How’s It Gonna End? — National League 21/22

The gateway to the Football League is re-opening, and though it’s pretty feckin’ squeaky and doesn’t really like letting folk have the opportunity to pass through it when it’s super feckin’ hard to get through it anyways — it’s back with a feckin’ bang.

Last year, I had a wee CONFERENCE CALL about the league and where all the teams were gonna end up, and this year, there’s no call, but I’m doing the same thing.

I give myself a score based off the difference in my predictions and where the team actually finishes, for example, if I predict Dover to crash and burn in 23rd, but they actually swing all the way up to 15th, that would be a score -8.

These were my results from last year.
I got -130. The worst I could’ve done was -242, so I was right in the average pack there. I actually did half-decent on most of them, but just shit the bed on six or seven in a big way.

23 sides will be predicted, and with relegation put off last year, we have just two fresh ‘uns joining us. Grimsby are back after a few years out, and for the first time in over a century, Southend will be joining us.

Also, it’s gonna be banger seeing the National League North and South back after what feels like an eon away from us.

But for the National League, let’s see how I get on and if I can claw my way down to double digits.

Just how is the 21/22 National League season gonna end?

— —

ALDERSHOT TOWN

They’ve been meandering their way through recently, having to drop names, but picking up reliable replacements. This has happened once again with the departures of Rees and Kandi rebutted with the likes of Lokko and Oxlade-Chamberlain (not that one). They’ve maintained a strong base that’ll see them outmuscle enough sides to steer clear of danger, if not threaten any higher.

Prediction: 14th

ALTRINCHAM

The promoted sides struggled last season, but Alty did the best out of any of ’em and now they’ve all got a free swing at the fifth tier, the heat is on. Altrincham have sought out experience, albeit not specifically at this level; the signings of Leitch-Smith and Pringle leap off the page, and I’m sure they’ll do some damage, but even with those remaining — Sutton, Hancock, Kosylo — it’ll be a scrape-by job.

Prediction: 19th

BARNET

It would be fair to say that Barnet stumbled last season. It would also be fair to say that they absolutely stacked it and fell in a well and that they were just lucky that the well had been bricked over. Bassey brought some stability, but he jogged on and The Bees brought in the much more stable Harry Kewell. ‘Cos there’s nothing more stable than a manager still adjusting to the job in general. He does have experience, and Barnet and Harry feel like a good fit, but with a host of players hitting the bricks, it was always gonna be a toughie.
Recruitment has been fair sound like, and the likes of Marriott, Powell, Tasdemir, Brundle, and Widdowson could so a fine job. Combine them with those standouts that stayed — Richards-Everton, Taylor, Fonguck, and Mason-Clarke — and baby, they got a stew going at The Hive. It’s in the slow-cooker though.

Prediction: 18th

BOREHAM WOOD

I always think they’ve got it in them to be right up there in the National League, but each season it seems as if their small squad holds them back. It’s obviously a difficult time to have a sizable squad, and to be fair, they’re always packed with stars of this level. This season they’ve lost their main man up top, Tshimanga, but they’ve brought in Josh Rees and Jacob Mendy. I’m expecting another dangerous dash through the league to be interrupted by periods of fatigue that ultimately cost them their place up top.

Prediction: 11th

BROMLEY

I’ll be honest, last season I couldn’t see where the danger in this side was. I knew Michael Cheek score goals, but that didn’t equate to a play-off spot in my noggin. Now they’ve lost Raymond and Kizzi, and yet… I see it. The vicious strike-force to be supplied by the likes of Coulson, and Bingham, and Trotter, with the fort held down by Cousins, Partington, Webster, Bush, and Roberts. It’s a tight side, and a frustrating one that I think could push just as far, if not further than they did last time out.

Prediction: 6th

CHESTERFIELD

James Rowe took ’em and shook some sense into ’em. They’re one of the biggest clubs in the league and they’re gonna start acting like it — throwing their weight around a bit. With that, they’ve assembled an almost all-star side at this level, with Scott Loach and Kabango Tshimanga coming on board. These are the players who will assist the ascent, and though they’ve been saddled with a slew of departures, they’ve held fast, and they will come out the other side into a bright, new day.

