SOUTH WEST PENINSULA WEST start of season preview

SWPL logoThe start of a new football season always feels a bit special – but with all that’s happened this year, the 2020-21 campaign is even more eagerly anticipated. 

Lovers of local football have been unable to watch league games since March, when the 2019-20 season was brought to an abrupt end by the Coronavirus pandemic. 

So many people were affected by the virus that football, like many leisure pursuits, had to be curtailed and one of the casualties was the South West Peninsula League season. 

In the west Helston Athletic were running away with the title, having won 25 of their 26 games and scored 100 goals along the way. Only Saltash United could have staged a late challenge but, alas, that was not to be.  

The season was declared null and void by the FA on March 26. 

Helston will again be chasing honours this season and they go into the opening day fixture against Wadebridge Town strengthened by the signings of St Austell pair Jordan Dingle and Will Tinsley. 

Saltash, who would have probably finished as runners-up last season, have lost manager Matt Cusack and top scorer Ryan Richards to Plymouth Parkway, a double blow of some proportion. 

But performances against Buckland Athletic (friendly) and Parkway (FA Cup) suggest the Ashes will again feature at the top end of the table under Dane Bunney, who was Cusack’s assistant. 

Mikey Smith looks a good replacement for Richards up front and as long as Sam Hughes continues to reach such high standards, Saltash will score plenty of goals. 

Who else might challenge for the title? After a transitionary couple of seasons, Bodmin Town are looking strong again following astute transfer business during the summer. 

Defender Tom Chambers has returned to the club for a second spell from his home town club St Austell and the vastly experienced Chris Reski has also been snapped up from the Lillywhites. 

With left back Callum Martindale making a late switch for Saltash, the Bodmin backline looks strong, while the return of Adam Carter guarantees goals at the other end. 

Mousehole, who were sitting proudly in fourth place when last season was curtailed, will again be a threat and their brand of passing football will be good on the eye. Jake Ash's Seagulls were beaten only twice in 25 league games last time out. 

St Austell, who surprised many by being top of the table for much of last season under new manager Chris Knight, have had a change of policy as a club and are going with home-grown young players who have been so successful with their second team. 

Knight has departed, along with many of the big names, so it will be interesting to see how things develop at Poltair Park under new boss Mark Smith.  

St Blazey have taken Jake Miller from their neighbours among half a dozen arrivals and pre-season performances suggest they will be entertaining to watch. They have the potential to score lots of goals but keeping them out at the other end may be a challenge. 

Falmouth Town are a well run club and with manager Andy Westgarth in charge, there is a feeling of stability at Bickland Park which should see them challenging for a top six finish again. 

Wherever your team finished in March, the slate has been rubbed clean and it is time to start again. 

And it is time to really appreciate your local clubs, where enthusiastic volunteers have been working incredibly hard to be ready for kick-off. 

After all we have been through in recent months, I think we’re ready too.

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