Welcome to part two of our potential transfer targets for this summer!

Here we’ll kind of finish up looking at some of the talent in the lower leagues before moving onto some bigger name free agents from the higher divisions, and some potential loan moves in a few weeks. We’ll be looking at some of the more raw and risky prospects down in the Northern League and NPL East – as well as some of the more well known players out there that we’ve already covered.

On the subject of players we’ve already last summer, we have to once again mention Stockton Town’s Kevin Hayes, as well as Tom Coulthard. Now 29-years-old and arguably at his peak, Coulthard led the best defensive unit in the NPL East last season (conceding only 31 goals) and helped guide them victory in the play offs. Tall, good on the ball and hard as fuck – he’s the sort of player we’re crying out for in the centre of defence.

I’ve mentioned Kevin Hayes before, and I’ll probably mention him again in the future if we don’t sign him. Capable of playing on either wing, Hayes is fresh off his best ever season in football after netting 24 goals (on top of his countless assist) in all competitions last season. If we don’t go in for him sooner rather than later, you’ll likely see him at Darlington or Spennymoor if his form carries on. A proper ‘Inside Forward’ that will cause any full back trouble in this league – he’s also only 25. So he has a few years to go before reaching his prime.

That being said, Stockton’s core is a strong one and it would likely take a lot to tempt either of those lads away Teesside.

With 14 goals in all competitions last season, Junior Mondal had a solid campaign at Whitby Town. I suspect he’s probably attracting attention from all over the place at the moment due to it. A creative player who is capable of scoring goals – he surely more than makes sense this summer. So does winger/forward Dale Pearson – who netted 22 goals in all competitions for Dunston last season. Versatile, hard working and experienced, Dale would be a more than handy player that would always give his best. He can also look after Evans as well.

Now we get into some players that we’ve yet to mention. Some you’ll know, and some of these lads are somewhat raw prospects to verifying degrees, who have the potential to become stand out players at the non-league level.

Aaron Costello – Striker

Originally starting out with Stobswood Welfare in the Northern Alliance Premier Division, 20-year-old Aaron joined Ryton & Crawcrook Albion in January 2023, and this season just gone in the Northern League’s 2nd division, Aaron netted 33 goals in the league alone.

Tall, powerful and skilful with an eye for goal – Aaron would of course be considered a raw talent who would need time adjust to the NPL Premier Division, so he’s hardly the sort of player we’d be able to throw in at the deep end straight away.

That being said (and with all do respect to Ryton) if Aaron was put in a team with better players around him, he may just hit the ground running with the confidence he should have after last season. Realistically though, he will need time to find his feet at this level – and may even need a loan to a Northern League first division or NPL East team to help him out. Even if we don’t take a look at him this summer, he’s one to keep an eye on.

Plus, our track record when it comes to signing big lads from Ryton is canny enough.

Liam Potter – Centre Back

Breaking into the Bishop Auckland team at 17-years-old, the now 23-year-old now partners Gary Brown at the back for West Auckland Town, who narrowly missed out on promotion to the NPL East this summer – though they did lift the Durham Challenge Cup after thrashing Whickham last month while he captained the side.

While he isn’t exactly a colossus at the back, he is aggressive, good in the air and is capable with the ball at his feet. On top of that he can chip in with a few headed goals as well. He also isn’t impartial to a red card – which I kinda like in all honesty.

While he is experienced at Northern League level, it would be interesting to see how he would deal with deal with bigger and better threats in the NPL. Given that he’s been playing alongside Gary Brown and no doubt learnt a thing or two from him, I’ve no doubt he’d probably just smash people.

Evan Fogarty – Centre Back

A product of the Spartans/Tyne Met academy – Evan briefly featured for Spartans on trial last summer, but he was bombed off rather early by Graham Fenton. He linked up with Blyth Town who he’d played for the previous season (along with North Shields in the NPL East) straight away and had a really strong campaign at Town. Mainly operating as a centre back, Evan has even been drafted in at right back and even left back for Town throughout the season.

It would seem a year playing alongside Robbie Dale and co at the back has really helped him develop, with his progress on full display in the Northumberland Senior Cup final. He was arguably the best player on the pitch in that game, putting many of the Newcastle United U21’s to shame.

He’s definitely worth bringing in this summer to see what he can do, as I doubt he’d be able to walk straight into the first team at the moment. However if he keeps on developing at the same rate he has been in recent months – he may well be capable of walking to the Spartans team sooner rather than later.

