SCEFL Premier Division Preview – 2022/23
After a 98 day break SCEFL football returns this weekend, kicking off what is sure to be 9 months of fun and frolics in the best Step 5 League around.
20 teams arrive at the start line, with 4 of them new and replacing the 4 that have departed to new adventures.
Tower Hamlets fell through the trapdoor in April, while Crowborough Athletic have taken a lateral move nearer home. After great success last year Sheppey United and Chatham Town deservedly take their chance in the Isthmian League and we wish them all well in their new homes.
Former SCEFL Champions Phoenix Sports are joined by Whitstable Town in this new set-up with Stansfeld and Sutton Athletic completing the line-up after elevation from below.
The 2022/23 SCEFL Premier Division Champions will gain automatic promotion with the runners-up entering a play-off game against a Step 4 side for the chance to play Isthmian League football in the following campaign.
At the other end the aim will be to stay out of the bottom two. Failure to do that by the end of the season 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…
Ever since Bearsted arrived at this level in 2016 they have finished each season in the safety of mid-table and it was no different last year when they finished in 11th place.
Consistency has prevented them from challenging at the top end but they are never in danger and you can always expect Kevin Stevens men to bloody the noses of some of the higher-profiled SCEFL sides on their day.
On Saturday they visit Premier Division new boys Stansfeld before hosting Spelthorne Sports in the FA Cup 7 days later. A Cup run is sure to be welcome but another solid league season will be higher on the agenda.
The new season brings with it a new home for Canterbury City with Sittingbourne’s Woodstock Park the new residence of Keith Bird’s team.
They are on the road this Saturday though at Sutton Athletic before the FA Cup comes around and the visit of the Southern Combinations Newhaven FC.
Seb Rowland is one of many new recruits that City have brought in over the summer signalling some intent to compete for a top half finish in a Division that is most definitely more open than ever before.
There has been a change in the dugout at Deal Town over the summer with Steve King stepping up to replace long-term boss Derek Hares. Some familiar faces have also moved on but the new manager is happy with those that have come in to replace them.
“We have kept the vast majority of the squad together which is a big advantage in my view. We have lost a couple of key players from last year but we are really pleased with the players we have bought in. We have 5 new additions to the squad currently who have all made a positive impression so far.
“Pre-season has gone well and we have been pleased with our overall performances. Standout results were wins against Dover Athletic and a young Gillingham side which were both played in front of good crowds. We have learnt a lot during the last couple of weeks in all of the games and they have helped prepare us for the new season. The only real downside has been Ben Cardwell picking up a serious knee injury in the first friendly. We wish him all the best in his recovery and he will have out full support.”
If Deal can get off to a good start they could well compete for honours – but the fixtures look tricky right from day one.
“The first game of the season has pitted us with one of our toughest games of the season as we entertain Glebe. They finished one place above us last year in third place and I know Luke Rooney has spent the summer building a squad with lots of quality and depth. It is a game we are looking forward to and both teams have a chance to put down an early marker. The FA Cup draw in also a tough one against an Egham side that only just missed out on promotion from the Combined Counties North last season. We are pleased that we are at home and our focus will turn to that game after the first league game against Glebe.
“We will be looking to build on our progress from the last three or four years. I think the league is going to very tight this year with a lot of teams investing heavily in their squad over the summer. We have always believed in building a squad of local players that stays together over time and continue to get better. Our aim is to put in a high level of performance every week and we will see where that takes us.”
Infrastructure changes at Park View Road have seen to a disturbed pre-season campaign for Erith & Belvedere while there have also been transitions to the Management set-up, with Tony Beckingham taking the reigns, assisted by Andy Constable and Tony Cornwell.
SCEFL goalscoring legend Constable ran us through the past few months at the club.
“It’s certainly been a very busy and hectic pre season for all of us in the management team, we knew it would be when we took the job but issues surrounding the pitch at Park View Road meant we were unable to host any pre-season games, and this really wasn’t ideal. That said performances and results have steadily improved over the 7 games that we have played and we can see early signs that this new group of players have started to gel.
“As well as a new management team we are a brand new squad, we have retained 2 players from the squad that ended last season here. I would say we have put together a very exciting squad full of talented and experience winners. Everything about the set up has changed, we have secured an excellent training location for the season and have really focused on making sure we are organised off the pitch as well as on it.”
