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Page last updated at 11:16 GMT, Wednesday, 5 August 2009 12:16 UK

Blue Square Premier club-by-club guide

Torquay celebrate winning the Blue Square Premier play-off title
Torquay celebrate winning the Blue Square Premier play-off title

The new Blue Square Premier season begins on Saturday with 24 teams looking to follow Burton and Torquay's example by reaching the Football League.

It is one of the strongest non-league line-ups in years with Luton and Chester joining recent Football League clubs Oxford United, Cambridge United, Kidderminster Harriers, Mansfield, Rushden & Diamonds, Wrexham and York City in the division.

Teams promoted to the Blue Square Premier include Hayes & Yeading, who were only formed after a merger in 2007, and Gateshead, who were playing in the Unibond League last year.

AFC Wimbledon are in the top-flight of non-league football after a fourth promotion in their seven-year history and Tamworth complete the make-up of the division.

Here is BBC Sport's club-by-club guide.


How did they do last season? A 15th-spot finish, 12 points clear of relegation but fully 25 points adrift of the top five, was the archetypal curate's egg of a season for Robins: good in parts. Disappointments in both the FA Cup and FA Trophy were only partially remedied by a second Cheshire Senior Cup success in the last three years.

Graham Heathcote

Who's the gaffer? Alty legend Graham Heathcote takes the club into their fifth successive season in non-league football's top flight with a new assistant. Ken McKenna, himself worthy of the legend tag after 33 goals in the 1990/91 season, will be keen to fill the shoes of Graham Barrow, Wigan's new reserve-team boss. McKenna's experience winning three League of Wales titles with The New Saints could prove instrumental as Alty seek a season of consolidation and improvement. The likeable and hugely-respected Heathcote's stock could rise close to semi-godlike status were the Robins able to challenge at the top, rather than the bottom, of the Blue Square table.

Matty Crowell

Player to watch? Regulars will be keen to see how midfielder Matty Crowell shapes up to life after jumping ship from near-neighbours Northwich Victoria. The 25-year-old has an impressive CV with experience at Wrexham, Southampton and Swansea City on which to draw, in addition to making seven appearances for the Wales Under-21 team.

BBC Radio Manchester's Mike Pavasovic reflects on Altrincham's chances: "I would expect a lower mid-table finish given that Alty will always struggle to keep pace with the richer clubs. Expect 16th place."


How did they do last season? Finished one place, but seven points above the relegation zone in their debut season following promotion via the Blue Square North play-offs in 2008.

Dave Bayliss
Darren Sheridan

Who's the gaffer? Dave Bayliss and Darren Sheridan are the joint bosses. "Bails" is a lively Liverpudlian with areputation for wearing down players until they agree to sign - "Shez" is a Manc battler with great experience and contacts in high-level football. Both are loved by the club and fans having taken them from third bottom of Blue Square North in November 2007, to promotion via the play-offs in the same season.

Phil Bolland

Who's the player to watch? Defender Phil Bolland is a top-drawer summer signing from Cambridge United, and further evidence of Dave Bayliss's powers of persuasion.

BBC Radio Cumbria's James Phillips reflects on Barrow's chances: "The club have moved from two one-hour evening training sessions a week to three full days this season. This takes them a big step closer to full-time, and most players have given up their day jobs entirely. They have signed well but could still do with more up front. The Bluebirds hope to be more like a mid-table team this term, and this is a real possibility - if they can bring in more fire-power."

BBC Radio Cumbria will have full-match commentary of every Barrow game this season, home and away.


How did they do last season? Gary Brabin replaced Jimmy Quinn during the close season and, after a slow start, the U's lost just two of their last 18 matches to reach the Blue Square Premier play-off final for the second year running, eventually losing 2-0 to Torquay at Wembley.

Martin Ling

Who's the gaffer? They don't have one. Brabin was surprising relieved of his duties just three weeks prior to the start of the new season following disagreements over the playing budget. Former Leyton Orient boss Martin Ling was appointed in his place only to walk out nine days later citing irreconcilable differences with chairman George Rolls. Rolls has subsequently resigned, but the upshot is that the U's go into the new season without a manager.

