As proof that even at our new level there are still some obsessive nutters out there, here's a contribution from Adrian, a York-based AFC Totton fan who is looking forward to his new local derby fixture at Nene Park. Unfortunately it's not until March, so don't make any firm plans Adrian...
Well, here you are facing life in the Southern Premier League. So, having had experience of this league as a new boy last season, I can offer a few comments on what you can expect.
Some of you will be thinking that it will be a breeze: you'll have better players and support and as a result, you'll win most of your games, both home and away. I may be proved wrong but I believe that you'll need to think again. The Southern Premier is a tough league with some excellent clubs and talented players. It was difficult enough last season and having studied the transfer dealings that have so far taken place this summer, I fear that it will be even tougher this season.
You will not like visiting clubs such as Barwell and Leamington. The former having basic facilities but a team that embodies the spirit of non-league football: 100% commitment, hard but fair. The latter having excellent facilities and a core support that is the envy of many. In addition, both can play a bit and your own trips to these clubs will give you a far better insight in to the standard of the SPL than I can give in these few words. You will find that a number of teams rely on a strong spine, many having a brute of a centre half - no skill but wins everything in the air. Also, no doubt much to your disappointment, some favour the long ball game and a hoof into the nearby road or housing estate at the slightest sign of danger. However, there are some players who fill me with fear. Drew Roberts of Bedford being one. I think you may remember him?
On refereeing please be considerate and polite. I have found the standard generally to be very good and we're in a league where we couldn't function without officials. Most have jobs as we do and deserve respect. Let's face it, if someone told us that we were rubbish every week, we'd give it up, You will be used to a higher standard so please be patient. After all, we're all after the same thing and shouting at the ref won't bring it any sooner. Having said that, the job is made a little easier in the SPL by a lack of diving, play acting and certainly in my experience, little dissent. I have seen players deservedly receive red cards, who have simply turned around and walked off, albeit with some embarrassment as they have passed their managers on the way to the dressing room.
So, how do I think you'll get on? In short, I have no idea. However, you won't find it easy and if you finish above Cambridge and Chesham you'll have had a good season. The latter were the best team I saw last season. They play some lovely football. Also, be aware of young Mr Gosney of AFC Totton. You'll need good full backs.
Finally, beware the vanity project and its money. Last season it was Brackley. This season I believe it to be St Neots. Yes, money talks loudly at even this level. I wish you the best of luck. Enjoy the season.