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Glassboys Stay North for 2017/18

1 year ago By Richard Clark

The provisional 2017/18 League constitutions have been announced and the Glassboys can look forward to another season in the Evo-Stik NPL.

Six new clubs will be joining the Premier Division, replacing Blyth Spartans, Spennymoor Town (both promoted to the Vanarama National League North), Skelmersdale United, Frickley Athletic (both relegated to Evo-Stik NPL Division 1 North), Ilkeston and Corby Town (relegated to Evo-Stik NPL Division 1 South).

Taking their places will be:

Altrincham and Stalybridge Celtic - Relegated from National League North
Lancaster City and Farsley Celtic - Promoted from Evo-Stik NPL Division 1 North
Shaw Lane and Witton Albion - Promoted from Evo-Stik NPL Division 1 South

The Division will again operate with 24 clubs, and there have been no sideways movements between the NPL and Southern League affecting the allocation.

Meanwhile, the third club relegated from National League North, Worcester City, have been placed in the Midland League (Step 5) following their voluntary resignation from the National League.

Locally, we congratulate Leamington, whose promotion to the National League North is confirmed, and Midland League winners Alvechurch, who will take their place in NPL Division 1 South, where they will be joined by our FA Cup First Qualifying Round opponents Peterborough Sports after their promotion as Champions of the United Counties League.

The allocations remain provisional at the present time, and may be subject to change should any club at this level or above go into liquidation or resign from their League, or should any club appeal its allocation.

The line-up will be ratified at the Evo-Stik NPL AGM in June.

Below we take a closer look at the six new opponents we will face next season:


Relegated after finished bottom of the National League North, the Robins are historically one of the biggest names outside the Football League. Founder members of the Alliance Premier League (now the National League) in 1979, they won that League in its first two seasons, but were rejected for election to the Football League in the days before automatic promotion and relegation.

Alty remained members of what became the Conference until 1997 and since then have yo-yoed between the top flight and the next level several times. However, relegation from the National League twelve months ago was followed by a further drop this season, meaning they will play at Step 3 for the first time since the pyramid was formally structured in 1979.

The club is famous for having knocked 17 League Clubs out of the FA Cup, more than any other club still playing in Non-League (Yeovil Town boast 20 such giant-killings prior to joining the League). Most recently in 2015/16, Alty knocked out Barnsley 1-0 at Moss Lane.

The Glassboys have never played Altrincham in any fixture to the best of our knowledge, but there are connections between the clubs with both Junior Smikle and George Bowerman having spent time at Moss Lane.

Phil Parkinson has just been appointed as the Robins new boss after leaving his post at Nantwich.

Stalybridge Celtic

Stalybridge also join us following their relegation from National League North, after 13 seasons at that level. Celtic had previously spent six seasons in the Conference between 1992 and 1998, and another in 2001/02, with a highest finish of 12th in 1992/93.

Manager Steve Burr will be familiar to Glassboys fans as the former manager of both Kidderminster Harriers and Hednesford Town, for whom he also played against us in the early 1990s. Burr was appointed late in the campaign - his second stint with the club - but was unable to turn round Celtic's fortunes, despite impressive home wins against Champions AFC Fylde and runners-up Kidderminster.

Burr took over from former Ashton United management duo Paul Phillips and Steve Halford who took the reins early in the season after moving from Hurst Cross.

The teams have met before, when Stalybridge visited the War Memorial Ground in 2008/09 for an FA Trophy First Round tie. Stourbridge will be hoping for better fortunes next season, as Celtic won 6-1 on that occasion!

Supporters may also like to be aware that Stalybridge Station Buffet boasts a reputation as one of the finest Real Ale pubs in the Manchester area. We expect this to be a popular awayday amongst Glassboys fans!

Lancaster City

Known by the intriguing nickname of the Dolly Blues, Lancaster join us as Champions of Division 1 North, pipping Farsley to the Title on the final day of the season.

Lancaster spent eleven season at Step 2 between 1996 and 2007, first in the NPL Premier Divison and then as founder members of Conference North, but the club folded after relegation at the end of the 2006/07 season, and the reformed club was placed at Step 4, where they have remained until now. Consequently, this will be Lancaster's first season at Step 3 since 1996 despite having played at both higher and lower levels in the intervening years!

Lancaster can also lay claim to being even better behaved than Stourbridge - having won the overall Evo-Stik League Fair Play Award last season, nudging the Glassboys into second place.

