Premier Division

Season Preview 2019/20 – Premier Division

It’s back! 97 days after the final matches of the last campaign a full fixture list kicks off the 2019/20 SCEFL Premier Division this Saturday!

Cray Valley PM, Rusthall and Croydon have departed and Greenwich Borough, Welling Town and Erith & Belvedere have taken their places in what was quite possibly the most competitive Step 5 League in the country last time around. Will it keep up those high standards of 2018/19? We have no doubts it will. Teams have invested a lot of time and money into their squads and many go into the campaign looking at, and dreaming of, finishing in one of the two promotion places on offer.

We say two but really it is only one place that will guarantee one of our teams a place at Step 4 next year and that is the position at the Top of the Table. A second placed finish will see our teams consulting a Points Per Game leaderboard in the hope of being automatically promoted but the more likely result will be a play-off at the home of the Step 4 side they aim to replace.

If things don’t go too well between now and April 24th then some teams may well see themselves involved in a relegation battle. The good news is that this year only one will drop through the trapdoor and even then 2 out of the 14 basement boys nationwide will be saved should they feature at the top of the PPG figures.

But, the aim for every team is to finish as high as they can and to show progress from previous efforts so here we look at how each team has prepared themselves and shaped their squads for what should be a thoroughly exciting 266 days ahead.

Welcome Ladies and Gentlemen to the SCEFL Premier Division 2019/20 Season.

With 15 minutes of the final game remaining Corinthian were looking as likely Champions last time around. Cray Valley were not to be denied though and the Hoops then went on to become double runners-up when losing in the final of the Challenge Cup a week later. The side from Longfield will be hoping to go one better this year but those impressive exploits will be hard to match and harder to improve on especially with others around them investing heavier than ever before. The squad looks similar with a few new faces replacing the outgoing ones and they have all performed well during their very strong pre-season run. Corinthian appear 5th in the fans prediction table and although that would be a step back from last time should it happen it would still be a good result in an ever-improving Division.

It has been all-change at Fisher over the close season with Allan Fenn coming into to manage last seasons surprise package. Few remain from the previous era though with the new boss having to quickly assemble a squad he hopes will be competitive in what is an unfamiliar league to him.

“I have had to rebuild the whole squad in less than 5 weeks before the season starts so that was a challenge in itself but with the help of my superb backroom team, who have taken the pressure off by stepping up to the plate, allowing me to concentrate on the squad and planning for games we are in good shape.”

“I’ll be honest I have had a crash course in everything SCEFL. We have learnt an awful lot and we are excited to be part of such a well renowned league with some very good clubs involved.”

“We have played 7 games in pre-season and improved as each game has gone by and in my opinion its worked out really well.”

“We are lucky we have lads who are proud to join Fisher, be a part of our future plans and we are looking forward to the challenge ahead hoping we will do our supporters proud.”

Chatham Town had a very good campaign in 2018/19 winning two Cup finals to end a drought going back 20 years. This year their main focus switches to League honours and James Collins has been busy assembling a squad worthy of challenging for the major honour. The likes of Pat Geddis, Harry Harding and Joe Kane have been brought in from other SCEFL sides a few more from elsewhere and with most retained from before it certainly looks to be a strong side on paper. Throughout pre-season they have impressed and as a result 45% of the votes cast in the prediction table went towards the Chats finishing at the top come next April. Many see them as favourites but will that pressure from outside affect them?

New signing Harding revealed on the Kent Non League Podcast that the pressure comes from within rather than what is said by those outside of it.
“Within our changing room we feel we can achieve our aims with the new signings that have come in and the way pre-season has gone. We don’t really worry at what is being said about us, it is more the excitement to deliver what we feel we can rather than the pressure on us from outside to do it”

That partnership of Harry Harding and Paul Vines up front sure looks an interesting one with both SCEFL Golden Boot winners from last time being paired up in the hope of firing Chatham to glory. Will they deliver on their new home surface? Will they revel in the favourtism tag? Will that pressure get to them? Starting at Greenwich Borough on Saturday we get to find out!

