Our club-by-club guide to the 2016/17 season
Manager: Paul Hurst
Home: Blundell Park
2015/16: 4th (National League)
Last season’s top-scorer: Pádraig Amond (30)
Grimsby Town capped off an impressive 2015/16 with a dream victory over Forest Green Rovers at Wembley in the National League play-off final.
Although they have since parted company with top-scorer Pádraig Amond, the Mariners have had a positive summer thus far securing the signatures of Dan Jones, Ashley Chambers, Luke Summerfield, Ben Davies, Tom Bolarinwa and James Berrett, with Dominic Vose joining on loan from Scunthorpe United.
With so many new faces, manager Paul Hurst has emphasised that his focus will be on helping his squad to gel together: “I’ve been getting a little insight into characters, but as we go along, some people will come out of their shells, others will start to feel more comfortable.”
Ben Davies (right) won Portsmouth's Player of the Season award last term.
Manager: Craig Hignett
Home: Victoria Park
Last season’s top-scorer: Billy Paynter (15)
Having flirted with relegation for much of the 2015/16 season, Hartlepool United found themselves galvanised by the appointment of Craig Hignett in February, who eventually guided them to a respectable 16th place finish.
Hignett has sought to maintain this momentum through the acquisitions of Lewis Alessandra, Aristotle Nsiala, Nicky Deverdics and striker Pádraig Amond, who scored 30 goals in the National League during the last campaign.
With the new season around the corner, Hignett has suggested that a tilt at the playoffs might not be out of the question: “The players I have brought in are ambitious and that matches my ambition as well… I want people who are going to push on and want to play higher and want to do well for themselves.”
Billy Paynter in action against City last January; his first match after a two-month injury lay-off.
Manager: Andy Hessenthaler
Home: Matchroom Stadium
Last season’s top-scorer: Jay Simpson (25)
2013/14 League 1 play-off finalists Leyton Orient finished on the peripheries of the play-off positions last term.
In an attempt to reinvigorate the club, new boss Andy Hessenthaler has proceeded to overhaul his squad, making no fewer than seven signings including Burton Albion’s Robbie Weir and Colchester United’s Gavin Massey. This process has also seen the release of midfielder Lloyd James, a key player in the O’s aforementioned play-off run, who has since joined Exeter City.
Hessenthaler’s pre-season preparations, including a trip to Italy to play the Italian under-19s, promise to offer his squad a tough test before they resume hostilities away at Cheltenham Town on 6th August.
Lloyd James in action against his future employers at St James Park.
Manager: Nathan Jones
Home: Kenilworth Road
Last season’s top-scorer: Jack Marriott (16)
In the wake of a difficult start to the season, the appointment of Nathan Jones as manager in January marked a significant improvement in Luton’s form, ultimately leading to an eleventh-placed finish.
This summer’s transfer window offers Jones with a first opportunity to reshape his squad, seeing him inject some experience with the signings of established pros such as Oxford United veterans Danny Hylton and Johnny Mullins.
The possession of such a young and talented squad has inevitably meant that other clubs have been showing interest in the Hatters’ bright prospects. But Jones believes that interest in his young guns can only be a positive sign: “With the young players we have there were a lot of enquiries about certain members of our first team and we managed to fend those off as well, so that shows, again, the calibre of club we are.”
Jack Marriott celebrates a final-day victory over the Grecians.
Manager: Adam Murray
Home: Field Mill
Last season’s top-scorer: Matt Green (16)
Since their return to the Football League in 2013, the Stags have fluctuated between the middle and lower echelons of the League 2 table. This season, however, they will be hoping to push for the right to make their first appearance in the third tier of English football since 2003.
To make this dream a reality Mansfield have approached the summer transfer window with real intent, making seven new signings. Alongside this, boss Adam Murray has appointed ex-Notts County striker Karl Hawley as his first team coach, hoping to draw upon his vast experience at League 2 level.
Experience and intelligence have been central to the way in which Murray has approached the new season, as personified by new striker Pat Hoban who Murray describes as having “the ruggedness and the know-how to the ugly bits of the game.”
Joel Grant takes on Mansfield's Mitch Rose.