Rough Guide to the Western

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It's a whole new ball game, well actually the chances are it'll be a very similar ball game but with more kick and chase and bigger, stronger, marginally less talented players. But looking on the bright side: new clubs, new grounds - it would all be so exciting if the grounds were not a load of lean-to stands and bumpy pitches, and the new teams a bunch of kickers and lost-it has beens. But it's not going to be all bad (at least not all the time) - here's your beginners guide to our new life in the DML Western Division. 

What it is:
It's one of two feeder divisions into the DML Premier what we have just fallen out of. Below the Premier the Dr Martens League is split it into two parallel divisions split geographically into the Eastern and Western divisions. The Western division is largely based around the West Midlands and the M5, extending from Devon right up to Leicestershire.

Not to be confused with....
The Screwfix sponsored Western League. Which is a separate league on a level with the Hellenic, covering clubs in Wiltshire, Somerset, Bristol and Devon. It actually feeds into the Western Division with recent graduates being Tiverton and Mangotsfield. We're not quite down there yet...

The DML Western Division replaced the old Midland division in 1998/99, ten years after City won the old Midland championship in 1988/89. In order to go back up we need to finish as either Champions or Runners-up. I know it doesn't bear thinking about but the bottom two do go down. Doing that means dropping out of the Dr Martens League altogether into one of the number of regional feeder leagues, like the Hellenic League, Western League or Midland Alliance. That's where Yate and Stourbridge went last season... 

Who We're Playing: 

Atherstone United
Starting off with one familiar club, our fellow sufferers in Premier relegation last season and ironically the club with whom we got promoted into the DML Premier back in 1989. The Adders finished a rock bottom 22nd in the DML Premier in a disastrous season which ended with the departure of long-serving manager Ron Bradbury. However all the resulting gloom and doom will have been somewhat off-set with the appointment of new duo Steve McKenzie (he of the England caps) and John Grealish (he of bearded man at WBA fame). Both will continue to also work at West Brom's football academy, a link that could do much for the Adders.
The club is in severe financial difficulties and will see survival in the DML as their immediate target for the coming season, although a few of their promising young players could produce something extra. They're also trying to link up with coaches in Africa and the Caribbean, which could be interesting. Their plans for a bright shiny new ground are on hold for the time being - meaning they're stuck with ramshackle Sheepy Road, a ground built in what must be the coldest spot of Warwickshire imaginable. The club's other claim to fame is being supported by some famous golfer or other - but it's normally about there I lose the will to even pretend to be interested. By tradition expect them to play ten behind the ball and get a 0-0 draw at Meadow Park.  
Last Met - 5th Feb. '00. D1-1 (h) DMLPD. City Scorer: Jimmy Smith

Bedworth Town
Small town stuck somewhere between Nuneaton and Coventry, finished 15th in DML Western Division last season and don't seem set to light up the league this season either. Unpromisingly they play at Miners Welfare Park, next to the leisure centre. Betchya can't wait to get there can you? They play in green, leading to the oh so imaginative nickname of the Greenbacks. Tend to do quite well in progressing players from their youth team.
Last Met - 27th Jan. '98. W3-0 (a) DMC3. City Scorers: Jon Holloway (pen), Steve Fergusson, Andy Mainwaring. 

Bilston Town
Team from Wolverhampton, which means they all speak in that annoying nasal Brummie accent (that'll upset a few people). Normally one of the stronger sides in the division and will have been disappointed to have finished 8th in DML Western Division last season. Generally fast and direct with Scoot Voice a consistent goalscorer. They'll be difficult to handle, and even harder to watch, playing in an oddly puke inducing orange. I don't recommend watching them with a hangover anyhow. The Steelmen's Queen Street ground is one of the better ones in the division and the club is generally at least recognisable as a football outfit. 
Last Met - 14th Jan. '89. W3-0 (a) DMLMD. City Scorers: Shaun Penny, Chris Townsend, Wayne Noble. 

Blakenall Town
Small club from what is pretty much in Walsall in east Brum, but although small they've come along way quickly and had an unexpectedly good season to finish 6th last season. Nice easy trip off the motorway and passable if small ground, the name of the Red Lion Ground hinting at a pub team past. Wear boring blue n' white, but could be long shots for the top slots this season if they can hang on to highly rated managerial duo Mick Folland and Paul Knox.
Last Met - ??? pre-1988 if at all.

