Although the allocations have not yet been confirmed by the National League, next season will no doubt feature an influx of teams from above and below, many of whom will fancy their chances of taking that one precious automatic promotion spot on offer.
Torquay United were a Football League club as recently as 2013-14, but have had a steady slide down the pyramid since then, finishing 18th in last season’s National League and being relegated to the 6th level of English football for the first time since their Western League days back in the 1920s. Granted, the current Torquay team is a a shadow of it’s former self and crowds have dwindled since their League Two relegation, but they are still likely to post a threat and will be a team that people are afraid of.
Also joining us from the National League will be Woking, who were last at this level when they won the title in the 2011-12 season. The Cards were relegated on the final day of the season after losing 2-1 at Dover and, with average home crowds of over 2000, are clearly well supported. They will be desperate for an immediate return to non-league’s top division and will pose a real threat next season.
Coming up from below are our old landlords Billericay Town who, despite stuttering towards the end of the season, were able to comfortably claim the Isthmian League Premier title. We can expect them to add to their team of overpaid ex-professionals with plenty more bodies and they will be likely to attract even more big names. Owner/manager/saviour-in-chief Glenn Tamplin will not want to hang around at this measly level, and will no doubt be going all out to dominate the league with his big guns.
Also clinching promotion from the Isthmian League was Dulwich Hamlet who, but for Billericay’s big bucks, would’ve dominated the division themselves. As it turned out, they had to do things the hard way and earned their shot at the National South with a penalty shoot-out win over Hendon in front over 3300 fans. Expect a huge following for the Hamlet and, despite being kicked out of their own ground by greedy developers, a large following both home (wherever that ends up being) and away.
The Southern League title went to Hereford, the phoenix club of former League Two side Hereford United who have making their way back up the pyramid and are a side to be feared. Fortunately for City fans, it looks like The Bulls will be sent to the National North, which is just as well given that they amassed an impressive 113 points last season.
Slough Town though, who saw off King’s Lynn in the play-offs, will be joining us though. Whilst they perhaps don’t come with the same media hype as the likes of Billericay and Dulwich, they shouldn’t be underestimated. Traditionally, promoted clubs have done well in the National South directly following their promotion – City themselves qualified for the play-offs at the first time of asking, whilst Poole and Hungerford would’ve both repeated that feat last season had their grounds been up to scratch.
Couple these sides with the likes of Dartford, Welling, St Albans and ourselves and it’s likely to be an incredibly competitive National South next season. With so much attention likely to be on other sides (read: the Billacticos), City could well benefit from slipping under the radar and, presuming we are able to put together a squad as good as we have managed in the last two years, we should be competitive once again.
Now, if only this dang Betsi deal would see itself to fruition we could really start making some waves…