Although Beckenham Town have tried to keep their cards close to their chest over the summer their pre-season results have done the talking for them and shown that it would be no surprise at all to see them competing at the top end for a third successive season. A draw with Dover Athletic and victory over Cray Wanderers grabbed alot of attention before goal crazy performances against Arundel and Meridian VP finished the friendly fixtures nicely, leading Becks into a home game with Punjab United on Saturday in the best possible way. Look out for new signings Mudiagha Wanogho and Ryan Hall who should complement the retained squad and put Beckenham Town in and among the contenders once more this year.

Erith Town finished the last campaign is stunning form and they will be hoping that the 97 day rest has done them no harm. Pre-season result shave been mixed with plenty of goals being scored at both ends, not giving us a lot to go on when forecasting how the Dockers could do. The squad has changed little with some strength added up top and if they can have a fruitful start to the season Erith Town could once again be one of those battling away for a top 6 finish.

Sheppey United have no doubt been the busiest SCEFL Premier team during the break and their recruitment appears to be extensive and impressive. Dan Birch, Ritchie Hamill, Jake Rose, Nodi Boborumodov, Greg Benbow, Ola Williams, Jez Hammond, Steven Ita, Harrison Carnegie, Rob Denness, Conrad Lee, Ben Davisson, Mickey Phillips and Josh Pelling have all been added to give competition for places all across the field. The Ites could be ready to make a title challenge this year and after a good pre-season, where they were tight defensively it was no surprise to see them finish at second place in our prediction table.

It has been hard to not notice the impressive work that Glebe have done over the summer and because of that many are seeing them among the contenders this year. The likes of Nick Blue, Chris Edwards, Matty Parsons, Stuart Zanone, Joe Bingham and Jake Britnell have been added, among others, as Glebe look to once again continue it’s progression as a club. Confidence is high around Foxbury after some decent showings in the friendly games Assistant Manager Phil Wilson is pleased with their work.
“We’re happy with pre-season and the squad has gelled together nicely. They’ve all bought into the way we want play and are a good group to work with in terms of their attitudes. Other than bringing in Nick Blue we haven’t changed anything at the back, the boys we had from last year did very well and there is already good competition for places. The other additions all provide that competition around the pitch as well. Obviously our targets are selected on ability but we’ve invested in people as much as players and it’s important to us that they have a positive impact around the club as well as on the pitch. “

Wilson feels that Glebe could be one of those in the mix for honours:

“To say that the expectation to win the league or get promoted is a big statement this year. But promotion will certainly be our aim and I expect it to be an exciting season with the second opportunity of promotion meaning a lot of clubs are going to have a go. We certainly feel equipped to compete within that. At any level winning a league is hugely rewarding because it is the hardest thing to achieve in football and the Champions this year will have put in a huge effort to get over the line.”

“Sheppey have been very busy over the summer and I expect them to be stronger than last year. Canterbury have also bought a few in and I think they’ll be disappointed if they’re not in the mix. Chatham will be up there and Beckenham have quietly been getting on with their business. If Corinthian keep their team together they could be up there again. But the second promotion spot means there will be a few others who want to have a go so I wouldn’t be surprised to see some other clubs who haven’t made much noise over pre-season be involved at the top.”

A huge transformation has taken place at Canterbury City since April but now the dust has settled a squad worthy of competing for honours has emerged at Salters Lane. Clive Cook was tasked with forming the new-look City side and it certainly seems that he has done a great job so far. The new boss is looking forward to the getting underway on 3rd August.

“I am excited about the season and can’t wait to get started. With so many good teams in this league it should be an exciting season and I hope everybody enjoys the ride.”

“Pre-season has gone well, the squad is shaping up well considering I only had 2 players left from the previous season when I took the Managers position. It’s an experienced squad even though it’s a young squad in age, apart from 2 or 3.”

“There are no expectations put on my boys, myself and management team for what we could or might achieve except from by me and like all teams in this league at the start of the season we are no different to them in expecting to be in the mix come April.”

“We will take every game as it comes along and see where it takes us starting with Saturday away at Welling Town.”

There has also been a lot of change at Lordswood over the summer. Many of the previous Management and players made the move to Tunbridge Wells and new manager Darren Anslow had little time to completely rebuild the squad.