Paul Carden

Who's the player to watch? Player-assistant manager Paul Carden could be playing a couple of leagues higher - it's a cliche, but when Carden plays well, Cambridge play well. Elsewhere, the experienced Wayne Hatswell is a defensive rock, whilst Jai Reason, Robbie Wilmott and Chris Holroyd are exciting young talents.

BBC Radio Cambridgeshire's Peter Swan reflects on Cambridge's chances: "Whilst the U's possess a decent squad, chaos in the board room looks to have already derailed their chances for the new season. With no manager, no money and morale at rock-bottom, it's hard to imagine a promotion push. However should the club stabilise and either Brabin or Ling return, then their prospects could look a whole lot brighter."

BBC Radio Cambridgeshire will have full-match commentary of every Cambridge game this season, home and away on 96 FM and online.


How did they do last season? City's second relegation from the Football League in nine years must be considered all the more shameful, given that they actually started the season with a 17-point advantage over ultimate main rivals, Bournemouth. But, given the continued lack of investment in the playing staff, it had looked on the cards even before they began the season with a 6-0 away defeat at Dagenham and Redbridge. That paved the way to the sacking of Simon Davies in November. And, although the return of Mark Wright initially began well with a pre-Christmas run of three wins in five games, it proved a false dawn. And by the time their disastrous run of 18 games without a win from Boxing Day was finally ended in April, Chester's fate was all but sealed.

Mick Wadsworth

Who's the gaffer? Mick Wadsworth must feel like he has been handed the poisoned chalice, having taken over a club still in crisis. Just days before the start of the new Blue Square season, City were still unclear as to whether they were still affiliated to the Football Association and therefore allowed to take their place. But 59-year-old Wadsworth has seen a lot in his time in football, from his most successful days at Carlisle to his time as number two to the late Bobby Robson at Newcastle. And, in his first managerial job since the sad demise of Gretna, on the playing side at least, Chester appear to be in good hands under the vastly-experienced Yorkshireman.

Fabian Yantorno

Who's the player to watch? Fabian Yantorno. There aren't too many Uruguayan midfielders knocking about in the Blue Square Premier. And, if Yantorno can make the same sort of impact he made in Scottish football under Wadsworth at Gretna, he looks more than capable of catching the eye.

BBC Sport's Ged Scott reflects on Chester's chances: "A 10-point handicap, coming on top of a summer of such massive uncertainty over their very future, is hardly ideal preparation. 25 points would be a killer. And it seems inevitable that Chester are in for another season of struggle. The powers-that-be at the club still talk of a top-five finish. But, unless they are planning an audacious eve-of-season kidnap of Fernando Torres, in truth, most realistic City fans would settle for fifth from bottom."


How did they do last season? Long-time leaders early on and looked as good as anyone in the league with some magnificent displays, but dips in form from October and again in January left even the play-offs looking unlikely. A late run meant they were still an outside hope with five games to go, but by then they had left themselves with too much to do.

Steve Evans

Who's the gaffer? Steve Evans, formerly of Boston United, has proved capable of attracting some quality players to the club and forms an effective management team with assistant Paul Raynor.

Thomas Pinault

Who's the player to watch? Thomas Pinault. Quite simply, when the Frenchman plays well, Crawley play well. Was one of Evans' early signings and it is a real boost that his wonderful skills will again be available to unlock sides coming to the Broadfield Stadium to defend. Will be important for him to produce his best form on the road as well.

BBC Radio Sussex and Surrey's John Barnett reflects on Crawley's chances: "Much will depend on the key members of a small squad staying fit as, despite plenty of quality, there is not much strength in depth. Losing Dannie Bulman and most recently Jake Wright are big blows, but Evans has recruited well. Expect some more flowing football at home and some big scalps away again. Another top-10 finish should be well within their grasp."


How did they do last season? In their first Blue Square Premier season, Borough surprised a lot of observers - and possibly themselves - with a respectable mid-table finish. It was based on consistently strong results against clubs in the lower reaches, but Eastbourne also claimed a string of notable victories against the likes of Stevenage, Torquay and Wrexham.

