First Division

2019/20 Season Preview – First Division

With 4 promotion places on offer the 2019/20 Season in the SCEFL First Division is all geared up to be the most exciting one in it’s history.

Changes to the Non-League Pyramid for the following year mean that extra Divisions are being created at Step 5 while Step 6 will see a reduction in it’s numbers meaning that more teams than normal have the opportunity to make the jump up to the next level.

and that is good news for us SCEFL fans!

Seeking a quick return to the Premier are the relegated duo of Croydon and Rusthall while with no teams coming up from the Kent County League we get to the start line with no new blood but instead 17 familiar but ambitious clubs. Almost a quarter of the teams in the First Division will find success through promotion but it seems that all of them will start on the 3rd August aiming for it.

Despite having to start with a whole new squad Croydon settled quickly and claimed good wins in their final 5 friendly games. Off the field they have had no luck in recent times but on it they may just be getting it right in time for day one at home to Rochester United and then following that they have the same aims as most to try and seal a top four finish.

Rusthall will also be looking to return to the Premier Division at the first attempt but that will certainly be easier said than done with all 17 sides after one of the coveted four places. In our recent Prediction Poll the Rustics finished in 3rd place showing that the SCEFL experts have faith that they can do it. Now they just have to achieve it.

Kennington finished 3rd last year and Manager Dan Scorer is aiming for at least that again this time.

“I think anyone in our Division that says they’re not aiming for promotion is setting themselves up to fail from the off. It’s a massive opportunity to get yourself to the next step and we plan to be right amongst it. A top 4 finish is obviously the main objective but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to be challenging for the league title. We also have the excitement of the FA Vase, which will be an extremely proud moment for the club and one that we will aim to enjoy for as long as we can.”

“I think you’d be silly to write anyone off at this stage because of the opportunity we all have. I fully expect the first few months of the season to be really tight and it won’t be until we hit that winter period that we see teams fall away. That being said, I think you’ve got to look at the clubs with a change in management and those that have recruited really well so I would expect to see Rochester, Snodland and Greenways all around the top this year as well as Sutton Athletic, Holmesdale and the the two sides relegated. It really is going to be wide open.”

Photo Credit: Ian Scammell

Pre-season has gone well for the ‘Ton’ and Scorer is happy with how his squad is shaping up.

“It’s been a really enjoyable few weeks and I’ve been very happy with how our preparations have gone. We’ve faced strong opposition from the Premier Division, which I feel has helped bring our performance levels up to the standards we set.”

“The most important thing for me was keeping the squad together and we’ve managed to do that. What’s been really pleasing is that we’ve retained some key players, who I know were offered some very good deals elsewhere. We’ve also added really well to that and I’ve been very impressed with how well the new lads have settled and bought into what we’re trying to do.”

Kennington finished 2nd in our prediction table proving that others share the confidence at the club of a decent campaign again.

Bridon Ropes have been very quiet over the summer and although a new Management Team is in place little else is known of the goings on at their club in the past few months. A fourth placed finish from last time will be hard to repeat but they are sure to give it their best shot and see where it takes them.

Sutton Athletic are a side fancied to be competitive again this year. Their pre-season performances have been impressive and they have managed to keep most of their squad from a decent campaign last time around. They have multiple routes to goal and on their day can take any side apart. A real threat and at 4th place in our prediction table.

One of the most active sides in this Division is Holmesdale as they have strengthened hugely since the arrival of Lee Roots as Manager at the start of the summer. Pre-season results were very good but the squad is looking even better and it was no surprise to see them finish top of the prediction table. They will be desperate to finish among the top four and with a collective like they have now at Oakley Road few would argue that they will achieve their aims.

Forest Hill Park are another side that keep their cards close to their chest. Little is known of their pre-season results, their squad or their new manager so it is hard to judge what their aims are this year.

Stansfeld finished 8th last time and boss Billy Hamlin is hoping that becoming more consistent will improve their League position this year. He is happy with how they have approached the season.

“Pre-season has gone very well, we are very happy where we are. We have played some tough opposition and we have put in good performances in all the games even if the results have gone against us.”

“Obviously at this time of the year you have a few people away on holiday but we have added to the squad really well over the summer with a few new players and a few players returning back to the club and this will create some good competition in the squad.”

“We will see where the season takes us we dropped a lot of disappointing points last season, with our inconsistency, but what with adding to the squad and with the boys in the reserves pushing hard the club is in a really good state at the minute.”

SC Thamesmead really impressed towards the end of their pre-season campaign and they will go into their opening game at Lydd Town fully confident of returning with the points because of this. New Manager Jason Long cannot wait for his first full season in Management to get underway.

“Things have shaped up well over Pre-season for Sporting Club Thamesmead Football Club. This is my first permanent management position at Senior Semi-Professional Football and I am excited for the opportunity after thinking about it for the past few years since stopping playing.”

