Team of the Season
After my first full season watching nonleague football and with only two Play Off Finals to go, I have decided to put together a team of the season from the matches I’ve watched. I’ve tried to avoid the normal traps with these “Best XIs”, where all the players are attacking – you know the ones, it’s a 3-5-2, strikers are squeezed into the wings and the central midfielders are all number 10s! Instead, I’ve picked a basic 4-4-2, with pace and direct runners on the wings, a mix of creativity and solidity in the middle, and a rock solid back four.
My criteria were simple:
The team is based on performances in fixtures I have watched, relative to the standard of the match, otherwise it would simply be full of National League players. Additionally, there are some players (the National League and National League South PoTYs for example…) who have undoubtedly had fantastic seasons, but just didn’t seem to click on the occasions I watched them. Conversely, there are players on this list who have only made a handful of appearances across the campaign, but excelled in the ones I watched.
And that’s it. So here it is:
GK: Tom McHale (Truro City – Vanarama National League South)
I’ve seen Tom play on two occasions this season, and he produced some fantastic reflex stops in both. Against Charlton in the FA Cup 1st Round, he looked every bit a League One goalkeeper and almost single handedly kept Truro in the first half. Recently called up to England C, the young stopper was also named in Scott Davies NLP “Three Players To Watch” column in September this season. The 22 year old makes nets when he’s not standing in front of them, and reached the Play Off eliminators with his club this season, who will be aiming to go one better in 2018/19.
DR: Peter Kioso (Dunstable Town – Evo-Stik South Premier League)
Dunstable Town have had a rough ride this season, eventually being relegated with only 17 points and a -110 goal difference, but with difficulties behind the scenes, and a completely unpaid playing squad, this has belied some of the performances. One such impressive performance was that of Kinshasa born full back Peter Kioso against St Ives Town. His pace, hunger and final ball were all impressive as Dunstable fought to a 0-0 draw. With attributes such as these, Peter will surely find himself in demand over the summer.
DC: David Stephens (Borehamwood – Vanarama National League)
There have been some impressive performances by National League defenders across the season, but the 90 minutes by the big number 6 at home to Gateshead was as good as I’ve seen this year. At 6’4” the former Wales U21 international was an absolute rock at the back when I watched the Wood, and repelled every attack, whatever the method. As club captain, David has led his side to a 4th place finish, and will now face off against Tranmere Rovers in the Play Off Final.
DC: Stefan Galinski (Grantham Town – Evo-Stik Premier Division) ©
The second centre back to make a Play Off Final in this team, Galinski was absolutely vital to his side’s progress past Warrington Town in the semis. Another man who is captain at his club, this defence would certainly not be lacking for leadership. Strong in the air, and with good positioning, Galinski displayed brilliant on field leadership when I watched him, and it’s for this reason that he would be the captain of my side.
DL: Scott Barrow (Gateshead – Vanarama National League)
I’ve been lucky enough to Gateshead play on four occasions this season, and have seen Scott in action three times. Whilst he’s looked good in all three (no coincidence that he’s won more MoM awards that any Gateshead player, and picked up their Player of the Season) his performance against Leyton Orient coming back from 3-0 down was simply outstanding. Crucial to two of his side’s goals, the 29 year old from Swansea would complement the attacking left wing of this side perfectly.
MR: Tom Bolarinwa (Sutton United – Vanarama National League)
The brother of Hull City right back Moses Odubajo, Tom is surely destined to follow his younger sibling into the Football League. Returning to The Us from Grimsby in January, the livewire attacking midfielder has put in some electric performances to help Paul Doswell’s side to a 3rd place finish. A firm favourite at Gander Green Lane, Greenwich-born Tom has scored some great – and crucial – goals in the run in, and was in sparkling form when I watching Sutton comfortably dispatch of Woking.
MC: Craig Eastmond (Sutton United – Vanarama National League)
Every time I’ve watched Craig play this season he’s simply oozed class. It takes a lot of ability to seemingly always have time on the ball, but the Wandsworth born midfielder does. Never the most eye-catching of players, he’s simply metronomic in his passing, and his ball retention is great. I reckon he was born with a pass completion rate above 85%, and the platform he gives his attacking teammates is so key to the way Sutton play – as it would be in this side.
