It’s that time of year again. The time of year where every football club is hopeful and excited for another season of domestic action once more. It has been all change for a lot of clubs with players and staff moving onto pastures new. With the new season upon us it is time for Severn Sport to cast their views on teams to watch, players who can make an impact and our predictions for the 2018/19 season.
For the preview Severn Sport’s Ryan Butler & Matt Yates are joined by Longlevens centre back Luke Kavanagh, a man that Severn Sport readers will be familiar with. All three have made their picks and are looking to show that they know it all when it comes to local football.
The boys have picked from League Two down to Gloucestershire Northern Senior League Two so we have it all covered. Let’s begin with League Two.
League Two – Winners
LK: Notts County. They fell apart in the play-offs last season to the eventual winners. However a Kevin Nolan side will no doubt be equipped, robust and hard to beat in League Two once again. I’m tipping them to win it through sheer brute force alone.
MY: Lincoln City. Progression is key and Lincoln will continue that this season. Due to recent cup runs and back to back Wembley cup final wins they have the money to match their ambition and with the signing of John Akinde from Barnet, whilst holding on to the manager who took them back to the Football League they’ll be looking to continue their rapid progress.
RB: I’ve liked the look of Carlisle United for a couple of years now and they have threatened to tear the league up. I do think this could be their time to push on and finish in at least the automatic promotion position at the least, they are my tip to win it.
Who will finish higher, Cheltenham Town or Forest Green Rovers?
LK: Cheltenham will edge out Forest Green. I always feel with FGR that when the sun is shining its all smiles, but come Christmas when the nights and weather draw in, can they still do it on a cold Tuesday night in Oldham?
MY: For me Forest Green will have the better of Cheltenham this season. Rovers have seen off the storm of their debut EFL season and will know what to expect. Chairman Dale Vince has made some bold claims this pre-season and will be under pressure to supply Mark Cooper with whatever he requires for success and get those grey stars on the shirts coloured in.
RB: I think Forest Green will finish above Cheltenham this year. They are always going to be a side that everyone is watching due to their philosophy, history and owner and I think they could have a pretty decent year.
National League South – Where will Gloucester City Finish?
LK: Gloucester will be just fine! Mark my words on that. Marc Richards is a top class coach and organiser and will have his homework done on every opposition that they come up against. I’ve always said that a middle of the pack finish at that level of football for a team in exile with probably one of the lowest budget is a great achievement. im going for 10th and another season to be proud of.
MY: It’ll be another tough season for the Tigers, the budget seems to have been trimmed again. But credit to Marc Richards, his connections to Hartpury and local football has seen him assemble a competitive squad. For me they’ll be safe but not as comfortable as they would like, 16th.
RB: Marc Richards has recruited incredibly well for the low budget he has. In Jake’s Mawford & Jackson he has brought in attacking prowess and quality that they were lacking last year. In Adam Page they have an incredible looking winger who is fast and has end product. 9th
National League South – Winners
LK: Woking. Relegated from the Conference last year. Big pedegree at that level so straight back up for them.
MY: Dartford, They came so close last season missing out on automatic promotion by 3 goals on goal difference then losing in the play-offs. They’ll be disappointed but they have kept their top players and added to them and will be looking to go one better this time around.
RB: Woking for me. They have the stature as a club and a squad to cause teams trouble. If they can go on the tricky away trips and come away with points then they will be up there for sure.
National League South – Team To Watch
LK: Billericay are the team to watch. Constructed a great FA Cup run last season, their pre season form looks bang on and with a name like ex-Spurs man Jamie O’Hara in their team, they will be ones to watch.
MY: Billericay Town, it has to be. The circus has arrived to the National League, they spent and spent to get here but how will Glenn Tamplin and his merry men get on? It’s hard to tell, but it’ll be an interesting watch!
RB: Everyone is going to say Billericay so I won’t. I’m going for my outside ante-post tip of Hampton & Richmond. They have a great set up and a decent enough squad to mount a serious promotion push this season.
Southern League Division One South – Winners
LK: Thatcham Town will be the team to watch. Took on the nation and won at step 5 last year and have strengthened this year again to step up. They are my tip to win it. Look out for Ryan’s mate, Shayne Cooper-Clark, an eye watering 62 goals he scored last year.
