Here's the preview of the season from the Northern Echo

EBAC Northern League champions Shildon have signed a former Blackpool captain to help them retain the title and have a good FA Vase run this season.

Manager Gary Forrest has brought in 22 year old David Ferguson, who began his career at Darlington before moving on to Sunderland and Blackpool, for whom he was a regular and captain all last season.

“It was a surprise that he was released by Blackpool at the end of last season, considering that he had been their skipper and played most of the games. One of our lads knows him, and we have been fortunate enough to sign him.”

They have also brought in another former Darlington keeper, Nick Liversedge, who was at Guisborough last season, and full back Stephen Capper from Spennymoor.

The main challenges to the Railwaymen could come from Vase winners Morpeth and promoted South Shields.

Morpeth have brought in eight new signings, three of whom, Liam Henderson, Paul Johnson and Paul Robinson, played in the EvoStik League last season. Matthew Grieve, Matias Fondato, Danny Lay, Jim Provett and Damon Mullen have also arrived.

Shields, who won the second division in front of regular four figure crowds last season, have recruited well in the summer. Their most notable signing is striker Jon Shaw from Gateshead, while they have also signed striker Gavin Cogdon from Spennymoor, keeper Liam Connell from Dunston and midfielder David Palmer from Seaham Red Star. Their talisman will be former Sunderland and Middlesbrough midfielder Julio Arca.

Bishop Auckland have also strengthened as they hope to win a promotion place to the EvoStik League if an opening presents itself in a possible pyramid reshuffle at the end of the season. Defender Scott Martindale and midfielder Alex Francis have signed from Dunston, another defender, Dan Madden, has come from Consett, while Matty Lovegreen has come on loan from Darlington. Keeper Scott Pocklington has also returned to the club after a successful season with South Shields.

Newton Aycliffe could be title outsiders after finishing in sixth place last season, and they have signed Brad Varga and Scott Howes on their release from Hartlepool, and Scott McArdle from Washington.

Marske United will also be among the challengers again, after having won the league and finished second in the last two seasons. They have strengthened their forward line by signing Danny Earl, who was Guisborough’s top scorer last season, while they have also signed brothers Andrew and Aaron Ramsbottom who were outstanding for Northallerton, and centre half Dale Mulligan from Norton. Manager Carl Jarrett is looking for a new assistant following the departure of Danny Mellanby.

Neighbours Guisborough will also be in the running, but they have been hit by the departure of three players, Steven Snaith, Curtis Round and Danny McWilliams to join former Guisborough boss Chris Hardy, who is now at Whitby. Nick Liversedge has gone to Shildon, Danny Earl to Marske and Chay Liddle to Billingham Synthonia. Manager Steve Dowling has brought in former Darlington players Adam Cocks, Matty Pennal and Jordan Lee, Chris Youlden from Whitley Bay and striker Thibault Charmey from Norton.

North Shields who finished fifth last season, will rely on virtually the same squad, which has been added to with keeper Kyle Hayes from Shildon and defender Craig McFarlane.

Dunston UTS faded last season after a good start, and during the summer they brought in Scott Heslop, the second division’s leading scorer from Chester-le-Street. They have also signed Richie Slaughter from Newcastle Benfield and Marc Cook from Whitley Bay, and Gateshead trio Jack Ashton, Joe Hailes and Ollie Ledman. They have a new assistant manager in Steve Bowey.

Whitley Bay are hoping to launch a title campaign with manager Ian Chandler starting his first full season in his second spell as manager. He has gone back to his previous club, Durham City, and signed Ross Wilkinson and Nicky Allen, as well Kyle Fryatt from Shildon, but long serving defender Craig McFarlane has gone to North Shields.

West Auckland are hoping to make a better start this season than last, and to help them they have re-signed striker Steve Richardson after a spell at Dunston, and former Darlington winger Adam Rundle, who was at Jarrow Roofing and Norton last season. Former Hartlepool defender Darren Craddock, who was last at Shildon, has also arrived, and another defender Alex Nelson from Norton.

Consett manager Mark Eccles has changed his squad quite a bit as he starts his first full season in charge. Seven players have left, and in have come Clark Kay, Lewis Teasdale, Adam Knowles, Brad Staunch and Lee Ryder. Consett finished seventh last season.

Sunderland RCA have brought in former Darlington midfielder Jonny Davis from Shildon, Craig Hodgson from Bishop Auckland, plus Greg Swansbury, James Cassidy and new assistant manager Steve Stewart from Washington. Former Darlington striker Liam Hatch will form part of their team.

Jarrow Roofing have released six players and brought in six, the main arrival being midfielder Calvin Smith from Consett. Nathan Johnson, Andy Jennison, Tom Bailey, Kris Hughes and Nick Hay are the others.

