Eastwood chairman excited by challenge of EMCL

Jamie Bennett says getting out of the Central Midlands League was a huge step forward for Eastwood.
Jamie Bennett says getting out of the Central Midlands League was a huge step forward for Eastwood.

Eastwood CFC chairman Jamie Bennett believes the club can comfortably hold its own in the East Midlands Counties League - and even challenge for promotion.

The Red Badgers went up as champions from the Central Midlands League South last month, meaning they will now play their first ever season at step six of the pyramid.

But citing examples of others to have made similar journeys before them, Bennett is confident Eastwood will be one of the stronger sides in the division.

He said: “You’ve only got to look at clubs like Selston who moved up from step seven and then in their first season came very close to winning the title, and all of that without really changing their squad.

“Our joint managers Dave Marlow and Jonathan Wass have confirmed to me that all of last season’s squad want to sign up for next year, and with two or three new faces to freshen things up we are confident that we can aim at the top end of the division.

“It won’t be easy, as we will play far more games than we did in the CML South given there are five more teams in the EMCL, but that’s a good thing in my eyes as it’ll mean more regular football.

“It will be a very strong league with some great local derbies against the likes of Selston, Kimberley and Heanor Town who have taken demotion from step five, so we’re really looking forward to it.”

Bennett believes the club’s thriving infrastructure off the pitch won’t need much in the way of tweaking as progress continues to be made.

He said: “We are quickly becoming one of the biggest setups in Nottinghamshire and hope to have 44 teams carrying our name next season.

“We have had to rent a grass facility to ease the time pressures of everyone playing at our ground, as you simply can’t play as many games as we have been there with so many teams, but otherwise everything is in great shape.

“Heanor’s decision to drop down the levels is a sensible one given the money and travelling involved at step five and I think they want to take a similar route to us in terms of forming a strong grassroots and academy setup to help them prosper.

“Getting out of the CML was a huge step for us given how difficult it was. It’s a huge kick towards our target of step four football over the next four or five years.”

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Bennett added that pre-season will be an attractive one at the PSUSA Arena.

He said: “It’s a shame from our point of view that Ilkeston were promoted into step five but we’ll have them here for a friendly in July which I hope will attract a big crowd.

“We are also expecting Notts County and Mansfield to send sides as well.”