MY: Cirencester Town, I’m tipping one of our local sides to take to top spot. Charlie Griffin has assembled a really good squad going into the new season to continue their impressive end to the 17/18 season seeing them narrowly miss the playoffs by goal difference. The re-configure of the leagues have also worked in their favour with the likes Didcot moving sideways.
RB: Cirencester Town will be the ones to catch. Having missed out on the play offs on goals last term they will be up there again. They will benefit from the likes of Salisbury, Swindon Supermarine and Taunton Town going up as well as retaining the services of Ben Whitehead. They have strengthened well and look formidable.
Southern League Division One South – Local Side To Watch
LK: Locally i like the looks of both Cirencester and Cinderford. Ciren have some proven players in their ranks such as Ben Whitehead. Cinderford absolutely battered Longlevens in the first half with a rapid press and some fast paced football, their fitness seemed to fade in that game so I’d say if they can add more to that then they will go well.
MY: Local side – Aside from Cirencester it has to be Cinderford, They had a better end to the season finishing mid-table but they have held on to a lot of the squad from the back end of 17/18 and have invested in coaching during the off season with former Newport County keeper goal Ryan Mackerness joining. If it all falls into place a charge towards the playoffs could be on.
RB: Slimbridge are my local side to watch. After an incredible first half of the season they were 9th and flying last year. Ultimately they nearly got relegated after a second half slump. With the noted departures on and off the field they have recruited pretty well. Christien Turner at the back could be signing of the season come May.
Hellenic League Premier Division – Local Side To Watch
LK: Team to watch will be Brimscombe & Thrupp. They’ve brought in three ex/current Southern League players in: James Singh, Matt Bennett and Jake Parrott, plus bringing back Harrison Reeves, they will have one eye on the Hellenic League title.
MY: Longlevens. A very good showing in the Severn Sport shield, showing fighting spirit to come back against National League South side Gloucester City. They’ve made some good additions including Kieran Squires from Slimbridge, who got the man of the match award in the same tournament.
RB: Bishops Cleeve will be the ones to watch whether they complete #bounceback or not. They have come into the league and straight away said they are here to win it. Time will tell whether there bold claim will pan out the way they hope or could it all go up in flames?
Hellenic League Premier Division – Winners
LK: Who will win it? I’m going with Wantage Town. They came 4th behind the three front runners last year and took some points off each of them along the way. Previous winners of the division also, I think they have enough staying power to go the distance.
MY: Bishops Cleeve, a brave fight at the end of the season couldn’t see them escape relegation but they will take some positives from the results they ground out, despite not quite being enough. A massive advantage is the experienced head of Stephen Cleal still in charge, he has a wealth of knowledge in local football which will put him in good stead in a league with plenty of local opposition.
RB: In my Hellenic League predictions I said Brimscombe & Thrupp to win it out of the west sides and I stick by that. Obviously Wantage Town will be up there and the likes of Binfield and Ascot have strengthened well but I like what Sam Prior is building at The Meadow and this could be their time to shine.
Hellenic League Premier Division – Team to Watch
LK: Team to watch, Binfield for me. When you look at the players that have played for the club, it’s hard to believe they can still churn out players capable of the top 6. But with a young side who are another year older and wiser and it will have helped them all. I think they will ruffle a few feathers.
MY: Windsor, talking to local players and coaches the talk of the league is on Windsor this season, they have made some strong signings and have kept the majority of the squad from a decent season in 2017/18.
RB: I couldn’t let a post go by without mentioning Reading, so my team to watch is Reading City. A total re-branding has gone under way to the side formerly known as Highmoor Ibis. They stayed up and are looking to kick off. New name new luck maybe?
Hellenic League Premier Division – Players To Watch
LK: Players to watch, I have to go close to home with this one and say the two young lads at Longlevens, Isaac Johns and Logan Roach who have both looked great in pre-season and will be good additions to our squad.
MY: Isaac Johns at Longlevens. This lad impressed me a lot at the Severn Sport Shield, a really good performance against Tuffley Rovers and he made a difference when he came on against Gloucester in the final. Pace, an eye for goal and a good partnership with the experienced Myron Turner. This season he will score goals and will improve, at just 16 year old Johns is definitely one to watch.
