Friday 25th May 2018 will go down as a pivotal moment in the North West Counties League, with seventeen clubs admitted into the league ahead of the 2018/19 season. We look at the reasons for this and take a look at the new clubs who will be joining the league this summer.
The restructure of the Non League Pyramid by the Football Association ahead of next season has seen the introduction of two new divisions at Step 6. One of these is in the North West with the NWCFL chosen by the FA to run this new league after a tender process.
The restructure also reduced the number of clubs per division across the lower part of the Non League Pyramid to 20 clubs, and meant that there were more than the usual spots open to progressive looking clubs at Step 7.
The NWCFL undertook a vigorous campaign of vetting prospective clubs, clocking up thousands of miles by carrying out preliminary ground grading and offering advice to a large number of clubs. These clubs were then graded, and faced a waiting game until today when they found out they had been promoted into the league or not.
At lunchtime on the Friday, it was announced by the FA that the league will have a full complement of 60 clubs with 20 in each division. This is made possible by an unprecedented fifteen new clubs joining the league, some of them for the first time and some who are returning, with two clubs moved across from the West Midlands Regional League.
We will take a look at these new clubs to give you an indication of some of them, and will endeavor to get every one of them on the podcast over the summer to discuss their club and their plans moving forward before the new season starts.
Ashton rejoin the NWCFL after one season in the Cheshire League following their relegation at the end of the 2016/17 season.
They are situated midway between St Helens Town and Daisy Hill, and were one of the founding members of the NWCFL in 1982. They have spent all but two seasons since then in our league, playing almost 1200 games in total.
They finished 6th in the Cheshire League Premier Division last season, picking up 13 wins from their 28 games and scoring 66 goals. It will be good to welcome them back, particularly Chairman Mark Hayes who has been on the podcast several times and is always a great guest.
Avro were formed in 1936 by employees of the aviation company of the same name, playing home games in Chadderton. They have been in the Manchester League since 1989, and have several First Division Championships as well as the Premier Division Championship in 2009/10.
Last season they won the Premier Division for the second time, winning 25 of their 28 games, and scoring a whopping 105 goals in the league!
Although Avro are new to the league, their ground is not as it is the former home of Oldham Boro. The Whitebank Stadium has undergone a massive redevelopment over the last few years, with impressive stands and a 3G pitch, with Avro moving in there at the start of this season.
Cleator Moor Celtic
Cleator Moor have the distinction of being the most remote ground in our league, with the ground been 43 miles from Carlisle City and 40 miles from Holker Old Boys on the West Cumbrian coast! The club were formed in 1909 and reached the First Round of the FA Cup in 1950 where they lost to Tranmere Rovers 5–0.
The club have played in the Wearside League since 2004, so travelling to games will prove no problem to them! They have finished inside the top four in the league in each of the last five seasons, and this season finished in third place, winning 25 of their 38 games and scoring 104 league goals.
Ellesmere Rangers are one of two clubs who have transferred across to us from the West Midlands Regional League, and are situated around seven miles away from FC Oswestry Town. They were formed in 1969 and played in several local leagues, before moving to the Shropshire County League in the mid 1980’s.
Since then they have won several leagues, getting as high as the Midland Alliance which is the equivalent to our Premier Division, before being relegated in 2013 to their current league. In the five years since they have finished in the top seven three times, and this season they finished in 6th place. They won 22 of their 38 league games and scored 106 goals in the league.
This is the first time that they have played in the NWCFL, but they did play FC Oswestry Town in the Quarter Finals of this year’s Shropshire Cup, with Oswestry winning 4-1.
Garstang have been around since the late 1800’s, playing in the Preston and District League for many years until moving to the West Lancashire League in 1994. They quickly became one of the leading teams in the league, winning several trophies before securing the Premier Division Championship in 2007/08.
They have remained one of the leading sides in the league ever since, and they come into the NWCFL on the back of winning their second Premier Division Championship this season. They won 22 of their 30 games in the league, scoring 96 goals and won the title by two points from reigning Champions Blackpool Wren Rovers.
Linotype Cheadle Heath Nomads
Linotype Cheadle Heath Nomads were formed in 2004 as an amalgamation of two Mid-Cheshire League clubs, Linotype and Cheadle Heath Nomads. They play in Cheadle, with their home ground of The Heath about a mile away from Cheadle Town’s ground.
They were a largely mid-table team before winning the Premier Division title in 2014/15, and have finished in the top five every year since. This season they are currently in fifth place with 13 wins from 27 games, and they have scored 27 goals. They actually finish their season today when they travel to Eagle Sports, and a win could see them finish fourth depending on Billinge FC’s result.
Longridge Town were formed in 1996 when the two main clubs in the town, Longridge United and Longridge St. Wilfred’s amalgamated. They played in the Preston and District League, rising through the leagues before joining the West Lancashire League in 2007/08.
They have continued their rise and last season finished in their highest ever league position of third place in the West Lancashire League Premier Division. They won 17 of their 30 league games, scored 66 goals and finished 16 points behind Champions Garstang.
