The SLFA Season so far…
Updated: Mar 3
The inaugural SLFA season has been a huge success thus far. As we have reached #MatchweekFifteen and February half-term has creeped upon us, let’s take a look back at the highs and lows of the SLFA season so far.
The current leaders at the top of the SLFA table are Sutton Coldfield Town. Having competed in the Northern Premier League Football Academy since 2015, The Royals made the switch to the SLFA for the 2019/20 season. Having played nine games so far, they have amassed an impressive 20 points, winning six games, drawing two and losing on just the one occasion. Sutton Coldfield boast an impressive core of second year students like Lewis Brady, Josias Kindala, Etakah Bessem and Juvani Mupene. On top of this, they also have some impressive new first year recruits like Ethan Pearce, who has been nominated for ‘Player of the Month’ on two separate occasions and Enes Muca who provides steel and grit to the midfield. The Royals have enjoyed some brilliant wins over the course of the season, including a 5-0 win over their Brummie rivals, Rushall Olympic on the opening game of the season. Sutton Coldfield Town student Mebrahtom Yowhannes’s brilliant strike for fifth goal in that opening game of the season was named September/October Goal of the Month.
Rushall Olympic are the team putting most pressure on Sutton Coldfield at the top of the table. The Pics currently sit in second place on 14 points, but have only played seven games (two less than Sutton Coldfield Town). They have racked up four wins so far, with the most impressive coming in #MatchweekTwo where they brushed aside Swindon Supermarine 4-0 at home. It is always tough starting up an academy team from scratch, especially when the students might not know one another. Luckily at Rushall there have been some real leaders emerge from the group like Bradley Fox, Josh Sivorn and Louie Reynolds who set an example to their team both on the pitch and in the classroom.
Behind them in third place are the Oxfordshire based club Kidlington. Having played seven games, they are currently on 12 points after winning three games, drawing three and losing just one. Kidlington have statistically the best defence in the league having conceded a league-low of just nine goals. This is thanks to a strong, powerful spine of the team consisting of Toby Cruickshank in goal, Alex Neale, who was named as November/ December ‘Player of the Month’ at the back, plus Joe Langdon and Ellis Mathews in the middle of the park. Steven Soares also provides attacking flair and a goal threat in the final third, and his solid performances so far this season have not gone unnoticed, having been nominated for September/October ‘Player of the Month’.
Currently sat slap-bang in the middle of the table in fourth are Swindon Supermarine on nine points. Their most impressive performance so far this season came in #MatchweekSeven when they put four goals past league leaders Sutton Coldfield Town in their own back yard. The game finished 2-4 and Swindon handed The Royals their only defeat of the season so far. The standout players up until now for Swindon have been Andy Smith who provides goals upfront and Joe Sawyer McGrogan at the back. Another player for Swindon who is praised highly by academy coach, Kerry Walklett is central midfield player Jay Haydon. The captain and leader of Swindon Supermarines broke his collar bone after scoring in the first game of the season against Frome Town and was out of action for three long months. Walklett was full of praise for Haydon saying: “In his first game back four months later against Chesham we had a centre back out injured so he stepped up and filled in. Jay’s a hugely versatile player and willing to do anything for the team. He’s since been pushed back into his preferred position and is going from strength to strength now he’s back training full time again”. Jay has also been nominated for Player of the Month for January/February after putting in some stellar performances after recovering from his injury.
Settling in at fifth place are Chesham United. The Generals used to compete in the Isthmian League and were quite successful in the 1990’s before moving to the Southern League in 2004. Chesham tasted victory for the first time recently, after putting five past Frome Town and finishing the game the 1-5 victors. Just like every academy in the SLFA, Chesham have some serious players in their side. Callum Gerrard provides the goals upfront for them, scoring the first ever goal of the SLFA season and is currently top scorer in the league. Their captain, Josh Smith is a very smart footballer, able to play at the back or in midfield and was shortlisted for ‘Player of the Month’ for November/December. Smith was also the first ever SLFA first team debutant after he was named on the bench for Chesham United’s first team game against Newport Pagnell Town in the Berks & Bucks FA Senior Cup. Smith was substituted on in the second-half to complete his first team debut. Another Chesham United player catching the eye of the first team is Blaaze Lawrence. The classy playmaker can play in midfield or be a threat from the flanks and has the brilliant ability to strike a ball so cleanly, as he demonstrates here scoring a worldy in the opening game of the season. Blaaze has signed first team forms for Chesham and was recently named on the bench for their league cup semi-final against Needham Market.
Behind them in sixth place is the South Gloucestershire side, Yate Town. The Bluebells kicked off the SLFA season with a bang and in their first game of the campaign produced an early contender for game of the season after drawing 4-4 with Chesham United. Since then they have only managed one win and another draw, but the side are always high in spirits and have superb team chemistry. They also have some brilliant talent at their disposal including Keane Ashwood, who was named as the September/October ‘Player of the Month’, not to mention Ali Albouti, one of the highest scorers in the division and also winner of November/ December Goal of the Month plus Emmanuel Burnett who opened his account with a hat trick in the first game of the season. Despite only winning one game so far this season, The Blubells showed what they were capable of after beating Frome Town 7-0 in #MatchweekSeven. Their two-pronged potent attack of Ali Albouti and Emmanuel Burnett was on fire, with Albouti scoring four of the goals and Burnett adding another two.
Frome Town complete our round up of the SLFA season so far. Like Chesham United and Yate Town, The Robins have sampled victory on one occasion so far this campaign, when they managed to beat Chesham in a seven-goal thriller during #MatchweekFour. Alfie Terry provided the spark that day, as he often does for Frome. Terry is a speedy, powerful winger with a great touch was named as ‘Player of the Week’ for his two goals on that occasion. Like Swindon Supermarine, Frome Town have only played six games so far this season, so will be looking to get some points on the board and with new academy coach, Leah Poole on board and implementing her style of play, things are looking up for the young Robins.
With an already fiercely competitive league structure in place and six more teams already confirmed to be joining the programme as of September 2020, the Southern League Football Academy has gone from strength to strength. The football and education programme is already rapidly developing after just six months of operation, allowing for more opportunities in local communities for young students looking to stay in education and advance up the football pyramid.