It has been 98 days since we last had a busy Saturday of SCEFL football but the time is now upon us to get the 2023/24 season underway.
With the introduction of play-offs at Step 5 this year, we could have our most exciting Premier Division campaign of all time so let’s waste no time in taking a look at the preparations of the clubs involved and dive in to what some of the key people at those 21 teams, have to say about the coming nine months.
Bearsted have a new badge for this season and the team will take on a new look too, with some impressive additions made to their faithful and reliable squad. Punjab United have been raided for Marvin Okundalaiye and Will Johnson-Cole and naturally the fixture computer has thrown the two sides together on match day one.
The Bears friendly games look to have gone well including an emotional win against Abbey Rangers on Saturday for the ‘Roy Benton’ trophy setting Bearsted up nicely for Saturday’s long-awaited season opener in Gravesend. Kevin Stevens is happy with his new additions and is ready to get going;
Pre season has seen a gradual improvement in fitness, results and squad getting stronger as a group.
Game wise for me it’s all about minutes, taking onboard new ideas and being ready for the first game of the season. I think the boys have achieved that.
We had a young squad last season, one we felt would learn an awful lot from the ups and downs they experienced. It was important to keep those boys together which we’ve achieved. That said there were areas that needed improving and we’ve done that with good experienced players and really good characters in and around the dressing room. All have a great attitude and personalities.
It’s a tough start Saturday away to Punjab United. They are always a tough side to play against especially at their ground. Im sure their win in the Kent Senior Trophy final has added an even bigger belief in their ability. It’s a game we are very much looking forward to though.
Both FA Cup and Vase draws are tough away games. Wembley FC in the FA Cup and Mile Oak in the Vase. We’ve done our homework on Wembley FC which hopefully will help next Saturday. On a plus the coach journey for both games is always good for the squad to spend more time together.
And how does Kevin feel the league will play out this year?
This season the league will be the toughest yet. Add the play offs into that and it becomes even tougher. There are really no weak teams. For me I want us to become a more consistent side this time round. On our day we are a match for anyone. There is no pressure on the boys but let’s have more of those days. If we can manage that I’m sure it will be a very good season.
There are some big budgets about this season. Not surprising with playoffs for the first time. I’m sure every club will be thinking they have a chance of reaching those. You would have to fancy those big budget teams but this is a tough league with no easy games. Who knows, there maybe one or two surprises.
After a two year Isthmian League adventure Corinthian are back in the big time. The Hoops previous SCEFL squad put up a great showing at Step 4 before the Club embarked on a rebuilding process that will continue this year with us. Manager Michael Golding is keen to inbed that winning attitude into his current crop;
Preparations have gone relatively well, it is always difficult when rebuilding a squad, but we have steadily shown an improvement in both fitness levels and performances, although results have not quite matched up to these improved performances.
We have managed to keep a core of nine players from last season, which has given us a foundation to build upon – A little bit different to last year, when we only had two players remain at the club. The newer players have been integrated to the squad through a mixture of trial matches, inclusions in friendlies and training sessions and we are happy with where we are currently at. The bulk of the new additions are 21 and under, but we have managed to pick up two players with previous SCEFL experience, which will hopefully give us a nice blend of youth and experience.
The aim this season is to be as competitive as possible. The addition of the play offs at Step 5 is a good thing and I think there will be 18 managers and sets of players starting the season with the ambition of being in and around the play offs as the season progresses. We come into this season on the back of a tough previous campaign, so it is about rebuilding a winning culture and trying to test ourselves against some of the bigger clubs in the division.
Home draws in the FA Cup and FA Vase await Corinthian but first up it’s Kennington in the League on Saturday.
In terms of the FA Cup and FA Vase, it is a good draw in relation to playing at home in both and also playing teams from outside the SCEFL, which we always prefer. With the early start of the SCEFL, it has been difficult to gather too much information on FA Cup opponents Bedfont Sports, but we are expecting a tough match against a team that will be expecting to be at the top end of their division. It is also nice to start the league season at home, but opponents Kennington will pose a considerable threat. They are a well organised, physical side with lots of experience of this level and a side I am expecting to be challenging for the play off spots this season. We will certainly need to be at our best and hope the pre season preparations have gone well, if we are to get a positive result from the fixture.
Michael has a shortlist of three for the league title and throws in an outsider to ‘keep an eye on’ for a play-off place.
I think the three teams that will be starting the season and expecting to win the division are; Deal Town, Faversham Town and Whitstable Town. I will be very surprised if the trophy ends up anywhere else this season. Deal have built well over a number of years and went close last year, the manager now has a years worth of experience managing at this level, they have kept pretty much the same squad and added well, so they will be stronger than last season. Whitstable have the infrastructure and experience in the squad to be in and around both Deal and Faversham throughout the season and with a full pre season under Marcel, they will be a force to be reckoned with. Faversham will start the season as favourites and understandably so with the financial backing and investment we have all seen there over the past six months. I also expect them to go deep in the FA Vase as well. Outside of that, as I previously said, you will probably have 18 managers and squads looking excitedly at the play off picture and hoping to put together a consistent run to challenge the top five. My picks for the remaining two play off places would be from; Erith Town, Snodland Town, Punjab United, Lydd Town and Holmesdale. Stansfeld will also be a team to keep an eye on, they started last season really well and if they can find consistency under the new management team, they will not give anybody an easy game and will take points off of a lot of the so called bigger sides.
I’d like to wish all the players, management teams and most importantly all the club and league volunteers a happy and healthy ten months of SCEFL football. It will be good to catch up with some old frenemies throughout the season and we look forward to pitting our wits against you all over again.
