Needham Market, who lost to Enfield Town in the play-off final, move into their third season in the division having finished 2nd and 4th in the last two years. Seven of last season's squad have left Bloomfields and it has been reported that The Marketmen will be operating on a lower playing budget this season so it'll be a much changed XI who start the season at Ware on Saturday 18th August. Kieran Leabon and Craig Nurse have joined from Ryman Premier Bury Town along with Nathan Clarke from AFC Sudbury. Goalkeepers Alex Archer and Mark Bowden, left-sided player Jemel Fox (ex Leiston and AFC Sudbury) and striker James Hubbard have all also signed up. Hubbard scored 13 goals in 21 starts for Eastern Counties League Premier Division side Woodbridge Town last season. With all the player movement out of Bloomfields many people have been predicted that The Marketmen will not finish as high as they have done. However, TheColdEnd is not in this camp and fully expects Danny Law's side to be right up the top of the table at the business end of the season especially with a centre forward of the quality of Sam Newson still with the club.
Brentwood Town, who had last season's second best defensive record (only champion's Leiston beat them by one goal), have made some impressive signings to bolster their squad for the new season. Centre Forward Alex Read has signed from Tilbury after scoring bundles of goals for The Dockers last season along with Sherwin Stanley (ex of Aveley, Enfield 1893 FC amongst other clubs) who rejoins the club. Midfielders Greg Cohen (from East Thurrock United) and Frank Everett (from Canvey Island) have also signed. Promising goalkeeper Eliiott Justham, who had a trial with Reading last season, has also signed on after turning down some lucrative offers from other clubs. The Blues will definitely be one of the sides to watch this season. They start with a home game against Tilbury and then travel to Rush Green to face another side who will be strongly fancied in Grays Athletic.
Athletic celebrated moving into their new stadium last Friday night when they welcomed a West Ham United side for a friendly which attracted a decent crowd of 1,048. They have lost the talented midfielder Harry Agombar whom has made a move upwards to Blue Square Premier side Macclesfield Town. A great move for the attack minded player with, I'm sure, all the Grays Athletic fans wishing him all the best and following his progress during the season.
Hakan Hayrettin has added to his already strong squad by signing midfielder Leon Lalite who spent sometime with Harlow Town last season and forward Jack West who played for rival's Tilbury and Heybridge Swifts last year. Ex Towner Luke Marshall also turned out for Athletic in the West Ham United game and impressed many of the home support along with ex Romford goalkeeper Lamar Johnson. Both players have yet to officially sign for the club. Grays won the game 4-1 with The Hammers fielding a mainly youthful side including Freddie Piquionne and ex Machester United player Ravel Morrison. Athletic are a good side and it could so easily have been them (and not Enfield Town) who won the play-off semi final last season so there is no doubt they again will be up the top of the table once again. They play away at Waltham Forest and then have the Brentwood game in their opening fixtures.
AFC Sudbury have, as mentioned, lost Nathan Clarke to Suffolk rival's Needham Market. The defender who also scored eleven goals was last season's player's player and supporter's player of the year at The MEL Group Stadium. The Suffolk Free Press have reported Clarke left AFC due to a disagreement over a hernia operation. AFC finished in eighth position last season on 69 points when many people predicted them to be in the hunt for the play-offs with their poor start to the season really putting an end to their top five chances. They only won 6 points from their opening 24 available. The vastly experienced ex Stevenage Borough, Canvey Island and Grays Athletic player Lee Boylan has signed up and will be a welcome addition to the ranks. Boylan played in the Blue Square South for Thurrock last season and is sure to be amongst the goals for his new team. Harlow Town's player of the season for 2011/12 Dave Cowley has also moved to Suffolk. The winger and graduate from The Glenn Hoddle Academy had apparently turned down offers from higher level clubs to stay at Barrows Farm last season.
