National League Preview: How every team is shaping up for 2018/19
Despite only gaining promotion from the National North recently, Salford City have been installed as the bookies favourites before a ball is kicked. Owned by the famed 'Class of 92', they have the financial backing that none can rival at this level. Fellow big spenders AFC Fylde made the play-offs last year, but could well push Salford all the way for the title this time around. The two relegated sides, Chesterfield and Barnet, will expect to be involved in the title race, but it may not be as easy as fans think. Leyton Orient are the other team most likely to gain promotion back to the Football League.
At the other end of the table, Gateshead has a new owner, but the majority of their squad from last season has left and they are now part-time, making them the favourites to go down. Solihull Moors and Barrow who only just survived last season also look in trouble. Newly promoted sides Braintree Town and Havant and Waterlooville from the National South are also expected to be in the relegation mix.
The league as a whole though is very open and with six play-off spots up for grabs, most of the teams in the division will fancy a run at them if they start well.
Manager: Gary Waddock
Last season: 5th
Remaining needs: A proven striker, their top scorer last season was Scott Rendell who only scored 12. To challenge the top few they need somebody who can fire them to promotion.
Season outlook: Waddock’s side have reached the play-offs in the last two seasons, and the fans will expect them to be involved again come May.
Manager: John Still
Last season: 23rd League Two, Relegated
Remaining needs: Having brought in a host of new players including four from Dagenham and Redbridge, the key will be bringing the squad together.
Season outlook: Barnet have become a yo-yo club in out of the Football League over the last decade, but look less likely than Chesterfield to bounce straight back.
Manager: Ian Evatt
Last season: 20th
Remaining needs: Experience in defence. The new manager has brought in several young players. Defence was their problem last season, and in a relegation fight, they need an old head to help steer them to safety.
Season outlook: Ian Evatt has come in as manager, his first full-time position after being caretaker at Chesterfield. He faces a huge task with a side who only stayed up in the final weeks of last season. With the strength of the sides that have been promoted, it could be even harder for Barrow to keep their place in the National League.
Manager: Luke Garrard
Last season: 4th
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Remaining needs: Replacing their top scorer. Last seasons main marksman for them was Portuguese striker Bruno Andrade, who has joined Lincoln City. They need somebody to fill those huge boots if they're to challenge.
Season outlook: Last year’s play-off finalists will be looking to go one better this year. However, with a lot of impressive teams, it may be even tougher this time around.
Manager: Brad Quinton
Last season: 6th National League South, Promoted via playoffs
Remaining needs: Promotion last season came despite a poor defensive record, Michael Clark has been brought in to help in this position, but more cover may be needed if they are to stay in the division.
Season outlook: They will be a side others expect to struggle this year. Further signings will be required to stay out of relegation troubles.
Manager: Neil Smith
Last season: 9th
Remaining needs: Louise Dennis and Josh Rees, last year’s two top scorers have both left for League One clubs. No permanent striker has been brought in to replace their missing goals and this could prove costly.
Season outlook: The losing FA Trophy finalists league form dipped last year following their cup run; ending their play-off hopes in the process. Losing their top two scorers from last season will make it much harder to match their achievements this season, a mid-table finish wouldn’t be the worst campaign.
Manager: Martin Allen
Last season: 24th League Two, Relegated
Remaining needs: A huge amount of comings and goings have taken place over the summer, gelling together will be the key.
Season outlook: Experienced manager Martin Allen has come in after being in charge of Barnet, who joined Chesterfield in being relegated out of the Football League in May. On paper at least, they should challenge for the title, but history shows that very few bounce straight back into the Football League at the first time of asking.
Manager: Peter Taylor
Last season: 11th
Remaining needs: Taylor has opted to bring in several players on loan, while also looking towards potential stars of the future. However, they may lack the experience required to compete against professionals on a weekly basis.
Season outlook: Another side who have had a major overhaul in an attempt to push them on towards the Football League. They could be a surprise package if the new players click. Former England manager Peter Taylor has taken over during the summer, but in recent years he's had very little success in the game.
Manager: Richard Hill
Last season: 14th
Remaining needs: Eastleigh were arguably the most entertaining side last season. They scored several, while also leaking a fair few goals too.... Three defenders have come in and they need to turn their poor record at the back around; or more will need to be brought in.
Season outlook: Andy Hessenthaler guided them to safety last year and a mid-table finish is the best they can hope for again. If they don’t start well in the first months, they could easily get dragged into trouble.
Manager: Chris Kinnear
Last season: 8th
Remaining needs: In comparison to those above them, the number of goals scored was their problem last season, particularly from midfield. Only one player scored double figures for Dover in 2017/18 season; this is where they need to improve.
Season outlook: Athletic only missed out on the play-offs on goal difference during the most recent campaign, largely thanks to boasting the second best defensive record in the division. If they can keep it tight again, they could be an outside bet for promotion.
Manager: Daryl McMahon
Last season: 6th
Remaining needs: A lack of signings is a risk they are taken when all around them are strengthening.
