Written by Scott W (Twitter: @ScottMHC14)
As the dawn of the new season approached back in July, Essex Senior League (or ESL) clubs first began the necessary pre-season campaign, ahead of the season proper which began in late July/early August. Two ‘new’ names joined the fray in Hackney Wick [in place of London Bari] and Wodford Town (2017) [replacing Haringey & Waltham] so we were set for a 21-team league season.
Although we didn’t know the specifics at the time, we knew that Promotion & Relegation were going to take on more significance this season. The former has been subject to ground-grading issues recently, while the latter hasn’t been in place at all, in recent times at least.
Among the interesting differences compared to last season [in which Barking seized the chance to win the division and ascend back to the Isthmian League] were players coming down from higher tiers, more teams arguably having ‘budgets’ and some clubs also actively seeking to improve themselves and being aware that the ESL itself was going to get more ‘coverage’. Not by the ‘recognised press’ who were more than likely to have their attention focused elsewhere, but by an increasing group of folks who seemingly prefer Non-League Football, particularly at this level.
So there’s your ‘scene’. Even at the end of last season, I doubt many people would hazard a guess as to who would be the ‘front-runne
rs’ for the ESL title this term. You could not discount ‘surprises’ either, indeed those sorts of teams could quietly build a platform early -doors from which to sustain during what is a long ol’ season.
Said ‘surprises’ did launch themselves ‘out of the blocks’ in the form of Basildon Utd, Sporting Bengal Utd & West Essex in the first couple of months of the season, as they were among the early leaders.
As a certain lanky soul [ie. Me] made his way from match-to-match and read other reports & articles from other good colleagues as the weeks drifted by, it became pretty clear that a) This is going to be one heck of a competitive season , b) not much was going to stay still and c) at times, anyone could throw up the odd ‘surprise result’ into the air. Throw in quite a few chances in the dug-out (managerial) as well and you get the picture.
Two things have grabbed me, one is the unforgiving nature of results. Why? Well, on occasion they don’t quite reflect the actual match you’ve seen. That score-board isn’t about “could haves, would haves and should haves” – it can be cold in that respect. The other thing is the old chestnut: Consistency – easy to say yet hard to accomplish. Factor in the likely changes in matchday squads & starting XIs though injuries, suspensions and unavailability etc and the variables rise.
So at the end of October, who are among the top six in the table? Well, Takeley lead by two points from Basildon Utd with Redbridge, FC Romania, Great Wakering Rovers and Clapton all in hot pursuit. At The bottom, seven clubs are separated by just three points.
It’ll be some battle throughout the division this term. As an independent, I’ll say this: Bring It On!
Thanks for reading.