Mark McGhee could make Forest Green Rovers star Elliot Frear his first signing of the January transfer window.
Scottish Premiership side Motherwell are reportedly closing in on the signing of one of the National League’s most sought after players.
Winger Elliot Frear has been a key component this season for a Forest Green Rovers currently second in the fifth tier of English football and challenging for a return to the Football League.
The 26-year-old has made 19 appearances this season but apparently took a Diego Costa and Dimitri Payet like stance by refusing to play in Saturday’s 2-0 FA Trophy win at Chester, amid growing speculation he is about to make a move north of the border.
Speaking about Frear’s absence, Forest Green boss Mark Cooper said: “Elliot has said he doesn’t want to play for the club anymore and we have to move on.
“There has now been interest as far as I know and we need players that want to be with us going forward.”
But in his defence, Frear tweeted: “Just to confirm I haven’t refused to play today, still struggling from injury last weekend. I’m a professional & would never refuse to play.”
A former England C international, Frear then signed a two-year contract at the New Lawn the following year and helped Forest Green reach the National League Promotion Final last season, when they lost 3-1 to Grimsby Town at Wembley.
He is set to become the Steelmen’s first signing of the January transfer window as Mark McGhee looks to boost his squad before next weekend’s Scottish Cup fourth round tie against Rangers at Ibrox.
With the Scottish top-flight currently on a three-week winter break, Motherwell lie ninth in the table, two points behind sixth-placed Ross County, but will be hopeful of securing a top-half finish in the second half of the season.
With one of the most unpredictable seasons in years in store, guessing the final outcome across England, Scotland and Spain has proved difficult.
AFTER the briefest of breaks following the unexpected climax at Euro 2016, football makes a welcome comeback as the new domestic campaign begins in earnest.
2016-17 promises to be more dramatic, exciting and entertaining than seasons gone by with new managers, players and teams settling into their fresh surroundings and hoping to make an impact.
From Jose Mourinho’s arrival at Old Trafford to Burton Albion’s Championship debut, there are many intriguing sub-plots which could present more shocks and surprises – such as Leicester City’s stunning Premier League title triumph as relegation favourites last term.
Such is the uncertainty of how clubs will fare amid the hive of summer activity, unrivalled spending and the fall-out from last season’s outcomes, predicting the precise outcomes in the promotion, play-off and relegation pictures in all leagues is an incredibly tough task.
Here’s my rough guess on what the final standings might look like across the main divisions in England, Scotland and Spain when May eventually comes around…
Merseyside-based official Robert Jones will be refereeing in the SkyBet Football League from the 2016-17 season after being promoted following two years in the National League.
FOR a football team, gaining promotion to a new league at any level is an achievement worth celebrating.
And it’s no different for referees – so Robert Jones will be delighted after receiving the call to find out he will be officiating in the SkyBet Football League from the 2016-17 campaign.
The Merseyside-based official has spent the last two seasons taking charge of matches in the National League – the fifth tier of English football – and the Women’s Super League One.
He was the man in the middle for the National League Promotion Final earlier this month and delivered an assured display in Grimsby Town’s 3-1 win over Forest Green Rovers alongside Aaron Jackson, Natalie Aspinall and fourth official Ollie Yates.
Jones dished out 63 yellow cards but only one red card in 21 games in non-league’s top tier during the regular league season while he only issued one booking at Wembley.
He was also the man in black for an Inter League Cup Final at York City’s Bootham Crescent ground on May 8.
Premier League referee Michael Oliver has been assigned to referee the 2015 FA Trophy Final between Wrexham and North Ferriby United on March 29.
MICHAEL Oliver will be the referee for the 2015 FA Trophy Final between Wrexham and North Ferriby United at Wembley Stadium later this month.
The Northumberland official will be assisted by Select Group linesmen Stuart Burt (Northamptonshire) and Marc Perry (West Midlands) while Football League referee Simon Hooper (Wiltshire) will be the fourth official.
It will be a fifth appearance in the middle at the national stadium for Oliver, who began his season officiating the Community Shield as Arsenal beat Manchester City.