Season outlook: Play-off semi-finalist’s Ebbsfleet could easily be overlooked ahead of the season, but still should be considered top seven contenders. David McMahon has been in charge for three seasons now and is sticking with those who nearly took them up last year.
Manager: Dave Challinor
Last season: 7th
Remaining needs: Ryan Croasdale has joined for £50k from Kidderminster, but Ashley Hemmings may be their biggest bargain. Everything is in place with those they now have.
Season outlook: Fylde were top scorers last season after finishing seventh in their first campaign at this level. They have money and lofty ambitions, while hoping for a play-off finish at the very least. They should be aiming for automatic promotion, though.
Manager: Steve Watson
Last season: 17th
Remaining needs: Experience all over the pitch, along with players who have game time at this level.
Season outlook: Steve Watson remains in charge, but their main change over the summer is their new owner. Many of the squad were released before the takeover was confirmed and those that stayed are on part-time time contracts. Survival has to be their only goal
Manager: Jamie Fullarton
Last season: 16th
Remaining needs: Of all the National Premier sides, Halifax scored the least of those teams that were not relegated. They have brought in several strikers with experience of this level, but suppling them from midfield will be the key.
Season outlook: Jamie Fullarton took over last February and took the side to safety. Another mid-table finish would be an achievement, in comparison to most in this division, they do not have the finances to compete.
Manager: Simon Weaver
Last season: 2nd National League North, Promoted
Remaining needs: In the National North it was their attacking displays that got them promoted. Their defence will be tested more at this level and may need to be strengthened.
Season outlook: A young manager and a young side with plenty of potential. Will be looking to stabilise at this level after promotion. Should have more than enough to stay up with the quality they have.
Manager: Matthew Bates
Last season: 15th
Remaining needs: Defenders Scott Harrison and Liam Donnelly have left to go north of the border. The pair are the most crucial players Bates needs to replace.
Season outlook: A new manager and a new owner at the back end of last season stopped a sliding ship. They should now be in a position to push on this year, but the play-offs may be just out of reach.
Manager: Lee Bradbury
Last season: 1st National League South, Promoted
Remaining needs: They've made very few changes over the summer and not many players with experience at this level, which could be their undoing.
Season outlook: Lee Bradbury is one of the longest-serving managers in the division, and has earned his rewards with back-to-back promotions. If they can stay up this year they will have done well and with momentum, they have a great chance.
Manager: Justin Edinburgh
Last season: 13th
Remaining needs: Not many have joined over the summer, but the ones who have come with experience higher up the ladder. One or two players may be all they need to challenge for promotion.
Season outlook: Last year Orient were expecting to be promoted at the first time of asking. This time around the club is a much more stable and in a better position to challenge. If they can get off to a better start, they have every opportunity to be celebrating next May.
Manager: Alan Devonshire
Last season: 12th
Remaining needs: A mid-table side who concede too many goals to challenge for the top seven. Three of their four signings are defenders who will hope to change that.
Season outlook: Finished a strong twelve last term, and another finish in mid-table would be an achievement. More likely to be pulled down into a relegation fight then challenging higher up the table.
Manager: Jay Saunders
Last season: 19th
Remaining needs: They have stuck with their strategy of bringing in a host of young players from youth sides, but will need more experienced heads if they are to steer clear of a relegation fight.
Season outlook: Despite links with other clubs, Jay Saunders is still in charge and hoping to keep the side in the division for another season.
Manager: Graham Alexander
Last season: 1st National League North, Promoted
Remaining needs: On paper, the squad they have should be enough to see them win the title and promotion at the first time of asking.
Season outlook: New manager Graham Alexander has a squad others could only dream of at this level. Salford are clear title favourites despite just being promoted to this league. The new manager needs to hit the ground running or will be under pressure, but they should have enough to seal a Football League place for this time next year.
Manager: Tim Flowers
Last season: 18th
Remaining needs: Back room experience. On the pitch, they will struggle with the players they currently have. However, the managers lack of experience is likely to show.
Season outlook: After Gateshead, they are the second favourites to go down. They only just survived last season, former England keeper Tim Flowers takes the helm with very little experience. I struggle to see them in this division next year.
Manager: Paul Doswell
Last season: 3rd
Remaining needs: Another long-term manager, Doswell has been building his squad over some time. If anything, they need a couple of extra players with that killer instinct, which is what they lacked most last campaign.
Season outlook: Remained in the top two or three for the majority of last season. May again fly under the radar compared to some of the bigger named clubs at this level. Too good to be given the dark horse for the title honour, but the others should keep an eye out for them.
Manager: Sam Ricketts
Last season: 10th
Remaining needs: Ricketts has brought a lot of players in from all over the lower leagues. They conceded the least goals last season but couldn’t score enough. At least one of these new signings needs to hit the ground running.
Season outlook: This is somewhat of a gamble for Wrexham, as giving a budding manager their first opportunity usually goes one of two ways. The club has stagnated at this level for too long now, and they will be hoping a complete change will be able to give them more success. However, it is tough to see much more for them then another mid-table finish.