The complexion of non-league football will be changing at the end of the new season and the restructure will boost the Peacocks’ chances of gaining automatic promotion to the Southern Premier.
Following the Southern League AGM held in Southampton on Saturday, it has been revealed that two clubs will be promoted automatically from the two regional divisions at the end of the 2017-18 campaign instead of the usual one. This follows the FA’s decision to introduce a new division at both Step 3 and Step 4 for the 2018-19 season, with the new division at Step 3 operated by the Southern League and the additional Step 4 division administered by the Isthmian League. As a result, 19 clubs will be promoted from Step 4 at the end of the forthcoming season, as opposed to the usual 12. That means each of the six regional divisions of Southern, Northern and Isthmian leagues will see two clubs promoted automatically, along with the third-placed team with the best points-per-game ratio across the six divisions. The other six places will then go to the winners of the play-offs, which will be for clubs who finish between third and sixth, or seventh in the case of the league with the best third-placed team.
It was also announced at the AGM that the Southern League will continue to be sponsored by Bostik for at least the next two seasons. Including an option to extend again at the end of the 2018-19 season and subject to approval by the Football Association, the agreement sees the competition branding simplified to The EVO-STIK League South, with the three individual divisions retitled EVO-STIK League South Premier, EVO-STIK South East and EVO-STIK South West.
Bostik, a world leader in adhesives and sealants, has a long-standing relationship with grassroots football under its well-known EVO-STIK brand including sponsorship of The Northern Premier League. The Isthmian League Football League also joined the global giant’s stable for season 2017-18 on Saturday when it was newly rebranded as The Bostik League. It was also confirmed that the Southern League Challenge Cup will be sponsored for next season by Bigfreebet.com.
We are pleased to report that two more of last season's squad are staying with the Peacocks for the upcoming campaign. Attacking midfielder Craig Duff and wideman Ross Staley have both agreed terms to remain at the Viridor Stadium, meaning 11 members of last season's squad will currently be wearing Town colours when the pre-season action begins next month.
While one player has agreed terms to remain at Taunton for 2017-18, another has departed the Viridor Stadium as the Town squad begins to take shape with pre-season training only three weeks away. We are pleased to report that the club’s current longest serving player Owen Irish will again be wearing the claret and blue for the new season. The 27 year old centre half will be embarking on his 10th season with the Peacocks, having made his debut at home to AFC Hayes in November 2008 since when he has gone on to accumulate 298 appearances and score 38 goals including 15 last term. Manager Leigh Robinson commented:” It’s good to have such a loyal player back on board. He had a good season last year and gives it everything every single week including popping up with plenty of goals for a centre back. This will be 10 straight seasons at Taunton now for Owen which is pretty rare in non-league football and shows his commitment to the club.”
Striker Jordan Rogers though has left the Peacocks and signed for Tiverton Town after notching 57 goals in his two seasons at the Viridor. We thank Jordan for his efforts during his time at the club and wish him the best of luck for the future. Robinson continued:” To be honest I didn’t work that hard to keep Jordan as I felt at the end of the season that maybe the club and him needed a change so we offered him a reduced deal which he chose not to take, as is his right. We had Lewis Powell turning down great offers from other clubs to come to us and Jordan stalling so we went with Lewis and were happy to do so. Undoubtedly though Jordan gave us two very good years and scored the vital penalty at Hemel to take us into the FA Cup 1st Round so we wish him well.”
As announced on our Twitter account earlier today, we are pleased to confirm that striker Lewis Powell is the club’s sixth new recruit of the summer. The 29 year old returns to the Viridor Stadium for his second spell, having netted 23 goals in just 25 appearances for the Peacocks during the second half of the 2015-16 campaign. He went on to join Mangotsfield United last term and enjoyed another successful year, scoring 32 League goals but departed Cossham Street at the end of the season. He has also previously played for several clubs including Weston-super-Mare and Chippenham Town. Manager Leigh Robinson remarked:” I think everyone is really pleased to have Lewis back at the club as he’s clearly a fantastic goalscorer with an excellent record. Some people might look at last year and think we didn’t miss Lewis due to the number of goals that we scored but certainly in the last month when games were scrappy on rock hard pitches and we were getting tired, Lewis has that wonderful habit of nicking you a goal when you’re not playing well and we badly missed that when it mattered. I know how pleased Lewis is to be back at the club too from the talks we’ve had and no doubt the fans will be looking forward to seeing him back in a Taunton shirt.”
A number of last season’s squad have also agreed terms for the forthcoming season including former skipper Brett Trowbridge and Man of the Match in the Somerset Premier Cup Final Ollie Chamberlain, along with Pierce Mitchell, Matt Villis and Ben Palmer. We hope to announce news of further players committing shortly. Matt Buse however has departed to join Gosport Borough whilst Stroud-based centre half Alex Hoyle has also left. We would like to thank Matt and Alex for their efforts last season and wish them the best of luck for the future.