He was also in control of Arsenal’s FA Cup semi-final win over Wigan on penalties last term, Wigan’s FA Cup semi-final victory over Millwall in 2013 and the 2009 League One play-off final between Scunthorpe and Millwall.
The appointment came on the same day that his outstanding display in Manchester United’s FA Cup quarter-final defeat to Arsenal was roundly praised – particularly on social media.
The Ashingdon-based whistler booked both Angel di Maria and Adnan Januzaj for diving at Old Trafford and sent off the former for appearing to grab at his shirt as he turned away.
After taking a two-week holiday to New York with his fiancee – fellow referee Lucy May – for his 30th birthday last month, Oliver returned to action after almost a month out when Tottenham entertained Swansea in the Premier League at White Hart Lane last Wednesday.
Widely regarded as one of the best officials in the country, the youngest Select Group referee has been regularly considered for the big games having overseen a North London derby, Manchester derby and a Capital One Cup semi-final second leg.
The latter was another impressive showing from Oliver at Stamford Bridge despite him failing to spot a stamp by Chelsea striker Diego Costa on Liverpool’s Emre Can.
Oliver – inspired to take up the whistle by his father Clive, who is a retired Football League referee – quickly established himself as an accomplished top-flight official with a confident and assured but less flamboyant approach.
He has embarked on a remarkable rise, becoming the Premier League’s youngest ever official in August 2010 after three successful years in the Football League and four seasons progressing through the non-league pyramid.
He is now a Fifa Category One official following his promotion in 2012 and has taken charge of several Europa League and international matches while he was also an additional assistant at the Uefa Super Cup Final in Cardiff back in August.
The final of the FA Trophy – competed for by teams in the fifth to eighth tiers of English football – is normally awarded to an up and coming referee among the Select Group with the recently-promoted Craig Pawson in charge of last year’s showpiece.
Unsurprisingly, Oliver has never officiated a North Ferriby United in the past but has encountered Wrexham on one occasion against Bradford in August 2007 when the Welsh side were in League Two.
Yorkshire village outfit North Ferriby – of the Conference North – overcame Bath City on penalties to secure their first ever Wembley outing after a 3-3 draw on aggregate in the semis.
The final will take place on Sunday March 29 with the 1:30pm kick-off live on BT Sport 1.
PREVIOUS TEN FA TROPHY FINAL REFEREES
2014: Craig Pawson (Gosport Borough 0-4 Cambridge United) 2013: Jon Moss (Grimsby 1-1 Wrexham * Wrexham won 4-1 on pens) 2012: Anthony Taylor (Newport County 0-2 York City) 2011: Stuart Attwell (Mansfield 0-1 Darlington) 2010: Lee Probert (Barrow 2-1 Stevenage AET) 2009: Mike Jones (Stevenage 2-0 York City) 2008: Martin Atkinson (Ebbsfleet 1-0 Torquay) 2007: Chris Foy (Kidderminster 2-3 Stevenage) 2006: Howard Webb (Grays Athletic 2-0 Woking) 2005: Phil Dowd (Grays Athletic 1-1 Hucknall * Grays Athletic won 6-5 on pens)
FC United of Manchester host Whitby Town at their temporary home, Salford City take on Bamber Bridge and Stockport County are up against Gloucester at Edgeley Park in non-league football this weekend.
FC UNITED OF MANCHESTER V WHITBY TOWN
FC UNITED are seeking to prop back up the Evo-Stik Premier Division table when hosting Whitby Town at their temporary Bower Fold home in Stalybridge on Saturday.
Karl Marginson’s tenth-placed side have fallen nine points behind leaders Buxton in the seventh tier but have a game in hand on the leading pack.
Their inconsistent run of form has been evident in the past fortnight when they responded to their 4-1 defeat at Frickley Town with a confidence-boosting 3-1 home win over Grantham but were then dumped out of the FA Cup by lower-league Lancaster City last weekend.
The Reds can leapfrog fifth-placed Whitby, who completed the league double over them last season and can go nine games unbeaten, by taking three valuable points.
