SCEFL Premier Division Preview – 2021/22
It has been 273 long days since the last SCEFL Premier Division games were played but the League is back this Saturday and after so long without it, we are sure going to savour every moment of it’s return.
We start with an even 20 teams with 3 new sides replacing the 4 that depart.
Kennington, Holmesdale and Rusthall are elevated thanks to their hard work over the past few years while the FA reshuffle also sees AFC Croydon, Balham, Beckenham Town and Corinthian leave for pastures new.
The 2021/22 SCEFL Premier Division Champions will gain automatic promotion this season with the runners-up entering a play-off game against a Step 4 side for the chance to play Isthmian League football next time.
At the other end the aim will be to stay out of the bottom two. Failure to do that by the end of the campaign will mean relegation for both.
Each Club will have their own hopes and aspirations for this year so let’s waste no further time and have a club-by-club look at this year’s runners and riders, with input from some of the key people involved…
Bearsted have been elevated to the top of the alphabetical table in the Premier Division so we kick off this preview by hearing from their Manager Kevin Stevens about the testing pre-season he has put his side through.
“It’s been a tough 18 months or so for so many people, but we can’t wait for the season to get started and give us all something to focus on. I know myself, my management team, and the whole squad will appreciate this coming season more than ever.
“The buzz around our group has been so good since week one. It’s probably the hardest we’ve pushed the boys during a pre season. Hopefully that will help us as the season progresses.
“We picked a hard pre season schedule to really test the squad and that’s gone really well. Obviously there are always some hiccups along the way, but the boys have learnt and improved every time we’ve ask a question of them.
“Squad wise I’ve added eight new faces in the areas that I feel needed improving. Those additions along with our existing boys I think has given us a better balance this season as well as more strength in depth.”
It’s a home game first up for ‘The Bears’ but it comes against one of the fancied sides in the Division.
“This Saturday we start our league campaign with a home game against Glebe FC. It’s a tough start, with the changes at Glebe I would expect them to have a very good season. That said every game in this league is a tough game. As always we will be as prepared as we can be. The boys are looking really forward to the game and can’t wait to get going. Games come thick fast with another tough game Tuesday night at home to Crowborough Athletic, followed by an away trip in the FA Cup to Banstead Athletic on the Saturday. Really looking forward to that one. It’s a different challenge playing a team from another league. We will do our homework on them and hopefully progress to the next round.”
And can Bearsted get in amongst those at the top of the table this year?
“The league this year I’m sure again we’ll see the big spenders up there. I also think there may be one or two surprises. As for ourselves, we have our own targets and beliefs which I’m very confident we can achieve.”
Canterbury City Manager Chris Woollcott cannot wait for Saturday and to kiss goodbye the complications of a pre-season in the Covid age.
“A disrupted pre-season which has seen isolations, cancelled fixtures and cancelled training sessions finally comes to its end, and we can now look forward to the league campaign kicking off on Saturday against Tower Hamlets. We go into it on the back of a strong performance against Whitstable Town last week which gives the squad confidence going into the league games.”
Chris is happy with his group of young, local players that he has brought together.
“The squad remains young, with the average age coming in just over 22 years old, with all but two players living under a Canterbury postcode; something I feel is important moving forwards. Overall we have been very pleased with how the squad has begun to build cohesion and understanding during preseason.”
“Our aim is to continue to develop as a team and become recognisable as an outfit with a clear plan and style of play. We hope to be better than last season and aim as high as we can.”
Canterbury City kick-off their season at home to Tower Hamlets on Saturday before visiting Chatham Town at the Bauvill Stadium on Tuesday night.
It wasn’t the news that Chatham Town fans wanted to hear when Scott Lindsey revealed his move into League Football with Swindon last week.
‘The Chats’ were fancied for promotion but with their leader now gone will they still be able to achieve it?
Speaking on the ‘Kent Non League Podcast‘ Chairman Kevin Hake revealed that they won’t rush into finding a replacement and that their aims still remain the same.
