Preview 2002/3

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The Terrace Trash
Bluffers Club by Club Guide
to the DML Western Division

(Really, Don't Expect any of this to Happen in 2002/3)

Atherstone United

A club that seems to follow us around the DML, possibly because in Sheepy Road they have the coldest and most godforsaken ground in the league and the footballing gods know how much I hate going there. You can guarantee that if we were to get promotion at any point the Adders would be hot on our tail out of sheer spite.

Long-term the Warwickshire side still talks with the usual ambitious guff about progress but it is difficult to see much other than mid-table struggle for them in this campaign. Their summer preparations have been dogged by an on-going dispute with the borough council over the terms of their ground lease and there would seem little to cheer fans for the coming campaign. Plans for a new ground seem to be up in the air as well.

Over the close season Kenny Willis has been confirmed as manager after spending a period as caretaker, hopefully not of the ramshackle stadium. However his summer will not have been helped by the decision of key midfielder Andy Malone to quit football. His departure is compounded by the exit of Leon Doughty to Hinckley and Lee Middleton to Bedworth. Difficult times ahead.

Last season we played them twice during April, losing a violent encounter away before trouncing them at Meadow Park. Despite City being a considerably stronger side the away trip has been something of a recurring nightmare for us. You can expect much the same sort of results this season.

World Cup Side - Ecuador. Nobody expected them to do anything much and everyone was proved right.
Last Season - 9th
T-Ender Prediction: 16th
Odds: 16-1

Bedworth United

An impressive little club that give the impression of being well aware of its limitations but none the less determined to do as well as they can. The Oval is a huge bowl of a ground, but the locals seem friendly if slightly too sparsely distributed to create much of an atmosphere. Last year their hospitality may have been due in part to City's generosity to the Greenbacks, managing to get soundly trounced both home and away to a side that was sharp up front but should never have caused us such humiliation.

Having kept most of the squad and overcome threats of being chucked out of the DML due to their pre-Victorian oil-lamp floodlight system Bedworth will be looking to improve on last season's inconsistencies. Have strengthened their squad with the addition of the Middleton brothers, especially Craig Middleton who has signed from Halifax and had previously been with Coventry and Cardiff. New signings will temper the disappointment of losing Ross Harrison up front and Bedworth may surprise a few people next season with some one-off results. They will expect to do better than last year, but they simply do not have the resources at present to mount a title challenge. City can only improve against them this campaign and will hopefully pick up some points.

World Cup Side - A touch of Costa Rica, flatter to deceive and strong going forward but not good enough to win regularly.
Last Season - 11th
T-Ender Prediction: 10th
Odds: 12-1

Bromsgrove Rovers

A welcome return for our neighbours after a season exiled in the Midland Alliance. A short trip for the away game and with the club resurgent the former Conference outfit has seen their attendances rocket back up to a respectable level. For City fans of course no trip to Bromsgrove can fail to awaken memories of that strange day in 1991 when for a few minutes we thought we were in the Conference. Things have changed a lot for both clubs since that time.

Bromsgrove have realised that their promotion is an ideal time to recruit new players. They've added an astute mix of proven campaigners like their former Conference keeper Chris Taylor signed from Hinckley along with former England semi-pro full back Stewart Brighton, a signing sweeter for having been pinched from under the gaze of Redditch. Add some fresh local talent including pacey midfielder Ashley Reed poached from Ciren and Rovers are likely to be difficult opposition this season. It's still hard to see them being quite ready for a push back to the DML Premier though. Finances have been rescued by supporters and local business, but not to the stage where big spending can be contemplated. Upper mid-table would seem a realistic goal.