Garry Wilson
Nick Greenwood

Who's the gaffer? Consistency is the key for the Sports. The shrewd management team of Garry Wilson and Nick Greenwood enter their second decade at Priory Lane with with the same no-frills philosophy that has carried them from County League to Conference.

Dan Smith

Player to watch? Dan Smith, last year's young loan star from Plymouth Argyle, is back on a permanent contract, and his pace and inventiveness will tear up a few defences. Expect a real impact, too, from 18-year-old Simon Johnson - the England Schools midfielder could be the surprise ingredient in the experienced Eastbourne line-up.

BBC Radio Sussex's Kevin Anderson reflects on Eastbourne's chances: "With some formidable big-budget clubs setting the Blue Square Premier pace this year, don't expect to find Borough among the play-off chasers. Goals have never flowed freely at Priory Lane, but if Wilson can find a scoring partnership that clicks from among the five strikers in the squad, then Eastbourne will be in the mid-table comfort zone."


How did they do last season? Last season began with everybody full of optimism as the club had lifted the FA Trophy by beating Torquay United at Wembley only three months earlier. The season soon turned into hard graft for the Fleet as key players such as Michael Bostwick, John Akinde and Chris McPhee were not replaced and the harsh financial realities of running the club dawned on its owners, the operators of the MyFootballClub website. As budget cuts were imposed, the club slid downwards and had a dalliance with relegation which was avoided with a few games to spare.

Paul McCarthy and Liam Daish with the 2008 FA Trophy
Daish (r) led Ebbsfleet to FA Trophy glory at Wembley in 2008

Who's the gaffer? Liam Daish has been in charge at the Fleet for four and a half years now and has worked miracles under extremely difficult circumstances. He took the club from semi-professional to full-time status and has proved to have a good eye for promising young players. The Portsmouth-born former Republic of Ireland international enjoyed a playing career with Birmingham, Coventry and Cambridge United and earned the nickname "Hard As Nails" for his no-nonsense performances at centre-back. Injury curtailed his playing career and he became co-manager of Havant and Waterlooville and had a brief spell as caretaker at Welling United before being appointed manager at Stonebridge Road.

Michael West

Who's the player to watch? Budget cuts saw all but a few of the Fleet's players from last season leave the club in the summer, and Daish has carried out an exhaustive search for replacements, taking a close look at over 100 players before signing new faces. As Daish finalises his list of new recruits, one definite player to watch out for is teenager Michael West, a product of the club's PASE (youth) team, who made his first-team debut at the end of last season. Comfortable wide right, centre midfield or up front, West has a confidence and presence that belies his age. He staked his claim for a place in the side this season with a cheeky goal in the Fleet's 3-2 win over Leyton Orient in a home friendly.

BBC Radio Kent's Charles Webster reflects on Ebbsfleet's chances: "After the problems off the field at Stonebridge Road this summer, most observers believe a finish outside the relegation zone will be a satisfactory outcome for the Fleet this season, and it would easily eclipse winning the FA Trophy in terms of Daish's managerial achievements. With one of the smallest average attendances in the Blue Square Premier, the Fleet recognise that they will find it hard to compete on an equal financial footing with clubs such as Luton Town, AFC Wimbledon, and Wrexham but Daish's Ebbsfleet sides have a knack of fighting above their weight and of surprising more celebrated opponents. There will be more shocks to come this year, as Daish builds another Ebbsfleet side based on hungry youngsters out to make a mark in the professional game."

Andy Mangan

How did they do last season? Inconsistently - they were top of the Blue Square Premier at the end of August and then went on an injury-hit run in which they won only one league game before December. They stayed up, finishing 18th, thanks to cup runs dragging their league form up in the second half of the season and the emergence of Andy Mangan, whose end-of-season run saw him finish as top scorer in the Blue Square Premier with 26 goals. Rovers' cup form was excellent, reaching the third round of the FA Cup (nearly beating Derby County), the quarter-finals of the FA Trophy and the final of the Setanta Shield.

Jim Harvey

Who's the gaffer? Officially it is still Jim Harvey, but his position looks very precarious. He missed Rovers' final two pre-season friendlies because of what a club insider called a "serious breach of contract", believed to be applying for Cambridge United job before Martin Ling was appointed. Harvey has since confirmed matters are in the hands of his solicitor.