The former Rochester United and Chatham Town boss said: “We had no players, they all went to Tunbridge Wells, so we started with a clean slate.

“We’ve looked to bring in a mixture of experience and youth.

Luke Medley has come in to play up top and Anslow has other experienced players such as Rob Gillman and Marlon Patterson also in the squad, along with Jai McKinlay who was with runners-up Corinthian last season.

They have pace with the likes of Jordan Samuel arriving from Welling Town and former Bridon Ropes player Tyler Anderson-Parr also on board.

“It’s always good to have that pace in the side, especially at this level,” said Anslow.

“We want to be solid but we also want to have an outlet.

“Luke has been around it for years and we’re expecting him to score at this level, we would expect him to score at the level above.”
Anslow is realistic about the clubs prospects this season. They start on Saturday with a match against Glebe, one of the teams the Lordswood boss expects to battle it out at the top of the League.

“For Lordswood to break into the group just below those top sides would be progression for the club,” said the manager.

“We have to be realistic and I’m sure the rest of the teams outside the top few are thinking the same.

“We need our senior players to help out the younger ones, who will have some inconsistency, we expect that, but it’s about how we get through that.”

Steve King has made his Deal Town side work hard through pre-season with many of their games coming against higher level opposition. He has been able to retain the majority of his previous team plus add some higher level players as he aims to progress from last years 55 point 11th placed finish.

Everyone is saying how tough the league will be again this year so our main aim will be looking to improve on our points tally and position from the last two seasons. It would be great to have a run in a National competition but we have some tough away draws to overcome in the early rounds. The club has made a lot of progress both on and off the pitch over the last couple of years and the aim this year is to continue that trend.”

“Virtually all of last year’s squad that finished the season have stayed with the club for the new season. We have added Macauley Murray (ex Whitstable, Ramsgate and Faversham), Jack Penny (Ramsgate) and welcomed back Ben Cardwell. We are lucky to have a settled squad but there may be further additions over the first couple of weeks of the season.”

“Pre-season has gone well with a total of 8 games, 5 of which were against higher level opposition. The games have given us an opportunity to try a number of different players as well as increasing fitness levels of the players. The highlight’s were a 3-2 win against Folkestone and a 4-2 win against a young Gillingham side.”

King could not look away from the favourites when asked which side he thought would occupy the higher places this campaign:

It is always hard to say at this time of year until the season starts but Chatham will obviously be very strong and it looks as if Glebe have recruited very well over the summer. As last year showed with Fisher and Corinthian fighting for the title every side must be respected in what is sure to be another very strong SCEFL league.

It is never ideal to lose your Manager a week before the season starts but that is how things have ended out for K Sports this year. After many successful years at the club Kris Browning has moved on after doing a great job as Chairman Mark Pickup recognises.

“This week we sadly parted ways with our long serving 1st team manager Kris Browning and his assistant Graham Martin. Kris and Graham did an amazing job during their time with the club and we would all like to thank them for their hardwork and we wish them every success in the future.”

“At the end of last season the committee sat down and put together a plan for the future direction of the club.”

“Although the facilities at K Sports are some of the best in the area, the senior and junior sections of the football club are still only tenants. With an annual rent in excess of £100,000 we are constantly striving to find ways of raising funds to cover this and the other associated costs with running a football club. For the past 2 seasons we have been lucky enough to benefit from the generosity of investors who have agreed to cover player expenses, but even those costs are on the rise, last year by 10% and this year we were asked to increase this by a further 45%!!”

“The committee understandably felt this was not sustainable year on year and we needed to find a pathway for our young players to progress through the club to ultimately represent our 1st team. We also felt we had let the players down, although the facilities were great, within the senior section, we were not providing them with the levels of coaching they deserved.”

“Our reserves gained promotion to Kent County Premier Division last season, which gave us the perfect platform for players to push for 1st team places, and with the formation of a new under 23 development side this season in the Sevenoaks league, this will provide a stepping stone for our young players to move from youth to senior football and onto a pathway to our 1st team.”

