WITH our non-league season now just nine days away from starting, our clubs are building up their squads in preparation for - hopefully - a good season and, with the remaining fixtures now out, our fans are excited at the prospects.
Most of our fans are rightly looking at the Baris North Counties East Leagues First Division, as the one that will certainly create the most interest in the coming months.
We have Dinnington Town, Hallam, Handsworth, Worksop Parramore and Worsbrough Bridge in the division and with AFC Emley and Rossington Main not that far away, you can understand why.
During the first two weeks of the season we have no less than four derby games to look forward to and our club treasurers must be delighted at the prospect.
Sadly once again, Hallam begin with a string of nine league and cup games away, with their first league at Sandygate not due until Saturday, October 1 when they entertain Appleby Frodingham. True, they are used to this by now, but it does not help their chances of bouncing straight back into the Premier Division and manager Julian Watts must be very frustrated at the prospect.
In the Evo-Stik Premier Division it could be a tight chase between Bradford Park Avenue, Buxton, FC United of Manchester and Marine. Frickley Athletic look our best bet to finish in a strong position. Stocksbridge Parkhave signed up Chris Adams from Eastwood Town and Chris Glarvey from Grantham Townbut I feel they are still a couple of quality players short and I expect them to finish just above mid-table.
In Division One South again it looks a very difficult division to gain promotion from, with Sutton Coldfield Town, Newcastle Town, and Romulus catching my eye. Sheffield FC have impressed greatly in pre-season. Manager Mark Shaw has done well in the transfer market with his latest signing Connor Higginson scoring the game’s only goal against Worksop Town, while the work rate of his players is excellent and with wins over Sheffield Wednesday (3-0), Huddersfield Town (2-0) and a draw against Sheffield United (1-1), they seem to be ready for the season and could get a play off place particularly if they find a strong front runner.
In the NCEL Premier Division, Parkgate must start as one of the favourites for promotion and if manager Doug Shelley can just strengthen his defence a little I think they could do it this season.
Certainly with Swindells, Senior, Worsfold and Cardwell in form they must be strong candidates, along with Bridlington Town, Winterton Rangers and Tadcaster Albion.
Newly promoted Staveley are another team to impress in pre-season, but I feel they may need a season to adjust while Maltby Main seem destined to finish in mid-table again.
I end with the sad news that another great non-league stalwart has died. The well known Brodsworth Welfare Chairman, Gordon Jennings, who was both highly respected and well liked, died of a heart attack exactly a week after his 80th birthday. He will he be warmly remembered.