Preview 2003/4

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

(Really, Don't Expect any of this in 2003/4)


After last season's somewhat mixed efforts at crystal ball gazing we have rashly decided to have another bash - after all we got a couple of things right.
This season will be a fascinating one as the champions get a chance to play-off for untold riches (by non-league standards anyway) in the new Alliance, the rest of the league will be trying to finish in the top seven or eight. The tension will be further down the table than usual come the end of the season, while the bottom two spots seem to be no more dangerous than finishing 9th.

To add a different view we've also enlisted the help of the nice Mr Cowell from ITV's pop idol to cast his eye over the DML Western hopefuls. And he doesn't like crap footballers any more than he likes crap singers.

Atherstone United

Regular T-Ender visitors will know how much I enjoy travelling to Sheepy Road and will be able to imagine my delight at their last day escape from the drop last season. They did actually enjoyed a strong start to their previous campaign before financial problems bit deep and led to a player exodus and collapse in morale and form.

This season looks like one of hard struggle for the Adders, with the financial struggle for survival likely to overshadow their efforts on the pitch. The departure of Kenny Willis as manager has seen them left to experiment with a bewildering array of more than 80 players in pre-season which will have done little to help their team building or their consistency. How many of those players will be left when they're no longer being paid is a different matter. This season could see some heavy defeats, but there must be a fair bet we still manage to slip up against them as we always do. Hard to see the Adders repeat their trick of last season, and I'll actually be sad to see them go.

Last Season - 20th: H lost 2-1; A drew 1-1.
T-Ender Prediction: 22nd 
Simon Cowell's judgement: Mediocre is not usually something to aspire to but for you it may even be too ambitious.

Bedworth United

A club that fell away last season having done well in 2001/2. Were unlucky with injuries and surprising loss of form but having tipped them for comparative success this time last year I have no intention of making the same mistake this time. Having looked like a good footballing side last season appeared to be a backward step and they were more than happy to try and kick us off the park. Not a recipe for success.

The disgraceful treatment of manager Ian Drewitt and his departure after being given a vote of no confidence by text message will have done little for pre-season preperation. However several new signings seem to have added a bit of depth to the squad and have benefited from the problems at the nearby Adders with midfielder Scott Blair and nippy striker Kevin Charlery arriving. Another interesting signing is Lee Villers from Conference Tamworth. The Bedworth club remains a tightly run outfit but with resources limited they will not panic into overstretching the club for short term success. May improve a little on the previous campaign but mid-table would represent success this time out.

Last Season - 18th: H won 4-1; A drew 2-2.
T-Ender Prediction: 15th
Simon Cowell's judgement: You came from nowhere and will surely go back there.

Bromsgrove Rovers

Did fantastically well last season but having led the table for much of the season they will have to manage the disappointment of their 3rd place finish. A change of management after last season pretty much says everything about the expectations at Victoria Park and a failure to improve on last season would be seen as a disaster. Despite the relative success of the previous campaign there's been a large amount of squad turnover which may see them take a little while to get into their stride. A player like Paul Danks going leaves a gap in any squad. Still a very strong outfit and having been something of a surprise last season no-one will be too shocked to see them do well again this time out.

Bromsgrove were very strong at the back last season and will need to replicate that defensive success again as despite their form last year they are not a free scoring side like Mangotsfield or even City. New boss George Rooney has used his old Worcester contacts to bring in players with an extra bit of higher division expertise like keeper Paul Wyatt and forward Sam Bowen, both making the same trip from St. George's Lane. City did well to take six points off Rovers in two very close matches and would certainly settle for the same this time out.

Last Season - 3rd: H won 1-0; A won 4-2.
T-Ender Prediction: 2nd
Simon Cowell's judgement: If you can match your own opinion of yourself you'll do very well indeed.