The Peacocks will face League opposition in the space of two days next month when they begin their pre-season schedule of friendly games. Two days after the visit of Bristol Rovers, we are pleased to announce that Exeter City will be coming to the Viridor Stadium on Thursday 20th July, kick-off 7.45pm. The Grecians will be sending their first team squad to take on Town who have also arranged three other friendlies to date. Southern Premier Weymouth come to the Viridor on Tuesday 25th July, ko 7.45pm, while three days later the Peacocks make the short trip to Western League side Willand Rovers, ko 7.30pm. The final warm-up match will be at Peninsula League team Bovey Tracey on Tuesday 8th August (ko tbc), four days before the start of the Southern League campaign. Two more pre-season matches are in the pipeline and these will be announced in due course. The arrangement of the Exeter game means that the club's AGM due to take place that evening will be rescheduled and the new date will be confirmed soon.
As part of the club’s newly launched youth football development programme in partnership with Bridgwater and Taunton College, an Under 12’s side will be formed for the new season to compete in the Junior Premier League. A trial is being held at Bishop Fox’s School on Friday 16th June from 7.00pm to 8.30pm and to register a place at the trials or for more information please email firstname.lastname@example.org . Trials have already been held for Under 13’s up to Under 16’s and two welcome evenings for all selected players and their parents from each age group will be held at the Viridor Stadium next month. Under 12’s and 13’s are invited on Thursday 6th July while Under 14’s, 15’s and 16’s will be welcomed on Thursday 27th July, both evenings commencing at 7.00pm.
We would also be pleased to hear from players at Under 14, 15 or 16 level who have not yet been in contact but would like to register for this exciting venture. To clear up any possible misconceptions, any player who is recruited to play for Taunton Town in the Junior Premier League will also still be able to continue playing for their local youth team and the Taunton and District Schools side if so desired. Any player who would like to become involved please email email@example.com with your details.
The curtain was finally closed on the 2016-17 season with our Presentation Evening held at the Cooper Associates County Ground last Thursday evening (1st June). Excellently hosted by BBC Somerset’s Claire Carter and Jack Murley, the highly enjoyable evening included a three course dinner, a Q&A session and a video review of our epic FA Cup campaign as well as a number of awards being presented. Lloyd Irish (pictured) was the main beneficiary of the evening, winning both the Supporters’ Player of the Year and the Player’s Player of the Year accolades in addition to a number of smaller awards while striker Jordan Rogers also netted two trophies and Josh Searle received the Ernie Price Memorial Cup. The departing Ed Palmer won the Goal of the Season award for his free kick strike at Barrow while on the club front, Huw Davies was named Clubman of the Year and kitman and Assistant Groundsman Simon Best received the Chairman’s Award. Photos from the evening taken by club photographer Tim Norbury can be viewed HERE and a full list of the award winners can be found HERE. Many thanks to all those who attended and thank you to our hosts Somerset CCC for looking after us so well.
The Peacocks have made their fifth capture of the close season with the acquisition of centre half Arran Pugh. As reported on our Twitter account yesterday (3rd June), the 27 year old who stands 6’ 6” tall has joined Town from Truro City where he was captain last season. The main part of his career to date has been spent at Truro where he has had two lengthy terms interspersed with a spell at Dorchester Town.
The arrival of Pugh (pictured) comes hot on the heels of four new faces who were announced on Friday including three former Truro teammates in Ryan Brett, Ben Adelsbury and Les Afful along with the returning Chris McGrath from Bideford. Manager Leigh Robinson commented:” We’re really happy with the five signings we’ve made so far. Naturally the ex-Truro lads come with a higher level experience which we were looking for and for them they are coming into a dressing room where they already know people in Wrighty and Shane, have had success playing with those players and that added to our excellent set-up means it makes sense for both parties. Chris McGrath is an ideal replacement for Ed Palmer as they are pretty similar. He had a great year at Bideford, was outstanding against us in April and knows plenty of people around the place so he’ll fit in nicely. I’m sure the fans will enjoy watching these new lads in action when July comes around as I know they are all chomping at the bit to get started with us in pre-season.”
As revealed on the club’s Twitter account earlier today, we are pleased to announce that four new players have been added to the Peacocks’ squad for the 2017-18 season. Returning to the Viridor Stadium is centre half Chris McGrath who appeared 93 times for Town in his first spell at the club from February 2010 until his departure in 2012 when he went on to play for Bridgwater Town, Tiverton Town and Frome Town. A former Republic of Ireland youth international, 32 year old McGrath has signed from Bideford where he won both the Supporters and Manager’s Player of the Year awards last season.
Also joining up with the Peacocks are three players who were with National League South side Truro City last term. Left sided defender/midfielder Ryan Brett began his career at Plymouth Argyle before spending three seasons at Salisbury City, helping them win promotion to the Conference Premier. The 26 year old then signed for Truro in the summer of 2014 and was part of the side that gained National League South status in 2016. Another former Salisbury man who has come on board at the Viridor is 26 year old midfielder Ben Adelsbury who was on the books of Swansea City as a youngster. He then went on to spend two and a half years with Salisbury from 2009 before going on to play for Eastbourne Borough and Bath City. Completing the trio is experienced 33 year old winger Les Afful who featured in over 250 games for Truro. Starting off as a trainee at Exeter City, he went on to play 78 games for the League side until switching to Forest Green Rovers in 2006 where he also totted up more than 100 appearances and played for the English National Game XI.
We welcome all four players to the club and in more good news, goalkeeper Lloyd Irish has agreed terms for next season. Irish picked up both the Supporters’ and Player’s Player of the Year awards at the presentation dinner yesterday evening (1st June) held at Somerset County Cricket Club. A full review of the evening will be available soon.
Further player news will be announced over the coming days.