If he goes he could prove difficult to replace, having assembled a squad capable of playing slick, passing football: with so few bigger players they might struggle to play any other way.

David Brown

Who's the player to watch? It would have been Andy Mangan, but he is suspended until 22 December for betting on Bury to beat Accrington while still a Shakers player, then it looked like it could have been new signing Mike Fowler, who joined from Salisbury to replace his brother Lee, who has left for Kettering. Fowler would have added some steel to the spine of the team, but he dislocated his ankle, broke it in three places and severely damaged his ligaments 12 minutes into Forest Green's final pre-season friendly. He has been ruled out for the season and his injuries are described as "career threatening". All of that means player-coach David Brown will be heavily relied upon for goals, last year's young player of the year Paul Stonehouse may switch from full back to a central midfield role, while goalkeeper Terry Burton is a colourful character, particularly in his new black and pink kit.

BBC Radio Gloucestershire's Paul Furley reflects on Rovers' chances: "It looks like what was going to be a tough season for Forest Green is going to be even more difficult. There was a decent 11 on paper, but losing Andy Mangan until nearly Christmas and Mike Fowler for the whole season severely stretches their resources, while uncertainty over the manager's future only adds to their woes. Survival is always the first aim for Forest Green and if you offered that to them now, I think most supporters would gladly take it."


How did they do last season? After achieving promotion to Blue Square North in 2008, few would have expected Gateshead to repeat the feat a year later. But, powered on by the goals of Lee Novak, a young striker signed from Newcastle Blue Star, the Tynesiders took the league by storm last season, eventually finishing second and going up by virtue of a late winner against AFC Telford in the play-off final.

Ian Bogie

Who's the gaffer? Former Newcastle United midfielder Ian Bogie has become a real club legend after guiding Gateshead to back-to-back promotions in his two seasons in charge at the International Stadium. After joining the club in 2006 as assistant manager, he soon took over as caretaker boss, before landing the top job on a permanent basis in 2007.

Martin Brittain

Who's the player to watch? Bogie set out to bring players with Football League experience to the club this summer, and Geordie Martin Brittain certainly fits that bill. One of a number of former Newcastle United academy players in Gateshead's squad, the 24-year-old has played for the Magpies, as well as Ipswich Town, Carlisle and Walsall. A right-sided midfield player, Brittain will be keen to prove himself in the North East, and will be expected to drive the team on this season with goals and assists from midfield.

BBC Newcastle's Matt Raisbeck reflects on Gateshead's chances: "The loss of talismanic striker Lee Novak to Huddersfield this summer is undoubtedly a blow to their chances, but Gateshead were far from a one-man team last season, and the signing of players with Football League experience was imperative, as they embark on their first season at this level for 11 years. A third successive promotion is highly unlikely, but in Ian Bogie, they have a talented young manager and there is enough quality in the squad to do more than simply survive in this league - but I'm sure everyone at the club would take that now, if offered."

Grays with the 2006 FA Trophy
Grays' back-to-back FA Trophy wins seem like a distant memory now

How did they do last season? Finished 19th, securing their Blue Square Premier status in the penultimate game of the season. It was a complete shambles as managers came and went at regular intervals. There were different players in the team seemingly every game while budget cuts have hit hard over the summer. There's also the small matter of a Football Association investigation over allegations of match-fixing in their final game of the season against Forest Green, although Grays deny any wrongdoing or knowledge of this.

Who's the gaffer? Gary Phillips and Alan Lewer are in joint charge after the shock summer departure ofCraig Edwards, who was sacked after two months and no competitive games in charge. Former Barnet goalkeeper Phillips led the Essex side to safety last season during another shambolic campaign off the field. Lewer was in charge of Weymouth last season during their financial troubles and has vast experience of the non-league game.

Who's the player to watch? It is a team of virtual unknowns either released from League One and Two clubs or brought in from lower down the non-league pyramid so it is almost impossible to tip one to watch... so how about Jerson Dos Santos... if he sticks around long enough.