He will lead the team, alongside Carl Laraman with the ethos of the club, style of play and players all remaining as was before.
Chatham Town are still the hot pick for SCEFL glory in our predictor, gaining almost half of the 500+ votes placed so far.
Their league season starts on the road at Deal Town this Saturday before they host Canterbury City a few days later.
In the FA Cup they face Eastbourne United with the winners then going on to play Ashford United.
They have League aims at the Bauvill, but first they need to get out of the SCEFL.
Could this be their year? – Few would bet against it.
Crowborough Athletic begin their League campaign by hosting Welling Town on Saturday.
This is followed by a trip to Bearsted on Tuesday night while in the FA Cup on Saturday they face familiar opposition in AFC Croydon.
The Crows will be keen to fight for a top half place this year and with a squad packed full of experienced players at this level do not be surprised to see them achieve that this year.
Deal Town were one of the last SCEFL teams to have played an official game when they took on FA Vase finalists Binfield back in April. However, 3 months has passed since then so they will be keen to get back on the grass at the Charles Sports Ground this Saturday.
First Team Coach Steve King gave us an insight into ‘The Hoops’ preparations for this campaign;
“As a group we are really looking forward to the start of the season. The last two seasons have been very frustrating and we are looking forward to getting back out there.
“Pre-season has gone really well. We have put in some excellent performances and scored lots of goals. Although you can never read anything into pre-season results we are happy as a group with how we have performed and our fitness levels have looked good throughout. At times it has been difficult as we have been hit with a number of players being forced to isolate due to COVID but all those players who have turned out for the club during pre-season have done themselves and the club proud.
“There have been very few changes to the squad at this stage with only two new signings come into the group. We are lucky to have a committed group of players and as a club we try to avoid a large overhaul of players every summer. We will be looking to add further players to the squad once the Isthmian League has started and more players become available but we are currently happy with the squad we have assembled.”
First-up for Deal Town are Division favourites Chatham Town at home with an FA Vase Cup game against Southall coming the week after.
“Obviously a really tough start but it is a game we are looking forward to. Chatham are a top side and I have no doubt they would have been promoted last season if COVID hadn’t hit. They have an excellent squad but we are pleased to start at home and having had a good pre-season we will be looking to cause an upset on the day.”
“In the FA Cup we welcome Southall from the Combined Counties. We don’t know a huge amount about them currently but having played them in the FA Vase two years ago we know they are a strong side who will pose a real test. As with all Cup games it is often won by the team that performs on the day an it is a game we are all looking forward to.”
Deal have performed very well in the Cups in recent years, is the aim to transfer that form into the League and compete for promotion this season?
“We are looking to continue the development at the club that has taken place over the last few years. We have proven in the FA Vase that we can compete with top sides at this level on our day and this year we will strive for that level of consistency in our league performances. Pre-season has gone well and we have a settled group of loyal players that are all keen to help the club progress further. Despite the issues caused by the pandemic the board have done a great job to keep the club stable and everyone at the club is looking forward to this season.”
“I would expect the league to be between Chatham, Sheppey, Glebe and Tunbridge Wells but there are always surprise packages every year so it will be interesting to see how the table looks after 10 games.”
Best of luck to Deal Town this year and we appreciate your time Steve;
“Thanks to our supporters and volunteers at the club that have continued to support the club during these difficult times. It was great to see the club’s biggest crowd for over 20 years last week and we look forward to welcome both familiar faces and some new faces to the Charles Ground this season.”
There is an air of anticipation at Park View Road this year, and it is definitely not coming from the Welling United side of the ground.
Erith & Belvedere have built from the back over the past year or two, improving their infrastructure and streamlining the way the club is run.
Results are impressive.
Now it’s time for them to start making waves on the pitch and under the guidance of Danny Murphy and Marlon Patterson they will be looking to do just that.
On Saturday they host Hollands & Blair in Game One before a short journey to play Tower Hamlets on Wednesday night.
