Football fans across the country are counting down the days until the new 2019/20 campaign kicks off and with that in mind, BT Sport pundits have done some predicting.
Adam Virgo, Adam Summerton and Matt Smith have given their predictions for the National League title winner, the surprise package, the golden boot and one to watch.
Take a look below at what they had to say, a it’s fair to say there are some surprises…
THE TITLE WINNER:
Adam Virgo said, as quoted on the National League website: Chesterfield finished last season very well, just like Leyton Orient did the year before. That build-up of good momentum will be crucial. The Spireites have good options in attack and have signed very well over the summer.
Adam Summerton revealed: Barnet also remind me a little bit of Leyton Orient this time last year. After a mid-season managerial change they finished the previous campaign reasonably strongly and, perhaps crucially, they have not made many changes over the summer – there is some all-important continuity. Barnet were also very unlucky with injuries last season and had to do without key players for long periods. Their performances in the FA Cup last season in particular showed what this group of players is capable of. If they can get Shaq Coulthirst scoring regularly and keep Andre Boucaud fit, Barnet could have a real chance.
Matt Smith thought: No shock here as I’m going for Chesterfield. They’ve been very impressive since John Sheridan took the reins, including when I saw them in the spring beat Sutton United convincingly. A good Manager, good recruitment and an all-round good Club. AFC Fylde will also be up there again I think, and could definitely challenge.
THE SURPRISE PACKAGE:
Adam Virgo: Bromley are a side that have been pushing top seven and I now see it as their time to bridge that gap. I feel manager Neil Smith has signed some good National League players. Overall, they have an excellent set-up from top to bottom at the Club. Bromley will certainly be a contender for those play-off spots again.
Adam Summerton: The performances of several promoted sides in recent National League history has taught us not to over-estimate the gap between the fifth and sixth tiers, and not to under-estimate how far the feel-good factor of promotion can take a Club. Stockport have a very savvy and experienced manager in Jim Gannon, who’s kept faith with much of the squad that won the North title, so they also have some crucial continuity. Stockport will be well supported too – only three National League Clubs had a higher average gate than The Hatters did last season in the league below.
Matt Smith: Notts County could be anything. They’ve had some good news off the field and, if they can settle things down, they can be a real force on it. Because they have had a messy summer up to this point, they will need to recruit well in this busy period of the season.
THE GOLDEN BOOT WINNER:
Adam Virgo: Everyone will say Danny Rowe, but I will go with Paul McCallum to be different. Solihull rely on balls into the box and that fits in nicely with Paul’s strength. He scored a large amount of headed goals last season and will want to carry that form into another good season in front of goal.
Adam Summerton: It’s hard to look past Danny Rowe when you consider he is still only 29, has been the League’s Player of the Year for the last two seasons and will be playing in a Fylde side that’s been bolstered over the summer. The arrival of two wide men in Matty Kosylo and Mark Yeates could also provide him with even more ammunition to fire.
Matt Smith: Danny Rowe is the obvious choice, though Paul McCallum will surely rattle them in at Solihull Moors. One question on my mind regarding this is- can JJ Hooper finally fix Wrexham’s search for a fox in the box?
THE PLAYER TO WATCH:
Adam Virgo: I’m a fan of Barnet’s Jack Taylor. He is an excellent footballer and one of the best talents in the National League. For me, he can go to a higher level. It’s a big season for Barnet and it’ll be good to see how he leads in midfield, possibly taking Barnet into promotion or play-off contention.
Adam Summerton: I’ve been very impressed with Jack Taylor whenever I’ve seen him. His technical ability, for this level, is excellent and I thought he really began to mature last season, something rewarded with international recognition with Republic of Ireland U21s. It’ll be interesting to see if he can kick on again this season.
Matt Smith: I always enjoy watching Nick Haughton at AFC Fylde play, and the arriving Mark Yeates will add even more creativity to an easy on the eye side. I also like Jack Emmett and Josh Falkingham at Harrogate. In terms of strikers, Alfie Pavey at Dover could go well this year.
Afterwards, the National League asked for the fans’ thoughts on the same categories, fair to say there was a mixed response – find out what they had to say on the next page.