“This week we have appointed former Chairman Paul Atkins as our caretaker manager, with his assistant, former 1st team coach Michael Dodsworth. They have brought with them Sonny Gladish and we have managed to retain the services of Elliot Gratwick and Liam Martin to bolster our coaching staff and implement the clubs plans.”

“It was pleasing to see 36 players attend training on Monday, 20 players attending a midweek game on Wednesday with a further 16 training at the same time.”

“Having taken this action a week before the start of the season isn’t ideal, and we know we will be playing catch up with teams around us, but we have a talented squad of players, we have spoken with them all and explained our decisions and they have given us their full support and we are now looking forward to our opening game tomorrow.”

Crowborough Athletic set themselves up with some tough away games for pre-season and only managed to come out on top in one of them. Better news has come with the return of several former players who are sure to hit the ground running once the season proper starts. It is a hard first game for the Crows though as it is Corinthian making the trip to the Crowborough Community Stadium but what better way to show your intentions this season then sending them away empty handed?

The biggest news to come out of a rather quiet Bearsted this summer was that they are looking to supply their Manager with a playing budget in the near future having never done that before in their long history. That may make them more competitive down the road but with the new season on their doorstep their immediate priority will be their date with AFC Croydon this Saturday. Pre-season featured some high scoring games for the Bears but they were on the right end of many of those results so will be fully confident of continuing the Clubs progression this year. Manager Kevin Stevens feels his side can be a match for anyone.

“Our pre season has gone really well. We’ve used our games to look at a lot of players, which has enabled us to put a good squad together for this coming season. There will be quite a few new faces to the squad. We’ve signed some really good players especially in areas we felt needed strengthening.”

“Last season league wise we didn’t do as well as our early season form suggested. After a good run to the last thirty two of the FA Vase the defeat against Abbey Rangers saw our season full away badly. That’s a big learning curve for the boys, and I wouldn’t expect that to happen again.”

“Hopefully with better consistency and a stronger squad we will be looking to improve our league position this season for sure.
The league gets stronger every year with no easy games. But myself and my management team know we can be a match for anyone and let’s see where that takes us.”

AFC Croydon Athletic started the last campaign well before sliding down the table as the season progressed. This time around they will be looking for their good pre-season form to follow them into them in to the Premier Division matches now that they are upon us. Kevin Raynor is looking forward to it all getting underway.

I’d expect the league to be as tight as ever and anyone can normally beat anyone else on their day and I doubt that will change too much. We will do our best to compete and enjoy it.

Pre-season has been good with most matches going well. We’ve picked up one or two new lads but in the main it’s a good squad, similar to last year, with several senior players returning to kick off the season.

It has certainly been a busy summer at Tunbridge Wells but all seems to have settled down now and the club will be looking to get the season underway on Saturday at Sheppey United. For new Wells Manager Richard Styles progression is the key and he knows that good things take hard work and time to achieve.

“Our aim as a club is to show progress on last year and build on the foundations are have been laid in the past and in the last 6 weeks since i’ve joined, working towards the long term vision that a club the size of Tunbridge Wells deserve. Everyone loves a cup run and as always we will do all we can in every single game we play to get a result and progress. Things don’t happen overnight and it’s a process, we are fully aware of this and working towards constantly.”

“Pre-season has gone very well and smoothly, the staff have worked the boys very hard within the capacity they are expected to perform at and every player has given their all and will reap the benefits from it. We have a number of players who will be different this season purely because of their fitness levels added to their ability. The games have gone well, we’ve looked at a number of variations and partnerships as well as building a close knit squad since my arrival and I’m looking forward to getting going now.”

“Squad wise I’m happy with where we are currently, I’m happy with the signings i’ve made as well as the renewals i’ve inherited that have decided to stay at the club. We have a good mix of youth and experience all with ability that are already a close knit group and tight changing room.”

“I feel there is a number of teams out there that should & could be in contention given the budgets of some teams and the players being signed. One thing is for sure it’s going to be heavily competitive and even more so than last year in my opinion. I believe there are no dead cert fixtures in this league and every team is capable of beating anyone on their day.”

