The teams Morpeth Town should fear as they look forward to the new season in the Pitching In NPL Premier Division
It will be 42 games of attritional football against teams from Manchester, Stafford, and even one bankrolled by Robbie Savage and Co. But who is winning what this season?
It is the latter, Macclesfield FC, who should walk the division, thanks in no small part to a budget far beyond the reach of their rivals and crowds of 4,000 regularly coming through the turnstiles.
But whereas the Silkmen are simply passing through on their way to league football, the rest are a much closer matched collection of wannabe winners.
The title may not be up for grabs, as such, but the play-off spots, and that second promotion place, looks like a tussle of epic proportions.
Radcliffe continue to spend big, and they’ll be in there again, along with another big spender in newly promoted Worksop Town. Bradford Park Avenue are coming down from National League North and should feature strongly, but they’ll need to adjust to life in a lower tier, something Guiseley found all too troubling last season.
They seem to have settled and should feature prominently too.
Bamber Bridge have lost a major player in Fin Sinclair Smith, with the league young player of the season now plying his trade in a Marine team that, for me, is a play-off shoo-in.
More should be expected from Lancaster City and Whitby Town, after a season of woeful underachievement by their standards, and FC United of Manchester should be there or thereabouts too. If Gainsborough Trinity repeat last season’s flirtation with promotion, without experienced top scorer Clayton Donaldson (who has left for Farsley Celtic), they will have worked wonders.
But what about Morpeth? After agreeing their biggest sponsorship deal in history over the summer, there's a renewed vibrancy around Craik Park. An unusually streaky campaign has been learned from and the starting XI looks as impressive as any other in the division. Keep them all fit and they’ll be a force.
Bolster squad depth – they already have with the additions of Danny Barlow, Vinnie Steels and Liam Miller – sign a number nine and those play-off spots might be more than just a hope.