National League North Preview 20/21… if it happens!
Friday was a big day for news. Premier League funding was secured, meaning the season will start with the FA Cup tomorrow and the first round of league games on Tuesday. There was also some transfer news, including a double signing for Hereford in the form of two former Kidderminster players; Kennedy Digie and James McQuilkin. The standout signing is undoubtedly Jordan Hulme’s arrival at AFC Fylde from promoted Altrincham for an “undisclosed” fee. Wow.
Manager: Russ Penn
Title Odds: 33/1
Harriers have been inconsistent on and off the pitch in recent years, but it is hoped that former player Russ Penn is the man to change all that. One of the few full time teams in this league, Harriers will feel that they are better than their midtable positions of the last two years show and will look to push on towards the top seven. They have undertaken possibly their most significant overhaul of playing staff in recent times, with the likes of Ryan Johnson and Declan Weeks moving on. Today, Max Taylor joined on loan from Manchester United, whilst Omari Sterling-James and Amari Morgan Smith form 2/3’s of what could be an exciting front line alongside Ashley Hemmings.
Manager: Paul Holleran
Title Odds: 66/1
Paul Holleran’s side usually do two things: have a good young striker who moves on in January, and start the season exceptionally well. Last season, it was Josh March who followed in the footsteps of Colby Bishop. Of their 35 points, 14 were obtained in August alone, giving them some breathing space early on. Eyebrow raising marquee signings may not be The Brakes’ style, but Notts County’s Young Player of the Season of the last two years, Sam Osborne, is exactly that. Rushall striker Danny Waldron steps up to the NLN with a 48 in 125 record for the Step 3 outfit as he bids to become the next front man off the Holleran conveyor belt.
Manager: Liam Watson
Title Odds: 25/1
By now, everybody knows what to expect from a Liam Watson side, and we should expect no different from this season’s Sandgrounders side. The loss of behemoth centre half Ryan Astles to Welsh side TNS leaves a big hole at the back, which former Sunderland youngster Jack Bainbridge will look to fill. Mo Ali, another centre half, joins from Curzon Ashton after an impressive campaign for The Nash. Port have been rattling in the goals during pre-season against lower graded opposition, but in Marcus Carver, they have a front man who is tried and tested at the business end of this division.
Manager: Jason Ainsley
Title Odds: 8/1
Probably the biggest losers of the Points per Game settlement, dropping out of the play off positions, Ainsley’s Moors will surely enter the new season with a point to prove. Their transfer business lends credence to their desire to make a statement. Adam Blakeman will bring plenty to the side from left back as he joins from left back. Joe Tait and Adriano Moke join from title rivals York, whilst Frank Mulhern’s signing must excite the fans at Brewery Field as they savour the thought of his partnership with the prolific Glen Taylor.
19/20: 2nd (lost in Play Off Quarter Finals)
Manager: Steve Watson
Title Odds: 2/1 favs
If Spennymoor thought they were mistreated by PPG, spare a thought for Watson’s York, who were two points clear at the break but finished behind Kings Lynn after the final calculation. To add insult to injury, they then fell at the first hurdle in the play offs. Cue the clear out. Gone are the likes of Moke, Steve McNulty and Jordan Burrow to name a few but do not think for a moment that York are weakening their squad. Jack Redshaw of Salford fame joins, as do Akil Wright, 6’4 centre back Matty Brown and former Dover midfielder Mike Woods. Former Stevenage striker Jake Cassidy also checks in as The Minstermen look for a successful first season in their new stadium.