The annual Who Are We Going To Play Next Year thread

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The annual Who Are We Going To Play Next Year thread

Post by Roy D Hacksaw on Sun Mar 05, 2017 12:35 pm

It’s that time of year again where we start speculating as to what new trips we should be looking forward to over the closed season (now that our outside chances of a play-off place seem to have slipped away), and this year throws up all kinds of interesting possibilities and uncertainties.

The teams looking likely to be relegated from the National National offer something of a Northern flavour, with Southport, York City and our old pals North Ferriby United filling the bottom three slots. However, most of the bottom feeders are running into something resembling form at the moment, with the seemingly dead-and-buried Guiseley starting to pull away from the pack. And on top of that, there’s a whole host of Southern teams hovering just above the danger zone who could easily get pulled into the fray.



Kevin Nicholson’s Torquay United are having the worst run of form of the lot of them, and have just slipped down into the last of the relegation slots, but Woking, Braintree and Maidstone are all hovering just above them with worried looks on their faces. But Guiseley still aren’t entirely out of it, so there could still be a fag packet-busting possibility of four Northern sides coming down. But more of that later.

The Southern League, however, has got very interesting, for all kinds of reasons. No club seem to have been able to keep the lead for very long this term, but after a mid-season slump, our former familiar foes Chippenham have got a seven point lead at the top of the table going into the final run in. But it’s not as cut-and-dried as that would have you hope, because both Leamington and Slough Town behind them have two games in hand and have tasted the heady heights of the top of the table in recent weeks, so this could still go down to the wire.



Hot on their heels in the other two play-off slots are the fabulous Merthyr, and Hitchin Town, who are both six points clear of a trailing pack made up of Banbury, Chesham and Frome, who would all have to have Herculean run-ins to make it to the knock out stages.



Again, this makes the old North/South divide a little complicated. Leamington would definitely go North, and Hitchin would probably be a borderline case. We even hear that Merthyr have concerns that they’d be sent North - although looking at the famous dividing line map, while they are in the purple border county zone, they are still considerably more Southern than many.



Shifting East to the Isthmian, there’s still everything to play for, and it’s looking likely that there’ll be at least one trip near the seaside to look forward to. Bognor Regis Town have been leading the pack for much of the season, but Havant & Waterlooville are looking for an immediate bounce back and are hot on their heels for the automatic slot with games in hand.



The other three play-off berths are taken up by Needham Market, who are again in the North/South buffer zone, Tonbridge Angels and Wingate & Finchley, who have hit form at exactly the right point of the season. These five have opened up a five point gap from the pack, although sixth-placed Leiston have four games in hand on most of the sides at the top, so shouldn't entirely be discounted. Behind them, only Enfield, Dulwich, Billericay and Harlow have faint hopes of sneaking the final play-off slot.



So looking at that little lot there is a slight, but still possible chance of a major reshuffle to the two regional leagues. If three, or even all four sides that come down from the National are distinctly Northern, Leamington and perhaps even Hitchin go up from the South, and Needham Market and Leiston both pull off surprises in the Isthmian, the North/South dividing line would begin to creep Northwards again. If that is the case, we could start to get some old friends back from our sister league.

Gloucester are the usual side deemed most likely for a return trip back South, although they seem steadfastly bedded in to their surroundings. Worcester are next most obvious, but are facing a relegation battle and might not even make it that far, although Brackley Town are the next furthest South, and would probably appreciate the respite from the long away trips. After that it begins to get complicated, and we could even see some of the more Midlands-based clubs start trickling down.



But that’s all ifs and buts and maybes, and whatever happens, it seems highly likely that we could be looking at a few less of those endless M4/M25 away trips next term. And I think we could all say amen to that. 

I’ll keep you posted as to any further developments and late surges as they happen. So who do you fancy from that little lot?

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Re: The annual Who Are We Going To Play Next Year thread

Post by NCJesster on Sun Mar 05, 2017 1:04 pm

I cannot thank you enough for posting this! It can get very confusing for me sometimes to follow all of leagues and how they interact together. I am excited to see everyone's thoughts on this.
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Re: The annual Who Are We Going To Play Next Year thread

Post by Roy D Hacksaw on Sun Mar 05, 2017 4:20 pm

Oh, and for all of those who always panic and think we're going North about this time every season, here's the delineation map again.