A tricky FA Cup tie at Tooting & Mitcham follows soon after but they will go into all of these games on the back of impressive pre-season performances, and wins, against Phoenix Sports and Ramsgate.
Don’t sleep on Erith & Belvedere this year.
Erith Town have ended the past 3 campaigns inside the top ten of the table but without the chance to complete the last two years they will be as keen as anyone for a full season and to see where they can place in this highly competitive Division.
First Team Manager Adam Woodward has been happy with The Dockers preparations and is especially pleased to have retained the bulk of his playing squad.
“We have been delighted the way pre-season has gone. The fitness levels and attitude has been spot on. Results don’t mean anything but winning at Margate was a recognition of what we had specifically worked on during training.
“We played in the London Senior Cup semi final in May that gave us a great opportunity to bring the squad back together earlier and also to bring in our latest crop of youngsters.
“We have a large crop of talented youngsters and we have brought in some experience (Andy Walker from Cray Valley, Danny Phillips from Beckenham Town, Sam Bailey and Jack Moore from Welling Town) to help bring through these young players we have.
“Every player from last year’s squad (Bar Nic Taylor who has moved to Croydon) has re-signed and Dan Palfrey has also returned after a while away from the game. He could see the hard work that has been put in and the ambition everyone within the club has.
First-up for Erith Town is a home game against Lordswood, a visit to Glebe, then a trip to Sheerwater in the FA Cup. How do you see those games going, and the league in general?
“Lordswood, Glebe and Sheerwater are tough opponents for different reasons but I just hope we can make a positive start. We are quietly confident that we will have a successful season, but we leave the predicitions to others.
“In this league there are no easy games and you have to be at your best in every game. The usual suspects will be towards the top no doubt, but I genuinely think this is a very open looking league.
Best of luck for the season to you and your side Adam.
“A quick thank you to everyone at the club and at SCEFL for all their hard work to get us to this point where we can all try and get back to some normality by playing football once more.”
In the last few weeks the breeding ground of Fisher FC has seen a few of their previous squad make the step up to clubs in the Leagues above. First Team Manager Ajay Ashanike ran us through how that has affected his 2021/22 season plans.
“Myself and the boys are really looking to get going. For us we were still involved in the London Cup in May so we carried on training for the season ahead and now we are more than ready to get going.
“Our pre-season has gone how I believe it should have gone.
“Results are not the reason we do this but it’s always nice to get good results every time we step on the pitch but mainly I believe the minutes gained has set us up really well.
“Obviously we have lost many key players such as Peter Ojeman, Jamie Yila, Jacob Katonia and AJ Folks but we have few of who will be stepping up into their shoes such as Jack Gibbons. We also have a few new boys coming in and I am looking to add 2 more this week so that will put us in a great place ahead of the season opener.”
That season opener is at home to Rusthall. How do you see that one going and what are your thoughts on the season overall?
“To be honest I don’t know much about Rusthall other than they are good side and deserve to be here.
“For me, I’m not worried about anyone. I believe in my team and if we turn up every week like I know we can we will be in for a massive season.
“The league will be the best ever. As we all can see a lot of teams have signed some top players and I’m talking about the teams who were at the bottom of the league last time. I’m expecting it to be one big season ahead.”
Harry Hudson’s arrival at Glebe, then the announcements of several impressive new signings have got many considering ‘The Foxes’ as potential promotion contenders this year.
Can this corner of Chislehurst really provide us with a side able to challenge the so-called big boys?
Hudson has been busy planning to make that happen but his first hope is just to reach the finishing line this year.
“It will be fantastic to try and finish a season! It has been a crazy time and I just hope we can complete a full season and everyone can enjoy their non-league football – it is so important to so many people for so many reasons.”
And how has pre-season gone at your new home?
“I came into position quite late so we have had to adapt to the schedule but the club have been fantastic in accommodating all of our requests. We have had some positive results and have only lost to Cray Wanderers but the most important thing is the performances which I have generally been pleased with.”