BBC Radio Essex's Glenn Speller reflects on Grays' chances: "It's difficult to see anything but a long struggle for Grays. They will look to beat the other smaller clubs like Hayes and Yeading, Altrincham etc and hope that's enough to keep them up but it could be touch and go. One thing is for sure, it won't be boring."


How did they do last season? Last season was the second as a merged team. It couldn't have been much better, going up to the top tier of non-league football through the play-offs and playing some decent football as well.

Garry Haylock

Who's the gaffer? The manager is Garry Haylock, who played for Huddersfield, a host of teams in Ireland and Greek side Panionios. He was Yeading's boss before the merger then got the job to take charge of the combined team. He's proven to be a worthy adversary and is highly thought of and does not fear the challenge ahead.

Scott Fitzgerald

Who's the player to watch? A number of last season's players have signed on again and the likes of Matt Ruby and experienced striker Scott Fitzgerald could prove important.

BBC London 94.9's Phil Parry reflects on their chances: "There is a genuine feeling that they can finish top half despite the fact that many outsiders may not rate their chances. They will be tough at home and will not baulk at challenges."

BBC London 94.9 and the Non League Show will have regular updates of Hayes & Yeading's games this season.


How did they do last season? 2008/09 was a record breaking season for the Stutes as they finished third in the Blue Square Premier - their highest ever league finish. A 2-1 aggregate defeat by Torquay in the play-off semis ended any dreams of promotion, but an FA Cup run which saw them reach the third round - following victory over Leeds United in round two - will live long in the memory.

Steve Fallon

Who's the gaffer? Steve Fallon has been at the helm for over a decade, leading the club to unprecedented success. In recent seasons he has been assisted by former Cambridge boss John Beck with the pair forming a formidable double-act; Fallon quiet and composed and Beck a self-proclaimed 'mad professor'.

Josh Simpson

Who's the player to watch? It's been a summer of change for Histon, with several key players moving on. MidfielderJosh Simpson is arguably the club's best-kept secret with touch and vision belying his status as a non-league player.

BBC Radio Cambridgeshire's Peter Swan reflects on Histon's chances: "The Stutes will do well to improve on last season, especially given the loss of key players, but reaching the play-offs will once again be the aim."

BBC Cambridgeshire will have commentary of selected Histon games this season on 96 FM or 1026 AM.


How did they do last season? The Poppies finished eighth and made it into the fourth round of the FA Cup - they dramatically exceeded expectations in an exceptional return to the Blue Square Premier. But Mark Cooper and the fans might have preferred not to go so far in the cup, in order to reach the league play-offs.

Mark Cooper

Who's the gaffer? Mark Cooper, a young manager who has plenty of Blue Square Premier experience with Tamworth. He got Kettering promoted from the Blue Square North in his first season, and had a successful second year. He's an affable guy, and son of the ex-England full-back Terry Cooper.

James Jennings

Who's the player to watch? New player James Jennings is a young, highly rated left-back from Macclesfield. He looks like he can get down the flank well, and provide composed crosses into the box. Defender Exodus Geohaghon had a fantastic debut season with the club. Many people expect him to play at a higher level, but it'll be interesting to see how he does in the absence of Guy Branston.

BBC Radio Northampton's Simon de Choisy reflects on the Poppies' chances: "With a difficult start to the league fixture list, if Kettering come through August with a decent points tally, I would not bet against Mark Cooper working his magic and seeing his squad into a play-off place come the end of the season."


How did they do last season? In truth, better than many expected as Mark Yates and Neil Howarth assembled a squad that finished within two points of the play-off places. They were probably undone by a punishing schedule of matches in the final month of the season and just missed out on the final day when they lost at home to Kettering Town.

Mark Yates
Neil Howarth

Who's the gaffer? After their success of last season, it is no great surprise that Yates continues as manager withHowarth as his number two. They have had a busy summer as they have to essentially rebuild the squad that was largely decimated by projected budget cuts at the end of last season.

