SOUTHEND United boss Kevin Maher expects the National League to be as competitive as ‘any league out there’ next season.

Gateshead, York City, Dorking Wanderers, Maidstone United, Scunthorpe United and Oldham Athletic will be the new teams facing the Shrimpers next term.

And Maher is predicting more tough matches for Blues.

“The National League is as competitive as any league out there due to there just being one team going up automatically,” said Maher.

“It makes it very tough for everyone and you saw this year that the top end of the league, in particular was very strong. 

“I worked in League Two last year and it compares with that for sure.

“The top seven or eight or even the top half would all compete in that league. 

“It’s very tough and you have the likes of Wrexham, who haven’t gone up and have spent big money so they will be right up there next year. 

“Solihull are a very good team with a very good manager and there’s massive amounts of league experience with the managers now. 

“That shows you how strong the league is too."

Right now two teams earn promotion from the National League season, with the league champions and the play-off winners both going up.

The league’s general manager Mark Ives is keen to make it three sides winning promotion.

But, despite hoping it happens, Maher knows the change will be difficult to implement.

“Teams in League Two won’t want to do it but obviously the position we’re in and being selfish we want that and there’s definitely a case for it due to the strength of the league,” said Maher.

“I’d like there to be an extra one and I’m sure everyone in this league would say the same. 

“Hopefully it goes that way and it gives everyone a fair crack at it. 

“The play-offs are so tough with the way they’re set up so for Grimsby to do what they have done is brilliant.”

Blues will now be hoping to mount their own push for promotion next season and are continuing in their bid to strengthen the squad.

Former Eastleigh midfielder Cav Miley and ex Altrincham winger Dan Mooney have already signed for the Shrimpers this summer.

And Maher remains in talks with other transfer targets.

“There’s constant dialogue with players and agents,” said Maher.

“I’ve been away but I’m back now and John (Still) has been dealing with a lot of stuff too. 

“It’s ongoing and fingers crossed we’ll be able to get one or two across the line pretty soon.”