With the new season a matter of days away clubs are beginning to make the final touches to their squads.
Some have had a busy summer, others just tinkering to improve on last season’s performance which in some cases was not a million miles away from bearing fruit.
At The Hive, it’s been a summer of change for Barnet. Starting with relegation from the Football League on the final day of the season, followed by Martin Allen once again walking out on the club, the Bees have re-built soundly to have a tilt at a first time return to league football.
John Still has returned to the club to oversee this possible return, one of only a few who could replace Allen and give the club a very good chance of joining only Carlisle Utd and Bristol Rovers in achieving an instant promotion, and this special draft bonus.
The champions on both occasions? Barnet! With three titles under his belt at this level, you can expect the Bees to be challenging but not to have everything their way.
His signings, whilst raiding previous club Dagenham & Redbridge, have been astute for this level and bring with them the nous to make sure Barnet are at the right end of the table.
Mark Cousins is a solid keeper, an area the Bees struggled in last season. Craig Robson and Andre Boucard will bring strength to a midfield lacking in bite since the departure of Sam Togwell almost two seasons ago.
Some are concerned attack is where the struggles will show this year after the sale of John Akinde. Akinde spent his final season at The Hive a shadow of his former self after injury had robbed him of a pre-season.
The returning Dave Tarpey will be expected to contribute heavily despite himself returning from a serious knee injury. Shaq Coulthirst is still involved whilst the new signings of Josh Walker, Jack Barham and Byron Harrison will all need to hit the ground running.
There does appear to be more expectation for an all-round contribution for goals than be reliant on one player as was often the case with Akinde in the team, shackle him well and goals were not easy to come by.
Still has already made it known neither a slow or fast start will define their season, their two previous championship campaigns this century did feature a strong start and a reluctance to relinquish the lead once at the top of the table, but in recent times the title race has been more open and until Macclesfield pulled away last year, top spot could’ve ended up with any one from six clubs.
After how last season panned out after promises of promotion, the most realistic of Bees fans will know Salford pose a huge threat as do Chesterfield. Orient and Wrexham will also expect to be up there too, and AFC Fylde, Bromley and Ebbsfleet fans will also want a say in where the promotion and play-off spots end up.
It promises to be another exciting National League season from start to finish and consistency is the key rather than playing well in sporadic periods.
My tip for the title? It will come from the three already mentioned, Salford, Barnet or Chesterfield, too close to call which one it will fall to, whatever happened Saturday won’t define where the title ends up.
Written by Trevor Knell
Follow Trevor on Twitter @trevk37
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