Cinderford Town

After last season's overly ambitious pronouncements came to nothing the Foresters are much quieter about their hopes this season, but looking at the squad they have it is perhaps best they are. Their manager is former City boss Tommy Callinan who having lost some of his playing ability has become pretty spiteful on the pitch, and has not done enough to suggest he can really deliver results as a manager at this level. Cinderford are relatively stable but do not have money to burn and will have to again rely largely on young players from a fairly restricted local area.

Add to those the perennial problems of the boggy Causeway which invariably sees their January and February fixtures fall away and you could even predict that Cinderford will struggle to stay up. The loss of Scott Griffin from their forward line will be keenly felt and leave a heavy burden on Darryl Addis up front. The two main new signings, Steve Olczak and Kevin Slack, are both drafted in from Bishop's Cleeve and do not suggest instant change in fortunes. Have just enough quality and grit to avoid the drop, but it's hard to see them setting the division alight.

Last Season - 15th H won 4-0; A lost 0-4.
T-Ender Prediction: 19th
Simon Cowell's judgement: You have to wonder who ever gave you the idea that trying this might work for you.

Cirencester Town

Last season the move to the new stadium saw Ciren inexplicably tipped for greatness, which the team never quite delivered. A new stadium does not a great team make - but this season things look a lot better on the playing front. This time Ciren seem to have significantly upped their budget and have added several experienced and talented players to compliment the regular flow of promising youngsters produced by their academy. This is bound to make them a formidable outfit and one day it will surely deliver some real rewards, but perhaps not quite this season. The club is in some ways limited by the size of the town and even when doing well the locals seem reluctant to show their support through the gate. 

The young players coming in may have talent but often lack confidence, strength and experience. Up front though Cirencester look to have one of the most dangerous strike forces in the league, with the arrival of Scott Griffin from Cinderford and Jody Bevan from Weston, both targets for City who were outbid by the Cotswold club. In the last few seasons City have done well against their local rivals, despite last season's nine goal May thriller, but this season the matches should be close and full of good football.

Last Season - 14th: H won 5-4; A won 3-0.
T-Ender Prediction: 12th
Simon Cowell's judgement: In time you'll get better but I'm not sure I want to hang about and watch in the mean time.

Clevedon Town

The arrival of former Arsenal and Bristol Rovers midfielder David Hillier as coach seems set to strengthen yet further the existing relationship with The Gas and several of their new players are young loan signing from their League neighbours. They will add talent to the existing pool of players, but the relatively youthful look to the side may lead to some inconsistency and lack of commitment that could add up to little improvement on last season. The loss of Lee Jeffries to City will make them that bit easier to beat and much could ultimately rest of how the working relationship between the firey but effective Steve Fey and his new ex-pro coach settles down.  

Clevedon will be one of the most interesting sides to watch in this campaign and could do really well or fail spectacularly. Lack of obvious firepower leads me to suggest another mid-table finish, but they only need for one of those Rovers players to turn out to be a real loan star and they could provide the edge to push them much further up the table. Fey also has a proven record of finding and nurturing talemnt from lower divisions so it would be foolish to make too many assumptions. City failed to beat the Seasiders in two scrappy encounters last season, and these are exactly the games City will have to win this time out to improve on last season.

Last Season - 13th: H drew 1-1; A drew 1-1.
T-Ender Prediction: 13th
Simon Cowell's judgement: Life's tough at the top, but I don't think you'll ever need to worry about that.

Evesham United

My impression of Evesham as a club slightly improved last year, mainly thanks to their generosity in helping us take six points from them. Evesham are now a force to be reckoned with in this division and are not the whipping boys they were a few seasons ago, but the club's resources are still focused on the move to a new stadium.

On the pitch they've added former Shepshed and Halesowen forward Kirk Masters, and he is bound to add some considerable firepower to their line-up. However they have the sense of a club who are on a bit of a slide at present and I'm not sure that they're quite ready to bring in the sort of players they need to halt that with two of their other main signings both gambles returning from long term injury. Likely to drop a little further downward but still strong enough to be well away from the drop zone. 

