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A New National League Season Begins

With the threat of COVID-19 re-emerging throughout the United Kingdom, the ability to play competitive sport has once again come into question and with health risks being the most pertinent, an existential threat cannot be overlooked either.

Especially for the sporting outfits that are considered grassroots and often their very existence runs on a month to month basis, a scenario that can be found within in the confines of the Vanarama National League.

With no supporters set to enter stadia in England’s fifth-tier until March 2021, this has placed an almighty strain on the finances of clubs that operate at this level and only because of UK government funding, has this season’s show got underway.

A show that only consists of 23 teams, as relegated Macclesfield Town were expelled from the competition before a ball was kicked and even though a phoenix club has risen from the ashes, it is too early for the original iteration to compete in the level below the Football League (EFL)

While it is entry to the EFL which acts as the promised land, entry that only comes about via promotion and with just two clubs being afforded that luxury, it will be another cut-throat season at this level.

Only one club can be crowned champions and only that same one can earn automatic promotion from the competition, which means they leave behind the lottery of the play-offs for those who finish between second and seventh in the final table.

Last season’s play-off finalists were Notts County and after losing to Harrogate Town in the Wembley final, Neal Ardley and his players will look to circumnavigate this promotion route and win the league outright instead.

An act that seems likely by those who set the prices for the punters and a look at the latest odds, currently have Notts County as the early 7/2 favourites to lift this season’s National League title.

If this to be the case, Ardley and his men will have to put an opening day defeat away at Dover behind them and when you consider the money troubles that the Kent based outfit have been in over the summer, this was something of an upset victory.

While if it is not to be Nottingham’s second club that scoops success next May, it could be another former Football League club that finally returns to the professional setup, as Stockport County are currently second favourites.

Under the tutelage of former player Jim Gannon, they are currently second favourites to win the division and at odds of 5/1, could represent one of the value bets within the landscape of the English Non-League setup.

Like Notts County, they have also suffered an early defeat and like their potential title rivals, it also came around on the opening day of the 2020/21 season, as they fell to another former Football League foe.

It was Torquay who get the better of Jim Gannon’s men that afternoon and with this also being a club that has been in the wilderness after relegation from League Two in 2014, the English Riviera based outfit will be hoping that their own personal exile finally comes to an end.

However, there is little faith in the way of early backing and with them currently priced at 20/1 to win the National League, even the most ardent Torquay fan may decide to keep their money in his or her pocket this time around.

While it could be good news for Jeff Stelling. as the most well-known fan of Hartlepool United and with his beloved side sitting at the top of the table after the first three games of the season, could the good times finally be coming back to Victoria Park?

If they are, it will mean manager Dave Challinor will have done an incredible job at the club and after suffering the ignominy of relegation from League Two during the 2016/17 season, a promotion bid should not be too far off this time.

Can the glory days come back to Hartlepool? That is the question that many are now asking and if the answer does turn out to be an emphatic yes, then an 11/2 bet as current third favourites should not be overlooked either.

This article was brought to you by The Non-League Paper, the UK's best-selling football title on the newsstand, on-sale every Sunday.
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