“I have obviously brought in quite a few new players – the nature of non-league tends to be that players follow a manager and this has been no difference with us.”
It’s Bearsted away on Saturday and a week later a tricky home tie in the FA Cup for Glebe.
“All games are difficult in the SCEFL Premier so we know we have to prepare properly for each game. We have some difficult away draws in the FA Vase and face Abbey Rangers in the FA Cup but we will do our research on our opponents and do everything we can to get through to the next round.”
What are the initial aims this year?
“We want to be competitive in all competitions this season – including the FA Cup and FA Vase which we will be taking very seriously. We know the league is going to be very strong this season but we believe we have a good group and hope to cause some upsets. It is important to us that our style of football is of the right level this season – Glebe is an outstanding family club and we want to integrate our youth teams to support the First Team through an attractive brand of football.”
Hollands & Blair have consistently occupied a top six position over the past few years but can we expect more of the same from them this time?
First Team Manager Simon Halsey lined up a tough set of fixtures in preparation for the new campaign, and as he explained to Kent Online Sport, they didn’t often come out with their hands raised.
“Results haven’t been what we wanted but we don’t worry about results in pre-season,”
“We got hammered by Tilbury at the start of pre-season but at one stage we had eight 18-year-olds and a 16-year-old playing, and that’s progression for the club.
Does that worry the boss ahead of the big kick-off?
“We’ll be fine. We’ve had Luke Harvey back training and ready to play, Ricky Freeman’s come back and Harry Goodger’s played the last couple of games.
“Harry was at Sittingbourne last season, he was going to call it a day, but he’s got that hunger back.
“We’ve got a lot of young players and we want the experienced boys to educate these players on the pitch.
“If they wrap themselves around the older players, they can only learn and and they will properly be in contention for next season.
And the aims for Hollands & Blair this year?
“I’m just hoping we get to finish the season. I’ve been here two years now and we haven’t finished one.”
Blair travel to Erith & Belvedere on day one before visiting Punjab United in the following midweek.
Holmesdale are back in the Premier Division after a 5 year break and have been busy preparing for their return by upgrading facilities at their home ground.
Tweaks in the right places have strengthened the squad, but most have been retained from a successful past year. First Team Manager Lee Roots is raring to go;
“We are all very much looking forward to the start of the season here at Holmesdale. A fantastic effort off the pitch in regards to the ground improvements & developments at the ground at Oakley Road, the club is looking very healthy on & off the pitch & we can’t wait to kick off the season.
“Not many changes for us going into this season. Of course when moving up into a new standard & league, that comes with the realism that the playing squad will need to be improved as a whole, which we have done diligently & bringing in the right players in the correct areas.
Ahead of a trip to K Sports, Lee is pleased with how their preparations have gone.
“Pre-season has gone very well. Players have applied themselves excellently in training & games, we have been very happy with the approach, application & return from the players this period.
“Whoever our opening day opponents was going to be it would always bring excitement & optimism for every single team on the first day of the season. We have a well established step 5 side in K Sports away to overcome first up & we are all very excited for the game & the season to kick off.”
And where will can all this hard work take Holmesdale?
“At this stage it’s all just about starting the season well, building momentum & getting your teeth into the action. We will keep our head down, work extremely hard in silence & see where this takes us.”
K Sports began the summer with a managerial change.
New Boss Barry Morgan arrived and spoke to us about his hopes for the year ahead.
“Everyone at K Sports are excited about the start of the season. Theres been many changes at the club, with me coming in as manager joined by my assistant Darren Hare. Also changes with our under 23s.”
“We’ve been hard at it , through pre season , enjoying a mixed bag of results in our 6 friendlies.”
“The Squad has changed completely over the summer. We only inherited a handful of players from the previous squad. However, We’ve been pleasantly surprised by the quality coming through from the under 23 squad. We’ve added some experience to help the youth, so hopefully we’ll be competitive.”