Bromsgrove Rovers
Remember this lot? A Conference outfit until a few seasons ago and have fallen like a stone since, with their misfortunes not helped by crippling financial troubles. A miserable season saw them just survive bankruptcy and crawl in a lowly 17th having been relegated the previous season. The general mood in the camp won't have been improved by the departure of Steve Daley as boss after the squad allegedly turned over a hotel.
Not greatly beloved to City fans for the simple reason of bad memories when City prematurely celebrated promotion to the Conference at the Victoria Ground in 90/91. Difficult not to feel some sympathy for them though, especially with near neighbours Kidderminster going into the League (bankruptcy, successful rivals, dramatic fall from grace - sound familiar?). We last played them in 98/99, I guess at least it's a short trip for us. Like City they will be viewed as one of the 'big' sides in the division, but for them it's all potential for now with lack of money meaning they're unlikely to worry the promotion places this season.
Last Met - 5th Dec. '98. W4-3 (h) DMLPD. City Scorers: Mike Wyatt (2), Tony Hemmings, o.g.

Cinderford Town
You should know a little about our bear-baiting (ooo-er, old wounds never heal) friends from the twigs. Currently managed by former City boss John Murphy and play his familiar, if unloved, hoof and scrap style. Packed with familiar faces from local football and will provide us with our derby game this season - lucky us! For all that it's so easy to take the piss they've got some talent in the team, not least former City youth team forward Jody Bevan who should be good for another 20 plus haul this season. Finished 9th after a particularly strong end to their campaign last season. The Causeway itself is no better than you remember it, the pitch suffers hugely from drainage trouble which means they won't play at home between November and March - the Southern League should have more sense than to allocate them games during the winter. The walls of the stand are still crumbling and it will be cold and wet with a scary drive through the trees to get there, but on the plus side the people there are top notch good honest types who don't wrong change you at the bar.
Last Met - 10th Nov. '97. W2-0 (h) DMC1-2. City Scorers: Chris Burns, Dwayne Smith.

Cirencester Town
More likely than Cinderford to cause us local embarrassment next season. Last season they surprised people (well me anyhow) by getting to 7th in the Western Division, their investment in their Academy youngsters seemingly at last reaping some reward. Lots of good young players who will certainly be up for putting one over on us, especially their ripening forward duo of Scott Griffin and Paul Corcoron. The club is run by former City and Ch@#tenham man Steve Abbley with the help of some former team mates. The manager is bad-tempered fat boy Ray Baverstock, with the help of equally familiar side-kick Mark Boyland, who amazingly still plays at the age of 63. Their current home is an absolute disgrace, but Ciren have been carefully planning a modern new stadium for years now and their plans are closer to fruition. I've got a really bad feeling about this lot in years to come, although they struggle to get much support from the town - but then that's not stopped Forest Green.
Last Met - 24th Nov. '98. W3-1 (a) DMC1. City Scorers: Gary Kemp, Mike Wyatt, Andy Hoskins. 

Evesham United
Another local side, who improved slightly last season to finish 15th having been perennial strugglers since their promotion from the Midland Alliance in 1991. Unlikely to finish in the top few this season either, but have made a few impressive signings with Phil Mullen signing former Bromsgrove forward Steve Taylor from Conference champions Kiddie. Given that they play in red and white, call themselves the Robins and used to be managed by Chris Robinson, we should be able to muster some feeling for the matches against them. Their ground has not found the transition to the Dr Martens League an easy one either, but the main challenge is finding it by navigating the town's one-way system. A lollipop to any fan who spots the turning in less than three laps of the town. Get the train instead, it's only a short walk from the station. 
Last Met - 10th Jan. '94. W3-1 (a) DMC2. City Scorers: Karl Bayliss (2), Tony Cook.

Gresley Rovers
Words cannot express my delight that we can look forward to playing this lot again, especially in our opening fixture! Ever since the attack on City fans at their squalid little Moat Ground in 1997 I've harboured a special resentment against this load of miner's off-casts, especially when their club officials disgracefully tried to pin the blame on the traveling support instead of helping the police arrest the thugs responsible (see also Thugs, Lies & Tickertape).
The Derbyshire side have had a dramatic collapse in fortunes since 1996/7 when only their cramped ground prevented them taking a place in the Conference having won the DML title. Since then money trouble has bitten deep into plans for a new ground, and players and management moved on elsewhere. Relegated season before last and finished 11th in the Western last time out. There is little to suggest they'll do much better this season but will probably eventually turn the corner.
The ground is tight and cramped, but serviceable enough unless there's a bumper crowd. Given our past history I doubt we'll get a warm welcome. The ground itself is in Church (not Castle) Gresley, a strange small town perched on a hillside slope about five miles south of Burton.
Last Met - 6th Feb. '99. D0-0 (h) DMLPD. 