Most of Erith & Belvedere’s early games are on the road but with a good start Constable believes that last year’s 6th place finish could be bettered.
“The opening league fixture is a tricky one, Lordswood finished last season well and will want to take that momentum into the new season. Their management team will have them set up well and ready to go, its always difficult to predict how the opening day of a league season will go especially away from home, but if we are professional in our application for this game then we will hopefully start the season well.
“The FA Cup draw has thrown up a very tough away fixture at Raynes Park Vale who had an excellent season last year scoring over 120 goals and narrowly missing out on promotion so we are under no illusions that we are in for a very tough game. We are keen to have a good run in this competition though as its always nice to raise some extra funds for the club.
“As a club our aim is to improve on last seasons 6th place finish, we have built a new squad and that can take time to settle down, if that happens quickly then who knows what we can achieve this season but everyone at the club is looking forward to it and hopefully it turns out to be an enjoyable and successful season.
“The league is going to be very competitive, I think the title race will be contested by a number of teams including those that missed out on promotion last season as well as the 2 sides that were relegated from the level above. Both of whom will no doubt want to bounce straight back. If we can put ourselves in this mix then we will be more than happy with that in our first season as a management team at the club.”
Erith Town were one of the standout performers last season, as they mixed among the top teams in the table before finishing in 7th.
For First Team boss Adam Woodward, preparations have been good, and he is keen to get going again
“As we all know pre-season is mainly about giving all the squad minutes and getting them as fit as possible. This pre-season we made a conscious decision to play sides from leagues above to test the players as much as possible and that has proved fruitful. Our performance vs Ashford United was very pleasing.
“We have had 4 squad members leave from last season and we have replaced them with hungry and ambitious young players. We expect all the new players to make big impacts.”
The Erith Stadium hosts the first game of the season this Friday with The Dockers welcoming one of the fancied sides for glory.
“Playing Phoenix Sports in our first league match is probably the hardest test we could’ve expected and I would make them one of the favourites to win the league.
“We then have Pagham away in the FA Cup and again that will be another tough test, but the club thrives on big challenges.
“Our aim this year is to just keep moving forward and improving. Standing still is going backwards. We started with literally nothing in 2017 and have progressed massively since then.”
How do you see the league panning out this year Adam?
“There are 5 or 6 clubs that have invested heavily this season with winning the league in mind. It really is impossible to call.”
“I would like to add a huge thank you to all of our volunteers who have put in hours and hours of work – and to our groundstaff Joe Deveney and Dean Lee for fighting against such a hot summer.”
Ajay Ashanike is now in his third season as Fisher boss and he is hopeful, that after a strong pre-season, this could be his best campaign with them yet.
“The preparations for this season have been the best so far I believe. We lost a few boys to step 3 and 4 teams but I’m so proud that those boys are moving up. We had a few targeted to replace them and luckily we got most of them but the key focus was to keep the core of the squad from last year and we managed to do that.”
Whitstable Town are first up for Fisher in the league this Saturday while Sutton Common Rovers visit Salters Road in the FA Cup.
“Cup games are always going to be hard no matter who we play, but this season my full focus is to make sure we are at our best each game and results will look after itself.
“My aim for this coming season really is to better what we did last season on points. The league wide open this year and I’m really looking forward to seeing how we end the season.”
Glebe are among the favourites for honours this year but for new boss Luke Rooney, providing entertainment is the first mission.
“Our aim is to play football our way, and to play with character and personality so that when people come down and see us play they want to come back and watch us again.
“I feel the group of people we have put together will reflect what our football club is all about.
Pre-season has seen some impressive results against good opposition – especially for a squad so newly brought together.
“Preparations have gone really well, we went back early due to the high turnover of players and the boys have to take all the credit, every single one of them has bought into what we are trying to do on and off the pitch
“We have made a huge amount of changes with only 2 players, in Tom Hever and Jamie Philpot, remaining with the club from last season. Our Physio Carly has also stayed and she is far more important than both of them put together.”
Thoughts on the first opponents in League and Cup?
“Deal Town away, couldn’t have been any tougher in my opinion but I’ve always enjoyed my trips down there and I’d rather do it in the summer than the winter.
