2017/18 ESSEX SENIOR LEAGUE FIXTURES RELEASED

The Essex Senior League has finally released the fixtures for the forthcoming 2017/18 season and the first handful of games feature some new faces as well as familiar faces and old rivalries.

Clapton start the season this Saturday away to Basildon United at the Stuart Bingham Stadium – a repeat of our opening fixture in the 2015/16 season.

The Bees have appointed the former Basildon Town management team of Mark Harrison and Liam Wallace in the summer, following the departure of Aaron Bloxham.

Former assistant manager Lee Connor has been appointed as the club’s new chairman and will be hoping United can improve on their 9th place finish last season.

The following Wednesday we travel to Cricklefield Stadium to face our old rivals, Ilford.

It has been a summer of uncertainty for The Foxes after they were controversially voted out of the ESL at the AGM. However they successfully appealed to the FA and have now been reinstated.

Former Clapton captain and current Ilford boss Allan Fenn will be hoping for a title challenge this season after signing a string of impressive players including last season’s league top scorer James Peagram who netted 45 times in all competitions for champions Barking.

Following our trip to Clacton in the FA Cup, we return to league action on Saturday 12th August for our first home game, against Woodford Town 2017.

Woodford is the new name of the team formerly known as Haringey & Waltham, and going further back Greenhouse Sports, Greenhouse London, Mauritius Sports Association and Mauritius Sports & Pennant.

Town have a familiar look at least in the dugout, with former Wadham Lodge manager Tony Ievoli taking the hotseat, assisted by former Tons assistant manager Neil Day.

It is not known what links the setup has to the historic Woodford Town who, with Vince McBean as their chairman, shared the Old Spotted Dog with Clapton in 1999 before going bust in 2003.

Woodford, whose Snakes Lane ground burnt down but has not been redeveloped, will play at Broxbourne, where Eton Manor were based last season.

We then travel to Mile End Stadium on Friday 25th August to face Tower Hamlets. Last season 308 fans piled through the gates for the corresponding fixture, also on a Friday night, and no doubt Hamlets will be hoping for a similar or increased attendance this season.

AJ Ashinike has returned as manager and has recruited some impressive looking players, including former Barking and Ilford hotshot Wale Odedoyun and will be hoping his team can improve on their 20th place finish last season.

The rest of the fixtures are still being finalised and will be put on our fixtures page soon.

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INS AND OUTS: WHO’LL BE IN THE ESSEX SENIOR LEAGUE NEXT SEASON

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Fan-owned Saffon Walden Town FC – who have an average attendance of 199 – are looking to join the Essex Senior League

The Essex Senior League next season will see the exit of Barking to promotion and the return of Great Wakering Rovers after relegation.

However, Great Wakering, who spent two seasons in the Ryman North. might not be the only new club returning to the ESL…

Saffron Walden Town

Saffron Walden Town of the Eastern Counties League have announced they have applied for a sideways transfer to the ESL.

The Bloods were members of the ESL until 2002/3 and indeed won the title in 1999/2000 but were prevented from being promoted due to ground issues.

Based around 10 miles from Stansted and Takeley, if Saffron Walden are accepted it would nudge the boundary of the Essex Senior League further north.

However, the club face journeys up to 90 miles in their current league, so are on the fringes of whichever league they are placed in.

Excitingly for Tons fans, Saffron Walden have a big fanbase, topping the attendance table in the ECL with an average of 199, even despite a mid table season.

Not only that, but they are owned by supporters, after the club went to the wall five years ago only to be saved by fans with help from Supporters Direct among others.

Woodford Town

Woodford Town could also be returning to the Essex Senior League after a 15-year absence since their sad demise.

Historic Town, where Jimmy Greaves once played. were evicted from their Snakes Lane ground in 1993 because of complaints about noise from local residents. A fire later destroyed the main building in 1996.

They continued until 2003, groundsharing in Greenwich and then at Clapton’s Old Spotted Dog ground, before the league decided not to re-elect them.

Incidentally current Clapton chief executive Vince McBean was the Woodford chairman through some of its turbulent final years.

A resurrected Town played one season in the Spartan South Midlands League in 2015/6, based at Brimsdown Road (formerly used by Enfield Town and Enfield FC) and then later ground-sharing with Ware, before withdrawing.

It’s understood a new Woodford Town, with a committee of seven, have applied to the Essex Senior League and would play at Brimsdown Road.

Brentwood Town

Brentwood Town are currently one place above the Ryman North relegation zone, two points ahead of Ware with 3 games to play.

However, if Brentwood were to drop into the bottom three, they would also return to the Essex Senior League along with Great Wakering.

Brentwood were last in the ESL ten years ago and were actually in the Ryman Premier last season.

There is also an outside chance that Waltham Abbey could drop into the relegation zone if Brentwood, Ware and others end the season very well.

Departures

This is looking quieter. Sources have suggested that no club will be relegated out of the ESL.

However, could league officials be forced into a rethink given Barking are the only departure and there are four potential entrants to the league?

Or does it suggest one – or more – of the applicants will be turned down?

Could a current ESL club be voted out of the league? Indeed, hold a current ESL club look to transfer out to a different league themselves?

We will find out all the ins and outs later this month.

Next season’s shake-up

A major shake-up of the non-league pyramid will kick in from 2018/9.

The ESL will have between 16 and 20 clubs – and will have a second division too.

There will be extra leagues above Clapton’s level, meaning that there may well be more than one promotion place up for grabs.

We’ll write in more detail about this shake-up as details emerge.