How Hartlepool United and National League clubs could capitalise on National League North and South null and void while York City hope to play on
The shutdown of the National League North and South seasons has given National League sides a unique opportunity to capitalise on an otherwise unfortunate situation.
The sixth tier seasons being declared null and void (subject to FA ratification) leaves 43 clubs and countless players at a loose end regarding what to do for the remainder of the 2020-21 campaign.
Many clubs have already taken advantage of the Government's furlough scheme in order to limit financial losses. But after going seven months without playing in 2020, many players are desperate to get back out on the pitch as soon as possible.
And with the National League season continuing as planned, those players have an opportunity to make the step up and resume their campaign at a fifth tier club.
The option to join clubs on loan is something that would arguably benefit all parties. The players get matches, the National League sides get to bolster their squad and the National League North and South clubs get to cut their wage bill while keeping their players fit and playing competitive football at a higher level.
It’s something that a few National League sides have already cottoned on to with Dagenham & Redbridge signing Tom Smith on loan from National League South side Bath City and Stockport County loaning Chorley duo Harry Cardwell and Elliot Newby, to name but a few.
It’s something Hartlepool United have been looking into as well. Manager Dave Challinor is currently assessing his options with fifth tier sides having until the end of March to register players.
Pools currently have four players in on loan, leaving room for further additions if necessary. Luke Armstrong, Henrich Ravas and Lewis Cass are to remain at Victoria Park until the end of the season while Tom White’s initial one month loan from Blackburn Rovers is set to be extended this week.
While Hartlepool are out on a limb as far as the National League is concerned – they are ideally located when it comes to the National League North, with several strong clubs nearby.
Gateshead, Spennymoor Town and York City have all competed for promotion from the sixth tier in recent seasons and have some quality players to potentially choose from.
Ex Pools players Michael Woods, Jake Cassidy and Paddy McLaughlin are currently at York along with former defensive targets Scott Barrow, Robbie Tinkler and Michael Duckworth.
Former Hartlepool midfielder Nicky Deverdics is currently at Gateshead along with one of the sixth tier’s most sought after attacking-midfielders, Greg Olley.
Spennymoor – managed by Pools favourite Tommy Miller – have more familiar faces in Jason Kennedy and Carl Magnay in their squad. Striker Glen Taylor also regularly finds himself among the golden boot contenders in the division.
There are also several players at Challinor’s former club AFC Fylde that could take his fancy should The Coasters allow it.
Options are aplenty for Pools should they wish to bolster their squad further going into the business end of the campaign.
"It’s something we’ve looked at and will continue to look at and evaluate the circumstances,” Challinor told The Mail.
“York are still hopeful that they’ll get back to playing again but once there is absolute certainty and ratification regarding how things will pan out, that becomes a situation that we could potentially take advantage of in terms of players who can come in and strengthen our squad."
With Pools currently sitting in the play-off places with a fairly large and almost fully fit squad, Challinor is wary of the adverse effects further signings could potentially have.
“At the moment, we’re in good shape in terms of numbers and the players we’ve got so we’ve got to be careful and we don’t want to upset what is a really good dynamic in the group where everyone feels close to getting an opportunity,” he added.
“If we were to suddenly bring in two or three players then our squad quickly goes from 22, 23 players to 26 and then the dynamic can change and players start to become a bit restless.
"We don’t want to lose that motivation and feel good factor we’ve got by bringing in players who we don’t necessarily need at this moment. It’s a situation we’ll continue to monitor and react to only if we feel it will benefit us.”
As Challinor alluded to, York – along with 17 other National League North and South sides – have proposed to form a mini-league that would allow those clubs to complete their season and see promotion to the fifth tier honoured.
It’s a last-ditch attempt to see the sixth tier continue in some form but one the National League’s interim general manager Mark Ives believes should be considered.
"It’s in the best interests of the league to listen to all the clubs, that’s the right thing to do,” Ives told BBC Three Counties Radio.
“Do I believe there should be an opportunity to consider an alternative, viable solution? Yes I do.
“The resolution [to null and void the season] put forward is not binding, the FA can turn it down – the FA have responsibility for the Non-League System.
"Do I think it’s in the league’s best interests to present everything to the FA? Yes, certainly I do. Should we be looking at all opportunities? Of course we should.”
Should the sixth tier season continue in the manner proposed by the likes of York and Fylde, National League clubs would have their options restricted when it comes to poaching players.
As for Pools, they’re content with where they are and are more concerned about what they have at their disposal rather than what they can add to it at this moment in time.