National League 2022/23 Outright Preview & Predictions


Squad Assessment & Transfer Business So Far

When you’ve got Hollywood owners, have recruited Les Reed to be your Football Strategy Advisor, Phil Parkinson as your manager and League Two promotion winners Ben Tozer and Paul Mullin to help fire you to promotion, expectations soar.  

However, you have to get the foundations in place before you can expect to rise up the divisions and that was the challenge presented to Wrexham last season. It was about creating a new culture both on and off the pitch to deal with increased exposure, money and expectation. As the club grew more comfortable with their new identity, so did the players on the pitch, winning back-to-back matches for the first time in November, then three in a row during December before a late run of 10 wins from 12 catapulted them into the title race. They finished 2nd in the league, 2nd in the FA Trophy and lost their play-off semi-final against Grimsby Town.  

The foundations are firmly in place now and the aim has to be promotion this season. The identity and culture has to become a winning one. Paul Mullin, the National League’s top scorer, Ollie Palmer, James Jones, Aaron Hayden and Ben Tozer have all settled. Luke Young has come through his first year as club captain. Jordan Davies signed a new contract and looks every bit a player playing two or three levels below where he should be. And the squad has been improved with the signings of experienced goalkeeper Mark Howard, Crawley Town defender Jordan Tunnicliffe, Oxford United wide man Anthony Forde and Elliott Lee, whose last drop down the divisions was followed by a key role in back-to-back promotions at Luton Town.  


I’m aware that this is the boring prediction but as with Stockport County last summer, I’m struggling to foresee any other outcome than a Wrexham title. In a year that foundations were being put in place, Wrexham accrued 88 points, scored 91 goals, had the best xG For numbers and proved they can put together a long sequence of positive results. They have also further improved their playing squad with more players that ought to be playing above the level, giving Parkinson much-needed quality depth. I can’t see them falling short again.  

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Squad Assessment & Transfer Business So Far

Paul Cook returned to some fanfare last season having taken over from James Rowe, who was relieved of his duties amid off-field allegations despite their lofty league position, a decision that should be applauded if the allegations are true.  

It’s a good job Cook is so well-respected by Chesterfield supporters because things did not go well. They were 2nd with a game in hand when he took over and finished with a play-off semi-final defeat having clung onto 7th place on the final day. He wanted an overhaul and has gotten his wish, moving on 13 players, transfer listing another four and bringing in, as it stands, 11.  

A couple of things are immediately clear. Firstly, the average age of the squad has been reduced. Chesterfield had the third oldest squad in the division last term based on minutes played so it’s little surprise that the average age of the 13 to move on is just shy of 30 while the 11 brought in average 23.8. Recruitment has been completed to fit a Paul Cook team too. The Liverpudlian joked upon his return that fans can expect to see 4-2-3-1 and having mixed and matched last term, he has built a squad ready to play in his image. 

Lucas Covolan replaces Scott Loach in goal. Ryheem Sheckleford, Brandon Horton and Bailey Clements join Jeff King at full-back. Darren Oldaker and Ollie Banks will compete with Tom Whelan and Manny Oyeleke in midfield. Armando Dobra, George Cooper, Michael Gyasi and Jesurun Uchegbalum give Cook much needed width, pace and directness in the final third with Cook hoping they can service Joe Quigley, Danny Rose, Akwasi Asante and the returning Kabongo Tshimanga.  


I’m excited by this Chesterfield rebuild. It’s a side that should be more than capable of dominating football matches, keeping teams penned in and having the quality to recycle possession to attack wave after wave. The competition at full-back is promising, the centre of midfield looks strong and Gyasi, Quigley, Asante, Rowe and Tshimanga are all more than capable of scoring goals when tasked with a striking role. For Cook, an overwhelming positive is that he made his signings early too, giving him all of pre-season to work with his squad. The primary reason they aren’t first is that they are competing with Wrexham for the title.  

Squad Assessment & Transfer Business So Far

It is normal to be wary when it comes to predicting how losing play-off finalists fare the following campaign. It doesn’t help Solihull Moors that their season finished in early June, leaving others with a head start. 

However, this is a very well-run football club with the financial resource to develop as quickly off the field as they are on it, ensuring they are well placed to respond positively to that loss at the London Stadium. And in Neal Ardley, they have a very competent football manager who has proven more than capable to responding to such a setback with Notts County. 

The positive vibes heading into the new season started quickly with the announcement that Joe Sbarra had signed a new deal with the club despite interest from the EFL. And while Ardley has lost talented left-back Harry Boyes and giant striker Kyle Hudlin, he has retained the majority of last season’s squad, including youngsters James Clarke, Callum Maycock, Ryan Barnett and Andrew Dallas.  

As for improvements, Louis Moulden joins on loan to replace the injured Ryan Boot, Fiacre Kelleher and Joey Jones fill the gaps left by loanees Mark Ellis and Callum Reilly as competition for the XI and in forward areas, Oldham Athletic’s Callum Whelan, Maidenhead United’s 15-goal forward Josh Kelly and Stockport County striker Alex Reid have joined. The Moors head into the campaign under the radar given the size of other clubs in the division but will fancy their chances of another push for promotion.  


I’ve been cautious about going big on Solihull Moors this season given how late the previous campaign finished and how it finished but I’m feeling positive about them. The Moors went into last season with concerns about the fitness of key players Callum Howe, Alex Gudger, Kyle Storer and Jamey Osborne, all of whom come into the new season having grown stronger throughout the last. They also had issues with depth and have rectified that, particularly in forward areas where Alex Reid and Josh Kelly are more than proven. Another reason to like this squad is that the vast majority are aged between 22 and 30, most coming into or are already in their prime of their careers. This group is stronger than the one that finished last season and for that reason, I believe they finish in the top three again.  

Squad Assessment & Transfer Business So Far

Notts County, like many clubs before them, are finding out the hard way that being a  club with a Football League history doesn’t make winning promotion back to it any easier.  

For the third season running, the Magpies finished in the top five but succumbed in the play-offs, this time in a dramatic play-off eliminator in which they conceded goals in the final seconds of both normal and extra time. Ian Burchnall has since left to join Forest Green Rovers while two of their feared front three have also departed, Kyle Wootton signing for promoted Stockport County and Callum Roberts joining Aberdeen. Jayden Richardson has left following his loan spell while Alex Lacey and Dion Kelly-Evans have also reached the ends of their contracts. 

