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NLP says….

By Alex Narey, 

Is it too early to start talking about next season? Is it this season already, or was last season still this season? Either way, with clubs already making their moves for their respective league campaigns it feels appropriate to get the ball rolling for events in 64 days’ time when the National League slips into its first gear.

So I’m diving straight in to offer my earliest predictions – ridiculous as that may sound on the second day of June – even with so many issues still to be resolved up and down the land with appeals and allocations yet to be settled, and league AGMsto be opened and concluded.

Listed below are just a few early thoughts to get you in the mood and your attentions away from that family BBQ you have no doubt been roped into…

The National League – who’s winning it in 2019-2020?

Solihull Moors… If you had caught me even mumbling that name under my breath the season before last you would have laughed me out of town. Moors were dead and buried 15 months ago and plummeting fast into National League North. But what a rebuilding process Mark Yates and Tim Flowers did there to haul them away from relegation, with Flowers going solo this season and crafting his squad into one of the toughest nuts to crack in the land.

Yes they have spent money, but players want to play for ambition and Flowers has recruited superbly, bringing in characters with promotion pedigree while nurturing a mixture of raw talent with battle-hardened experience.

The signing this week of Paul McCallum from Eastleigh is proof of Moors’ aspirations. What they will do that all great contenders do is build on what they already have; they won’t let players go without a guarantee they can and will bring better players in through the door. That’s the golden ticket.

Where will the big challenge come from?

Chesterfield… The Spireites endured a torrid first season in the National League last term

under Martin Allen and were found wanting after winning their opening three games. But the recruitment of John Sheridan, below, as their manager in January was vital as the club began to move steadily away from the drop zone.

They became tough to beat – ironically a trait they had under Allen where they registered nine draws on the spin during a 19-game winless run (seriously, pick the bones out of that one!).

They have shaken off the ‘pity tag’ that so many Football League clubs bring with them into Non-League football, and will be able to entice players to the club with the aim of promotion all part of an attractive package.

Who’s going down?

Boreham Wood… after coming so close to an unexpected promotion in 2018, I fear for Luke Garrard’s side. They stayed clear of major trouble last season purely because the bottom four of Aldershot, Havant, Braintree and Maidstone didn’t have the legs to climb out of it, but next season will be so much tougher with four well-equipped teams coming up in Torquay, Woking, Stockport and Chorley. Indeed, it will be the toughest National League campaign yet, and clubs are going to have to get their houses in order quickly.

Sadly, I’ve just get a bad feeling for Wood – they look a club on borrowed time in Non-League’s top-flight.

Elsewhere, I fear for FC Halifax Town – who have lost their best player Matty Kosylo this week – and, believe it or not, Sutton – where a change of manager is more than just that. Paul Doswell was the backbone of the club and not just the dugout. It’s a season of transition, which may catch the U’s out.

What about North and South?

John Pemberton is a massive coup for Kidderminster Harriers. Like Stockport last season, this could be the year the former Football League giants get things together to mount a serious challenge.

That said, the North is brimming with the usual quality with Brackley, Spennymooor and Atrincham all set to be in the mix. I also have a feeling for Chester and York City. It’s a seriously tough top seven.

In the South, the two best clubs by a country mile went up last season with Torquay and Woking winning promotion, but you have to look at Chelmsford as being one that can finally put its play-off hoodoo to bed by not competing in them and going up automatically.

And, while they may not be everyone’s cup of tea, Billericay, if – and it’s a big if – they can keep the managerial duo of Harry Wheeler and Jamie O’Hara at the club and the owner (whose name I always struggle to remember) keeps out of matters on the pitch.

But, that’s a big ask…

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