Conference Premier 2014/15 Preview: The ‘Other’ Premier League
Head of In Play Mark Swarbrick discusses...
As the stars of the game take a rest after the culmination of the World Cup, the players in the 'other' Premier League, the Conference Premier, start back in pre-season training, their aim to gain promotion back into the Football League.
For those dropping down from League 2 last year the omens for a swift return aren't great, the last team to go straight back up being Carlisle in 2005. However both of last years relegated teams do look on paper at least to have a better than normal chance of a return. Bristol Rovers (5/1) would be seen as the bigger of the two clubs, and will have decent levels of support from the terraces, and Torquay United (12/1) who have the services of their former captain turned manager Chris Hargreaves. Hargreaves led the team out of the conference only 5 years ago, scoring at Wembley to send the Gulls back into league Football, and it's that kind of experience at this level which can make such a difference.
It's a league littered with former Football League clubs looking to return to their former glories, indeed over half the teams taking part in this year's league have seen league Football action over the years. Topping the list, Grimsby Town (9/1) and Lincoln City (20/1) each spent over 100 years each in the upper echelons of the English League system.
Early money for this season's tournament has come for Eastleigh (10/1) who have come up to the Conference Premier after winning the Conference South title last year by 5 points. They have made some eye catching signings in the close season so far including the striking duo of James Constable from Oxford (12 goals in League 2) and Jack Midson from AFC Wimbledon (15 goals in League 2). With the potential firepower of these two at this level, and with a backer who is reputedly spending £1.5m on upgrading the facilities at the stadium, Eastleigh look sure to be a team to follow in the coming months.
With 3 weeks to go there will be plenty of comings and goings at this level of Football as teams continue to assemble their squads, and I for one can't wait for the start of the season on August 9th.