There may be nothing to report on the pitch at the moment, with football still mothballed, but plenty has been happening off it, as clubs try to prepare for the eventual release of a start date for the 2020-21 season. There has been a flurry of comings and goings, and that has been the cue for DAN CONNOR to resume his in-depth round-up of all the news from the Vanarama National League North.
Should the 2019/20 Vanarama National League North season have continued under normal circumstances, the league games would have been wrapped up by now. The traditional summer break, when we wait and wonder about the next campaign, would have been well and truly underway, yet little did we know, this time, the waiting and wondering would stretch out longer than ever.
Despite the continuing uncertainty about when football might finally resume, clubs are having to think ahead and begin planning for next season in anticipation of games at last being played again.
As a result, next year’s squads are starting to take shape. Already, across the league, there has been plenty of player movement, as well as many players putting pen to paper and extending their stay at their respective clubs.
King's Lynn Town have been one of the busier clubs thus far, with a whole host of players committing their future to the Norfolk side, whilst a number have departed. Michael Gash, Ryan Hawkins, Alex Street, Aaron Jones, Chris Smith, Sonny Carey, Ross Barrows, Rory McAuley and Chris Henderson have all agreed new deals, keeping them at the club until next season.
Only two players, Ryan Fryatt and Nathan Fox, have left The Linnets. Fryatt departs The Walks with a record of 349 appearances, having made his debut in November 2010, whilst Fox made 36 appearances, scoring once.
At Brackley Town, six players have signed new contracts. Shane Byrne, Ellis Myles, Danny Lewis, Connor Franklin, Sheperd Murombedzi and Glenn Walker have all agreed new deals. Currently, no players have left the club.
Spennymoor Town have seen a complete reshuffle of their 2019/20 squad, with big changes expected to continue throughout the summer months. Already, eight players have left the club, seven have signed new contracts and two new players have joined Jason Ainsley’s men.
Matthew Gould, Tyler Forbes, Stephen Brogan, James Roberts, Adam Boyes, Shane Henry, Andrew Johnson and Jake Hibbs have left the Durham-based club.
Robert Ramshaw, Carl Magnay, Mark Anderson, James Curtis, Jamie Chandler, Nathan Buddle and Ben McKenna are the seven who remain, whilst top scorer Glen Taylor and winger Ryan Hall were already under contract with the club for at least another 12 months.
The Moors are one of three clubs in the league to have made any transfer deals, with 31-year-old Stephen Thompson signing from Darlington. Their second permanent summer signing is 25-year-old Bermudan international goalkeeper Dale Eve, who joined the club on loan in February this year.
Farsley Celtic have seen four players leave, including former Altrincham goalkeeper, Elliot Wynne. Isaac Baldwin, Paul Walker, Nathan Cartman and Wynne have all left the club.
Last Friday, Darlington manager Alun Armstrong extended his contract with the club. Since then, it has been non-stop for Armstrong and The Quakers, who have wasted no time in planning for the season ahead, with 12 players accepting new terms.
Justin Donawa, Will Hatfield, Jarrett Rivers, Jamie Holmes, Ben Hedley, Sean Reid, Alex Storey, Adam Campbell, Louis Laing, Joe Wheatley, Michael Liddle and Jordan Watson have all extended their contracts until 2020/21.
Southport are the second club to have made a transfer deal over the past few months, with the signing of former Chorley striker, Marcus Carver. The 26-year-old, who scored 47 goals in four seasons for Chorley, becomes the Port’s first signing of the summer.
Kidderminster Harriers have seen two players further their stay at the club, whilst one has gone the opposite way. Keith Lowe and Koby Arthur have penned new deals with The Harriers but 30-year-old Ashley Chambers has not been offered a new contract and will leave the club at the end of his current deal.
Over in Gloucester, Liam Daly, Jack James, Josh Thomas, Fabien Robert, Bernard Mensah, Matt McClure and Alex Hainault will all remain at the club for another season. However, Joe Hanks, Zack Kotwica and fan favourite Spencer Hamilton have departed.
Hamilton spent over six years at Gloucester, amassing over 140 appearances across a number of positions across the back line after making his debut in 2014.
It has been a busy month for Kettering Town manager Paul Cox, who has already decided the fate of almost his entire squad. All on the same day, Monday 11th May, two players were released by the club whilst eight received new deals. Aaron O’Connor and Dan Nti left, with Connor Kennedy, Tre Mitford, Michael Richens, Michael McGrath, Lindon Meikle, Ben Milnes, Brett Solkhon, Gary Stohrer and Paul White agreeing to new contracts.
That adds up to nine, of course, but it became eight when goalkeeper White subsequently left the club, despite being offered new terms for the 2020/21 season.
Blyth Spartans announced Michael Nelson as the club’s new manager at the start of May, after previously placing him in temporary charge of the first team in March, before his spell in the dug-out was cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Since his appointment, Rhys Evans, Kris Thackray and McKeown have extended their stay at the club. The Spartans also released a quartet of players, with Scott Fenwick, Michael Sweet, Lewis Horner and Jordan Summerly exiting Croft Park.
And finally, Bradford (Park Avenue). The club finished in bottom place, mustering just 20 points from their 33 games, a clear warning sign that change was needed. But before new plans could be implemented, management duo Mark Bower and Danny Boshell committed to the club in the long term, both signing three-year deals.
After that, Bradford became the third club to make a permanent signing. The club secured the services of 24-year-old former Guiseley goalkeeper, Dan Atkinson. The Avenue also extended the contracts of Lewis Knight and Mitch Lund.
In regards to other news across the league, Gateshead have announced that they will be forming their first ever ladies’ team for the 2020/21 season. The club are currently awaiting Football Association approval to enter a team into the Durham FA Development Division, and should that be given, the new team will host home games on the International Stadium’s 3G pitch.
Darlington striker Jamie Holmes has been given the all-clear after suffering an ACL injury back in August. The 22-year-old came through his final rehab session last weekend.
Kidderminster have announced the appointment of club legend Richard Forsyth to a new role as Director of Football at Aggborough. Forsyth made over 300 appearances for the club throughout the 1980s and 1990s and his new role involves, “acting as the link between the first team and its Academy and Junior football operations”.
Alfreton Town have confirmed that the club raised £1,068.20 in memory of former Altrincham player Jordan Sinnott, with the proceeds going to his family. A statement on their website reads:
'Alfreton raised the figure through collections at fixtures in the aftermath of Jordan’s death, including games against Gloucester and Gateshead. The many donations the club also received were massively appreciated, including the donations obtained from Gateshead supporters and ATFC Social Club.
'The Reds are extremely proud to have raised £1068.20 and we thank all who contributed to make this fantastic sum. Jordan will always be in our hearts and we send all of our love to his family.'