WHEN the new Northern Alliance season kicks off on Saturday, the league’s banner will encompass 50 clubs in the three divisions.
There are 17 clubs in the Premier Division and First Division with 16 in the second following the late resignation of Lowick.
Alnwick Town are newcomers in the Premier, dropping down from the Northern League and replacing Easington Colliery, who have moved sideways in the system to join the Wearside League.
Another change in the top- flight involves Wallsend who, after finishing as runners-up last term, have moved across the Tyne and will be operating as Gateshead Leam Lane this time around.
Promoted sides Gillford Park and Cramlington Town will be having their first taste of football at the league’s top level.
Carlisle City’s squad has been decimated in the close season. They have lost Joe Blaylock, Craig Wilson, Matty Lea and Gary Milne to Northern League outfit Penrith, while Tom Foster is leaving the area and goalkeeper Aaran Taylor is still undecided after turning out for Workington in their pre-season friendlies.
Manager Mark Wilson is having to concentrate on youth and three of his recent signings are all under 18.
Eight new clubs will be facing a Northern Alliance baptism and, apart from Alnwick whose original Alliance membership began in 1936, there are another seven newcomers in the Second Division.
The most notable are Amble United, last season’s North Northumberland League champions, along with Willington Quay Saints, who finished as runners-up in the Tyneside Amateur League.
Making up the complement are Killingworth YPC, Shields United from South Shields, Wallsend BC, Wideopen and District and Tynemouth United.
These are all junior set-ups making their first foray into senior football.
Shields United team boss Gareth Allen is looking forward to the challenge and his team fared well in pre-season friendlies.
The Shieldsmen have several promising young players including 17-year-old Adam Lowes, front- runner Kyle Yorston, Ricky Brown and the midfield duo of Wayne McCamley and Gary Spottiswood.
In the First Division, Steve Coxon and Mark Wilson have taken over the managerial reins at Rutherford following the departure of Paul Mossa.
The experienced Ian Mulholland should prove a useful signing, and other newcomers at Farnacres are David Jeffers, (from Hebburn Reyrolle), Martin Wood and Ian Mowbray (from Sunday football) and Paul Barrett (ex-Billingham Town).
Preliminary round ties: Ponteland United v Heaton Stannington, Walker Central v Wallsend Town, Killingworth YPC v Shields United, Peterlee Town v Gateshead Leam Lane.
First round: Hexham v Shankhouse, Carlisle City v Alnwick Town, Jesmond v Ashington Colliers, Newcastle University v Gillford Park, Amble v Ponteland United or Heaton Stannington, Whitley Bay Town v Newcastle British Telecom, Killingworth YPC or Shields United v Willington Quay Saints, Blyth Town v Northbank, N Shields Ath v Heddon, Wallsend BC v Peterlee Town or Gateshead Leam Lane, Cullercoats v Seaton Delaval, Tynemouth United v Ncle Chemfica, Cramlington T v Walker Central or Wallsend Town, Wideopen v Harraby Catholic.