Chris McPhee

Who's the player to watch? Many will be interested in striker Matt Barnes-Homer to see if he can reproduce his prolific form of last season, but the key signing of the summer could prove to be that of Chris McPhee. He joined Harriers late last season following Weymouth's financial problems and it was not difficult to see why Yates was so keen to get him on board. He has since signed a two-year deal and is likely to be a central figure this season.

BBC Hereford and Worcester's Trevor Owens reflects on Harriers' chances: "After the initial post-season doom where all the talk was of huge budget cuts and trying to assemble a squad on a shoestring, the picture is far brighter. They have lost key players like Adam Bartlett and Mark Creighton, but Yates has done well to put together what looks a competitive squad. They will do well to emulate last season's sixth-place finish, but should be more than capable of finishing in the top half of the Blue Square Premier table."


How did they do last season? Luton were relegated from the Football League having been unable to claw back a 30-point deficit. Some supporters thought they should have made a better fist of it, but on reflection manager Mick Harford faced a near-impossible task to keep them up and they won the Johnstone's Paint Trophy at Wembley, taking 37,000 fans along too.

Mick Harford

Who's the gaffer? Fans' favourite Harford remains in charge, and has assembled a stronger squad this year than he had last year as the club's new owners get to grips with things. Harford loves the club, and the fans love him.

Tom Craddock

Who's the player to watch? If they can keep hold of him, Tom Craddock's goals should lift Luton back into the Football League.

BBC Three Counties' Simon Oxley reflects on Luton's chances: "Nothing less than promotion will do. Given the squad they have assembled that isn't an unreasonable expectation."

BBC Three Counties will have live coverage of every Luton game this season, home and away online.


How did they do last season? Last season was a rather odd one. After relegation from the Football League, three local businessmen took over in July. The new manager Billy McEwan built a squad in four weeks and quickly took them to the top of the league before seeing them slip to within a point of the relegation places by December. His replacement David Holdsworth then set about building a whole new squad in January which finished the campaign in mid-table.

David Holdsworth

Who's the gaffer? Holdsworth is a lively character who is always quick with a joke, but he does not take any nonsense from his players. For example, after signing Curtis Shaw in January he had no qualms about releasing him in the summer because he felt his attitude was not right. Holdsworth loves wheeling and dealing in the transfer market - despite building virtually a whole new squad in January, he signed 11 more new players in the summer and let even more go.

Who's the player to watch? Little winger Ryan Williams was outstanding after returning to his home-town club in February and he's now been handed the club captaincy. If, as is expected of him, he supplies chances for the strikers, while pitching in with a few goals himself, he could be the key behind their success next year.

BBC Radio Nottingham's Dave Jackson reflects on the Stags' chances: "I'd say Mansfield are one of about six or seven teams who will fight for a play-off place. With so many new players I'd be surprised if they could maintain the sort of consistency that would be required to win the league, especially with Luton around. It will also be interesting to see if they have truly learned how to beat the more physical sides in the division. Often bullied in past years, the Stags' new boss has added a tougher element to their game. If they can combine that with creativity up front they have every chance of a top-five finish."


How did they do last season? A topsy-turvy season ended with Oxford only missing out on the play-offs because of a controversial five-point deduction for fielding an unregistered player. United were in relegation trouble until late November but when Chris Wilder took over exactly halfway through the season, everything changed though. A stunning turnaround saw United pick up 52 points from his 23 games in charge and still be in contention on a dramatic final day.

Chris Wilder

Who's the gaffer? Rarely in living memory has an Oxford manager been as popular as Wilder. He totally transformed an underachieving team last season and brought in an improved bunch of players on much lower wages than the players he let go. He has brought in nine new players this summer, and Oxford fans are waiting with bated breath to see whether his new-look squad can secure United's return to the Football League.

James Constable

Player to watch? Striker James Constable's goals will be key to any title bid. He scored 23 league goals, with 15 of those coming after Wilder's arrival in the season's midway point. As prolific as any striker Oxford have had recently, but with a work-rate and team ethic that few goalscorers before him could match.

BBC Sport's Emlyn Begley reflects on Oxford's chances: "Given Oxford's form post-Wilder confidence and expectations are justifiably high. If his signings gel together quickly, United can set the pace and beat Luton to the title. However Oxford fans know that with huge expectations usually come even bigger disappointments."

