Fourteen months I wrote this, and it finished with some prophetic words
So, having written 948 words about it (and probably missed a few out), we’ll probably be put in the Southern League. But it’s worth considering that I predicted Conference North for the Blue Brazil while even the league thought it would never happen….
So I’ve waited a couple of extra months before starting work on this summer’s “looking forward” article. But we appear to be really, really appear to be in the Isthmian League this coming season and even the closure of Thurrock and (the wonderfully named) Shaw Lane Aquaforce and the incessant whinging from Met Police (who kindly suggested we should be in the new Central League so they could have our place) isn’t going to going to stop up.
So it’s time to look at the 21 sides we’ll be facing
2017/18 – 1st Bostik North 103 pts/46 games
Formed in the summer of 2005 from the ashes of Hornchurch FC following their spectacular rise from Division Three of the Isthmian League to Conference South in the space of four years before going bust, The new club reached Conference South by 2012/13 but were denied the chance to face the Blue Brazil by a crazy idea that we were northern. The clubs did meet in November 2012 with Blues winning 3-2 at The Stadium in the FA Trophy third qualifying round thanks to a sparkling performance by Ali Abdulahi
We also met in a pre-season friendly in July 2014 with Blues winning 1-0 and the new Urchins returned to the ProKit on a freezing January night in 2017 and won 3-2 despite late goals from Aaron Greene and Greg Cundle.
They strolled to the Bostik North title last season, getting within three goals of a century to go with their 103 points. It was a fitting tribute to secretary Pete Butcher, the greatest local sports journalist I ever met. They reached the FA Cup third qualifying round before going down 2-0 at Southern League champions Hereford but their FA Trophy campaign ended at the first hurdle when they lost a home replay against Thamesmead Town. Crowds at The Stadium were up by ten percent to 198.
Bognor Regis Town
2017/18 – 22nd National League South 27pts/42 games
Old rivals of Blues from our Isthmian League last millennium and the early days of Conference South and the scene of some epic away trips.. The Rocks and Blues swapped levels last season but their time back in the second tier proved to be brief as they finished rock bottom (sic, sorry) with just five wins from 42 games. The last meetings between the clubs came in2008/9 with Blues winning both games as Bognor finished bottom of Conference South. They’ll look to avoid a repeat of that era as they fell straight through the Isthmian Premier into the southern division. Despite relegation, crowds at Nyewood Lane were up 9.6 percent to 603 to make them the seventh best supported team in National League South
2017/18 – 20th, 48pts/46 games
The new season will see Blues face Regent for the first time in a league game. Rod Stringer did take a team of trialists to North Road four years ago, going down 1-0. Having been formed by 2005 a merger of youth side Regent Park Rangers and Brightlingsea United who had dropped out of senior football, they have made quick progress up the football pyramid but found their first season at step 3 tough going, exiting the FA Cup at the first hurdle against Hanwell Town. The people of Brightlingsea seemed pleased to watch higher division football, with crowds up 42 percent to an average of 215.
Burgess Hill Town
2017/18 – 20th, 36pts/46 games
Another new opponent for the Blue Brazil, and the Sussex side will look to put a poor season behind them having only been saved from the drop by the reorganisation on non-league football and only avoiding relegation on goal difference. They did progress in the FA Cup with wins against Colney Heath (after a replay) and National League South Wealdstone before losing against Dartford. They also defeated Aveley in the FA Trophy before going out against Hendon. Crowds at Leylands Park held up well despite a difficult third season at step 3 level dropping by just six percent to 328.