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Blue Square Bet Premier club-by-club guide

Oxford United celebrate winning the Blue Square Bet Premier play-off final
Oxford will play in the Football League this season after winning promotion

The new Blue Square Bet Premier season begins on Saturday with non-league's elite again chasing a place in the Football League.

The 24 teams will be looking to emulate Stevenage and Oxford, who were both promoted last season.

Following their relegation, Darlington and Grimsby find themselves rubbing shoulders with Bath City, Fleetwood Town, Southport and Newport County, who were all promoted last term.

Forest Green take their place in the division after being reprieved from relegation as a result of Salisbury's financial problems.

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

AFC WIMBLEDON
AFC Wimbledon

Manager: Terry Brown

Last season: Eighth

Strengths: Brown's side has adjusted well to life in non-league's top tier. Huge support continues to back the club in a bid to reach the Football League.

Weaknesses: Despite the support and excellent structure, the Dons remain vulnerable to seeing impressive talents being snapped up by bigger clubs.

Key man: Prolific striker Danny Kedwell transferred an excellent partnership with Jon Main at Blue Square South level into the national division. Tall, good in the air and a presence in the penalty area.

ALTRINCHAM
Altrincham

Manager: Graham Heathcote

Last season: 14th

Strengths: Stability. Heathcote is currently the longest serving manager in the division. Astonishingly, in his eight years with Alty he has spent no money at all on players.

Weaknesses: For the first time in six seasons Altrincham are without inspirational striker Colin Little, who left in April to coach Manchester United's under-13s.

Key man: Two strikers have been brought in to replace Little. Michael Twiss has joined from Morecambe, while Damien Reeves has signed from Bradford Park Avenue. Their goals will decide whether Altrincham are battling it out at the top or bottom of the table.

BARROW
Barrow

Managers: Dave Bayliss and Darren Sheridan

Last season: 15th

Strengths: A blend of experience and youth, as well as a wealth of strikers with a range of attributes.

Weaknesses: The loss of some key players, including goalkeeper Stuart Tomlinson and midfielder Andy Bond to League clubs, may have weakened a close-knit squad.

Key man: Former Port Vale midfielder Robin Hulbert is the glue that holds Barrow together, and allows more gifted players to strut their stuff.

BATH CITY
Bath City

Manager: Adie Britton

Last season: Fourth in Blue Square South, promoted via play-offs

Strengths: Former Bristol City and Yeovil Town stalwart Scott Murray heads a handful of new signings who should ensure Bath will be competitive this season.

Weaknesses: Bath's part-timers will be competing with clubs with far bigger budgets and squads.

Key man: Striker Darren Edwards, who scored 25 goals last season, can make the big step up to Blue Square Bet Premier.

CAMBRIDGE UNITED
Cambridge United

Manager: Martin Ling

Last season: 10th

Strengths: With much of the dead wood now having been cleared, Ling has moulded a squad in his own image.

Weaknesses: Despite a change of landlord, the U's continue to pay a significant amount of rent on their Abbey Stadium home.

Key man: 19-year-old striker Adam Marriott has scored goals for fun at reserve level and bagged five for the first team last season.

CRAWLEY TOWN
Crawley Town

Manager: Steve Evans

Last season: Seventh

Strengths: A wealth of attacking talent signed this summer, which should provide entertainment and goals, plus competition for places. An apparently reunited club and fan base could prove to be their biggest boost though.

Weaknesses: Pressure will be on following the summer spending spree and several new faces will have to gel, but pre-season has been highly encouraging.

Key man: Former Clyde midfielder Steve Masterton could really dominate matches and provide a touch of class. Also, if Michel Kuipers can stay fit, Crawley have got themselves a goalkeeper of League One quality.

DARLINGTON
Darlington

Manager: Mark Cooper

Last season: 24th in League Two, relegated.

Strengths: Cooper, and predecessor Simon Davey, have added League experience to the squad in the shape of Michael Brough, Dominik Werling and Tommy Wright, while Chris Senior is prolific at this level.

Weaknesses: Expectation will be high, managerial changes in pre-season may have caused instability, while such a large number of player additions may need time to settle.

Key man: Having opted to quit fellow relegated side Grimsby for a return to Darlington, striker Wright will be keen to pick up where he left off in August 2008, with 17 goals in 53 league games before switching to Aberdeen.

EASTBOURNE BOROUGH
Eastbourne Borough

Manager: Garry Wilson

Last season: 19th

Strengths: Stability. Unlike many bigger clubs, the Sussex outfit stay in the black year on year and their never-say-die spirit sees them once again punching above their weight.

