The Thames Valley Premier League season kicks off on Saturday 19th August 2017 with a full fixture list for its Premier Division, a division that has seen change from last term, followed by midweek games on the following Wednesday 23rd August.
And we are here to ch-ch-check out the ballers, stallers and possible brawlers (we don’t condone that, we have none of those teams in our league, it just rhymed) for the upcoming term.
(You may also notice this will be a mix of the fantastically worded league release, packed with authority, actual fact and well-worded, unbiased opinion….and our bit. A mix of ill-advised humour, uneducated views and a smattering of unadulterated love for grassroots football. Don’t like this mix? Sue us. Go on. Try. Our lawyer is ‘Don’t Call Saul’).
Despite the changes one thing that remains certain is that Reading YMCA will be one of the leading teams as they seek to win a third successive title having gone through last season unbeaten. I know we all hate Arsenal fans banging on about the ‘Invincibles’ but to do that in Padworth is pretty special. The Young Men start their title defence with a home game to new boys Wokingham & Emmbrook Reserves who have transferred into Thames Valley Premier League from Division Two East of Uhlsport Hellenic League. The formidable strike force of Donegan & Adams bagged 53 in just 52 games last term & ill take some stopping this term…we challenge you both to end 1 & 2 in the goal charts. Do that, we’ll be impressed.
W&E are on a rebuild mission after their term last, er, term, where they did not enjoy the best of seasons. It is a tough baptism for the Sumas who follow this trip up with a visit to last season’s runners up Marlow United on Wednesday. The Satsumas are an unknown entity this season but with a lovely ground and a very well run set-up, they are a welcome addition to the TVPL.
Marlow United have (the paper put ‘had’ here, we don’t think that’s grammatically correct. We realise we’re opening ourselves up here for a barrage from the word police but please re-read above…sue us) a change of ground this year, playing at Derehams Lane Sports Centre, Loudwater while the Environment Agency undertakes work Gossmore Lane. United welcome Wright & Unity Sports to Derehams Lane on Saturday. Wright & Unity Sports is a merger of Wrightchoice CSA and Unity during the close season. The U’s have had a decent pre-season despite losing several players in the summer but can they maintain the standards that took them to the B&B final last term?
Last term’s third place Newbury have also lost a big player as leading goal scorer Danny Langford has moved up a notch to Hellenic side Binfield and, with this being their last season at Farraday Road, face an uncertain future. They will be looking for maximum points on the opening day when Taplow United visit but will find the A4 derby on Wednesday a tougher challenge when they visit YMCA’s The Cauldron ground.
But we see a hungry club and we’ve a hunch that while they may not steam-roller teams this term, they could stay in the Champions League places IF they keep enthusiasm in March and April once the title charge could be done…(we feel bold tonight and are expecting heavy abuse for this prediction…).
A team who have had an impressive pre-season is Woodcote Stoke Row who face a trip into the unknown to Wraybury Village with the villagers having undergone change on and off the pitch in terms of management team, players and committee members. The Oxfordshire side is then at home to Highmoor Ibis United.
We want to believe that the Woodcote training sessions are like the Real Madrid ‘one touch’ piggy session. Like the football equivalent of Willy Wonka’s factory. You turn up, get changed into a gold kit, play mesmeric, Cruyft-esque football for an hour, then go home and relax in a bath filled with champagne. We said last year they (for no reason) were our favourites, but will discipline be an issue? Undoubtedly ballers, these boys could be the dark horse challenge if they can reduce the ‘goals A’ column….
Highmoor Ibis United (who have changed from Reserves), who have also seen a change in the management team during the summer, offer the annual question…how good COULD they be? Fantastic infrastructure. Great pitch. Lovely use of graphics on the Twitter feed. But are they the Diego Costa of the league…a group of unquestionable talent, but just not that likeable? We’ll see…we might run a vote on this (plug ‘event’ into phone for 25th November to run a poll on Twitter). The Scours Lane team open at Mortimer.
Berkshire Trophy Centre Senior Cup winners Cookham Dean welcome Woodley United Royals before following this up with a visit from M4 neighbours Wraysbury Village. Cookham and United met in what was United’s final game of last season which Cookham won. We see the Dean as the up and comers this term…new players, including a top stopper, and an influx into both sides that mean business. They don’t have a ‘goal machine’ in their midst (but Lee Hawkins is an absolute baller) which may count against them but watch this space…we see these boys as real contenders.
Woodley United will be looking to improve on last season’s eight placing, the team’s highest in their two years in the top flight to date…perhaps not quite there from either goals scored or stopping them going in, The U’s are in a competitive league and feel to us a little like Stoke. Good. Mid table. Not many decent restaurants and among others that are pushing on. Middle earth for us.
Westwood United return to the division after a five year absence and will be playing home fixtures at Sol Joel Recreation Ground, Earley this season. Finally (those aware of regulations will get that). United start with a visit to Berks County followed by a West Berkshire derby at Mortimer. Two players moving on from the Division One champions Westwood are the Kingsbeer brothers Ryan and Adam who have joined Wright & Unity Sports. A Prem team no doubt but now these boys are among the elite. We see mid-table here, which would be an excellent term.
For some that were missed from the local rag (and these are definitely our words)…
Berks County are building. They want Top 6. They’re like Everton. Pushing. Trying. Good owner. But will come up just shy of their target…will be entertaining though. The first game is always seen as a ‘warm-up’ but Westwood will test credentials.
Taplow feel forgotten. Have they kept Marvin Hinds? That’s the big one…Billy’s Boys will turn up, but will they turn up enough times to keep the wolf from the door? Away at Newbury is a ‘no lose’ but they must want 3 pts on the Wednesday night v Unity whoever Sports someone.
We now like Wraysbury. We weren’t sure but a wonderful pre-season, excellent comms on Twitter and a packed, talented squad; they’ve asked for attention, they got ours. We reckon the Villagers will improve on 7th. Mark these words. We’re going 5th. Prove us right chaps and lose that cardigan tag…
Mortimer have taken a knock & got back on it. Hosting Ibis will be a winnable effort but we hope others’ building won’t push the M’s backwards…how they’ve recruited will be key…
So there. Our view. And the view of someone more important who has better judgement. However, they don’t have our log-in…
So…top 3…tough, but we’ll accept our own challenge. Favourites are YMCA. Have to be. To win 3 in a row will be tough, but achievable for this brilliant side. We’re going Woodcote & Cookham but both to pull back mid-season runs from Wraysbury and Marlow who will complete a top 5 that will be covered by about 8 points, top to 5th. A true league this term.
So, let’s promote this division, the TVPL’s crown jewels. Follow these sides on Twitter & FB and get behind them in cups and the B&B…the better our Premier sides do, the better it reflects on our league!
Don’t agree? A member of Wraysbury’s title hunting side that now hates us? Maybe a Cookham glory hunter keen to praise us? Drop your views to us through @readingleague on Twitter and some little box somewhere on this site. Please do. Replying to you will mean we don’t have to talk about the weekly shop or when we’re going to the mother-in-laws for a roast chicken that we obviously do better…