As we are now just under a week away from the start of the new season, I thought now would be a reasonable time to submit a predictions league based on signings each club have made, and intentions shown by each individual club. As many of you are aware, it is very difficult to do this in this particular division as there is no transfer window and players can come and go at any given time.
24th – Guiseley
Guiseley now enter their third year in the National League which is by their standards, absolutely brilliant. Having only stayed up by a whisker last season, sending down Yorkshire rivals, York City, in the last minute of the season by scrounging out an equaliser in the dying moments, Guiseley somehow defied all of the odds yet again to stay up. I do however think their time is now up this upcoming season, with the quality of Halifax, Fylde and Ebbsfleet all coming up and Hartlepool and Orient coming down, I think it will be a lot more difficult for them to sneak out points this season. This also added on top of not so great signings brought into the club.
23rd – Solihull Moors
Again, another massive favourite to go down this year, some would argue that this one in particular is nailed on. Solihull have lost a lot of their quality in which kept them up last season, the likes of Omari Sterling-James who has left for League 2 Mansfield Town could prove to be very costly. They have also not replaced this talent with any potential looming threat, either, with most of their signings coming from the National League South.
22nd – Maidenhead United
Newly promoted Maidenhead will undoubtably be prevailed with the task of staying up in the National League this year. However, I personally can’t see this being likely. The Magpies are another team that haven’t particularly strengthened in terms of squad depth and are sticking with a lot of their core squad from last seasons success. Having only pipping Ebbsfleet to the title by two points last season, I think Maidenhead will unfortunately be in for a difficult season.
21st – Sutton United
Some would argue that this is a very controversial choice. However, Sutton have lost some extremely important players which seen them only reach the heights of mid-table last season. This including the well known Rory Deacon, who was as you may know a massive part of their FA cup fairytale. Having only being promoted in the 2015/2016 season from the National League South, I think Sutton are going to struggle this year as they haven’t really shown any sign of intent. They have however brought in a very good player in Simon Walton, who has bags of Football League experience but is it enough? I personally don’t think it is. Sutton go down this year for me.
These four, in my opinion, will be facing the drop this year.
20th – Bromley
Having reached the deathly heights on tenth last season, Bromley very well much punched above their weight. Manager Neil Smith will be looking to add some key faces to their squad in which they did so well last year. They have thus far failed to do so, which I why I think they will struggle. Despite this, Bromley will be playing on their all brand-new 3G pitch which probably will influence their playing style and could work against them in many ways.
19th – Dover Athletic
Dover have lost an awful lot of their squad which seen them do so well last season, seeing them finish in sixth, missing out on the play-offs by three points. All of this success last season meant that Dover realistically, if they wanted to push-on and compete with all of the quality being added to the division this year, needed to keep hold of these key players, which seen them record the largest away victory in the league last season, thumping Sutton 6-0 at Gander Green Lane. More notable of these key players going missing, was last seasons top scorer, Ricky Miller, who has now found himself playing League One football at Peterborough United. Dover have signed ex-Newport striker Ryan Bird to try and replace the 42 goals that Ricky Miller got last season, however, I just can’t see this happening.
18th – FC Halifax Town
Halifax still have a lot of their squad from last season which seen them get promoted from the Vanarama National League North via the play-offs. Despite there still being time to improve and bring in some players, I think a lot of the teams that will finish above them this season have got their players in early and have done the business, meaning Halifax will struggle to add any top-of-the-list players who will have already been snapped up from elsewhere. I do, however, think The Shaymen have enough quality in their current squad to beat the drop.
17th – Macclesfield Town
A team that always seems to replace their good players with more good players. Macclesfield have again lost a lot of quality from their squad and have added some additions in Kieran Kennedy and Tyrone Marsh from Dover. Unfortunately, I just think they’ve out-done themselves this season and haven’t really recruited well enough to kick on for that top half finish which they achieved last season, finishing 9th.
16th – Boreham Wood
Two words. Ben Nunn.
