IT’S a familiar scenario at the outset of what promises to be another compelling season of college football as the chasing pack look to wrestle the Premier League title from a Worcester side out to retain their crown for the third time in succession.
With flame-haired goal machine Mike Hobbiss having graduated, this could be the year where the likes of New College begin a new Oxford football dynasty of their own.
For New’s captain Tom Howell, thoughts of what might have been last season still linger. “Many of our boys still feel robbed of the league last year after a shocking linesman decision cost us three points against Worcester” he said. “We will be fighting for top spot again this year but still expect Worcester to be the team to beat.”
The other Premiership side to watch will be St. Anne’s, whose remarkable 2006-07 season ended with promotion from Division One as champions and a Cuppers final appearance after an odds-defying run. Having proved their strength in defeating Premiership opposition last season, captain Ryan Fox is confident that his side can cope with the step up in class this year.
“It’ll be real test to deal with the quality of the Premier Division” he said, “but with last year’s cup run behind us, there’s no reason why we can’t at least hold our own. We’ve also retained almost all of last year’s side, so with a few decent freshers we should have  enough strength in depth to last the season.
“A great deal depends on our giant striker Ed Border, who was the driving force behind last season’s success. As well as being a fantastic target man, he’s also one of the most skilful players in college football, so it will be an important season for him.”
The First Division is shaping up to be Oxford’s most competitive this year, with almost every side looking to make a decent stab at promotion.
Relegated St. Catherine’s, St. Hugh’s and Keble will want to make a speedy return to top flight football, whilst the likes of Somerville, Magdalen and newly-promoted Exeter will be keen to deny their more esteemed rivals promotion to the elite league.
Exeter can draw on a fine Cuppers run last year where they defeated Premiership sides Catz and Teddy Hall, before succumbing to eventual winners Brasenose. “We managed to beat Hall 8-0 in the cup” said captain Daivd Lee, “so we shouldn’t be written off in Division One this season. We’ll take things one game at a time, but with Jon George, who bagged 23 goals for us last season, we’ll be more than a match for anyone in this league.”
For Keble, however, anything less than promotion is not an option after being relegated last year despite only finishing two points of third spot.
“The end of last season was very frustrating” says captain Sebastian Singh. “We’re definitely not going to underestimate this division, but we should have enough quality and strength in depth to go straight back up.”