With the TVPL D1 season beginning this coming Saturday, we’d thought a controversial yet mildly educated preview was a better idea than convincing the missus to go out on Transfer deadline day so we can watch the tele.
So, while we wonder how unproven 21-year old French kids with names that reminds us of the first time we saw braids on ITV primetime and the phrase “50 50” are worth £92m (that’s 36.8 million pairs of Sondico socks from Sports Direct by the way), we’ll “predict” the Division One title race.
Team by team. Key player by key player. We’ll end with a top 3 to try your luck with Paddy Power with (too many “withs”, check before posting)…might even wildly anger some teams with wildly inaccurate details. Mneh. We’ll live.
Before we start, we reckon this is THE hardest title to win, THE hardest division to get up from and, without doubt, the most competitive of all the TVPL races. A royal rumble (hence the childish picture relating to wrestling, something we thought ended with the Ultimate Warrior in 1993). A proper footballing group of clubs. We. Cannot. Wait.
First up, we’ll look at those that romped home in D2 to earn promotion; the champs Burghfield, long-time leaders Westwood Ressies & the much-changed Finchampstead.
A wonderful end of season charge for the Burghs saw just 1 loss in their last 13 games, albeith with several walkovers. With 8 straight league wins to wrap up the title, including a 3-1 win over Westwood Reserves, these boys have bottle. Just missing out on the double (losing the League Int Cup final to Finch), this lot have a good backline but not as many goals as others despite Dom MacKenzie’s impressive haul of 22 in 20 last term. They need him to hit the ground sprinting. Will contest every single game, a good season will be mid-table. An opener at home is a nice start…
Westwood Ressies shout a lot but back it up. Long-term leaders in D2 last term (mainly due to lack of cup runs), these boys were top scorers – Dan Nicholson leading the way – and the tightest at the back. The two losses to their nearest rivals at crunch time shows they are brittle, despite steamrollering some lesser sides. That said, if their much-tipped Firsts improve their squad due to Step 7 football, these boys could benefit. We see a good side, perhaps not as consistent as some other, more seasoned sides. Again, mid-table should be seen as a very good term. Their start? A trip to title favs Magpies. Oh dear.
All the troubles at Finchampstead over the summer have left this side with some ballers. Pre-season was encouraging and with a lovely home surface to play on, these boys could surprise. First hand evidence suggests several that could play at a higher level among the ranks and up top, will be a handful. Squad depth could be an issue but these Finch boys could surprise. Expect a fast start and some big results at home along the way to them finishing mid-table.
There are two big teams down from the Prem that don’t like this D1 lark. Twitter glitterati Hurst want back in, their relegation like the fat kid in the tuck shop queue that lost his place to do his shoelaces; a valid reason for his grief, just bad timing. An end of season blitz saw them score and not lose after an awful term but will they be the Portsmouth or the Newcastle of the league. We honestly have no idea.
Rotherfield will also be a conundrum. In only winning 2 games all term, they will surely be wary of joining a group of clubs where goals are all over the place. That said, a level division should mean the occasional ‘win when playing badly’ can happen more than when facing the brilliant YMCA and Marlow each week. We sense a reality check for these boys. An opening home tie vs the YMCA Rapids will be a great sensor check.
We also have another new club in D1 this term. Following both the Maidenhead sides from the EBFL, Richings Park come with a big reputation and some very experienced ballers. In contention for the Premier title til mid-April, these lads know how to play and how to score…with 25 more goals than ANYONE else in that Prem, the weakness was at the back and having a deep squad to cope with creaking bones. A welcome addition to the league, we think following those Maidenhead sides’ tradition of a debut mid-table, challenging season would be seen a success. A home tie v Finch will be a very good pointer as to how these lads will fare…
So to those Maidenhead sides. Maidenhead Magpies will start as title favourites. Last year’s runner’s up, the stripes have moved to Bisham to play on one of the local area’s best surfaces and have added quality to replace those who left to play Reserves in the lower reaches of the EBFL. A question will be how to replace YMCA-bound top-scorer Lishman’s goals (as Stormzy said, he was big for his boots, but someone gotta fill em) but with a strong, physical yet technical side, we can only see title contention this term and the step to Number 7 come May IF they keep that discipline in check. Hosting Westwood Ressies, we see a few games getting to grip with new faces, then run of wins, wins and more wins.
Maidenhead Town have also had a summer of change. A new third side full of youth. A new first team manager and several new signings for the Senior sides. After a good debut term, the Dessy Park based boys will fancy building and improving from 5th. More goals will be needed to move from middle earth but with a solid core, some good passing football and a growing group of young players, this lot will either be in contention come May for honours, or start slow and be playing catch-up. Full focus is on the league, not the cups, so have the chance to set some pace.
Frilsham are another than play good football but perhaps lack the goals and the consistency to improve from last term. Top of the bottom half of the table last term, we hope they’ve strengthened as all around them have. Could be a tricky season if not.
Cookham Dean have added to the ranks. Burrow’s Boys had a disappointing term last year given their standards but with the Firsts rampaging the Prem and extra faces giving the squad depth, we see a fast start for the Dean this term. If Mr Schaaf is about, they have goals. But a consistent starting XI always been the problem…resolve that, and we may have a push for Top 4. If.
Imaan Lions are an odd bunch. On their day, they can play anyone off the park. Ask Champs Westwood when this lot were 10 mins from derailing their season! But then they capitulate and lose games they shouldn’t. With the South Reading gaffer influence and a good preseason, this lot could be the team to watch this term, provided they have kept the goals from Kallarda and Khan.
YMCA Rapids. A wonderful run last term through consistency and a good attitude. They know how to play the Padworth pitch and if they work as a club and use their excess Firsts to bolster the squad, this lot could run riot. Another well run club with a way of playing and good discipline, the YM need to find more goals to match the likes of Eldon & Magpies, but can scrape a game when not playing well, something other sides can’t. Watch them, as could be top 2, could be fighting relegation.
Eldon, for some reason, are last on our list. Another side that can play any team off the park but let down by the loss of key players on occasion and discipline…not as in red cards, but match shape as they pour forward. Early runners last term, they cracked when playing the big sides in big games, but can stream teams if they get the movement going. Hard to better last term this year but, again, depends on new faces and how they work on their defensive shape and countering teams breaking on them.
Right. Reread that and you’ll notice we haven’t called any of this. It’s impossible. We honestly don’t know. This division will have all the teams beating each other all season. There will not be a runaway leader and the drop will be until the final few games.
But, we’re paid (in chocolate buttons and promises) to give the crowd what they want. So here we go.
Top 3; Magpies, Finch, YMCA Rapids (if they get the use of First squad). Agree? Thanks. Don’t? Bike it.