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|RAY SIMPSON`S ARNGROVE NORTHERN LEAGUE ROUND-UP
Arngrove Northern League chairman Mike Amos and the FA have dismissed suggestions that clubs from the league could be forcibly promoted up to the next step of the national league system.
The ANL has been accused of sabotaging the national system because no club from the league has been promoted for nine years, since Whitby Town in 1997.
There have been rumblings about the lack of movement at national level - ANL clubs maintain that economics are a major factor in their reluctance - and rumours are circulating that clubs will have to take promotion at some point in the future, whether they like it or not.
But Amos says that enforced promotion won't happen. "It's a manifest non starter," he said. "Even in the more extreme debates that we've had, nothing like that has been suggested.
"I don't think for one moment the FA would want to enforce promotion - what would the penalty be if a club refused to take it? It would also have to be enforced right across the system up and down the country, and that would affect many clubs, not just those in the Northern League."
And Mike Appleby, who is in charge of the national league system at the FA, suggested that the idea was a non-starter. When asked for a comment, he said: "That doesn't even warrant an answer!"
Dunston Federation Brewery assistant-manager Perry Briggs believes that they can be challenging for the title this season.
Dunston, who lost their grip on the title last season to Newcastle Blue Star, have signed five new players with possibly more to come.
Striker Steve Preen and midfielder Gareth McAlindon have arrived from troubled Bedlington Terriers, striker Adam Scope from Newcastle Benfield Bay Plastics, keeper Andrew Clark from Ashington and centre half Mark O'Bern from Guisborough Town and should all be lining up for the Fed, but striker Chris I'Anson will probably miss the start of the season because of injury. Former Gateshead defender Micky Farrey has, however, been forced to retire because of injury.
Briggs believes that the arrival of Preen (pictured) should help leading scorer Graeme Armstrong. "Steve should take some of the pressure off Graeme, and I think that will help Graeme score even more goals."
Guisborough Town manager Andy Toman is looking for some experienced players to help his youngsters.
Toman helped to lift Guisborough off the bottom of the table in the second half of the season, and he said; "I'm desperate for some experience in the team. We've got some very good youngsters, but they need somebody to help them." And he ruled out the possibility of his own return to the side; "I'm past it - I can't play any more!"
Toman will also need somebody to replace defender Mark O'Bern, who is on his way to First Division Dunston.
Darlington RA manager David Woodcock is hoping to clinch four new signings before their season kicks off.
The surprise packages of last season, who held on grimly to the last promotion place ahead of Penrith, have yet to register any players, but Woodcock said: "All of the players from last year have assured me that they'll be staying, which is a bonus in itself.
"I've been talking to new players, and if I get them all, then I'll be happy."
The RA will also be embarking on their first ever FA Cup campaign this season. "We really enjoyed being in the Vase last season, and who knows what we can do in the Cup. If we win a couple of home ties early on, then we might get a tie against a UniBond League club. The competition will be marvellous for us next season.
"We're hoping that overall crowds will go up. We'll be playing in a higher standard of football, and there'll be a few derby matches."
The club has also been working hard on the pitch and the floodlight system during the summer, and everything should be ready for a friendly against Football League neighbours Darlington on July 18th.
Newcastle Blue Star are hoping to use some of the Wheatsheaf for airport car parking.
The Star's ground is ideally placed next to the airport - indeed, it's a plane spotter's paradise - and they want to capitalise on their proximity by offering car parking facilities outside the football season, especially as the use of the airport is increasing.
Secretary Jim Anderson said: "At Blue Star we are forever encouraging more people participation and wanting to improve our facilities and there are some great grants available to assist us. However, funding is becoming very difficult and we are always looking for avenues to improve our income to help with the gap funding."
Horden CW have signed a player with Scottish Premier League experience.
Manager Brian Honour has signed midfielder Ben Jackson, who was with him briefly at Bishop Auckland before the player went to Inverness Caledonian Thistle.
"He finished the season playing against the likes of Celtic and Rangers, but he was released at the end of the season. We're waiting for the international clearance to come through so then he'll be able to sign a contract with us."
Honour, meanwhile, has been stung by some predictions that Horden will be relegated this season.
"People are saying on the internet that because we conceded eight goals in a game at Benfield, that we're going to be relegated. I've printed off those comments, and I've pinned them on the dressing room wall. - that should motivate the players!
"With the new signings we've got, then we've got basically a brand new team now, and I believe that this team will win more games than it loses."
Honour is hoping to announce the signing of a new player-coach soon, but he has already signed striker Lee Ludlow, and defenders Sonny Parker and John Hutton.
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