Last Season - 12th: H won 6-1; A won 1-0.
T-Ender Prediction: 16th
Simon Cowell's judgement: Evesham's one of my favourite towns but you're not one of my favourite sides. 

Gresley Rovers

Gresley will never be one of my favourite clubs as I can bear a grudge quite happily for a lifetime, but none the less they provide consistently difficult opposition for us. The Derbyshire side will have been greatly disappointed with the previous campaign where they produced some good results but could never but together a string of victories to climb the table. The squad assembled by Jon Newsome last season should have been capable of more and the locals will be hoping for at least a top six finish, but his late summer departure could have disrupted the side with assistant Gary Norton untried as a boss at this level. 

The signing of defender Mark Smith from Solihull will bring some strength to the back line but not enough extra quality to make up many league positions. Gresley may be disappointed as other clubs in the division are building their strength and in some way the Moatmen seem to be slightly complacent in standing still. I'd suggest a season of treading water for the whippet boys and another set of hard games for City - we'd easily settle for 4 points from this lot again.

Last Season - 9th: H won 1-0; A drew 1-1.
T-Ender Prediction: 9th
Simon Cowell's judgement: It's not as easy as it looks doing it well, is it?

Halesowen Town

Halesowen are dangerously close to becoming a yo-yo team having dropped straight back down to the Western division after one season in the DML Premier. May get that dizzy feeling again this campaign as they simply look to strong to fail to do well this season. The Yeltz could have a little shock at the start of the season as I think the division has improved since they were last in it, but under Brendan Phillips they have a coach who knows how to get results and has contacts to bring in new players as and when he may need them.

Ultimately it is difficult to see any side more deserving of the favourites tag. A string of good players have left with the finances being tightened: Lee Collins to Moor Green, Les Hines to Hednesford and Richard Leadbetter to Redditch. However good replacements such as Lee Knight from Solihull have been found for a little less and they have the experience to slot straight into the gaps. Striker Jason Ashby has been in good form during pre-season and will be helped by the experience of former City and Tamworth forward Mark Hallam. City did alright against this lot last time they were in the division but we'll have to raise our game for our encounters and any points we might take from draws will definitely be points gained.

Last Season - 21st DML Premier
T-Ender Prediction: 1st
Simon Cowell's judgement: You can deliver the results, but can you make other people believe you're good enough ?

Ilkeston Town

Will be mightily disappointed to have failed to beat the drop after some electrifying late season form saw them almost do enough to come back from the dead. Similar form would see them climb straight back into the DML Premier but Ilkeston have lost a lot of players over the summer and appear to have had to reign in their budget after relegation. The likes of Ian Robinson, Nwadike and former City winger Tony Hemmings have left for northern League Alfreton and striker Leon Kelly and defender Brian Wooley were tempted to Worcester. All will be missed.

Always going to be awkward opposition, but the greater travelling distances to away games may also take their toll. Despite their good finish I think it may take them a while to settle but will probably just do enough to secure a place in the re-formed Premier.

Last Season - 19th DML Premier
T-Ender Prediction: 7th
Simon Cowell's judgement: May entertain a few on a cruise ship, but never thousands on television.

Mangotsfield United

The Mangos in full swing are capable of taking apart any club in the division but last season could not find any regular form. This season they've lost a couple of players but still have some real class and if they can find consistent form they'll be a good outside bet for the top few places. A bit of a surprise how their side seems to play with such zest given the miserable club officials and the presence of former City goal ace and moaner in chief Shaun Penny as their coach.

Having previously become something of a bogey side for City we managed to get rid of that problem with a couple of fantastic victories last season. The same level of entertainment would be great this season, but we'd settle for the same points tally. The departure of defender Scott Hendy to Bath and midfielder Ellis Wilmot to Chippenham may destabalise the side but in former Bristol City striker David Seal the Mangos can boast the outstanding striker of the division and his 34 league goals last season play a big part in their success. With other players also more than capable of scoring plenty of goals Mangotsfield will have to score even more regularly this time to cover their fragile defence.