Lower Breck are one of the youngest teams that are joining us having been formed as recently as 2010. In their first two seasons they were a youth team, before joining the Liverpool County Premier League’s 2nd Division in 2012.
Since they then have progressed through the league, and their meteoric rise continued this season with an unbelievably successful season. Not only did they win the Liverpool County Premier League Premier Division Championship, where they went undefeated by winning 22 of their 24 games, but they also won the three other cups they entered!
Rylands are another Cheshire League side who are based in North Warrington. They were founded in 1911 and played in the Warrington Premier Division for many years before joining the Mid-Cheshire League in 1968. They have played in this league every since, and have won what is now the Premier Division Championship twice in the 1980’s.
This season they have struggled and have been in real danger of relegation which would have seen them denied promotion to the NWCFL. However four wins in their last seven league games have seen them finish in 11th place, winning 10 of their 28 games and scoring 50 league goals.
Shelley are another old club who were formed in 1903 and who have played for many years in the Huddersfield & District. They moved up to the West Yorkshire League in 2011, winning promotion in each of their first two seasons, and have played in the Premier Division since.
They have neither been challenging for promotion or in any danger of relegation over the last five seasons, and they finished in tenth place this season. They won 11 of their 30 league games and scored 52 league goals.
St Martins is another club formed in the 19th century, playing their first match in 1897 in the Oswestry & District League. They have played in many local leagues, including one in Wales before the Second World War, before joining the Shropshire County League in 1990. They have since been promoted from there into the West Midlands Regional League.
Over the last eight seasons in the West Midlands Regional League, they have finished in the top eight of their league six times and won one promotion. This season they finished fourth, winning 20 of their 32 games and scoring 87 goals. Remarkably they lost the other 12, and never drew a game all season!
This season also saw them make their debut in the FA Vase where they lost to Ashby Ivanhoe 3-1 at the first stage.
Steeton are yet another new member who are over 100 years old, having been first formed in 1905. They have played for much of that time playing locally in the Keighley & District League and Craven & District League, before stepping up to the West Riding League in the late 1980’s.
They have progressed through from the bottom division in the league, with their highest finish being runners up in 2012/13. This season they finished third in the league, winning 14 games and scoring 60 goals.
Stone Dominoes are another club who are returning to the NWCFL after leaving at the end of the 2012/13 season. They have played over 500 games in the league, and won the First Division Championship in 2009/10. The Stoke-on-Trent based side were formed in 1987, and have previously reached the last 16 of the FA Vase.
After leaving the NWCFL, the club – who has 22 teams playing under it – did not have a First Team until 2015/16 when they joined the Staffordshire Senior League and they were promoted to the Premier Division at the end of last season. This season Stone finished in 11th place having won 10 of their 30 games, scoring 55 goals in the league.
Stone Old Alleynians
Stone Old Alleynians actually share a ground with Stone Dominoes, and older supporters in the league will probably agree with us that it is a ground well worth visiting throughout next season. They were formed in 1962 with a team of former pupils, teachers and current pupils, of Alleyne’s Grammar School in Stone.
They played in the Mid-Staffordshire and Staffordshire Senior League before moving to the West Midlands Regional League Division Two in 2007/08. Since they they have been promoted twice to the Premier Division, which is the equivalent level as our First Division.
Alleynians are therefore the second club to be laterally moved to us, and for the last three seasons they have finished mid-table. This season they finished in 13th place, winning 14 of 38 games played and scoring 92 goals.
Vauxhall have spent ten seasons in the NWCFL in the past, winning the Second Division (now First Division) in 1988/89 and 1995/96, with their last season in the league coming in 1999/00 when they won the First Division (now Premier Division). Since then they progressed right up to the Conference North, but surprisingly resigned in 2013/14 and have spent the last four seasons in the West Cheshire League.
The Ellesmere Port based team finished 2nd in the West Cheshire League First Division this season, picking up 17 wins from their 30 games and finishing on 58 points, 13 points behind Champions South Liverpool. Visits to Rivacre Park are always one of the highlights of the season, with the ground up to Conference North standard and always a great surface to play football on.
Formed in 1946 by a window cleaner who gathered together a group of kids kicking a ball about in the street, Wythenshawe Amateurs have a proud claim that they have never been relegated in their 72 year history. They played in several local leagues until joining the Manchester League in the 1972/73 season and won promotion to the Premier Division in their first season.
Since then they have won the Premier Division three times and been runners up ten times, including this season when they were runners up to Avro. They won 20 of their 28 games and scored 84 goals. They have also won the Gilgryst Cup a record seven times, including winning it this season.
Strangely, Wythenshawe Town were formed in the same year as their cross town rivals Amateurs, and have followed a very similar path. That it until very recently though, when Town switched over to the Cheshire League in 2014, and they have progressed through to the top division of that by winning successive Championships.
This season, focus has been very much on getting ready for the NWCFL, and they are in seventh place in the league table. They had 11 wins from 28 games and scored 45 goals. Since the Cheshire League finishes today, they will slip to finish in eighth place should Congleton Vale win their game today!