Prediction: 1st

DAGENHAM & REDBRIDGE

Not a tonne of arrivals in a squad that seems to know who and what they are. McMahon will have helped that along. Of their few departures, there have been some big ones, but they’ve been left with a squad full of players who all have a place here and a job to do. It’ll be a determined side that might be figured out at times, but that’ll never stop fighting — and while that might not always go all the way, it’ll still go a long way.

Prediction: 8th

DOVER ATHLETIC

It’s a baptism of fire. To come back in now is gonna be the hardest challenge this club has ever faced. Free transfers and loans have been their best friends, but they still largely host a lot of untested and inexperienced talent. Reda Johnson and Ofori-Twumasi are great pick-ups for their back line, and Ricky Miller is gonna have to be the talisman again, but it’s still gonna be a slog. There’s just a part of me that smells a great escape on the cards.
Probably my nose.
And yes, I am taking into account their points deduction. I just wanna believe.

Prediction: 20th

EASTLEIGH

The Spitfires always do a bit of alright, and this season will be no different. Their defence could be one of the best in the league, as although they’ve lost Partington and Tomlinson from the wings, the middle is solid as a rock — Hare and Wynter together again, blocking the superb McDonnell, who probably don’t need it anyways. They’ve options going forward, and tricky ones at that — certainly players capable of lighting up like the 5th of November. But the flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long, and that form don’t seem to last.

Prediction: 13th

GRIMSBY TOWN

Right, this is a startling squad to be bringing to the National League, and I’ve no doubt several of them will turn up. But I’ve also no doubt that many won’t. We’ve seen what the power game brings to this league, without experience, it can be rendered useless. But Grimsby won’t be useless, they just won’t shoot straight back up unbeaten. Players will hit snags and confidence will wain at times, but they’ll always be a force to be reckoned with, all the way to the very end.

Prediction: 2nd

HALIFAX TOWN

Another small, tight squad, and this time they’ve lost big names in Earing, King, Hyde, and Byrne. It’s always hard to replace a spine, and The Shaymen will not find it right away. They’ll have to sloop through seeing what they can pick up from lower down. They’ve a good manager and a good philosophy, and I’m sure they’ll be okay, but it won’t always be an easy watch.

Prediction: 17th

KING’S LYNN TOWN

They’ve lost a lot. When Halifax lost a spine, they had legs to fall back on, King’s Lynn don’t really have that. They’ve knocked some makeshift stilts together, and even put some decent work into it, but they’re unsteady and they’re gonna topple. The experience isn’t there, and the quality will be fleeting.

Prediction: 22nd

MAIDENHEAD UNITED

They occasionally exist in their own bubble, where they’re just allowed to get on with whatever they want and build their squad in peace. Though that has been interrupted by the depature of Danilo Orsi-Dadomo, they’ve still left themselves with a highly desirable squad that they’ve added Kane Ferdinand to. I’ve often thought little of this team in the past, but this season I’m seeing them as the bruisers who will bully their way through the competition with consistency, only picked apart by moments that must be true class from their opposition.

Prediction: 7th

NOTTS COUNTY

They’re always gonna be good, they’re always gonna be tight, but if Ardley couldn’t get the job done, then it does beg the question if it’s ever gonna happen. Burchnall’s a new kind of manager though. He’s unpredictable, and he’ll get County playing the same way. Departures like Boldewijn hurt, but I’m thinking this ain’t a team of stand-outs anymore, just a team that stands out. There’ll be adjustments to be made and some hurdles won’t be cleared, but they’ll be in that conversation long after most have dropped out.

Prediction: 4th

SOLIHULL MOORS

You just feel like this side’s chance to ascend was a few seasons back. Now, there’s a certain uncertainty around the side as it shuffles around trying to find itself again. There’s still impressive talent there, but they need to rediscover that something, and Ardley could lead them right to it. Well, not right to it — it’ll probably take the season. It’ll be a rollercoaster, but they’ll come out the other side with clear intentions for their next ride.

Prediction: 12th

SOUTHEND UNITED

There’s good signs here. I think Ogogo and Bwomono will really excel at this level, and Murphy up top with Akinola could be deadly. But Southend come down with a funk, and that is within the squad now, it has infected them. They gotta shake that and then get on their way.
They will, and they’ll survive comfortably, but it won’t be smooth sailing, and from afar, it will be seen as a disappointment by most.

