Jay Cooper's review of the year

Sun 2nd January 2022 | General
By Jay Cooper

NWCFL – 2021 Revisited

Even though the first dawn of 2022 has already broken, it's worth noting how important 2021 has been, and not just on a global scale. In amongst the still-ongoing pandemic, the new US President inauguration, lockdowns being lifted and reinstated and much more, it's also been a remarkable year in the NWCFL. This article will summarise the year that was and gloss back over some of the biggest talking points of 2021.

It makes sense to start this article early in the year, but unfortunately that means reminding everyone that the NWCFL season for 2020/21 was officially curtailed for the second season running due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On February 24th, with the leagues having been suspended since December, the announcement was made that they would be abandoned. Clubs would lay no more competitive fixtures under the NWCFL banner until the beginning of the 2021/22 season, However, that didn't mean no football entirely.

Of course, the players in these teams do it for the love of the game – they're not taking home thousands of pounds a week, they were there to play football, and that's exactly what they were going to do, league abandonment be damned.

Grass-roots football was legally allowed to resume again on March 29th – April was rearing it's head and NWCFL teams were finally able to get themselves not only back into a training routine, but also to play games. While most of these games were friendlies, it's not as if there were NO competitive football matches in tier 9 between March and July.

The Buildbase FA Vase...

One huge moment came on May 22nd, despite having originally been scheduled for May 8th. 3,000 took a seat under the arch at Wembley for the FA Vase Final. The Vase is not a competition overseen by the NWCFL, but instead is one of the oldest cup competitions in the country, with over 550 teams taking part when qualifying rounds are taken into account.

It came down to a final two of Binfield, from the Isthmian League South Central Division, and then-NWCFL Premier Division side Warrington Rylands, who had never previously won the tournament. After 90 minutes in London, Rylands ran out 2-3 winners thanks to a hat-trick from Elliott Nevitt, who outdid Binfield's Liam Ferdinand's brace. An important piece of club history for Rylands, who had won the FA Vase for the first time ever, and they would go on to enjoy further good tidings when the NWCFL Leagues were reorganised ahead of the 2021/22 season.

The impact of the Coronavirus pandemic had led to the premature curtailment of the previous two seasons, but, at the start of the 2021/22 season, it looked like it was going to be the first potentially completed season since 2018/19. In order to determine which teams were in which league, the NWCFL adopted a system that had been used in League One and League Two to determine the final placements of teams in the 2019/20 season – a points-per-game algorithm, taking the two previous, incomplete seasons into account.

As a result, the following promotions took place:

–        Premier Division:

–        Warrington Rylands to the Northern Premier League Division One West

–        Bootle to the Northern Premier League Division One West

–        1874 Northwich to the Northern Premier League Division One West

–        Hanley Town were transferred to the Midland League

–        Whitchurch Alport were transferred to the Midland League

–        Division One North:

–        Lower Breck to the NWCFL Premier Division

–        AFC Liverpool to the NWCFL Premier Division

–        Prestwich Heys to the NWCFL Premier Division

–        Division One South:

–        Vauxhall Motors to the NWCFL Premier Division

–        Wythenshawe Town to the NWCFL Premier Division

–        Stone Old Alleynians to the Midland League


As if all these promotions and league transfers taking place in one summer wasn't enough to digest, there would yet be one more – yes, I'm talking about Macclesfield.

After Macclesfield Town was liquidated and expelled from the football league in 2020 due to debts, the club was purchased Robert Smethurst, and former Premier League Captain Robbie Savage was appointed on the club's board. In May of this year, the same month that Rylands took home the FA Vase, it was announced that the phoenix club, “Macclesfield FC”, would play NWCFL Premier Division football in the 2021/22 season.

An interesting side note – this meant that the NWCFL Prem would have 21 teams, instead of the usual 20. Congleton Town were originally meant to be transferred to the Midlands League along with Hanley and Whitchurch, but won their appeal to remain in the NWCFL in July. In addition, Congleton and Macclesfield are close Cheshire-based rivals.

With all the off-season admin finally taken care of, the 2021/22 NWCFL season began on July 31st. However, AFC Darwen wound up having to wait slightly longer when their 2-0 win over South Liverpool was rendered void due to them fielding an ineligible player.

With January 2022 now upon us, each league has begun to take shape, with some teams certainly faring better than others.

Premier Division:

  • Macclesfield and Skelmersdale United are going toe to toe at the summit of the Prem, with the Silkmen currently holding firm in top spot. There's also only 2 points between Charnock Richard in 3rd and Avro in 6th.
  • Litherland REMYCA began to remedy their awful start to the campaign with a change of manager at the end of September, but Colin McDonald's side still remain 10 points adrift at the foot of the division and their -40 goal difference doesn't help affairs. Runcorn Town occupy the other relegation spot, with Ashton Athletic 4 points above the dotted line.

Division One North:

  • Golcar United and Bury AFC are the top two in this league, with Bury having 2 games in hand on Golcar at the time of writing. The Shakers are also the only team in the entire NWCFL who are undefeated in league competition this season. The other play-off spots are taken up by Holker Old Boys, Pilkington and AFC Blackpool, with the Seaside outfit 4 points ahead of the chasing pack in 5th.
  • Further down the table, St. Helens Town are 6 points from lifting themselves off the bottom of the table, and 11 points from getting clear of the drop. AFC Darwen accompany them in the relegation zone with Atherton LR. Rovers are within touching distance of safety as of now, with both Ilkley and Cleator Moor Celtic just 3 points above them.
  • Cleator Moor Celtic suffered a 3-point deduction in September for failing to fulfil a fixture with current league leaders Golcar. Without that deduction, Celtic would currently occupy 12th in the table due to their goal difference, instead of 15th where they are now.

Division One South:

  • West Didsbury and Chorlton occupy top spot in this league, with New Mills and Abbey Hey not far behind. Wythenshawe Amateurs and FC Isle of Man occupy the remaining play-off places, with Cheadle Town knocking on that particular door in 6th, a mere 2 points behind the Ravens.
  • At the foot of the table, St Martins are having a torrid time. 2 points from 25 games played so far and they have conceded as many as 145 goals at the turn of the year – that really paints a picture. They keep Rocester off the bottom of the league, with Eccleshall also in the drop zone. Alsager Town are 4 points clear in 17th.

What a year 2021 has been for the NWCFL. Despite all the stopping and starting, all the postponements and delays, and all the extra admin done to rearrange the leagues in the summer, there have been some real talking points. If all goes to plan, the 2021/22 campaign will finish as football seasons should – with all the games played, champions crowned and clubs knowing exactly what comes next for them after all is said and done in May. If 2022 is anywhere near as topsy-turvy (hopefully for non-pandemic-based reasons) as 2021 has been, then we're all in for a some ride. But that's just football, isn't it?

Happy new year, everyone!


Jay Cooper can be found on Twitter @JCoops29102


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