Weaknesses: Eastbourne are part-timers in a mostly full-time league, with formidable long-distance trips to a string of northern opponents. Only three Borough away fixtures are within 100 miles.

Key man: Striker Richard Pacquette is, by Eastbourne standards, a big-name signing and he needs to fire the bullets in a generally low-scoring Borough side.

FLEETWOOD TOWN
Fleetwood Town

Manager: Micky Mellon

Last season: Second in the Blue Square North, promoted via the play-offs.

Strengths: Fleetwood have recruited well, with the likes of John Miles, Ian Craney and Peter Cavanagh adding a wealth of Conference and Football League experience.

Weaknesses: The Blue Square Bet Premier is a step into the unknown for the Cod Army - a good start could be essential.

Key man: Former Aston Villa and Blackburn full-back Alan Wright will be a calming influence and driving force down the left.

FOREST GREEN
Forest Green Rovers

Manager: Dave Hockaday

Last season: 21st, avoided relegation after Salisbury were sent down for financial irregularities.

Strengths: Team spirit. Against the odds, Rovers have stayed in the top tier of non-league football since 1998 and are now the division's longest-serving members. Hockaday can now consider this his squad as he has signed or re-signed every player at the club.

Weaknesses: A low playing budget, which has resulted in a small squad.

Key man: Mike Fowler missed virtually all of last season through injury but when fully fit he should add steel and experience to the spine of the team whether he plays in defence or in midfield.

GATESHEAD
Gateshead

Manager: Ian Bogie

Last season: 20th

Strengths: Full-time status has given Bogie a bigger budget to add players and more time to work with his squad in training.

Weaknesses: Gateshead remain inexperienced at this level and many long away journeys could take their toll on the squad. Goalkeeping cover will be essential.

Key man: Winger Craig Nelthorpe was highly impressive on loan at Barrow last season. Now he has arrived from York, he will add bite to the Gateshead midfield.

GRIMSBY TOWN
Grimsby Town

Manager: Neil Woods

Last season: 23rd in League Two, relegated.

Strengths: Former Rochdale keeper Kenny Arthur has arrived to fill a position that was often a source of concern for Grimsby last term. Nick Colgan has plenty of experience but struggled for large periods of the season.

Weaknesses: The departure of Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro could leave the Mariners short of goals.

Key man: Having had several brief and uneventful runs as a more attack-minded player in the Grimsby side over the last four seasons, Peter Bore found a new home at right-back and was a standout performer last season.

HAYES & YEADING
Hayes & Yeading United

Manager: Garry Haylock

Last season: 17th

Strengths: United were a tricky proposition at their quaint Church Road ground last season, and, in Haylock, have one of the division's most promising managers.

Weaknesses: One of the smallest budgets in the league, while an overhaul of personnel during the summer could well have affected a close-knit squad.

Key man: Towering centre-half Tom Cadmore was a crucial part of United's impressive first campaign last season. His leadership will be vital in the club's bid to avoid any kind of second-season syndrome.

HISTON
Histon

Manager: John Beck

Last season: 18th

Strengths: With the financial situation having become worse over the summer and with just a handful of players signed up for the new season, the return of Beck as manager is providing hope.

Weaknesses: Histon claim to be working with the smallest budget in the league.

Key man: Goalkeeper Joe Welch steps up to take the number one shirt after two seasons with the Stutes and should be a calming presence between the sticks.

KETTERING TOWN
Kettering Town

Manager: Lee Harper

Last season: Sixth

Strengths: The defence has been bolstered with recruits who are proven at this level - Ashley Westwood, Luke Graham and Sol Davis.

Weaknesses: The Poppies struggled for goals last season, hitting just 51. Relegated Ebbsfleet scored 50.

Key man: Striker Moses Ashikodi is recovering from knee surgery, but there is responsibility on his shoulders to recreate or improve on his form from last season, when he scored 19 goals in 32 games for Kettering and Ebbsfleet.

KIDDERMINSTER
Kidderminster Harriers

Manager: Steve Burr

Last season: 13th

Strengths: Harriers have added experience at the back, promotion winner Mark Albrighton having signed from Stevenage. Their attack has been bolstered by the arrivals of former Derby striker Lee Morris and England C international Nick Wright.

Weaknesses: Harriers must improve away from home. Last season, they won on the road just four times, drawing nine and losing nine.

Key man: With no fewer than 13 arrivals at Aggborough this summer, Steve Burr has completely overhauled his squad. But, if veteran player-coach John Finnigan is fit, he will add quality and experience to their midfield.

LUTON TOWN
Luton Town

Manager: Richard Money

Last season: Second, beaten in play-off semi-final.

Strengths: A strong squad, and, in Money, one of the most experienced managers in the division.