Last Season - 6th: H won 4-3; A won 4-1.
T-Ender Prediction: 4th
Simon Cowell's judgement: I like your style and I like your confidence. I just don't like it enough to say you're any good.

Redditch United

The big spenders who suddenly seem to have found money from somewhere, I wish I'd looked down the back of their chairman's sofa before he did. Time will tell if the foundations are of stone or if this is a massive gamble aimed at winning the club a place at a higher level. While you can see Redditch doing well in this campaign you wonder where it might see them in a few year's time, not that any of their fans will be looking that far down the road if they get their hands on the title. Likely to improve on last season but the speed of that will depend much on how quickly a host of impressive new signings fit together and produce the goods. I think they'll do well, but the extra experience of Halesowen and Bromsgrove in being in the top few positions will ultimately help them edge out United. City will be desperate to do better against the only side to do the double over us last time, all be it they were rather lucky in both games - but then they're much stronger now!

Much of the squad still reflects the manager's previous side that took Stourport Swifts to glory but the addition of powerful midfielder Lee Ross from Bedworth will give them an extra bit of engine. Martin Myers makes the short trip from Moor Green. It will be interesting to see if the spending continues into the season, as that could easily tip the scales in their direction. 

Last Season - 7th: H lost 2-5; A lost 0-1.
T-Ender Prediction: 3rd
Simon Cowell's judgement: You can spend all the money you want, it doesn't always mean you're going to do it when it matters.

Rugby United

Rugby are one of the great names of non-league football's recent past and there are definite signs that the giant (I know it's non-league but all things are relative) may be stirring from its slumber. Worth keeping an eye on as an outside bet for the top few spots as their squad has an interesting mix of proven experience and some young talent produced by a strong youth team. Few teams will escape from Butlin Road with all the points, not a stirring prospect for City who face United away in their first fixture.

If Rugby have a weakness it is their tendency shown last year to put together strings of results, but not always of the right sort. If they get in a good run there is every chance of it leading to more, if things go wrong they may find it difficult to drag themselves out of the rut. Look like they have a good sized squad which ought to stand them in good stead, but will not have vast amounts to spend if things get tight near the end of the season. Strong at the back with the experienced Andy Commander their bedrock, and with the young Robbie Beard adding a cutting edge up front they have a good balanced look to the team. 

Last Season - 8th: H drew 0-0; A lost 0-1.
T-Ender Prediction: 5th
Simon Cowell's judgement: With a bit of guidance and a bit more inspiration I can see you in the big time.

Shepshed Dynamo

A club in reverse gear at the moment and their main efforts will still be in keeping the bank manager at bay rather than the opposing players. Shepshed have a small but loyal fan base who will hopefully win their fight to keep them alive, but they do not have much to fund new players and will be relying on guts and togetherness to get through the season with anything much beyond bottom spot representing success. 

More on sentiment than on good sense I think the fantastically named Butthole Lane will still see DML football next season, all be it not by much. May struggle for goals as they did last year, and will pray they can find a striker from somewhere. City always seem to slip up against Shepshed one way or another and will probably make an unwanted donation of a few points somewhere along the line.

Last Season - 16th: H won 3-1; A lost 0-1.
T-Ender Prediction: 20th
Simon Cowell's judgement: Surely even someone as untalented as you could realise this was a bad idea.

Solihull Borough

The Brummies have been chasing promotion for several seasons, but last year they seemed to have lost a little of their cutting edge and finished 4th after being my tip for the title. This season their expectations have changed, with the cost of building their impressive Damson Parkway ground not being rewarded through the turnstiles. Cuts in the playing budget had to be made and manager Dave Busst walked away so the club could save the cost of his wages.

