Promotion on cards for Bunney’s Ashes?
Saltash Borough victorious ahead of eagerly-anticipated derby day clash against Saltash United
14th April 2021
By Lee Hall
Saltash United manager Dane Bunney has spoken of his surprise and delight after the Football Association (FA) confirmed that a number of clubs, including the Ashes, could be in line for promotion.
The FA released a statement on Monday where it was announced they intend to move ahead with a restructuring of the non-league pyramid that could see more than 100 clubs, including Saltash, playing higher level football next season.
The restructure was due to take place at the end of the 2019-20 season, before being deferred after leagues were declared null and void due to the outbreak of covid-19.
With steps three to six of the National League System being curtailed this term, the FA want to move forward with the restructure by using results from the past two campaigns to rank teams, and that would see Saltash promoted.
The Ashes were joint top with Mousehole when South West Peninsula (SWP) Premier West was cut short after 15 games when the latest lockdown was imposed by the government.
During the previous season, 2019-20, Saltash won 19 of their first 22 league games before the campaign was brought to an end following the pandemic. If proposals are ratified by the FA Council, an additional division will be created at step four, along with two additional divisions at step five and a reduction of divisions, from 20 teams to 17, at step six. That leaves Saltash in a very strong position to finally achieve promotion and bring Western League football to Kimberley Stadium next season.
Bunney told the Voice: “I’m totally gobsmacked to be honest. We found out at 4.00 pm (on Monday) after the South West Peninsula League ran the statement from the FA. We have been given until Friday to make our decision on whether or not we’d like to go up and we’ve accepted.
“On a points per game ratio we have been the top team in the last two seasons, so I don’t think anybody can say we don’t deserve it.
“We have been the most consistent team over the last two years, and you could say we have been denied promotion over the last two seasons following the pandemic.
“It’s fantastic for the club, it’s what we’ve been striving for and the committee are delighted. It’s taken us all by surprise, but now we can hopefully look forward to playing in the Western League next season.”
Saltash United’s committee have made no secret of their desire to make the step up to Western League football after being one of the dominant sides in SWP football.
On a points per game ratio over the last two seasons, Saltash have 2.62, followed by Helston Athletic (2.61) and Mousehole (2.37).
“As part of the proposals, 110 clubs would be upwardly moved within the pyramid at steps four to six in order to facilitate the new divisions, protecting the integrity of the NLS whilst supporting clubs with a desire and ambition to progress, without undermining the stability of the system,” the FA announced.
“The restructure will have a positive impact on a significant number of clubs, supporting them with reduced travel and costs and providing greater opportunities for generating income via localised fixtures.”
The FA's statement added: “Following the curtailment of the 2020-21 league season for steps three to six of the National League System (NLS), our Alliance and Leagues Committees announced that they would consider the feasibility of undertaking the restructure at steps four to six.
“The committees have now met to consider this matter and will be recommending to FA Council that the structural changes to the number of divisions in the NLS be completed in order to address the imbalance that currently exists and achieve the ‘pure pyramid’ at steps one to six.