New teams, new signings and a new season, the only thing that has stayed the same in the Western League Premier Division is the quality and entertaining football that will be on show. With two seasons in a row now being uncompleted all the clubs and supporters involved will be hoping this is a case of third time lucky.
Starting on the 31st of July due to the FA Cup on the 7th of August including most of the league’s sides, there will be plenty of new grounds for clubs to visit as four Cornish clubs, one Devon club and a Somerset based side join the Premier Division after promotion on a points per game basis. At the same time due to these promotions and the leagues geographic position shifting further west the league have seen six clubs transfer sideways into the Hellenic League. Plymouth Parkway also departed the Western League to join the Southern League Division One South whilst Odd Down applied for demotion to the Western League Division One on grounds of the extra distances to cover.
The new season will be the first time since 2008 that the Western League Premier Division have featured a Cornish side with Mousehole, Saltash United, Millbrook and Helston Athletic all joining from the South West Peninsula League. Although the clubs will have a lot of travelling over the course of the season Helston chairman Paul Hendy expressed in an interview that they are not there just to make up the numbers. Speaking after promotion Hendy explained “I will be disappointed if we just go up to survive because that is certainly not the reason we are going there, we are going to put Helston and West Cornwall on the map.”
Both Exmouth Town and Clevedon Town battled it out towards the top end of the table during the shortened 2020/2021 campaign and it won’t be long until they’re battling it out again as they meet each other on the opening day of the season in Devon. As to how the two teams do this season will be something we keep an eager eye on over the course of the season but with promotion to the Southern League at stake it will be a long and competitive nine months ahead.
It’s been all change at Bridgwater during the summer break as the club recently merged with Yeovil United to help improve the clubs fortunes on and off the pitch. Following the merger chief executive of the club Adam Murry explained to their supporters “together in lockdown we have built an excellent foundation for the club to grow and become a real sporting, community and business success.” Exciting times for the club who welcome Buckland Athletic on the opening day as both teams will be looking to better their mid-table position when football was suspended last season. As for Buckland, manager Paul Froude has been busy signing new players from their across town lower league rivals Newton Abbot Spurs with several new faces joining the club as Froude looks to strengthen his team.
Tavistock once again look strong going into the new season and having built on their squad which competed at the top end of the table for the last two seasons could be the team to look out for this season. Manager Stuart Henderson has built a strong team as the club, who are yet to complete a full season in the Western League Premier Division, look to progress up the non-league pyramid. The club start their season with an away trip to Saltash United just across the River Tamar who return to the Western League Premier Division after a 27 year absence.
At the bottom end of the table Bridport will be looking to improve on their one win and six goals scored during the abandoned 20/21 campaign and they welcome Helston Athletic on the opening day. With Wellington being the only other team from the bottom five still in the division the battle to avoid the trap door could be fairly open. Wellington complete their longest trip of the season on the opening day as they travel to Mousehole who will be looking to compete at the top end of the table during their maiden season.
Newly promoted side Ashton & Backwell United will be eager to start the season with a win as they travel to Keynsham Town and promotion to the Premier Division was described as the “best moment in the clubs history” by chairman Mike Thomas. After battling it out at the top of Division One for two seasons and being promoted on PPG the club will now play at their highest level since Ashton Boys and Backwell United merged in 2010. The club will benefit with more local derbies which should lead to added interest from local supporters and the club will be looking to have a good season. Their opening day opponents Keynsham have enjoyed a successful pre-season and will be hoping to complete their first season in the Premier Division at the third time of asking following the two abandoned seasons, the experience gained so far however will be crucial for the club who will be looking to better their two fourteenth place finishes.
The season should be an entertaining one which could go all the way with several strong teams competing at the top of the table. Come the end of September we should have a bit of a clearer idea as to how the season will play out but it’s all to play for in what could be one of the most entertaining Western League seasons yet.
The location of all the Western League Premier Division clubs: 1: Ashton & Backwell United, 2: Bitton, 3: Bridgwater United, 4: Bridport, 5: Brislington, 6: Buckland Athletic, 7: Cadbury Heath, 8: Clevedon Town, 9: Exmouth Town, 10: Helston Athletic, 11: Ilfracombe Town, 12: Keynsham Town, 13: Millbrook, 14: Mousehole, 15: Saltash United, 16: Shepton Mallet, 17: Street, 18: Tavistock, 19: Wellington
Opening day fixtures:
31st July 2021 Bitton v Ilfracombe Town Bridgwater United v Buckland Athletic Bridport v Helston Athletic Cadbury Heath v Shepton Mallet Exmouth Town v Clevedon Town Keynsham Town v Ashton & Backwell United Mousehole v Wellington Saltash United v Tavistock Street v Brislington