“I am happy with my management team which includes Aaron Jefferies Taz (Assistant Manager). Taz and I are different but I know its important to have a balance of strengths which will help SC Thamesmead do well this year. Graham Norris is part of the coaching staff and our friendship goes back 25 years which all the boys and myself value his information and he is excellent around the lads.
Dan Elliott is our First Team Coach, he is expressionate and has impressed me with his Coaching sessions which the boys have bought into. Dan is willing to learn and improve and working together with me to organise and structure the coaching sessions is important for the players enjoyment and learning for the year. Wayne is our club physio and has great information and always helping the boys, with sports massages, treatment of initial injuries and a great member to have as part of the team.”

“Sporting Club Thamesmead have a good mix of experience and talented youth academy players which I feel is a great blend to do well. I am confident the experienced players that have played this league and higher will help the young lads learn what it takes to be successful in the SCEFL League.”

“Pre-Season started slowly and to bring in new players to make up the team and squad we have now. We have kept hold of Merrick Simms, Mason Simms when back from his Broken leg, hopefully by end of October, Chris Hubbard who is a very experienced player and honest working lad and young lad Max Walsh.”

“We have bought the young boys through from Dartford FC Academy which I manage including Alfie Evans, Jedd Smith, Joedon Cogas, Muiz and Kane Fitton.”

“I have also brought in some good football friends including Tim ‘Tower’ Beckford and Strong Centre Half Andy Pierce, who are massive winners and great with the boys.”

“We have signed James Jewers and his cousin Dan Walshe who have shown excellent signs of great players and have bought into the way we want to do things for the season. We have filled a strong defensive unit including Reion Mcfarlane, Devonte, Jordan, Dan Mckimm, Huss as well as some great attacking players including Dan Edwards & Joseph Slvester which are all gelling well to have a strong togetherness in our objectives to achieve promotion for the season.”

“I feel no league is easy and there will be strong teams and tough tests this season which the players are up to the challenge.”

“I feel Lydd are going to be a tough challenge on day one and this is an excellent test for our boys and a win would really continue on our great run of pre-season form.”

“Holmedale & Kennington, Stansfeld are always tough teams to play but I will continue to focus on us and make sure we are at the best.”

“We look at all cups and would like to push on like we did last year getting to the semi final of the Challenge Cup. I would also love the boys to experience an FA Vase run as the chance to play as Wembley would be a great achievement.”

“I feel we will have a great chance this year and as long as everyone at the club sticks together and works hard and is willing to learn we will all do well.”

Greenways set themselves up a tough pre-season which will prove useful with their first 6 League games coming against the top 6 ranking sides in the Division. Manager Rob Jeffery is looking forward to the season and is pleased with his work this summer.

“Pre-season has flown by, the players and management team have put a lot of effort into the preparation for the season ahead and I’m very pleased with how it’s gone. We purposely prepared a tough schedule in terms of opponents and we’ve taken learnings from each of those games and that for me is what pre-season is for.”

“Squad wise we have kept all but one player who has stopped playing Saturday football. We have a couple of long term injuries and one of our learnings from last season was that at times we felt we left ourselves a little bit thin so we have increased the squad size this season to counteract that.”

“We’ve added genuine quality to the squad, players that have increased the competition but most importantly players that fit. As a club, the personality and mental attribute of a player is the first and only thing we look & I’m delighted with our additions.”

“The expectation for the season is to continue to progress the club both on and off the field. We’ve got the FA Vase to look forward to this season, our first appearance in the competition & that will be a great day for everyone. An improved league position and a cup run would be progression.”

“I think it’s an impossible task to try and second guess who’s going to be up there. Some teams have been very open in their movements and some teams like to keep their cards close to their chest. The added incentive of 4 being promoted this season has certainly got the clubs excited and it’s great to see. With the league so open last season I would suggest that most teams will have their eye on creeping into those 4 places to get themselves to the promised land. For us, we’ll continue to respect everyone we come across but we certainly fear no one.”

Lewisham Borough have had to work hard to find pre-season games with their own home ground out of use during the summer but Justin Fevrier managed to set his side some tough challenges and they have come through it and are now ready for the season to begin. Unfortunately for them they miss out on the opening weekend due to a frustrating odd number membership but when they get going the following week they are sure to lay down a worthy challenge for a top 4 place.

It has been a tough summer for Lydd Town boss Liam Smith but after some early setbacks he seems to have shaped a squad worthy of competing in this Division.

“Pre-season hasn’t been easy I must admit as I lost 5 players to Kennington, who are our closest rivals. Subsequently one of that 5 ended up going to Canterbury and these players had to be replaced. When you have such a mass exodus and all to the same club it made me question my methods and it really did knock my confidence and belief for a while. Thankfully the club stood by me and I’ve been able to build a completely new squad which has some exciting players amongst it. As for results wise it was it hit and miss like every pre-season is but the positives overweighed the negatives so really pleased all in all.”