MC: Shane Krac (Plymouth Parkway – Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Premier Division)
Sometimes overshadowed by the goalscoring exploits of Glyn Hobbs, the Plymouth-based plumbing and heating engineer has been a central figure in Parkway’s astonishing title-winning season. Weighing in with 8 goals, Krac’s energy and passion in the middle of the park were in full evidence when I saw him against Tavistock. In a feisty, high stakes match, he grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck, and forced a 2-2 draw almost through sheer willpower.
ML: Kyjuon Marsh-Brown (Whitehawk – Vanarama National League South)
Probably the best individual performance I’ve seen from any player at any level this season, Ky’s hat trick against Weston-super-Mare lit the flames underneath Whitehawk’s unlikely (and ultimately unsuccessful) survival bid. For 90 minutes in that match he was quite simply unplayable. Pacey, direct, with touch tight control, Kyjuon is certain to follow older brothers Keanu and Ronayne into the professional game at some point (and don’t bet against the fourth, Kwai, doing the same…).
ST: Bruno Andrade (Borehamwood – Vanarama National League)
So much has been written about Bruno this season, and rightfully so. The man nicknamed Roadrunner has been performing at a high level all season, none more so than against Gateshead, where he opened the scoring with a bicycle kick from six yards. His pace would perfectly complement the more physical style of Prior alongside him, and if Borehamwood go up on Sunday, don’t be surprised to see the Portuguese striker hit the ground running (very quickly) in League Two next season.
ST: Jason Prior (Havant & Waterlooville – Vanarama National League South)
They say some strikers are great scorers of goals, and some are scorers of great goals – well Jason is both. With 23 to his name in this promotion campaign, he’s also scored some fantastic finishes, including one I was lucky enough to witness against St Albans. On top of that, he’s got important ones too. It was his 89th minute winner against Concord Rangers that secured his – and Havant’s – chance to test themselves in the National League next season.
Sub 1: Lewis Boughton (Arundel – Southern Combination Football League Premier Division)
Whilst watching Arundel in action against Crawley Down Gatwick, I noticed that Arundel’s ‘keeper seemed a step above many on the pitch, despite his young age. His aerial presence and rapid reactions were impressive and will stand him in good moving forward. Having now returned to parent club Bognor Regis Town, Lewis is in exactly the right place to learn, acting as back up to the impressive Dan Lincoln.
Sub 2: Tarik Moore-Azille (St Albans City – Vanarama National League South)
The former Arsenal centre back would add some versatility, pace and power off the bench in this team. However, you shouldn’t just look at the size of the man and make assumptions about his play – what impressed me most when I watched him in action against Chelmsford City was his anticipation. All day he was happy stepping out of the backline to intercept play, and set his side on the way with an incisive pass.
Sub 3: Amos Nasha (Concord Rangers – Vanarama National League South)
Having made 4 appearances in the Europa League for West Ham, the busy midfielder has some impressive cup experience, and was the best player on the pitch when I watched the Beachboys against Dorking Wanderers in the FA Trophy. With a phenomenal engine, Nasha has an ability to seemingly be underneath every second ball, and crunching into every 50/50 – useful traits when your side is in a relegation battle.
Sub 4: Flo Bojaj (Walton & Hersham – Cherry Red Combined Counties League Premier Division)
Of all the players I’ve picked, Flo probably stood out the most over his peers in the match I watched, however, having faded a lot in the 2nd half, he only makes the bench in this team. Strong in possession, the former Albanian U21 international had vision and technique galore and was head and shoulders above most on the pitch against Farnham. It’s no surprise that he’s now back in the professional game – with Pirin Blagoevgrad in the Bulgarian First League.
Sub 5: Joe Cheeseman (Worcester Park – Cherry Red Combined Counties League Division One)
Whilst outscored by Harrison Deacon this season, every time I’ve watched Worcester Park, it strikes me that Joe is the key to their offensive game. If he’s not scoring himself, you can pretty much guarantee he’s been involved in the build up. Strong in the air, hard to shake off the ball when it’s on the deck, the big striker is a nightmare for defenders to play against, and his performance against Eversley & California was as good as you’ll see – even if he does have a tendency to foul himself…
Manager: Gary Taylor (Worcester Park – Cherry Red Combined Counties League Division One)
The stats speak for themselves on this one. Manager of a wonderful community club, Gary has led his side to a superlative season. 28 wins in 35 matches, with 139 goals scored has been enough to see the Park canter to the league title, whilst also going deep into every cup competition they entered. Gary will be moving on to Walton & Hersham – closer to home, and a chance to challenge for promotion to Step Four, and certainly won’t look out of place.