“It’s then Holmesdale at home in the FA Cup. I saw on their Twitter that they are delighted with how their pre season campaign has gone as-well so that should be a good one too.”
A message for the fans?
“Get down and watch us play, the bar will be lively this season down at our place.
“Beers are on Rocky!”
Scott Porter enters season two as Hollands & Blair with a settled squad and all at the Club have hopes of a strong season ahead.
“We have had a good pre-season in respect of results and playing against varied level of opposition. Our squad from last season have all been retained bar two players but we have replaced them with Tom Walmsley and Connor Sanders – plus we’ve promoted from our Reserves/U18’s too.
“We are very happy with the squad and how pre-season has gone with new system and feel that the league now without Chatham and Sheppey is a pretty much level playing field – we can be there or thereabouts.”
Works at Star Meadow mean that even their early home games will technically be away but things get going on Saturday with a game at Holmesdale.
“We will be ground-sharing initially with Lordswood until Star Meadow is ready for us as it is having a 4G pitch laid but first-up we look forward to an away trip to Holmesdale which we know won’t be easy – as no game will be with everyone feeling they can beat anyone going into the season and all wanting a good start.”
For Holmesdale, the 2021/22 season saw a return to Step 5 and a mid-table finish showed that they were more than worthy of their place here.
First Team Manager Lee Roots is keen to continue the club’s progression over the coming year.
“Last season for us was all about cementing our league status, learning about the division, the clubs & grounds & setting a strong foundation that can be built up upon now this season. In doing so we was able to set all new records for the club at this level of football which filled myself, the staff, committee & players with pride & I am certainly not a person who rests on his laurels at all. The league is impossible to call this year before anyone has kicked off, & this certainly was not the case last season with specific teams leading the charts & favourite races for promotion. Every team, manager & club will all be saying the same thing at this stage, as this is the exciting period before anyone has played, but for us internally, we know exactly how to improve the group & club, & our targets this season will be to continue to build onwards & upwards in every game & competition we compete in this year.”
Results have been impressive during preparations for this season – especially with the amount of changes at Oakley Road over the summer.
“It has been a really pleasing pre-season campaign that myself & the staff have been happy with, importantly happy with the work that has been produced by the players & the group. I think results can be deemed unimportant in pre-season, but performance-based results are key & of course game results & being in game situations is without a doubt what is needed during the course of pre-season for the players & squad to learn from, build coping strategies & importantly to grow within certain situations, to show strong characters & of course setting standards in regard to collective winning habits. This is important. It has been a tough campaign of games & the players have equipped themselves tremendously well throughout & we are certainly fully ready for the start of the season.
“Towards the end of last season, we highlighted areas of focus & importantly specific players that I felt would now take us up onto the next level this season, as we look to build on from the foundations that we set last season. For this to happen there of course has to be change, but it is what we change & where we change it, which was the crucial part in getting right for my long-term plan & targets at the club. I am delighted that every player we wanted to bring in, that we have been successful in doing so, & the players have settled tremendously well alongside the retained players plus the group has been extremely tightly bonded since day one.”
Things get going this Saturday with a home league game before a short trip to Chislehurst in the FA Cup.
“Our first league opponents this season are Hollands & Blair, who are of course previous champions of the SCEFL leagues in years gone & had a very strong end to the season under Scott Porter. We know their ambitions as a club & this will be an extremely tough challenge. Every game in this league is tough, every team offers quality & every team must be respected & approached in the correct manor, which we have done extremely well with detailed diligence going into Saturday’s game. The FA Cup tie against our local rivals Glebe is of course very exciting, irrelevant if it is now a derby. Glebe have spent big monies every year within this division of recent, concluding with their highest ever finish last season under Harry Hudson. We know they will approach this season with the same energy, & we will prepare ourselves correctly for each tie, taking each game as it comes.”
“I would like to place on my record my thanks & gratitude to everyone involved at the club, from committee, staff & players.
“Holmesdale is a great club with tremendously good people behind the scenes, who dedicate their lives & their time to the club. The club is extremely welcoming, family friendly, well kept & we play with our style & a brand of football that is clear & evident to see. The club has been receiving amazing support over the last 18 months regarding new faces coming to watch, & we see fans now returning over & over because they really enjoy their experiences at the club. I would like to openly say to all local football fans, to invite & greet any existing & all new fans that would like to come to watch some good honest non-league football & support the club & the players, that I hope to see you at Oakley Road this season cheering on the Green & Yellow Army!”
