Team of the Season
After another full season of non-league football, the season is complete, with just the Non-League Finals Day to go. Despite unfortunately spending over four months of the campaign overseas, I’ve still managed to get to 53 matches, and I’ve enjoyed (at least aspects of) every one of them. The GRT Team of the Season was well received last year, so I’ve decided to knock another one up. As with last season, I’ve tried to avoid the normal traps with these, 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 team in a system I’d like to watch – 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. It is only for nonleague players, so the Argyle players I’ve watched, for example, aren’t eligible (not that any of them would have made it in!). Additionally, there are some players who have undoubtedly had fantastic seasons, but I haven’t watched them, or they just haven’t played well when I have. 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.
GK: Berti Schötterl (Met Police – Evo-Stik Southern League Premier Division South)
It’s been a topsy-turvy season for the German ‘keeper, who is still officially on the books at Fulham. After a solid campaign for Dartford, I first watched him at Woking this season, before his move to the Met Police. Since signing for the Old Bill, he’s kept an astonishing number of clean sheets, and has turned in top drawer performances against Poole Town, Salisbury and Tiverton Town. His contract at Fulham is up this summer, so a move back to Germany is on the cards – hopefully a National League or Football League will make him an offer, because he’s been consistently the best number one in the division this season.
DR: Joel Colbran (Worthing – Bostik Isthmian League Premier Division)
I’ve watched Colbran on two occasions this season, and both times he has impressed. Manager’s Player of the Year in 2017/18, he will undoubtedly be even more delighted to have made this prestigious squad a year later. In his second spell at the club, Colbran was a threat against Leatherhead in the cup, but even more so when I watched a thriller against Lewes, where the Rebels lost 4-3. Their right back was almost faultless though, and his interplay with young Jasper Pattenden was brilliant at times. A key player for the West Sussex side, he’ll be hoping to help them make the short leap to the Play Offs next season.
DL: Jack Calver (AFC St Austell – Carlsberg South West Peninsula League Premier Division)
For the second season in a row, only one Step Six player makes the cut for the starting eleven, and again it is a SWPL man. I watched the former Plymouth Argyle left back against Elburton Villa, where he scored the opening goal in an eventual 4-2 victory. He was my MoM on the day, for an all-action performance on the flank. A solid tackler, which belied his physical stature, he bombed forward to good effect and was an asset at both ends of the pitch. He may be listed as a midfielder on the St Austell website, but I’m not having it – he’s a left back here.
DC: Oliver Robinson (Met Police – Evo-Stik Southern League Premier Division South)
Another key component of the Met Police’s best ever season, Robinson is also the victim of the most commonly misspelt first name on my blog (Oli/Ollie?!). After the departure of Jim Cooper in the summer, the energetic centre-back moved to Walton Casuals, before returning to Imber Court in the autumn. Notably missing with injury the only time I saw the Met lose this season, he scored in a scrappy away win at Frome Town as well (one of seven in the league), and was my MoM in the Play Off Final win against Poole Town. His long throws may lull you into thinking he’s only in the team as an attacking asset, but defensively, his partnership with Jeremy Arthur has been more than solid.
DC: Jean-Yves Koué Niate (Torquay United – Vanarama National League South)
Signing the big centre back from Guiseley was one of Gary Owers’ better decisions whilst manager of Torquay, and he has proven an important part of the team under Gary Johnson as well. Against Slough Town at the beginning of the season he was a giant under the high ball, happily knocking back everything that came his way, but it was against Truro City in a 3-1 New Year’s Day victory that I was most impressed by him. With 30 league appearances during the Gulls’ title winning campaign, the French-Ivorian is sure to have a key role in Torquay’s quest to remain in the National League come August.
MR: Teigan Rosenquest (Plymouth Parkway – Toolstation Western Premier League)
The second year in a row that a Parkway player has made the team, is testament to their two fantastic seasons, but Rosenquest is in for a performance against Wellington so dominant, it almost felt vindictive. In their first season at Step Five, The Park ended up finishing second to a strong Willand Rovers side. Rosenquest was only a recent joiner when I watched them against the Somerset-based Wellington, and he linked up brilliantly with Aaron Bentley, gaining an assist as Parkway smashed their opponents. He was my dad’s pick as MoM on the day (and my dad’s not given to easy praise – he’d rather pick no MoM than someone not entirely deserving) and will almost certainly be involved as manager Lee Hobbs looks to go one better next season.
ML: David Ajiboye (Worthing – Bostik Isthmian League Premier Division)
I flat out love this guy. No question. He may have finished 7th top scorer in the division with 16 league goals, but that comes nowhere near telling the story of watching him play. Against Leatherhead and Lewes, he was just so direct every time he got the ball. He scored the winner in Surrey against the Tanners, and was a massive influence on the Sussex derby until going off injured. The former Brighton winger is almost unplayable at Step Three when running with the ball at his feet, and clearly loves playing in front of the massive crowds at Worthing. Which is a good thing for the Rebels, because he’s bound to be well in demand.
MC: Asa Hall (Torquay United – Vanarama National League South) ©
Asa Hall is a quality player, and his arrival along with teammate Koué Niate from Guiseley was one of the most important signings of Torquay’s season. An expert in breaking up the player, but also the owner of one of the best long range shots in non-league, Hall has contributed six goals from the base of midfield. He looked good when I watched him against Slough, but his performance against Truro City on New Years’ Day was exceptional. He’d have made this team for his wonder goal that day alone, but the all round effect he had on the midfield was just as important. Whether partnering Ryan Dickson, Jake Andrews or whoever else, Torquay’s captain has been brilliant as they took the league by storm. And he’s my captain too.