It was so near but so far last time around for Deal Town, with the Hoops finishing the 2022/23 season just a point off a play off place and 3 points off the top. They are expected to feature in the promotion race again this year and with slight improvements could finally be rewarded with a Step 4 place. Steve King is pleased with his teams preparations;
Pre-season has gone well so far and we have been pleased with the majority of our performances. We have had good wins against a young Gillingham side and also away at Herne Bay. Results are not important in pre-season as there are often a lot of team changes etc but I would much prefer to be achieving positive results rather than negative results.
So far we have only made one addition to the squad in Rory Smith who has joined us from Herne Bay. This is a big signing as he is a quality player who was sought after by a number of clubs. We have done very well over the last two seasons and believe in the group of players we have. As a club our philosophy is to build a group of talented, local and loyal players and we are delighted all of the boys have committed again this summer. Although not a new signing it was also very important that we kept Alex Green after his loan spell from Dover last year so that has been a massive positive for us. We are still looking to add a couple more bodies but will be patient until the right people become available.
It’s the long trip up to South London this Saturday for Deal before going back to the Charles Ground for their FA Cup tie next week;
Fisher away in always a very tough game but it is one we are looking forward to. It is our longest away trip of the season and we had to go there on a Tuesday night last year so we are pleased it is on a Saturday. They are always a very dangerous side and we are aware we will need to be at our best. We were pleased to be drawn at home in the FA Cup and look forward to hosting Guildford. They will be another very tough test but we are doing our homework and look forward to our first competitive home game of the season.
And how does ‘Kingy’ think Deal will do this year?
We will be looking to get as many points as possible. We came very close last year and have an ambitious group of players and management team. We will focus on the quality of our performances and hope that brings us some success come the end of April.
I think it is going to be a very strong SCEFL this year and I think the play-offs have made it stronger. I’m not one for making predictions and every side will have our full respect. I do envisage a very exciting season ahead though.
I would like to add a massive thank you to all our of supporters. Our average crowd has increased by over 300% in the last 4 years and that support is really crucial at a community club like ours. The club has made great strides on and off the pitch in that time and we look forward to another enjoyable season.
Erith Town have been busy on an off the pitch over the summer – indeed the pitch has a new location with ‘The Dockers’ now calling Bayliss Avenue their new home. First Team Manager Adam Woodward gave us the lowdown on his preparations;
Moving to Thamesmead has been a big step but we look forward to welcoming everyone there. We have put 2,000 season tickets into local schools for the children to experience live football. The take up has been a real eye opener and our volunteers have painted the perimeter boards and generally tidied up the stadium. Everyone is extremely positive.
The brand new 4g pitch to train on has helped up the levels and friendly matches have all gone well, with everyone getting the required minutes. The core of the squad have stayed and we have new additions in Louie Clarke, James Dyer, Jamie Miller, Jack Holland and Ollie Milton. All have settled in immediately and bought into the club.
It looks like a tough start for Erith Town with the Belmont Stadium the destination on day one before a trip to the South Coast seven days later. Can Adam’s side compete at the top end of the table again?
Whitstable Town are one of the favourites for promotion so it is a difficult start and Hassocks away will also be a big test in the FA Cup but the overall aim is just to improve on last season. Anything else is a bonus. So many clubs have invested in new players. Obviously Faversham Town should win the league, but nothing is impossible.
It was a surprise to many when Faversham Town dropped through the Isthmian trapdoor in April with this ambitious club having big dreams and not being scared to share those with the world. They are clearly top of our Prediction Poll, where we asked our followers to pick their Premier Division winner, and they purposely picked the toughest of teams to face in the pre-season. Club Secretary Stuart Rogers ran us through their preparations for their SCEFL season;
As a club we set ourselves up against stiff opposition for our pre-season. Not least as we had to play every game away from home as our ground is having a new 3G pitch laid.
We started with a goalless encounter at last season’s Isthmian play off finalists Hythe Town. The match was played in what can only be described as a mini monsoon at Reachfields. We then headed to Isthmian promotion favourites, Ramsgate, going down 2-0; followed by a midweek trip to Burgess Hill Town, this time going down 3-2 with Miller and Mfula netting, despite having numerous chances to put the game out of sight.
Our planned game at Chatham had to be cancelled due to several injuries and absences so the following Tuesday we headed to our neighbours Sittingbourne. A strong home side were unlucky to go down 0-1 much to our delight, largely thanks to a lovely strike by Warren Mfula.
Lastly, we travelled down to Folkestone Invicta, where despite taking a third minute lead through Gary Lockyer, we finished on the end of an unflattering 6-1 reverse.
Therefore, mixed fortunes overall but there were lots of positives taken with some great individual and team performances.
And what of those high-profile arrivals?
This season has seen an influx of experience to pair with those who have stayed from last year, who have been happy to pledge their belief to the project that is going on. Strikers’ Gary Lockyer joins us from Ashford, Warren Mfula is a club record signing from Sheppey and Jefferson Aibangbee has come on a season long loan, also from Sheppey United.
Former Gills defender and our new captain Connor Essam joins us from National League side Dartford. Billy Bennett signs from Chatham; Ashley Miller and Jake McIntyre were recruited from Ramsgate and Matt Newman and Josh Vincent come in from Isthmian Premier side, Folkestone Invicta. Mo Kamara rejoins the management team after leaving Concorde Rangers and Sam Hasler has come in from Hastings United.
Staying put are Kieron Campbell, Ollie Gray, Jacques Kpohomouh, Matt Parsons, Bailey Vose, Kieron McCann; as well as youngsters, Harry Codd, Eban Gurung and Harry Meleady.
Faversham Town are on the road for their early encounters in both league and FA Cup.