Weaknesses: The level of expectation. Fans will again be expecting the Hatters to win the league.

Key man: Striker Tom Craddock scored plenty of goals last season, but could have had more. His form will make all the difference to Luton's fortunes.

MANSFIELD TOWN
Mansfield Town

Manager: David Holdsworth

Last season: Ninth

Strengths: Experienced players like Alan Marriott, Rob Duffy and Steve Foster give the team a strong spine and they have a good home record under Holdsworth.

Weaknesses: The manager is working with a reduced wage bill this summer, which means a smaller squad. They could also miss striker Jake Speight after his departure to Bradford.

Key man: Defender Steve Foster is back at the club he supported as a boy. The experience he brings could be invaluable and if that can rub off on the rest of the team then they will have a chance.

NEWPORT COUNTY
Newport County

Manager: Dean Holdsworth

Last season: First in Blue Square South, promoted.

Strengths: Newport have further strengthened the squad that ran away with the Blue Square South last season.

Weaknesses: Newport went bust 21 years ago and it has taken this long to return to the top level of non-league football. The step up can be tricky, however they are capable of pushing for the play-offs like AFC Wimbledon did last season.

Key man: Striker Craig Reid hit 24 goals for County last season and is sure to be a handful up front again.

RUSHDEN & DIAMONDS
Rushden & Diamonds

Manager: Justin Edinburgh

Last season: Fourth, beaten in play-off semi-finals.

Strengths: A strong team spirit, a host of talented young players and, in Edinburgh, a manager who finds and nurtures talent.

Weaknesses: Their small squad could be vulnerable if injuries hit and they will not be underestimated as they were last season, which could catch them out.

Key man: Jamie Day looks to have been an astute signing from Peterborough. The skilful full-back looked a gifted defending and attacking option for the team in pre-season.

SOUTHPORT
Southport

Manager: Liam Watson

Last season: First in Blue Square North, promoted.

Strengths: The Sandgrounders scored plenty of goals last season, with four players - Chris Simm, Steve Daly, Ciaran Kilheeney and Matty McGinn - all notching up double figures.

Weaknesses: Kilheeney left the club at the end of last season to continue his career as a banker. The club's inexperience could be a factor as they adjust to life in the top level of non-league football.

Key man: Michael Powell, Southport's longest-serving player and vice-captain was a useful supplier of goals last term, contributing seven from midfield.

TAMWORTH
Tamworth

Manager: Gary Mills

Last season: 16th

Strengths: Tamworth had a relatively mean defence last season, conceding 48 goals in 44 games, decent figures for a side in the bottom half. Also, Mills' Football League contacts have resulted in some decent acquisitions at the Lamb.

Weaknesses: Goals were crucially lacking last season, with Iyseden Christie netting just six as top scorer, while Mills has seen his squad decimated by the departures of some key players.

Key man: Former Notts County midfielder Jake Sheridan will have more of an influence following the departures. He provides craft and invention for the Lambs and weighed in with five goals last term.

WREXHAM
Wrexham

Manager: Dean Saunders

Last season: 11th

Strengths: Saunders came under fire last season from some fans over their failure to mount at least a play-off challenge, but he still appears to have the support of the board.

Weaknesses: The constant chopping and changing of players needs to be addressed and Saunders has to find a settled team or it could be another struggle not only for Wrexham, but also for the manager.

Key man: Andy Mangan knows how to put the ball in the net in the lower leagues and if Wrexham are to push for a top-five finish, he could be the man to lead them there.

YORK CITY
York City

Manager: Martin Foyle

Last season: Fifth, lost in play-off final.

Strengths: Foyle's side are resolute and hard to beat, demonstrated by the fact that they won 10 games 1-0 last term.

Weaknesses: The Minstermen may be over-dependant on chief goal-scorer Richard Brodie.

Key man: Brodie scored 30 goals last season after a slow start at the club. York will be hoping for a repeat performance.

Reporting by Matt Newsum, Liam O'Connor, Chris Bartlett, Phil Maiden, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire's Peter Swan, BBC Sussex's Rob Stevens, BBC Radio Lancashire's Phil Cunliffe, BBC Radio Gloucestershire's Paul Furley, BBC Radio Humberside's Mike White, BBC Three Counties Radio's Simon Oxley, BBC Radio Nottingham's David Jackson, BBC Wales' David Dulin, BBC Radio Northampton's Jon Wilkinson, BBC Radio York's Barry Parker.



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see also
Non-league commentaries
24 Sep 10 |  Non League
The Non League Show
15 Aug 11 |  TV and Radio
Guide to the Non-League Pyramid
31 Mar 08 |  Non League


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