However, this is where having smart owners who recruit management and players to ongoing structure and identity works. The wheel doesn’t need to reinvented. Highly respected coach Luke Williams, ex-manager of Swindon Town and most recently assistant to Russell Martin at MK Dons and Swansea City, has taken on the Head Coach position and he has a similar outlook on how football should be played – on the deck.  

To help, the club have signed five players plying their trade at step 2 last season: Ebbsfleet United wing-back Tobi Adebayo-Rowling, Kidderminster Harriers pair Geraldo Bajrami and Sam Austin and Gateshead’s 52-goal pairing of Cedwyn Scott and Macauley Langstaff. Aden Baldwin has also come in from Williams’ former club MK Dons. The sextet will look to improve a squad that currently retains the services of captain Kyle Cameron, who Williams will hope to see on the pitch more often after a year blighted by injury, midfield maestro Matty Palmer and Portuguese wizard Ruben Rodrigues, who is arguably the best player in the division.  


I see the National League having a “big four” this year in terms of budget and resource. Notts County are the side coming out bottom of that group. There’s little doubting the quality and suitability of this squad to play the possession heavy style that Luke Williams is known for. Will that win them promotion? I’m not sure. I worry that their campaign may play out similarly to last year: strong home form, some big victories and a lot of goals scored but the same problems with set-pieces and physicality that stopped them stretching unbeaten runs into double-figures. And while Williams is clearly a fine coach, there is no evidence that he can cultivate an environment of consistent, winning football.  

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Squad Assessment & Transfer Business So Far

A lot can change in a year. 

Last summer, Phil Brown was the man in charge at Southend United and the ex-Hull City manager was banking on experience to turn the tide of a club that has been in freefall for some time. It didn’t work. He was relieved of his duties early on and four of his eight permanent signings have since left the club while another has had a long struggle for fitness.  

With fans protesting loudly, Ron Martin finally gave the green light for change. In came Stan Collymore and John Still as well as a management team of club legend Kevin Maher, Darren Currie and Mark Bentley. There was an immediate change in recruitment policy with the Blues looking to pick up the brightest talent from National League Premier, North and South to turn their fortunes around.  

It worked. The management team quickly created a structure for the players to build upon and implemented that on the training ground while also recruiting players for specific roles. They oversaw top half form and the aim is to improve upon that further this year.  

Having signed the likes of Ollie Kensdale, Noor Husin, Callum Powell and Harry Cardwell last season, they’ve followed suit by bringing in Dan Mooney, who has developed nicely at Altrincham for two and a bit seasons, Harry Taylor and Wes Fonguck, who are known to their former Barnet gaffer Currie, Cavaghn Miley, who has been a solid performer at Eastleigh, Gus Scott-Morris and Louis Lomas, who were amongst the best in their positions at step two, and Christopher Wreh, who had 39 goal involvements at step three. Every signing is aged between 21 and 27 too. Players who are young enough to develop but experienced enough to come in and have an immediate impact on the squad.  


I’m feeling a lot more positive about Southend United now than I was at this point last year. While there remains a number of concerns about Ron Martin and his ownership of the club, there is a togetherness about the management team, playing staff and supporters that should see increased attendances and better performances. Their transfer business has been targeted with each signing appearing to fit a specific role within the team’s structure to improve the starting XI and immediate depth. For the first time in years, the vibes are positive at Southend United and I fancy them to finish in the play-off positions.  

Squad Assessment & Transfer Business So Far

For the second season in a row, Dagenham and Redbridge were nearly men.  

This one was perhaps a little more galling than 2020-21. They won six of their first eight before losing 11 of their next 21. They improved late on, winning nine of their final 15 but it wasn’t to be. Their eighth-place finish came as a result of underperforming in both boxes. The Daggers had the 5th highest xG and 4th lowest xGA yet they kept just four clean sheets in their opening 29 matches and their poor mid-season form largely came as a result of fitness issues up top. It left Daryl McMahon and his players finishing another season with that sense of “if only”.  

McMahon has reduced the size of his squad this summer with Will Wright (Gillingham), Callum Reynolds (Bromley) and Brandon Comley (Walsall) the most notable departures. The trio have been replaced by Nikola Tavares (Wealdstone), David Longe-King (Grimsby Town) and Omar Mussa (Weymouth), all three having impressed in the National League last term. The new signings also fit into McMahon’s preferred 3-5-2, a formation he used regularly last season having chopped and changed the previous campaign.  

Manny Onariase, who returned towards the end of last season, and Elliot Johnson complete the first-choice backline with Josh Hare, Sam Ling, Mauro Vilhete and ever dangerous Myles Weston competing at wing-back. Mussa will compete with Mo Sagaf and Dean Rance to support Matt Robinson in the midfield three. Leading the frontline to begin the campaign will likely be Paul McCallum and Junior Morias, the pair who scored and assisted 28 goals in the final 15 league matches of last season. Josh Walker has signed a new contract while Angelo Balanta will hope for a season with fewer injuries.  


Daryl McMahon needs to realise the Daggers’ ambition and finish in the top seven. I think they will do it. A key reason here is the stability of the squad which has been touched up and improved gradually rather than overhauled season upon season. That includes additions last season with Manny Onariase and Junior Morias clearly improving the starting XI and I believe David Longe-King and Omar Mussa will do the same from both a technical and physical point of view, if not also Nikola Tavares. There are few reasons why the Daggers can’t continue to back up their numbers from last season and if they do that, I believe they have the quality to make it count in both boxes this time around.  

Team: Dagenham & Redbridge

BOREHAMWOOD, ENGLAND – JULY 20: Jacob Mendy Mendy of Boreham Wood shields the ball from Sergi Canos of Brentford during the Pre-Season Friendly match between Boreham Wood and Brentford at Meadow Park on July 20, 2021 in Borehamwood, England. (Photo by Alex Burstow/Getty Images)

Squad Assessment & Transfer Business So Far

2021-22 is a season that will live long in the memory for Boreham Wood supporters thanks to their FA Cup exploits, beating AFC Wimbledon and Bournemouth to set up a tie at Goodison Park. A reminder of the importance of the country’s premier cup competition with the money earned being used to further improve the structure of the club off the field as much as on it.  