“With regards to the opening games , we have a tough start with Holmesdale and Tunbridge Wells, but being home games, were hoping to pick something up from the two encounters. We have equally tough opponents in the FA Cup and Vase, but with a bit of luck, who knows!!!.”
And expectations for the campaign?
“Our main aim this season is too be competitive, and hopefully having a respectable finish – at the top end of the table. I see it being a tight race between Sheppey and Chatham, with maybe Glebe, Tunbridge Wells and possibly Deal having a big say in where the title goes.”
Kennington are at Step 5 for the first time in their history and as First Team Manager Dan Scorer explains, they are happy to be there, and can’t wait to get going.
“After two difficult seasons for everyone, we’re understandably delighted with how the restructure unfolded. The extended break has allowed us to better prepare for the new challenges that await us, and everyone at the club is raring to go.”
A quick look at their Socials shows us to expect the same faces running out at Homelands this year, plus one or two additions.
“All of last seasons squad have returned, which has really helped us maintain the mentality and work ethic that was so set so high last season. We’ve used the long lay-off as an opportunity to focus on areas we felt we needed to strengthen, and I’m delighted with the quality we’ve added.”
“We set a really solid foundation heading into pre-season, as the players returned in good condition. Our preparations weren’t helped after having a slightly disrupted period, with 12 days off but we’ve come through it with 5 strong performances.”
It’s a different Division but familiar opposition on Saturday.
“We begin our journey into Step 5 with a trip to Punjab United. Our hosts are no strangers to us, having burst onto the scene in the KCL a few years ago. It’s great to see a number of those players still at the club, something that we’re proud to have also achieved. It’s a brilliant game to open the new season with and I’m sure they will create a special atmosphere for everyone, on what is a another historical moment for the club.”
A free hit or do Kennington have aims to achieve this year?
“We have small targets that we’ll be hoping to reach throughout the season, but we certainly won’t be there to make the numbers up. There is a strong mentality within the squad, and we’re well aware of our capabilities. Sheppey and Chatham will be expected to be the front runners, but I’d certainly have my eye on Glebe, Tunbridge Wells and Deal Town this year.”
Lordswood were one of the sides to enter the ‘Post-Lockdown Tournament’ this summer giving them an extended warm-up to the new season.
First Team Manager Neil Hunter’s shared his thoughts on the season ahead and the past few disrupted months.
“Everyone at Lordswood are looking forward to the new season but first of all our thoughts go out to very single person who have lost family members during this horrible and challenging time. We certainly know first hand how hard its been for everyone.”
“Like every single club our preparation has been stop start due to this pandemic. Luckily we got through the tournament with an experimental squad and got better and better.
“Results were mixed but performances have been very encouraging especially with such a young squad.”
Talking of squads, how is Lordswood’s looking a few days out from the big kick-off?
“There has been a lot of changes to the squad and I’d like to thank every player from last season and wish them well.
“This season we look forward with a younger squad which is really exciting.
“I’ve brought in Imran Englefield as my Assistant Manager and he’s been absolutely fantastic for all of us, plus with Chris Gardner and Sonny Gladdish we have a terrific group.
It’s a trip to Erith this Saturday. How does that fare for Lordswood and how do you expect the League to pan out this year?
“We play Erith Town away then Deal Town at home which will be two very tough games against very well organised teams so we will see what happens and play with no fear whatsoever.”
“One of the good things about having a young squad they done care about names etc they just go put and play.”
“I won’t reveal what our aims are as I’m not putting any pressure on these lads whatsoever but I’m sure we will surprise a few teams.
“I can see it being a very competitive league this season with a few clubs chucking money at it to have a go. My dark horse is definitely Glebe…”
There are high hopes for Punjab United this year, with some impressive new signings joining an already strong squad.
Will Johnson-Cole and George Goodwin have a great eye for goal and joined by the likes of Chandler Kasai and Harry Main, Punjab should provide plenty of entertainment this year.