Newcastle Benfield joint managers Mark Convery and Paul Brayson have brought seven new players to the club, including Scott McCarthy, Tom McNamee, Mark Dummett and Liam Hudson.

Washington finished last season in tenth place after winning promotion the season before, and they have brought in former Darlington and Spennymoor keeper Craig Turns, as well as former Whitby striker Matty Waters and centre half Darryl Hall, who has been at South Shields and West Auckland.

Ashington, with Steve Harmison in charge, have brought in midfielder Lee McAndrew and defender Shaun Henderson, both of whom were in Morpeth’s Wembley squad, and defender Wayne Buchanan from Sunderland RCA.

Seaham Red Star, who finished ninth last season, have lost David Palmer and Darren Reay, but they have brought in Lee Hetherington (ex Middlesbrough), Luke Proctor, Liam Whitworth and Thomas Price.

West Allotment, who just avoided relegation last season, have signed keeper Chris Bannon from North Shields, and former Darlington forward Shaun Reay.

Of the other promoted clubs, Ryhope CW, who finished runners up last season, have signed strikers James Ellis and Joe Melvin from Brandon and Sunderland RCA respectively, while they are delighted that highly rated defender Dave Gordon has decided to stay at the club.

Former Darlington midfielder Richard Hodgson, who has been one of Ryhope’s best players in recent years, has retired.

Chester-le-Street, who finished third, have lost their top scorer Scott Heslop to Dunston, while they have brought in keeper Jack Wilson from Brandon.

The second division promotion race seems to be wide open. Team Northumbria, who just missed out last season, will be one of the favourites, but they are likely to be challenged by Billingham Synthonia, who have brought in players who have appeared at a higher level. Former Darlington midfielder Anthony Peacock has signed from Spennymoor and defender Liam O’Sullivan who was at First Division Marske last season.

Durham City, who were relegated last season, have lost several players , but have replaced them with players promoted from their youth team and reserves. They have also signed David Luke from Team Northumbria and Richard Goodman from Ryhope CW.

Northallerton, under Darren Trotter, are sure to be amongst the challengers after a strong finish to last season, and they have kept almost the same squad, with keeper James Briggs arriving from Marske United.

Bedlington were relegated last season, but they have brought in two useful new signings, Kyle Oliver and Lee Scott, both from Ashington.

Norton, another relegated team, have had an overhaul under manager Deano Browne. Several players have left the club, but in have come Lewis Walton, James Marley and David Mitchell from Darlington, and Phil Pentone, Liam Browne and Jim Wilson from Darlington RA.

Heaton Stannington, who finished midtable last season, will have virtually the same squad.

Billingham Town had a good season last time, finishing in eleventh place, and they have brought in brought in Chris Dickinson from neighbours Synthonia to partner top scorer Craig Hutchinson.

Colin Myers decided to take the Crook manager’s job permanently at the end of last season, and he has brought with him several players with First Division experience, including Kieran Megran, Steven Turnbull and Chris Renshaw.

Tow Law are hoping to improve on their midtable position, and they have brought in Kieran Barker, Jamie Cleary, Graham Lazonby, Matthew Soulsby and Scott Watson.

Thornaby, who have appointed former Middlesbrough winger Nathan Porritt as assistant manager, have signed Nathan Wilson and Sam England from Darlington RA and Drew Lambert from Billingham Town.

Darlington RA appointed the much-travelled Peter Mulcaster as their new manager during the summer, and he has used his contacts to bring in several new players.

Easington, who finished sixth last season, have lost Brad Varga and Aiden Heywood, but they have brought in seven new players, including former Sunderland striker Ryan Noble, Other arrivals include Kai Willis, Jack Stanger, Reece Wood, James Atkinson, Nathan Renton and Chris Stevens. Craig Veart has also returned as assistant manager.

Hebburn have lost Lee McMahon to Seaham and Marc Costello to Washington, but they have brought in keeper Dan Chambers from Whitley Bay, Lee Burrell and Dan Reeves.

Willington, with Richard Tremewan as their new chairman, have strengthened their squad with the signings of Jason White, Gavin Brown, bailey Hunter, Micky Weston, Luke Cowie and Robbie Williamson.

Esh Winning, who scrambled out of danger in the closing weeks of the season, have appointed a new manager, Alan Hayes.

There are two new clubs, Blyth Town from the Northern Alliance and Stockton Town from the Wearside League, replacing Birtley and Stokesley.

Stockton have an squad that is inexperienced in the Northern League, with only five players possessing any length of experience, but with an impressive set up at Bishopton Road, then they could be challenging. They have signed striker Fred Woodhouse from Bishop Auckland, Danny O’Brien from Norton and James Crossman from West Auckland.