That run did affect their form in the final third of the campaign with a small and ageing squad stretched by injuries. They were defeated by Everton, lost to Wrexham in the FA Trophy and picked up just 18 points from their final 21 league matches, slipping away from title contention to finish outside of the top seven. While injuries played a part, the season’s final weeks made up Garrard’s mind about freshening up the oldest squad in the National League. Kane Smith and Scott Boden left of their own accord but six others have been let go (average age 29.8) with eight new signings made at the time of writing (average age 26.6).  

Luke Garrard’s footballing vision is for his side to be the strongest defensive outfit in the division with structure and consistency in selection key to that. He will be hoping that the experienced core of Nathan Ashmore, Jamal Fyfield, Femi Ilesanmi, Mark Ricketts and Josh Rees can stay as fit as possible through the campaign. He has admitted, however, that his side need to start playing in better areas and getting more bodies in the box, something they struggled with last season at times. Jack Payne, Zak Brunt and Alfie Egan add quality to the centre of the pitch while George Williams, Erico Sousa, Danny Newton, Danny Elliott and Lee Ndlovu give Garrard more options, pace and width in the final third.  


I struggled with Boreham Wood towards the end of last season but the longer than pre-season has continued, the more positive I have felt about them. Firstly, Ashmore, Ilesanmi, Fyfield, Ricketts and Rees have had full involvement in pre-season. Secondly, unlike last season, Luke Garrard has depth for his starting XI available from the opening day rather than having to bring in bodies during the campaign. Thirdly, the chances of them having to play 12 matches in six weeks, as they did to finish the previous campaign, are unlikely. While I’m not sold on all of their summer additions, I’m positive about the starting XI and general depth. I believe they’ve adequately replaced Smith, Boden and Mafuta within the confines of the system and are well placed for another challenge for the play-offs.  

Squad Assessment & Transfer Business So Far

Having gone full-time last summer, Woking Football Club are looking to bridge the gap between them and those chasing promotion. After an indifferent campaign under both Alan Dowson and Darren Sarll, the latter has decided to make big changes to the squad.  

Experienced defenders Moussa Diarra and Tom Champion have exited, as have midfielders Solomon Nwakoubei and Max Kretzschmar and striker Inih Effiong.  To a lesser extent, Jamar Loza, Tarryn Allarakhia and George Oakley have also departed to leave Sarll with a framework to build upon but plenty of room for new signings to take the club from mid-table to play-off contenders.  

That rebuild started with Luke Wilkinson, a player Sarll knows well, and he has been joined by the vastly experienced Scott Cuthbert, ex-Millwall centre-back Sid Nelson, who is looking to reignite a career hampered by injuries, and Dan Moss, who excellent on loan at Yeovil Town for the first half of last season. Further ahead, Jim Kellermann boosts an already impressive midfield cast having played a key role for Chesterfield last season while Ricky Korboa, James Daly and Reece Grego-Cox add much needed energy and flair to a frontline that now boasts EFL stalwart and former National League promotion winner Padraig Amond.  

They add to an already strong group that contains long-time leaders Craig Ross and Josh Casey, midfield rock Rohan Ince, the talented Jack Roles, Jermaine Anderson and Tyreke Johnson as well as Kyran Lofthouse, the young full-back reportedly being chased by a number of clubs higher up the food chain.  


Darren Sarll did a fantastic job during his three years at Yeovil Town, overseeing a cost cutting operation amid off-field squabbles to keep the Glovers comfortably out of trouble. He did it by making his side hard to beat, horrible to play against and utilising pace in forward areas on the break. He has built a squad to play a similar style here only it has more quality, more depth and he has the resource to improve further on and off the field should it be required. What I expect this season is a slightly more expansive version of that Yeovil team, particularly given the physical and technical qualities of the midfield. The difference between a good campaign and a brilliant one could be the numbers put up by the exciting but raw attacking group supporting Padraig Amond. 

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Squad Assessment & Transfer Business So Far

In order to get over their title and play-off heartache in 2021, Torquay United needed a summer that reinvigorated their manager, squad and supporters. It never happened.  

Dan Martin and Chiori Johnson were the only two additions to start more than 20 matches and the latter is one of four to be released this summer with three others quickly losing their places in the starting XI after difficult beginnings. It meant that the cast of 2020-21 were required to return to their best and while they did just that (Torquay performing to a top seven standard from December onwards), it was too little too late.  

That cast has now broken up. Of the seven players to start 30 or more matches last season, six have departed: Ben Wynter (Barnet), Joe Lewis, Conor Lemonheigh-Evans (both Stockport County), Armani Little (Forest Green Rovers), Shaun MacDonald (Cheltenham Town) and Danny Wright (Havant and Waterlooville). The club have also lost Stephen Duke-McKenna who performed excellently after joining on loan. Only Martin, Dean Moxey, Tom Lapslie and Asa Hall remain of the players to start at least 20 league matches last season.  

It means recruitment is once again going to be key to Torquay United’s chances of pushing for the top seven this season and while there are few stellar names, it appears more promising than last season. Ross Marshall gained experience on loan at Barnet, Ryan Hanson, Brett McGavin and Shaun Donnellan step up from the lower reaches of the National League while Corie Andrews was excellent for Aldershot Town before being recalled from his loan spell. Kieron Evans and Will Goodwin have signed on loan and full-back Dylan Crowe has England youth honours. 


I’m envisioning a similar season to last year for Torquay United. I believe Gary Johnson has a squad that will be in a better place to start the new campaign but I’m not convinced it’s a group that will have the Gulls soaring towards the top of the table early doors. However, Johnson is an excellent problem solver. He will quickly work out what is and what isn’t working and adapt accordingly, making necessary moves to resolve issues and ensure his side makes the most of its strengths. Johnson is the net positive here and that’s why I’m backing his side to finish in the top half come the end of the season.  

Squad Assessment & Transfer Business So Far

Winning the FA Trophy at Wembley gave fans more of a high than any failed play-off campaign will have done. A memorable day that fans won’t forget in a hurry. 

