the npl

Weekly News | 9.5.23

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Weekly News | 9.5.23

Martin Carruthers is probably more qualified than most to assess the relative strengths of the Northern Premier and Southern Premier Leagues having managed and watched games in both divisions.

The Matlock Town boss was previously manager at Basford United when they were in the NPL and after steering Ilkeston Town to the Northern Premier Midlands Division title in 2021/22, he had a brief spell with the Robins in the Southern League Premier Central at the start of last season before leaving the Robins, ironically virtually straight after Ilkeston’s 2-0 FA Cup victory at the Proctor Cars Stadium.

“Teams play more football in the Southern League whereas the Northern Premier’s a lot more physical, teams in the NPL are stronger overall. In the Southern League there’s probably about five or six sides you could say you could definitely beat on any day, there’s none in the NPL. The NPL’s a more difficult league, teams have better squads so the NPL is a far more difficult league to get out of.”

Matlock, with its geographical location is one of the teams on the border between the NPL and Southern Premier Central and the Gladiators were watching results from Step 4 and Step 2 as at one point there appeared to be a possibility of Matlock being transferred to the Southern Premier Central. Mickleover and Basford made the switch last season while Ilkeston were also placed in the Southern Premier Central after their NPL Midlands Division title win.

As it turns out Matlock look certain to remain in the NPL. Bradford Park Avenue was the only northerly club to be relegated from the National League North, AFC Telford, Leamington and Kettering being the others and they should be placed in the Southern League Premier Central. Of the clubs coming up, Stamford and Halesowen Town, the promoted clubs from the NPL Midlands Division look set for the Southern League, as do Long Eaton United who won the NPL Eastern Division play off final. That leaves three clubs from Step 4 of the NPL coming into the NPL Premier, Western Division champions Macclesfield, Western Division play off winners Workington and NPL Eastern Division champions Worksop Town.

Carruthers says that it should lead to an interesting NPL Premier Division next season.

“We’ve lost South Shields and Warrington winning the NPL play off final against Bamber Bridge was the right result for me. They’re the best team I’ve seen in the league and having made it to the final three years running they deserved to go up. If I’m honest I’m glad to see the back of them for it’s one less quality team to compete with at the top of the table. “

But Carruthers also acknowledged that the league will still be very strong next season.

“Macclesfield, one of my old clubs are getting 4000 crowds and are going to be favourites. Then you’ve got Worksop Town coming up and Bradford Park Avenue plus other clubs. I’ve got a better idea of what we’re going to face this season, there’s a lot of quality coming into the league. I’ve got a good idea of what we need to advance. I’m currently in talks with five or six players. We have things in the pipeline.”

Carruthers already has secured the services of defenders Jamie Sharman and Ioan Evans plus winger John Johnston with other retained players expected to be announced during the next few days. Midfielder Connor Dimaio is also on the retained list despite being expected to miss most of the season as he recovers from acl surgery.

Dimaio is currently recuperating and doing prescribed exercises to enhance his recovery and he was thrilled with the news that he is on the Gladiators retained list.

“Unbelievable club, unbelievable chairman, unbelievable manager and unbelievable fans, me and my family will be forever grateful” he tweeted.

Matlock hold their Presentation Night on Saturday week (May 20) in the Shorts Lounge when the fans player of the year award will be made along with the other major awards of players’ player, young player, leading goalscorer and club person of the year. Entertainment is in the form of popular local band Doghouse and there will also be a buffet. Tickets cost £5 for adults, 12-18 years £3 and under 12’s with an adult free. Tickets can be bought online at

Ian Richardson