The Gantry's Premiership 1 season preview - 2023-24

The Gantry's Premiership 1 season preview - 2023-24
St Peter lifted the Jersey Premiership trophy last season

They go hand-in-hand, year-after-year. The start of a new season and a new structure for the JFA Combination League.

Officials in Jersey have long grappled with the need to keep apart teams from the same club, the desire to create the dangling carrot of promotion and jeopardy of relegation, creating competitive divisions without too many one-sided thrashings, and ensuring there are balanced numbers in each tier. No easy task, but the new structure for the 2023-24 season appears to tick most of the boxes.

When the league campaigns get underway in less than a fortnight's time, first teams from across the island will be split into Premiership 1 and Premiership 2. Reserves and C teams make up the majority of Championship 1 and Championship 2. It's tidy, with eight teams in each division. First teams will be nervously looking over their shoulders at the prospect of dropping out of the topflight, whilst Premiership 2 sides will have their eyes on promotion to the highest level.

For the first time in 17 years, St Peter enter the season as reigning champions of Jersey. Their superb title-winning campaign was largely built on defence, conceding just six goals in their 14 leagues fixtures on their way to lifting the James Marquis trophy. Retaining it will be far from straight forward, the island's other leading teams will likely raise their games for their meetings with the holders.

Manager Elliot Powell, having had little break since guiding Jersey to the Island Games gold in Guernsey last month, will be without defender Tom Blampied this season (travelling) but will be boosted by the return of Luke Shirley and Dane McCormick, who are back from University.

Striker Harrison Moon, who netted 16 times for Grouville last season, has joined the Crosskeys and is set to lead the line as their headline summer signing.

Last season's player of the season, Karl Hinds, has made the switch from Grouville to St Clement 

Grouville have also lost the firepower of player of the season Karl Hinds, who smashed in a half century of goals for the Groove in the 2022-23 campaign. Hinds has made the switch from Le Boulivot just a few kilometers down the road to St Clement.

With Hinds in their ranks, many will expect St Clement to be amongst the title challengers this time round. Anything but top two would be a surprise. A coaching and management team of Gary Tumelty, James Beaumont, Mark Freeman and Andy Sheppard will be able to call upon another recruit from Grouville in Olly Rivers. Jersey Bulls centre back Sammy Sutcliffe will be dual-registered and, when available, will give St Clement added security in defence, whilst Jay Dos Santos is back from a long-term injury.

St Brelade finished third last season, with seven wins matched by seven losses. The Fish have added the experience of former Jersey player Mikey Weir to their ranks. If his creativity can regularly link up with the likes of Kieran Lester and Logan McGhee up top, then St Brelade could well mount a title challenge themselves. That said, a 7-0 defeat to Grouville in their Charity Cup opener won't have filled coach Adam Lester with a bucket load of optimism.

St Peter were chased all the way last season by Grouville, who ended up in second spot just five points behind the champions. Andre Nunes netted four times in the aforementioned thumping of St Brelade, but the Bob's Bar regulars will no doubt be wondering how on earth they'll fill the Karl Hinds void, when 35 of his 50 goals came in league matches in 2022-23. Without that contribution, and the nine goals in ten league games from Harrison Moon, finding the back of the net this time will rest on the shoulders of the likes of Max Rivers.

St Ouen are under the management of head coach Rui Marques, who can call upon returning quartet Calum Huckerby, Evan Nobes, Luke Duncan and Damien Salmon. Elliot Hughes grabbed a hat-trick in their 4-0 win at Wanderers earlier this month, and the Ouennies will certainly need to improve on last season's tally which saw them second-bottom of the goalscoring charts, after finding the back of the net just 23 times in their 14 league fixtures. St Paul's goalkeeper Dan Medcalf, Fabio Pestana (ex St Clement), and Callum Coote (formerly Grouville) are amongst the new signings, while James Walsh and Ben Blacker both depart, bound for Sporting Academics. A top-half finish will likely be the target.

Just three years on from winning the Premiership title, Jersey Wanderers narrowly avoided a bottom two placing last season, with just goal difference keeping them above St Paul's. That's all the more impressive when the stats show only two Wanderers players scored more than five; Jules Gabbiadini (8) and Luke Coutanche (10). Josh Coutanche, who made 16 appearances for Chris Andrews's side, is understood to be heading to university, a loss that will be a blow to their chances of a top half finish.

St Paul's were clearly the side most effected by the formation of Jersey Bulls and have suffered from the departures of quality experienced heads like Jack Cannon, Luke Watson, Jack Boyle, Kieran Lester and Stuart Andre in recent years. With Andy Sheppard and Mark Freeman now in the coaching set up at St Clement, Robbie Whittaker takes over what is expected to be a youthful St Paul's this year. After a below par start, they finished last season with a trio of leagues wins over Portuguese United, Wanderers and St Ouen.

There's a new name in Premiership 1, as Portuguese United rebrand to Portuguese Football Club of Jersey, and they'll hope the new mouthful of a name brings them better fortunes after failing to pick up a single point in the 2022-23 season. A new committee and coaching team is in place and they'll want to recapture the club's early momentum from a few seasons ago. With just 11 days to go until the league kicks off, and with only one player officially signed so far though - Dino Cardoso - it could be a tough year ahead.

The new Premiership 1 season starts on Saturday 26 August with Grouville hosting St Ouen.

The Gantry's Predicted Table

2023-24 season

  1. St Peter
  2. St Clement
  3. St Brelade
  4. Grouville
  5. St Ouen
  6. Jersey Wanderers
  7. St Paul's
  8. Portuguese Football Club of Jersey