Hinckley United
One of the favourites for promotion this season, simply by virtue of missing out in 3rd place last May and having finished consistently near the top in recent years. Their manager Dean Thomas has retained last season's top scorer David Sadler, and will be looking to team him with Andy Lucas signed from Shepshed. The club has been strengthened no end by the merger in 1997 of Hinckley Athletic and Hinckley Town, and get good gates although attendances suffer a little from the proximity of Leicester. Their Middlefield Lane ground is serviceable, and again one of the few clubs this season where you're likely to really feel as if you're at a football club. Play in blue and red, a slightly schizophrenic mix inherited from both the parent clubs, and call themselves the 'Knitters', which I'm assured has something to do with the town's industrial past rather than old ladies. 
Last Met - ??? pre-1988 if at all?

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Mangotsfield United
Promoted to the DML this season having finished runners-up to Taunton in the Screwfix Western League last season. North-east Bristol outfit who will be keen to try and emulate the impact of Tiverton last season. Unlikely to challenge right at the top of the table, but have more than enough strength for boss Andy Black to expect comfortable mid-table respectability. Have a few familiar faces in former Ch@#tenham right-back Jimmy Wring and former City player David Elsey. Top scorer last season was former Ch@#tenham and Bath striker Martin Boyle who got 24, and is more than capable of doing damage at this level too. Solid at the back too with former Clevedon and Weymouth keeper Steve Weaver back to form after a badly broken leg in 98/9.
Their Cossham Street ground is respectable if not sensational in its quality, Mangotsfield having spent heavily on stadium improvements (floodlights, cover and some terracing at both ends) while waiting for younger players to mature into a good football side. Averaged over 200 through the gate last season and won't be disgraced this season. The club has a strange history, being one of several Bristolian clubs unable to make up their mind over the years whether to compete in Gloucestershire or Somerset competitions. Also have a proud record of progressing players into league football, including Gary Megson, Gary Penrice, Steve White and Nicky Tanner who also managed the club until last season.
Last Met - 13th Sep. '97. W3-0 (h) FAC1q. City Scorers: Chris Burns (2), Andy Hoskins. 

Paget Rangers
Really pleasant and friendly club whose generosity last season extended to surrendering so many points they ran in a lowly 19th. The Bears are based in the heart of depressing high-rise Brum, in Castle Vale near Sutton Coldfield. Their Vale Stadium ground is basically a one-sided affair with one decent stand and little else, but they have a good bar and serve decent food. I'd love to say something nice about their football team too, but it's difficult - provided a start for Jon Gittens who went on to play for Southampton and Swindon. Will be an away strip job as they play in a gold and black strip, and the club has a so far unexplained fondness for Spitfires (built nearby perhaps?).
Last Met - No record, quite possibly never played before. 

Racing Club Warwick
Stayed in the DML by the skin of their teeth, finishing 20th last season. A club who will see survival as a triumph again this year. A fairly unremarkable club who had their first season in the League the season after City won the old Midland Division title, and it seems nothing short of miraculous they've stayed in it so long. Likely candidates for the bottom two unless they can end their over-reliance on Simon Windsor up front.
Play at a tiny ground called Townsend Meadow, on the fringes of Warwick by the racecourse. It isn't much to get excited about and had one of the worst surfaces I've ever seen, although it might and should have improved. Nice trees around it though! Another change kit trip as they too play in gold and black, and provide City with their first away test of the season. Interesting fact - Martin Lander (remember him) played for Warwick after 'retiring' from Meadow Park.
Last Met - I was sure we'd played this lot but it seems to be a case of false memory syndrome, unless someone can tell me otherwise.

Redditch United
A club that could cause a few surprises although they finished a disappointing 10th last season. Have been in this division for years and constantly threaten to escape it, but seem likely to be near but not quire there once again this season. Their Valley Stadium home is a huge ground for this standard, a real old barn of a stadium with big sweeping open terraces that hint at better times when they briefly appeared in the Conference in 1979-80.
Have plenty of potential, a good commercial grounding, and all importantly decent match day bar and food. More worryingly we tend to trip up against them, but should be able to hold them off this year.
Last Met - 3rd Mar. '98. L1-4 (a) DMCqfR. City Scorer: Keeling

Had a reasonable first season consolidating in 16th place last season, having been promoted from the Midland Alliance in 1999. Bit of a struggle to find on a map, but will be one of our furthest trips next year coming from up near Uttoxeter in Staffordshire. Don't really know that much about this lot, they call themselves the Romans, and play in amber and black, giving our red and white yet another run out. Their Rivers Field ground should be reasonable as it was built in the late eighties. Former players include one Tony Hemmings, and Mark Sale who they sold to Birmingham for 12,000 in 1994.
Last Met - virgin territory for us.  

