DF Previews…

Ben previews his teams upcoming season.

Crewe Alex

Manager: David Artell

Last season: 12th   

key player 

Perry Ng is the real standout player in terms of quality.  He deserves to be playing at a much higher level but the state of the football market means clubs are reluctant to spend money on defenders when there are so many on free transfers.  

The joy of watching Crewe is watching young players progress and improve.  Many players tend to have a dozen good games before dropping in form as the adrenalin from being a new player runs out and the test is whether they come good after that introduction.  One player this applies to is Tommy Lowry (“Miniesta”) who at 3ft tall standing on stilts sticks out on the pitch.  He was first name on the team sheet at the start of 2017-2018 season but by Christmas had fallen out of favour.  End of last season he was back in the team and coming up with an assist or two every game.  If he carries that on then we will have a good season.

Other promising players include Ryan Wintle who is the anchor of midfield, Olly Finney who broke through last season, and Harry Pickering.  Owen Dale and Charlie Kirk provide flare up front in very different ways.  Either one can win you a match but not be seen for a month after

SIGNINGS SO FAR

Daniel Powell – signed from Northampton.  Looks fantastic in preseason (don’t they all) and a good replacement for Jordan Bowery who had the look of a great striker, but the ability to control a ball further than most players can kick one.

Ollie Lancashire – signed from Swindon.  Looks a good player on paper but then again so did Michael Raynes when we signed him.

Who TO SIGN

There are forwards and defenders on trial but one of the problems at Crewe is that every player brought in is a block to an academy player coming through.  I’d be more than happy to go with what we have up top.  In defence we are low in numbers with only Nicky Hunt and a young lad with a couple of appearances to his name as back up to the first choice 4.  Realistically it will be a cheap young centre back which will come in. 

EXPECTED FINISH

Play offs seen realistic given our form the second half of last season.  We had near the best home form in the league so sorting out the away form will be the deciding factor. 

EXCITING GAME

Macclesfield away.  Proper old ground, local derby, crammed away stand.

TROPHY?

Usually a good bet for the fair play award, although if Artell’s antics on the side line are anything to go by then this is unlikely.

DF Previews…

Luke previews his teams upcoming season.

Sunderland

Manager: Jack Ross

Last season: 5th   

key player 

Aiden McGeady. Throughout his career he has always been a player who can create something from nothing, but finally delivered consistently last season, albeit in League One. McGeady has matured into a real leader and our season fell apart after he broke his foot with 8 games to go last year.

SIGNINGS SO FAR

Three so far – Conor McLaughlin (right back) from Millwall and Lee Burge (goalkeeper) and Jordan Willis (centre back) from Coventry. Our 2ndchoice right back and 2ndand 3rdchoice goalkeepers all left in the summer so McLaughlin and Burge have been signed as backup, but there are high hopes for Willis, who by all accounts turned down offers from the Championship to come here. Our centre backs were so poor last season and really cost us at times, although signing Coventry’s goalkeeper and defender doesn’t exactly fill you with confidence given put 4 past them (but still lost 5-4!) towards the end of last season. 

Who TO SIGN

We were strongly linked with Marcus Maddison from Peterborough at the start of the summer – who is from the area and would have been an excellent signing – but that seems to have cooled off. Otherwise, we’re crying out for pace and athleticism in midfield. We have a lot of midfielders who are all quite similar – some quality on the ball, but slow and immobile. That is the root of most of our problems – the strikers are isolated and feed off scraps because there is no link between the midfield and attack, but but the midfield is often overran by more powerful, physical opposition. I was really impressed by Joe Aribo from Charlton who has since moved to Rangers, he is exactly the type of player we lack.

EXPECTED FINISH

We hovered between 2ndand 3rdmost of last season and were seconds away from extra time in the play-off final, so logically you’d think we’re not too far away from automatic promotion. However, performances seemed to get worse as the season went on before unravelling completely in the final few weeks, so the jury is out. I’d expect to finish comfortably in the play-offs again, but a lot depends on who we bring in whether or not we break into the top 2. We only lost twice between August and April last year, but drew 19 out of 46 and really need to learn to kill teams off if we’re to challenge.

EXCITING GAME

Portsmouth. We play them at home very early in the season and I’d expect there to be an edge to the game – we played them 5 times last season including the Checkatrade Trophy Final and play-off semi-finals, where a couple of their fans tried to attack one of our players during the game.

TROPHY?

I’d expect us to compete for the Checkatrade Trophy again, but otherwise I’d be surprised if we made it through to the 3rdround of the FA Cup, nevermind challenge for a ‘proper’ trophy.

DF Previews…

Adam previews his teams upcoming season.

Coventry

Manager: Mark Robins

Last season: 8th   

key player 

Jamie Allen 

SIGNINGS SO FAR

Gervane Kastaneer

Dan Bartlett

Josh Pask

Wesley Jobello

Fankaty Dabo

Ben Wilson

Marko Marosi 

Kyle McFadzean

Micheal Rose

Jamie Allen – My favourite. Proven Division One player who will strengthen our midfield and add that bit of bite since Michael Doyle left.

