As you can’t fail to have noticed, from the national poster advertising and breathless daily countdown on Sky Sports, the new season begins today. And if you keep drilling down, through the divisions and using a particularly powerful electron microscope, you will find our new home – the Calor League Central, located on the outer fringes of the results that appear in really small print in some newspapers.
Still, beggars can’t be choosers, and at least as names go it could be worse. We’re not playing in a league sponsored by a betting company or a banking organisation, and have thankfully avoided having to participate in the Skrill Premier – surely the most ridiculous sponsor’s name to date. A mixture of scream and kill, it sounds like something you’d put down the toilet or use to treat a skin problem.
But we still face something of a culture shock. Back in the days when the team was chosen solely by a committee of ex players, an England cricket captain is reported to have wailed “My God, look what they’ve sent me”. On reviewing the fixture list ahead, my reaction was similar: My God, look where they’re sending us.
If last year’s itinery wasn’t exactly laced with evocative names, get a load of this one. Egham, North Greenford United, Ashford Town (Mid) – just in case anyone was tempted to go to Kent instead, Beaconsfield SYCOB (what?), Chalfont St Peter and other soccer hotbeds in the western home counties commuter belt. Looking around for anyone we’ve ever competitively played before, you maybe have to go way back to the likes of Dunstable if excluding clubs that are offshoots or reformed versions.
However, having switched off from football for a while I was cheered immensely on checking the squad on the club’s website. Seems that the new management duo have been busy and are really going for promotion at the first attempt. Sure, there’s bound to be some pruning of the initial squad, but among the 60 names listed are some real gems and hats off to TB and DT for luring back the likes of Westcarr, Andre, Big X and JP - plus it will be great to see Roy Clayton back in red again and looking to add to his record career tally.
I also gather that we’ve moved again. Following the Poppies these days is like trying to track a student in digs – a new address every few months. Latimer Park in Burton. Can’t say I’ve ever been there before, unless you count a firework display many years ago. From what I can see there has been intensive work over the summer to upgrade it from a Z rating to something that satisfies the Calor League criteria, which is a tribute to those involved but is still going to require some adjustment to anyone who last saw the Poppies at Steel Park, let alone Nene Park. They say you can get used to anything – guess we’re about to find out. Come on you reds.