A familiar duo have taken the reigns at K Sports with George and Ian Batten sharing Management duties in the Cobdown dugout. George shares with us his realistic aims which take into account the transition that the Paperboys are going through.
“Pre season has gone well. We have built a good team spirit in a short amount of time, and that will help us during the course of this season.
The squad has changed massively, only keeping 3-4 players from last season. We have brought in a mix of youth and experience that we think will be effective in this league.
Punjab United are the first league opponents this Saturday with August bringing some interesting opponents in the FA Competitions.
“We have an extremely difficult trip to Whitehawk in the FA Cup. It’s home to Rusthall in the FA Vase, and at home to Punjab United in the first league game. I don’t think there will be an easy fixture this season, so to us it doesn’t matter who we play.
What can we expect from K Sports this year in a league that looks wide open?
“Our aims are to consolidate and finish the best we can. A Cup run would be great for the club and is an aim.
“The league itself will be harder than ever. With the absence of Sheppey and Chatham, people will think there’s an opportunity to challenge. Instead of 2 teams that are clear favourites, we may see 7-8 very strong teams all thinking they in with a chance of promotion. In our opinion that makes the league stronger, and it will be a good league to be involved in.”
Dan Scorer booked in plenty of higher-level opposition for his Kennington squad this summer, as preparation for season number two in the Premier Division.
“We’ve had a challenging but very productive pre-season schedule. Four tough tests against opponents at Step 4 have all thrown up different challenges, but we’ve taken plenty of positives from each game. We’ve recruited well and with a couple of players returning from injury and suspension in the coming weeks, we should soon be up to full speed.
“We’ve lost some big characters, not only on the pitch, but also in the dressing room. We have a handful of fresh faces, and all have the ability to excite our supporters and help us continue to drive the club forward.
“We begin our campaign against a new-look, Tunbridge Wells, who under a new management team look set to really put themselves amongst the top sides this season. I think it’s a cracking game to start the new season with and I’m looking forward to a really entertaining and competitive encounter.”
Few expected a top 5 finish from Kennington last year – could we expect something similar this year?
“We’ll be making small targets as the season progresses. We had an incredible debut season at Step 5 last year, and if we’re able to replicate that we’ll be in brilliant position to continue working towards our targets and progress the club further over the next couple of years.
“As for the title, there’s no stand out contender for me. There is undoubtedly 3 or 4 clubs that have incredible financial support for this level, but I’d be putting my money on Deal Town to continue the fantastic work they’re doing and be right amongst it as the season progresses.”
Following a tough time last season all at Lordswood will no doubt be hoping for a less-dramatic campaign, that involves them excitedly looking up rather than nervously looking behind. A full pre-season has given Richard Dimmock the chance to bring in some new faces and Assistant Manager Mike Jones is pleased with the talent now at their disposal.
“Our transfers have gone well, we’re very pleased. In short, we’ve managed to get every transfer over the line that we wanted and we’d started this planning at the back end of last season.”
“We knew exactly what we needed to strengthen and we worked incredibly hard to speak with those players and get them on board.
“A big thing for us is also the off-the-pitch side of things, the mentality, and people that want to be a part of the club, the togetherness, etc. This has played a big part in our conversations and we’ve seen that really kick in during pre-season, the squad has gelled very, very quickly.
“We have a positive headache, which as a manger is all I can ask for. Not only do we have a very good squad, but we also have a great under 23 side with several players that are really pushing the first team, which is a nice position to be in.”
First-up is the visit of Erith & Belvedere to Martyn Grove
“We’re really looking forward to the opening game and it’s great to be at home for the first match.
“We’re extremely confident in the squad that we’ve put together and although we know Erith & Belvedere will be an incredibly tough fixture, at the same time we’re also looking forward to being able to challenge ourselves against the best.”
And the aims for Lordswood this year?
“Our aspirations are always to be as successful as possible and to progress the club on and off the pitch. That being said, we’re realistic and we know that it will be a very competitive league with many teams hopeful of having strong seasons.