TRAFFORD FC V RAMSBOTTOM UNITED
TRAFFORD FC will also be hoping to jump ahead of their upcoming opponents in the Premier Division table with a win against Ramsbottom United at Shane View.
The Flixton-based outfit secured their first home win of the season at the sixth attempt on Tuesday night with a 4-0 thrashing of Nantwich Town and scoring goals hasn’t been a problem having netted 11 times in their last four outings combined.
Twelfth-placed Trafford sit a point behind eighth-placed Ramsbottom, who make the short trip across east Manchester having lost more league games than they have won and scored fewer goals than they have conceded so far this term.
The Rams, one of five teams level on 16 points going into this weekend’s round of fixtures, are still smarting from a 4-2 loss at mid-table Frickley last weekend.
STOURBRIDGE V ASHTON UNITED
FRESH from beating Salford City in FA Cup qualifying in midweek, the Robins travel to the west Midlands on Saturday to face eighth-placed Stourbridge in the Northern Premier League.
Ashton, jointly managed by two player-coaches Paul Phillips and Steve Halford, are currently languishing in 19th place after accruing only 10 points from a possible 33 since the start of the season, amassing only two league wins so far.
The Hurst Cross club, who finished fifth last term, are searching for their third away win of the campaign so far in all but will be buoyed by knocking out the Ammies in the second qualifying round replay at Moor Lane on Tuesday night.
Although they will face a challenging contest against a Stourbridge side who booked their place in the FA Cup third qualifying round in midweek and have suffered just one defeat from their previous eight matches in all competitions.
SALFORD CITY V BAMBER BRIDGE
SALFORD City will be aiming to bounce back from their first defeat of the season by extending their impressive league form against fellow promotion contenders Bamber Bridge at Moor Lane.
But the Evo Stik First Division North leaders – partly-owned by five members of Manchester United’s famed Class of ’92’ – have the opportunity to widen the gap at the top over second-placed Darlington, which currently stands at four points.
Lancashire-based Bamber Bridge occupied second spot themselves prior to their midweek 1-0 reverse at Northwich Victoria – their first loss since the opening weekend of the league season.
DROYLSDEN FC V CLITHEROE
DROYLSDEN will be looking to keep up the pressure on table-topping Salford when a Clitheroe side hovering perilously close to the relegation zone visit the Butcher’s Arms on Saturday afternoon.
The Bloods, who are joint second in the First Division North, responded to back-to-back home defeats in league and cup with a hard-fought 2-1 away win at Scarborough on Tuesday night.
Dave Pace’s men have scored double the amount of goals (26) as they have shipped (13) in their nine league games thus far and will be confident of another positive result against Clitheroe, who sit a point above the drop zone in 16th position.
Despite their indifferent league form of one win in five, the Lancashire club are in good spirits after thumping seven past Lancaster City to reach the FA Cup third qualifying round last time out.
FC HALIFAX TOWN V ALTRINCHAM FC
STRUGGLING Altrincham face a tough baptism when making the trip to second-placed FC Halifax on Saturday in the Vanarama Conference Premier.
Lee Sinnott’s side, who won promotion from the Conference North via the play-offs last term, ended a run of three straight league defeats with a narrow 1-0 victory over Macclesfield on Tuesday night but remain in the bottom four.
The men from Moss Lane have taken just 11 points from 13 league games this term and are still awaiting their first away win of the campaign.
It will be their first meeting with the Shaymen since the 2011/12 season as Halifax, who trail league leaders Barnet by eight points, seek to build on their four-match sequence without tasting defeat.
STOCKPORT COUNTY V GLOUCESTER
Stockport are searching for a fifth straight home win when they host lowly Gloucester City in the Vanarama Conference North this weekend.
The seventh-placed Hatters currently sit one point and two positions adrift of the play-offs but could move into the top five with another victory at Edgeley Park in their first match for a fortnight.
Having won just once on the road this term – and with upcoming trips to Oxford City and Leamington – Stockport will be keen to extend their unbeaten run which stands at four games as Alan Lord’s side target a first Football League return since 2010-11.
Gloucester, meanwhile, sit in the bottom three of the sixth tier in English football following a solitary win in their first 10 league games.