New team, Newbury East

As the much anticipated 2021/22 season approaches, many teams will be gearing up for the new season, and some, even their debut season. Newbury East are no different, as they prepare for life in the Essex Alliance League. The club were formed earlier this year, and will feature in the newly regionalised feeder league.

The Alliance League were awarded feeder status at Step 7 ahead of the 2021/22 season, meaning promotion from the Senior Division would feed directly into Step-6. The move puts them on the same level as the Essex Olympian League, where Buckhurst Hill gained promotion to the Eastern Counties League.

Although the idea of putting the team together had been thought up by owner Qasim Ali a while ago, but the Coronavirus pandemic made it the perfect time for Newbury East to make their debut in the coming season. “Due to COVID-19, people have been stuck in doors with all Gyms and businesses closed. Though we had the idea far before the pandemic struck, we just thought it was the perfect time and would be nice to push a more modern theme to the grassroots scene as a few teams have been doing; getting people fit, engaged, and more socially active.”

The formation of a new team was tough to put together, with the sport being so competitive on every level. Qasim used the support of others to overcome the challenges he faced, along with those that came along with the pandemic. “The pandemic has placed barriers, with pitches being closed, leagues being abandoned, sponsors unable to support the community due to these problems, as well as COVID threatening the safety of everyone. Despite this we have pulled through, and had a lot of support from ARK schools, Upton Park Ladies among many others. It has been rough, but the determined pull-through in the end. We are a team and everyone has played their part.”

Like many teams, the badge that sat over the heart of the players came with a story. A phoenix rising from the ashes of what was a former club and the image the club wanted to portray, as the players get together to form a side that could challenge in the EAL. “The logo is inspired by a local team that many of the players had played for before; Eclipse Youth, but sadly the team got abandoned. The three strikes notify the ‘eclipse’ and the phoenix represents the new from the old, placing an emphasis to the 11 players on the field with the ‘XI’. The team is new, and we want our players to know change occurs but what bit is left in you from the past brings better in your future once you hold true to the present. The name represents the area we are from – Newbury Park, East London forming Newbury East.”

The Essex Alliance League appealed to the club and made it the perfect league to get their journey started. While they won’t start their journey in the top two divisions of the Alliance League, the players were made up of experience from those divisions, giving the club a good shot at competing in whatever division they found themselves in. “The players know the Essex Alliance well. Playing for an array of teams in the senior and first division. Playing on Saturdays has its appeal and the organisation from the league is second to none, which is why we wanted to go with them.”

“It is really an uphill struggle from here – we know that this is no joke, and we will be in for a rough season if the preparation falls short. FHN Athletic have won their league in Division 3, in the first year of formation – so we know it Is possible. We will give it everything and hopefully win the league.”

Beyond the 2021/22 season, Ali knew what he wanted his side to achieve. By the 2025/26 season, they wanted to dominate on the pitch, while creating a community hub off it. In that time, they could find themselves playing Step 6 football, but they would need to navigate their way through the Alliance League to achieve that. “3-5 Years from now, we want to have dominated the Essex Alliance which is no small feat; as well as start the academy to help the community. We do want to progress up the football pyramid level. The first aim we have is to go semi-pro; and will make active steps to achieve it!”