The start to the 2017/18 Vanarama National season is a little over a month away so here The Cold End presents a season preview detailing the new signings clubs have made. Here we look at the top three in the current betting being Tranmere Rovers, Eastleigh and Dagenham & Redbridge.
Tranmere Rovers (current title odds 3/1)
There is no surprise that Tranmere Rovers are favourites for the title in the Vanarama National Division. They were runner's up in the table last season by just four points to champion's Lincoln City and then narrowly lost out to Forest Green Rovers in the play-off final at Wembley. Micky Mellon took the step down from football league side Shrewsbury Town to take over at boss at Prenton Park in October 2016 and now has a full pre-season build up to prepare for the 2017/18 campaign.
Lee Vaughan (to Kidderminster Harriers), Louis Almond (to York City), Steve Jennings (to Southport), Darren Stephenson (to Stockport County) and Micheal Ihiekwe (to Rotherham United) have all left the club. Of those only Jennings and Ihiekwe featured in the play-off final.
Mellon has made a number of signings. Jack Dunn from Liverpool who is an attacking midfielder/forward. He came through the youth ranks at Anfield and also played for the England u17s, u18s and u19s. Now 22, he has also spent time on loan at Cheltenham Town, Burton Albion and Morecambe. He also spent time on loan at Tranmere Rovers last season. George Waring, also aged 22, signs from Stoke City where he had been since 2013 - He never made the first team but played on loan for Barnsley, Oxford United, Shrewsbury Town and Carlisle United whilst with The Potters. He was on the books as a youth team player with Everton where as the age of 16 he scored the winning goal in the under 18's Premier League Cup Final. Twenty-Four year old midfielder Ollie Norburn joins from Macclesfield Town - he was a youth team player with Chelsea and Leicester City before joining Bristol Rovers in 2012. He has also played for Plymouth Argyle and Guiseley before joining Macclesfield last summer. He scored a fantastic volley for The Silkmen in the FA Trophy final v York City at Wembley in May.
COLD END PREDICTION - THE BOOKMAKERS PROBABLY HAVE IT RIGHT MAKING TRANMERE ROVERS FAVOURITES. THEY ARE 3/1 WITH OTHER TEAMS AT 8/1 OR MORE - I THINK IT WILL BE A FAR MORE CLOSER RACE THAN THIS SUGGESTS.
Eastleigh (title odds 8/1)
After finishing 4th in their first season at non-league's top table in 2014/15 The Spitfires have finished 7th and then 15th last season which saw Ronnie Moore start as boss to be replaced by Martin Allen in December (who dropped down from football league side Barnet) who left in February to be replaced by Richard Hill who had been in charge of the club between 2012 and 2015 where they have been crowned Conference South champions and achieved that 4th place finish mentioned above.
Hill has been busy making signings in preparation for the new season. Striker Chris Zebroski, who made six appearances for the club in 2013, has re-signed for The Spitfires. He last played football for Newport County in 2015 but has been serving a prison sentence for robbery, attempted robbery and assault convictions. He has also played for Plymouth Argyle, Millwall, Wycombe Wanderers, Torquay United and Bristol Rovers amongst other clubs. Sam Wood, aged 30, started his career with Cray Wanderers before moving to Bromley, Brentford, Rotherham United (loan) and Wycombe Wanderers. The midfielder/defender brings with him a wealth of experience with 300 appearances for the football league sides he played for. Winger Mark Yeates, aged 32, is also a player with lots of experiences. He has played for numerous football league clubs making over 350 appearances - he was with Blackpool and Notts County last season. Danny Hollands signs from Crewe Alexandra. The 31 year old started his career as a youth-team player with Chelsea back in 2001. He Captained both youth and reserve sides at Stamford Bridge but never made a first team appearance before joining AFC Bournemouth in 2006 where he played over 150 games. He has since played for Charlton Athletic, Swindon Town, Gillingham and Portsmouth whom he joined Crewe Alexandra from last summer. Striker Paul McCallum joins after spending last season with Leyton Orient - he started his career in the Isthmian League with Dulwich Hamlet before joining West Ham United on 2011 - he had attracted interest from a number of Premier League giants. It never really worked out for the Streatham born player at Upton Park and he was loaned to numerous clubs before moving to The Matchroom Stadium in 2015. Goalkeeper Ross Flitney has also rejoined the club having played over 100 times between 2013 to 2016. He was with Bromley last season. He has played for numerous clubs during his career including Fulham, Gillingham and Dover Athletic.
COLD END PREDICTION - RICHARD HILL HAS RECRUITED A NUMBER OF HIGHLY EXPERIENCED PLAYERS TO HIS SQUAD. EASTLEIGH WILL CHALLENGE FOR THE PLAY-OFFS AND FINISH FAR HIGHER THAN THE 15th THEY ACHEIVED LAST SEASON.
Dagenham & Redbridge (title odds 10/1)
The Daggers went close to getting back into the football league at the first time of asking last season finishing fourth before losing to Forest Green Rovers in the play-off semi-final.
There has been lots of movement between The Daggers and Boreham Wood over the summer. Terry Harris (who was Assistant Manager at Dagenham) has moved to be assistant to Luke Garrard at Boreham Wood with Junior Lewis (who has assistant Head Coach to Garrard) moving in the opposite direction. Lewis is well travelled in his playing and coaching career - Ben Nunn and Morgan Ferrier have also made the move from Hertfordshire to East London. Nunn is a defender and has been with Boreham Wood since 2012 - He has also played for Chelmsford City, Cambridge City and Bishops Stortford amongst other clubs. Ferrier is a centre forward and came through the ranks at Arsenal and Crystal Palace - he went on to play for Bishops Stortford and Hemel Hempstead Town before moving to Boreham Wood last summer. He scored 12 goals in 35 appearances for them last season.
Midfielder Charlee Adams has signed from Championship side Birmingham City whom has been with since 2013. He was born locally in Redbridge and was on the books with West Ham United prior to moving to St Andrews where he also spent time on loan with Lincoln City and Kilmarnock, where he linked up with former City manager Lee Clarke. Michael Cheek, who scored 19 goals in 44 games for a Braintree Town team who struggled last season and were eventually relegated - he should score a few more for a team towards the top of the table in my opinion. Defender Bondz N'Gala has joined after finishing last season with Dover Athletic - he had started it with Barnet and followed his manager Martin Allen to Eastleigh - he was due to join Gillingham in February but that deal fell through. He was born locally in Forest Gate and began his career with West Ham United where never made a first team appearance. Midfielder Daniel Sparkes, 25, joins from Torquay United where he scored six goals in thity-five goals last season having joined from Braintree Town in the summer of 2016.
Joe Widdowson, Josh Staunton and Scott Heard have left the club.
COLD END PREDICTION - THE DAGGERS HAVE RECRUITED WELL OVER THE SUMMER WITH MICHAEL CHEEK ADDING TO THEIR FORWARD LINE, CHARLEE ADAMS AND DANIEL SPARKES TO THEIR MIDFIELD AND BONDZ N'GALA A GOOD SIGNING FOR THE CENTRE OF DEFENCE. THEY WILL BE THERE OR THEREABOUTS IN THE RACE FOR THE TITLE AND MOST DEFINATELY BE PLAY-OFF CONTENDERS.
* odds available at skybet.com
Coming soon - Wrexham, Hartlepool United, Aldershot Town and AFC Fylde.