Sam Johnson – Left Winger

Another younger and raw prospect, Sam is up for the ‘Northern League Young Player of the Year’ award after making 47 appearances for the Lang Jacks while netting 6 goals from the wing. Now 18-years-old, Sam is a former England schoolboy who won the ‘Player of the Tournament’ award at the Centenary Shield, Johnson has the potential to outgrow Whickham and make it at a much higher level.

Last season he seemed to play in a fair few different positions for Whickham – though either wing seems to suite him best. If we did go in for him, he’d likely need more time to develop – so a dual registration or a loan with a team in the NPL East would likely help him out a lot. A bit like Costello, he’s definitely one to keep an eye on going forward if we don’t go in for him.

Michael Fowler – Striker

The former Burnley and Fleetwood man has a fair bit of experience in both the NPL East and the NPL Premier Division at just 23-years-old. He seems to be really finding his feet as the main out and out striker, having just scored 16 goals in 33 league games last season for Stockton Town.

While there are a lot more ‘flashier’ names out there in terms of main centre forwards, Fowler is quick, hard working and a more than capable finisher. If we aren’t able to snag one of the bigger name players, we could do a lot worse than Fowler.

Dane Burlace – Right Back

The former Leeds United academy player has really found his feet in the Northern League – having just helped Bishop Auckland to the title this season jusy passed.

While capable of playing anywhere up the right flank, Burlace is probably best utilised as a right back/right wing back – where he’s able to overlap an attacking player and put his sublime crossing to use.

Defensively he’s solid enough for the Northern League and likely even the NPL East. If he did join up with us though, he may need a bit of time to get up to speed defensively in the NPL Premier Division, as he’d be going up against some really skilled and established wingers/attacking midfielders/strikers at this level. That being said though, he’s likely more than capable of doing just that and more.

If Blyth don’t go in for him, he’ll likely end up at a Darlington or Spennymoor in due course.

Joe Posthill – Right Winger/Left Winger

A fairly obvious one after his form in recent months. The Shildon winger scored 34 league goals in the Northern League’s top flight this season for the eventual league runners up. A mainstay of The Railwaymen’s side for the last 4 seasons, Posthill has gone from strength to strength in recent years, and would likely be able to step straight into a Spartans team and have an immediate impact.

A quick and skilful player who can of course score and create goals, Joe will have no doubt attracted the attention from a fair few teams this summer – so competition for his signature will be probably be fierce. So if we did want him, he’d have to stump up some cash.

At 26-years-old, Joe is nearing his prime and will likely continue to develop over the next year or so.

Will Shaw – Right Winger/Left Winger

20-year-old Shaw netted 15 times from the wing for Consett last season in the NPL East, following 3 seasons with Wearside League side South Moor AFC. A really skilful player with bags of flair, Shaw is still a very raw player that would need a bit of time find his feet in the NPL Premier Division. That being said, people at Consett would have probably said that last season – and look how that turned out!

Capable of playing on either flank, Shaw has the potential to go a long way in football and despite being a bit raw in certain respects – he’s likely a risk worth taking this summer.

Dom Agnew – Centre Back

A product of the South Shields youth set up alongside Sam Hodgson and Will Jenkins, Dom has gone onto shine at Whickham since first joining them in 2021. Agnew is know for being calm and composed on the ball, though he isn’t afraid to smash an opposition forward when needed.

He’s also versatile enough to do a decent job at left back as well, which could come in handy. From what we’ve seen of him so far, he’s also quite dominate in the air.

Another player nominated for the ‘Northern League Young Player of the Year’ award, Dom has gone from strength to strength with his exposure to first team football in the last few years and he’ll surely continue to get even better over the next year or so. It won’t be too long before he’s more than capable of playing in the NPL Premier Division or higher.

That just about covers all players who were in the NPL East and below last season that we wouldn’t mind at Croft Park next season. In terms of honourable mentions, Bishop Auckland forward Louis Johnson has a decent season, bagging 21 goals for Two Blues – though it seems he’s heavily linked with Darlington.

Former Spartans striker Josh Scott hit 37 goals for West Auckland Town, but his form in a Blyth shirt was rather poor and really sticks in the memory, and I honestly can’t get over him scoring with arse that time. The same could be said about former Blyth player Andrei-Vasile Ardelean, who scored 24 times for Shildon last year. He didn’t score with arse though.

Another young centre back worth talking about was Ben Milburn, but I know he had some injuries last season – so I don’t know what his fitness levels are like at the moment. Fellow Consett player Charlie Watt almost made the list, but we’ve already covered more than enough wingers/midfielders in this one.