Day: August 11, 2011

The Twohundredpercent Pre-season Predictions: The Southern Premier League

The Southern Premier League has a new sponsor this year, the same one as its northern counterpart so make sure you don’t confuse the two. Helpful. Anyway, teamwise the biggest relief for those footballers who get car sick is that Truro have been promoted, so that’s one afternoon spent on the M5 looking at the back of caravans which teams and fans alike won’t have to endure. Salisbury are also gone, climbing back from whence they came with their giant budget and full-time players. Joining the league are AFC Totton and Frome, both know the league well and both have impressive squads for the coming season. Frome can even boast a current England captain among their ranks, speedy winger Luke Ballinger is also the skipper of the national Futsal team. He’s had experience in the Southern Prem and a brief outing in the Blue Square North with Gloucester City, like his teammate, defender Tom Evans. The little Somerset side have an experienced squad and a decent manager in the form of Darren Perrin. AFC Totton, with free scoring striker Mike Gosney, could power their way through the Southern Prem, along with the other new boys, Hitchin,  they are likely to be goal hungry and eyeing up the top end of the table. Cambridge City have been lurking around the top of the Southern Prem for a while now and are the favourites...

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The Twohundredpercent Pre-Season Previews: The Isthmian League Premier Division

The Premier League is again a case of totting up balance sheets. The Championship’s glorious unpredictability is gradually being eroded by the distorting effects of parachute payments. The most important aspect of Leagues One and Two could again be those dreaded asterixes against points totals which don’t add up to games won or drawn. The Blue Square Bet Premier title was, some might say, bought by ‘mystery’ investment last year and chronic financial mismanagement has changed the look of the league almost as much as promotion or relegation since I was writing about Farsley Celtic, Chester City and Leigh Genesis for the Non-League Paper in 2008. So, where to go to get away from the overbearing influences of finance on football? The Ryman (Isthmian) League, you say? Possibly. Sutton United ran away with the title last season based rather more on football merits than Crawley could ever manage (and, as I am a Kingstonian season-ticket holder, I hope you will understand that I now need some minutes to wipe away the tears after writing that). And beneath them, there was an almighty battle for the four play-off places which went down, literally, to stoppage time on the last day. To pick an example purely at random (ahem!), Kingstonian were three-up at Margate needing to win to reach the play-offs and…drew 3-3, with Gate’s equaliser arriving in the 81st minute...

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The Twohundredpercent Pre-Season Predictions: Conference South

There is a lot of money flying about in the Blue Square South this season as the teams jostle to fill the void at the top left by Braintree Town and Ebbsfleet United. The gap between those with a decent budget and those without seems to be growing a bit more in the southern half of Step 2 than in the northern half. Oh and all the teams who have enjoyed a nice little comfort zone around the M25 and M4 corridor have a lovely jaunt down to Cornwall to look forward too. Promotion Contenders Woking seem to be nailed on favourites to win the league and its certain that they have a very strong squad. But they will face some stiff competition from Dover Athletic, Chelmsford City and Eastbourne Borough. Gary Hill turned the squad when he joined as manager last season so expect big things in his first full season in charge, reports from pre-season games suggest they are looking like a quality side already. The fact that some players have taken a wage cut in order to stay suggests a team with proper ambition. Dover Athletic may have lost talisman striker Adam Birchall to Gillingham but they should still give the top teams a run for their money. In comes George Purcell from York CIty, he’s full fit after an injury-ravaged season but should be on...

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The Twohundredpercent Pre-Season Previews: The Northern Premier League

After last year’s comfortable win in the Premier Division of the Northern Premier League (and, for those of you that are wondering, we are dropping the sponsors’ names from this and the Southern League to avoid confusion, since they are both being sponsored by the same adhesives brand this year) for FC Halifax Town, this year’s competition seems set to heavily feature another reformed former Football League club, this time in the form of Chester FC. Chester won promotion on the last day of last season in just about the most dramatic circumstances possible, and it seems reasonable to explain away their frittering away of a comfortable lead in the closing weeks of the season as a serious case of title run-in nerves, which manager Neil Young will presumably have sought to address over the course of the summer. Still, Chester have strengthened over the summer and it is difficult to imagine that they will not be there or thereabouts come the end of April next year. If the jitteriness that afflicted them in the last few matches if last season kicks in again, though, the title could be up for grabs. The team that won promotion with them through the play-offs, Chorley, may have more modest ambitions for this season – although challenging for a place in the play-offs certainly isn’t beyond this team in an open division...

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The Twohundredpercent Pre-Season Predictions: Conference North

Last year was pretty clear cut in the Conference North, Alfreton were pretty much definitely going up despite having a ridiculous backlog of games, the play-off places were fairly clear early on and Redditch were dropping like a stone from around February time, but this season it looks set to be a bit closer at both ends of the table and closer still in the middle. Along with relegated Altrincham and Histon there are the promoted pair of Colwyn Bay and FC Halifax, and the 22nd most northern team at Step 2 – Bishop’s Stortford, shifted over the north/south divide in the fall-out from Rushden and Diamonds’ demise. Bishop’s Stortford, like Histon and like Worcester before them will soon wise up to the difference between the two Step 2 leagues (Gloucester have only ever known the Northern side of the imaginary moving line which hovers over the Conference’s map). PROMOTION CONTENDERS It would be hard to bet against  FC Halifax Town being somewhere near the top of the table, The new boys have bulldozered their way back up the table and boast hot-shot striker Jamie Vardy as one of their key assets and laughed off an offer from Stockport to take him of their hands for a rumoured £50,000. Manager Neil Aspin has made a few key signings and if the Shaymen are as good as all their fans claim...

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