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23/24 Season Preview

Football is finally back, almost.


When league action gets back underway against Folkestone Invicta at the Maurice Rebak on the 12th August, it will have been 4 months since we last tasted the intensity of the Isthmian Premier League. So whether you’re a seasoned Blue, still thinking about that game against Bowers last year; a new fan, keen pick up a non-league club and become part of a footballing community; or somewhere in between, let’s take a look at what to expect from the new season, and hear from boss Ahmet Rifat ahead of his first full campaign in charge of Wingate & Finchley.


Last season

Last season was a real rollercoaster for the Blues, and one that ended with us finishing in 16th place in the league, well clear of the relegation scrap happening below, but a little way off the playoff race to get into National League South. There were plenty of highs and lows along the road, as can be expected in this league, but none so memorable or significant as the 4-3 win against Bowers & Pitsea, where we fought back from 3-0 down with less than 10 minutes to play.


The result was the launchpad for the run-in, as we managed to secure two vital home wins in the weeks that followed to drive us up the table and away from the languishing sides below. Those final few weeks saw the team finish really strongly, with big wins against the likes of Bognor Regis, Carshalton, Potters Bar and Herne Bay. In fact, we picked up 15 out of a possible 21 points at home to end the season, and we will certainly be looking to continue that impressive home showing as the new campaign gets underway.


The year also saw a Cup semi-final, as we made a run to the semi-final of the London Senior Cup, which included a massive 5-1 victory against Dulwich Hamlet.


Speaking of last year Ahmet used the word “underachieved” to summarise his thoughts on the outcomes, “We should have stayed in the league, and in my eyes it should have been the [London Senior Cup] final, so we underachieved in that”.


The Squad

“It’s been a busy summer of recruiting!”, said Ahmet when asked about the club’s acquisition of new players during the break. As expected, there are plenty of new faces around the Maurice Rebak this season, and this preseason has been all about finding out what combinations work well together, and giving the management team an idea of the best eleven.


"We needed to find players that would suit what we're trying to build here, and so far I feel we've done a good job at that. My team will be aggressive and play with a desire to win every game, and I hope we can excite the fans at the same time as winning football matches".

This has certainly been true thus far in preseason, with victories and clean sheets against Borehamwood and Peterborough United's Academy, as well as big victories against Basildon United and Enfield Borough.


Alongside the likes of Club Captain Ben Goode, Matty Achuba, Alkeo Bani and Supporters' Player of the Year Elliot Long, all of whom have stayed with the club from last season after stellar campaigns, we can expect to see new faces who are proven talents at this level, with the signing of Zack Newton, Ben Ward-Cochrane, and Miles Mitchell-Nelson amongst others, as well as some exciting young talent in Bobby Webb and Anointed Chukwu. That and plenty more, so for a full inventory of incomings over the summer, head to Twitter or Instagram.


The coming season

The squad will be trying to assert themselves on a league whose makeup has shifted since last year, with the addition of some top quality clubs from the National League South: Dulwich Hamlet, Cheshunt and Concord Rangers. They will also be joining Hashtag United, Chatham Town and Whitehawk, whose promotion will no doubt shake things up even further, as they try to emulate Aveley last season in securing an elusive back-to-back promotion.


In truth, nobody knows how the year will pan out, and so it looks to be set up for another cracking season in what is going to be a very competitive division.


With all the change in the club and in the league, Ahmet was understandbly keeping his cards close to his chest when asked about what success would look like this year. But he did reiterate a point he has made earlier in the preseason, and one that is central to his plans for the club,


"A successful season for me is that Wingate are no longer nice to play against. [We want] the opponent to come off the pitch and know they've been in a proper game and don't fancy the return fixture. This would change the perception of the label that we've had for years of 'nice' Wingate with a 'nice' pitch."

We'll also have fixtures in the FA Cup, the FA Trophy, and the London Senior Cup, and so there is going to be no shortage of football in N12 over the next 9 months!


Matchdays

If that has tickled your interest for what is to come, the good news is that there are only a matter of days before things get underway on the pitch. Folkestone Invicta visit us on Saturday, and there are a number of new additions around the ground to look out for this year.


First and foremost, burgers will be available this season with JK Burgers providing the catering. In fact, those burgers will be front and centre for fans who get to the Maurice Rebak before 12pm on Saturday, as £20 will entitle them to: entry for the league game; a new burger from JK Burgers; and a free drink* while settling in to watch Arsenal vs Nottingham Forest in the opening weekend of the new Premier League season.


You might also notice the launch of our rewards card, that will entitle home fans to rewards throughout the season, such as money off at the bar, free tickets for friends, as well as much more! Make sure to grab yours from the turnstile or the bar at the first game of the season on Saturday.


And finally, the club has announced a new partnership with Max's Foundation, that will feature them as our front of shirt partner, with both organisations having their 'Hearts Set on Change'. You can read more about the partnership here


*Restrictions Apply


By Chris Cummings

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