“Expectations for the season are simple really to start better than we did last year as I believe we only managed 1 point from our opening 9 games. We will aim to make our home ground a Fortress again and we will see where it takes us.”

“Teams to look out for this year, well I actually think everyone as there is 4 promotion spots up for grabs. Everyone will be going hell for leather especially up until Christmas. I personally think it’s mad that 4 go up but of course like anyone else I would bite your hand off for one of the spots but have to manage expectations and be realistic.”

“I love being a part of the SCEFL League and the fact it’s getting more and more coverage is brilliant. I hope everyone has a good season (except against lydd).”

Ennio Gonnella has enjoyed his pre-season at FC Elmstead and although not committing his side to a top four charge he has not quite ruled it out yet!

“Pre-season has been good, firstly very enjoyable which is not normally something I experience lol… we played the correct teams in preparation with some good results albeit not really fussed about the scorelines but always nice to cause some upsets as such.”

“The Squad is looking good. We have only kept 4 of last years main squad and I have signed players that I’ve known since they were youth, as we are going for players we can trust, also new faces with real good talent. The team have bonded well and a family feel is ever growing, most of all they have smiles on there faces and that’s the main thing – enjoyment.”

“Our expectation is to try and compete in every game we play. I know every team screams about going for top 4 etc!! However football is not easy enough for me to state that now. We want to try and win game by game and see where we are say January time.
For me I’ve said all along the teams I feel will be competing for that top 4: Rusthall, Holmesdale, Kennington, Rochester Utd and possibly Croydon.”

We will come back and check those predictions at the end of the season Ennio!

Kent Football United have had a tricky summer and will be glad when the season finally kicks-off on Saturday. Richmond Kissi and Steve Devereux have come in and quickly put together a squad that they hope has an outside chance of a top 4 finish. They begin at home to Forest Hill Park and really need to hit the ground running if they are to achieve their tricky looking aims.

Snodland Town are another side that have quickly had to form a Management Team, then squad, weeks before the start of the season. Ian Varley joins Simon Copley at the Club as Head Coach and he gave us his thoughts on pre-season and the expectations this season.

“It’s no secret we are probably around 2 weeks behind most teams because of when we took the job and not having a single player remaining from the previous season has meant we have had to recruit a completely new squad. Having said all that by the time the season kicks off on Saturday we’ll make sure we are competitive for the season ahead.”

“A lot of the players me and Simon have worked with before which helps as they know exactly what we want. A few other decent players have popped up as they do during pre-season and we’ve managed to secure several younger players from National League teams. I would still expect a bit of movement over the next few weeks but we are happy with what we’ve done so far.”

“I think it’s a very open league this season and I’m sure we are one of a number of clubs who expect to do very well. The club had a difficult season last time out, we’ll certainly improve on that and see where that takes us.”

“I think every team has been looking to improve from last year and with 4 teams being promoted I expect it to be a very strong league this year which is great news.”

Rochester United will be very disappointed with their last two seasons but now there is some positivity around the Club as Lee Garling has assembled a squad he feels is capable of challenging for one of those top four places. Pre-season results have been decent and many are tipping Rochester to rise from the gloom and compete at the top end this year.

After a poor season last time Meridian VP have transformed over the summer and now are going flat out to revive the fortunes of the club. An improved Social Media output has been matched by an on-field recruitment campaign and now Manager and Chairman Dwinder Tamna cannot wait for the season to start.

“As a club MVP feel pre-season has been productive after starting early, we have played teams with energy which has given us some good tests.”

“The squad has had a major overhaul which was paramount from last season. Management have been experimenting with formations and with lots of signings and still more players coming in, there will be the inevitable disruption and setting of foundations. However players have commented on what they feel works and doesn’t, so it appears to be a happy camp.”

“Our sole aim this season is to be in the promotion hunt, other teams may look at us from last season and chuckle, however we have got on with our job made some great signings on the playing and management side which will only improve us as team and a club.”

“This season we would like a decent cup runs as well and are excited by our cup draws as we have been drawn against some very good clubs so far.”

“The MVP are delighted to have a home game on the opening day which coincides with our local neighbours Charlton Athletic playing away, we have been and are working hard within the community to ensure we promote Non- League football and to get attract good crowds.”

“Every game will be tough this season with the prospect of 4 teams being promoted, there is extra incentive for all to do well, where we will have all within the setup ready to focus and have the desire to reach the standard we require…!”

“We are aware of the bonus for clubs to do well this season and there will be a select few who have already made their intentions clear, not to say the others are not also preparing well.”

“This season will be an exciting one, one that will break clubs, make clubs and define clubs. Only the best will prevail, so watch this space…”

The season starts on Saturday and finishes on April 18th where we crown a Champion and find out which four sides will be promoted to the Premier Division.

With the four promotion places on offer this could easily be the most exciting First Division Campaign of all time so stay close to us here, send in your content and enjoy. It should be a fun ride!