“All we can guarantee is that we will be giving our all to entertain and win as many games as possible.
“I think the league will be very competitive this season, possibly as competitive as it has been for quite some time. There are a lot of very good sides, a lot of new management teams in and some really strong new sides that have come into the league. All in all, it should make for an exciting season.
Phoenix Sports know what it takes to win this Division and they have the same manager leading them now, that led them there 7 years ago. Steve O’Boyle is again, a man on a mission.
“My aim this season is to win promotion back to the Isthmian League.”
“I know it won’t be easy and we will need to be consistent to make this happen as there are some very good sides in this division. But I have belief in the players I have and I can’t wait for the season to start.”
Phoenix feature in a tricky season opener this Friday night but ‘Boyley’ is confident that with the group he has brought together that they can hit the ground running.
“I’m really happy with the squad that we’ve assembled for this season. We have kept a large number of last season’s squad and added some good experienced players to the club.
“We kick off our season this Friday night, away to Erith Town. It’s a tough start against a good local side, that I imagine will be in the top six this year. They had a good season last year and they will probably be looking to improve on that this time around.”
Punjab United have quietly gone about their business this summer but the eagle-eyed SCEFL followers have spotted something interesting going on in this corner of Gravesend, and talk of a promotion-push is spreading.
First Team coach and Club Secretary Jindi Banwait is one of those that thinks people should keep an eye on Punjab this year.
“My thoughts on the league are it’s open for any club. There are no big hitters, so if we can remain consistent, we have every chance to be in the promotion hunt.
“We have a relaxed dressing room, there’s no pressure, so performances will not be as frantic as before. I can’t predict positions; we know the larger town-based clubs will fancy their chances, such as Tunbridge Wells, Deal, and Whitstable Town. However, we are in a good place, and can mix it up with these clubs. I think a few will be surprised after the 10-game mark.”
Will the Club be ready to hit the ground running this weekend?
“Preparations have gone well. Positive pre-season results vs Chatham Town, Lewes, and Ebbsfleet United were worth noting and a sign of how the squad has evolved.
“Jason Powell has come in as Assistant Manager, and we have signed Chris Edwards, Aaron Rhule, Lea Dawson and Noah Hamelberg for the season. We have also had commitment from dual registration player’s last season so I think we are at the strongest we have been for some time.
“We have had a few departures as well, but this is a stern test for those new players. We have a stronger backroom coaching team, and this will provide more balance for the squad, our preparations have focused on this.
“It’s a good first match vs K Sports, a game we look forward to but a test nonetheless – a fair first game against a club also rebuilding.
“Then it’s Balham at Home in the FA Cup, which is also a good draw. Being our first home game of the season it will be exciting, and an opportunity to progress, as we did last season, into the Preliminary Round.
“Overall, our draws in the FA Vase, and Kent Senior Trophy are also ones we hope to progress in.”
Last season Rusthall left it late to confirm their Step 5 position for another campaign but they did it and are now ready to go again. Media Maestro Jamie Poole took a break from compiling viral videos to give us a rundown of all things ‘Rustics’.
“After the relief of securing our Premier Division status against Erith & Belvedere on the final day, the excitement around the club hasn’t ceased all summer. Being able to plan ahead and have the extra few weeks, rather than waiting for confirmation from the FA as we have done previously was a blessing that’s been missing for a few seasons.
“As a club, we always look for an off-pitch project to enhance the overall experience for our ever-growing support base and our players that everyone can get behind – this is much easier to do with the momentum built from the closing day and securing safety – this summer our focus has been to improve the home dressing room and officials room at The Jockey Farm Stadium.
“We’ve added a separate shower and changing facility to enhance the experience for a growing trend in female match officials as well as a treatment room for our physio.
“On the pitch, Jimmy has added a few fresh faces to our playing squad as well as enlisting the assistance of Ollie Saunders – formerly of Haywards Heath, South Park, as well as a previously being an academy coach at Bournemouth and Southampton – who has recently joined the first team coaching staff.
“Steady progression has been made all summer during our pre-season friendlies with the general feeling around the club being a positive one, which supports the ambition of Rusthall establishing ourselves as a permanently placed Premier Division club.