The centre back was a massive part of Boreham Wood’s ‘success’ last season as they finished the season in 11th place. Unfortunately for manager Ian Allison, he found it difficult to keep hold of his signature as he shipped off to Dagenham because his contract ran out. The Wood have tried to replace him by signing Stevenage centre-back, 20- year-old Ryan Johnson on a season long loan. Despite this set back, Boreham Wood have signed some good additions around other positions such as veteran striker Paul Benson, who has had spells at Swindon and Charlton in his career, also achieving promotion 4 times. This is the type of experience that will keep Boreham Wood in the league, in my opinion.
15th – Woking
Woking find themselves under new ownership and have recruited a young inexperienced manager. Anthony Limbrick, who has had previous coaching roles at Southampton and West Ham, finds himself at the helm and will be aiming to get the Surrey club as high as possible under their new improved budget. Sadly I think it will just be a case of settling down this season and perhaps they may be able to kick on in forthcoming seasons.
14th Chester FC
Chester only just survived last season. Given if there was a few more games in the season, they could well have went down. Their disastrous form after Christmas seen them plight. Thankfully, Chester have since made some decent signings since the turn of the season to try and kick-on in the upcoming campaign. Despite losing Alabi to Tranmere, who offered 23 in 58 appearances, they have not messed around in trying to replace him, bringing in Ross Hannah, who was released from Barrow.
13th – Torquay United
Despite struggling financially and on the pitch last season, Torquay remained in the league which has done their club the world of good. Torquay will be for a lot of people, a bit of a dark horse do kick on for the play-offs next season. They have brought in some incredible talent, including Josh Gowling, following his release from Grimsby. One of many players they have brought in who know what it takes to get promoted out of this league. The Gulls face a blockbuster of an opening game as they host league favourites Tranmere at Plainmoor. Can they bounce back to the football league for the first time since 2014?
12th – Maidstone United
Maidstone are a club that have endured some sort of progress season after season. After being promoted in 2016 from the National League South, I think that another season of mediocrity is in store for The Stones, who are still establishing themselves as a National League team, after only recenelt yarriving, since they were formed in 1992. The Stones are starting to grow as a club and averaged an attendance of 2386 last season, not bad considering they only averaged 198 in the 2000-01 season back down in the Kent County League.
11th – AFC Fylde
I personally don’t think Fylde will be anywhere near the relegation zone simply because of their enormous budget. Having kept Danny Rowe, who was such a massive part of their promotion campaign last season, Fylde won’t have any problems establishing themselves into the league this season. They have a very similar structure to what Forest Green had in this league, so it may take them a couple of seasons to kick on for promotion. I personally am looking forward to a trip to Mill Farm this season, to get a glimpse of how ambitious the club really are, since they are only a small borough based just outside of Blackpool.
10th – Barrow
Barrow have lost a lost a lot of players which seen them just miss out on the play-offs last season. This has severely damaged the squad which could have seen them kick on this term and clinch a play-off place. They have found themselves over the summer bringing in a lot of loanees and free-transfers and these players haven’t really got the experience in this league, which in my opinion is very much a needed recipe from what I have read in previous seasons gone by.
9th – Ebbsfleet United
It is no secret that Ebbsfleet have a huge budget compared to many other teams in this division. Ebbsfleet won the Vanarama National League South play-offs which was the route of their promotion. Ebbsfleet find themselves in a position of growing as a club. They have made signings which matches the calibre of this league and I don’t think they’re going to have any problems establishing themselves as a solid unit and difficult to beat. I think The Fleet will just miss out on the play-offs and potentially kick on the season after.
8th – Gateshead
Gateshead aren’t exactly the type of club which you think ‘They’re going to steamroller it this year” in-fact for the last few years The Heed have narrowly missed out on the play-offs and have often flirted with the potential of find the path way to The Football League. Gateshead found themselves up against Grimsby in 2014 play-off semi-final and won, pretty comfortably, 4-2 on aggregate. Unfortunately for them, they came up against a stern Cambridge United side and lost 2-1 in the final. Heartbreak for them. This year, however, I think it will be another case of ‘so close yet so far’ they’ve lost some key players, such as Liam Hogan to Salford, but haven’t recruited too badly, for example bringing in the experienced Russell Penn from Wrexham.
