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COLUMN: This Is Going To Be The Most Confusing Season In History & Jimmy Deserves Credit

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I hate to break it to you, but next season is going to be like something any of us has ever experienced before. Be prepared to not know if you are coming on going when it all kicks off again.

Non-League fans are creatures of habit, so don’t expect all this upheaval to go be given the thumbs up for quite some time.

Not only are things changing in the National League, North and South but all the divisions below it are bracing themselves for all kinds of confusion.

More are up going up, less are going down. It’s already challenging trying to keep up with it.

But who doesn’t secretly enjoy a little bit of organised chaos?

It all started at the National League AGM where it was decided that the playoff were to be extended to from 4 clubs to 6 across the three divisions.


If the complex format wasn’t difficult enough to get your head around, then a few weeks later came the news that all the leagues below are to be played around with.

Because of mass reorganisation in a years’ time, changes cannot be helped the Football Association tell us.

In case you missed the announcement, just one club will be relegated from Step 3. That will see many leagues become stale in the second half of the season – and budgets cut once the driftwood club has detached itself from the rest.

In Step 4, two clubs will go up automatically and 19 up over all. That means the playoff places shoot down to 6th – it’s positive news for those clubs amongst us seeking promotion.

To confuse you more, one extra slot is available and that goes, we’re told, to the team who finishes third across the leagues with the most points. More clubs are coming up from Step 5, too.

Extra promotion places will be available, and the bottom line is that’s what football should be about. Success should be rewarded, and the door to progression has to be open.

I look at League Two in the EFL and think they’ve got it exactly right. Three teams up automatically, and one through the playoffs. That’s how the system should work.

But it’s only the top of that division that I support.

Three should be relegated – meaning three promoted from the National League.

That imbalance still exists. The calls from three up, three down have been rumbling for over a decade now and at some point you have to think the talking must stop.

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Jimmy Bullard’s recent interview with the Guardian could have been a disaster. Instead, he came off even better than when he began his managerial career.

I’m an advocate of the former Fulham, Wigan and Hull City player. The cheeky chappy thing isn’t for everyone but in modern day football we’re desperately lacking in colour and characters. It’s not the same as it used to be.

It turned out to be the exact opposite. He came across as a man who enjoyed every minute of his experience in the Ryman League and as you can see elsewhere, he is coming back for more.


So when I heard Bullard was speaking at length about his time at Leatherhead I was concerned we would be getting a tale of how he’s never going back, and how that level of the game was actually beneath him and the commitment of players isn’t what it should be.

Encouragingly Bullard doesn’t feel a successful first season has set him up for a crack at the big time.

How many times do you see big name former players except to walk into top jobs just because they played at a high level?

Tellingly, there is no sense of entitlement with Jimmy. He wants to step up, but knows logistically the next move is one level higher, the National League South or, if he’s lucky, Non-League’s top division.

He’s got his hands dirty and hasn’t shied away from learning the game, just like he did as a player when he first pulled on his boots for Gravesend and Northfleet.

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