Rugby United
A shame that this lot have ditched their old Valley Sports Rugby name for the season, especially as they had a proud tradition in non-league circles and won the Vase. Perhaps they think the title might go to alphabetical order this season. They've fallen on hard times recently, but will be pleased to transfer into the more geographically acceptable Western Division having finished 12th in the Eastern with some long away trips last season. 
Their Butlin Road home is a reasonable old ground with proper terracing and some cover. Another club with plans for expansion as a sports complex, with tennis courts and an all-weather surface in the pipe line. Their return will bring back memories of that epic 2-2 draw in April 1991 when their fat keeper Mick Martin conspired with forward Mark Boyland to stop us getting to the Conference. Let's just hope this seasons encounter gets a crowd of 2,500 plus, but whatever will at least bring some proper away support to Meadow Park. Used to play in fetching two tone blue quarters, so hopefully that won't have gone the way of the old name.
Last Met - 2nd Mar. '96. D1-1 (h) DMLPD. City Scorer: David Holmes

Shepshed Dynamo
Have an interesting history having also been known as Albion and Charterhouse in recent times, and are also so far up in north Leicestershire they found themselves shifted into the Northern Premier between 1988 and 1993. No less intriguingly they also boast Steve Crouch amongst their former, er, stars. As an absolute gift to away fans everywhere their Dovecote ground is on Butthole Lane. You can't help but like them a bit.
Had a rough season last time finishing 18th, and things don't look good this season with manager John Hanna quitting on the eve of pre-season. Have a good base of potential support but lack of recent success has seen that fall away a little. The Dovecote is not actually a bad ground, although their could be fights amongst our older fans to cram in to the small stand.
Last Met - Surely at some point? 

Solihull Borough
Definitely ones to watch this season as they have pots of cash from the sale of their old Widney Stadium ground and came an ominous 5th last season.  Having spent over  a decade in a nomadic existence at Moor Green and Redditch while searching for a new home in Solihull, it is a remarkable tribute to the club's officials and supporters to have not only kept going but to have had several moments of on the pitch success. Open their new Damson Park ground in August and look like they could at last be ready to make their long threatened push towards an entirely achievable Conference place.
They're managed by former Coventry defender Dave Busst, he of the horrific broken leg against Manchester United a few seasons ago. Get more than their fair share of national press interest too. Tradition of big spending and if they get close again this season expect to see the cheque book come out to try and secure a place back in the Premier.
Last Met - 7th Feb. '99. W3-1 (h) DMC2. City Scorers: Tommy Callinan, Jimmy Smith (2). 

Sutton Coldfield Town
Yet another Brum side who can expect something similar to the 14th place finish of last season. Fairly unremarkable club who have never threatened to set the DML alight, only real fascinating fact is that they still boast the great Lance Morrison as their most costly signing. Their Central Ground in Sutton Coldfield is pretty much a park, but is redeemed slightly by a half decent clubhouse. Play in blue & white... I'm really struggling on this one. Nice kitten on their website though.
Last Met - 22nd Mar. '89. L1-3 (h) DMLMD. City Scorer: o.g.

Tiverton Town
Probably start as pre-season favourites although they will have been disappointed to have come in 4th in their first campaign in the DML Western last season. For many years previously they'd been used to battling Taunton for domination of the Western League and regular FA Vase triumphs. Did not finish outside the top two of the Screwfix for seven seasons, and defended the Vase in 98/9 having won it for the first time the previous season.  A genuine big club who averaged gates in excess of 800 last season, and also have all the stuff associated with a successful non-league club.
Their Ladysmead ground is of a good standard, with plenty of covered standing. Good size bars and food, although disappointing lack of Devon cream and scones. Also have a very stable set-up under manager Martyn Rogers who has retained a good number of the squad that had success in the Western League and Wembley. Side will be full of goals again, with Phil Everett and Pete Varley supported by last season's top scorer Kevin Nancekivell from midfield. Play in all yellow.
Should get us a big gate for the New Year game, but how we ended up paired with a club so far away for the bank holiday fixtures is beyond me. I think we should have a whip round so the DML can get a new fixture computer.
Last Met - not since 1988, but bound to have at some point, it ain't that far away! 

Load of donkey-chasers who seem to have run out of steam having threatened to gain promotion a few seasons ago. Stadium is a half-finished breeze-block hole, but is at least properly enclosed and has a big bar with very limp chips. Came in 12th last season having been once again held together by former Bristol city defender Andy Llewellyn, and will be looking to gradually build on that. For added excitement the side is coached by former City forward Graham Withey. Not a very inspiring place to visit, especially on Boxing Day (thanks the Southern League), but on the bright side the ground's just off the motorway so you don't have to get caught up in the town centre kitsch and the seaside elderly. 
Last Met - 9th Sep. '97. W1-0 (h) DMCp-2. City Scorer: o.g.

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