National League Promotion Predictions 2016-17
Is it really that time of year again? The new season is less than two weeks away, and managers are adding the final touches to their squads ahead of their respective promotion/relegation/mid table mediocrity campaigns. And with a new season comes a new set of predictions!
If you listen to Non League Podcast, you may have heard the team make their predictions over the last couple of shows. Here, I am going to put my selections in writing, and try and justify my choices!
It promises to be another fascinating season in nonleague’s top division. At the top, last season’s beaten playoff finalists Forest Green Rovers will be hoping to go one better this time around. However, they will face stiff competition from the likes of Tranmere Rovers, Torquay United, Wrexham and the teams relegated from League Two – York City and Dagenham & Redbridge. And that’s not forgetting potential dark horses like Gateshead or the promoted National South Uniteds, Maidstone and Sutton.
So who will make the leap into the Football League?
Last season, my choices were largely influenced by the players signed, particularly in attack. This time, it seems my attention has turned to the dugout for some of my choices. That is certainly the case here. I am going for Dagenham & Redbridge to make an immediate return to League Two, largely because of John Still. If there is one manager in the division who knows how to get out of it, it’s John Still. He has previously won the title on two occasions; with the Daggers in 2006-07, and Luton Town to finally get them promoted seven seasons later, after they had spent four seasons out of the league. Still is a legend at the club, having managed nearly six hundred games with them, and he knows how to get the best out of what he has to work with.
Make no mistake; the National League will be a tough, tough division this season, with no obvious clear favourite to take top spot come next April. It could be a good opportunity for a ‘dark horse’ to surprise everyone. However, now that the curse of the relegated clubs has been broken in the last two seasons with Bristol Rovers and Cheltenham Town getting promoted at the first attempt, I see no reason why it can’t happen again.
The North is another tough one to call, but again I have picked my choice based on who is in the dugout. For me, Billy Heath’s appointment at FC Halifax Town means the Shaymen will be back among nonleague’s elite in twelve months time. Like John Still, Heath knows the division well, having taken North Ferriby United up last season, the highest level the Villagers have ever reached. He also, of course, won the FA Trophy in 2015, and has delivered success and silverware in every campaign.
Heath has brought a few of the NFU squad with him to The Shay, most notably striker Tom Denton, and has also managed to keep hold of last season’s top scorer Jordan Burrow. The squad looks good, and for me they should be able to withstand the challenge of the likes of Salford City, Stockport County, AFC Fylde and FC United of Manchester. There are going to be some huge matches this season, and some big crowds too, and it certainly promises to be as exciting – if not more so – than the division above.
If Heath is going to deliver an immediate return to the top flight for FC Halifax, he is going to need all his considerable managerial acumen to overcome what is arguably one of the toughest divisions this season.
In the South, for me it is one of the ‘nearly men’ teams that will take the honours this season. Ebbsfleet United are my pick, and Daryl McMahon’s men should finally make it over the line this time around after two disappointing seasons at Step Two. The reason? Well, apart from their sizeable budget, I have actually reverted to last season’s rationale and looked at their striking options. In Bradley Bubb, Aaron McLean, Danny Kedwell and Charlie Sheringham they have four strikers who can all hit fifteen plus goals a season. If McMahon can utilise them well, they should be too much for most teams in this division to handle.
The Fleet currently have a small squad, but it is packed with quality. Nathan Ashmore is an excellent goalkeeper at this level – and the one above to be fair – and in the likes of John Paul Kissock, they have experience and expertise in the centre of the pitch.
As I said, they’ve had a couple of years in the South now, finishing a disappointing eighth last season and losing the playoff final to Dover the season before. However, they look to be in a strong position to hold off the likes of Whitehawk, Chelmsford City and Maidenhead United.
What do you think? How far off the mark am I in your opinion? Get in touch with your predictions by tweeting @undertheleague, or leave a comment below.
Posted on July 25, 2016, in National League, UTL Archive and tagged Billy Heath, Dagenham & Redbridge, Ebbsfleet United, FC Halifax Town, John Still, National League. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.