The new season has pitted us against tough opponents, fellow relegation-ers VCD for the season opener. This is followed by a visit to Corinthian, with our first home league fixture against close neighbours, Whitstable Town on August Bank holiday.
In the FA Cup we are away to Eastbourne Town, with the winners of that hosting Merstham. We travel to Horsham YMCA in the first hurdle of the FA Vase.
The general consensus is despite it being a tough start overall– we can only play against what is in front of us.
We understand that we are likely to be one of the favourites for promotion back to the Isthmian league at the first attempt. However, we are trying to remain grounded and understand there will be some very tough tests this season, especially as numerous other clubs in this division have equally recruited well. We will not get carried away and will take one step at a time. In truth we feel we should be pushing to try and get promoted.
Also, like all club’s at step 5, we would of course love to have a crack at being one of the regular SCEFL clubs that marches for the Wembley arch in the FA Vase. Again though, that is a million miles in the distance but it’s nice to dream!
We can certainly see a tough fought season ahead – there will be no easy opponents and we are taking nothing for granted. We look forward to a thrilling 23/24 season, we are proud to be able to showcase our on field talents on a brand new 3G pitch that proudly is the same as that at the FA’s St. Georges’ Park, (then again, we do have three lions on our shirts)!
Fisher boss AJ Ashanike can look back on last season with pride after leading his side to a 11th place finish and an end of season Cup Final appearance. Himself and the Fisher faithful also take great satusfaction in seeing their players move on to higher levels – and the summer has seen plenty of that happening. AJ is ready to rebuild and go again;
Our preparations have gone to plan if I’m honest. We lost a few boys after last seasons Cup Final but this was something I knew would happen and we were ready for the hit. We have some exciting young players coming in again this season and I’m really looking forward to seeing them in action.
My aim for this season is the same as for the last – to take it game by game and see where it takes us. If we had managed to keep the squad of last season then I would be saying top 5 is my target, after only missing out on the top 6 by 6 points – especially if you saw how many games we lost due to injuries last season, I believe we could have finished really high.
They host one of the promotion favourites on Saturday, a tricky day one test for his team.
Our first game will be against Deal Town. A team I believe should go on and do really well again this season. This will be very hard task for the boys but I believe they will give a good account of themselves and make the fans really proud.
This season I dont see any weakness in the league. Everyone has improved massively as you can see by the results in pre-season so far. I believe this will be a very, very good season for the SCEFL and like I have always said this league is the hardest Step 5 league around.
I would just like to thank the fisher faithful and my coaching team for all their hard work and supporting me in every way they could and I’m looking forward to the new season.
Glebe will be hoping for a settled year after a couple of seasons involving Management Change. Danny Oakins returns to lead the side once more and this time has Craig Pitts alongside him.
The retention of Golden Boot winner Jamie Philpot was vital business done early and his goals are once again sure to be the key ingredient of any upcoming Glebe success.
Craig told us about their warm up for the league season;
Preparations have gone well, sometimes not had the results we deserved or wanted but sometimes preseason does that. We have played some really good football with new additions working hard to learn our style of play. We have added some exciting young players to the squad and look forward to the season ahead and hope to continue winning ways after picking up the Roy Vinter Respect Charity Shield.
We have retained most of the squad from last season, notably top goal score Jamie Philpot, along with Tom Hever, Marcel McDonald, Michael Ade, Malachi Morris, Parish Murihead, Jamal Abubakari, Reece Barrett, Teddy Green & Nathan Edwards. We have supported a few players on to Step 3 & 4 clubs and added some new exciting young talent (Drew Allasani, Nathan Mampono, Scott Jarvis, Darion Dowrich & Ali Fofahan) mixed with a few senior additions (Frankie Sawyer & Sheikh Ceesay, Jordan Clarke) that makes us stronger.
And Craig’s thought’s on Glebe, their early opponents and the league as a whole;
We have a really tough start in Kennington (FA Cup) & Whitstable (League) both good teams that posed different threats. We will prepare well for both games and give the boys the best possible chance of winning both games.
We plan to finish higher than we did last season and in doing so we should finish within the playoffs. We have a hungry bunch who have high expectations who are willing to put the work in to achieve the goals and targets set.
We think the league is really competitive this season. Big teams coming down from the league above in Faversham, VCD and Corinthians who all have the experience of getting out of the league and good teams came up in Snodland & Lydd which adds to quality in the league. We expect strong competition from most teams in the league. However, expect Faversham to be front runners but football is a funny old game and what we have learnt about this league is anyone can beat anyone on their day, so it will be interesting.
How about a message for the Chislehurst locals…
Get down to the Foxbury and support the boys. We need all the support we can get! Lastly, if they there are any local volunteers that would like to come down and help the club in some capacity we would welcome you with open arms and a drink!!! There are lots of jobs that need doing and any extra hands would be welcomed.
Hollands & Blair ended last season in style after lifting the SCEFL Challenge Cup thanks to their win against Fisher. Can they now use that success to inspire their form in this league season? Scott Porter is one of the many bosses with play-offs as the overall aim;
There is a good buzz around the place. We’re training on our own pitch, which we didn’t have last pre-season. To turn up Tuesday and Thursday, it doesn’t matter what the weather is, to train on that surface is a pleasure. The lads are benefiting from it and the sessions have been great.
Our pre-season has gone well, we had one disappointing result, the first one against Gillingham, but it was really good after that one. Folkestone Invicta was a great test for us.
The boys have adapted to a new system. A couple have come in, a couple have adapted to the new way we want to play, a couple have moved positions with what we’ve worked on and we have done a lot of work in the classroom with video analysis.