However, there is little getting away from the mistakes that cost them last season. Bromley were flying high heading into February only to accrue just 17 points from their final 19 matches, a run that saw them fall out of the play-off positions. It’s never easy to surmise the reasons from afar but stability felt key. The club made a number of signings in January to boost squad depth but it led to more chopping and changing to the starting XI. There was also Andy Woodman’s link to Gillingham which ended shortly before the horror run began.  

The latter of those has been rectified with Andy Woodman and Alan Dunne signing three-year deals to stay at Hayes Lane. Squad numbers have been cut too with at least 11 players leaving the club this summer. And the club are in good hands off the field so there is plenty to be positive about going into the new season, at least from the perspective of Bromley still being able to look up rather than down. 

The squad remains strong on paper. Callum Reynolds has joined a backline that contains last season’s first choice back three of Omar Sowunmi, Byron Webster and Chris Bush. Reece Hannam has joined on loan from Crystal Palace to boost the wide options. James Vennings has turned his loan permanent to challenge Jude Arthurs and Billy Bingham. David Smith and Adam Marriott improve a strike force that still contains the excellent Michael Cheek.   


Truthfully, I’ve struggled to place Bromley more than any other club. Whether fair from a budgetary point of view or not, my expectations for the club are to challenge for the play-offs given the consistent improvement in recent years and I automatically see them as a top half side. It’s still a strong squad. The experience, power and quality of the side means they will win matches and there is a stability to the playing squad and management which I like too. They haven’t addressed the age of the squad and I’m not convinced their new signings clearly improve the style and structure of the team, even if they are, or have the potential to be, good National League players. For that reason, I think they fall short of the play-off positions again

Squad Assessment & Transfer Business So Far

John Askey looked a solid appointment to get York City back on an even keel but even he must have wondered whether promotion was a serious aim upon arriving. Sat 11th in the league having won as many as they had lost, Askey oversaw 13 wins and 8 draws from their final 29 matches to secure a place in the top seven before seeing off Chorley, Brackley Town and Boston United to win promotion via the play-offs.  

That form wasn’t enough to save the majority of the squad he inherited and this summer has brought about a huge squad churn. Pete Jameson (Harrogate Town) and Akil Wright (Stockport County) left of their own accord. Matty Brown, Kurt Willoughby, Clayton Donaldson and Michael Woods also departed along with a number of players that had either been loaned out or unused by the ex-Macclesfield Town manager. A number of signings have been made to improve the quality and depth of the team ahead of their return to the National League with Askey leaving no stone unturned in his bid to ensure he has a squad capable of dealing with the demands of the division.  

Ethan Ross has arrived in goal on loan from Stockport County. Ryan Fallowfield and Adam Crookes are recent promotion winners, Sam Sanders returns after a positive loan spell last year while Fraser Kerr and Alex Whittle join from Chesterfield, the latter of which is a real coup for the club. Left-back turned goalscoring midfielder Mitch Hancox and AJ Greaves return after loan spells last season while Scott Burgess, a promotion winner with Grimsby Town, and Gus Mafuta, a regular at the heart of Boreham Wood’s midfield, have signed up. Scott Boden was another regular for Boreham Wood last season. Lenell John-Lewis completes a quartet of loans turned permanent, Luke James, Manny Duku and Alex Hurst have also joined an attack that contains Maziar Kouhyar, who scored in their play-off final.   A recently appointed manager who has overseen promotion, an impressive transfer window on paper and a new chairman. York City supporters must feel they can finally look up rather than down again


I’m impressed by the work done this summer at York City and believe the club have given themselves a fantastic opportunity to thrive upon their return to the National League. Askey has signed players that fit his stylistic preference (4-3-3) with a lot of “good pros” at the club and depth for every position on the pitch. The club has also been taken over which adds to the promise of the new campaign. Given the squad churn, I anticipate there being some inconsistency, particularly in the early months of the season, and that might see them fall just short of the play-offs. 

Squad Assessment & Transfer Business So Far

During an interview with @beespod, Dean Brennan spoke in more detail about what he had eluded to through most of last season – he did not like the squad of players that he had been left with. He was frustrated by how often people were sat in the “treatment room” and the mentality of a group that would switch on and off depending on game state. Not to mention his concerns about the lack of physicality in his side which played a big part in their poor record against the sides towards the top of the table last term.  

It’s been a big summer of recruitment for Brennan, who had full say on transfers having shared the responsibility with Harry Kewell last summer. It’s notable how many of their signings played so regularly last term with Ben Wynter, Danny Collinge, Moussa Diarra, Jerome Okimo, Dale Gorman and Harry Pritchard all having started 30+ league matches for National League clubs last season. Michael Phillips and Connor Smith are “high IQ” players in midfield while Jamar Loza and Sean Shields were involved with their clubs regularly, even if they did not always start. Add Sam Beard, Sam Woods, Ryan De Havilland, Daniel Powell, Ephron Mason-Clark and Rob Hall to the mix and you can see why Brennan is talking so highly of his squad this summer.  

On that same podcast, Brennan also spoke in depth about how each player fits into his tactical system, how it means he has depth for every position and the strengths and weaknesses of those players. He wants his side to play in a narrow 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 formation in which the wingers play closer to the central striker (he referenced Liverpool as an example of this), to have his side playing a higher press more often and also nuggets such as the way he sees his central defensive pairing working. The challenge for Brennan now is turning what he sees on paper and video clips into reality to create a side capable of competing physically and attacking with more pace and dynamism.  


For the first time since the departure of Darren Currie, Barnet aren’t entering the new season in a state of chaos. Gone are Peter Beadle, Tim Flowers and Harry Kewell. Gone are the players getting on in age of falling down the divisions clinging on to a final professional contract. Gone is the muddled recruitment of players and desperately putting together a squad in the days before the season begins. Brennan has created a squad by taking some of the best players from the clubs that finished around or below them in the league table last season and merged them with his favourites from the year before. What should follow is a saner Barnet side that is entertaining, if not necessarily consistent. I think their goals against tally reduces but whether they can turn a minus 30 goal difference into a positive one remains to be seen.

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Squad Assessment & Transfer Business So Far

The Dorking Wanderers rise is a remarkable one, formed in 1999 as an amateur football club only to rise organically through the divisions, their latest chapter that enthralling National League play-off final at Meadowbank. 

