We asked supporters of our Isthmian 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.
David takes us to the Island. Take your big coat.
1. How do you feel about the return of football?
Generally excited although apprehensive. It will be good to have the football back as it felt like I had a massive void in my life that was hard to fill at times, missing friends, missing the atmosphere of match days etc. The recent announcement of a return of fans to Step 3 to 6 grounds was well received but it was quite sobering to think I won't be watching a game in front of more than 600 people for a while!! What will the matchday experience be like? Will singing be allowed? There's no doubt things will be very different when football does return and will take a while to feel normal again. Hopefully having football back will provide some people some joy that has sadly been missing in the last few months.
2. The world has changed enormously since you were last able to watch a live football match. Will the pandemic change your approach to watching the game- will you attend as many matches as you used to, and spend as much time at the ground/in the clubhouse, etc?
I expect I'll get to the majority of home games especially with foreign travel off the radar for a while. Away games may be more difficult especially if there's restrictions on away fans and coach travel is limited. I don't drive which makes things more tricky. Where I can I'll use public transport or get a lift to matches, especially if things improve over the coming months. If I can't get to an away game, I'll find something locally to go to so I expect most weekends I'll be watching football somewhere. I'll try and have a drink in the clubhouse before and after games when I can but understand this might not always be possible if the clubhouse is particularly busy.
3. Last season had many exciting moments before its premature end. What was your favourite moment?
Winning at Bury Town for the first time in 8 years was particularly sweet. Our runs in the FA Cup and Trophy were also memorable. Coming back from 2-0 down to winning 3-2 and then nearly losing at Chipstead in the Trophy in an exciting game will stand out. The best moment though was in the FA Cup, when we overcame higher league opposition in St Ives Town in the second qualifying round, winning 3-2 in extra time at Park Lane with Jason Hallett getting a late winner.
4. And what was your worst moment?
Losing to Bowers and Pitsea on penalties in the FA Cup 3rd qualifying round. A victory would have seen us home to Chichester City in the final qualifying round and a great chance of making the first round proper. The defeat was made even more gut wrenching when Chichester received a bye through to the second round proper and played Tranmere Rovers away in front of the BT Sport cameras.
5. How will you do this season?
Consistency was a big problem for us last season. We started the season well but from October onwards lacked any real consistency and just couldn't string consecutive wins together. Our away form was quite decent and we managed to get wins at the likes of Bury Town and Heybridge and hold Aveley and Heybridge at home but our home form for the most part was shocking. Defeats to Hullbridge, Great Wakering and Histon at home were real low points of the season where the team just didn't turn up. This season, the squad has changed vastly. We've lost a number of key players such as Lamar Johnson, James White and Jason Hallett who were the spine of the team. Luckily, we've managed to replace these departures with quality additions such as Conor Hubble, Rob Girdlestone and Jey Siva who were with clubs that were challenging for promotion last season and know the division inside out. If we can make Park Lane a fortress and carry on the decent away form, there is no reason why we can't challenge for at least a play off spot.
6. Which matches are you most looking forward to going to- and why?
Probably the Dereham Town and Histon/Cambridge City away games as these are the only two grounds I've yet to visit in the Isthmian North. Sudbury and Bury Town are fixtures I keep an eye out for as well as these are always good away trips to pleasant towns.
7. What is your favourite away ground?
I would say Lewes' Dripping Pan. Lovely town with a number of good pubs and the ground is decent. Fans are always friendly there and the food is top notch. They also do a great selection from the Harveys' brewery in the clubhouse.
Bury Town is also a good day out as Bury St Edmunds is a nice town to visit although Canvey don't tend to do too well there.
8. Who do you consider your biggest rivals- and why?
Most probably our Island rivals Concord Rangers although we haven't played them in a few seasons competitively. The friendlies with them are always a little feisty and competitive.
Billericay were our main rivals for many years until Concord progressed through the leagues and in terms of teams in our division, I would say it's probably Grays Athletic although the rivalry is no where near as intense as the days when both clubs were in the Conference.
9. What advice would you give to any away supporter visiting you for the first time?
Wrap up warm especially during the winter months. Park Lane is situated right by the Thames and gets very chilly especially in the winter when a cold wind blows off of the river.
I also suggest drinking in our clubhouse if you can. We have a number of good real ales and foreign beers on tap and that end of the Island isn't blessed with many 'watering holes' so it makes sense to have a drink at the ground.
10. Who is your favourite player of all time (for your club)- and why?
I would have to say Lee Boylan. The guy was a phenomenal goalscorer. He could score goals from anywhere and all different types of goals. Tap ins, long range shots, headers, he could do it all. To score nearly 100 goals in just two seasons is nothing short of sensational. We were blessed with some great players during our Isthmian Premier/Conference days of the early 2000s but Boylan was the one that really stood out.
11. Who will be in the top five at the end of the season?
Aveley, Coggeshall Town, Maldon & Tiptree, Canvey island, Brentwood Town
Would you like to represent your club? Get in touch now and we'll send you the details. Email Ian on firstname.lastname@example.org.