World Cup Side - Denmark: Normally turn up, win friends and beat a good team before running out of steam before the prizes get handed out.
Last Season - 2nd Midland Alliance
T-Ender Prediction: 9th
Odds: 33-1

Cinderford Town

Our most local of local rivals quietly fancy their chances of making real progress this season. They were hot and cold last season but produced some performances that give some credence to their plans for a surprise assault on the top few places. They have steadily built up a good squad of players with the additions of Scott Griffin and ex-Cardiff man Richard Pugh bolstering the confirmation that Lee Relish has joined permanently. They will have been especially pleased to have seen off City's attempts to lure away Darryl Addis, although that will be tempered by Adie Harris and Lyndon Tomkin's decisions to head for Meadow Park's bright lights.

Ultimately though Cinderford's aspirations may well flounder as they have little flexibility in their finances and the relationship between manager Tony Hopkins and the club is volatile and may yet unravel. Even given a stable ship it is likely their squad is too thin to sustain any real prolonged challenge on the top few places. Plus which, they still have the problems with drainage that usually creates an end of season fixture pile-up - and City fans will remember all to well what that can do to promotion hopes.

World Cup Side - Sweden: Well organised, if predictable. Whole team is greater than its constituent parts. But that ain't enough to get you up I'm afraid.
Last Season - 15th
T-Ender Prediction: 14th
Odds: 66-1

Cirencester Town

Have moved to their long awaited new stadium and seem to be well fancied to do well this season purely on that basis. Unfortunately they may well find that teams on the park don't automatically follow bricks and mortar and it's difficult to see them managing anything more than mid-table. While their Academy continues to produce a conveyor belt of young talent into the side they seem to struggle in keeping hold of any player who looks capable of taking them to a higher level.

Despite the wonderful new stadium they've lost a steady trickle of players throughout the summer, Gary Hagon going to Bath and most recently and most tellingly heavyweight goalkeeper Kevin Sawyer taking his ability to both stop the ball and eat pies to Salisbury only weeks before the start of the season. The young players coming in may have talent but often lack confidence, strength and experience. Add to that the loss of Ray Baverstock from the set-up and it may be a difficult settling in period for Ciren.

World Cup Side - Cameroon: Good young players are only part of the battle, can they perform over a whole season. At least the Cotswolds is too cold for those dreadful sleeveless shirts.
Last Season - 13th
T-Ender Prediction: 18th
Odds: 12-1

Clevedon Town

The Seasiders have always had close links with City and normally have at least a few ex-players knocking about in their squad. They were expected to do better last season following relegation from the DML Premier, but the loss of key players made it a difficult transitional season as Steve Fey was forced to rebuild his squad. This season is likely to be more of the same for the Somerset side, with new arrivals likely to take a while to bed down.

A promotion challenge would be a lot to ask at present, and mid-table respectability would seem more of an achievable goal. Things look tricky after a summer that has seen more players like Wayne Thorne head off for new challenges with the manager once again left with the unenviable job of trying to make contenders out of not very much quality. Even promising youngsters like forward Sam Allison and Jason Matthew have moved on. To replace them come in some seasoned but aging campaigners like Grantley Dicks and keeper Steve Weaver. The arrival of Lee Vickerman from Chippenham in midfield may bode well, but there seems little depth or spark to the squad this time out.

World Cup Side - Uruguay: A small team who've done it before but won't necessarily do it again. Expect plenty of fireworks on the way though.
Last Season - 10th
T-Ender Prediction: 15th
Odds: 33-1

Evesham United

Maybe it because I'm a sour jaundiced individual, but there's something about Evesham I just don't like. Perhaps its got more to do with playing in red and white and rejoicing under the nickname of the Robins, perhaps its because their officials and staff spare no effort in being rude and obnoxious to us, perhaps its because their players have short tempers. Perhaps it's me?

Anyway - back to the football. Once perennial whipping boys of the division Evesham are now a strong competent outfit who will do well again this season, but will always be just that little bit off the pace. The clubs efforts are quite rightly being focused on completing their move away from their current waterlogged swamp of a ground, and once their relocation is done you can see them managing to do a little more.