The Surrey outfit, whose rise has been documented in recent seasons by the excellent Bunch of Amateurs YouTube channel, have gotten used to working things out post-promotion and they will fancy their chances of thriving rather than surviving in non-league’s top tier. Owner/manager Marc White isn’t everybody’s cup of tea but there is a steely determination and intelligence behind his jovial personality with those characteristics shaping the club’s identity.  

The club have chosen stability over change this summer with White happy to trust the squad that won him promotion. Jason Prior is a huge loss, the 33-year-old choosing to move on having long led the Wanderers frontline with distinction. However, Danny Lincoln has re-signed having initially left, captain Barry Fuller and top scorer Alfie Rutherford remain and Matt Briggs has signed a new two-year deal – he will be a key figure upon return from injury. 

As for new bodies, Jack Jebb (Dartford), Adam Mekki (Ebbsfleet United) and Ryan Seager (Hungerford Town) have stepped up from National League South with Wanderers, hoping to play a part in improving a squad deemed by many to be the best in their division when not decimated by injury.  


There’s something of the unknown about Dorking Wanderers that makes them a really exciting proposition going into the new campaign. They’ve never been at this level. Marc White has never managed at this level. A lot of their players have risen through the divisions with Dorking so this will also be new to them. There is a version of this season that could end up with this Dorking squad reaching its limit and struggling. However, I’m backing them to step up comfortably. This is a squad built over years to play a specific style of football within the confines of a clear structure and possess a never-say-die-attitude, as proven in the play-off final. Because of this, I believe they will continue to score goals, entertain supporters and bloody the nose of ex-EFL clubs.  

Squad Assessment & Transfer Business So Far

Pete Wild and his management team completed another remarkable campaign against the odds last season, finishing 4th in the table before succumbing to Chesterfield in their play-off eliminator. Since then, it has been all change.  

Pete Wild has joined Barrow as manager and taken Tyrell Warren and Billy Waters with him. Captain Niall Maher has moved on to Grimsby Town along with fellow leader Kieran Green. Maher’s defensive partner Tom Bradbury has joined League One Cheltenham Town. Jay Benn has signed for Lincoln City. The experienced Martin Woods has also been released. Jamie Allen signed a new deal but will miss the early part of the season as he joined the cast of that TV show. 

However, FC Halifax Town are used to change on the field and while Wild has departed, his assistant manager Chris Millington has taken on the managerial position. It’s difficult to know how well the ex-Oldham Athletic academy coach will take to the senior role but he talks well and has a good understanding of his strengths and the need for a supporting cast that compliment him.  

On the pitch, he retains the services of Matty Warburton and Jordan Slew, who scored a combined 23 goals last season, the long-serving Sam Johnson and youngsters Kian Spence and Jesse Debrah. Three recent National League promotion winners have moved to the club, Stockport County pair Sam Minihan and Jordan Keane and Grimsby Town’s play-off hero Emmanuel Dieseruvwe. Tom Clarke is another experience campaigner to join. Ex-Stockport County youngster Festus Arthur returns to the division on loan from Hull City, Jack Hunter won promotion with Gateshead last season while Sam Smart, Angelo Cappello, Millenic Alli and Robert Harker will hope to improve the attack.  


Replacing Pete Wild was never going to be an easy task and Chris Millington is certainly a brave choice to replace his close friend. I believe the signings of Sam Minihan, Tom Clarke and Jordan Keane to be important in regards to building a new culture befitting of Millington and what he wants to see on the pitch. Signing a couple of talented wide men and two tall, strapping strikers provides an idea of the type of attacking patterns we are likely to see next season. Not knowing much about Millington means my judgement of Halifax’s season comes almost solely from the squad they have built and while I don’t see them performing as strongly as they did under Wild, I do believe this to be a side that will perform adequately next year. 

Squad Assessment & Transfer Business So Far

It’s been a long, long time since Oldham Athletic had much smile about. Not since their Division 2 title in 1991 have they won promotion. Not since 2007 have they finished in the top six of a division. Not since 2009 have they finished in the top half. A once proud club has finally succumbed to relegation from the Football League after longstanding ownership troubles and fan protests.  

Better times could be on the way. For starters, they have finally been taken over and that in itself has been a cause for celebration ahead of the new campaign. They also come into non-league with a manager that fans have a lot of time for with the much-travelled John Sheridan having twice saved the club from relegation.  

The task is somewhat different this time around with the 57-year-old being asked to overhaul the squad ready for a promotion push rather than making the most of what he has to keep the club in the division. Fan favourites Dylan Bahamboula and Davis Keillor-Dunn are among those to depart along with Carl Piergianni, Callum Whelan, Nicky Adams and Sam Hart. They were six of Oldham’s eight highest appearance makers last season.  

National League title-winning captain Liam Hogan was first through the door and swiftly followed by the vastly experienced Chris Porter, providing an insight into the type of spine John Sheridan is looking for this season. They have been followed by the long-standing National League stalwart Lois Maynard, Zaine Francis-Angol, a two-time National League promotion winner, and Dan Gardner, another experienced figure in the centre of the park. Nathan Sheron should add some bite while Jordan Windass, Luke Burgess and Ben Tollitt will take on the creative burden.  


It’s easy to get carried away with the takeover and believe that Oldham Athletic are going to immediately return to the Football League. Football doesn’t really work out like that. The primary objective for Sheridan will be to address the culture on and off the field at a club that have finished in the bottom half of their division in each of the last 13 seasons. Sheridan himself is a question mark. He has not spent more than a year at the same club since leaving Plymouth Argyle in 2015 and his last role in the National League saw him fired by Chesterfield while at the wrong end of the table. However, the squad is battle-hardened, the fans will get right behind the team and I believe the season will play out with Sheridan getting on top of the job or him leaving the club and somebody else ensuring a comfortable mid-table finish.  

Squad Assessment & Transfer Business So Far

I confess to being quite concerned about Eastleigh towards the end of last season. Jason Bristow and Lee Bradbury oversaw just three wins from the final 21 matches of last season while Ben House, Josh Hare and Tom Whelan have been followed by Cavaghn Miley and Harry Pritchard, as well as the experienced trio of Andrew Boyce, Danny Hollands and Tyrone Barnett. Big change. 

