As a new season begins, and teams start to ready themselves for their preseason campaign, it’s about time we welcome the six new sides in the Northern Premier League, and start to get to know them a bit better!
As you probably already know, two teams get promoted out of the Northern Premier; one outright, and one via the playoffs. Relegation captures four teams per season, leaving room for six new teams to ply their trade in the Northern Premier.
The first of these teams is Altrincham FC, who were relegated into the Northern Premier from the National League North, having finished on just 21 points from 42 games. Altrincham’s ground, Moss Lane, has a capacity of just over 6000, with 1154 seated.
Altrincham have almost been a ‘yoyo’ club throughout their recent history, culminating in successive relegations after finishing in the relegation places of the newly renamed Vanarama National League back in the 2015/2016 season. But they’ll be looking to bounce straight back to the National League North, and have recently signed former Hartlepool and Salford FC star James Poole, which is a huge statement of intent. Poole has Northern Premier experience, having won a hard fought promotion with Salford two seasons ago, beating Workington 3-2 in the play-off final.
Altrincham definitely have the experience needed to win promotion at the first attempt, and they will no doubt continue to bolster their lines in order to have the best possible chance. But we all know it’s a tough league, so they’ll have to continually be at their best to see their plan come to life.
Predicted finish: 2nd.
The next team we can take a look at is Farsley Celtic, based in West Yorkshire. Throstle Nest, home of Farsley Celtic, has a capacity of 3900, with 300 of those being seated. Farsley won promotion to the Northern Premier the hard way, having finished second in the First Division North, after being narrowly pipped at the post by another Northern Premier new boy, Lancaster FC. Farsley drew Colne in the play-off semi finals, and confidently defeated them 4-0 to set up a final against Ossett Town. Farsley went on to win the final 4-2, and rightfully earn them a place in the Northern Premier; a target they’d had a majority of the back-end of the season.
But it hasn’t always been plain sailing for The Villagers. Financial problems in the 2009/2010 season led to them going into administration in March 2010, after being unable to fulfill fixtures. This ultimately led to the team being disbanded on the 10th March 2010. But the club was reformed, playing as Farsley A.F.C. The newly reformed side have had a relatively successful history, leading them to where they are now. In 2015, Farsley A.F.C welcomed back the name Farsley Celtic.
And to hit the ground running, the Celts have brought in experienced defender Danny Ellis from Harrogate Town. Farsley manager, Adam Lakeland, said he could ‘not be more delighted’ to bring in Ellis. I’m sure the rest of the Northern Premier will be keeping an eye on the newly promoted side, and any more new investments they make before the season begins. Newly promoted sides often have a good first season in the Northern Premier, such as Spennymoor who won promotion at the first attempt last season, so Farsley Celtic might be a surprise package.
Predicted finish: 5th.
Third on the list of Northern League new boys are Lancaster City FC. The Dolly Blues play their home games at Giant Axe. Giant Axe holds 3500 spectators, of which 513 are seated. The 513 seat main stand is named after the club’s late president, John Bagguley. Lancaster secured Northern Premier Football by winning the First Division North, after finishing just one point ahead of Farsley Celtic.
And, despite it being two weeks before the preseason gets underway, boss Phil Brown has already strengthened his side to the point where it’s ‘just about done’ for the beginning of the Northern Premier season. City have bolstered the side with six fresh faces, having also tied up a lot of the side that won last season’s title.
It’s a new era for Lancaster, with current manager Phil Brown only just finishing his first full season at the helm. But Brown is definitely doing the right things, and only time will tell how they get on in the higher division. But with a mixture of energetic youth, and vast experience, it looks like they’re in the best possible position to tackle next season.
Predicted Finish: 10th.
Next up is Shaw Lane, based in Barnsley. Nicknamed ‘The Ducks’, Shaw Lane was only formed in 2012, as Shaw Lane Aquaforce, although this name had to be changed to comply with FA regulations due to their success in climbing the ladder. Shaw Lane achieved promotion to the Northern Premier after winning the First Division South. Shaw Lane had a brilliant season, finishing on 102 points, and only dropping six points at home all season. In fact, in their five season existence, they’ve only failed to win promotion once, back in the 2015/2016 season.
And, despite being fairly inexperienced, Shaw Lane do have some history against Northern Premier sides. Having drawn Whitby Town at home in the FA Trophy, Shaw Lane went on to confidently defeat the higher tiered side 3-0, in front of 320 spectators. Despite the away side finishing the game with ten men, Shaw Lane started the game exceptionally well, and only grew stronger as the game went on.
Similar to Lancaster City, a bulk of Shaw Lane’s title winning team have put pen to paper to stay on for the Northern Premier fight, whilst they also continue to scout the market for some fresh faces, including the signing of Harrogate Town’s Chib Chilaka.
Shaw Lane are stepping into the unknown, and they’re bound to give 110% throughout this new adventure. It looks like they have the right resources to give it all that they have this season, and to really make it a season to remember.
Predicted finish: 8th.
Our penultimate team is Stalybridge Celtic, relegated from the National League North after finishing 21st out of 22 teams, only finishing ahead of Altrincham. Stalybridge play their home games at Bower Field. Bower Field holds 6500 spectators, of which 1300 are seated.
Recent times haven’t been too great for Stalybridge, who’ll be looking to use their relegation to the Northern Premier as a turnaround point to get themselves back on track. Notably, though, U20 World Cup winner Dominic Calvert-Lewin, grabbed two goals and two assists on his debut for Stalybridge, back on boxing day 2014, whilst on loan from Sheffield United.
Stalybridge have already delved into the transfer market, signing three players up, including former Trafford striker Aaron Burns, who grabbed 34 goals in 67 games for his former club. Burns is a crucial signing for the Celts, having already shown his capability at this level, and at similar levels, over the last few years.
Stalybridge boast an impressive academy, the Stalybridge Celtic FC Academy, supporting in the development of young footballers ages 16-19. Hosting an academy is a great way to make a real different in young, aspiring player’s lives, and it’s really nice to see Stalybridge get behind it so much.
Overall, it looks like Stalybridge have got a really nice set up, and an experienced team that can really have a go at winning promotion at the first attempt.
Predicted finish: 4th.
Last, but not least, we’ve got Witton Albion. Witton play their home games at Wincham Park, which holds 4813 spectators.
Witton Albion secured Northern Premier football through the playoffs, having finish second to high-flying Shaw Lane in the First Division South. Witton played Spalding in their play-off final, beating them 2-1. Albion have a vast amount of Northern Premier experience, so they know exactly what they’re going to be coming up against come August.
Predicted finish: 11th.
I’ll be looking to travel over to all of the new member’s grounds, if possible, throughout the coming season. With such a great mixture of teams in terms of experience and history, we’re bound to have yet another exciting Northern Premier League campaign!