The sight of a shattered group of second-years huffing and puffing away their summer of lethargy in endless shuttles can mean only one thing; the football season is back with a bang.
This year the question remains exactly the same as last year – can anyone topple Worcester from their throne? Last year they seemed unstoppable as a side packed with Blues talent played some excellent football on their march to a JCR Premier Division and Cuppers double.
However they were certainly given some scares along the way and this can only give encouragement to last year’s chasing pack of St Anne’s, Wadham and Teddy Hall, each of which gave Worcester’s star studded line-up a scare along the way. So much so indeed that Worcester’s title win was only on goal difference ahead of St Anne’s.
As ever which side emerges as the closest challenger depends largely on the quality of the fresher intake, and sides such as Wadham shorn of a degree of their attacking flair will be hoping for some pace and trickery to add to their evident steel. Equally, New will require a shot of fresh blood to arrest their slide from predicted title challengers last season, to the plodding mid table side they turned out to be.
Much is expected of the three promoted sides, St Catz, Christ Church, and Magdalen, all of whom finished neck and neck at the top of an extremely competitive First Division last season. The top two especially ought to have sufficient attacking flair to be aiming for mid-table and beyond.
Yet which side can really challenge the champions is likely to come down to consistency; last season’s Wadham side matched two hard fought victories over rivals St Anne’s with defeats to rock bottom Lincoln and relegated Brasenose. If they and the rest of the chasing pack can find the elusive ingredient of consistency they will be confident of taking Worcester all the way to the wire.
Much can be read into the results of the opening gambits, with the first day clash between St Anne’s and Teddy Hall providing the most mouth-watering prospects along with the battle for supremacy between promoted Magdalen and Christchurch.
In the second tier much will depend on whether relegated Lincoln can let their attacking talent override the crippling lack of confidence that saw them finish with just seven points last season, especially against the verve and goal threat of LMH, unlucky in not being promoted last season by just two points.
Similarly the rest of the division ought to offer serious threat to both Lincoln and their fellow relegated sides Jesus and Brasenose. Last year even Exeter, who finished just one place above relegation, were safe by all of fifteen points and will be determined to see their good results rewarded with a rather higher finish than last time out.
The promoted trio of Pembroke, Merton/Mansfield and Corpus/Linacre will all be hoping that they can add their names to a long list of sides to become rejuvenated by a quality season in the lowest tier to challenge immediately for promotion to the Premier Division.
Much like last season, the First Division should prove the most competitive of all the college football leagues with the array of closely matched talent, especially given the tightness of last year’s contest, giving a whole host of sides equal chance of pushing for promotion.
A stunning season awaits with both the top two divisions promising to be more competitive than ever before.
Whether this will be enough for one of the pack to depose the sport-rich Worcester however, is another story entirely.