RB: I could sit here and pick a player at each team, I really could. I’m going to name three ple because I can’t ignore them. Harrison Reeves at Brimscombe has the ability to be the best player in the league this term. Brad Martin at Bishops Cleeve will have all of the local eyes on him after his switch from Longlevens and Declan Morley-Lyne returning to Lydney Town could be the catalyst for a decent finish for his side.
Hellenic League Division One West – Local Team To Watch
LK: Cheltenham Saracens. I seriously think they can win the league. They have strengthened in key areas and have looked good in pre-season.
MY: Cheltenham Saracens will go close. With Josh Watts and Harlie Price up front they have players of serious pedigree, who both know where the goal is. Expect big things down Petersfield Park this season.
RB: I think both Cheltenham Saracens and Newent Town are in for good seasons. The latter impressed me during their pre-season friendly against Longlevens Reserves and they have a nice set up. Not everybody likes the way they have got to this level but they are here and they can have a good season.
Gloucestershire County League – Team To Watch
LK: I’m going to say Frampton United for this one. They went close last year and have retained a lot of the squad that they have from that aswell as a couple of decent additions.
MY: Stonehouse Town. Thornbury romped to the title last season winning it by 15 points from a small chasing pack which included Stonehouse. If you speak to players from the County league, time and again Stonehouse are mentioned as a team to watch, good in defence and score plenty of goals.
RB: Thornbury Town finished 4th three years in a row before demolishing the league in the end last year. With them now promoted it leaves it open between the likes of Frampton, Stonehouse and my pick Lebeq United. They were the closest challengers and will be up there once again.
Gloucestershire Northern Senior League Division One – Team To Watch
LK: With last seasons top two (Charlton Rovers & Barometrics) being somewhat decimated I think it will pave the way for clubs like, Brockworth Albion or Sharpness to go well in the division. Keep an eye out for Longlevens Reserves as when the squads start to settle, you could see some good players end up in that side.
MY: Welland. They smashed GNSL Division Two last season winning the league by 20 points and an impressive +44 goal difference, 22 wins, 4 draws and 4 defeats. Can they make the step up though with sides like Brockworth and Quedgeley to contend with?
RB: My team to watch is Chalford. They finished 3rd last year and have good set up. They have the draw to attract players and play a competitive brand of football. There are a lot of tough sides in the league this year so whoever wins it will have earned it.
Gloucestershire Northern Senior League Division Two – Team To Watch
LK: I think Frampton United Reserves will come through this league no troubles. Alongside their fellow Stroud One promotion rivals Barnwood United.
MY: Barnwood United. A side with a great team spirit, which is key at this level, a good strong bonded team that win and lose together. They have prolific attacking players, notching up some big scoreline last season.
RB: Two of the sides who came up into the league are catching my eye. Barnwood United & Cheltenham Civil Service. The latter have been there and done that all before so it won’t be too much of a stretch for them to go straight through the league. Barnwood are a side that will spoil the apple cart a few times along the way this term and should finish in a healthy position.
Local Signing Of The Season
LK: James Singh for Brimscombe. Sam Prior has pulled some corkers out the bag this year but for me Singha is the best. I played with him many moons ago and he is a busy, strong, energetic forward who will get lots of goals. Added to the strikers they already have Sam will a few headaches across the season.
MY: Liam McAlinden (Cheltenham Town) Signed on a free transfer from Exeter. Although not a prolific scorer his strength and vision makes him great support in a forward two and will get many assists. A quality addition to a Cheltenham squad that lacked creativity at times last season.
RB: Based solely on needs must for me the two I am looking at are Eric Edge & Luke Merchant, who signed for Slimbridge and Tuffley Rovers for the term. Both sides needed a keeper after Ollie Hall has stepped away from the Swans and Dave Evans from Rovers. They have both signed on terrific keepers who command their box too. A great mix!
And there we have it. The season begins on Saturday 4th August for the majority of leagues in and around the county. Follow our first game of the season, Longlevens vs Flackwell Heath live on our social media outlets.