This summer has seen some steady pruning of the old and some new faces arrive, but more of the competent type than the sort of signing likely to set the division alight. The club itself claim to be 'developing youth' - not smacking of confidence about this season. However some like former Nuneaton forward Richard Purchase and former Lincoln youngster Grant Pinkney may turn into real gems. Every game is going to be a battle against them, especially for us when they always seem to find something a bit extra.

World Cup Side - Argentina: Plenty of talent but at times seem more intent on beating their opponents than winning the match. May just think they're better than they are.
Last Season - 12th
T-Ender Prediction: 12th
Odds: 40-1

Gresley Rovers

Memories of a few years ago still rankle for me, so I may be somewhat bias in my views on Gresley. They did well last season and looked capable of mounting a real challenge this season until the departure of John McGinley as manager upset their plans. Have lost a few players as a result of the change at the helm and that may set their promotion timetable back at least a season.

The appointment of ex-Leeds defender Jon Newsome as manager means another high profile former top flight player in charge and he seems to have been able to add a few quality signings, all be it his late start meant looking for last minute scraps in the transfer supermarket. Despite this he's picked up one of the club's long term targets in former Port Vale forward Danny Hobby who joined from Leek and Gary Smith who has scored goals to help Halesowen win this division in the past.

Struggled for goals pre-season until they whipped Guiseley 7-0 last week and they may be running into form just at the right time. Likely to be a lot better than some may expect, but probably just a little bit short of promotion material this time around. Tough opposition and likely to be difficult to beat at the Moat, but not enough to get their hands on the shield.

World Cup Side - Germany: Nearly always in the hunt and I'd tip them to grind out results again this year despite perhaps lacking too much individual talent.
Last Season - 5th
T-Ender Prediction: 3rd
Odds: 12-1

Mangotsfield United

Had a disappointing season last time when fixture backlogs took their toll and prevented them reaching the heady heights they'd managed in their first DML campaign. Despite last season's flop the Mangos are a strong outfit now and still have potentially one of the freest scoring attacks in our division. If everything clicks into place they could even be an outside promotion bet and it would be interesting to see what sort of support they'd get from west Bristol if they began to do well.

Have had a fairly quiet close season in terms of new arrivals, but have managed to keep the players they wanted from the previous campaign. If it ain't broke don't fix it. They have shown some ominous pre-season form though, including a 2-1 victory against Bath.

We've never really got to grips with Mangotsfield in our previous meetings and they are always a combative team. This could be even more important this season, as they seem likely opponents in the League Cup and FA Cup as well as the league this season. Let's hope they start their season slowly enough for City to get a decent cup run for once.

World Cup Side - South Korea: May not quite do it this time out but you do get the sense that at some point this lot are going to emerge from the wilderness and be very good. Hopefully not quite yet.
Last Season - 7th
T-Ender Prediction: 7th
Odds: 10-1

Merthyr Tydfil

How hearts the length and breadth of the M5 must have leapt in eager anticipation of a Merthyr visit on news of the Martyrs relegation. Life has barely seemed worth living with the loss of our annual pilgrimage to the arse end of the Valleys to be abused by groups of pre-pubescent schoolboys already full of venom at their cruel luck in being consigned to life behind the fences of Pendarryn Park.

Despite all the history and past achievements of the club it is difficult to see them bouncing straight back up as Halesowen did the previous year. Merthyr's finances seem difficult to follow, swinging from despair to optimism quicker than the sentiments of a tabloid sportswriter's view on the England team. They've lost quality players including Jim Rollo and Danny Haines from the squad that got relegated and rebuilding is likely to take a while. One new boy to arrive is former Southampton and Welsh youth player Ben Madwick, but exciting as he may be he'll have a lot to do to lift his team mates. Expect a top six finish but nothing more.