We got out of jail last season by winning the Cup, otherwise it would have been a failure in my eyes because the league position was very poor. We wanted to finish higher than eighth, which is where we were the first half season we were there.
Like a lot of teams we have the play-offs this season and I am sure, like me, many managers are thinking ‘we can get into the play-offs’ and that’s what we want to do.
There are some big teams in the league, some big money flying around, but we set our targets high – as a group we are looking to get into the play-offs 100%.
It’s a trip to the Culverden Stadium on Saturday for Blair for a match against a Tunbridge Wells side that have made big changes this week.
Teams chop and change players during pre-season so those first 10 games you going into it a little blind anyway. We’ll just go and concentrate on ourselves and keep doing what we’ve been doing in pre-season.
After four years at the helm, Lee Roots has moved on from Holmesdale with Tony Beckingham and Andy Constable coming in to share tiller steering duties. As happens in Non League, a change of manager usually means a change of squad and that is exactly what has happened at Oakley road, as Beckingham explains;
It’s always difficult when you start building a squad from scratch but we’ve been very pleased with the progress we’ve made and the calibre of player that we’ve managed to attract to the club.
We kept two of last season’s squad so there has been a major overhaul and we believe that amongst them are some very exciting additions. There is a nice mixture of young and experienced players so we’re looking forward to seeing how that develops over time. Our biggest signing is probably Dave Martin who has come in from Phoenix, his quality and experience will be invaluable.
A testing mixture of friendlies was put together and in fairness, results have been mixed although performances have been good. We know that pre season fixtures are important for preparation but results are totally irrelevant for a number of reasons and I’ve never taken any notice of them in respect of us or anyone else.
Holmesdale’s league campaign starts with the two promoted sides as opponents while it’s the visit of an even more unknown quantity in the FA Cup.
Lydd Town away is our first fixture and then we have Midhurst at home in the FA Cup followed by Snodland Town in the League. We know that Lydd and Snodland have signed some very good players in the close season and both of those teams will expect to be amongst the favourites to compete for promotion. We will look to try and be positive in every game and see where that takes us but those two fixtures will be extremely tough.
We know nothing about our FA Cup opponents Midhurst apart from what league they play in and how they finished in the league last season. Both of those things mean nothing and we will look to play our own game and see how we get on when they visit us on the 5th August. We’re at home which is good as their ground is near Chichester, what we will be trying to avoid is a midweek replay should the game end in a draw. Rest assured we will be doing our best to win the game so it should be open and exciting for the neutral.
We asked Tony for his expectations for this season – both for his team, and the league;
The only aspiration for us this season is to do as well as we possibly can, there is no pressure from anyone within the club so we can relax and what will be will be. Obviously, we don’t want to be flirting around the bottom of the table but we’re realistic when comparing ourselves to some of the bigger teams in our league.
We will be trying to win every game and on our day I think we will be a match for anyone, ask me again after 10 games and I’ll be able give a more definitive answer as to aspirations.
You cannot look past Faversham for the league title, on paper, their squad is ridiculously strong for this level of football. Having said that, paper never won a football match and there are a lot of other very good squads that have been put together during the close season. My fancied teams right now for play off and league title contention are: Faversham Town, Erith Town, Deal Town, Snodland Town, Lydd Town, Whitstable Town. I’m sure other teams will come into the mix but from what I’ve seen from the outside, these are the teams that appear to have put together the strongest squads.
I just hope that the play offs provide that extra bit of incentive for everyone and I think this could be one of the most exciting and competitive seasons for many a year.
After several years of relative success the 2022/23 season was a quiet one by Kennington’s recent standards. Departures hit them hard and good players proved hard to be replaced. The rebuilding job continues this term for Dan Scorer but he feels that he has worked hard to get the Ton in a better place than before;
We’ve enjoyed a productive pre-season, with a mixture of results and performances. Holidays and injuries always play their part in certain games, but we’re certainly in a much stronger position than we were 6 weeks ago.
Once again, we’ve seen a bit of re-build, with a handful of players progressing higher up the pyramid. We take great pride in providing a platform for players to make their progression through the leagues and look forward to watching their journey. Unlike last season, we were slightly more prepared and made sure we got our business done early, with the aim of embedding our ideas from the start of our return.
With the refurbishment at Homelands delayed, they are now on the road for their FA Cup tie, while Saturday also sees Kennington face an away trip.
We travel to Corinthian on the opening, a team that were serial winners for many years in this Division. They may be have been relegated, but we fully anticipate an extremely tough encounter, and look forward to the challenge. In the FA Cup we had drawn Glebe at home, but unfortunately due to issues with our pitch we’ll now travel away, in a game that always brings great entertainment and plenty of goals.
And how does Dan see Kennington fitting into the make up of the league table this season?
The league this year looks set to be the toughest it has been in years. The introduction of the Play-Off system will only increase the excitement and pressure of the competition, so we’ll be preparing as we do every week throughout the season, to go out and earn three points.
There are plenty of teams that have been quite vocal with their expectations for the season, and I’m sure we’ll see some of them around the top. The standard of the League however, is the strongest I’ve seen it for years and I can honestly say, there is no easy game in this Division. Best of luck to everyone involved.
Lordswood go into this season on the back of an eye-catching friendly win over a Gillingham XI. With over 500 spectators at Martyn Grove for that one the future looks good both on and off the pitch for the Lords. Matt Barman has brought together a fairly young group, that do not have much SCEFL experience, but as long as they show steady progression he is willing to give them their chance.
The squad is fairly similar to last season, we will definitely have one of the youngest average ages in the league. We played a couple of games late last season with an average age of just 19. We genuinely believe in the group but we also understand that we need to be patient whilst they get their experience.