“We travel to Sheppey on day 1, which is the most supported fixture in the SCEFL so it’s a great opener for the fans. I personally always enjoy going to Sheppey and my past fixtures there have always been good, exciting games. We are looking forward to it as a squad and will prepare right for it, but overall were ready and can’t wait to get going.”

Punjab United made plenty of headlines over the summer with their BBC documentary gaining great exposure for the club. Chipie and his team now cannot wait to get going again.

“We are very excited about the upcoming new season, last season was a big learning curve for all the players, coaching staff and the management. We knew it was going to be difficult and that we would experience some tough periods where results would not go our way. Our first target was to ensure safety in the league which we achieved. You can learn a lot about the players and their mentality during the tough times, I really believe this experience will help us this season and we know what challenges lie ahead and what to expect this round time round.”

“A lot of it is to do with confidence, we know we have the ability and getting a good start in the league is our main focus. We’ve got the first season under our belts and we want to progress on from this and establish ourselves in this league. We will need to ensure everyone is focused and play to their best abilities, we know what’s required and the areas we need to improve to move forward.”

As soon as the season finished the hard work on our ground started and the majority of the works are all due to be completed in time for the first game of the season. We have built a new clubhouse and bar, new home and away changing rooms including an area for the officials. We have also upgraded a number of facilities including the external training areas. We are really happy with the progress and it’s a step in the right direction to ensure we have the best possible facilities available to us.

On the pitch, Pre-season has gone well. I’m pleased with the results and performances the boys have put in, they know what we need to do and the performance level we need to be at every game. I have managed to bring in 5 new faces which help add to the quality of the squad. I’m looking forward to the game on Saturday, we played really well last season at Beckenham and the playing surface will also suit us, however I know it’s going to be a tough game as they have brought in some good players to add to their playing squad.

This season will be much tougher than last season, all the teams have recruited well and the managers that have moved around have taken players they know well, In my opinion, I think Chatham will be the favorites for the title this year, they have a really good Manager and squad, but like last season anyone on their day can beat anyone, this is why this league is fantastic every game is a challenge and I’m looking forward to the season ahead.

Once again Punjab United will be gracing the BBC screens again as the club gets to play in the FA Cup for the first time ever.

“This season is going to be a milestone year for the club, it’s our second season in the league and we will be involved in a number of cup competitions. Most notably participating in the FA Cup is a going to be a special moment for us. When we started the club we had some dreams, aims and aspirations to move the club forward and take it as far as we could, we are now realising one of those dreams. It’s going to be a momentous day for us and we will be giving it our all to win the cup tie. From a players point of view, it’s every players dream to compete in the most prestigious cup competition in the world so we really want them to relish & enjoy the occasion. It’s going to be a fantastic day for the club, the supporters and the local community.”

“In regards the draw for the FA Cup we knew there was not going to be any easy games at this level, so getting a home tie was the best outcome we could hope for, It’s great that the supporters and local community can come down to our home ground and the special occasion with us.”

“Shortly after the announcement, we got a call from the BBC & FA who told us that our tie had been selected to be the only game to be broadcast live on the BBC website and iPlayer. We were not expecting this so it was a big surprise and another proud moment for the club, the league, and all grassroots teams.”

“We are really hoping the game turns out to be a vintage cup tie with lots of excitement and goals. It’s a fantastic opportunity for the public to see a real grassroots game and let’s hope it’s the gets the positive exposure it deserves.”

It is certainly gearing up to being an exciting season for Punjab United!

Simon Halsey gave his new Hollands & Blair team a tough pre-season with a few games against teams from the Step above, yet they done him proud and the club goes into the season in good form. Halsey is pleased with how his time has started at Star Meadow, is keen to raise the profile of the club on and off the pitch and wants to see them appear more consistently at the top end of the table.

“Pre-season has gone very well for a new management team and what is generally a new squad. We played higher opposition and competed well with all 3 winning 1, drawing 1 and losing 1. Although some people think not winning in pre-season is ok, my management team believe winning pre-season gets you mentally prepared for the season coming.”

“The other 2 games we played lower opposition, winning both games, in which again it was about getting a winning mentality.”

