The new football season is nearly upon us and, as is tradition for this time of year, we have taken a look at the Hellenic League Division One East before it kicks off this weekend.
The HD1E finished last season with 13 teams but due to the FA increasing the number of sides at Step 6, the division will start this season with 17 teams. The restructuring does not end there, and due to the addition leagues at Step 4 and 5 for the 2020/21 season, more teams will be needed further up the pyramid.
With that in mind, and for this season only, four teams will be promoted from almost all the Step 6 leagues, including the HD1E, meaning there is a huge opportunity for clubs to go up at the end of the season.
With the bottom two facing relegation, it means there should be a lot of sides with something to play for all the way into April.
The local sides
Out of the 17 clubs, 6 will be playing their home games in Berkshire this season, with established HD1E sides AFC Aldermaston, Chalvey Sports, Holyport, Wokingham & Emmbrook and Woodley United, being joined by league newcomers Langley.
Out of the six AFC Aldermaston finished highest in the table last season, placing 3rd, and they are well placed to mount a promotion challenge this season. The Atom Men have made several signings with experience of playing at a higher level, most notably Luke Williams who joins from Step 3 Swindon Supermarine, having previously turned out for Hungerford Town and Binfield.
Holyport finished last season in 4th with the best defence in the division, conceding just 22 goals in 24 league games. Port also have goals in their squad, most notably in last season’s top scorer Fabian Driffill who grabbed 33 goals in 2018/19 and has resigned for the upcoming campaign. Derek Sweetman’s men should be competing for one of the four promotion spots come April.
Wokingham & Emmbrook have received a huge boost before a ball has been kicked by being able to move back into their Lowther Road home after the completion of the project to make the ground suitable for hosting Step 6 football. With their return to the borough secure, the Sumas will look to build on last season where a young squad finished a credible 6th in the table.
Chalvey Sports finished in a respectable 8th place, in what was their first season in the Hellenic Division One East following promotion from the Division Two East after back to back league wins. The Stabmonks play at Slough Town’s Arbour Park so they should be able to avoid a fixture pile up, as the venue’s 3G pitch should be playable in most weather conditions.
Woodley United finished a disappointing 11th last season but the league position only tells half of the story. The Kestrels lost all of their first 10 games in all competitions before a mid-season resurgence saw them rise from the foot of the table and finish comfortably above the relegation zone. Woodley will be looking for a better start to their campaign and to be challenging in the top half of the table this year.
Rounding out the Berkshire contingent are new boys Langley FC who come into the division after finishing second in the Hellenic Division Two East last season. Having been formed in 2010, Langley are playing at Step 6 for the first time in their history and they will spend the season groundsharing at Holyport’s Summerleaze Village.
Whilst technically being in South Oxfordshire, Wallingford Town still have many staff and players with links to Berkshire and they will be looking to push for promotion this season after finishing in midtable last year. Wally have retained the services of the leagues top goalscorer Charlie Silkstone who netted 39 times in all competitions last season.
Changes to the league composition
As well as Langley, there are a number of other changes to the league make up this season. Last season’s champions, Burnham, have been promoted to the Hellenic Premier Division and their place has been taken by Abingdon United who were relegated from the same division after finishing bottom of the table.
Risborough Rangers join the league having been transferred from the Step 6 Spartan South Midlands Division One, a league they had been associated with since 1989. Borough finished last season in 7th place in the 20 strong league, so they will be another team looking to push for promotion this year.
Another side making a sideways move is Kidlington Development who join the division from the Hellenic Division One West where they finished 6th out of 13 clubs last season. As their name suggests the club are the development side for Southern League Division One Central side Kidlington.
Marlow United join the division after winning the Thames Valley Premier League, Premier Division last season. The Flying Blues are playing in the Hellenic League for the first time since the end of the 2009-10 season when they withdrew from the Hellenic Premier Division for financial reasons. The club will groundshare at Isthmian South Central Division side Marlow FC’s Alfred Davis Memorial Ground.
Long Crendon gained promotion to the HD1E by winning the Hellenic Division Two East, beating Langley into second place on the final day of the season. Due to the step up Crendon have been forced to move their first team away from their base in the village, and they will play their home games at National League side Oxford City’s Marsh Road ground this season.
And the other clubs?
Despite finishing bottom of the table last season, Chinnor received a reprieve from relegation and were expected to continue in the Hellenic Division One East this season however the club announced its resignation this week.
After being forced to play last season at Amersham Town’s Spratleys Meadow, Penn & Tylers Green have been granted permission to make the necessary upgrades to their French School Meadows Ground.
However, the work will not be complete for this season so Penn will play their home matches at Beaconsfield FC’s Holloways Park for 2019/20.
Abingdon Town, Didcot Town Reserves, Milton United and Thame Rangers are back in the Hellenic Division One East this year and complete the league.