BBC Oxford will have full-match commentary of every Oxford game, home and away, on 95.2 FM and online.


How did they do last season? Rushden had aimed to win the league last season, with much expected of star players like Daryl Clare, Lee Phillips and Leon Knight. But the results imploded, and the big names brought in never got going. They finished 11th.

Justin Edinburgh

Who's the gaffer? Former Spurs defender Justin Edinburgh. Open and honest, he is trusted and has a great rapport with the fans. This is his first full season in charge of the club.

James Reid

Who's the player to watch? Teenage winger James Reid is on loan from Nottingham Forest and has impressed in pre-season. He was academy player of the year at Forest, and definitely one to keep an eye on down the flanks.

BBC Radio Northampton's Chris Barrett reflects on the Diamonds' chances: "They'll finish in the top 10. The club will have aspirations for the play-offs but it will all depend on the start they get - but whether they fall short of that goal or not, it will not be through lack of effort."


How did they do last season? Nine months of ups and downs both on and off the pitch. Any concern of "second season syndrome" seemed unfounded when the Whites topped the table in August and September only for financial problems to hit, causing many highly paid players to be sold or loaned out. After steadying the ship a long unbeaten run guaranteed safety with several games to spare.

Tommy Widdrington

Who's the gaffer? With Nick Holmes taking on a general manager's role, first-team coach Tommy Widdrington will be in charge of player affairs this season. The former Southampton midfielder joined Salisbury in 2005 as a player/coach and is proving popular with supporters.

Robbie Matthews

Player to watch? Striker Robbie Matthews could be key this campaign to his home-town club. The experienced forward was loaned out to Crawley last season and has been in good form during the friendlies, hitting hat-tricks against Southampton and Exeter.

BBC Wiltshire's Ian Longdon reflects on Salisbury's chances: "Some pundits have already written Salisbury off because of the summer's protracted takeover talks, but the club has managed to keep hold of most of the star names and added some exciting youngsters. Once the takeover is completed, and with a bit more strength in depth, there's no reason why Salisbury can't build on their first two terms at the top table of non-league football."


How did they do last season? Stevenage missed out in the play-offs, having seen a 3-1 semi-final first-leg lead overturned by Cambridge, so it was a disappointing finish. But there was some consolation as they lifted the FA Trophy at Wembley.

Graham Westley

Who's the gaffer? Graham Westley was back at the club for his second spell last season, and the club overcame a poor start to challenge for promotion. Westley knows the Conference, and will be confident of getting Borough back into the play-offs.

Charlie Griffin

Who's the player to watch? Losing Steve Morison was inevitable, but Borough have to replace his 20 goals so Charlie Griffin knows the spotlight is on him.

BBC Three Counties' Simon Oxley reflects on Borough's chances: "Many will feel that with Luton in the division, the rest are playing for a play-off place. But if the Hatters slip up, then expect Borough to be among those waiting to take advantage."

BBC Three Counties will have live coverage of every Stevenage game this season, home and away online.


How did they do last season? They won the Blue Square North in a year that surpassed all expectation. The team had changed drastically, with only a few players staying from the previous year. It didn't look like they'd do anything special after their first home game where they lost 3-0 to Stalybridge, but no-one panicked, and they then went on a 14-game unbeaten run in the league, winning 10. This set the Lambs up well for the rest of the season where they had to maintain the momentum. Tamworth continued to perform and find the results, until the penultimate game where they won the league, beating Hinckley 1-0 at home. All in all, their young side showed that they could achieve, and it was even more satisfying for them to know that they did it playing an attractive style of football.

Gary Mills

Who's the gaffer? There are very few managers who can boast winning a European Cup at just 18 years old, but Gary Mills has that privilege. He has instilled a belief in the players that they can play football in the right way and be successful. With such a young team, it was always a possibility that some of them would suffer from lack of confidence at some stage last year, but the confidence he had in his squad as players and a collective definitely proved to be vital. This is something they're hoping to take into the Blue Square Premier.

