As the curtains start to close on another year in the realm of Non-League football, we take a look back at some of the biggest movers and shakers of the year.
ROBINS RETURN TO THE FOOTBALL LEAGUE
Cheltenham Town stormed to the National League title and promotion back into League football at the first attempt, amassing a whopping 101 points, 12 points clear of second place Forest Green Rovers. Striker Dan Holman smashed in 16 league goals from only 18 appearances to help Town bag the championship
GRIMSBY ALSO PROMOTED
The Mariners had been relegated from League 2 back in 2010, thus ending a 117 year stay in the Football League. Ever since that day, the team from Cleethorpes had fought valiantly to return, only to fall agonisingly short on three occasions. However, 2016 proved to be lucky for club from Blundell Park, as they beat Forest Green Rovers in the play-off final at Wembley.
DEBACLE AT YORK CITY
Having finished rock bottom of the Football League and relegated into Non-League football, it would be fair to say that 2016 has not been the best year for York City. Unfortunately, their plight has not improved one iota. The team are 23rd, one place off of the bottom of the National League. A further relegation to a regional division would be unthinkable, but is becoming an ever increasing reality. Coupled with the farce of sacking manager Jackie McNamara but keeping him on until they found a replacement, but then promoting him to a Chief Executive at the club, it is hard to see that the club will survive off of the pitch, let alone on it.
LEATHERHEAD PULL OF MANAGER COUP
It’s very rare to see a Premier League player take the reins of a Non-League club, let alone a team competing in the Ryman Premier League. But that’s exactly what Surrey based Leatherhead FC managed to do. Jimmy Bullard, of Wigan Athletic and Fulham fame, was installed as manager of The Tanners on 17th September 2016, much to the surprise of everyone. The former contestant of I’m a celebrity…Get me out of here has so far managed to steer the club away from relegation and is heading for a mid-table finish.
BRACKLEY BATTER GILLINGHAM
Plying their trade in the National League North, few people would have been brave enough to predict a win against professional outfit Gillingham. But the magic of the cup prevailed. Holding the Kent team to a 2-2 draw at the Priestfield stadium, The Saints overcame The Gills in the replay, beating them 4-3 to earn a second round draw against Blackpool. Although they could not progress in the competition, this result will go down in the club’s history as one of their greatest ever victories.
SMITH BANNED FOR GAMBLING OFFENCES
Non-League striker Lewis Smith was hit with a 17 month ban and ordered to pay a £22,000 fine after pleading guilty to 28 different charges. An investigation into Smith revealed that he had bet on his team to lose in certain matches, which subsequently netted him around £23,000. Not only did Smith tarnish his own name, but also the teams he played for.
Have we missed anything out? Please feel free to comment and let us know!
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