Did you know since 1980, only two Berkshire sides have won the Hellenic Premier Division?
In 2009 Hungerford Town won the division and promotion to the Southern Football League and are now a member of the National League (Conference) South after winning the play-off final in May.
The other side? That’d be an incarnation of Newbury way back in 1980.
Now you could argue that the Hellenic League has traditionally been a more Oxfordshire and West Berkshire based league but since the last major shake-up by the Football Association, it has seen it’s borders stretch further east to encompass Berkshire and Buckinghamshire.
Attendances when East Berkshire derbies occur between Ascot, Binfield and Bracknell as well as Wokingham & Emmbrook are as good as guaranteed at three figures and both the Moles and Robins have topped average attendance charts in recent seasons.
Ascot have modern facilities within the grounds of Ascot Racecourse while Bracknell and Binfield are both undergoing refurbishment and redevelopment and all three will be able to attract players based on the quality of their facilities.
Can they challenge?
All this leads me to believe that one or all three of these sides could challenge for the title next season. There are a lot of if’s involved mind, particularly with the nature of step 5 football meaning that at this time of year players aren’t tied to clubs and can move freely.
Ascot finished third last year, IF they can keep that side together there is no reason they cannot go on and improve. The Yellamen won the Floodlit Cup this year and finished the season strongly.
Binfield will only get better under Roger Herridge and the Moles boss will be even more determined to add silverware to the trophy cabinet after a heartbreaking defeat in the Reading Senior Cup final. Keeping hold of Liam Ferdinand will be key, he was the standout player in the Reading Senior Cup Final in May.
Bracknell’s season finished in unstoppable fashion. Much will depend on Adam Cornell staying at Larges Lane and who Mark Tallentire brings in to replace the departing Garry Aulsberry. ‘Tally’ has already moved to appoint Beaconsfield SYCOB manager Geoff Warner as first team coach.
If one of our sides can get started well, then it’s about momentum but you can bet the likes of Thatcham Town – fresh from a runners up spot this time around, Flackwell Heath and relegated Burnham and North Greenford United should also be pushing while you wouldn’t expect Highmoor-IBIS to have another quiet season.
What do you think?
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The league looks set to run with 21 teams next season and the first round of matches will be between Monday 1st and Wednesday 3rd August before the Extra Preliminary Round of the FA Cup kicks in on the 6th August.
Main image: Bracknell Town and Binfield clash during the 2015/16 campaign by Neil Graham.