The National League season is almost three weeks old and there have already been several eye-catching results including Southend United putting four past Oldham Athletic, but clubs are far from finished in terms of building their squads.
Therefore, I have taken the liberties of researching and picking out five players that clubs in the National League should be queueing up to sign, before they are snapped up by a rival side. It is also important to remember that National League clubs can sign players from now until March, but the sooner players sign – the quicker they can gain enough match fitness to feature consistently.
In order to compile this list, I have tried to be as realistic as possible and only chose players that I believe would be affordable for clubs in the National League at either end of the standings as well as players that I feel would be willing to drop/stay in the fifth tier.
For this list, I have picked a former Manchester United midfielder, a Coventry City academy graduate and a former National League star who’s fallen on tougher times.
With all that being said, let’s take a look at the five players that I have selected for the National League this summer.
Beginning this list we have former Manchester United academy graduate Josh Harrop, who became a free agent in June after he left League One side Northampton Town, which ironically was my first-ever article for TheRealEFL.
The 27-year-old has made over 100 appearances in the EFL for the likes of Northampton and Preston North End but has found game-time hard to come by and this could persuade him to dive into the National League in a bid to relaunch his career.
Harrop is likely to price several clubs out of the mix, but the list of potential suiters could contain the likes of Oldham Athletic, Rochdale or Hartlepool United just to name a few and there should be several sides queueing up to land their signature.
Moving into the goalkeeping department we have former Coventry City goalkeeper Reice Charles-Cook, who made the shock decision to leave National League side Bromley in June, turning down a new contract in the process.
The 29-year-old is capped seven times by Grenada and made 50 appearances for Bromley last season, after arriving on a free transfer from Dartford in the National League South last summer. He has also made over 70 EFL appearances in his career so far.
Charles-Cook was one of the division’s best performing goalkeepers last season but is yet to make that jump into the EFL, since he left Macclesfield in 2020. He would immediately boost any side’s goalkeeping options and would be a steal on a free transfer.
Moving back into midfield, former Lincoln City playmaker Bruno Andrade is without a club this summer, following his departure from National League side Maidenhead United in June, despite only joining them in March.
Andrade broke onto the scene with Boreham Wood in the 2017/18 campaign, which earned him a move to Lincoln City. He also played for Stevenage and Salford City, making over 160 EFL appearances, before returning to Boreham Wood in October 2022.
The 29-year-old is coming into the prime years of his career but is still without a football club. He proved at Boreham Wood that he has the potential to be one of the division’s best-attacking midfielders but is in need of a club to take a risk on him.
Moving into the forward department, we have former Ipswich Town forward Freddie Sears, who is available on a free transfer after he was released by League Two side Colchester United. You will have to go back until 2012 for the last time Sears played for a side that wasn’t one of the two sides I’ve mentioned.
The 33-year-old has never played in the National League, but has made over 400 appearances in the EFL as well as 36 Premier League appearances. The forward can operate as a centre-forward, striker or winger and knows exactly where the back of the net is.
Sears has a crucial amount of experience that could prove vital for any National League side, especially one that is competing for promotion such as Boreham Wood, Barnet or Woking. However, we will await to see which side takes the punt and makes a move for the former West Ham United academy graduate.
Finishing the list we have the most recent free agent, in the form of Boreham Wood defender Dion Kelly-Evans, who was released by Luke Garrard’s side earlier this month, after being initially transfer listed in June but didn’t find a new club.
The 26-year-old broke onto the scene with Championship side Coventry City, making 40 first-team appearances for the Skyblues. Kelly-Evans also starred with Notts County, becoming a firm fan favourite with the League Two side, before joining Boreham Wood in July 2022.
Kelly-Evans would be a steal for any club in the National League and I don’t believe it will be long before we see him find a new home. The right-back would be an ideal fit for any side in the area like Wealdstone, Dagenham or Barnet, or a move back into the Midlands with Kidderminster, but who signs him remains to be seen.