THE BIG KICK-OFF: Much-weakened NSL up for grabs

PLOTTING A REVIVAL -- new management duo Dave Bradshaw (right) and Dave Marlow, who are hoping to drag Linby Colliery Welfare out of the doldrums -- DISPIC NHUD11-1534-2
PLOTTING A REVIVAL -- new management duo Dave Bradshaw (right) and Dave Marlow, who are hoping to drag Linby Colliery Welfare out of the doldrums -- DISPIC NHUD11-1534-2

TEAMS with their roots in the Dispatch district are expected to have a much bigger say than usual in the title race after a dramatic dumbing-down of the Notts Senior League (NSL).

No fewer than five of the leading clubs from last season’s Senior Division have defected, including all of the top three — champions and league and cup winners Boots Athletic, Basford United and Clifton.

Basford and Clifton are two of four clubs — the others being Bilborough Pelican and Notts Police — to have quit the NSL to join a new-look Central Midlands League (CML).

While Hucknall-based Boots, as reported in the Dispatch, have scrapped their first team to concentrate on just one NSL side — their former reserves in Division One. This followed a mass exodus of players, including several to Basford.

The resignations have opened the door to the three local teams who remain in the top flight for the 2011/12 campaign, which kicks off tomorrow (Saturday). They are Hucknall Rolls Leisure, who were pipped by Boots in last season’s cup final, and Bulwell and Linby Colliery Welfare, both of whom have unveiled exciting, new management teams.

The Chemists’ decision to dismantle has generated huge controversy, with critics claiming they have taken the easy way out.

Certainly their attitude screams a stark contrast with that of Linby, who have courageously battled on in the face of chronic adversity over the past two seasons.

A bottom-four finish in 2009/10 was followed by the worst campaign in the club’s recent history last term when they mustered just seven points from 30 games and finished a stranded last.

Because of other clubs leaving, Linby were handed a relegation reprieve. And now they are determined to make the most of it under new bosses Dave Bradshaw and Dave Marlow.

Bradshaw (64), one of local football’s most enthusiastic servants, returns to a club where he enjoyed fine success between 2004 and 2007. Marlow (32) is a talented local player taking his first steps in management.

Bradshaw and Marlow have wasted no time in attracting some eyecatching signings to Church Lane, most notably 27-year-old defender Mark Jago, who is the new skipper, 21-year-old fellow defender Matt Peberday, experienced goalkeeper Scott Miles, utility player Jonathan Dakers (31), midfielders Ash Winfield (21), Sean O’Neill (22) and Simon Marlow (26) and strikers Luke Price and Damian Mann.

Pre-season performances have been encouraging, with three wins and a draw from six games, plus narrow defeats at the hands of Clifton and Greenwood Meadows. They begin their new era at home to 2005 and 2006 league champions Wollaton.

Rolls have been touted as potential title contenders for some time now — and proved in their cup-final defeat against Boots that they are not far away.

So if they can shrug off their penchant for inconsistency, they will surely enjoy a better league champaign than 2010/11 when they finished a disappointing eighth

However they have suffered a couple of pre-season blows, with the loss of highly-rated young striker Harry Allen, and hefty defeats in friendlies against Hucknall Town (0-4) and Basford (0-3), whom Allen has joined.

Managers Jez Corthorn and Paul Jordan have resisted the temptation to fish for new signings, preferring to rely instead on the continued progression of their host of youngsters, such as Billy Brookes and Aaron Short, and more concerted contributions from the likes of James Needham, Alistair Murray and Anthony Wallis, who have returned to full fitness or availability.

Meanwhile, as also reported in last week’s Dispatch, Bulwell have thrown a sizeable spanner in the works by appointing colourful duo Steve Osborne and Terry Witts as their new managers. And true to form, Osborne has made all sit up and take notice by insisting they WILL win the league!

The challenge represents the first stab at high-profile Saturday football Osborne and Greys, who enjoyed massive success with Scots Grey, sensational winners of the FA Sunday Cup at Anfield in 2009.

After finishing fourth from bottom in their second season in the NSL’s top flight last term, Bulwell were on the verge of folding.

But the new bosses have snapped up several ex-Greys players for their strong-looking squad, which also includes prolific striker Connor Carter, scorer of 26 goals last term.

The Bulls open their new season with a tasty local derby against Carter’s former club, newly-promoted Vernon Villa.