Peterborough North End excited rather than worried by the challenges ahead after a shock promotion
It’s arrived sooner than expected, but Peterborough Sports North End are relishing the opportunity to play at a higher level next season.
The city club are undaunted that promotion from the Peterborough Premier Division to the Eastern Counties First Division brings with it extra expense, tougher competition and some pretty long journeys, relatively speaking.
Indeed North End (they intend to drop the ‘Sports’ part of the name next season) will embrace the challenge and it must help that chairman Stephen Cooper has experience of rapid progression from his time overseeing Peterborough Sports FC.
Tom Florence will remain as manager and the club, although run separately, will in time, be used as a pathway to the high-flying Peterborough Sports team. The clubs will continue to share the improved facilities at the Bee Arena on Lincoln Road.
Cooper said: “In sport as in life, I am a firm believer in pushing the boundaries and tackling challenges head on.
“It is both daunting and exciting at the same time, but we would have been mad to turn the opportunity to test ourselves down.
“There is sometimes a misconception that playing at Step 6 will break the bank, but with the exception of now having to pay two assistant referees at home games, the additional income opportunities outweigh the costs significantly and we will ensure that we set aside enough petrol money for the guys to not be out of pocket, and even have the odd coach for the more appealing trips!
“Tom has identified some targets to help improve the squad, which is something any promoted club will look to do, and we want to provide a step 6 option for talented local players with ambitions beyond the Peterborough League.
“That said, we are not trying to create Peterborough Sports 2 here. That mountain has already been climbed, and this is about recreating the social side of playing at step 6.
“We applied for promotion on December 19, but the concept had taken something of a back seat as we always thought it would be difficult to finish above Netherton or especially Parson Drove (other Peterborough League teams who had applied for promotion) who had invested extensively in trying to go up.
“The expectation was we would go again in the Peterborough League in August after a second null & void season in a row. However, it emerged the FA would be promoting up to 110 clubs through the pyramid and that 27 step 7 clubs were going to be moved up. It then became clear that it was clubs with floodlights that were going to be given priority.
“I then had discussions with relevant stakeholders to see where they were at and the Sports Board, plus our manager, were keen to take promotion should we be fortunate enough to be offered it.
“To then be placed in the Eastern Counties League was fantastic news. Our average journey will rise to 62 miles, but we are delighted to have been given what is effectively a free pass to a better level of football.
“I am pleased we have a mix of local derbies and trips to different places. What’s not to like about the chance for days and weekends away at the likes of Sheringham, Great Yarmouth and, particularly, Framlingham?
“Given that the new clubhouse at Sports is about to open, it makes commercial sense that the facility is utilised on a more regular basis with higher crowds and an opportunity for supporters to watch both sides every other weekend.
“Whilst the gap from PNE to Sports is still too big at 3 levels, it does mean we would probably be one promotion away from offering something meaningful as a playing pathway to the Sports side.”
Other local sides taking on Sports in league matches next season are Blackstones, Bourne Town and Whittlesey Athletic.