COMMENT – A new season dawns but what can we expect?

Tommy Wright and his Corby Town side are ready to tackle the Vanarama National League North
Tommy Wright and his Corby Town side are ready to tackle the Vanarama National League North
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Well, here we go again...

A new season dawns and football fans across the land are dreaming of seeing success for their clubs in nine months or so.

Marcus Law has built a new-look squad for Kettering Town's Evo-Stik Southern League Premier Division campaign after returning to the club this summer

Marcus Law has built a new-look squad for Kettering Town's Evo-Stik Southern League Premier Division campaign after returning to the club this summer

For us in north Northamptonshire, if this season is even half as good as the last one then we will be doing very well indeed.

Corby Town, Kettering Town and AFC Rushden & Diamonds are preparing for life at higher levels after all three were promoted as champions back in April – a season to remember.

And just for good measure, Rothwell Corinthians also gained promotion as they returned to the top flight of the ChromaSport & Trophies United Counties League.

The impressive achievements have been savoured over the summer but now comes the next test.

Andy Peaks' AFC Rushden & Diamonds are amongst the favourites to earn promotion in the Evo-Stik Southern League Division One Central

Andy Peaks' AFC Rushden & Diamonds are amongst the favourites to earn promotion in the Evo-Stik Southern League Division One Central

Just how will these clubs fare having taken a step up?

The Steelmen certainly have momentum as they gear up for their return to the Vanarama National League North with a trip to Curzon Ashton tomorrow (Saturday).

An unforgettable campaign ended with that dramatic final day on the south coast when Tommy Wright’s men snatched the Evo-Stik Southern League Premier Division title as they edged out Poole Town for the crown.

One look at the teams in the National League North would suggest Corby are part of a very strong division, packed with clubs who will fancy their chances of earning promotion.

Wright is the sort of guy who won’t just settle for consolidation but it will be important for the Steelmen fans to perhaps not expect too much.

The departures of Shane Byrne and Stephan Morley were big blows during the summer but those were cushioned by the arrivals of Ashley Sammons and Chris Carruthers.

Wright has again surrounded himself with players he can trust and, just as importantly, ones who know the level.

Duane Courtney and Anton Brown have the credentials and will offer the appropriate guidance to the younger members of the squad who find themselves at the level for the first time.

Wright won’t be fazed by the challenge, indeed he will relish it.

It’s tough to make a prediction here. I mean, who would have predicted last season would end like it did.

I fully expect the Steelmen to be competitive and don’t see them struggling. But whether they have enough to threaten the top places remains to be seen.

The biggest changes this summer have come over at Latimer Park.

Despite cruising to the Evo-Stik Southern League Division One Central title, joint-managers Thomas Baillie and Scott Machin both departed Kettering Town with Marcus Law making a return to the club.

Law’s remit has been made clear. The Poppies are keen to develop their own players and get their youth system fully off the ground and the new manager will clearly play a big part in that.

The change in management brought with it an exodus of the title-winning squad but Law did retain a solid core of it and has since gone about his business in the transfer market in his usual cool and methodical manner.

He hasn’t had as long as most to build a new squad and therefore, it won’t be a huge surprise if the Poppies take time to settle in the Premier Division.

But there may well be a refreshing change of approach with the pressure probably not quite as intense as it was last season when promotion was pretty much the be all and end all.

Nonetheless, the expectant fanbase will be just that again.

As was shown last season, the Premier Division is one of those leagues that could be wide open.

Kettering will certainly have their credentials tested at Poole this weekend and, if the new-look squad can settle quickly, I am sure Law will have the club looking up rather than down for the most part.

When it comes to AFC Rushden & Diamonds, I have high hopes.

Andy Peaks stayed true to his word when he said he would give the UCL Premier Division title-winning squad a chance to prove themselves at the next level.

The vast majority of the side that cantered to the title have been retained and Peaks seems to have made some shrewd additions.

Courtney Herbert has played in the Football League, Steve Spriggs has been a good non-League player for a number of years and Delroy Gordon returns to the county with an experienced head on his shoulders.

Throw in the likes of Ollie Wilkinson and Dan Quigley and Diamonds look strong.

Having seen a fair bit of Division One Central last season, I can understand why the bookmakers have them as one of the favourites to clinch promotion.

They have a lot of momentum, one of the biggest fanbases in the division and a manager who is perfectly happy to go about his business without shouting from the rooftops.

“Quietly optimistic” was how striker Tom Lorraine described the feeling within the Diamonds dressing-room ahead of the new season when I spoke to him earlier this week. I share that feeling.

There will, of course, be a focus on the UCL as well. I expect Corinthians to make an impact at the new level while it will be intriguing to see how Wellingborough Town, now under the leadership of Jamie Wright, and Desborough Town get on as they aim to improve on steady campaigns last time out.

Take your pick as far as Division One is concerned, that one will be wide open and there is plenty of local interest. I fancy Thrapston Town and a rejuvenated Stewarts & Lloyds to be amongst the frontrunners.

Forget Christmas, this really is the most wonderful time of the year.

It is another season that threatens to promise much. Now we can sit back and see if it delivers.

Whoever you follow, have a good one!

You can follow the progress of all our local teams throughout the season on www.northantstelegraph.co.uk and every Thursday in the Northamptonshire Telegraph.

And follow Jon Dunham on Twitter for live updates as the goals go in every Saturday afternoon @JonDunhamNT