Lee Bradbury has spoken about wanting more power and energy in his side and he has certainly got that. Popular loanees Brennan Camp and Christian Maghoma have signed permanently while the vastly experienced Aaron Martin has also returns after 13 years away – he played an important role in Port Vale’s promotion from League Two. Further up, Ousseynou Cisse and Charlie Carter boost the midfield after spending last season in the EFL and Tristan Abrahams joins after helping Grimsby Town to promotion.  

The new additions join Joe McDonnell, who helped Solihull Moors to the play-off final on an emergency loan, the talented Vincent Harper, attacking midfielders Jake Hesketh and Ryan Hill and striker Danny Whitehall, who started finding the net following the arrival of Bradbury last season. It’s not clear whether Bradbury will commit to a single formation yet but the left-sided trio of Corey Panter, Michael Kelly and Vincent Harper give him the option of switching in-game depending on game state. Supplementing the first-team group will be a group of youngsters from the club’s Elite Development Squad, a few of whom made first-team debuts last season.  


Eastleigh took a big risk this summer but they have done a good job of overhauling the playing staff, on paper at least. I like that the majority of the squad, particularly in the centre of the pitch, are of good age – Maghoma, Kelly, Carter, Hesketh, Hill, Abrahams and Whitehall are all aged between 23 and 26 – while Harper and Camp are exciting, tenacious young wing-backs. I also like the signings of Martin and Cisse who, if they stay fit, should sufficiently replace the experience and leadership of those departing while helping the Spitfires to improve their defensive record (74 conceded last season). However, this is a group that lacks depth beyond the starting XI and will endure as many lows as highs during the campaign. A solid mid-table season would represent progress. 

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Squad Assessment & Transfer Business So Far

For a couple of years, the talk from the top at Gateshead has been trust the process and keep faith in what Mike Williamson wants and believes his football team are capable of.  

What has followed is a real unity between management, players and supporters. Assistant manager Ian Watson is said to have played a big role. Defenders Louis Storey and Carl Magnay have fully engrossed themselves into the club as leaders and, in the case of the former, a development coach. That process has become a clear identity for Gateshead to follow as a club, leading to the development of a number of individuals and resulting in promotion back to the National League as champions.  

There were a number of consistent squad members during the campaign. The aforementioned Storey and Robbie Tinkler excelled in defence. Owen Bailey and Greg Olley were consistent in midfield while forwards Adam Campbell, Macauley Langstaff, Cedwyn Scott and Paul Blackett scored a remarkable 76 goals between them, showing just how many chances this side created for their forwards and how confident those forwards were able to remain throughout the campaign.  

Langstaff and Scott were responsible for 52 of those goals and that will be tough to replace with the pair having signed for Notts County (clearly they enjoy wearing black and white). The Magpies have at least been kind enough to let the pacey Lewis Knight move the other way while ex-Newcastle United youngster Tom Allan and the experienced Aaron Martin have joined the attack. Elsewhere, Dan Langley will take the number one jersey having also joined from Newcastle, Kenton Richardson is another local lad, Ethan Pye joins on loan from Stockport County and Dan Jarvis boosts an already talented midfield.  


Like most people, my immediate reaction to Macaulay Langstaff and Cedwyn Scott leaving was “oh no, how do they replace that”. Then I looked at their records before joining Gateshead, as well as the goals scored by Adam Campbell and Paul Blackett. Gateshead are a team that create chances and there is no reason why Aaron Martin, Tom Allan and Will Harris can’t replace some of those goals as a group, especially with Greg Olley’s ability to create chances. It’s tempting to be put off by Gateshead’s small squad and lack of financial resource but the club works on a clear identity and structure and so long as Williamson remains in charge, I believe they will be fine.  

Squad Assessment & Transfer Business So Far

Having done just about enough to avoid the drop last season, Mark Molesley and the team at Aldershot Town have spent the summer ensuring they don’t face any relegation fears this term. 

Their big issues last season were around home form (not a single victory at home against any side that finished 12th or lower), goals (third lowest xG and second fewest goals at home) and stability (40 players used – second most in the league). Molesley has done his best to rectify that, wanting experience, quality and reliability in his squad for the forthcoming campaign and on 16th June, they announced eight signings, all of whom fit one or more of those qualities: Archie Davies, Tyler Cordner, Ollie Harfield, Joe Partington, Josh McQuoid, Justin Amaluzor, Francis Amartey and Inih Effiong. They have since rectified their goalkeeper situation with the loan addition of Luca Ashby-Hammond and it means that Aldershot have a much stronger and versatile unit coming into the new campaign, not to mention having had those signings in ahead of pre-season. They started last season barely able to field a senior 16.  

It is likely that ex-QPR, Fulham and Barnsley youngsters Giles Phillips, Jay Harris and Tommy Willard will remain key squad members. Pre-season suggests that Aldershot could be looking to play 4-3-3 this term with the aim being to remain solid and break quickly with the pace and directness of their frontline. The versatility of their midfield does mean that Molesley holds the option to be flexible with systems depending on game state and personnel – he often utilised a back three last term.  


Budget constraints mean that Aldershot are looking at consolidation before they contemplate a promotion challenge. Their challenges are clear. Half of their backline was relegated with Weymouth last season, they have an inexperienced goalkeeper and a raw frontline. They also lack depth and will be reliant on players staying fit and performing in two or three different roles. Molesley will have to problem solve as he goes. However, I’m backing them to meet expectations. It shouldn’t take long for a more positive culture to set in given Molesley knows some of his new signings from previous jobs, the squad is stronger than the one that finished last season and it possesses more of an attacking threat too.  

Squad Assessment & Transfer Business So Far

It’s amazing how quickly a club’s fortunes can change. Between 2016 and 2018, Scunthorpe United finished 7th, 3rd and 5th in League One, banging on the door for a return to the Championship. What followed was disaster, relegation from League One before 20th, 22nd and 24th place finishes in League Two, the latter resulting in demotion to non-league for first time since joining the EFL in 1950.  

