With the new Wessex League season kicking off next week, there will be 7 PO Postcode sides competing in the Premier Division. Horndean, Moneyfields, United Services, Baffins, AFC Portchester and Fareham Town all remain in the Divison, whilst West Sussex based Pagham make the switch from the Southern Combination league.
Horndean have had a busy summer following their 4th place finish last season. Boss Michael Birmingham has brought plenty of new additions to Five Heads Park, as well as maintaining the core of his squad from last season.
The Deans were the top performers among their Portsmouth neighbours last season, taking 23 points from local derbies, and placing highest in the Division ahead of their PO rivals.
Horndean have bolstered their squad depth with the signings they’ve made, with 5 players joining up from nearby rivals Baffins. Rudi Blankson, Ethan Gee, Tommy Patterson, Tommy Scutt and experienced centre half Lee Molyneaux have all made the switch to Five Heads Park.
Michael Birmingham has also strengthened his back line with the signings of Eddie Wakley, Charlie Merrit and Tom Jeffes who has previously won the Wessex League with Poole, as well as captaining US Portsmouth to their historic FA Vase run.
The Deans kick off their season at home to Moneyfields, which will see an immediate return to Five Heads Park for Jack Lee, who recently swapped Horndean for the Moneys.
AFC Portchester will be looking to carry on the momentum from their strong finish to the 21/22 season.
Dave Carter’s new look side secured a 7th place finish after a slow start to the campaign, and the Royals have made their ambitions for the upcoming season very clear with some big signings arriving creekside.
Their signing of ex Pompey fan favourite Brett Pitman has made local football headlines, as the experienced centre forward joins Portchester following his departure from League One outfit Bristol Rovers.
Pitman comes in as a perfect replacement for the two attacking departures Portchy have suffered this summer, with Lee Wort returning to Sholing and Rafa Ramos moving to Bashley.
Portchester have also expanded their options, signing 8 players including James Cowan, Charlie Williamson, Ashton Leigh and Elliot Wheeler.
Baffins were off to a flying start to their 21/22 campaign, finding themselves at the mid point of the season on the same points as eventual Champions Hamworthy United.
Following a sudden crash in form in the new year, Rovers had to settle for a mid table finish. Shaun Wilkinson’s decision to step down as manager was followed by a mass exodus first team players, including regulars such as James Cowan, Lee Molyneaux, Rudi Blankson and Harry Sargeant all departing for fellow PO rivals.
Danny Thompson was appointed as manager and has rebuilt a youthful side, as well as appointing Jason Parish as skipper. Thompson taking charge of Baffins has been accompanied by a flurry of young players coming into the squad, as the Rovers look to improve on their lack of consistency last campaign which proved costly in the latter stages of the season.
Glenn Turnbull enters his second season as Moneyfields boss and has shown his ambitions for a promotion push this season.
Four signings have made their way to Dover Road this summer, Cal Laycock and Harry Sargeant have signed on, as well as returns to the Moneys for keeper Tom Price and Defender Jack Lee, who rejoins from Horndean.
They have also kept the bulk of their squad which secured a mid table finish in their return to the Wessex League last season, including the retention of club legend and prolific goal scorer Steve Hutchings, who last season reached the 250 goal milestone for the club.
The Moneys will have to play their opening home fixtures away from Dover Road, as the ongoing construction of the new John Jenkins stadium on the site has forced them to find a temporary home until it’s completion.
West Sussex based Pagham FC prepare for their first season in the Wessex League after a surprise switch from the Southern Combination League.
They ended their spell in the league with a 9th place finish, and have since made new additions to their squad, including ex Bognor pair Dan Simmonds and Mike Baker, both with Wessex League experience, along with former Pompey Academy and Baffins midfielder Stan Bridgman
They have also resigned experienced centre half Daryl Wollers, who returns to the Lions from Isthmian South Central outfit Basingstoke.
Fareham Town were branded Wessex League entertainers last season, having scored 148 and conceded 115 goals in all competitions last term.
Their struggle to find consistency lead to a 12th place finish, however their high scoring matches helped them attract one of the biggest average attendances in step 9.
The Creeksiders also came close to Cup success after reaching the Wessex League Cup Final, losing to Shaftesbury.
They have had a mixed batch of results during pre season, with wins against Royal Navy, Broadbridge Heath and Petersfield, as well as a draw with Littlehampton Town and a 5-2 defeat to Basingstoke.
United Services Portsmouth gear up for their second season in the premier division after a tough campaign last season.
The departure of boss Turnbull to Moneyfields prior to the start of last season, followed by the majority of playing squad, forced US into a quick rebuild.
Under the management of Tom Grice, US finished 17th in the league, and after a tricky season, Grice resigned as manager. This was followed by the departure of skipper Tom Jeffes, who joined Horndean after 6 years at USP.
Fraser Quirke recently returned to the Victory Stadium and has since taken up the vacant role as first team Manager. USP kick off their 22/23 season with a trip to Pagham.
In Division 1, following promotion from the Hampshire League, Fleetlands make their Wessex League debut at Andover New Street.
Petersfield Town open their season on Saturday 6th August at home to Downton.
Opening Fixtures – Tuesday 2nd August – 7:45pm KO’s
Wessex League Premier
AFC Portchester vs Cowes Sports 7:30pm
Baffins Milton Rovers vs Hamble Club
Fareham Town vs AFC Stoneham
Horndean vs Moneyfields
Pagham vs US Portsmouth
Wessex League Div 1
Fleetlands v Andover New Street
Full fixture list can be found here on the Wessex League website
Photo: Daniel Haswell