A summer of change brings promotion hope to S&L

Paul Caswell will be back in the colours of Stewarts & Lloyds this season after a summer of change at the UCL Division One club
Paul Caswell will be back in the colours of Stewarts & Lloyds this season after a summer of change at the UCL Division One club

Stewarts & Lloyds are planning to be winners again after a summer of change at Occupation Road.

ChromaSport & Trophies United Counties League Premier Division champions in 2008-2009, S&L go into the new campaign having not won a league match since October 2013.

Last season they finished bottom of Division One after taking just a single point from 38 games, but under new bosses John Cairns and Harbans Basra, the target this time is promotion.

Cairns and Basra have assembled a completely new squad – bringing in 18 new players – and having won three successive championships with Corby Eagles, they bring a winning mentality to the club.

“We wouldn’t have come here if we didn’t think we could win promotion,” said Cairns.

“It’s going to take a lot of hard work, but that’s why we’ve come here. We’ve come here to win games.”

Cairns says he’s excited by the challenge of “turning things around” at Occupation Road.

“S&L were the biggest club in Corby for years,” he said.

“Eagles beat them 9-0 in the cup last season and that shouldn’t be happening.”

Cairns and Basra have persuaded several former players to return to S&L, including Paul Caswell, Mark Forbes and striker Michael Byrne.

Byrne last season netted 28 goals in the UCL Premier Division in spells with Desborough Town and Sileby Rangers.

He could be partnered up front by Dave Sheridan, who hit 40 for Eagles as they won the Northants Combination Premier Division.

Sheridan is one of five members of Eagles’ championship-winning side who have made the switch to Occupation Road and Cairns is confident they will make the step up.

“I don’t think there’s too much difference between UCL Division One and the top of the Combination,” he said.

“It’s taken some persuasion to get this squad together, but what seems to happen in local football is that when one player joins a club, others tend to follow.”

S&L kick off the new season with three successive home games, starting with the visit of Bugbrooke tomorrow (Saturday).

Thrapston Town’s season started with a bang as they beat St Neots Town Saints 4-1 as part of the Groundhop Weekend while Rushden & Higham United kicked off with a 1-1 draw at Blackstones.

This weekend, the Lankies travel to Olney while Thrapston head to Woodford United.

Irchester United start their campaign with a tough trip to Peterborough Sports while Burton Park Wanderers host Blackstones.

Raunds Town and Whitworth both have home advantage on the opening day with the Shopmates taking on ON Chenecks and the Flourmen up against league newcomers Oakham United.