Another player to spend some time with the ex England manager's academy is Tom Webb whom has rejoined AFC Sudbury after spending last season with Tilbury. Ex Grays Athletic forward Danny Charge who had a spell with the club last season after returning from a nasty ankle injury which kept him out of football for a season has also signed. Left sided Eljay Worrell, who impressed for Tilbury last season, has also moved to AFC Sudbury. TheColdEnd fully expects AFC Sudbury to be much higher than last season's eighth position and thinks with the quality players they have signed they will right up in the title race this year.
Tilbury, who done so well last season, have lost a number of their players as mentioned but manager Paul Vaughan has been busy signing several new players as replacements for the forthcoming campaign.
Central midfielder Jack Carlile has joined from relegated Great Wakering Rovers. He has also represented Brentwood Town and Concord Rangers. Ex Canvey Island and Concord Rangers striker Ellis Skidmore has also signed. He scored many goals for Redbridge in the Ryman North division a few years ago. Former Millwall youth player Martin Llewellyn has also been added. He has also represented East Thurrock United and Essex Senior Side Burnham Ramblers along with right sided winger James Smith whom played for rival's Thurrock in the BSS last season. Highly rated Centre forward Emiel Aitken has stayed at Chadfields and will score goals for The Dockers this season. He missed only one league game for the club last season.
The unknown side are Wroxham whom are promoted to the RD1N after being crowned champions of the Eastern Counties League for 2011/12. If the examples of Lowestoft Town, Leiston and Needham Market are anything to go by then The Yachtsmen will be challenging at the top end of the table. No fewer than eight new players have been recruited by manager Dave Batch to freshen up his squad for their historic first campaign at the step 4 level of the non-league pyramid.
Scott Howie, Shaun Howes, Gary Gilmore and Damian Hilton have all left Trafford Park with Batch concentrating on bringing in young players looking to make a name for themselves. Pacey centre forward Claudio Langlois has resigned for the club along with 19 year old Joe Marsden and Jamie Speller whom are both wide midfield players. Speller impressed playing for Diss Town in the Eastern Counties League last season. Goalkeeper Andrew Plummer (released from Needham Market) will be first choice between the sticks after Scott Howie's departure.
Batch has also bolstered his midfield options with the impressive signing of Danny White from Kings Lynn Town and his defensive options by gaining Matt Halliday from Ryman Premier Lowestoft Town.TheColdEnd predicts that not many teams will come away from Trafford Park with points in the bag this season as in their championship season The Yachtsmen only lost twice at home to Gorleston (1-2) and to Mildenhall Town (2-4). This statistic looks more impressive when you read that the Mildenhall defeat was on the final day of the season when the title had already been won.
Harlow Town's seventh placed finish was a massive underachievement for the Essex club whom were predicted to be title contenders in pre-season after losing in the 2011 play-off final to Wingate and Finchley. Assistant Manager Christian Wheeler has departed over the summer along with Ryan's Kirby and Maxwell, Luke Marshall and Dave Cowley so there will be some new faces in their line up for the season's opener at Heybridge Swifts. Goalkeeper Bertrand Bossu has committed for the 2012/13 season and played in the 0-2 recent friendly victory over Takeley. Donny Barnard, Jack Haverson, Danny Brown, Getro Kilapi, Jeff Hammond and Reece Dobson all started for The Hawks in that match.
Manger Justin Gardner took over at Aveley last season after a successful spell at Essex Senior League Bethnal Green United. He joined in February, replacing outgoing Lee Hodges, when it seemed all too late to save the club from relegation. At the time the appointment was made with the long term future of the club in mind. Midfielder Ricky Edwards (from Waltham Abbey) is one of the players to join The Millers for the 2012/13 campaign along with Jay Leader (from Bethnal Green) whom has been named Captain. Leader has player for Aveley before in the 2007/08 season when as a 16 year old he spent sometime on loan from Dagenham and Redbridge. Gardner has brought several players with him from East London along with assistant Amos Foyewa whom played for Woking and AFC Bournemouth in his playing career. Both Foyewa and Gardner will want to start the season with a win at home to Maldon and Tiptree to banish the memory of Hendon's 1-7 win at The Mill Field on the final day of the Ryman Premier season in April.