We are on the Eve of the new season now, who do you fancy for league glory this year?
“I guess we’ll have to wait and see, we all know how competitive the league is and the activity around the other clubs in league suggests that the opportunity for promotion could exist anywhere now that Sheppey and Chatham have moved on. For me personally, I think Glebe will take the title!
“First up for Rusthall is Welling Town at The Jockey Farm Stadium on Saturday, Welling Town will be a tough test for our opening game. Welling have made improvements to their squad and have always been consistent during their time in the Premier Division and I’m sure that they won’t duck out of the way of the opportunity to start well this season.”
The 2022/23 season will see Stansfeld playing at Step 5 for the first time in their 125 year history. It may well be a campaign of consolidation for them but with a team spirit like they possess only a fool would suggest a season of struggle.
Joint-manager Jamie Phipps is pleased with the squad that they go into their debut Premier Division season with.
“The biggest thing for us was to keep the majority of last year’s squad together, which we have managed to do, despite some offers from other clubs.
“We have lost a few, some have moved on to other clubs and a couple have stopped playing for personal reasons.
“We have brought Ryan Fowler in, who played a couple of games for us last season. Jordan Downes has arrived from Bridon Ropes and Greg Skinner, all experienced players who will give us good competition for places. We also have Frankie Beale back after a year out with injury.
“We also have a new under 23 team, who have some fantastic players who have impressed Billy Hamlin and I in pre-season and will be pushing hard to get in the first team.”
First-up is a home game against Bearsted this Saturday before the well-named Wembley visit Foxbury the following weekend.
“Bearsted will be a tough game, like they all will be but we will prepare the same for every opponent.
“It will be a proud day for everyone involved with the club both past and present as it is the highest level that we have played at in our long and illustrious history and we will be doing our best to make it another successful season.
“On Wembley, we know absolutely nothing about them yet we will do the same and prepare properly. It’s the FA Cup so anything can happen.
And how do you see the league playing out this year?
“There is some big budgets in the league so them teams are under a bit of pressure.
“We have no budget so we will take each game as it comes and see where it takes us.”
Sutton Athletic’s dramatic Play Off Final win back in April means that this Saturday brings a first ever Step 5 league game to Lower Road.
Will ‘The Sutts’ be ready for it? Assistant Manager, Tristan Cropley believes so.
“We have had a very positive pre season. We chose our opponents deliberately to give us a mix of challenges and playing styles. It gave our new players the chance to learn our style and for us to see how we might perform at Step 5.
“We’ve kept 99% of last season and added depth to the squad in all areas. Goalkeeper Danny Coxall, defender George Wishart, Donnell Anderson from Lewisham Borough, former Erith & Belvedere winger Neil Spencer and striker Akolawole Salami from FC Elmstead have all been brought in for the new season.
First focus is the two early homes games but then how can Sutton fare this year?
“It’s two tough games to start the season against two established sides in the SCEFL Premier but one game at a time is our mantra with Canterbury City coming up first.
“The league looks wide open this year. It’s important to have squad depth and to build momentum. Personally I’d always like to compete and would back the team against anyone on our day but the realist in me says the aim is to establish ourselves at the level and enjoy our 125th birthday.”
The Tunbridge Wells fans are hopeful that Luke Carpenter is the man that can lead them to some long-awaited honours this year.
The new boss at The Culverden hasn’t had long to assemble a squad capable of competing for glory but he is pleased with how things are looking at this stage.
“Our preparation has gone very well so far. We have managed to bring in a strong group of players who have taken to our system and style of play really quickly. The fixtures we have had so far have given us the challenges that we have needed so we’re really pleased with the position we are in going into the season.”
“A lot of the previous squad moved on before my appointment so we have had to bring in new players in a short space of time, but between the contacts that myself and Steve Ives have, we are very happy with the group that we have at our disposal. There are some names that will be unknown to this league at the moment but I am sure it won’t take long for people to start talking about them.”
Despite a tough-looking start to the campaign Carpenter can see his side quickly getting into stride – but as for the direction of the league title, he is less sure.
“This season is very unpredictable. There are a lot of teams with increased budgets and lots of players coming into the league from Bostik level so it is really hard to call. Whilst some teams have been more vocal with their signings I am also aware of other clubs that have recruited really well too so it really is hard to say. From our point of view we have a management team and set of players that want to win and will put in the work to make sure we are winning more than not, so we are looking to give a strong account of ourselves this year.