Who TO SIGN

Bright Enobakhare – had him on loan from a Wolves last season and has been linked with another loan move back to ourselves for a further period. A gifted player who made a massive difference when he came to us last year, when he’s on form he’s unstoppable at Division One level.

EXPECTED FINISH

10th – I think we’ll play away from home as we did last year, but with our move to play our home games at St Andrews Birmingham will hinder our chances of pushing on further in Division One this year, a huge disappointment that an agreements couldn’t be made to keep us in Coventry. 

EXCITING GAME

Sunderland home & away – no love lost here, they still hold a grudge from many years ago when we stayed up and they were relegated on the final day of the season. Extra fuel has been added to the fire this season as three of our promotion winning team have joined them.

TROPHY?

No – a play off place would be a huge result for us this season

@adamursell on Twitter.

DF Previews…

George previews his teams upcoming season.

SALFORD CITY

Manager: Graham Alexander

Last season: 2nd (Promoted via Play-Offs)

key player 

Adam Rooney. Top scorer last season, Rooney has played at the top level in Scotland which should hopefully stand him in good stead for a season in League 2. His physicality and nack of being in the right place at the right time could be key.

SIGNINGS SO FAR

Richie Towell, Dan Jones, Oscar Threlkeld, Kyle Letheren, Joey Jones. The signing of Towell is an exciting one. Towell was on loan at Rotherham in the Championship last year making over 30 appearances for them, so a drop down to League 2 should really make him one of the stand out players in the division.

Who TO SIGN

There’s been some talk of David Wheater coming in, which at league 2 level would be a brilliant signing. His mix of experience and presence at the back could be a really solid foundation to build the team on. Other than that full back cover should be a priority, as should a pacey winger and another striker.

EXPECTED FINISH

Play offs. Looking at the other teams in the league I don’t think there is too many stand out teams who could dominate. With 3 automatic promotion places and the 4 play off positions, a top 7 finish should really be the minimum expectation.

EXCITING GAME

Bradford City away is a huge game for a club like Salford. To come from where Salford have come to then be playing against an ex Premier League time like Bradford is an incredible journey. 

TROPHY?

The only trophy on offer is the Checkatrade trophy. Most teams don’t really care about the trophy, with poor attended games last season. This could give Salford a real chance to sneak in another appearance at Wembley.

@GeorgeBG123 on Twitter.

Non-League x Altrincham

Non-League x Altrincham. Passion.

I joined Altrincham Football Clubs media team in 2017 and have been an integral member ever since From my own experiences I couldn’t recommend a better starting block for aspiring journalists than Non-League.

Now you may think that Non-League footballers are just overweight workmen that just turn up on a Saturday to kick a bit of ball around, but it is almost the opposite in terms of commitment and fitness.

In fact, the two training sessions a week seem measly compared to that of the professionals but it does require a certain level of commitment to train and play upwards of 50 games in a season (dependent on how far you get in various cup competitions.)

Altrincham are a massive club in the Non-League game having a proud record of the most ‘Giant Killings’ in the FA Cup for a team that has never seen the dizzy heights of the Football League.

Playing football that is very unlike the traditional Non-League ‘punt the ball up to the tall striker so the small striker can score’ style, Altrincham play along the floor, using the pitch’s greasy surface to their advantage. An approach that saw them reach the play-offs in the 6th tier of English football last season.

Non-League can be more engaging for fans, with the stands rarely more than a couple of metres from the goal line; a nightmare for shot-stoppers as there is little you can do to avoid the tirade of abuse, something Premier League ‘keepers will rarely have to deal with.

The connection between the players and fans is too a commodity of lower league football, with some fans often choosing to travel with the players on the coach to away games. Perhaps keeping the players grounded and close to their roots.

Players and staff take time to thank people for their support in post-match interviews, showing their gratitude to them after the final whistle and sitting in the Community Sports Hall with them after the game.

Gripping games last season including Altrincham vs Blyth Spartans in the play-off quarter finals that saw the Robins (Altrincham) victorious on penalties. Games like this can show that Non-League can be even more gripping than derby games in the Premier League, tension is part of football no matter what league you are in.

If you are a fan of a Non-League football team you keep the players families fed, the club from going into administration and adding to the managers transfer budget just by the mere fee you pay to watch the game.

Clubs like Altrincham have ‘Patron Schemes’ which mean you give a small fee every month which goes towards running the club and adding to Phil Parkinson’s (manager of Altrincham) budget to bring in the players he identifies as transfer targets, something he’s been fortunate to achieve since joining Alty, with major scalps including Nathan Arnold being in Parkinsons repertoire of signings.

In my opinion a team in the 6th tier of English football is more fulfilling to be a part of than those in the Premier League, you matter more to the club because they rely on your business. 

A club like Manchester City won’t miss out if you don’t turn up to a game, but it is more noticeable in Non-League grounds, with small attendances the norm, as they strive to get people interested in the game and supporting the local team. 

Non-League football is on the way up, more and more people are going to games each season, with a New Years Day fixture between Altrincham and Stockport County having an attendance of 3383.

Go and support your local club!

Finley White