There has been a big turnaround at Glanford Park in recent months with Lee Turnbull appointed as COO and Keith Hill as manager. Having cut costs the previous summer, the club allowed Ryan Loft, Myles Hippolyte, Manny Onariase and Harry Davis to leave before the season’s end with Rory Watson following this summer. Of those left, only Jai Rowe, George Taft and Alfie Beestin played more than 1800 minutes for the club last season. Liam Feeney and Joe Nuttall were regulars after joining in January.  

The window has been a slow burner, understandably so given the number of changes behind the scenes. There have also been rumours of a takeover being in the offing which may have had an impact on their ability to bring players in.  

Keith Hill has focused on experience first and foremost, perhaps unsurprisingly given the youthful nature of the squad he has been left with – their first five outfield signings have an average age of 30.8. All five have question marks hanging over them given a lack of game time in recent years, aside from Andrew Boyce who has been a regular at Eastleigh, but they do ensure Hill has leaders and organisers in key areas of the pitch. Their other signings are Reagan Ogle, who will compete for a role at full-back, and goalkeeper Marcus Dewhurst, who joins on loan from Sheffield United having impressed with Boston United last year.  


It’s been a tough few years at Scunthorpe United and I’m not convinced things are about to get any easier as they embark on their first National League campaign. My worry for the Iron is that the vast majority of their squad are either at the start or end of their careers. That blend will pay off at times and I do see some of those experienced campaigners having a big say on their season. However, I struggle to see Keith Hill being able to regularly field a consistent core of players and it will lead to inconsistency in their form. That said, a takeover could provide Turnbull and Hill with better resources to further improve the squad and their league standing. 

Team: Scunthorpe United 

Squad Assessment & Transfer Business So Far

After a positive opening, Maidstone United went on a six-match winless run in which they failed to score in five matches, lost four and dropped to 10th in the table. What was followed was remarkable. Between mid-November and the end of April, the Stones played 25 matches, winning 21, drawing two and storming to the league title.  

It was a season built on togetherness, discipline, a strong playing structure and a lot of goals. Maidstone finished the season having conceded just 38 in 40 matches while only title challengers Dorking Wanderers managed to score more than their 80. Consistency was a big feature with six players starting over 30 matches and Hakan Hayrettin will be hoping for more of the same as they embark on a return to the National League having been away since 2019.  

Their chances of doing that are higher given the lack of squad churn, Michael Phillips (Barnet) and George Elokobi (retired) the only notable departures. The same group otherwise remains, including goalkeeper Tom Hadler and defenders Gavin Hoyte, George Fowler, Joe Elull and the popular Jerome Binnom-Williams. In midfield, Regan Booty, Sam Corne and Dominic Odusanya remain with forwards Joan Luque and Jack Barham, who scored a combined 38 goals last year, still supported by Christie Pattison and Roarie Deacon. 

The challenge this summer, therefore, has been to make subtle improvements to the squad rather than ripping everything up and starting again. National League experience has been added in the form of Jack Cawley (Wealdstone and Bromley), Henry Woods (Dover Athletic) and James Alabi (most recently Bromley). The attack has been further boosted by the permanent signing of Hady Ghandour and Hungerford Town forward Sol Wanjau-Smith. 


I’m worried I may have Maidstone slightly too low. After all, this is a side that won the National League South title and their structure, discipline and play-it-forward approach is one that should stand them in good stead when it comes to competing. However, I don’t believe Maidstone will spend as much time on the front foot this season which should dilute their attacking numbers. There are promising, technical footballers but it remains to be seen how much of a consistent impact they will have this term. Joan Luque missing pre-season and the early weeks of the season doesn’t help either.  

21. Maidenhead United

Squad Assessment & Transfer Business So Far

Maidenhead United continue to defy expectations and they will be intent on proving people wrong once more this year.  

One of the few remaining part-time football clubs left in the National League, The Magpies have shown an ability to bloody the noses of the clubs at the top of the division, especially on home turf where they beat Wrexham, FC Halifax Town, Grimsby Town, Chesterfield, Boreham Wood and Bromley last season and with so many big clubs in the National League, they will relish the chance to do that all over again. In fact, of their 13 victories last season, seven came against sides in the top 11.  

How do they do it? Minimal possession, breaking up the game and getting their exciting attacking talent on the ball as much as possible. This is a squad predominantly led by guys that have been there and done it such as Alan Massey, Ryan Upward, Charlee Adams and Kane Ferdinand but supplemented by players with the hunger to impress and earn themselves moves into full-time football as Josh Coley and Danilo Orsi did in 2020-21 and Josh Kelly has done following his 15-goal haul last season.  

Defensive improvements have been the order of the day, Sam Beckwith signing permanently after a loan spell last year, Cole Kpekawa and Zico Asare stepping up from the National League South while Temi Eweka has stepped up three divisions after helping Bracknell Town to promotion. Meanwhile up top, Koby Arthur has joined from Dover Athletic and Adrian Clifton has returned after a few years away to replace Nathan Blissett. Dan Gyollai’s arrival last term means that the club’s goalkeeper situation shouldn’t be an issue to start the campaign and Devonshire will hope Sam Barratt and Dan Sparkes can stay fit as the team’s key creators.  


I’m going to regret this, aren’t I? It’s Alan Devonshire and Maidenhead United. They always survive. They always find a way to pick up a run of results when the odds against them. So why am I predicting them to go down? For starters, the National League is as strong as it’s ever been across the board meaning the fight for survival will be a lot tougher this year. My primary concern with Maidenhead United is goals. Since promotion, the Magpies have twice score 60+ goals and finished in mid-table. In their other campaigns, they have loitered in lower mid-table and were thrust into a relegation battle in 2019-20 when only Danny Whitehall had scored more than five league goals. I’m not convinced the current striking options possess the firepower they need and while Sam Barratt remains one of the finest players in the division when available, he has never started more than 24 league matches. The division is probably the strongest it has ever been across the board and Maidenhead will have their work cut out.  

22. Yeovil Town

Squad Assessment & Transfer Business So Far

Yeovil Town are in a tricky place right now with fans unhappy with Scott Priestnall’s running of the football club, compounded by the decision to sell Huish Park to the local council having already lost manager Darren Sarll to Woking.  

The Glovers had a positive 2021-22 campaign on the pitch despite working with a small budget and squad (they often fielded less than the available five substitutes) with Darren Sarll setting the foundations for a side that were gritty, tenacious, defensively resolute and able to utilise pace on the break effectively.  