People rightly talk highly of the welcome they get at the Steve Cook Stadium but now could be the time that the positives spoken about are provided on the pitch.
Manager and Chairman Chipie Sian has made changes and set aims.
“For me, the last couple of years we struggled. I’ve changed our style of play this year, I’m hoping we can get a top half finish. We have worked hard on certain things this year and I’m hoping we can have a really good start to the season.”
Kennington are their first visitors followed by Hollands & Blair a few days later.
Mile Oak is their destination in the FA Cup, from which the winners will visit Molesey or Phoenix Sports.
Now firmly established in the Division it’s time for Punjab United to kick on. A top half finish is a realistic target and one that would be no surprise to see them achieve.
Rusthall are back! They were not gone for long really and would have returned quicker had it not been for Covid but now they are here again they will be looking for a nice long stay.
Stepping up a level doesn’t just give the players and management a chance to pit their wits against higher level opposition it gives those in the Club Media a bigger audience to entertain and inform.
One of the best in that role within Non League Football plys his trade at Rusthall, so we fired some questions at Jamie Poole to find out how things are going at Jockey Farm.
Jamie, are you and the club looking forward to the season start after such a long time out?
“We can’t wait to get going, there’s a lot of anticipation from the dressing room as well as from our supporters. After the stop-start of last season and the pain of the 2019/20 season being cut short, I think we’ll savour every last drop of this season.”
How has pre-season gone?
“It’s taken us a while to get going, we’ve produced a couple of decent performances over pre-season in particular the display against Isthmian League side, Ramsgate last weekend – for the first time, in what seems forever, the boys were in full flow and spent the majority of the game on top and playing their slick football of seasons gone-by.”
First-up is a trip to Fisher. Do you go into that with the same squad as last year or has it been freshened up?
“There has been a handful of new recruits to complement the existing squad, which will mainly bolster our armoury for the step up. The new faces all bring something a little different.”
“It’s a trip up town to face Fisher first in the league, they are a strong side playing on a fast pitch, they’ve always been the same so I’m expecting a tough first outing on Saturday. I think the same is to be expected with our all-SCEFL tie against K Sports in the FA Cup, although the playing personnel may have changed somewhat since we last played them, they always seem to be a strong side and always attract a good caliber of player. It could be a a tough run of games to start with.”
What are the aims for Rusthall, both on and off the pitch this year?
“I think our aim is to become an established club in the Premier Division. We’ve been in the division before, but I feel that we didn’t have the infrastructure or clubhouse facilities in place to aid the survival in the Premier Division last time round.
“The lessons learned from our time before have meant that we’ve made the necessary changes around the ground to hopefully make our stay in the league a more permanent one. Our strong social media presence has made a big contribution to the numbers that we have welcomed to The Jockey Farm Stadium over the last few seasons, which has naturally helped us to lay the foundations for a good campaign this season.”
“Our ever-growing support base and our dedicated volunteers are the very reason club’s like ours survive in whatever conditions are thrown at us, the pandemic is testament to exactly that. This season we’re delighted to reveal that the uptake on season cards is twice that of last season, that’s a huge increase and I hope that we can continue to put on a good show for our supporters and keep this momentum going!”
This should be an exciting year for all at Sheppey United.
A new playing surface has been laid at The Total Power Stadium and hopes are high for a successful season.
First Team Coach Marcel Nimani is the man in the know at Sheppey and he gave us the run down on ‘The Ites’ preparations for the new campaign.
“As a club, which includes Staff and Players, we welcome the start of the season earlier this year. The SCEFLs decision to fit in almost two games a week is another decision which we welcome, as we are committed to completing a full season of fixtures, after two disappointing halts in previous two years.”
“The pre-season has passed by exactly as we planned it in terms of training sessions and games. We have played five friendlies in which we have included 27 different players including 5 from our current Kent Youth League U16s winning side. Although, results are not a priority or even an objective at pre-season stage, we have put in some encouraging performances away to Sittingbourne, Faversham and Larkfield.”
