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The Vanarama National League 2019/20 fan previews

The pre season hopes of a Magpie, Rebel and Crusader

The Vanarama National League 2019/20 fan previews
Software Development & API Integrations services in Bracknell

The Vanarama National League kicks off on Saturday 3rd August with the three Berkshire sides all in action.

Maidenhead United are away in the top tier along with Hungerford Town in the South but Slough Town are at home on the opening day. The full weekend fixture list for Berkshire is here.

Prior to all that though, we asked a fan from each of the three clubs their opinions on the season ahead, where the team might finish and which players to look out for.

So a huge thanks to Andy Waller, Shay Bottomley and Mark Godding for their thoughts. We’ve put the teams in alphabetical order..

Don’t miss a kick this season, make sure you are following @fiberkshire on twitter for all the latest football news from across the county.

Hungerford Town

Ian Herring. Photo: Phil Cannings.
Ian Herring. Photo: Phil Cannings.

Division: National League South Last season finish: 19th Manager: Ian Herring.

Fan preview by: Andy Waller. Vote here to have your say in out National League South predictor.

How has pre season been?

I don’t pay too much heed to it to be honest. Mixed so far, but definitely better than last year’s woeful set of pre-season performances & results. Thankfully we’re not starting totally from scratch this time, but there’s still plenty to do; it’s mainly about looking at potential players & blowing away the cobwebs. I’m not going to read anything more into it than that!

What’s a realistic aim for this season on the pitch?

I know Spud has said he wants to change the player mentality from aiming for survival to believing we belong in the upper half of the table, but old habits die hard – I’ll take survival.

Despite 2019/20 being Hungerford’s 4th season at this level, our level of resources dictate that we remain at the bottom of the National League South food chain. To a large degree our recruitment relies on scavenging the scraps left on the NLS tables or hunting for hidden gems from the lower leagues.

Last year necessity was the mother of invention, and players blossomed after benefiting from levels of patience and support they probably wouldn’t have got at other clubs. Recently we’ve seen signings from Step 4, and a couple from Step 7. As a supporter, picking potential talent from down the leagues is satisfying when it goes right, but we are a pretty sanguine bunch at Bulpit Lane & know we’re going to have to kiss a few frogs before we find a prince.

Being positive, with a fair wind and a bit of momentum, where might you finish?

Toward the end of last season there was a statistic floating round showing that had the league started on 1st January we would have been placed 8th. A New Year’s Day away win at Oxford, a few tweaks to the team, time to gel, players stepping up to the plate, and all of a sudden watching football was fun again.

Alfy Whittingham epitomised this: he had an indifferent first half of the season, but a goal in that game, a confidence boost, and he really shifted through the gears and became a massive player for us. There’s still a big rebuild this year, but if we can reach the ‘clicking point’ that little bit earlier in the season, a mid-table finish is not beyond us.

But every year the NLS seems to get more competitive and in 2019/20 there are even more well supported teams joining the fray.

New signing you are most excited to see more of and why?

Zidane Akers played against us for Thatcham in a mid-season friendly and gave our defence a torrid time. Hopefully he can consistently marshall all the obvious attributes of his game and give our opponents similar problems.

James Constable has a great goal scoring pedigree, and has succeeded in the EFL; at 34 he’s not one for the future, but he’ll score a few and bring some nous and experience to what remains a young squad. Equally I’m intrigued to see what Liam Ferdinand can do at this level. He’s impressed when I’ve seen him play at Step 4 and 5, but this is another big leap.

Liam Ferdinand celebrates scoring for Bracknell Town. Photo: Neil Graham.
Liam Ferdinand celebrates scoring for Bracknell Town. Photo: Neil Graham.

Player you wish you could have kept hold of and why?

Alfy Whittingham had an excellent 2nd half of the season; Darren Foxley could go missing for long periods, then produce a moment of magic: both were great because they could make things happen when our backs were against the wall.

But ultimately it’s a pretty easy answer, as Marvel Ekpiteta was immense throughout almost the whole of the season; on occasion he seemed to single handedly drag the team through difficult patches in a game. His move to Newport was well deserved. James Rusby and Josh Martin combined well when he was missing, but Josh has gone too, so that’s a bit of a hole to fill.

Which player do you expect to breakthrough this season and why?

I have no idea, but I look forward to finding out! I’m hoping we get some decent loanees, too, as last season a few of them made a big contribution.