World Cup Side - England, and only partly because it'll upset them to be mentioned in the same breath. They'll do alright and have a bit of fire in their hearts, but still some way short of the quality they need.
Last Season - 20th DML Premier
T-Ender Prediction: 5th
Odds: 5-1

Racing Club Warwick

You have to have some sort of grudging respect for Warwick. They play on what looks like the overflow car park of the racecourse in front of a smattering of frostbitten locals who seem to have had their senses shriven in the hostile outdoors. The fans huddle over their soup and watch a constant diet of struggling, battling rearguard football that season after season sees their side miraculously escape the drop.

A squad of their size and quality cannot afford to lose players like defender Chris Massingham who defected to Sutton Coldfield in the summer. You'd like to say they could expect better this season, but yet again you can only predict a bottom two finish. This won't surprise them though and they'll pick up a few shock wins along the way, knowing our luck probably against us.

World Cup Side - Saudi Arabia. Capable of the odd moment of brilliance and generate widespread sympathy but nothing disguises that gap in class.
Last Season - 20th
T-Ender Prediction: 21st
Odds: 16-1

Redditch United

Likely to improve on last seasons rather dismal performance having brought in the manager that took Stourport into the DML. A bit of stability will do them good and are likely to be back in the top half of the table next spring. Memories of recent financial hiccups will not allow the squad to become too bloated though, so expect more of quiet improvement rather than trailblazing glory.

The matches between Stourport and them should be interesting, the Swifts think Redditch have nicked some of their top players and they are still fighting over a fee for talented young winger Alex Cowley. United have also signed midfielder Matt Hall from Halesowen and he'll add some steel to what was a fairly hesitant side last season. Will easily avoid any relegation worries but Redditch are another side going through a 'transitional' period.

World Cup Side - Mexico: Going to be a lot better than some people expected but not likely to have enough metal or quality to progress too much.
Last Season - 18th
T-Ender Prediction: 11th
Odds: 40-1


Another likely favourite to struggle this season after only winning a relegation reprieve last time out following the demise of Bilston and Bloxwich. Small and friendly club, but one that may well be playing at a level they will find difficult to perpetuate for too much longer. Saw several of their best players leave after their first season in the DML and find it difficult to compete with other local clubs on such small attendances.

For all the low expectations they put up a determined battle against City in the last game of last season in April and may yet survive if they can gather a good nucleus of determined workers. Seem to have added very little to a patchy squad though.

World Cup Side - Tunisia: May score a goal here or there but unlikely to get too much more and unlikely to be remembered by many people this time next year.
Last Season - 21st
T-Ender Prediction: 22nd
Odds: 80-1

Rugby United

Something of an unknown quantity after spending last season miserably exiled in the DML Eastern. They must be hugely relived to have scrubbed Newport Isle of Wight from their travel expenses, but as it's generally believed the Western to be the slightly stronger of the two lower DML divisions they may not find life as comfortable this campaign.

For most non-league fans it was a great shame when the VS Rugby name stopped being used, not least City fans for which the name calls up mixed memories of fat goalkeepers and grey-haired goal scorers ruining our promotion party. The new team has a lot to live up to and a lot of history to catch up with.

Unlikely to threaten but also unlikely to get pushed around - it looks like a season of mid-table consolidation for Rugby.

World Cup Side - Russia had some talented players but were doomed to have a largely anonymous campaign. Ask Consignia what they make of all this re-branding nonsense.
Last Season - 12th DML Eastern
T-Ender Prediction: 13th
Odds: 14-1

Shepshed Dynamo

Humiliated us at home last season but we gained some revenge with a victory at their place a few months later. Much is likely to depend on whether they can keep hold of top scorer Kirk Masters. With him a comfortable season in mid-table obscurity would seem guaranteed, without him it may be that they'll be anxiously looking over their shoulders. Too good to really struggle, not good enough to take it easy.

Seem to have had a quiet summer signings wise and I fear the worst. Anyone playing at somewhere as intriguing as Butthole Road really deserves some degree of success.

