Toughest test yet as FA decides on leagues
STRATFORD Town chairman Jed McCrory predicts it will be tougher than ever to reach the Southern League Premier Central play-offs next season after the FA announced the make-up of the division this week.
Relegated trio AFC Telford United, Kettering Town and Leamington all drop down from National League North and they will be joined by five promoted sides in the 22-team league.
McCrory said: “I don’t think that it’s a coincidence in that since I’ve been at Stratford, the teams promoted from this league have competed at the top end of the National League North table. That shows how strong the league is and, with all the new clubs coming in, it is going to be toughest it has ever been. To finish in the top ten this year means you will have had a cracking season.
“We always aim to finish as high as possible and a play-off position. We know who is staying at the club and if we were to hit 60 or 70 per cent of our targets then I’d like to think that we would be challenging for those play-off places, but other clubs are likely to be saying the same thing and it is difficult to predict because you don’t know the sorts of teams others will be fielding.
“It’s going to be tough with the league now offering a very good level of football. I’m really looking forward to it though as it is going to be a cracking season now that we have so many new teams – from Sudbury over in East Anglia over to Telford in Shropshire.”
Among the newly promoted sides will be Berkhamsted where former Bards favourite Ross Oulton is now based and Long Eaton United who played Stratford in the FA Cup two years ago.
McCrory added: “Halesowen will be throwing some money around and then we have Stamford who are a little unknown although I have seen them play a few times and they manage to recruit quitter a few players from the Leicester and Nottingham areas so are likely to cause quite a few upsets.
“Above all, we can also look forward to derby games with Leamington once again which is sure to be a great game.”
Elsewhere, FC Stratford will again be part of Hellenic Division One alongside Southam United and Sporting Club Inkberrow who have been promoted from the Herefordshire League.