The last budget cut put pay to their promotion hopes and this one will probably consign Solihull to mid-table, the loss of striker Andy Corbett to Nuneaton perhaps the most grievous departure. Borough still retain some good players and still have too much class to really struggle. Could still cause the unwary a nasty shock, especially at home - and maybe the harsh conditions will bond the team into a stronger unit, something City will know a little about.

Last Season - 4th: H won 4-2; A lost 1-2.
T-Ender Prediction: 8th 
Simon Cowell's judgement: Everyone can respect a tryer, but it doesn't mean you'll pass the test.

Stourport Swifts

A club who are now consolidating at this level, but last season had to resort to desperately unattractive football in order to sustain their stay in the division. City got a real kicking in the match at Meadow Park, but then friends don't count at the end of the season and points do. Given that they need to get more bodies through the gates in order to grow the club this might not be the best long term strategy though. The club needs to improve the facilities at Walshes Meadow in order to continue their progress.

The Swifts have had a busy close season and are clearly well funded from somewhere. Several players have been moved out to make way for new talent, including several players such as midfielder Ronnie Sayer from Telford who should make a difference at this level. Much will depend on last season's Midland Alliance top goalscorer James Woods making a success of his move from Oldbury and Richard Ball continuing last season's scoring form. Expect to see some improvement but still too little to really set the DML on fire. A less desperate fight against relegation, but still likely to end up at the wrong end of the table.

Last Season - 17th: H lost 1-2; A won 1-0.
T-Ender Prediction: 17th
Simon Cowell's judgement: Surely even someone as untalented as you could realise this was a bad idea.

Sutton Coldfield

Fell away a little last season after a surprisingly good 2001/2 but should be able to demonstrate they have a little more about them this time out. A few good signings have added to those who under performed last season and they will hope for more than mid-table obscurity. Can also call on a very strong youth team to provide some additional depth to their squad if hit by a bad run of injuries.

Always tough competitors the Brummies are hard to beat and that will make them a team few will look forward to taking on. The loss of forward Simon Tucker to Hednesford is a blow but they have other forwards who will ease the loss. The arrival of former Adders captain Danny Martin could be a vital signing for the Royals. If they can dig in for those close games and convert more of those games into tight wins they will be right up there in the pack. City did well against this lot and seem to have a happy habit of edging them out - hopefully they'll keep that going this time out.

Last Season - 11th: H won 3-1; A won 1-0.
T-Ender Prediction: 8th
Simon Cowell's judgement: No-one sets out to be ordinary so something has obviously gone wrong.

Swindon Supermarine

Supermarine have twice produced late, late charges at the end of the season to emerge unscathed from the relegation battles of recent seasons. Their fans must be hoping they can continue the blistering form of last season and get enough early points to avoid the panic of their last two campaigns, if only for the sake of their fingernails which must be gnawed down to the quick. Ray Baverstock is a canny manager, capable of getting the best out of players and certainly not lacking in motivational ability. With some added know how in the side it is difficult to see them not bettering their recent history, although they perhaps lack the infrastructure to support any improvement beyond the lower reaches of the mid-table area.

A few quality players underpin their hopes and as long as they keep hold of them and keep them fit Supermarine will be comfortably capable of overtaking the likes of Shepshed, Atherstone and Yate. Baverstock has used his Ciren connections to bring in forward Dave Twoomey from Bath and former City keeper Tom King has been poached from Hellenic neighbours Highworth Town. 

Last Season - 19th: H won 2-1; A won 2-1.
T-Ender Prediction: 17th
Simon Cowell's judgement: If you think you've improved you must have been pitiful before.

Taunton Town

Found the adjustment from the day-to-day steam rollering Western League opposition to battling for DML points a bit too much last season but still had enough quality at the club to finish a comfortable mid-table. The club have some power behind them in terms of resources, but have also made it clear that they will not be pushed into breaking their budget for short-term gain. 

