We asked Joe Pope, founder of Off The Line blog to assess the players you should be keeping an eye on next season.
Maxwell Mullins (Aldershot Town)
Last season, the talk at The EBB was the performances of centre-back Tyler Cordner. With the defender having now departed the club, I think there is another defender who may well be one the tip of everybody’s tongue, and that is youngster Maxwell Mullins. He has featured extensively for the Shots during pre-season, and I feel that he could be in for a breakthrough campaign under Tommy Widdrington.
Mullins is no stranger to the football world, with his dad Hayden the former manager of Colchester United. And, it appears that Maxwell is all set to continue the family name by making a name for himself in his own light.
Widdrington has been open in his willingness to give young players a chance in the coming season, and Mullins may be one of those who is a beneficiary of regular minutes within the first-team. The signs in pre-season have all pointed towards Maxwell Mullins being geared up for a bigger role under Widdrington, and the evidence thus far suggests that he is more than capable.
The Town youngster has progressed through a strong Shots academy, and turned professional under former boss Mark Molesley. He has found his game-time somewhat limited since going onto a pro deal, but this is the season where I think he will display his qualities. Capable of playing at centre-back or in a wing-back role, he will be the ideal candidate to play on the right-hand side of a back three under Widdrington.
Athletic, fairly quick, comfortable on the ball and a good spring on him, he has a lot of skill sets you would look for in an up-and-coming defender.
Widdrington is to use a five-at-the-back system this season, and in order to play in that backline you need pace, power and mobility the like of which they perhaps didn’t have last season, and so I am excited to see how Maxwell Mullins does.
His only previous experience in first-team football has been at Leatherhead, but if he is able to adapt well to life in the National League, I think he can excel.
Kian Ronan (King’s Lynn Town)
The Linnets have lost a fair few players this summer, right throughout their side, and so Mark Hughes and co have had a big job to go about replacing them.
Their approach to the market thus far has been in signing players with relatively younger players with a view to long-term development, and as such have had to take a chance of relative unknowns. One of those that really intrigues me and one that I am eager to see how he fares is Kian Ronan.
With Michael Clunan and Theo Widdrington both departing, they needed to strengthened their midfield options, and likewise had to try and make up for the loss of Aaron Jones. The arrival of Ronan is one that helps on both fronts, as a versatile operator that can operate at right-back and indeed midfield; thus, on the face of it, this has all the makings of being both a flashy but equally wholly functional addition for the Linnets.
Ronan is only 22 years of age, but has a good bit of experience to his name having spent the last couple of years playing out in Gibraltar. A Harlow lad and formerly of the Ipswich Town academy setup, he makes his return to the UK and does so having made 25 appearances for the Gibraltar national team as well.
He has been able to get considerable game time in first-team football at a young age, and that has been reflected in him showing a real composure and confidence in his game.
Despite being only a slight player, Ronan is technically strong, can pick a pass, and will be a decent option for Hughes in being to progress the ball through the thirds and step inside from full-back in possession.
After European qualifying experience in Gibraltar, he has made the decision to return to England and Town have played a blinder to land him.
Bradley Ash (Torquay United)
Frank, who? It is very rare that Gary Johnson makes an early move in the transfer market, but on this occasion the dust had merely just settled on the 22-23 campaign and he moved to land the services of Bradley Ash. And, from the impression he has made so far in pre-season, it looks as if the Gulls have added a real gem to their ranks.
He has already won over the hearts of the United fan base, and if he continues how he has been in pre-season, he could win over the acclaim of the division.
Ash comes off the back of a strong season with fellow National League South side Weymouth, their brightest spark as they managed to avoid relegation. Given how many he scored for the Terras last year in a somewhat limited side inventively, I am intrigued to see how Ash will do in a side with better technical operators in the likes of Collins and Stobbs and you’d imagine that there is sufficient support for him to go and have a better season in terms of output; he has certainly continued in pre-season where he left off for The Terras in the league, with a couple of goals already.
The former Boreham Wood man will be an invaluable addition the United front line, a hard-working, nuisance of a player that presses from the front, is always on the move, closing down opposition defenders and forcing them into mistakes.
The Gulls needed more mobility, pace and running in their side, and Ash is a good athlete, bundles of energy, and an all-action player that is constantly looking to make things happen and get on the run.
The Gulls needed to add a bit more firepower at the top end of the pitch following the exit of Frank Nouble, and Johnson has gone out and got exactly.
He has already struck up a good relationship with Aaron Jarvis, and I think he will improve the United attack no end with his work rate and running. Ash may well have to play the supporting role to Jarvis, but I think that he very much has all of the qualities you would like for in a striker to be the main attraction.