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Revealed! Mike Bacon’s 15 non-league teams to watch out for this season - and why!

PUBLISHED: 06:00 03 September 2020 | UPDATED: 06:07 03 September 2020

Non-league is back! Here Bury Town's Cemal Ramadan celebrates with team-mate Cruise Nyadzayo (No. 12). Picture: HANNAH PARNELL

Non-league is back! Here Bury Town's Cemal Ramadan celebrates with team-mate Cruise Nyadzayo (No. 12). Picture: HANNAH PARNELL

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THE new non-league season is upon us - expectations and hopes are always high. Here MIKE BACON takes a look at 15 of our local teams to watch this season

Felixstowe assistant Andy Crump (left) and boss Stuart Boardley, hoping for better this season from their side. They have made some solid signings. Picture: THOMAS BRADFORDFelixstowe assistant Andy Crump (left) and boss Stuart Boardley, hoping for better this season from their side. They have made some solid signings. Picture: THOMAS BRADFORD

Now, let me make it clear before we start!

This is not Suffolk’s top 15 non-league sides. Neither is this a list of my favourite 15 Suffolk non-league sides.

Here, I’m going to give my thoughts on teams I feel could have fascinating seasons ahead of them for various reasons.

No doubt you will have your ideas on teams not mentioned. Feel free to let me know who they are and why their seasons could be so interesting.

1. HADLEIGH UNITED

(Eastern Counties Prem)

Flirted with relegation from for much of last season and were still on the same points as bottom-placed Gorleston before the season was terminated.

But Christian Appleford has made more astute signings and pre-season has been pretty decent for the Brettsiders.

Leiston enjoyed pre-season under the new management of Darren Eadie and Chris Wigger. Photo: HANNAH PARNELLLeiston enjoyed pre-season under the new management of Darren Eadie and Chris Wigger. Photo: HANNAH PARNELL

Expecting mid-table from them this campaign.

2. FELIXSTOWE & WALTON UNITED

(Isthmian North)

Don’t sugar coat it, the Seasiders were fortunate the season ended prematurely last campaign as relegation beckoned. They may have stayed up, but they were relying on others floundering.

This year they have a stronger look. Boss Stuart Boardley has brought in some experienced and talented campaigners.

Like, Hadleigh, I expect a much better season from them.

3. WESTERFIELD UNITED

Matt Blake a big signing for Ipswich Wanderers - on a two-year deal. Photo: HOGAN COBBOLDMatt Blake a big signing for Ipswich Wanderers - on a two-year deal. Photo: HOGAN COBBOLD

(SIL Senior)

The Swans are still afloat despite being on minus one point at the cut-off date in March after a season which acting chairman Phil Greenhalgh described as his ‘worst in 25 years’ at the club. They could have folded.

But they haven’t. Now, it’s onwards and upwards for Westerfield.

Pre-season has been encouraging. I, along with many in Suffolk non-league, wish them well.

4. STOWMARKET TOWN

(Eastern Counties Prem)

They say it’s hard to retain a Championship title. Well, although Stow didn’t win the league last year in name - they all but did in spirit, being 15 points ahead at the top before lock down.

Now, can Rick Andrews’ side do it all over again? I think they will, but I suspect it won’t be as easy.

Ben Hunter, right, celebrates a goal for Sudbury. He and others are coming through the Sudbury academy ranks. Photo: RICHARD MARSHAMBen Hunter, right, celebrates a goal for Sudbury. He and others are coming through the Sudbury academy ranks. Photo: RICHARD MARSHAM

Then again, I’m not sure this year who is going to push them all the way. Maybe Wroxham or Newmarket?

5. LEISTON

(Southern League Cent Prem)

A new management team at Victory Road including a man with Premiership credentials. Former Norwich and Leicester winger Darren Eadie is joint manager, alongside Chris Wigger, the former Sheringham boss.

It was a tough gig for Leiston last season and only the return of Glen Driver saved them from what could have been the drop.

Yet, they have so many talented young players the future is bright, but step 3 is tough. A mid-table finish would be a fine effort.

6. IPSWICH WANDERERS

Needham's Keiran Morphew barks instructions. Morphew is part of a settled line-up at Bloomfields. Photo: BEN POOLEYNeedham's Keiran Morphew barks instructions. Morphew is part of a settled line-up at Bloomfields. Photo: BEN POOLEY

(Eastern Counties One North)

A strange season for the Humber Doucy Lane club last time out. Reached the semi-finals of the Suffolk Senior Cup - still to be played. But in the league never really threatened a top-four place.

