Jon Dunham – Our season starts here with the UCL

Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.
Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.

While the more glamorous world of the Football League returned last weekend, those of us here in north Northamptonshire have had to wait a little longer for the new season to swing into action.

But the wait for the ChromaSport & Trophies United Counties League teams is almost over as their new campaign gets under way tomorrow.

Often underrated, the UCL is a hub for local footballers and we are somewhat fortunate in this particular area with no less than 11 clubs – four in the Premier Division and seven in Division One.

And there will, no doubt, be more intrigue in the Premier Division this season following AFC Rushden & Diamonds’ promotion from Division One in what was their first campaign as a senior side.

First and foremost, it will be fascinating to see how Mark Starmer’s side shape up at a higher level.

They have kept the core of their squad from last season and added some useful signings to it. Many fancy them to challenge for a second successive promotion.

And it will be interesting to see how they are received in the division as well. Backed by a big fanbase (it will be the biggest in the division), clubs will see their attendance figures boosted although, as Starmer said this week, there are always those who will be ready to shoot them down.

But it’s not just them who are looking to enjoy a good season.

The Wellingborough Town story was arguably the best one of the last campaign. The Doughboys looked doomed at Christmas but the arrival of Craig Adams as manager lit the fuse for an incredible run of form that saw them avoid the drop.

Wellingborough also look to have recruited well over the summer and it would be a surprise if they were involved in another scrap at the bottom.

Desborough Town, under the leadership of the ever-honest Steve Walker, had a fine season last time out, finishing comfortably in mid-table. That was after a campaign of struggle the previous year.

Walker is confident Ar Tarn will “move forward” over the next few years. They, like Wellingborough, could surprise a few more clubs this season.

And then there is Stewarts & Lloyds. It is hard to say what will happen to them this season after a chaotic past week.

Lee Duffy is set to be in charge after Daren Young resigned as manager. And it seems that Young has taken any sort of budget with him.

Unless anything drastic changes, it could well be a struggle for S&L this season but they remain a club with great tradition who are more than capable of attracting an experienced manager to take over the reins.

Down in Division One, it has been a summer of change for a number of clubs.

Irchester United, relegated from the top flight last time, have had a big turnaround in players and coaching staff while James Le Masurier (an old cricketing pal of mine) has taken over along with Scott Manning at Raunds Town.

I expect Joe Smyth to lead Burton Park Wanderers into the upper reaches after they finished bottom of the pile last season and James Daldy is gearing up for his first season in charge of Whitworth, where he has played for a number of years.

Never short of something to say, Aidy Mann remains at the helm at Rushden & Higham and they go into the season as the NFA Junior Cup holders while Ben Watts and Ian Walker will both be looking to lead Rothwell Corinthians and Thrapston Town respectively to higher-placed finishes.

For me, the new season starts right here and I wish all of our UCL clubs the very best for the campaign ahead.