Prediction: 10th

STOCKPORT COUNTY

So near yet so far last time out, they’ve held together the squad that got ’em there, and will be just as venemous when striking this season. There are new hurdles to… Hurdle, but they’ll go out with the same sprint-plan as last time, and it’ll hold them in good stead — their window of opportunity is slipping away, and they’ll have another chance to jump through it this season.

Prediction: 5th

TORQUAY UNITED

With a bit of talent lost to league rivals and their goalscoring goalkeeper off up the divisions, it’s a period of stop-and-think for Torquay. They won’t let themselves slip right off, but there’s gonna be a downplay while everything gets back together, and that’ll result in a late push that will unfortunately go unrewarded.

Prediction: 9th

WEALDSTONE

All change for Wealdstone, with half their squad coming in fresh after the big departures of players like Smith, Emmanuel, Efete, and Mendy. Though the signings of Eleftheriou, Cooper, Buse, and Elito will inspire confidence, I can’t see it inspiring lasting form. There’ll be consistency amongst their ranks, but not throughout, and look for the side one shy of conceding a century last season potentially go one further this.

Prediction: 21st

WEYMOUTH

A solid goalkeeper ain’t enough. Though he is gonna get plenty of time to shine as Weymouth soak up all the pressure that’s fit to be thrown. There wasn’t a lot of star-power to lose as they couldn’t get into shining gear last season, and that’s gonna be the same again, only this time, the trapdoor’s gonna open and the heart’s gonna stop beating.
I can sadly see them getting lost this season.

Prediction: 23rd

WOKING

There’s gotta be desire back here. Their late season form was dire and they’re capable of more. The Summer will hopefully have shaken that off and allow them to regain a bit (lot) more composure as they embark upon a new season. I can see ’em letting a lot in, but they’ll fire back now, with forwards like Effiong, Loza, and Campbell seeing to that. A midfield with potential and fire with help with that.
It’s not gonna be one for the scrapbook, but put it in anyways or everyone will wonder what happened.

Prediction: 16th

WREXHAM

Here they are then. The new big bad boys on the block. Kinda.
The club is flush and they’re making a push, but wait, just… Hush.
Once again, we’ve seen this before, the power game. Granted, never quite like this, but we have seen it. Any talent brought in has League Two pedigree, and the departed talent had proven starlets like Pearson and Kelleher amongst ’em. I don’t wanna rain on a parade here, and this side will do well, but I just don’t see ’em flying there as many predict. The twists and turns on this road will be sharp, and Wrexham’ll have the flash car, and the best pit crew, but…

I got nothing, they could easy walk it.
HOWEVER

Prediction: 3rd

YEOVIL TOWN

They’re sticking to their dependable if unspectacular guns. I feel like there’s no-one rebuilding this club, and they’re just consolidating season-on-season, eventually just concreting themselves into 15th place. But there’s nothing concrete about the National League, and they gotta be careful about consolidating, ‘cos the word for that round here is stagnating.
So have this season Glovers, but be careful, and mind how you go…

Prediction: 15th

— —

Let’s see what I settled on.

1. Chesterfield
2. Grimsby Town
3. Wrexham
4. Notts County
5. Stockport County
6. Bromley
7. Maidenhead United
8. Dagenham & Redbridge
9. Torquay United
10. Southend United
11. Boreham Wood
12. Solihull Moors
13. Eastleigh
14. Aldershot Town
15. Yeovil Town
16. Woking
17. Halifax Town
18. Barnet
19. Altrincham
20. Dover Athletic
21. Wealdstone
22. King’s Lynn Town
23. Weymouth

Solid. I’m down with that.

It’s always a ballache to call. But that’s exactly what makes it a cracker to watch. It’s a game of fine margins at the fifth tier, with a side finishing runners-up in the play-offs one season and being relegation candidates the next — and with Dover’s points deduction, barring a great escape, it opens the window for two ‘promoted’ sides to survive to a third season.
But it’s a balancing act for most of the clubs.

All I can say is I hope that tight rope gets a lot wider for these sides very soon. Fans can help with that, and as a fan, if any side reads this and needs help, you know where I am. I’ve got £43 to my name and I struggle to leave the house, but I’ll do what I can to help out.

I can’t predict whether I’ll have over £50 at the end of the month.

But I can predict how the 21/22 National League is gonna end.

Is this how it’s gonna end?

Keep it streets ahead,

C.L.R.

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