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Re: The annual Who Are We Going To Play Next Year thread

Post by cbtroman on Sun Mar 05, 2017 8:18 pm

No direspect to clubs in our division but I would argue that one of the reasons we get poor attendances is because it's a boring league with uninspiring fixtures for the floating fan at least. If Chippenham, Merthyr get promoted and Gloucester/Worcester switch then it would help a lot. They're clubs with history. It wont happen but I would actually prefer us in the North!

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Re: The annual Who Are We Going To Play Next Year thread

Post by NCJesster on Sun Mar 05, 2017 8:25 pm

cbtroman wrote:No direspect to clubs in our division but I would argue that one of the reasons we get poor attendances is because it's a boring league with uninspiring fixtures for the floating fan at least. If Chippenham, Merthyr get promoted and Gloucester/Worcester switch then it would help a lot. They're clubs with history. It wont happen but I would actually prefer us in the North!

Can I ask why you would prefer being in the North? (Just trying to learn all of the ins and outs) Thanks
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Re: The annual Who Are We Going To Play Next Year thread

Post by suffolkexile on Sun Mar 05, 2017 8:26 pm

Leiston and Needham Market please..

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Re: The annual Who Are We Going To Play Next Year thread

Post by stillmanjunior on Sun Mar 05, 2017 8:29 pm

cbtroman wrote:No direspect to clubs in our division but I would argue that one of the reasons we get poor attendances is because it's a boring league with uninspiring fixtures for the floating fan at least. If Chippenham, Merthyr get promoted and Gloucester/Worcester switch then it would help a lot. They're clubs with history. It wont happen but I would actually prefer us in the North!

I quite agree, but it looks like Worcester could be heading for relegation. They're playing at Bromsgrove nowadays. A shame, as St George's Lane was wonderful, and their previous groundshare was at Kidderminster, suppliers of the greatest football stadium food on earth.

North would probably lose its appeal after a season or two. Whitehawk can revert to being awful again it'd be quite nice, with Gosport pulling away. The latter isn't exactly a local one but I'll have no qualms about losing Whitehawk, Bishop's Stortford and Margate.

And I'm saying nothing about Havant!
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Re: The annual Who Are We Going To Play Next Year thread

Post by cbtroman on Sun Mar 05, 2017 8:36 pm

NCJesster wrote:
cbtroman wrote:No direspect to clubs in our division but I would argue that one of the reasons we get poor attendances is because it's a boring league with uninspiring fixtures for the floating fan at least. If Chippenham, Merthyr get promoted and Gloucester/Worcester switch then it would help a lot. They're clubs with history. It wont happen but I would actually prefer us in the North!

Can I ask why you would prefer being in the North? (Just trying to learn all of the ins and outs) Thanks

Not sure if my message has already been sent so apologies if you read this twice but basically some of the Northern teams I would argue have a richer history and would create more interest for floating fans to attend games. Stockport and Kidderminster for example are both ex football league sides and FC United and Salford City have gained huge media attention in recent years

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Re: The annual Who Are We Going To Play Next Year thread

Post by NCJesster on Sun Mar 05, 2017 8:58 pm

cbtroman wrote:
NCJesster wrote:
cbtroman wrote:No direspect to clubs in our division but I would argue that one of the reasons we get poor attendances is because it's a boring league with uninspiring fixtures for the floating fan at least. If Chippenham, Merthyr get promoted and Gloucester/Worcester switch then it would help a lot. They're clubs with history. It wont happen but I would actually prefer us in the North!

Can I ask why you would prefer being in the North? (Just trying to learn all of the ins and outs) Thanks

Not sure if my message has already been sent so apologies if you read this twice but basically some of the Northern teams I would argue have a richer history and would create more interest for floating fans to attend games. Stockport and Kidderminster for example are both ex football league sides and FC United and Salford City have gained huge media attention in recent years

Thanks for the explanation.

I will admit, even living here in the USA I had heard of the Bath Rugby club but I had never heard of the FC until this past fall. It also seems to me the newspaper could do a better job promoting the club. I can only read it online and see the articles they tweet about, but it is about a 10-1 ratio to me. I have to say I am pleased that I am starting to see more about the FC in the Chronicle.
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Re: The annual Who Are We Going To Play Next Year thread

Post by stillmanjunior on Sun Mar 05, 2017 9:18 pm

Unfortunately Bath is a rugby city, and with them having a team in the top division (I literally have no idea how they're doing in it, and couldn't care less) means they'll earn more coverage. It's a debate that'll run and run. Unless we suddenly zoom up the leagues it'll be difficult to overcome that. A lot of my mates are football fans but most just aren't interested in watching non-league football, yet they'll gladly go to the Rec and watch a game they don't even particularly follow. I find that baffling but it's their choice. I have a more one-sided view on it because I dislike the sport.