Chris Hargreaves has taken on the reins from Sarll and Charlie Lee, something of a left-field appointment given the 50-year-old’s only previous managerial experience was 18 months at Torquay United in 2014-15. He has since spent his time working developing youngsters at Bristol Rovers while providing insight for BT Sport’s National League coverage. His appointment makes Yeovil something of an unknown quantity. 

There has been positive news on the pitch with Tom Knowles being retained and Josh Staunton has signing a new deal and taking on the captain’s armband. Luke Wilkinson and Dale Gorman are the most notable departures but Grant Smith, Charlie Wakefield, Matt Worthington, Lawson D’Ath, Morgan Williams and Max Hunt have stayed at the club. Jamie Reckord and Ben Richards-Everton are the higher profile signings this summer with full-back Chiori Johnson, Walsall midfielder Sam Perry (loan) and forwards Ollie Hulbert, Malachi Linton and Alex Fisher also signing on for the new campaign. 


I’ve been concerned about Yeovil Town for a couple of seasons now and further changes on and off the field leave me worried about ther immediate and longer-term future. It’s no secret that clubs with off-field problems have a tendency to struggle on the pitch overtime and while I can’t make a judgement on Chris Hargreaves with any certainty, it’s clear that he is going to face a difficult task trying to improve upon the work Darren Sarll has done over the last three years. Yeovil overperformed last season and my worry is that they will lose some of the tenacity and resilience that made them so difficult to play against, leading to an increase in the goals against column, a few more defeats and a battle for survival.  

23. Altrincham

Squad Assessment & Transfer Business So Far

2022-23 is the start of a new era at Altrincham FC with the club officially becoming a full-time football club.  

It has meant a lot of change on the playing staff with club stalwarts Jake Moult, Shaun Densmore, Tom Hannigan, Andy White, Connor Hampson, Tony Thompson and Josh Hancock all saying goodbye having decided they cannot commit to a full-time programme at this point in their lives. To begin the process of replacing them, Phil Parkinson made Jordan Hulme, who returned to the club midway through last season, his new captain with Toby Mullarkey serving as vice-captain. And while Dan Mooney has also departed, Matt Kosylo, Ryan Colclough, Ben Pringle, Isaac Marriott and Elliot Osborne remain to support on a leadership front and set the standards. 

Recruitment has clearly been steered towards young and upcoming talent. Jake Cooper and Josh Lundstram have signed permanently after loan spells, Ross Barrows was a regular at King’s Lynn Town and Lewis Baines recently earned England C honours. New goalkeeper Oliver Byrne, 24, kept 24 clean sheets at Connah’s Quay in Wales last term while Liam Brockbank, 21, was Player of the Year at Lancaster City. Ex-Alty centre back James Jones was a late and popular addition to the squad with Chris Conn-Clarke and Alex Samizadeh bulking up the attack. Parkinson has confirmed that Byrne, Barrows and Brockbank will start the new campaign as first-choice in their respective positions, fitness pending, in their expansive 4-3-3 formation.  

Altrincham were the entertainers of the bottom half of the National League table and the expectation is that won’t change given Parkinson’s preference for attacking football but he will hope a full-time pre-season programme will help rectify issues picking up points against the best of the division and instability in team selection (the club used 43 players last season). 


A prediction I wasn’t expecting to be making at the end of last season. I love what Altrincham have done over the last couple of years and it’s fun to see them move into full-time football. However becoming a full-time club doesn’t automatically mean you improve your league position and there has been a lot of change at Alty. The aforementioned leadership change, losing top goalscorer Dan Mooney and Parkinson will be without key men Isaac Marriott and Matty Kosylo for “months” due to injury. And unlike previous seasons, the management team can’t go back to their more reliable, experienced figureheads when they need to steady the ship or replace injured personnel. I’ve no doubt that Alty will remain entertaining and that a couple of young stars will develop but I’m not sure this squad is stronger than the one they finished with last term.  

24. Wealdstone

Squad Assessment & Transfer Business So Far

It wasn’t difficult to work out which clubs would struggle last season given how the 2020-21 campaign unfolded. At least, it didn’t appear to be difficult. Wealdstone defied that.  

The Stones endured a torrid end to the COVID-disrupted campaign and the club bravely stuck with rookie manager Stuart Maynard as they bid to turn their fortunes around. Maynard and his coaching staff did a fantastic job, making decisive decisions around playing style and recruitment, picking up a core of experienced players and merging them with some talented loanees and a crop of younger players that needed a season outside of full-time football to prove they were capable of returning – Josh Umerah and Nikola Tavares a testament to that approach.  

Understandably, a number of players have departed this summer, including Umerah (Hartlepool United) and Tavares (Dagenham and Redbridge). George Wickens, Connor McAvoy, Charles Clayden and Aaron Henry have returned to their parent clubs. Charlie Cooper and Jerome Okimo have moved on, as have Medy Elito, Ira Jackson and Jamie Mascoll as Maynard looks to streamline his squad ahead of the new season. Only Jack Cook remains from the six players to start most league games for Wealdstone last season.  

Recruitment has been positive. Lewis Kinsella has long been Aldershot Town’s established first-choice left-back while Max Kretzschmar was Woking’s primary creative spark last season. Tarryn Allarakhia also joins from Woking, Sam Habergham provides leadership in defence and Matt Young comes highly rated from Leyton Orient. Maynard has worked his recruitment on a “if it isn’t broken, don’t fit it” policy, looking for leadership throughout the spine of his team and quality, pace and power elsewhere to give his side a route up the pitch from a solid defensive base and enough versatility to enable change depending on game state. 


I’ve swayed back and forth with Wealdstone this summer. I was proven wrong last season by Stuart Maynard and his team, who did a wonderful job of defying expectations and staying on the right-side of tight margin affairs. However, repeating the feat will be tricky. They have lost seven of their most used 11 players from last season. I don’t believe they have adequately replaced Josh Umerah’s presence in attack. I have doubts about this squad having the same desire and hunger to prove people wrong. Also, nine of their 14 victories last season came against the seven sides to finish below them in the table and the division won’t have as many weak sides in it this year.  

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