Chris Smith

Player to watch? Twenty-eight-year old Chris Smith had a fantastic debut season. The centre-back was an ever-present and produced consistently high performances, acknowledged by the team as he won the player's player of the year award. In a league-winning team it's easy to focus on the attacking prowess of the forwards, but Tamworth lost just five league games all season, and only once away from home. With that in mind it becomes apparent that the defence were the key. Smith not only has the composure that saw him utilised as a midfielder early on in the season, but also leadership and experience. All of these have led him to be named team captain.

Bradley Pritchard

Tamworth midfielder Bradley Pritchard reflects on his side's chances: "It has been predicted by many to be a tough season for us. Moving into a virtually full-time league has meant that the step-up may be difficult, but the team has the talent, and self-confidence of youth that could prove a few people wrong. Granted we have a small squad, but if last year has taught us anything, it's that success isn't limited to a privileged few. If we put the work in and have the right attitude then who knows?"

Bradley Pritchard will write a regular blog this season following Tamworth's progress in the Blue Square Premier.


How did they do last season? AFC Wimbledon were never really out of contention last year and after overhauling a 10-point deficit at the top they leapfrogged Chelmsford City to win the Blue Square South title - despite some stiff opposition from Hampton and Richmond.

Terry Brown

Who's the gaffer? Former Aldershot boss Terry Brown did the business last season for Wimbledon, and having just missed out on promotion to the Football League with the Shots, it will be interesting to see if this time round he can make it to the promised land. Last time out his backroom staff made a real difference by upping the spirit in the squad, he will look to them again as his team will need to be stronger and fitter to compete in the Blue Square Premier.

Jon Main

Who's the player to watch? All the talk last season was whether or not Wimbledon's record signing Jon Main could score the goals in the Blue Square South, and ultimately it was his partnership with Danny Kedwell that helped propel the Dons up. He is the sort of player who has been described as non-existent for a large proportion of the game, and then stick him in front of the goal and he will score. Make it happen in the Blue Square Premier and there will be plenty sniffing around for his talents. He is a dab hand on the golf course too.

BBC London's Non League Show presenter Caroline Barker reflects on the Dons' chances: "On the Non League Show we've rated Wimbledon as play-off contenders. They've added some young, quick talent during the summer and this year may come just too soon for them."


How did they do last season? Last season was a disappointing one for the Dragons. A poor start saw the departure of manager Brian Little who was replaced by Dean Saunders. They went on a run of one defeat in 16 Blue Square Premier matches giving them hopes for a play-off place, but then went in the opposite direction, losing seven of their last 11 matches.

Dean Saunders

Who's the gaffer? Wales assistant manager Saunders was given his own managerial break last season and has committed himself to starting his second season in the job.

Mark Jones

Who's the player to watch? Mark Jones has made his return to Wrexham a year after leaving for Rochdale and his creativity in midfield could help bring the Dragons success.

BBC Wales' David Dulin reflects on the Dragons' chances: "This is a year they need to find some consistency and a settled team if they are to mount a serious promotion challenge - that was their downfall last season."


How did they do last season? York City did not do very well last year and they only managed to escape relegation in the final few games of the season. They did have a trip to Wembley in the FA Trophy final but this was very much against the flow of the rest of the season. Overall it was a big disappointment for the club and it's fans.

Martin Foyle

Who's the gaffer? Martin Foyle. He took over from Colin Walker in November last year so this will be his first full season in charge. He's had a good clearout from last season and brought in plenty of new faces with an increased playing budget thanks to the trip to Wembley. A lot of supporters will be closely watching him to see if he can deliver the success they crave at York.

Michael Ingham

Who's the player to watch? There will be a lot of eyes on striker Michael Gash who was signed for £50,000 from Ebbsfleet. York haven't paid that much for a player since they were in the Football League. Goalkeeper Michael Ingham was one of the better players in a poor side last season and he will be expected to build on his good form while midfielderAdam Smith has looked very good pre-season and will be trying to make an impact in his first full season.

BBC Radio York's Al Ross reflects on City's chances: "It's hard to tell how they will do with so many new faces coming in over the summer. But I expect them to be pushing around the play-off places."

BBC Radio York will have full-match commentary of every City game this season, home and away on their FM frequencies and online.

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