I think the Chronicle's coverage, for a club of our level, is pretty good. Certainly better than others, we almost never have a visiting reporter in our press box, for example, whereas we'll always have someone covering us at an away match.
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Re: The annual Who Are We Going To Play Next Year thread

Post by the demon headmaster on Sun Mar 05, 2017 11:23 pm

I agree we are in a boring league. We need some local colour to create more excitement, and that comes from someone who really benefits from the eastern bias.

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Re: The annual Who Are We Going To Play Next Year thread

Post by Jon_BOA on Sun Mar 05, 2017 11:42 pm

I've had this convo in pubs after games, and a few of us are of the honest opinion that we'd rather the Conf N/S were disbanded and we went back to Southern, Northern and Isthman leagues. I know it will never happen, but I would support anything that meant this awful league didn't exist.

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Re: The annual Who Are We Going To Play Next Year thread

Post by comrade powell on Mon Mar 06, 2017 9:59 am

Agreed Jon! In fact I'd go further making Conference Premier into League 3 and revert to the Northern and Southern Premier being the pinnacle of the non league game. It worked brilliantly years ago except for the closed shop regarding league entry. The 2 champions would now get promotion. And yes, I know there's the slight problem of the Ryman clubs...
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Re: The annual Who Are We Going To Play Next Year thread

Post by Roy D Hacksaw on Mon Mar 06, 2017 11:08 am

I've got an answer for that. Dispense with the traditional North/South divide, and split the country down the middle for an East/Wedt split. That way everybody would get a few decent awaydays each season, and it could possibly make the fag packet meeting a bit less complicated. To begin with, at least!

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Re: The annual Who Are We Going To Play Next Year thread

Post by Luton Roman on Mon Mar 06, 2017 12:35 pm

Interesting debate that always galavanises and polarises opinion. Dont recall it ever came up pre pyramid reorganisation in the late 80s. We were in the SL and that was that. Only change was promotion or relegation from/to Division 1. Hell, playing a Ryman / Isthmian club was restricted to the FA Cup (when we could get out of the regionalised group at the time) or the Trophy (when we won the odd game). Our expectations have changed as have our opponents but I guess it has stagnated a bit apart from our sojourn to the National. As Keith says the number of games in the East is helpful to us Exiles over here.
So the answer is to get promoted !

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Re: The annual Who Are We Going To Play Next Year thread

Post by stillmanjunior on Mon Mar 06, 2017 1:33 pm

Roy D Hacksaw wrote:I've got an answer for that. Dispense with the traditional North/South divide, and split the country down the middle for an East/Wedt split. That way everybody would get a few decent awaydays each season, and it could possibly make the fag packet meeting a bit less complicated. To begin with, at least!

I ran a couple of programme articles about this last season, showing how it could be split into east and west. This was before respective promotions/relegations took place. I ended up with something like this:

AFC Fylde
AFC Telford United
Basingstoke Town
Bath City
Brackley Town
Bradford Park Avenue
Chorley
Curzon Ashton
FC United of Manchester
Gloucester City
Gosport Borough
Havant & Waterlooville
Hednesford Town
Nuneaton Town
Oxford City
Solihull Moors
Stalybridge Celtic
Stockport County
Tamworth
Truro City
Weston-super-Mare
Worcester City

Our average journey for an away game was about half a mile further than what we experienced last season.
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Re: The annual Who Are We Going To Play Next Year thread

Post by Manchester Romans on Mon Mar 06, 2017 2:08 pm

Love the look of that line-up... If only those in power read Junior's programme articles!