Who do you see as your big rivals this season?

Like much of non-league, in the National League South personnel can be pretty fluid and things can change at a club, so suddenly a team that thrived one season can struggle the next. I’m just hoping there are 2 teams with fewer points than us on the last day of the season and am not fussed who they will be!

You can only do one away day this season, what’s your choice and why?

Hungerford supporters may be relatively few, but they are a lovely bunch and in recent years our number of hardcore of fans has increased, becoming more vocal too.

If there’s one thing we do well it’s an away day weekender at the seaside. Last season we were blessed with 2 Bank Holiday weekends in Torquay, one being a season saving 1-0 win against the champions in front of 5,500 people! That’ll be hard to beat, but this season’s designated jolly is a trip to Weymouth (at the end of November, unfortunately), so I’ll plump for that.

Maidenhead United

Alan Devonshire. Photo: @DarrenWoolley2
Alan Devonshire. Photo: @DarrenWoolley2

Division: National League Last season finish: 19th Manager: Alan Devonshire

Fan preview by: Shay Bottomley. Vote here to have your say in our National League predictor.

How has pre season been?

Promising so far, four wins from four. We look as if we can create chances and the new signings are looking exciting. Still work to do defensively, but it is looking good.

What’s a realistic aim for this season on the pitch?

To stay up. We’re one of the few part time clubs left in the league, so a third successive season maintaining NL status would be huge

Being positive, with a fair wind and a bit of momentum, where might you finish?

Top half?

New signing you are most excited to see more of and why?

Josh Smile – looked promising against us last year, and has impressed so far in pre-season

Player you wish you could have kept hold of and why?

Adrian Clifton, wore his heart on his sleeve and was a fantastic striker.

Which player do you expect to breakthrough this season and why?

Josh Kelly
Josh Kelly. Photo: @DarrenWoolley2

It’ll be a big year for Josh Kelly; if he’s improved on his physicality, he could score 20+ this year

Who do you see as your big rivals this season?

Erm, personally Torquay? It’d be nice to get revenge after they did the double over us two seasons ago, plus my mate supports them. Always nice to beat Ebbsfleet as well.

You can only do one away day this season, what’s your choice and why?

Notts County, as I love seeing Maidenhead play at bigger grounds.

Slough Town

Slough Town managers Neil Baker and Jon Underwood. Photo: Windsor Observer.
Slough Town managers Neil Baker and Jon Underwood. Photo: Windsor Observer.

Division: National League South Last season finish: 11th Manager: Jon Underwood and Neil Baker.

Fan preview by: Mark Godding. Vote here to have your say in out National League South predictor.

How has pre season been?

So far so good to be honest, we have lost 3 (all against higher opposition) and won against Hayes. Managers have had the opportunity to play a few different styles and players in a few different positions which will only help when we get into the competitive games.

What’s a realistic aim for this season on the pitch?

There seems to be a lot of money thrown around in this league. We have taken the option of local players and not those who demand big bucks which suits me down to the ground. I think that realistically we are looking at a top 10 finish, although the aim will be to get into the playoffs

Being positive, with a fair wind and a bit of momentum, where might you finish?

With a bit of momentum like the back end of last season I reckon we could finish as high as 4th

New signing you are most excited to see more of and why?

Dan Roberts. Photo: Philip J.A Benton / philipbenton.com
Dan Roberts. Photo: Philip J.A Benton / philipbenton.com

Not so much a new signing as he was with us a bit last year but I’m really excited by the prospect of Dan Roberts. Lightning quick and is putting the cat amongst the pidgeons so far this pre season

Player you wish you could have kept hold of and why?

Difficult as we only lost two and I think it was time for both.

Which player do you expect to breakthrough this season and why?

Dan Roberts looks to be the youngster to watch. As said, lightning pace and seems to be a bit more physical than back end of last season.

Who do you see as your big rivals this season?

Not sure we have any really but Wealdstone are our Boxing Day match for the second year running so let’s go with them

You can only do one away day this season, what’s your choice and why?

Weymouth, fantastic traditional non league ground, seaside and a great set of fans too.

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Tom Canning

Tom is the co-editor of Football in Berkshire. He has played at the lowest possible level of football. In real life Tom works for Reach PLC. Former manager of Binfield Ladies in the Thames Valley Women's League.

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