Last season Gloucestershire saw three sides lingering in and around the bottom of the Southern League West Division; Shortwood United, Slimbridge and Bishops Cleeve. Now the Mitre’s were bottom or in the bottom two for most of the season but they never gave up hope that miracles do happen.
In the end they came close to pulling off the greatest of great escapes and were rumoured to potentially get a reprieve when Shortwood resigned from the league at the back end of the season, but ultimately Bishops Cleeve were relegated into the Hellenic League Premier Division.
With the allocation now revealed for the new season there are a few front runners looking to chase the league title and many believe the best chance Gloucestershire has is Bishops Cleeve, so having said that here are five things you need to know about the Mitre’s title challenge.
They have the perfect man for the job
The final weekend in April saw Bishops Cleeve unable to avoid relegation after failing to get a result away at Yate Town. What followed was an interview that would bring a tear to the coldest of hearts.
Manager Stephen Cleal looked into the camera and fought through the tears to sum up the emotions of the club, the pride and love for the club was incredible. He said during the interview that Bishops Cleeve will be back and Cleal has immediately gone about his business to get a squad together worthy of battling Flackwell Heath, Binfield and Wantage Town amongst others who will be fighting for the title.
Stephen Cleal is Bishops Cleeve right now. He is determined to bring Southern League football back to Kayte Lane and with his grit, determination and passion for the club there isn’t anyone better suited for the job.
They have retained Southern League quality
In the off season so far Bishops Cleeve have been flexing their muscles in both the players they have retained as well as the players they have brought in, the bulk of which have Southern League experience.
The Mitres re-signed Kirk Layton at centre half whilst the inclusions of full back Adam Mace from Slimbridge & Brad Martin from Hellenic League rivals Longlevens provide Southern League experience at either end of the field. Former Shortwood United and Tuffley Rovers midfield Ash Davies has signed on for the season to provide a physical presence in the middle and is a man who could easily be playing at a higher level.
The new faces paired with the likes of winger Jack Watts and keeper Sam Gilder, the latter of which is one of the best and most experienced keepers in Gloucestershire, they have a squad of hungry players who are itching to deliver success to Kayte Lane this season.
They have strengthened in key areas
As mentioned above Bishops Cleeve have brought in quality players to add experience and ability to the side. In Brad Martin up front you have a player who scored over 20 league goals last season for Longlevens in the Hellenic Premier whilst left back Adam Mace provides quality going forward as well as at the back.
Kirk Layton an Ryan Paddock have come in at centre half to provide stability and experience at the back as well providing competition for the likes of Ben Tunnicliff.
They have brought in a striker who scores, a full back who creates and centre halves that defend…who knew football could be so simple!
#Bounceback is a way of life
Throughout the summer you would have seen #Bounceback on anything Bishops Cleeve related. Something that manager Stephen Cleal first tweeted when teasing announcements from the club about the new season. And since then it has stuck!
#Bounceback has slowly become synonymous with the Mitre’s and shows how determined they are to be playing Southern League football once again. If they pull it off #Bounceback will always be rememebered as one of the most successful seasons in the club’s recent history.
They truly believe they can win the league
There is nothing more scary in football than self belief. When a player or club believe in themselves unconditionally then literally anything is possible and that is what we have here. Stephen Cleal has done an amazing job at installing the belief that Bishops Cleeve will be fighting for the league title and belief that Bishops Cleeve will win the league.
From speaking to some of the players it is quite clear that the self confidence they have in the new look Bishops Cleeve side being able to achieve their target runs through every single player. It has become second nature to just almost assume Bishops Cleeve will be up there and whilst there will be 18 other teams (currently) looking to deny them their target, Bishops Cleeve aren’t turning up this season to be one of the chasing pack.
No, they want to be the ones the pack are chasing and with the season just under a month away we are itching here in Gloucestershire to see the fixtures as for every other local side (Longlevens, Tuffley, Brimscombe, Fairford & Lydney) Bishops Cleeve have a bullseye on their back and for us at Severn Sport it makes this season one of the most anticipated seasons in recent years.
Can the season start already?
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