Both the Northumbria Winter league and the Handicap Cup competition have now finished which means it’s time for the Summer league to take over. Thanks to some new entries like Redby and East Boldon who primarily play in the Sunderland league during the winter season, all 5 divisions have been filled with 8 teams in each.
There’s no Premier division in the Summer league which means that Division 1 is host to a mixture of teams from Winter Premier, Division 1 and Division 2.
League winners and usual favourites Cramlington Casuals are represented by a mixture of Division 1 and Premier players such as James Bradbury, Rob Reed, Adam Webster, Gareth Pearson and Iain Wood. The actual players from the Winter season’s Casuals team are registered for the Cramlington Stingers – Andrew Wilkinson, Peter Smallcombe, Steven Penman and Marc Cotton with the addition of Dale Aitkenhead from Winter team Mitford who haven’t entered a team into the Summer league.
Mount also have two teams in Division 1, recalling last Summer season’s players Duncan Wraight and Lee Eadington to accompany their usual Winter line-up of Graeme Barella, David Pringle, Anthony Ainley and Phil Prady in the A team. The B team consists of Winter Division 1 stalwarts John Russell, David Cutler and Rodney Roberts.
Old England have only entered a single team which means they can call from a host of quality players including Jacob Helm, Alan Atkinson, Lynne Herrington, Joe Muldowney, Brian Bateman, Ken Clark and umpteen others.
St Chads will wheel out their usual squad of the Weatherby family, Jimmy Scope, Dave Bisset and Chris Blake but they’ll also add Paul Baines from NESLC’s Winter team.
Riding Mill have moved to a venue in Prudhoe and will now be known as Prudhoe United Services. They’ve entered two teams into the Summer league, one in Division 1 and another in Division 3. Currently the A team only has two players registered – Premier-quality players John Williamson and Jeff Salter – but the B team has no short supply of good players to support them in the form of Mark O’Connor, Andrew Firth, Shirley Gelder, Maurice Cheek, Allan Thompson and Peter Stempczyk. Players from a lower-registered team can play up to 5 matches for a higher team but on their 6th appearance they “join” that team permanently and can’t play for their original, lower-ranked side.
The only team to have players with no Winter league Premier division experience is Brandon Air. Comprised of Jamie Lupton, Lee Tinkler, Paul Dale and Troy Maddison, the line-up is full of up-and-coming young players who have proven themselves comfortably in divisions too low for their current ability. Despite their lack of experience at this level the youngsters shouldn’t be considered rank outsiders and most players who know them would certainly not be surprised to find them climbing well above the relegation spots.
The Cramlington Stingers team are certainly the favourites with their players having barely lost a title in the past 5 years but St Chads and Mount A could potentially cause upsets depending on which team fields their strongest players most regularly. Top players Andrew Wilkinson and Graeme Barella could yet again face each other if Wilkinson is practising for national Veterans tournaments at the same time that Barella returns from a work placement in London. Other players to watch include Brandon’s Jamie Lupton, a very steady, consistent retriever who likes to play away from the table, and Dale Aitkenhead who is slowly but surely recovering from injury and will invariably find a vein of form if he plays enough games for the Stingers this season.