How is the squad looking?
“We are delighted that we have been able to retain a strong core of last season’s squad which includes 11 players.
“Adam Molloy, Lex Allen, Jahmal Howlett-Mundle, Dan Birch, Renford, Tenyue, Richie Hammill, Billy Bennett, Jack Midson, Connor Wilkins, Sami Meziane, Ryan Freeman and Junior Aikhionbare.
“We have added some exciting flair to the side in Taurean Roberts and experience from the likes of Ashley Sains, Ben Wilson, Danny Smith and Tom Fitzgerald. Overall we have added 12 new players. Additional players include: Kane Phillips, James Jeffrey, Michel Hagan, Luke Carey, Billy Lewins and Liam Northwood.
“This brings us to a 23 man squad. We recognise that Injuries and Covid restrictions (player isolation) will play a big part this season and we have invested in recruiting a big squad with players who will contribute in a ‘squad rotating system’ to cater for the predicted challenges ahead.”
It’s a tough start for Sheppey, with a trip to the Culverden Stadium.
“Tunbridge Wells – Fantastic club where I spent two seasons coaching under Jason Bourne. An away trip there is as tough as any game can get in this league or above. Great supporters there who get the home side playing with that extra desire. The management team there in my opinion, is probably the most experienced in this league, and if there is a management team who get the better out of their resources, it’s these guys. We are expecting an organised and well planned outfit.
How do you feel Sheppey will fare in what looks to be a highly-competitive Division again this year?
“The aim for the club remains as it has been since I joined two years ago – promotion. I feel that our recruitment on the pitch and the heavy investments on the club demonstrates our ambition. This year, possibly more than ever is going to be one of the toughest campaign in the SCEFLs history. I believe, right now there are 5 teams who have the attributes to compete for promotion all the way to the end of the season. This year in particular, there has been some heavy recruitments in our league and we are possibly involved in one of the most tightest step 5 leagues in the country and it would not surprise me, if a team from our league won the Vase this year.
Thanks for your time Marcel, and best of luck to you and all at Sheppey.
“I wish all the teams, players, staff and supporters a safe and exciting football year ahead. We have lived for quite sometime without football and we have all recognised how important football is in our lifestyle. Upon return, let’s enjoy football for its purist elements and that’s the 90 minute game itself and everything else is irrelevant. Have a great year, everyone.”
Tower Hamlets joined the SCEFL last year and were having a tough start to life here before the season got cut short.
Shakil Hoque speaks for all at Hamlets when saying they can’t wait to show what they are really made of but most of all, they are just glad to have the chance to play competitive football again.
“We are extremely excited. After such a tough year for all of us, the announcement of football returning has bought so much joy to the team and management team. Being able to fight for something weekly and the togetherness is unmatchable.”
“Preparations have gone very well considering we have pretty much a whole new squad. With many of our young stars being pushed to pro and high level semi pro teams we have once again gone back and re produced the next wave of talent and preparing them for the senior game. As pre season has gone on the performances and results show true progression and we have recently bounced off a 3-0 win over a very good Enfield Borough side.”
First-up is a visit to Canterbury City – a side they remember fondly from last year.
“We kick start our league campaign at Canterbury City. After last seasons splendid game which ended in a 5-5 draw we expect nothing less than fireworks come July 31st.
“A week later our FA cup fixture will be v league opponents Sheppey United. Although we are yet to ever play them we are knowledgeable enough to know we are coming up against a very highly rated side. After last seasons FA cup exit we will most definitely look to push on and go into the next round!
So, is the aim for this season to simply improve on last time?
“Our aim for the upcoming season will follow with all of our previous goals we have always set as a club. We will once again field certain youngsters who we want to really push on into the pro game as we always have. Our track record speak for itself. Deese Kasinga, Denilson Carvalho, Yoan Marc Oliver and Ali Omar.
“Regarding the league table we will definitely be pushing to finish on the higher end of the spectrum. Although many may judge us for our poor half a season last year we know what we can bring to this tough SCEFL league.”