World Cup Side - Slovenia: Do really well simply to compete at this level but it could all go wrong so easily - one player at the heart of so much and if he were to fall out with the boss…
Last Season - 16th
T-Ender Prediction: 19th
Odds: 40-1

Solihull Borough

The Brummies were impressive last season and more than a bit unfortunate to fall away in the last few weeks to narrowly miss out on promotion. David Busst has had his budget cut but it has had little impact on the quality of his squad. The arrival of former Moor Green striker Mark Shepherd from Worcester has been tempered by the decision of last season's top scorer Derek Hall to take his mid-life crisis to Australia where he is planning to take up surfing. Once again you can expect Solihull to be slugging it out with Weston and their settled squad may prove the decisive factor. Despite the budget cut they will also find additional funds available to strengthen later in the campaign if they need fresh legs and new impetus.

The new ground at Damson Parkway is impressive and can easily be expanded to meet their ambitions, however the club must worry at the level of local interest. Last season's visit by City saw an oddly soulless response from the sparse fans with most of the population not even stirred by the prospect of promotion.

World Cup Side - Possibly a bit over the top, but they have a little attacking flair and are regular pre-season favourites so they get a fairly outlandish comparison to Brazil. All they need now is a bucktooth strike force and some attractive bikini-clad fans doing the samba. That might even get the fans through the gate!
Last Season - 4th
T-Ender Prediction: 1st
Odds: 7-2

Stourport Swifts

Made a solid start to their DML life last season and will be hoping to do at least as well this time out. Any ambition must be tempered by the need to develop their ground to progress and also by small crowds and being based in a relatively small town.

They will also sorely miss Alex Cowley, their talented young winger who has joined up with the former Swifts manager now at Redditch in a move still being contested through a FA tribunal. May suffer the fate of Rocester in their second season, but while I think they'll slip from last season's form they'll still comfortably avoid any relegation worries. Boss Tim Langford is well connected in non-league circles and will pick-up enough talent to keep the Swifts airborne.

World Cup Side - Belgium: Until you're there you're likely to forget they exist. Not going to trouble many people this time.
Last Season - 8th
T-Ender Prediction: 17th
Odds: 16-1

Sutton Coldfield

Something of a surprise last season when they managed to produce a late season run and having built on those foundations they'll expect to do at least as well again. Likely to provide strong opposition, but perhaps not quite strong enough to be placed amongst the favourites. However if the Brummies start well they may just gain some momentum and self-belief.

They will be boosted by the arrival of Simon Tucker, a prolific forward formerly with Gresley and most recently at Leek. If he scores regularly to add to what was previously a very solid side then they may just sneak up on the rails.

World Cup Side - Turkey: Have been threatening to make a real bid for glory for a while and may just do it some time soon. Dangerous opponents.
Last Season - 6th
T-Ender Prediction: 8th
Odds: 8-1

Swindon Supermarine

Struggled last season and looked like certainties for the drop until the appointment of John Murphy as their new manager provided the catalyst for a Spring recovery. Murphy seems to be in the type of environment where he can enjoy most success and has added a few astute signings over the summer.

The most well known to City fans is of course Darren McCluskey who will stop some of the problems at the back, but a few other signings suggest a general toughening of the side's backbone. However the gap they need to make up remains immense and Supermarine don't appear to have the players or resources to do much more than survive this season. There are teams likely to be weaker this season, but not many - so likely to be another long scrap of a season for them.

World Cup Side - China: Some time soon all the background work is going to pay off and then we must all be very afraid. Up until then though they'll keep on getting stuffed.
Last Season - 19th
T-Ender Prediction: 20th
Odds: 12-1

Taunton Town

Have at last stopped hiding shyly in the corner and decided to give it a go in the real world of pyramid football. The success of old rivals Tiverton and Chippenham must have spurred them on, but it will none the less be a tricky transition for the darlings of the non-league media. While they will undoubtedly have the power to move straight into the higher reaches of the division it is questionable if they will adjust to facing serious opposition week in week out. Taunton used to have a certain reputation for arrogance in the Screwfix Western and any failure to concentrate will see them drop points against even the weaker sides.

