Hexham Courant's Sunday League predictions
Last updated at 16:05, Friday, 16 August 2013
AFTER being asked by a few people in the Hexham and District Sunday League for predictions ahead of the upcoming season, I have decided to put my head above the parapet and oblige.
I acknowledge that, by doing so, I run the risk of upsetting a few people who may not agree with my opinions, but I can assure you that all predictions have been made in good faith.
Of course, I want all local teams to do well but when they face each other week in, week out, there are always going to be winners and losers.
If I do happen to upset any of you with lower expectations than that of the targets you have set yourself, I hope that such comments will spur you on to prove me wrong.
I wish every club all the best for the coming season, and I am hopeful of another brilliant year as the standard continues to grow.
As was the case last year, I think that up to four teams will be chasing the title right up until the business end of the campaign.
While Haltwhistle Conservatives ended up winning the league by a margin of 12 points, it was too close to call in the lead-up before the Cons pulled away at the death.
While I think the gap will be a lot smaller at the end of the upcoming year, I think that Haltwhistle are likely to be celebrating the retention of their crown in May.
In Dan Kirkup they have a player who will score more goals than people I could potentially offend with this article (ie, a lot!), although the loss of Mark Robson through injury will be a big blow.
And while they may not have the strength in depth that their rivals possess, they have a strong team and they will be disappointed if they’re not challenging again.
Running them close, for me, will be the trio of FC Stocksfield, Prudhoe Town and Hexham Phoenix, all of whom enjoyed good terms last time.
And I think the honour of runners-up may well be bestowed on Stocksfield, the team improving year-on-year and adding a lot of quality to their team this year.
But Prudhoe Town could prove me wrong as they may just pinch it, definitely a team to look out for as they have recruited many top players, including those from neighbours Halfway House, and they will definitely be fighting on all fronts.
With Phoenix enjoying a brilliant season which saw them finish second last year, I’m expecting them to be up there again but I think it will be hard for them to reach last season’s heights. A fourth place finish would still be a great season, especially without the services of the injured Luke Parkinson.
There will be a real battle for the next three spots but I think fifth place will belong to the teenagers of The Falcon Prudhoe.
Although promoted as runners-up of Division Two and just aiming to keep hold of their first division status, there is immense talent in the team and they will be a test for most in the league. The only worry, and it is a predictable comment to make, is that they may struggle when things get physical.
Tussling for sixth and seventh I have Wylam and Barrasford, two teams who cause any team problems on their day. However, I feel they may not be able to produce their best on a consistent basis.
The players recruited by Wylam are impressive, Bruce Vause and Adrian Sutcliffe two examples, but they may need to wait until the following season to really throw the cat among the pigeons.
I’ve put them in sixth, just ahead of Barrasford who have proved they are a great team when they turn up by winning the cup last year.
Allendale finished eighth last year and avoided the drop as a result, and I have put them there again this year. With a lot of their players at Alston when they were in the Northern Alliance, I have seen there is enough quality there to keep them up.
This is where it may all turn bitter for me, though, with the two relegation spots (not very pleasant predicting two teams to have poor seasons when you want all to do well!).
Losing the likes of Sutcliffe, Jamie Crichton and Harry Mitchell to Wylam will be a blow to Ryton and Crawcrook Albion and I think they may find it tough after winning the Division Two title. They still possess a lot of talent but I think they may have to content themselves with second bottom.
I am fairly confident that, if you offered Rose and Crown Bellingham the chance to stay in Division Two after last year’s relegation, they would have jumped at the chance.
But they were forced to rejoin Division One as a result of Halfway folding, and I expect things to only be tougher for them this year.
Last year’s promotion battle was unbelievably close, and I predict the same to occur this time around.
I can again see the top four or five fighting it out for the two passages to the higher division, making this league even more difficult to call than Division One - which was remarkably tough itself!
The two teams to gain promotion, in my opinion, will be newcomers Prudhoe Social Club and Bardon Mill - but I really can’t be sure in which order as both have shown evidence that they will be crowned champions.
Sticking my neck on the line, I’m going for Prudhoe to edge it as they have assembled a squad capable of causing a stir in Division One.
It will be hard to keep so many good players happy as you can only play 11, but they should be able to attract at least 13 to 14 regulars to make their return to the league a successful one.
Bardon Mill were unfortunate to miss out on promotion last year but they have caught the eye in pre-season and will be close to the title - if they don’t end up with their hands on the prize.
Yet I can see both Haydon Bridge and Dr Syntax Prudhoe having a big say on where the title ends up, and it would not surprise me if they ended up as champions!
Bridge were desperately unlucky not to go up last year as they were pipped right at the death so will be looking to go one better this time, and the Tax have a stronger team than last year and will definitely be challenging. However, I think both might fall just short in their goal.
I will admit to not knowing too much about newboys Phoenix Chopwell, but I have a sneaky suspicion they could creep up on the rest. Liam Haney is a man with many contacts so will put that to good use, and I predict fifth spot in their debut year.
A fight for sixth spot will be keenly fought by three teams in my opinion, with Hexham Hearts, Warden Boatside and Acomb Welfare battling it out.
I think all three are on a level playing field, but I see Hearts winning that mini-battle as they showed their potential with some great results against some of the bigger teams.
Warden and Acomb both have it in them to cause a shock but I think these will be less frequent and they will finish seventh and eighth respectively.
That leaves Stamfordham Swinburne Arms as the winners of the league’s wooden spoon again, but I do think they will improve on last year’s points tally. Their involvement in the league is just as vital to all others, and I hope they do manage to pick up some victories along the way.
First published at 15:59, Friday, 16 August 2013
Published by http://www.hexhamcourant.co.uk
This week in... 1950Friday, December 15, 1950....
THREE watercolour paintings donated by Queen Mary were auctioned off to raise money for a new Darby and Joan club in Hexham.
A site had already been bought, but a further £6,000 was needed to run the club for the elderly.
The auction, opened by Viscountess Allendale, saw the paintings raise over £8 for the fund.