On your marks, get set....

PUBLISHED: 12:45 13 August 2011

- AFC Hornchurch vs West Ham United XI, Pre-Season Friendly at Hornchurch Stadium, Hornchurch - 06/08/11 - MANDATORY CREDIT: Rob Newell/TGSPHOTO - Self billing applies where appropriate - 0845 094 6026 - - NO UNPAID USE

- AFC Hornchurch vs West Ham United XI, Pre-Season Friendly at Hornchurch Stadium, Hornchurch - 06/08/11 - MANDATORY CREDIT: Rob Newell/TGSPHOTO - Self billing applies where appropriate - 0845 094 6026 - - NO UNPAID USE

Rob Newell/TGSPHOTO c/o 27 Plaiters Way, Braintree, Essex, CM7 3LR - Editorial Use ONLY - FA Premier League and Football League images are subject to DataCo Licencing restrictions

Power to the People: New seasons draw closer

The professionals are finally up and running in their new seasons and their non-league brothers are finalising preparations to start their own campaigns.

Football is back after a long (hot?) summer, but did it ever really go away?

In these days of 24-hour rolling news, Twitter and facebook, it seems as if the national game is never out of the media spotlight.

On the grander scale, we’ve had England’s cricketers surging towards the No.1 spot in the Test rankings with a string of superb performances, the Olympic countdown gathering pace with every long distance race Mo Farah wins and another Irishman winning a golfing major.

But whenever I turn on the TV, I seem to be hit with wave after wave of transfer gossip from the Premier League and beyond.

Only 21 days until the transfer window closes now. Phew.

Jimmy McFarlane and Paul Martin have been busily tinkering with their own squads at Hornchurch and Romford and both have enjoyed good pre-seasons.

Urchins have kept the bulk of the squad which finished just seven points off second place in the Ryman Premier Division last season and made good acquisitions in Simon Glover, Reiss Noel and Aaron Gayle.

They host Maidstone in their last friendly tomorrow lunchtime (1pm kick-off), while Boro visit Kent’s Hythe Town.

Martin has left no stone unturned in his bid to strengthen, comparing himself to an X-factor judge earlier this summer while sifting through trialists and hopefuls.

And who knows, he might just unearth a gem to help Boro improve on last season’s mid-table finish in Ryman One North.

Excitement is growing at Rom Valley Way, meanwhile, following the release of the new ice hockey season fixtures.

Romford Raiders have been back on ice for some cobweb-blowing-away sessions in the past two weeks and player-coach Danny Marshall will start to crank things up ahead of their September 3 opener at Milton Keynes.

Romford’s fixture list (inflated by half a dozen games in a newly-formed South East Trophy) looks pretty good on paper, with four fairly comfortable games before the first Essex derby with Chelmsford.

The division looks stronger, but one expects the top four will remain the same, albeit with maybe the extra upset here and there against teams like Streatham, who have tempted former Raider Stormin’ Norman Pinnington out of retirement.

Local rugby clubs are gearing up for their own seasons, while our cricketers are heading into the business end of theirs, with plenty still to play for in the final four weeks.

Ardleigh Green are battling for Premier Division survival and making a good fist of it judging by their win at leaders Wanstead last weekend.

Upminster, meanwhile, are fighting to regain their place in the top flight at the first time of asking, but fell off the pace a little bit after a high-scoring defeat at Orsett.

Hornchurch should be safe, but only because Harold Wood and Gidea Park & Romford have struggled so badly in Division One this season and look favourites for the drop.

Elsewhere, Hornchurch Athletic are hoping their 75th anniversary campaign doesn’t end in relegation, otherwise they could find themselves up against Noak Hill Taverners, who secured promotion last weekend.

Havering and Rainham occupy promotion places in the Mid-Essex League, but are not there yet. As I said, plenty to play for still....

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