Predictions for the National League season and how some things will never change

Chesterfield FC v Wigan, fans gallery
Chesterfield FC v Wigan, fans gallery
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For all that will be new and different for Spireites when the season starts, some things will never change.

A new division, a new manager and a new-look squad, unfamiliar opposition kits, badges and stadiums, new rival players to boo and mock, but the same old feelings.

The nervous excitement that rises from the gut at the sight of blue shirts emerging from the tunnel at 2.55pm.

The rage that erupts at perceived injustice, the relief when the ball flies through the air and over your keeper’s despairing dive only to rattle the woodwork and bounce to safety.

That wonderful moment when time stands still for a split second, the neck cranes and the brain processes whether or not the ball really is in the back of the net, before sending signals to the limbs to react accordingly.

Football is utterly brilliant and utterly terrible and often all in the same 90 minutes.

The 2018/19 National League season will serve up days that are memorable for all the right reasons and days that should be instantly forgotten but linger like a bad taste.

That’s about as much as I’m willing to predict, having spectacularly failed to spot the early warning signs of relegation in the previous two summers.

This summer has been fun, thanks to Martin Allen and a World Cup.

It wouldn’t be a Chesterfield FC summer without a speed bump or two, like the takeover that, until it ended last week, almost cost the club Allen’s services and worried a good number of supporters.

By and large, however, it’s been relatively smooth sailing with a refreshingly positive air about the place.

But as entertaining as all the press releases, new signings and televised international matches have been, they pale in comparison with the real stuff – even if it carries the tag ‘non-league.’

A goal is a goal, in competitive football, and will spark the same ‘scenes’ at the Proact and in the away section of all those new grounds Town will visit this season, as it did in League One or League Two.

Matchdays won’t quite look the same or even sound the same for those who for years followed fixtures through Peak FM commentary, but two teams of 11 men will still line up facing each other and then proceed to do everything in their physical capabilities to gain the upper hand.

At least the ones wearing blue or orange shirts better do, because you wouldn’t like to return to a dressing room containing an angry Allen, having not given your very best effort.

This season debate will rage just as fiercely over players’ ability and suitability for positions when Spireites gather in pubs before and after games and at all other times on social media as it did before Chesterfield fell from the Football League.

There’s already a bit of intrigue over who will feature and where.

Joe Rowley, having featured in both Saturday’s game at Alfreton and Monday’s visit to Matlock Town, looks like he has a fight on his hands to break into the starting XI.

Charlie Carter and Curtis Weston appear to be a little ahead of the Proact academy product and with Robbie Weir and Sam Wedgbury also vying for a place in the centre of the park, that’s one area with healthy competition.

The full-back positions will be hotly contested.

You could see either of Jerome Binnom-Williams or George Smith playing as wing-backs should Allen utilise the 3-5-2 system featured against Wigan.

The same could be said of Brad Barry and Drew Talbot on the right flank.

Ify Ofoegbu and Sam Muggleton provide extra cover and the latter will almost definitely feature later in games when his monstrous throw could cause chaos or keep the ball in the right areas.

Three central defenders, Michael Nelson, Will Evans and Laurence Maguire, will all hold what they believe to be solid arguments to start.

And up top, Allen is very keen on Gozie Ugwu and Zavon Hines as a pairing, with Lee Shaw hoping to take his first big chance in full-time football and score his way into Allen’s line-up.

We may yet see an addition or two, but as it stands Allen is happy with what he’s got.

It’s a smaller squad than the ones Town fans have been accustomed to in recent years, but it’s the Allen way.

His era starts, properly, on Saturday and he can’t wait.

Neither can I.