Pre-season has gone pretty well overall. I feel performances have been better than the results so that will need to have more parity when the season starts.
Our identity is based on attracting and providing opportunity for some of the best young talent around that may not get the breaks elsewhere and adding the right blend of experience to that so, wherever we are at the half way stage, we need to push on from there to demonstrate our young squad is learning and developing.
Additionally, we want to play a style of football that is high tempo, high pressing and enjoyable to watch so when people come to watch us, they’ll want to come back.
Lordswood start their campaign a week later than most, with an away league game following a home tie in the FA Cup
We have Rusthall in the League and Egham in the FA Cup. We learnt painfully how ruthless Rusthall could be last season and we look forward to the FA Cup as most of our squad have never played in it at senior level.
Who wins the SCEFL Premier Division Matt?
Faversham are clear favourites on paper due to the quality of the squad and size of budget. It’s a no brainer. However, football doesn’t always work that way and there are others, also with big budgets, that will want to be in the mix. From the outside looking in, I like what Deal have done retaining the majority of their already strong squad, they’ll be tough to beat.
Just 10 days before the start of the season Lydd Town were hit with the news that their promotion-winning manager Mickey Doyle was stepping down. The Lydders were keen for this turbulance to not spoil their upcoming Premier Division season and today announced James Rogers and Tom Wynter as his replacements. Club Secretary Bruce Marchant was quick to heap praise on their former first team boss before summarising Lydd’s preparations;
Firstly a thank you to our ex-manager Mickey Doyle for everything he did for the club over the time he was with us. He worked tirelessly putting in endless hours behind the scenes and fully deserved the success and promotion he secured last season.
Pre-season has gone reasonably well with seven games played – three have been won, three lost and a draw. The defeats came against higher league opposition so all in all it’s been okay with some good performances. A couple of the games were rearranged at short notice and we’ve done a fair bit of travelling so we are pleased overall with how things have gone.
We’ve lost a couple of players to Kennington but are happy that we’ve managed to retain most of the squad that we finished with last season. We’d like to bring a couple more in and are hopeful we may be able to before the league starts.
One of the many advantages of Step 5 football is the chance to play in the FA Cup. They will get to do that for the first time next month, but first up it’s the day job and a home game against a newly-managed side.
We open with a home fixture against Holmesdale and expect a really tough game against a good squad, with a blend of youth and experience that Tony Beckingham and Andy Constable have assembled. The following Saturday we entertain Camberley Town in the FA Cup in what will be our first ever appearance in the competition. It will be a proud day for the club and for the volunteers who work hard behind the scenes. It’s nice to draw someone from another league that we know nothing about, and we expect they feel the same way. Whatever happens we aim to enjoy the occasion. We couldn’t have asked for tougher opponents in the League Cup than Faversham Town. They quite rightly start as favourites for the league having put together an outstanding squad.
We now know who the league favourites are but can we throw Lydd Town’s name into the promotion shortlist?
We’ll be trying to give a good account of ourselves and establish ourselves as a Premier Division side and maybe take one or two “scalps” of the more fancied teams along the way. A run in one of the cups would be good too.
Rumour has it there are some clubs with big budgets and you’d expect them to be among the front runners. We expect Faversham Town, Deal Town, Whitstable Town and Snodland Town will all be up there in what we anticipate will be a very competitive league.
Last season can be chalked down a successful one for Punjab United, with their Kent Senior Trophy win bringing large acclaim on the Club. Their mid-table finish was also a League best for Punjab and now the feeling from outside is that they will be looking to kick on again. The feeling from inside is what matters though so we spoke to their number one fan, and all-round media guru, Ben Brown about what we can expect from his side this season;
So far, the performances in pre-season have been good and I’m beginning to see a squad that will be able to compete throughout the year. One star performance of pre-season was when we made the 6-hour trip to Sporting Khalsa where we only had 6 players ready warming up 15 mins till KO. Some players got to the game just before kick-off and had to put their kit on and play. We went 2-0 down but in the end, it ended 3-3 with Jayden Hussain arriving late and scoring 2 and Sam Bailey scoring a free-kick. It was a great result and showed the togetherness of the squad we had.
We’ve mainly kept the same squad as last year with only 4 players leaving but I have felt we have made some quality additions to the squad which will allow us to achieve our goals this season. Additions include Tunde Aderonmu, Sam Bailey, Elias London. I feel that this season we have a squad that will be able to compete with a very difficult league this season.
They have some tricky looking Cup ties to look forward to but firstly the Bears are in town on Saturday.
In the league we have got Bearsted FC at home. It’s always nice to start the season at home but I know that it will be a difficult game with Bearsted recruiting well over pre-season. In the FA Cup, we got an away tie to Horley Town. We played them a few seasons ago in the FA Vase and it ended 3-2 to them. If we win this game we get a home tie which is always nice to get in the FA Cup and it would be great to go far in the cup… as they say the magic of the FA Cup. In the FA Vase we have been drawn against Godalming Town at home. It will be a difficult game but hopefully we can make it through to the next round. In the SCEFL Challenge Cup, we have been drawn against SCEFL Division 1 side Elmstead Town at home. They had done very well last year and we will need to be at our best to get a result. Finally, we are now in the Kent Senior Cup this year as we won the Kent Senior Trophy. We will be taking on Erith & Belvedere at home and we know last year that they were very good as they won the SCEFL title last year. Overall, I’m happy with the draws and feel that we can go far in some competitions.
And does Ben feel Punjab United can involve themselves in the promotion mix?
