Money talks as play-off trio look set to dominate

STAYING ON - Ollie Wilkinson
STAYING ON - Ollie Wilkinson

Money talks at all levels of football and the three unsuccessful play-offs teams are likely to dominate next season’s promotion race in the Southern League’s new-look Division One Central.

Daventry Town will again face stiff competition from ex-Conference League clubs Kettering Town and Rugby Town but have been boosted by Ollie Wilkinson’s decision to stay put at Communications Park.

Voted player-of-the-year by his colleagues, the reliable right-back had been linked to a step down back into the United Counties League with well-heeled AFC Rushden and Diamonds.

Wilkinson, who also provides adequate emergency cover as a central defender, has joined the bulk of Daventry’s 2013-14 squad in opting early on for another season with the Purple Army.

For their part, the Diamonds already have half-a-dozen former Daventry players in Russell Dunkley, Aaron Parkinson, Matt Finlay, Tom Lorraine, Joe Henderson and Matt Gearing not to mention new assistant manager Paul Lamb.

The Wellingborough-based club could itself achieve Southern League status in less than 12 months’ time. Hopefully by then the Town will themselves have moved up to the premier division.

Kettering and Rugby will harbour similar thoughts. Average league crowds of more than 600 give the Poppies extra pulling power whilst the Valley are also boosted by strong support at the turnstiles.

Daventry meanwhile will again have to lean heavily on the continued financial backing of long-time sugar daddy chairman Iain Humphrey.

Outside of the big three, championship challengers appear thin on the ground. Fallen giants Aylesbury United could fit the bill although the presence of a second Aylesbury club in the same division undoubtedly complicates matters.

Royston flattered only to deceive last season whilst Barton Rovers punched above their weight despite the limitations imposed by representing a Bedfordshire village.

Most of the Home Counties clubs involved struggle to attract three-figure attendances because of their close proximity not only to each other but also to higher placed outfits.

Football is still to some extent a working man’s game which means that affluent home owners in Hertfordshire and Middlesex are more likely to be found at the golf club rather than the local football ground on Saturday afternoons.

Beaconsfield SYCOB, Chalfont St Peter, AFC Hayes, North Greenford, Ware and Potters Bar are all hard-pressed to draw in crowds of more than 100 so are unlikely to mount serious promotion challenges.

St Ives and Godalming have been strapped for cash in recent times but the dark horses might be newly-promoted Hanwell Town who play their home matches in the borough of Ealing.

Kettering seem the most likely 2015 champions with either Daventry or Rugby filling the No.2 slot. Royston, Northwood and Marlow are other possibilities as far as the play-off places are concerned.