“The opening League game away to Kennington won’t be easy. They are a well drilled side with a lot of pride which helped them reach a high finish in the league last season so we are taking them very seriously. We then travel to Chipstead (Surrey) in the FA Cup where I actually played for a short period and know full well that again we will be in for a tough game. We are confident in our preparation and quality going into both games though so hopefully we can get the season underway with two wins.”
Surrounded by an impressive coaching team Welling Town owner Kevin Oakes has re-installed himself back as First Team boss with continued progression the objective for his young club.
“Aims for the season are simple – to have the best season this club has ever had. How that translates in to league position and cup runs only time will tell, and a lot will inevitably change at many clubs as the next 9-10 months go by, but if we can deliver on our potential, then our expectations and our results should be fairly close to each other.
Welling have a new place to call home and lots of new faces to the club this season. But they look to be an experienced bunch and after a busy preparation they are sure to be ready to hit the ground running.
“The squad is primarily a new one, but with a vast array of talent from a higher level, other clubs at this level, and extremely promising youngsters as yet untested, but so far, very willing and able to compete for a place in the side.
“Pre-season has been enjoyable and challenging – everything you would want it to be. As I have said in interviews, it would be easy to play so called weaker sides and smash in goals, but we’ve preferred to challenge ourselves against very good, athletic, organised sides, whatever their level, and to try out different personnel and trialists/youngsters. Not once have we fielded our best XI – there is no need – but the key personnel are ready and excited by the challenge ahead.
“We’ve got exactly what we would have hoped from pre-season – a clear understanding of who is and isn’t ready, and what they can and can’t do. We’ve played some exceptional football in spells and it hasn’t quite clicked yet in terms of results, but to date that doesn’t matter, moving forwards it will and the lads know what needs to be done.
“Good luck to all the SCEFL sides this season – we look forward to seeing you soon.”
Over the summer Richard Styles made the switch from Tunbridge Wells to Whitstable Town. Key personel followed the manager and with them all come the hope that better times are ahead for all involved at The Belmont.
Styles gave us a detailed rundown of his opening few months at the club plus looks ahead to what could be instore for the Oystermen.
“Since we took the job in Mid May, there has been a lot of work put in by the management team and all at the club to prepare the team and club for the season ahead. There was some pieces that we needed to pick up and stabilise both on and off the pitch after the disappointment Whitstable had last season, which we have done.
“Preparations overall have gone really well and we are pleased. The structure of pre-season was always there from the first day we arrived so we have been able to get the group together and get to work consistently which is what we wanted. The friendlies have also been good for allowing us to get the players up to speed as well as the existing, new and youth players being able to work and gel together.
“There are a lot of changes naturally with new management and a new setup coming in, as with the disappointment of last season, changes had to be made. We managed to get our staffing in place very early and this has allowed our coaching and sessions to work on the specifics that we wanted over pre-season. We have an array of new signings that we are excited about, and we retained key players that we felt were vital to the clubs vision for the season ahead. Added to this the number of highly talented youth players has been very refreshing and are in contention for shirts for the upcoming season. This we feel puts us in a good place. Setup wise, the staff and I will always try and bring the most professional and positive environment for the players to play in, with a strong changing room and togetherness which has already been built within the group.
“We are all looking forward to getting going on Saturday, obviously we will spend the first month away from home, due to the ground not being ready but this will work in opposite way later on in the season when we will have a number of home games to play. The FA Cup and Vase draws are what they are and are ties that we will setup and have a plan in place for to go and try to win the games, doing our homework as always.
“I think the league itself will be very competitive this season, with a number of teams already claiming they will be having a go, no doubt there will be twists and turns as always, but from our perspective we want to stabilise after last season and have a much more positive season than the previous. There are so many things going on behind the scenes with the new pitch and ultimately new ground that it will become, it’s an exciting time to be at a club that is pushing to become bigger and better all the time.”
Thanks to all that took time out to supply comments.
The 2022/23 Season begins on Friday when Erith Town host Phoenix Sports.
Full season fixtures are available here
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The First Division Preview will be completed next week.