“The squad is gelling together well on and off the pitch. We have retained 5 players from last season and added players that we knew would buy into our beliefs. We cannot offer players a great pitch or loads of money so we had to target players that would buy into our vision and I think myself and the management team have done this.”

“The expectations are for us to take Hollands & Blair to the next level, establishing them as top team in the SCEFL premier, not a team that are just also rans. A journey on the road in the FA Cup and FA Vase would be nice to bring some much needed money to the club, to develop the facilities better and generally make it easier to attract players. Cup finals are something we must focus on emulating what Chatham Town achieved last season it’s what we must strive for.”

“Off of the field as with all clubs we have a group of people working tirelessly behind the scenes to raise the profile of the club, posting hundreds of Hollands & Blair flyers in shops and houses.”

“I personally would like to thank the Management Team of Luke Harvey, Connor Heffernan, Damo Hodge, Dean Rodwell , Sam Clarke Keen and George Howard for all their hard work over the pre-season in helping me create this squad, coaching them and helping create a tremendous dressing room to help us achieve our targets for the season.”

After 3 years away Greenwich Borough have returned to the SCEFL for this season with a new Manager, new team and new place to call home. Ben Kotey will be leading his side out at the Mayplace Ground for the first time on Saturday and starts with possibly the hardest game of all as favourites Chatham Town are the visitors. Borough have quietly gone about their business through the summer but the word on the street is that they have brought together a squad more than capable of doing business at this level and anyone ruling them out at this stage could be making a big mistake.

Welling Town have had an eventful summer, parting with one Management Team, quickly finding another and then getting the good news that they will be taking part in both the FA Vase and FA Cup this year. The Club is moving fast, maybe too fast and this could be the season they slow down and find stability at this level. Chairman Kevin Oakes sets out his aims for the Boots debut season at Step 5 and also predicts those that could be competing for the title come April.

“Since we’ve formed three years ago, every season has been one where we have aimed to get promoted, and when winning the vast majority of games we have kept a stable squad of players as a result. But with five promotions in three seasons the aim for 2019/20 has to be stabilising at our new level. We aim to be competitive and finish within that usual cluster of clubs mid-table that can all beat each other on their day, plus to have a reasonable run in the cups.”

“Chatham, Canterbury and Glebe are likely to be the front runners in our eyes, with Beckenham and Corinthian up there as well. With Canterbury our first opponents on the opening day its going to be a tough start, but we’ll rise the challenge like we always have done in the past, and look forward to the test ahead.”

After just two seasons away Erith & Belvedere are back in the SCEFL Premier Division and this time they will have no plans of leaving it. They may have seen there talisman striker from last season depart for pastures new but there is still plenty of quality in this squad to see them remain competitive throughout the year. They set their pre-season games up to be tough but there was no shortage of gaols for the Deres and all at Park View Road will be looking excitedly ahead to Saturday to get it all underway against K Sports.

We have now had a look at all of the 20 teams taking part in the Premier Division this season and heard from many of the key people involved. The next 380 games are sure to give us lots of thrills and spills and then end with us crowning a new champion that is sure to deserve their place at the top.

We aim to bring content like never before but this is only made easier by the teams helping supply it. Together we can make the 2019/20 Season the greatest one in SCEFL history and after last time around that is saying something.

Who will win the First Division

  • Kennington (28%, 121 Votes)
  • Rusthall (18%, 77 Votes)
  • Holmesdale (10%, 41 Votes)
  • Croydon (9%, 38 Votes)
  • Snodland Town (7%, 31 Votes)
  • Sutton Athletic (4%, 18 Votes)
  • Stansfeld (4%, 18 Votes)
  • Rochester United (3%, 15 Votes)
  • Bridon Ropes (3%, 15 Votes)
  • Kent Football Utd (3%, 11 Votes)
  • SC Thamesmead (2%, 10 Votes)
  • FC Elmstead (2%, 10 Votes)
  • Greenways (2%, 9 Votes)
  • Meridian VP (1%, 5 Votes)
  • Lydd Town (1%, 4 Votes)
  • Forest Hill Park (1%, 4 Votes)
  • Lewisham Borough (1%, 3 Votes)

Total Voters: 430

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