However, they mean business this season. Matt Blake from Stowmarket, was a real statement signing.

Will be very disappointed not to finish top four and ultimately promotion this time around.

7. AFC SUDBURY

(Isthmian North)

Are the seeds of Sudbury’s academy starting to bear fruit. One would suggest so. Lots of youngsters now breaking through into Mark Morsley’s first team squad.

However, it’s results that invariably count for fans. Last season the Yellows never really threatened the play-off area.

Michael Brothers, left, big influence as player/boss at Brantham. Photo: STAN BASTONMichael Brothers, left, big influence as player/boss at Brantham. Photo: STAN BASTON

They need to this season - and are capable. Big campaign ahead.

8. NEWMARKET TOWN

(Eastern Counties Prem)

A fine fourth-placed finish last time out, the Jockeys have enjoyed a good pre-season, coupled with some good signings.

There has been plenty of changes at the clubs who finished second and third in the table last season - Stanway and Norwich United.

Could this be the time for the Jockeys to strike and push Stowmarket all the way?

9. NEEDHAM MARKET

Woodbridge Town managers Jamie Scales, gets ready to come on as a substitute while Carlos Edwards takes over, on the sidelines. The Peckers will look to improve on last season's seventh place finish Picture: PAUL LEECHWoodbridge Town managers Jamie Scales, gets ready to come on as a substitute while Carlos Edwards takes over, on the sidelines. The Peckers will look to improve on last season's seventh place finish Picture: PAUL LEECH

(Southern League Cent Prem)

Like Leiston, the Marketmen have a former Premiership star at the helm in Kevin Horlock, and his previous academy experience at Bloomfields has already seen him give some young players a chance.

Not too many out and not too many in for Needham. They enjoyed a solid season last time and finished as Suffolk’s top non-league side.

I fancy they may well hold that accolade again come next May.

10. RANSOMES SPORTS

(SIL Senior)

Despite a null and void season, Ransomes were deservedly promoted back to the SIL Senior division in the summer - along with Old Newton.

Back where they belong most local non-league folk would say, it’s now up to the Ipswich-based club to show their mettle.

Mydas Smalls is congratulated by his Whitton United team-mates after scoring against Ipswich Wanderers in the FA Cup this week. Whitton had a good blend of youth and experience. Picture: PAUL VOLLERMydas Smalls is congratulated by his Whitton United team-mates after scoring against Ipswich Wanderers in the FA Cup this week. Whitton had a good blend of youth and experience. Picture: PAUL VOLLER

I suspect they will - and indeed could enjoy a top 6 finish.

11. BRANTHAM ATHLETIC

(Thurlow Nunn Prem)

Ended last season like a train, Michael Brothers will hope his side can continue where they left off.

There is certainly great belief at the Leisure Centre these days - and why not? The Brothers brothers, Michael and Patrick are pivotal figures and with a host of fine young players around them.

In the end they finished sixth last season. Another finish like that this time around would be very satisfactory.

12. BURY TOWN

(Isthmian North)

If ever a team would want a repeat of last season - with just an extra 5% - then surely that team is Bury Town.

Kept pace with the top boys all campaign and could well have made the play-offs. The Blues are another year wiser and with the continuity of backroom make-up.

It all adds up to real opportunity at Ram Meadow this season. A great chance of the play-offs.

13. WOODBRIDGE TOWN

(Eastern Counties Prem)

Runners-up two seasons ago to seventh last season, the ‘Peckers will want to steady the ship and not slip any further down the table this campaign.

I don’t think that is going to happen. They still have plenty of quality and a settled squad - and talisman Carlos Edwards.

But they will want to hit the ground running in the league.

14. FRAMLINGHAM TOWN

(Eastern Counties One North)

Just a couple of seasons ago Fram were in the Premier Division but relegation to Division One hasn’t brought a hoped-for immediate return.

A club with a cracking youth system, Fram do things the right way and deserve success.

However, they are better than their record of eight league wins from 28 last season. They will want more this time around.

15. WHITTON UNITED

(Eastern Counties Prem)

Whitton showed last season they can compete with the best - they drew games with Norwich United, Stow and Newmarket. But consistency is their Achilles’ heel - a 2-10 defeat at the Jockeys in their final game before lockdown proves that.

They have a great blend of youth and experience and remain one of the most difficult teams to beat.

Top 8 this year? No reason why not.


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