This season will be very competitive and I feel like there is no real difference between most sides. Teams such as Faversham, Erith, Snodland, Lydd, Holmesdale, Deal and Whitstable I feel that they will be up there this season. However, I would like to make a play-off push but who knows what could happen. We just need to have a good start.
We’d like to see as many people down to The Steve Cook stadium this season. Attendances are on the rise and we’d love to welcome so many of you here.
Rusthall surprised many SCEFL observers with their performances during the 2022/23 season, where their 6th placed finish was good reward for their efforts. It will be interesting if they can follow up on that with another strong campaign, especially now that their top scorer has moved on. Simon Howe supports and writes about the Rustics so we asked him for his assessment of the preparations of his club for this new campaign.
We have been up against some strong opposition which has provided a good test for the team. Tonbridge Angels, Welling United and Sevenoaks have all been to the Farm and only the Angels left with a win. We were impressive in our last outing against Eastbourne United which hopefully bodes well for the early games of the season.
Off the pitch, we’ve worked hard to improve the facilities on offer for our growing fan base, and away fans who we know always enjoy a trip to Rusthall. We’ve been able to create disabled parking bays thanks to a donation left in the will of a long-serving fan who sadly passed away earlier this year and a decking area has been constructed next to our brand-new food hut- The Rustic Grill. Our food offer is greatly improved thanks to our new chef and we are so proud of what we can offer match-going fans.
A lot of last season’s squad who did so well are still involved which is great to see. We lost Louie Clarke to Erith Town which was disappointing, but it was sad to see him then get injured and facing the whole season out – he is still really well-thought of here at Rusthall.
We’ve got some new additions who look like they will add a lot to the team so it’s definitely exciting to see how the season will go.
Rusthall’s FA Cup tie looks an attractive one and that comes after a repeat first league game of the season.
We played Welling Town at home in the first game of last season and we’re away to the same opponents this year. They seem to have made quite a few changes so it’s difficult to gauge where they’re at just now. We’re really looking forward to the FA Cup game against Lancing – there will be a coach load of us going down for what should be a great day out.#
Can Rusthall mix it with the big boys again and if it’s not Rusthall, who could be the ones to win the Premier Division?
Finishing 6th last season was beyond what most people expected and this time around, the league looks even more difficult. There are so many teams throwing so much money around and competing with them is going to be a challenge for sure. What we are really proud of at Rusthall is the way the club is sensibly managed and operated, the way the fans get behind the team, and the quality of football the manager likes to play. We are hopeful that we can surprise a few people again this season.
I think you have to be looking at Faversham Town to be right up there with the money they have and the players they have brought in. The teams that have come up look pretty strong and with three coming down, it certainly adds to the level of difficulty. With play-off spaces up for grabs, there will be a few teams thinking they can get there but let’s see how long the money lasts for some of them.
Snodland Town will be playing their highest level of football in their history this season. Promotion was claimed in style with the Club accelerating away from the pack in the final weeks of the last First Division campaign. The hard work didn’t stop there though with the past few months seeing lots of activity off the field at Potyns. Luke Wallond ran us through the Snodland Town preparations;
With gaining promotion and the club on the up there has been quite a few new additions to the playing squad and also behind the scenes. We have introduced Lewis Sutton as kit man, Byron walker has hung up his boots and joined my coaching staff. We have also managed to secure the services of experienced goal keeper coach Alan rogers and Antonio De Vivo who is looking after player analysis, all of these will be a massive boost to myself and the squad. Squad wise we have added several new faces of which most of them have achieved good runs in the FA Vase, league titles and played for clubs previously of a very good calibre.
Preparations have gone fairly well on the field too. When we selected our pre season friendlies we wanted a mixed level of teams which you’ll see from our programme. To be honest all of them have been tough which is good for preseason in preparation for our first season in the SCEFL Prem. I think we have performed fairly well. Also it has been nice to be able to test ourselves against some Step 4 sides.
First-up for Snodland Town is a visit from a team picking up some eye-catching friendly results.
The first game of the season is always going to be a tough one whoever you play, as everyone’s pre season is built in anticipation for the first game of the new season. Stansfeld have done well over the past few seasons and I expect them to do the same this year. I think it’s great that we have been given a home fixture for our first ever game in the SCEFL Prem.
Consolidation, survival, mid-table, play-offs, winners? What are the aims for Snodland Town this year?
I think the key factor would be to stay up in our first year as it is a very tough league with some well established clubs. Having said this, I’m sure as every manager hopes the side he has can finish as high as possible. I’d love to get as close to the play offs as possible and if we have a little bit of luck through the season we may be able to sneak into them.
I think there are several sides in the league that will be battling it out for the top spot and with this in mind I would imagine whoever can be the most consistent will be most likely to achieve this.
With it being our first season, facing some new clubs, I am looking forward to visiting some different grounds to last year and welcoming these clubs to ours.
Pre-season games are not always about results but it’s hard to not be impressed by the scorelines Stansfeld have been achieving over the past few weeks. A change of management team can be unsettling but with a winning ethos instilled right through the Club the adjustment doesn’t seem to have affected Stansfeld just yet. New boss Billy Shinners excited to get going;
I am looking forward to my first year in management. I am glad it’s with a team I have been involved with for a long time now and with some good personnel in the dugout with me.
Preparations have gone well, we have played some good sides in preseason and we have had really good commitment from the players involved. The boys have understood our message really well, in the way we want to play and they have taken that onto the pitch.
We have kept most of the team from last year. We have lost a couple through work commitments however, we are delighted to have made some good signings – a couple of players with experience in the league and some exciting younger lads.
First-up this Saturday is a visit to Snodland before another away journey in the FA Cup.
Snodland Town are a new side in the league this year; they won Division One last year so we expect them to be a good side.