For Maldon and Tiptree 2012/13 read Rebridge 2011/12 season as new manager Terry Spillane has left The Motormen and taken the vast majority of his squad to The Wallace Binder Stadium. Redbridge finished in the unlucky 6th place last season missing out on a play-off spot by just four points. It's safe to say that had Redbridge not been ultra successful in their FA Cup run to the second round proper they may well have qualified for the play-offs. The Motormen played seven games in the Cup which caused a fixture backlog towards the end of the season. With some additions to and many of the Redbridge players from last season M&T will be involved in the play-off race for 2012/13.
Maldon's neighbour's and local rivals Heybridge Swifts will be looking to improve on their finishing position of sixteenth last season. Ex manager Wayne Bond who was sacked by the Swifts after a run of poor results in January 2011 has returned over the summer to take up the position of Head Scout. He had a brief stint managing Eastern Counties League side Stanway Rovers after leaving Scraley Road and has played a pivotal role in bringing in three players from his old side. Midfielder Ben Newson (twin brother of Needham Market's Sam) has joined along with striker's Michael Cheek and Russell Malton who has played for the Swifts previously. Newson clearly has an eye for goal like his brother as he hit the back of the net 29 times in 39 starts and 3 substitute appearances last season. Cheek was close behind him on 26 goals in 43 starts and 1 sub appearance. Goalkeeper Nicky Eyre (ex of Bishops Stortford and Chelmsford City) has also joined. With these additions to Mark Hawkes squad, in particular Ben Newson, they Swifts should finish much higher than 16th.
Two of the trio of East London based sides in Redbridge, Ilford and Waltham Forest have new managers in place. Kevin Lucas has moved up from Essex Senior League Enfield 1893 FC to take over from Colin Walton at Ilford with Walton moving to Cricklefield tenant's Waltham Forest as Assistant Manager. Redbridge have replaced Terry Spillane with a joint management team of Del Robinson (whom is a full time coach at West Ham United) and non-league legend Steve Portway.
Redbridge press secretary Adam Dennehey put some questions to Portway on the Redbridge website (Link here) in which the new joint boss states the new look Redbridge team will have a young side with most players playing at R1DN level for the first time. The Stags had a good 1-5 friendly win at Hatfield Town on Saturday 21st July.
The other promoted side, as well as Wroxham, are Essex Senior League Champions Witham Town. Manager Gary Kimble has added to his title winning squad signing Danny Emmanuel (from AFC Sudbury), Jason Fontaine (Grays Athletic) and Tom Devaux (Stanway Rovers but also represented AFC Sudbury). Pacey forward Emmanuel should score some goals for the league new boys next season with Fontaine injecting some speed out wide too.
Soham Town Rangers manager Steve Fallon is going about re-shaping the squad at Julius Martin Lane. A number of last season's squad have resigned with the ex Histon manager raiding The Kershaw Cambridgeshire League to sign striker Robbie Mason and Buster Harradine.
Mason played for Sawston United last season but has previously scored goals for Ely City and Cambridge City. Midfielder/Stiker Harradine signs from Great Shelford having previously Fulbourne Institute and Waterbeach. Midfielder Scott Carter has also joined for his fourth spell with the Greens.He left in March to join United Counties League Premier Division side Yaxley but has made 200+ appearances for the club and was also in Soham`s league title-winning side of 2008.
Thamesmead Town have a number of new signings in their squad with ex Ilford goalkeeper Rob Budd moving South of the river along with Emmanuel Osei (ex Harlow Town and Waltham Abbey) and Rob Carter (ex Ilford). Manager Keith McMahon has also signed 19 year old's Quentin Conteh (centre forward) and Oliver Poole (centre back) from local Blue Square South side Welling United. Both spent time on loan with Ryman League Division One (South) teams last season.
