We asked supporters of our Bostik League clubs to preview the new season, reflect on the old and predict the final outcome. Their predicted 1-20 (or 22) will be worked into a final table which you will see just before the big kick off.
Trevor Gilbert takes us on a tour of Barking, and implores the FA to install VAR at Dartford!
1. What was your favourite moment of last season?
Trevor reliably informs us that this image shows him from behind. Perhaps he works for MI6 during the day!
My favourite match of the season was probably beating Bowers & Pitsea 2-0 at our place near the end of the season. It was by no means a classic but we managed to keep one of the best teams at the league totally at bay and scored a counterattacking goal through Albert Levett that rivals the Belgium goal just seen at the World Cup vs Japan. The best day out had to be our trip to Dartford in the FA Cup. Going to a Conference South side and taking the lead should never be forgotten and with the assistance of VAR the two penalties Dartford got may never have come about.
2. And your worst moment?
Probably the 3-1 loss to Mildenhall Town in October. We were abject that day and it came after the high of a last minute winner v Chipstead in the FA Trophy. In the grand scheme of things that match was probably a turning point and we kicked on from there to have a fantastic November but at the time it didn't seem that way!
3. How will you do this season?
I think probably similar to last season - it all depends on how we start. If we had started the season better with some early wins we would have been much closer to those playoff places. We were also fantastic against the teams at or near the top of the table but struggled against those below us as we didn't pick up as many points as we should have. If we pick up more points in those games I would definitely say we are in with a fighting chance of the playoffs. This season however we won't be the underdogs that we were last season.
4. Which matches are you most looking forward to going to- and why?
Firstly playing Coggeshall as a new side - we've played Basildon before many times in the Essex Senior League so it'll be good to renew those games somewhere other than the ESL. Additionally Felixstowe & Walton was a lovely place to visit so I’m glad to see them come up. I think we'd also like a bit of revenge over some of the teams we didn't beat last season - Brentwood, Romford and Soham spring to mind.
5. What is your favourite away ground?
AFC Sudbury's ground was my favourite to visit last season - it looked fantastic with the perfect surface and food & drink places around the stadium. Hopefully this time we have a more positive experience on the pitch! It's always great to visit Witham when you get see/hear their superfan James and I also thought Mildenhall Town have a great underrated stadium too.
6. Who do you consider your biggest rivals- and why?
I think after last season the fixtures v Grays will be the ones both teams will be trying extra hard to win! Romford are our local rivals and the clubs have been in many different leagues together so that's always a game with a little extra. Ever since Smallsy has taken over at Bowers and they fought at the top of the ESL with us we've always had hard fought games with them. I would consider them friendly rivals but it certainly won't be friendly when we meet in the FA Cup!
7. What advice would you give to any away supporter visiting you for the first time?
Come thirsty and hungry - our clubhouse serves some very affordable draught lager and Shedhead Ale alongside usual bottles and cans while our Burger Bar will fulfil any hunger pangs you have! Also new for this season we will be running a golden goal competition which will be sold all round the ground. We have shelter behind both goals as well one side of the pitch so if the weather is a bit wet there are plenty of places to keep dry!
8. Who is your favourite player of all time (for your club)- and why?
Dumebi Dumaka (now at Dulwich Hamlet) and Lamar Reynolds (Dag & Red) were a pleasure to watch as they came through our academy and watching them in the first team it was clear they were going to go far. My favourite player of all time however was to be Ben O'Brien. An ever-present in our midfield since the 2010/11 season he's now made 349 appearances (5th in the all-time record list) and captained us to cup and league success during our time in the ESL. If we were to measure across the league the distances travelled by players during the match he would no doubt be number 1 - alongside scoring some valuable goals!
9. Who will be in the top five at the end of the season?
Canvey Island, Aveley, Heybridge Swifts, Bowers & Pitsea, Barking