‘It’s not like any team is going to run away with it’ – Fareham boss Pete Stiles on ultra-competitive 2021/22 Wessex League season
Fareham Town boss Pete Stiles is anticipating one of the most open Wessex League Premier Division title races next term.
There will be a much different look to the division in the 2021-22 campaign following a shake-up as part of the FA's major non-league restructure.
US Portsmouth, Alton and Hythe & Dibden have all been granted 'upward movement' after applying for promotion from Wessex Division 1.
Meanwhile, Moneyfields are back at step 5 following their decision to take voluntary relegation from the Southern League.
Lymington - promoted to step 4 level - along with Tadley Calleva and Fleet will no longer be part of the Wessex Premier.
Stiles believes there will be a host of clubs capable of beating each other in the new-look division.
The Reds boss reckons that should bring more excitement and an incredibly open race to be crowned champions.
Stiles said: 'Looking at it, with what’s already in there, with your Hamoworthy, AFC Stonehams and teams like that - AFC Portchester are going to be spending a few bob - Horndean are always a decent side, then you’ve got United Services and Moneyfields.
'The good thing is when you have a league like that it’s not like any team is going to run away with it - there’s lots of teams who can beat each other.
‘I should imagine it’ll be a tight league next year and I should imagine you’ll get six or seven teams up there.
‘When you’ve got more better teams in there, in some ways it’s better because everyone can beat anyone.'
With both Moneyfields and US Portsmouth joining Baffins Milton Rovers, AFC Portchester, Horndean and Fareham in the Premier, there will be a host of matches involving clubs from a PO postcode - 30 in all.
Fareham have never played USP in a league game, while they have not met Moneyfields in league action since the 2016/17 season.
All those derbies should see a boost in attendances for teams from the Portsmouth area - but Stiles insists numbers at non-league matches will be up anyway next season as people grow disillusioned with the professional game.
He stressed: 'People are looking at grassroots and supporting sides more at our level.
‘I think the attendances will be up anyway. A lot of people are annoyed with professional football at the moment with some of the things that are going on.'
Elsewhere, outside of the Portsmouth area, Shaftesbury could certainly be a lot more competitive in next season’s Wessex Premier after announcing Ollie Cherrett as their new manager.
Cherrett recently resigned as Christchurch boss after the Dorset club turned down the chance to take up a place in the Southern League.
Under Cherrett, Priory had the best points-per-game record of any club in the Wessex Premier over the last two seasons.
In contrast, Shaftesbury were fifth bottom when 2019/20 was null and voided and fifth bottom again when 2020/21 was curtailed.