Tunbridge Wells were in the mix during both of the Covid campaigns so they are sure to be eager to complete a full season and see where they find themselves in the table.
Wells Boss Richard Styles cannot wait to finally stand on the Culverden touchline once more.
“After not playing since November 2020 it’s been great to get back to it and we’re hopeful we may actually complete this season!
“Preparations and the pre season schedule has gone well, the management team are happy with how it’s gone and how close the squad have become in a short space of time.
“Of course there’s a few changes to the squad as we’re always looking to improve and make progress and that’s been the plan with the signings we’ve made.
How do you feel Tunbridge Wells will fare in what looks to be a highly-competitive Division again this year?
“I think the league once again this year will be a very strong one, I think there’s a number of teams in the league who would do well in the league above now and are ready, which makes the competition even more intense.
“We have our plans in place and set out from day one and we will do our best to achieve them this season both in league and cup competitions. As always a run in the FA Cup and FA Vase would be great.
Tunbridge Wells kick off their season at home to Sheppey United on Saturday before a quick turnaround and a visit to K Sports on Monday night.
Welling Town are yet to complete a full Step 5 season since their promotion from the First Division two years ago.
They join us all in hoping for a complete campaign and ‘The Boots’ Manager and Chairman Kevin Oakes is eager for things to get under way.
“With so much stop/start over the last 12-18 months it will be good to try and get back in to a normal routine – or as close to normal as possible.”
So, how has pre-season gone for Welling Town this summer?
“We didn’t want to make huge changes, but with the disruption of last year, wanted to try and improve the fitness, togetherness and tactic within the group we already had wherever possible. That said, it is inevitable at this level that some will come and go. We’ve lost 5-6 from last season for various reasons and we wish them all well and thank them for their efforts for the club. Moving forward though, we’ve added several and we now have a much deeper squad with competition for places all over the pitch. If there are fitness, form, availability, injury or Covid issues in the next few weeks and months I’d like to think we’re better placed to deal with it than we would have been previously.”
Have you brought lots of fresh faces into the club for the new season?
“We can’t name them all, but we’ve added Taylor Robinson to the squad who is the quickest thing on legs at this level, but can find the net as well, and he’s been a breath of fresh air with his work rate and effort and is sure to have a great debut season at this level having scored a fair few in pre-season. Luke Coleman and Simon Glover both come in who offer vast experience having both played many levels above this in the past, and across numerous positions as well, that will only improve the team and help progress some of the very promising youngsters in the group. Alex Costa is a leader at the back, and Sam Orisatoki at full-back has been doing very well, and the competition for a start should drive on both new and old faces.”
Saturday sees a trip to Crowborough Athletic while it’s off to Crawley in the FA Cup
“We didn’t do ourselves justice last season away to Crowborough and we‘ll be looking to give a much better account of ourselves this time around. In the cups, all games are away, which gives a great opportunity for us to enjoy a day away as a group which when we’ve done so in the past has then added to the performance levels, and if we can play to our abilities we would hope to progress further in both competitions.”
How do you see the League going this year and what can Welling Town bring to the table?
“I think the big 2-3 are fairly well known, so we’ll be looking to challenge similar to last year and be a firm top half side as a minimum expectation, with us surprising a few and being a little higher up if it all clicks in to place consistently, and I think that is key this time around, we were not consistent last year, and as mentioned above, with a greater depth and more options to the squad this time around, we should be able to react better if things are not going our way.”
Thanks for your time Kevin and good luck for the season.
“Good luck to all sides, and we look forward to seeing you all at our new home in Dartford, and meeting a few new faces at clubs we haven’t played before at Rusthall, as well as catching up with tough opponents in Kennington and Holmesdale who we’ve had good battles with in the past.”
The 2021/22 Season begins on Saturday. Fixtures are available here
The First Division Preview will be completed on Friday.
All Managers or Clubs were asked for content.