7th – Leyton Orient
Where do we start with Leyton Orient. Their fans will argue they’re only here because of an owner who didn’t have the clubs best interests at heart. Thankfully for the O’s, they’ve been bought out and taken over by Nigel Travis. Orient are making some very clever acquisitions to add their youth in which they have a lot of within their squad, Jobi McAnuff and David Mooney both have had previous stints at the club and know how it works and what the fans want. Orient will still have some serious work to do on and off the pitch if they want to be serious contenders for the title, but for now, I think a play-off spot, with the signings they’ve made, is a realistic target. Not bad, considering four weeks ago, I’d have had them potentially facing the drop.
6th – Aldershot Town
Aldershot are another side that were very unfortunate in last seasons play-offs, losing their home leg against Tranmere proved to be the key to them not succeeding any further. Thankfully for them, they’ve kept alot of their squad together from their successful season which gave them the chance to reach the football league. Having done this, I think they’ll regroup and go again and want to have another crack at promotion. Bernard Mensah, who has a lot of potential, and has been of interest of some football league clubs, will play a big role in helping The Shots clinch yet again another play-off spot.
5th – Eastleigh
Eastleigh have never been shy to spend a lot of money compared to other teams in this division. In no way is it any different this summer. The only downfall I would give Eastleigh is that they aren’t really bringing much youth through their ranks, which many might argue is a positive situation because of their strength in depth, but it could be a big issue. Despite this, they have a lot of quality in their side tied with a lot of experience, it is almost a guarantee, in my opinion, that Eastleigh will clinch a play-off spot, and many of the bookies are also tipping them to do the same.
4th – Dagenham & Redbridge
Dagenham are going to be a real force this year. Despite having an experienced and in my opinion, one of the best managers in this league, in John Still, who got Luton promoted four years ago, The Daggers have added some key assets to their squad. Ben Nunn, Bondz N’Gala and Dan Sparkes are all really good signings who were each key players for their respected teams last season. Dagenham will have the strength to potentially even challenge for the title next season, but in my opinion, there are three other teams which will pip them to achieve a higher position in the table.
3rd – Hartlepool United
My beloved. Relegated from the football league in the most cruellest of ways on the final day. Pools have responded to this heartbreak in a fantastic manner. A number of signings which will bring the heart back to the club, and more importantly, keeping hold of leading scorer, Padraig Amond, who has a brilliant track record in this division, bagging 30 goals for Grimsby which helped them clinch promotion. New owner, new logo, new manager, new squad. Pools have refreshed everything in the camp, which is the only reason I don’t think we’ll win the league, there is another outfit in this league which has the experience and settlement to go one further than us. Everyone in the Pools camp now feels positive for the new season, including newly appointed manager, Craig Harrison, who moved to the North East from Welsh champions TNS. Will this appointment, which to many is seen as a gamble, pay-off? I think it will, and a play-off spot is in order for The Monkey Hangers.
2nd – Wrexham
To many, this will be a very controversial choice. I think Wrexham have recruited extremely well. Bringing in the likes of Sam Wedgbury to strengthen the midfield, Shaun Pearson and James Jennings, who all know what it takes to get out of this division. Wrexham have now been in the National League for ten years and have had seasons of both promise and hurt, I feel this season they can finally make a push to return to that forever anticipated Football League. The fan owned club have a big following, probably too big you could argue in comparison to the other teams in this division, and manager Dean Keates, a former Wrexham player, will be one of those who will be doing everything he can to make sure Wrexham get back to where they belong.
1st – Tranmere Rovers
The clear bookies favourite. I think this is the year Tranmere make their return to The Football League. Having been relegated in 2015, Tranmere have had two successive seasons of heartbreak trying to get, where their fans would argue, back to where they belong. Having failed to even reach the play-offs in their first season in this division, Tranmere suffered a play-off final heartbreak at the hands of Forest Green last season. Tranmere have kept a lot of their squad together which seen them finish on an incredible 95 points last season, an act which somehow, miraculously never seen them win the league. With the additions of Alabi from Chester, and the experienced Jay McEveley, and an excellent manager in Micky Mellon, I think they have more firepower and the motivation to beat everyone else to the title. I think Tranmere Rovers will be your Vanarama National League champions this season.
Have any disagreements with the predictions above? Will Tranmere win the league? Who will make the play-offs? Who will get relegated? Let us know in the comments below!