Southern League Division One South and West: 2016-17 season preview

NDJ

IT may well be the division all non-League lovers have one eye fixed to this season.

Yes, it is the fourth tier of non-League football – and the eighth on the competitive ladder – but Division One South and West really will have everything on offer in the 2016-17 campaign.

Former Football League giants, big-spending clubs, dozens of derbies, some genuine quality players and huge attendances.

The first and last on that list will come in the form of phoenix club Hereford FC.

A one-time FA Cup fairytale when they beat Newcastle United 2-1 in 1972, the Bulls were wound up in 2014, reformed a year later and won promotion from the Midland Football League last season. They have sold more than 1,300 season tickets.

Another promoted team sure to add excitement is Salisbury FC – a similar story to Hereford, with as much hope of charging back up through the non-League pyramid.

This is before mentioning the established Taunton Town, Tiverton Town, Evesham United and Swindon Supermarine – all of whom regularly get 200 people through the gates.

So, what of the North Devon clubs?

Well, Bideford have recruited expertly this summer and still have a core of players who helped them gain promotion from this league in 2012.

Bringing striker Ben Watson back could prove a stroke of genius, while former Tiverton captain James Richards has settled straight back in and already looks like a signing of the summer contender.

Any other season, you would think the squad was more than equipped to storm this league, but a play-off spot would be classed as a success come May.

Every season has an underdog story, could this be Barnstaple Town?

Back-to-back promotions have seen them shoot through the Western League – but this is a serious step up.

Signings James Blake and Craig Allan have shored up an already-strong spine of the squad and they have more than enough to comfortably survive. But survival will be the aim.

Whatever happens over the next nine months, it will certainly be an enjoyable and entertaining ride.

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