on? They will be without last season’s top scorer Brad Ash who returns to parent club Barnsley. The 20-year-old hotshot had returned to the club initially on a loan until January but ended up staying for the season where he hit 16-goals.
Manager: Marc McGregor appointed just days after Scott Bartlett quit in June to take on a full-time role at League 2 outfit Gillingham.
“Weston is a great club to come to and do well. The players want to stay and have given me their full support. The philosophy of playing good football at the Club will continue under my leadership as this stimulates players to enjoy their football and play well.”
Marc McGregor on his appointment in June. Read more.
Bookies odds: 66/1. If you believe the bookies the only ever present NLS side are in danger of slipping out the division.
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Last season: 17th
Whilst other clubs seek stability The Enclosed Ground witnessed none of that during the last campaign. Five managers and 47-players ran out for The Hawks during the season and the instability nearly cost them their place in the division as they finished just seven clear of the drop – the reasonably comfortable cushion aided by winning their final two fixtures.
The rumour mill has been rife with suggestion that this once-upon-a-time National Premier chasing outfit is beginning to become strapped for cash. And when Jimmy Dack (pictured) took over the managerial hot-seat this summer a 40% budget cut was confirmed.
The club suffered unexpected turmoil in recent days with the news that one of their main backers, club president Chris Gargan, was jailed for racial abuse. Whitehawk officially confirmed in a statement that he would no longer be associated with the club.
Average attendance 2016/17: 297 (21st)
Retained players: Jordan Hawkins (promoted from U18s), Billy Barker (promoted from U18s), Finton Walsh (promoted from U18s), Lewis Broughton (promoted from U18s), Robbie Keith (promoted from U18s), Luke Emberson (promoted from U18s), Billy Barker (promoted from U18s), Lucas Rodrigues, Dan Harding.
Players in: Connor Tighe (Brighton), Alex Tokarczyk (Basingstoke Town), Ed Sanders (Gosport Borough)
Players out: Mike West (Chelmsford), Sergio Torres (Eastbourne), Elliot Omozusi (Chelmsford), Danny Mills (Ebbsfleet), Alex Osborn (Hemel)
Club target: Survival.
Talking point: The loss of several key players will have a knock-on effect on The Hawks this season. The bookies odds give them slim chance of making the top-ten, let alone the play-offs, but with continuing uncertainty both on and off the pitch it’s likely to be a tough season for Whitehawk.
In better news, Hawks’ under-18s completed the league and county cup double last season and Dack will work closely with the academy in the hope that some of these promising youngsters can make the step up to the rigours of NLS football.
But they will miss the goals of Danny Mills.
“The budget has been reduced by 40 per cent, but sometimes it’s not about paying the big money. It’s about getting the right players who want to play for you and the football club, and that’s what we’re trying to do. It’s not a championship-winning budget, but if we can be competitive and have an honest group of players, who knows where that can take us?”
Jimmy Dack, new manager. Read more.
Bookies odds: 25/1. No value, avoid.
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Who wins the league?
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