MC: Paul Hodges (Woking – Vanarama National League South)
Paul Hodges might not be Woking’s most accomplished player, but he’s easily one of their most effective. In a season where Woking had to gain promotion the hard way, the secondary school teacher has been one their shining lights, and become a firm fans’ favourite. Against Billericay Town his ability to drive from central midfield in possession was central to the Cards securing all three points, and he’d be a perfect foil for Asa Hall. However, it was his efforts against Welling United in January that really cemented his place in the team. There’s discussion as to whether or not Woking turn full-time, stay part-time or go hybrid, and if they opt for the former, it would be a huge shame if it meant them losing this midfield dynamo.
ST: Jack Mazzone (Met Police – Evo-Stik Southern League Premier Division South)
26-year old Mazzone was a new signing at the Met Police this season, along with strike partner Max Blackmore, and in truth either of them could have taken a spot here. I’ve opted for Mazzone though, for the simple reason that he has scored more in matches I’ve watched. His aggression and work-rate are second to none, and to have scored 27 league goals after stepping up from Step Four South Park is fantastic. A huge part of how Gavin MacPherson (more on him later) plays, Mazzone has put his body on the line in every match I’ve watched. In the five league games I’ve seen, he’s scored five (including three in the Play Offs), assisted twice and been Man of the Match twice. Not a bad record.
ST: Jamie Cureton (Bishop’s Stortford – Bostik Isthmian League Premier Division)
Jamie Cureton is in this team for two reasons. Firstly, against Wingate & Finchley in the Alan Turvey Trophy, at the age of 43, he gave one of the best individual performances I’ve seen in two years. Hat tricks are not that uncommon, but a hat trick of assists is a different beast, and that’s exactly what the (I’m legally obliged to call him this) evergreen Cureton pulled out. And a goal. And a brilliant 35 yard strike against the crossbar. The second reason, is that irrespective of his age, he has outscored the likes of Jason Prior, Billy Bricknell and Joel Nouble to take the golden boot, and racked up his 1,000th senior appearance against Brightlingsea Regent. And he says he’s going to carry on playing. Mr Cureton, I salute you.
Manager: Gavin MacPherson (Met Police – Evo-Stik Southern League Premier Division South)
Long-time assistant to Jim Cooper, MacPherson took the reins in the summer, with an almost non-existent squad, a new league to contend with (involving 3,000 miles of travelling at Step Three!) and a tiny budget. Fast forward 12 months, and he (along with his close knit staff) has exploited the potential of the productive Met Police Academy and married that with players signed from the lower leagues and a few Met stalwarts. And it has reaped dividends. In the club’s centenary year, they have secured their highest ever league position, and then won the divisional Play Offs (before being scuppered by the nonsensical Super Play Offs). If that wasn’t enough, he has led the Met to the First Round of the FA Cup against Newport County, and a live hosting of Football Focus. Sandwiched between Play Off Finals, MacPherson rested most of his squad, and played U23 players in the Final of the Surrey Senior Cup – and won that too. All impressive enough, but it has been done the right way too. The football has been fluid and a joy to watch, whilst the players have shown MacPherson’s tough-as-old-leather streak on the pitch as well – I genuinely hope that the players give it a second season, because this is a manager who can really take them to the next level. He also has one of the best sneers in football – just look at it!
Sub 1: Ryan Clarke (Bath City – Vanarama National League South)
Unlucky to be on the bench here, Clarke put in a virtuoso performance when I watched him against Hungerford Town, making not one, not two, but three absolutely top class saves. A consistent performer, he’s been a crucial part of Bath City boasting the best defence in the division.
Sub 2: Anthony Straker (Bath City – Vanarama National League South)
Another vital part of that defence, is Ealing-born Anthony Straker. The left-back/centre-back/midfielder is one of the fittest players in the division, and as captain of the Romans truly leads by example. Against Hungerford he was up and down the touchline like a Duracell bunny.
Sub 3: River Allen (Tiverton Town – Evo-Stik Southern League Premier Division South)
Released by Truro City, Allen made his home at Tiverton, and when I watched him against Kings Langley was superb. One of the best midfielders in the league, he was re-signed by Truro in the winter, and went on to be one of their players of the season. Before being released again. There are rumours as to where he’ll end up, but whoever gets the janner midfielder will be getting a creative influence with a destructive range of passing.
Sub 4: Ethan Chislett (Met Police – Evo-Stik Southern League Premier Division South)
He should be in the starting XI, but at his young age there’s plenty of time. 8 goals from midfield, despite a large chunk of the season. Man of the Match against Salisbury, he won the game changing penalty, and his technical ability is superb. His dad is involved with the youth set up at Imber Court, but surely not even family loyalty could prevent the attacking midfielder from taking the almost inevitable step to the Football League.
Sub 5: Levi Landricombe (Tiverton Town – Evo-Stik Southern League Premier Division South)
Levi, and his brother Michael, are South West footballing royalty, and this particular Landricombe has had another brilliant season. He was the main reason Tiverton Town beat the Met Police when I watched them, and scored a beautiful lob against Kings Langley. He’s scored 21 this season in a relegation threatened team, and deserves his place here.