The Somerset side are not likely to fair a whole lot better this season with manager Russell Musker struggling to add more ability to the side without breaking the bank, his squad now reduced to a mere 14 players. However two new arrivals boast League experience with Exeter, forward Sean McCarthy and Alex Watson could both be important players. Perhaps some of last season's bruises will add some extra steel to their play they may also get left a little behind the sides who are throwing money at what they see as a make or break campaign in the face of re-organisation. Time will tell who has made the wisest choice, but mid-table again for Taunton.

Last Season - 10th: H won 4-2; A won 2-0.
T-Ender Prediction: 11th
Simon Cowell's judgement: You have the ability to do better than this, but you have to perform on the big occasion.

Team Bath

A club whose success has divided opinion. For some they represent the rebirth of the old amateur Corinthian days when student teams dominated football and played for the love of the sport. For others they represent a cynical abuse of public money to attract former young professional players to a team watched by no-one and acting as nothing more than a PR ploy for an ambitious college. Whatever you make of them you have to admire the way they have pushed so far so quickly and many will be looking at their achievements and worrying about them taking the DML by storm this season.

Ultimately although I think Team Bath will do that well this season, and they will not do as well as you get the impression they think they will do. Taunton did not find their first season in the DML too easy, and Team Bath lack their level of experience. The Screwfix Western League is not as strong as it was a few years ago, and their good football of the title campaign may flounder against the more physical defences of the DML Western. The two or three year cycle that dictates their squad changes may see their continuity suffer, and a couple of last season's players have been snapped back up by pro clubs, like Ryan Northmore off to Woking, perhaps victims of their own success. You just can't see them having the grit to dig in for three points at the likes of Atherstone or Bedworth.

Last Season - 1st, Screwfix Western.
T-Ender Prediction: 14th
Simon Cowell's judgement: This is not just about the fancy touches, it's about hard work and I don't see you doing that.

Yate Town

Yate are brave for wanting to return to the DML after spending so many seasons fighting relegation before finally succumbing to the drop back in 2000. Finishing second in the Hellenic is some achievement but they have already lost several key players including captain Ross Casey from that side and Supermarine have shown what a difficult step up it now is to enter the DML. More worryingly for Yate they don't seem to have the resources or local support that other clubs winning promotion have had in recent seasons. All in all it is difficult to see Yate causing too many waves and having anything other than a tough struggle against relegation to look forward to.

The return of Yate also spells another City return for the unfortunate David Elsey who after a short spell at Meadow Park has since seemed to upset most local football players at one time or another. They have tried to bring in a few new faces, with Mark Smith from Ciren and winger David Lee from Weston perhaps the best known, but not in themselves enough. Unless they make a decisive move to bring a little more quality to their side they are in trouble.

Last Season - 2nd, Hellenic Premier
T-Ender Prediction: 21st
Simon Cowell's judgement: You've come here and taken up the place of someone who could have had a real chance. You have no chance.

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. Realistically I think we can perhaps hope that the experience gained last season and a few additions to the squad may see us fair slightly better than last season. Against that a lot of clubs are gambling on success this season and have strengthened their sides considerably. All in all I think we'll end up doing just enough to get a place in the new DML Premier, probably knowing this club only after putting its fans through the emotional wringer. 

Last season saw huge improvements from many of our younger players and the Trophy run really helped build their self belief, even though ultimately the resulting fixture pile-up may have detracted from the league campaign. This season much will depend on the same young players digging deep to continue to improve and perform consistently. The arrival of Lee Jeffries fills the gap left by Stephen Chipps' return to his travels. The biggest signings are those already at the club who have pledged their future to the club, not least Jimmy Cox whose pace and goals will remain vital to any promotion push. The side must also try to avoid last season's poor start, which ultimately cost us an even more exciting season.

Our weakness is still the relatively small size of the squad which allows little comfort zone for the unknown, be that suspensions, departures of God forbid serious injuries. We have the talent at the club but, as it always does, much will depend on luck....

Last Season - 5th
T-Ender Prediction: 6th
Simon Cowell's judgement: Natural, fresh, energetic and talented - if you want it enough you could make it...


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.