The new season is nearly upon us and another exciting season in the Blue Square Premier is only days away. Over the last few years, the BSP has become like its top-flight namesake as money has split the league into almost three sections.
The recent money that has come into the league allowed for the likes of last years champions Crawley paying almost £300k for one striker whilst other clubs relied solely on free agents and loan deals to bolster their squads. This means that year to year, squads can change massively and, unless a previously relegated team can gain promotion back to ‘The League’ they can soon find themselves drawn into the mid table mire.
Front-runners for the 2011 – 12 season should really be Luton Town and Fleetwood. The amount of money that has been spent restructuring the entire Fleetwood operation should start to reap some dividends soon. Adding Paul Edwards (from Barrow) and Andy Mangan (from Wrexham) will definitely add new things to an already quality squad, and having signed Richard Brodie on loan from last years champions Crawley Town should ensure they have the goals to challenge at the right end of the table once again. I originally thought Luton Town would have gone straight back up, but they have spent the last few years rebuilding it seems and have become stronger every year they have been in the BSP.
York City have bought well in the summer, and should also be thought of as possible title contenders. Replacing good strikers such as Gash and Rankine with the likes of Jason Walker (from Luton) should see them get the goals to be up the right end of the table by the end of it all. Stockport and Lincoln (both relegated from League 2 at the end of last season) have brought in many new faces so may take some time to adapt to playing together, but could be looking at the play offs by April 2012.
Such is the delicate state of finances for most clubs at this level at this level of football, the league is still not certain at this late stage of whether all the teams will start the season, as at the time of writing, Wrexham have still to pay a bond to the league and convince the league they can complete the season. The league is no stranger to teams in financial trouble after having to deal with the fallout from Chester’s liquidation a couple of years ago.
All in all, apart from the top two or three who should be going for the title, there are many teams who with a good run could find themselves challenging for the play offs. Last years successful ‘Non League Day’ campaign is also running again, asking fans of big clubs to visit their local non league club on weekends when there are international fixtures. This lead to some big gate increases throughout the non-league pyramid, and some of the new fans liked it and stuck around. Hopefully this trend will continue.
Looking at a few betting sites, they generally have Luton Town and Fleetwood Town as joint favourites at 7/2 with York close behind at 8/1. Mangan (Fleetwood) is 7/1 to be top goalscorer with Jason Walker (York) behind at 8/1 and Richard Brodie (Fleetwood) at 10/1.