On the FA Cup, it is a shame it’s not at home, but we look forward to an early season away day. Regarding Sporting Bengal United, my assistant played Joe Minter played against them last year, whether they have the same side who knows!
And what is the main aim for Stansfeld this year?
Good commitment, keeping a great culture around the club. I am sure this will get us to the 55+ points we need to improve on last year’s tally.
It is going to be a long season, there is an extra side in the league making it 42 league games. So the sides with the bigger squads should be higher in the table come the end of the season.
This is a big year for Sutton Athletic as they celebrate their 125th year as a football club, an impressive and rare statistic, that all at Lower Road are rightly proud of. It meant that for this preview we needed to go straight to the top man at the club, which we did, and received this preview of the season from Chairman John Ball.
Season 23 – 24 will see Sutton Athletic Football Club celebrating its 125th year anniversary. This is a great milestone for the Club and to be playing competitive football, for that long, is a great achievement and is to the credit of all those players, management and supporters who have kept the Club going. SAFC has always been and played an important part of the community of Sutton-at-Hone and many of those players, management and supporters have come from the village.
The Club’s success has mainly been through cup competitions but the Club’s direction changed when it became members of the newly formed Kent Invicta League. This meant that SAFC needed to improve and develop its ground and develop and enhance its ‘off-field’ activities. League performances improved and continued to improve further when we began playing in the SCEFL Division 1. Season 21 – 22 saw us gain promotion to the SCEFL Premier Division, through winning the first ever ‘play-off’ final.
We enjoyed our first season in the SCEFL Premier Division and we look forward to the start of our second season starting with a home game against Tunbridge Wells.
Preparation for the season followed the ritual of playing pre-season friendlies. Playing 7 games results have been mixed but it was good to get a first look at the new squad members joining this year. We have had a few players leave and our squad is now younger and season 23 – 24 will be somewhat of a building project for 1st team Manager Dan Kelly and the Management team.
Starting with an away game in the FA Cup – Extra Preliminary Round against AFC Croydon and then shortly afterwards the game against Tunbridge Wells gives us a tough start to the season which will be a good test for our youngsters. We hope, in 23 – 24 to have good Cup runs in all the tournaments entered and we also want to establish our league position looking for a higher league position from that of last season. We also have, for the first time, an U23’s side playing in the Development League West. Along with our 1st Team and U23’s we will have a full complement of youth sides which shows that SAFC continues to grow.
This season will be another challenging season but we look forward to playing against some strong sides, those that we know about and those who we don’t. That said, we look forward to the forthcoming season and where it will take us and look forward to increasing our Community involvement further by establishing SAFC as being a popular ‘Community Hub’.
It’s never the best of situations when a Club has to change their manager a week out from the season start but Tunbridge Wells look to have made a sensible choice by bringing in a man who knows the club well. Time will tell if that transition pays off but while new Manager Steve Ives organises his desk we spoke to Club Secretary Phill Allcorn about Wells preparations for this year.
Other than the loss of our manager of course, the build-up has been pretty positive with the usual excitement building nicely. Friendly results have been mixed but as the old saying goes, it’s all about minutes in the tank! The appointment of Steve Ives has gone down well our supporters and everyone is excited to start afresh.
The squad is pretty much the same as last season but that is still key as it is important to keep the same group of players together as long as possible but refresh where possible, within budget. Steve will aim to bring in his own players but is still very new into the role.
It’s SCEFL opposition in the Vase but long before that are some key home games against tough opposition.
No easy games in any competition of course and we really look forward to welcoming Hollands & Blair on the opening day in the league – it’s always nice to get a home game first as the crowd is always likely to be good which will give us a massive advantage over any opponents we were drawn against.
Naturally, we do not know a lot about Uxbridge, our FA Cup opponents, but we’ll have them watched a couple of times. Corinthian Casuals away is a tasty looking carrot as the reward!
Really looking forward to our trip to Bridon Ropes in the Vase as from memory, it isn’t a ground we have travelled to before so always nice to visit somewhere new.
And what can the Tunbridge Wells fans expect between now and next May?
A top 6 finish and a good Vase cup run would be within our aims this season, based on the playing budget we have set.
Clearly, there are some big hitters and big spenders in the league this season and it’s going to be a very interesting battle at the top but rest assure that the chasing pack will all be determined to cause an upset where possible and sneak a place within the mix.
After the clubhouse fire earlier in the year, it’s going to be a crucial season for TWFC both on and off the pitch. Our excellent fanbase will always be with us through thick and thin and we aim to build on the tremendous support that we already have, home and away.
After a late loss against Phoenix Sports back in May, VCD Athletic find themselves in the SCEFL for the first ever time. There previous stay at Step 5 came back in the Kent League days and they have since spent the past decade playing Isthmian League football. They would like to get back there as quick as possible and have brought in a Management duo they hope will take them back there. Danny Joy and Ross Baker will share Manager duties this year but it was Danny alone that run us through the VCD preparations;
There have been big changes at the club over the summer with the fallout from relegation resulting in a big overhaul of the playing and management team. We retained four players from the squad so last year so as you can imagine a big recruitment drive has been and is still ongoing. Pre season has been positive on many fronts, we lost a trial game to Croydon back in June and have since had two very respectable performances against top Step 4 teams in Ramsgate and Sevenoaks before winning 4-0 against K Sports last week. We then hosted Herne Bay on Tuesday night and now all attention turns to Faversham Town at home on Saturday in our first league game.
