‘I can walk away with my head held high’ – Glenn Turnbull reacts to FA revamp that gives US Portsmouth promotion to Wessex League Premier Division

Glenn Turnbull can walk away with ‘my head held high’ after the FA’s restructuring plans delivered US Portsmouth promotion to the Premier Division of the Wessex League.

Monday, 12th April 2021, 4:54 pm
US Portsmouth manager Glenn Turnbull. Picture: Daniel Haswell

The governing body have this afternoon released details of a shake-up at the lower end of the non-league pyramid.

The best performing clubs at steps 5 and 6 of the non-league game - locally, the two divisions of the Wessex League - based on their playing records of the last two pandemic-wrecked seasons will be invited to apply for promotion.

The top three ranked clubs on a points-per-game basis over 2019/20 and 2020/21 at Wessex 1 level will, say the FA, ‘be considered eligible for upward movement to Step 5 and will be invited to make an application for upward movement.

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US Portsmouth boast the best PPG record in their division over those two seasons of 2.23. Alton and Hythe & Dibden, who both average exactly two points per match, are second and third.

Turnbull, who took over first team affairs at US in the summer of 2019 along with assistant Fraser Quirke and coach Paul Barton, told The News: ‘It’s fantastic news. I’m made up, I’m just really, really pleased.’

Turnbull - along with Quirke, Barton and reserve team boss Lee Mould - are all leaving at the end of May to take up similar positions at Moneyfields.

‘We have done what we set out to do,’ he remarked.

‘I remember sitting in a car park at Farlington Marshes three years ago with Fraser and Barto and saying ‘right, this is what we think we can do? Are we all in?

‘Even if things go belly up at Moneyfields and I end up playing golf, at least I can look back and say I delivered what I said I would at US.

‘It was niggling away at me that we had come so close twice, but now I can walk away with my head held high.

‘We will be leaving a brilliant platform for someone else to take over.’

US secretary Bob Brady told The News last month that the club would apply for promotion if it was offered to them.

The governing body’s restructure at steps 4-6 was intended to take effect from the 2020/21 season, but was delayed due to the impact of the pandemic.

There will now be a recommendation going to the FA Council that the ‘structural changes to the number of divisions in the NLS be completed in order to address the imbalance that currently exists and achieve the ‘pure pyramid’ at Steps 1-6.

‘The planned and delayed restructure comprises of one additional division at Step 4, two additional divisions at Step 5 and a reduction of divisions, from 20 to 17, at Step 6.

‘As part of the proposals, 110 clubs would be upwardly moved within the pyramid at Steps 4-6 in order to facilitate the new divisions, protecting the integrity of the NLS whilst supporting clubs with a desire and ambition to progress, without undermining the stability of the system.

‘The restructure will have a positive impact on a significant number of clubs, supporting them with reduced travel and costs and providing greater opportunities for generating income via localised fixtures.’

The major changes are thus:

1) One new division will be created at Step 4, to be administered by the Northern Premier League;

2) Two new divisions will be created at Step 5, to be administered by the Combined Counties League and the United Counties League; and

3) The number of divisions at Step 6 will be reduced to 17.

In order to implement these divisional changes, 110 clubs will be required to upwardly move within the pyramid:

1) 20 clubs will move from Step 5 to Step 4;

2) 60 clubs will move from Step 6 to Step 5 (20 to backfill those Clubs elevated to Step 4, and 40 to populate the two new divisions); and

3) 30 clubs will move from Regional NLS Feeder Leagues (locally, the Hampshire Premier League’s Senior Division) to Step 6 (to bring Step 6 divisions to their full quota, taking into account the reduced number of divisions going forwards).

The top ranked club in the Wessex League Premier - Christchurch, who play USP in the FA Vase this coming Saturday - will be invited to apply for promotion to the Southern League.

In the Hampshire Premier League, Fleetlands and Infinity are keen to move into the Wessex League. Bush Hill and Stockbridge have also applied.

The FA said that ‘given the degree of variation in the number of fixtures completed by clubs in Regional NLS Feeder Leagues’, it was not considered ‘appropriate to utilise sporting data in the same way to determine upward movement.

‘Accordingly, the proposed upward movement will be determined by the relevant Leagues on the basis of a subjective application process (although sporting data may be taken into account).

Based on PPG over the last two seasons, Infinity (av 2.51) just edge Bush Hill (2.50) into second place with Fleetlands third on 2.08.