Windsor now a two-club town while Bracknell Town and Binfield rebuild – Dave Wright’s season preview

Max Herbert. Photo: Neil Graham / ngsportsphotography.com
Max Herbert. Photo: Neil Graham / ngsportsphotography.com

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Legendary Berkshire sports editor and reporter Dave Wright has written his big 2023/24 preview for East Berkshire’s non-league sides.

Throughout the 2023/24 season, Dave will be writing a regular column for Football in Berkshire.

Bracknell Town’s Max Herbert had surgery this week on an ankle injury that has troubled him for two years.

“I’m told it went well, so looking forward to being back out there soon and playing (hopefully) pain-free,” he tweeted from his hospital bed.

The midfield general is not the only Robins player who will miss the early weeks of the new season with Liam Tack and Liam Ferdinand also on the sidelines.

Adam Richards, George Knight and Connor Holland are among others who have been on the treatment table, so pre-season didn’t prove easy for managers Carl Withers and Jamie McClurg.

Since their play-off final defeat at the hands of Truro City, Bracknell have seen several departures, among them influential skipper Dan Bayliss and regular goal-maker Gary Obisogun.

However, Jamie McClurg and Carl Withers have brought in several replacements with attack-minded defender Massimo Giamettei looking a particularly good signing based on his performances in recent friendly matches.

Fixtures: All the opening weekend men’s fixtures for Berkshire are now live on our Fixtures & Results service here

Listen: The Berkshire Football Stories preview will be available from 6am on Friday 4th August

Binfield

Giamettei was among many players to leave Binfield, leaving manager Garry Haylock with the difficult task of rebuilding his squad.

Long-time secretary Rob Challis is also leaving Hill Farm Lane for family reasons, so big losses on and off the field for the Moles.

Ascot United

Ascot United have joined Binfield and Thatcham Town – all three, of course, being FA Vase finalists in recent years – in the Isthmian League’s South Central Division following their promotion and should
be capable of holding their own against the best.

The FA Vase holders and Cherry Red Records Combined Counties League Premier Divison North champions go into the new season on the crest of a wave and brimming with confidence.

Jamie Tompkins’ men have lost experienced duo Louis Bouwers and Marcus Mealing, but the arrival of prolific scorer Harvey Killeen from North Greenford United looks like a very good signing.

Reading City

With Ascot no longer to worry about, Reading City are one of the favourites for the Premier Divison North title. They pushed the Yellamen hard for much of last season but appeared to run out of steam in the closing stages and were pipped for the runners-up spot by Egham Town.

Reading City’s Tyler D’Cruz. Photo: Hazel Worthy.
Reading City’s Tyler D’Cruz. Photo: Hazel Worthy.

Simon Johnson’s men enjoyed a particularly good pre-season with wins and goals galore, including nine against AFC Aldermaston, five into the Binfield net and six past Kidlington Reserves. Their two Tylers – D’Cruz and new signing Robinson – look a potent attacking force and City fans should be in for an exciting season.

Wokingham & Emmbrook

Also in Premier Divison North, Wokingham & Emmbrook struggled for much of last season but battled hard to survive and hopefully, they will continue to show improvement in the months ahead, although the
departure of classy striker Joao Jardim
is a big blow for them.

Sandhurst Town

Sandhurst Town are newcomers to Premier Divison South after winning the Division One title and they look capable of making an impact. They are sponsored by Bracknell Town’s chairman Kayne Steinborne-Busse’s company, the SB Group, and that is a major asset that brings benefits on and off the field for the Fizzers. Their league rivals include Tadley Calleva, Jersey Bulls and Tooting & Mitcham United.

Combined Counties League Division One

There will be plenty of local derbies in Division One with Berks County, Eversley & California, Langley and Woodley United being joined by Windsor, relegated from Premier Division North, and Yateley United, the immensely impressive winners of the Thames Valley Premier League last season.

Berks County have switched from the grass of Binfield to the all-weather at Ascot, and that could well work in their favour. The Swords should be capable of mounting a strong challenge for honours but Woodley will need to show a huge improvement on last season if they are to get involved in the promotion race.

Windsor – the two football club town

What we can expect from football in Windsor remains to be seen as there are now two teams in the town.

The Combined Counties League side will be ground sharing at Beaconsfield, while the newly-formed Windsor & Eton will be playing at Stag Meadow in the Thames Valley Premier League.

Fans will have to decide which of the teams to follow and who will be called the Royalists?

Reading FC

As for the Royals, Reading FC, now find themselves down in EFL Division One following their relegation and they are a club with serious problems, so a quick return to the Championship looks out of the question.

New manager Ruben Selles faces a mountainous task in turning their fortunes around.

Maidenhead United and Slough Town

An attractive alternative to League One for local fans is the National League, where Maidenhead United have been joined by another two former Football League clubs with Hartlepool United and Rochdale both coming down from League 2, adding to a list including Aldershot, Chesterfield, Oldham Athletic, Southend and York City.

One step below are Slough with Torquay United and Yeovil Town among the new clubs in National League South following relegation.

AFC Aldermaston

Hartlepool, Torquay and Rochdale are among the many Football League clubs that Marcus Richardson played for, and it’s good to see the big fella back on the Berkshire soccer scene. He has taken over as manager of AFC Aldermaston, the Wessex League Division One side who play at Thatcham’s Waterside Park.

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