New signings include Lekan Osideko who was full time at hereford at the start of last season, Jeff Duah Kessie who has a proven track record of scoring goals at higher levels, Nathan Palmer who scored 20 goals for title winning Erith & Belvedere last season, plus we have some experienced players like Michael Aziaya, George Whitelock, Reece Gillies and added some unknown quantities who are young and very hungry to prove themselves at SCEFL Prem level.
VCD are back in the FA Vase after a while away, firstly though, it’s a trip to Berkshire.
We have been drawn away to Sandhurst Town in the extra preliminary round of the FA Cup. A team who have been promoted to step 5 this season and we’re at home to Redhill in the Vase. Both very tough games on paper but games that we will go into full of confidence looking to progress to the next rounds respectively.
With regards to this season’s ambitions obviously we want to win as many games a we can but we also know that the SCEFL Prem is a league where everyone beats everyone on any given day. We just want to be a progressive team that build and improve throughout the season and if we can get a run of wins going then who knows where it may take us.
Just a final note from the management team is that we know the responsibility that has been given to us in taking charge of VCD and we will do everything possible to make it a successful season for the club. It’s had a couple of tough years but hopefully with the additions of some fresh faces it will be a positive season. There is a buzz around the club which is lovely to see and be part of and we would just like to say that all support through the season is greatly appreciated and doesn’t go unnoticed.
Welling Town have a new home for the 2023/24 season with Phoenix Sports’ Mayplace Ground the new base for Kevin Oakes ‘Boots.’ There have been further changes in the dugout for Welling with Kevin himself returning to the hotseat but this time he is surrounded by a strong and experienced management team. With so much going on would Kevin be able to get his side ready for the new campaign? The main man told us himself;
Preparations have generally gone well considering we’re building a brand new management team, squad of players, and 20 sides from under 23s to under 7s – its a lot of work, but the future looks more exciting than ever. In terms of the first team specifically, we’ve recruited a great group of lads that have all bought in to pre-season fully and its been a pleasure to experience no moaning and just total commitment and hard work from people wanting to perform to their best. We’re confident this will stand us in good stead moving forwards.
And their new home would be getting a good workout early on in the season.
The first league game is a repeat of last season v Rusthall, albeit at home this time. That first game last season was one we let ourselves down in, and we’ll certainly be looking to start much better this time around. In the FA Cup we’ve drawn new opponents in Cobham, again at home, and we’ll be looking forward to trying to win our first ever FA Cup game having lost at the first time of asking in previous years.
What can we expect from Welling Town this year?
We’re still very much a small fish in a big pond as a club at this level, but we’re catching up, and the aim will be stability and shocking a few people – realistic ambitions, and if we get off to a promising start, who knows what might happen. We’ve always done something people don’t expect, we probably will again.
A repeat of last year’s 5th place finish would provide Whitstable Town with the play-off place they are sure to aim for. Manager Marcel Nimani has brought in an entertaining style of football to the Club but can he now turn that craft into vital Premier Division points. He started off by running us through Whitstable’s preparations;
Pre-season passed-by as planned; we brought in a squad of 24 players which included the vast majority of the team from last year, as well as new recruits and dozens of players from our youth system.
As pre-season matured, we narrowed down the squad along the way to a number that we want to operate with and we have been pleasantly surprised by the new additions as well as the youth players, which made the selection process a lot more difficult than we initially expected.
We scheduled a taught fixture calendar with opponents from a range of ‘playing styles’ from Step 6 to Step 3. All the matches have now been completed and we have gained what we wanted from each of the games.
It has been great to return back to playing in front of our community and we have enjoyed some thrilling encounters with lots of goals going both ways.
We have kept the core of the squad from last season. That was really our main focus, as we had already began the rebuild for this year coming, last season. We also highlighted some key areas which we needed to strengthen and we feel in the summer we brought in the players who we believe will give us the attributes which we need for the new season.
Their first visitors are Erith Town this Saturday before an FA Cup that looks as tricky as it gets at this stage.
A very tough start for us really, Erith Town are a side who will consistently be in the play-offs throughout the season and it is a side who have been together for quite some time now, with a strong and experienced management team. They were very strong last season and with their new additions they will be even stronger.
The following week, the competition does not get any easier as we travel to Hayward Heath for the FA Cup, yet another big club at step 5 with rich step 4 experience and no doubt, like Erith Town, they will be play off contenders in their league.
To Conclude; two play off contenders for the first two matches!
Although, this does not disturb us from our momentum which we have created this pre-season. We’ve competed toe-to-toe against similar sides throughout pre season and we go into these games in high spirit and optimism.
How does Marcel see the league playing out this year, especially in regards to his team?
With the introduction of the play-offs into our league, we as a club aim to take one of these slots, come end of the season.
SCEFL has really grown rapidly in recent years, even more, post covid. More investors have come into the clubs, the facilities have improved across most teams and the quality of players from higher leagues have really transformed the league.
Just a professional judgment, based around player signings (not based on facts), we believe this season to be over 6 teams operating on 2k+ budget a week and over 10 teams on slightly less than those figures. More teams than ever with 3G facilities and training Twice-a-Week and I can see 12 teams competing for play-offs up to January, and eventually it will go down to the wire between 6-8 teams for those top 5 stops.
I think it will be equally competitive at the foot of the table and every game will therefore be competitive. I think 85% of the teams will have something to play for up to the last game of the season. That on its own will bring an exciting year of football.
Let the roller coaster of emotions begin and best wishes to everyone.
The time for talking is over this Saturday, when the time for points takes over. With the long-awaited addition of play-offs we are expecting our most interesting season yet, with the excitement sure to go down to the final day.
We thank all contributors for their time for this preview and wish them and their teams the best of luck over the coming 9 months.
But now it’s go time – play hard, play fair, and may the best team win!