Their cause has not been helped by losing three important defenders over the summer due either to injury or unwillingness to increase their travelling to meet DML commitments. However the scope of their ambition can be seen in the calibre of their replacements, former Torquay man Tom Stocco and ex-QPR defender Robert Herrera signed from Merthyr. Up front former Forest Green and City man Paul Hunt will be expected to provide the goals. Despite providing an obvious threat to everyone else's promotion hopes Taunton will be a very welcome addition to the division, a proper club with a good sized support that can be expected to swell the coffers when City face them. 

World Cup Side - Italy. Full of talent and expectation but expect the hand wringing to start in earnest if results don't go their way. Time for DML linesmen and women to be nervous.
Last Season - 2nd Screwfix Western
T-Ender Prediction: 4th
Odds: 16-1

Weston-Super-Mare Town

Will be everyone's pre-season title favourites following a frenetic summer that has seen boss Frank Gregan sign nearly every available player in Dorset and Somerset, especially pillaging from financially stricken Weymouth. They've picked up former Exeter attacking midfielder Kevin Parker and former Plymouth defender Ryan Cross from the Terras. The one glimmer of hope in their line-up may be the addition of Danny Hunt from Chippenham - he never looked too solid for us and may do just enough to lose a few matches.

However WSM, sounding like a bad American fashion house, may find that the expensive squad finds it difficult to settle. Nobody likes show-offs - expect most teams to raise their game against them. They will have the class but will they have the metal? If they don't you can expect the ever mercurial backers of the club to weald the axe at both Gregan and his budget.

City will look forward to the games more than most, partly because of the Gregan links through Forest Green but also because they have a Gloucester born strike force of Jimmy Cox and Jody Bevan that you feel should by right be ours. The chances of Hosky smacking another winner like his wonder strike last season must be remote, but don't be too surprised if this is one of those fixtures that brings out the best in our team.

World Cup Side - France. Strong favourites and have an awesome squad on paper, I've got a sneaking feeling they may just blow it though.
Last Season - 3rd
T-Ender Prediction: 2nd
Odds: 7-2

Gloucester City

And lastly - what about us. It's all but impossible to be impartial about your own side and whatever you say there's always that sneaking suspicion we could surprise ourselves and go the whole season unbeaten. But trying to be realistic I'd expect us to improve significantly without necessarily quite setting the world alight.

After a few wobbly early months our form last season was stronger than our league position suggests. The loss of Luke Prince will be a blow, but his form had dropped off towards the end of the season and many of our younger players grew in stature as the season went on. Chris Thompson is a good addition to the side and the longer we can keep a player as talented as Neil Mustoe the better. The arrival of Lyndon Tomkins is good news but must be tempered by the departure of McCluskey which means we've not really added to the squad.

Our weakness will be up front where we cannot afford to rely on Karl Bayliss as the old warhorse's knees become less reliable. For all of that I reckon we can hit top six with a bit of luck, although by that I probably mean sixth. And that will be an achievement when you consider what was going through our heads this time last year.

World Cup Side - Spain: Plenty of talent and plenty of expectation but ultimately can we ever throw off our consistent record of having fallen at the final hurdle so often?
Last Season - 14th
T-Ender Prediction: 6th
Odds: 40-1


And now I've committed all of that to print I know I can enjoy loads of stick from some team or other when they march off with the title after I tipped them for mid-table obscurity. If you're so confident you're right and I'm wrong I want your tips in print on the City Open Forum so I'm not alone in taking stick next Spring.

PS - I know the person who compiled the odds smokes crack (Supermarine at 12-1 anyone, Warwick at 16-1 !) but I believe they've actually been quoted in the Midlands by a bookie. If you can find out where please let me know so I can get City at 40-1...