With a week to go until non-league begins its venture into the new season of 2016-2017, I decided that it was a good time to look at the potential teams who could be causing a shock throughout the season.
10. AFC Fylde
The Lancashire-based club and Vanarama National North side come in at number ten on the list, due to the fact that ever since joining the league in the 2014-2015 season they have suffered playoff losses, with a semi-final and final defeats in their two seasons in the sixth tier. Fylde will surely be going into the new league season hungrier than ever for success. The Coasters are led by former Bury defender Dave Challinor who enters his sixth season in charge of the side and will be looking to finally bring success to his side and get them into the highest tier of non-league football.
9. Braintree Town F.C
Braintree will be keen to avenge the playoff semi-final defeat that they suffered last season at the hands of Grimsby Town, where they lost 2-1 after extra-time in the second leg. With former West Ham United winger Anthony Edgar keen to finally prove himself at a club, Braintree fans will be excited to see their side step out onto the pitch for the first game of the season come the 6th August under new manager and Welling United legend Jamie Day.
8. Wealdstone F.C
Wealdstone have been waiting to come out of their shell a little bit and I feel that this season may finally be the season that they achieve this. The Stones have a strike force to be feared by all defences in the league, with journeyman Scott McGleish and former Torquay United striker Elliot Benyon who will be determined to lead their team to a strong season for the London club. Wealdstone also have the most experienced manager in the league in the form of Gordon Bartlett, heading into his 22nd season in charge at the club. Wealdstone fans can only begin to dream about what could be at the end of the season.
7. Lincoln City F.C
Lincoln have been making steady progress for a few years and have gone relatively unnoticed until now, but this season may be the one in which they come back onto the footballing scene again. The Imps have club legend and captain Alan Power set to boss things from the centre of midfield, as well as newly appointed manager Danny Cowley, assisted by his brother Nicky Cowley. The Cowley brothers have previously led Concord Rangers to three promotions, and last season took Braintree to the playoff final, so there is a lot of pressure on the managerial duo to succeed now. Lincoln fans will be hoping they do.
6. Bath City F.C
Bath’s fans and board know that they are in safe hands with former Sunderland midfielder and Forest Green Rovers manager Gary Owers set to lead his side out in his first full season in his second spell at Twerton Park. Owers has adopted to the current financial problems around the club and has done his deals wisely, with Sutton United title winner Stuart Fleetwood and journeyman striker Marvin Morgan being the pick of the new faces around the club.
5. Weston-super-Mare AFC
Bath City’s derby rivals and fierce competitors Weston-super-Mare make the top five just ahead of Bath. Ryan Northmore will take his side into the new season with pressure on his shoulders from the club’s fans, and having lost star striker Scott Wilson to Eastleigh in the summer, Tristan Plummer and club captain Dayle Grubb will need to step up to make the rest of the Vanarama League South quake in their boots. The Seagulls will be hoping that they can once again reach the heights of the top half of the table and cause a few shocks in the league.
4. Taunton Town F.C
The Somerset-based club has been on the up in recent seasons, having made the Southern League Divison One South and West Play-Offs for the past two seasons in a row. With manager Leigh Robinson entering his fifth season in charge of the club, the Taunton fans and board alike will be hoping that this could be the season that Taunton can finally pull themselves up to the 7th tier of English football for the first ever time.
3. Salford City F.C
With the class of ’92 (Paul Scholes, Phil Neville, Gary Neville, Nicky Butt and Ryan Giggs) in charge of the Manchester-based club, the Salford fans can dream as the club embark on a new adventure in the Vanarama National League North. With joint-managers Anthony Johnson and Bernard Morley instructing a highly disciplined training regime to get the players fit and ready for the new season, the whole of Salford will be expecting to see their small club be transformed into a huge one by the class of 92, and potentially even push for a playoff place for the end of the 2016/2017 season.
2. Basingstoke Town F.C
The recently-relegated Basingstoke Town will be looking forward to the upcoming season in the Southern Football League Premier Divison. With a new link being announced with QPR a few months ago to enable QPR youngsters experience on loan with Basingstoke, the Hampshire-based side will be able to push forward and try to gain promotion to the Vanarama Conference South at the first time of asking under former Wimbledon and Margate manager Terry Brown.
1. Margate F.C
Despite the CEO of the club, Ryan Day, having departed in the last few days, things on the pitch could not be looking better for The Gate. With non-league striker Elliot Buchanan a new signing for the club, Margate fans are excited to see former Margate goalkeeper and Aldershot legend Nikki Bull take charge for his first full season as manager. After narrowly escaped relegation last season due to now-Eastleigh striker Scott Wilson scoring for Weston-super-Mare against Havant & Waterlooville, Margate are expected to learn from their narrow escape and push for a playoff spot this time around.