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Re: The annual Who Are We Going To Play Next Year thread

Post by 2weirdtown on Mon Mar 06, 2017 3:45 pm

This thread comes up near the end of every season in the Conf South and I agree with almost everything said. Especially agree that this is an utterly boring league that will never attract the floating fan.
The situation is not helped by us losing various 'local' sides over the years for whatever reason. I'm thinking of-
Gloucester
Worcester
Newport
Merthyr
Weymouth
Yeovil
Forest Green
Chippenham
Salisbury
Cheltenham
We're stuck on a little isolated island with only WSM for company and something needs to change. For me the most realistic chance we have of making waves is via the cup competitions. It's absolutely vital to make some money here as this can pay for a player or two who really will make the difference and get us out of this s**te league. I seem to remember our FA cup run in 2009/10 provided the finance that helped us get promoted. I know we cannot predict a successful run but we really should not be getting kicked out of cups by the likes of Potters Bar.
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Re: The annual Who Are We Going To Play Next Year thread

Post by stillmanjunior on Mon Mar 06, 2017 4:06 pm

It'd be interesting to know what teams on the other side of the country think of the current league structure. Do Chelmsford get exciting over Essex meetings with East Thurrock and Concord?

This is how it all began:

Promotion
Teams promoted from 2003–04 Southern Football League
Weymouth
Newport County
Cambridge City
Welling United
Weston-super-Mare
Eastbourne Borough
Havant & Waterlooville
Dorchester Town(Southern Football League Premier Division playoff winners)

Teams promoted from 2003–04 Isthmian League
Sutton United
Thurrock
Hornchurch
Grays Athletic
Carshalton Athletic
Hayes
Bognor Regis Town
Bishop's Stortford
Maidenhead United
Ford United
St Albans City (Isthmian League Premier Division playoff winners)
Lewes (Isthmian League Division One South winners, promoted through playoffs)
Basingstoke (promoted after higher finished Hendon decided not to take part in Conference South)

Teams relegated from 2003–04 Football Conference
Margate

There is a lot more Isthmian swing. I think the only team from the 2003/04 Isthmian Premier to switch to Conference North was Kettering, whereas in the Southern half there were more, the likes of Stafford for example.
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Re: The annual Who Are We Going To Play Next Year thread

Post by SteveBradley on Tue Mar 07, 2017 1:47 am

Don't dismiss Dulwich Hamlet's chances of making the Ryman play-offs Roy.

They have games in-hand against all the sides above them - in some cases 4 or 5 matches. If they won all those they'd be right in there, and on their day they're a good team.

I'd love to see Hamlet come up personally. Despite their hipster reputation, they do get great crowds these days, and we could learn a lot from them re how they've encouraged and enabled this. I suspect they'd also bring a good away following to TP. And given how unlucky they've been in play offs in recent years, they deserve a bit of luck for a change !

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Re: The annual Who Are We Going To Play Next Year thread

Post by BenE on Tue Mar 07, 2017 1:39 pm

I don't think people are being ambitious enough.

For a start off I wouldn't call it non-league. It is definitely a league.

Then you could have a complete shake up of football and mix all the leagues up so we got, say, Arsenal, Fulham, Bristol Rovers, Newport, Plymouth in our league.

That would certainly make things interesting.
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Re: The annual Who Are We Going To Play Next Year thread

Post by SteveBradley on Tue Mar 07, 2017 2:11 pm

BenE wrote:I don't think people are being ambitious enough.

For a start off I wouldn't call it non-league. It is definitely a league.

Then you could have a complete shake up of football and mix all the leagues up so we got, say, Arsenal, Fulham, Bristol Rovers, Newport, Plymouth in our league.

That would certainly make things interesting.

It would certainly make things interesting BenE, but the big clubs would never let it happen - and English football is run by the Premier League clubs, despite the pretensions of the FA. If the top clubs go anywhere it'll sadly be into a European Super League at some point, rather than embracing lower English clubs.

Fish further up the footballing food chain just don't like swimming with the 'minnows' below them, and unfortunately they get to call the shots.

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Re: The annual Who Are We Going To Play Next Year thread

Post by BenE on Tue Mar 07, 2017 7:42 pm

I think you're under-estimating how attractive a fixture with Bath City would be for Arsenal
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Re: The annual Who Are We Going To Play Next Year thread

Post by NCJesster on Fri Mar 10, 2017 12:32 am

BenE wrote:I think you're under-estimating how attractive a fixture with Bath City  would be for  Arsenal

I think that would entice me to fly across the pond to see that match!
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Re: The annual Who Are We Going To Play Next Year thread

Post by comrade powell on Fri Mar 10, 2017 8:49 am

I think our opponents tomorrow, Hemel, would have put up a better fight against Bayern than Arsenal did, so why not join us for that!
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