2012/13: 24th in League Two – “a complete mess”
With relegation came administration and that removed any hope of retaining players for next season. However, the players who were out of contract in the summer would have left the club anyway. It came as a surprise to many of us that the majority of players who were in contract for next season would be made ‘redundant’ by the administrators, leaving us with around six players left on our books. Peter Vincenti (Rochdale), Danny Hylton (Rotherham) and Troy Brown (Cheltenham) are three who will be missed. Danny Rose (Oxford) and Sonny Bradley (Portsmouth) were both loanees but nonetheless, will also be missed. All of these players, when fit were ever present. As it stands we are still in administration, so we cannot sign anyone but one player we have kept hold of is midfielder Craig Stanley – who we missed last season through injury.
Andy Scott has been given a mammoth task this summer – to build a squad from scratch from little money with the objective to simply survive the drop this season. This will be no easy task. Many managers would have packed their bags and left by now but Scott has stuck by us in this difficult situation and is deserved credit no matter what happens. In my opinion, he is the right man for the job.
The Recreation Ground – atmosphere and character.
At last we can enjoy a proper local derby… Aldershot vs. Woking! I am also looking forward to visiting Barnet’s new ground.
To get promoted: Forest Green Rovers and Grimsby
To get relegated: Salisbury City, Southport, Welling United and Tamworth.
Aldershot’s finish: 18th
2012/13: 13th in Conference
2012/13: 23rd in League Two – “Finally we’re relegated”
Our star player Ricky Holmes has unfortunately left for Portsmouth, but with his talent it’s no surprise he’s left us. Luckily we’ve kept our spine of Stack, Stephens, Davids and Hyde. Along with the signing of Welling defender Acheampong and Elliot Johnson breaking through from the academy last season I think we’re going to have a really strong defence. Hopefully Jake Hyde, who has been transfer listed, will stay, because he’s more than capable of bagging us 20+ goals this season. But we do still next half a dozen more players to bulk up the squad in all areas.
I know it’s been spouted a hundred times but if Edgar Davids had been our manager from the start of the season we would have been just off the League Two play-off places. After a string of managers who we’ve been quite frankly terrible under, having Davids in charge is a welcome change.
Even Barnet fans haven’t been to our ground yet! We left Underhill at the end of the season after a decade of nonsense with the council and moved to our newly built 5000-ish seater stadium by our training ground. I believe the seats came from the basketball arena from the Olympics. It’s really nice but won’t have the same charm as Underhill. Hopefully we can make it a fortress for the new season.
Luton Town at home on Boxing Day and away on New Year’s are the highlights given the rivalry between the clubs. Also looking forward to Gateshead to see Liam Hatch again who was with us when we won the Conference in 2005 and whom the fans still adore.
To get promoted: Forest Green Rovers (Champions) and Kidderminster (Play-offs)
To get relegated: Salisbury, Southport, Hyde and Gateshead
Barnet’s finish: 5th
2012/13: 9th in Conference
2012/13: 14th in Conference – “Not good enough”
The signing of Adam Cunnington will be fantastic to go alongside Tom Elliott up top. Every club is searching for a goal scorer and hopefully he'll help us to be up near the higher places in the league come the end of the season. Greg Taylor and Ryan Donaldson are two players I've admired for a long time too. I'm disappointed with the departure of Tom Shaw to Alfreton and also disappointed with our manager’s decision to release our player of the season Rossi Jarvis.
I'm not convinced at all by our manager. Last season I spent most of it cringing at his dreadful press conferences, pitiful repetitive poor excuses and persistently playing players out of position. But hopefully with his own squad this season, things may be different.
The Abbey is your typical old school lower league ground – not one of those boring four squares, all-seater and no atmosphere grounds. It's got a lot of character. I love it.
Luton is always an exciting one for our supporters, although a few idiotic ones seem to class it as a derby because they signed a few of our players four years ago! From a personal point of view, living in north Wales I will be looking forward to the Wrexham and Chester games to renew rivalries with friends.
To get promoted: Forest Green Rovers (Champions) and Wrexham (Play-offs)
To get relegated: Salisbury, Southport, Hyde and Lincoln
Cambridge’s finish: between 7th and 10th
2012/13: 1st in Conference North – “Exciting, Entertaining, Champions.”
Our biggest loss will be Antoni Sarcevic. He was voted our player of the season, and recently scored on his England C debut. The complete midfielder, but our loss is Fleetwood's gain. Was also disappointed in seeing the likes of Matty McGinn, Wes Baynes and Tony Gray (who all recently joined AFC Telford United) and Dominic Collins (to Hereford) leave, as I feel that they would have been more than comfortable in the Conference Premier; due to work commitments, they couldn't stay. But, as good as players they were, there have been players coming in with a very good pedigree. Jamie Reed is one that stands out, joining his hometown team, and had a good spell at York, when they won promotion to the Football League via the play-offs and won the FA Trophy. Reed was an integral part of that side, and having him at Chester is a huge plus for us. Jason Jarrett ran the show for Halifax against us in our league encounters last season, and Gareth Seddon scored against us in an FA Cup tie last season. Danny Harrison was playing League One football with Tranmere last season too, and brings a wealth of experience. Kevin McIntyre, who played for Chester City during our Conference Winning campaign of 2003/04 is back, and Lee Pugh is a young lad, signed from Clitheroe, but sounds a very exciting, pacey full back.
Without a doubt, Neil Young is the right man for the job. His record at Chester speaks for itself. He was brought in as manager when the club reformed in May 2010, and without a single player on the books. In three seasons, he has managed to guide us to three championship titles, and back where Chester City were when it went pop. He gets the team playing good football, but it's his ability to mould teams together, plus with an astute knowledge of the non league transfer market, he wheels and deals, and always gets the right results. I don't know how he's done it. It's nothing short of remarkable. He's dismantled three squads but has always rebuilt them with quality, and look where it's got us. The same is happening this season, and I'm sure it will all lead to another positive campaign at the Exacta Stadium. Put simply, Neil Young is an absolute genius, and he will guide us to the Football League one day, no doubt about it.
Whilst it doesn't have the "wow" factor, the Exacta is functional and tidy. It's a small ground, but since the club was taken over by the fans, tiny improvements have been made to make the place a bit more colourful. Away fans will be seated in the corner of the Centurion Community Stand (west stand) - for larger away followings the Swansway Peugeot End (south stand) will be opened, again though, this is seated. The Exacta doesn't produce a very good atmosphere, due to the low roofs on the stands. Refreshments are not the best either, I have to be honest. You'll always get a warm welcome though!
Looking most forward to Wrexham – we have our derby back, and after years of them goading us after our decline, we are back on a level playing field. Also looking forward to the games against the likes of Luton, Grimsby, Lincoln and Hereford. Reminders of our encounters during our Football League days. First up is Barnet, and that is one I'm also very much looking forward to: ex Football League team, a brand spanking new ground to visit, and there is the Edgar Davids factor too!
To get promoted: Luton (Champions) and Barnet (Play-offs)
To get relegated: Aldershot, Southport, Welling and Gateshead
Chester’s finish: a respectable 14th