With the release of the National League fixtures earlier this week, there was plenty for supporters to get their teeth into and begin to plan those Saturday and sometimes long midweek trips to far flung parts of the country.
There is certainly a lot of interest around non-league’s top tier this season with some new additions likely to be in and around the promotion places, but there are always one or two who surprise the bookies.
Not surprisingly, the bookies have Salford City as favourites closely followed by Chesterfield, Barnet and Leyton Orient.
City with the backing of the Class of ’92 and a solid managerial appointment in Graham Alexander are expected the lead the pack from the off. A stern opening day test at home to Orient will not of course define the season but it will give a good pointer to what it will take to get out of this division at the right end.
Orient themselves know they have to start better than last year and on a sounder but not spectacular financial footing than 12 months ago, Justin Edinburgh’s team have a years’ experience at this level and you would expect them to be far more competitive this time around, Orient fans won’t accept becoming another Wrexham and spending years at this level.
The next two sides are no strangers to winning.
Whilst Chesterfield have suffered from poor mis-management both on and off the pitch which resulted in a double relegation into non-league football and their first ever year outside of the Football League, in Martin Allen they have a man who knows what it takes and needs to get out of this league quickly.
Having won it just a few years ago with former club Barnet, Allen you know will build a competitive side that should be in the running for a quick return to League football.
Only two sides have made an instant return after relegation, Carlisle Utd in 2004/05 and Bristol Rovers in 2014/15. The champions on both occasions? Barnet.
Whilst Allen tries to take one relegated team back at the first attempt, the club he almost kept in League Two on the final day of the season have also employed a winner in their attempt to go straight back up.
John Still has returned for a second spell in charge of the club now residing at The Hive, naming former Bees winger and fans favourite Darren Currie as his assistant. Still was the last Barnet manager to reach the League Two play offs and since then has added to more National League titles to the one previous with Maidstone Utd back in 1988/89.
More recently, Luton Town and Dagenham & Redbridge have enjoyed the golden touch of Still’s nous and wily ways and there is no one better qualified to have another title tilt which Bees Chairman Tony Kleanthous is hoping for.
Whilst these four will expect to title challenging, there are a few under them who could well ruffle a few feathers. AFC Fylde completed a magnificent season last time out, as did Aldershot, Ebbsfleet and Bromley to name but a few.
Sutton Utd, Boreham Wood, Dover and Wrexham will also expect to have a say in things this season having all gone close themselves last time around.
With pre-season still around 4 weeks away from being complete, there is sure to be a lot more movement around the 24 clubs to make what we will an exciting season.
Written by Trevor Knell
Follow Trevor on Twitter @trevk37
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