Non-League Paper – 21/22 August 2021

Article supplied by The Non-League Paper

THE ONLY problem with pre-season predictions in print is people remember them. Sometimes they even cut them out and keep them. Some get stuck on a dressing room wall and used to create motivation or a siege mentality.

Of course, a correct pre-season prediction is worth its weight in gold. If you’ve delivered your tips in late July or early August and they come off by the end of April or May, then you can take your lap of honour. 

It’s part of the new season fun. Who has signed well? Who looks to have strong foundations from last season? Who might drop off? 

This season that has been harder than ever. The majority of Steps 3-6 didn’t kick a ball from November onwards last season, Step 2 stopped early, with just the National League’s top flight completing a full campaign. 

So it’s difficult to quite know how teams will come back. How players will return after missing so much competitive football. But, even when a full season has been completed, predictions are just that. Guess work! 

Because if we knew what would happen, then there wouldn’t be much point in all turning up every Saturday. 

The opening weeks are always fascinating. Most teams fancy their chances of having a special year, believing they can be the ones fighting it out even when no one else thinks they will be.

Just ask Sutton United. Not many expected Matt Gray’s side to be in the title race. Outsiders for a play-off place? Sure. But not leading everyone else and lifting the championship. 

Yet, last week they were at Cardiff City in the EFL Cup as they embark on their first ever season in League football. It’s quite a story.

And this season will throw up many more. Every league has its fancied sides, the big spenders who ‘should’ be in the mix. But every league will have some who come from nowhere, where everything falls into place and it they really do have the season of their lives. 

Like Hornchurch last season celebrating FA Trophy glory under the arch. There can’t have been anyone in the country who foresaw that happening. 

This weekend the Step 1 clubs are getting underway to make it a full Non-League house. 

The FA Cup is in full swing, crowds are up, goals are flying in. It feels almost normal again.

There may be some bumps in the road this season, Covid hasn’t gone away and a glance across the fixture list shows the pandemic is still having an impact on postponements. 

But, after a long absence, it feels good to be inching back towards that routine. And the normality of all my predictions falling flat on their face by the end of September! Enjoy your game…

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