Once again, the teams have not met previously, but there is a playing connection in the shape of Stour defender Jack Duggan, who numbers the Dolly Blues amongst his former clubs.

Lancaster's well appointed Giant Axe ground is just a few minutes walk from Lancaster railway station on the West Coast Main Line.

Farsley Celtic

Based midway between Leeds and Bradford, Farsley won promotion through the play-offs having finished runners-up behind Lancaster in Division 1 North, before disposing of Colne (4-0) and then Ossett Town (4-2, after extra-time), both at their own Throstle Nest stadium.

Farsley were only formed as recently as 2010, after the previous Farsley Celtic club went out of business. Initially known as Farsley FC, the new club adopted the name of the former club in 2015, once FA rules allowed them to do so.

The previous club had enjoyed a rapid ascent from the NPL Division 1 in 2004 to reach the Conference by 2007, but were relegated after just one season and then folded midway through 2009/10 whilst members of Conference North. The current club began life "back" in the Northern Counties East League, but promotion in their first season brought them into the NPL.

As far as we can tell, there have been no previous meetings between Stourbridge and Farsley (either Celtic or FC) and we are not aware of any players who have played for both clubs.

Shaw Lane

The Ducks have gained promotion to the highest level in their history as Champions of Division 1 South. Run close by Witton Albion, they finally pulled clear in the last couple of weeks of the season to win the Title by six points.

The Club was originally known as Worsborough Common, before changing its name to Aqua Force Barnsley (reflecting a sponsorship arrangement) in 2011, then Shaw Lane Aquaforce twelve months later, and finally dropping the Aquaforce part of their name in compliance with FA rules in the summer of 2016.

Shaw Lane's rise has been meteoric in recent seasons. Promoted from the Sheffield & Hallam County Senior League in 2013, they progressed via successive promotions through the Northern Counties East League Division 1 and then Premier Division, and into the Evo-Stik NPL Division 1 South in 2015. Runners-up in their first season, they were then surprisingly defeated at home by Coalville Town in the play-off final, before securing promotion this season at the second time of asking.

The Club overcame devastating circumstances in achieving promotion, after 24-year old defender Daniel Wilkinson collapsed during a League Cup tie against Brighouse Town, passing away shortly afterwards having never regained consciousness.

In a similar fashion to Barwell, also on the same site at the Shaw Lane Sports Club complex as you drive in on the left are Barnsley Cricket Club, where a certain Geoffrey Boycott started out. Barnsley have also hosted Benson & Hedges Cup games in the past!

UPDATE (July 2017) - Shaw Lane are set to leave their current base and move across town to the north of Barnsley to groundshare at ATHERSLEY RECREATION of the Northern Counties East League with work being carried out to meet league requirements.

Witton Albion

Northwich-based Witton are slightly more familiar opponents, with the two clubs having met during Stourbridge's first season in the NPL. The Glassboys won 3-0 at the War Memorial Ground in January 2015, but Albion turned the tables with a 2-1 later in the season at their Wincham Park home.

Albion were relegated at the end of that season into the NPL Division 1 North where they finished 11th last season before being switched to Division 1 South in the summer of 2016. An excellent campaign followed, at they end of which they finished 2nd, a massive 17 points clear of 3rd placed Spalding United, despite having three points deducted.

Play-off wins followed against AFC Rushden & Diamonds (1-0) and Spalding (2-1), thereby guaranteeing a return to Step 3.

Historically, Witton have been in the shadow of their more illustrious neighbours Northwich Victoria, although they did briefly join Vics as members of the Conference for three seasons between 1991 and 1994, as well as reaching the FA Trophy Final in 1992, losing 3-1 to Colchester United.

Both clubs have fallen down the Leagues to some extent since then, but Witton are now firmly established as top dogs with their promotion coinciding with Northwich dropping out of the NPL altogether.

Updated 16:15 - 10 Jul 2017 by Nigel Gregg

Where next?

Key dates for 2017/18 announced by the NPL The Evo-stik Northern Premier League has pencilled in all the key dates for the 2017-18 season.
Birmingham Senior Cup Final - Video highlights available Match highlights from the Birmingham Senior Cup Final are now available to view courtesy of Hednesford's youtube channel (READ ON)

Tue 8 May
Cup 1 – 2
Sat 28 Apr
1st Team Warrington Town
League 2 – 1
Thu 26 Apr
1st Team Stafford Rangers
League 0 – 0

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