Woodley United’s first season as a newly merged club couldn’t have been much worse from a senior men’s perspective.
The Kestrels finished rock bottom of the Hellenic League Division 1 East, the second time in three seasons a Woodley side had finished last in a step 6 league, and were beaten 6-0 by Tadley Calleva in the first qualifying round of the FA Vase.
United are an amalgamation of three Woodley sides – United, Town and Hammers – and will be ground sharing once again at Scours Lane in Reading with Highmoor-IBIS.
With the new season fast approaching, United have a new man in charge in former Mortimer boss Michael Herbert, and the new number one has been pleased with the turnout at training since pre season started.
The side have played three friendlies including a 4-2 reverse in to Combined Counties side Cobham in their first outing while they were narrowly beaten 2-1 by Southern League Marlow 10 days ago.
As is standard in non-league football, a number of players have followed Herbert from Mortimer – Sukhi Kang, Idris Kamara, Jake Nicholls and Luke Turner have made the step up from the Thames Valley Premier League while several of the 2015/16 squad have put pen to paper including Mark Ingram, Luke Blakebrough, Chris Burt, Tim Green and Tyrone May.
Herbert has been busy recruiting from elsewhere as well with Joe Barley from AFC Aldermaston, Ahmed Jusufi from Highmoor-IBIS and Joshua Drew from Tadley Calleva all joining.
Out the door
The Kestrals have lost a number of players with Bradley Hoy and Ben Hitchens joining up again with former Woodley manager Jock Mowat at Henley Town. Matt Lambert has rejoined Finchampstead, Conor Creegan, Peter Wareing and Luke Titcombe have joined Hellenic League new boys AFC Aldermaston and George Douglas has joined Division 1 East rivals Wokingham & Emmbrook.
It wasn’t that long ago that Woodley finishing in the bottom half of the Hellenic League Division 1 East table was unthinkable.
Since promotion in 2009, Town – as they were then – finished 4th, 5th, 5th and 3rd in the division.
The third place was at the expense of Bracknell Town who were denied automatic promotion back to the Premier Division.
The following season (2013/14) was when it all started to go wrong with a last place finish. The Kestrals recovered in 2015 to finish eighth but the signs are there that Woodley – the club that gave the local footballing world Luke Williams and the Barratt brothers Tom and Sam will soon be slugging it out at the top end of the table.
Main image: Michael Herbert, picture supplied by Woodley United.