It is no weather for football but with the FA Cup in mind the following Saturday, the CCL, like most Step 5/6 leagues, starts its season this week on Saturday 4 August and there is a full programme in both divisions.
The reason for the early start is, of course, that all Premier sides plus some from Division One will be playing in the FA Cup next week and not too many want to start their season with an FA Cup tie. The League will take stock of the situation next season though as the early start coupled with the late release of fixtures at higher levels, which affects ground sharing situations of which we have plenty, made fixture preparation very much a rush job.
It is always difficult to predict what will happen in pre-season. For example who would have predicted this time last season that both Epsom & Ewell and Godalming Town would find themselves demoted to Division One at the end of it!
That said, one suspects that Walton & Hersham along with Sutton Common Rovers, both just pipped by Bedfont Sports for the second promotion spot last time round, will again be strong. Both face intriguing home matches on Saturday with Walton welcoming newly promoted Badshot Lea, who took just one season to regain their Premier status, whilst SCR will certainly not have it easy against Knaphill, reigning League Cup holders.
Southall have come into the League upon promotion from the Spartan S. Midlands League (losing just one league match all season) and they have a tough opener away at Balham who beat any number of leading clubs to win the London Senior Cup last season despite a horribly congested fixture list, with which they coped admirably.
Cobham are also back in the Premier Division after a number of seasons away and they travel down to Horley Town for their opening game. Raynes Park Vale have also returned and they will be at home to Guildford City.
It’s a real mixed bag in Division One. Epsom & Ewell will be straining at the leash to get back up and they start at Sandhurst Town on Saturday, the latter having returned after a two-year sojourn in the Hellenic League.
Middlesex League champions British Airways, now ground sharing at Bedfont & Feltham travel down to Fleet Spurs whilst Surrey Elite champions Tooting Bec are also away at Frimley Green.
Bagshot, now under the stewardship of ex-Eversley manager Phil Ruggles (pictured) will be looking for a better season surely, and they travel up to Bedfont & Feltham, about whom the same can be said. Sheerwater, of course, are now playing at Woking FC which should give them a boost, but they face a tough game at home to relegated Farnham Town.
The League is disappointed that the FA have now taken charge of promotion and relegation at Steps 5 and 6, the outcome being that, instead of three promotion places available from Division One, there is now only one, with a possibility of a second one depending upon a points per game comparison with other Step 6 divisions through the country. Two clubs rather than three will now come down from the Premier Division at the end of the season. The reason for the disappointment is that three up and three down kept the League vibrant and ensured it didn’t go stale. Just remember Chessington and Hook three seasons ago who were languishing near the foot of Division One but suddenly turned things round so well that they claimed the final promotion spot at right at the end of the season.
As many will be aware, the clubs voted to remove AC London from this season’s constitution but the club though has exercised its right to appeal to the FA. The hearing has now been put back to Thursday 8 August. AC London have been included in the overall fixture list as it is easier to postpone games than try to introduce an additional club into a full fixture list. This obviously depends upon whether or not the FA accept or reject their appeal.