New Ware boss Kristian Munt has signed sriker/forward Shayne Wyllie from Redbridge along with winger Lewis Donovan who has rejoined the club. Stiker Tony Martin has also joined from Billericay Town. Dave Bastian, Rhys Madden, Jack Friend, Aime Blessing and Ricci Crace, whom all played for the club last season, were all in the starting XI for the recent friendly with Colney Heath.
There is not much news from Potters Bar Town in respect of new players or signings with Town fans able to run the rule over The Scholars in the friendly game next Saturday 4th August.
Romford will play their home games at Thurrock's Ship Lane for the 2012/13 season after leaving Aveley's Mill Field ground. Eight new players were in the starting XI for Tuesday night's 4-2 defeat at Essex Senior League Barking.
Chatham Town are celebrating their 130th season and staged a three team tournament on Sunday 22nd July welcoming Royal Engineers and a Gillingham Development squad to The Sports Ground. The Chats beat The Engineers 5-1 with The young Gills side losing 2-3 to The Engineers before beating The Chats 2-1. Not much news in respect of new players as yet coming from Kent.
Waltham Abbey are another side with not much news available regarding player movement. The Abbotts lost 1-3 to Hoddesdon Town (who are strongly fancied to win the Spartan South Midlands League Division One) on Tuesday night.
Tony Faulkner starts his first full season in charge of Cheshunt and will be looking to finish much higher than The Ambers did last season. Jose Espinosa, whom scored against Enfield Town in the pre-season A10 El Classico should score a few goals for his new club. He impressed for Brentwood Town against Town last season at The Donkey Dome. Ryan Wade will be amongst the goals too along with a few more new signings brought to Theobalds Lane by the ex Ware and Broxbourne Borough boss.
BetVictor are offering odds for the Ryman Divison One (North) championship and currently make Needham Market 5/1 favourites closely followed by AFC Sudbury and Grays Athletic on 6/1. Somewhat surprisingly next in the betting are Tilbury at 8/1 and Redbridge or Harlow Town at 10/1. TheColdEnd would definately rate Wroxham's (12/1), Brentwood Town (14/1) and Maldon and Tiptree (25/1!!!!) chances of winning the title ahead of both Tilbury and especially Redbridge after they lost Terry Spillane and some of his squad to M&T.
With each way betting available at 1/4 odds for places 1,2 and 3 Maldon and Tiptree at 25/1 and Brentwood Town 14/1 may be worth a 50p investment.
Current odds for the Ryman Division One Title (can be found at BetVictor.com)
Please remember to gamble responsibly
Needham Market 5/1
Grays Athletic 6/1
AFC Sudbury 6/1
Harlow Town 10/1
Brentwood Town 14/1
Thamesmead Town 20/1
Witham Town 20/1
Heybridge Swifts 25/1
Maldon and Tiptree 25/1
Potters Bar Town 25/1
Waltham Abbey 25/1
Chatham Town 33/1
Waltham Forest 33/1
Soham Town Rangers 50/1
Ryman Division One (North) Opening Fixtures
Saturday 18th August
AFC Sudbury v Cheshunt
Aveley v AFC Sudbury
Brentwood Town v Tilbury
Chatham Town v Waltham Abbey
Heybridge Swifts v Harlow Town
Potters Bar Town v Wroxham
Romford v Redbridge
Soham Town Rangers v Ilford
Waltham Forest v Grays Athletic
Ware v Needham Market
Witham Town v Thamesmead Town
Tuesday 21st August
Cheshunt v Waltham Forest
Grays Athletic v Brentwood Town
Harlow Town v Aveley
Maldon and Tipree v AFC Sudbury
Needham Market v Heybridge Swifts
Thamesmead Town v Romford
Tilbury v Potters Bar Town
Waltham Abbey v Ware
Wroxham v Witham Town
Wednesday 22nd August
Ilford v Chatham Town