Having bowed to years of pressure, the FA have finally put together the final pieces of a more logical 1-2-4-8 pyramid system for the top four levels of non-league.
The season just ended saw a fourth Division added at level three, and the 2020-21 season will see the pyramid completed with an additional Division at level four.
The Evo-Stik Northern Premier League were disappointed to have lost out to the Southern League with regards to embracing the extra level three division last year, but has successfully applied to the FA to run the eighth level four division, meaning that the NPL will operate with a Premier Division and three First Divisions from 2020/21.
In readiness, next season has seen many changes within the league, with the current two First Divisions moving from an East/West split, to a North West/South East divide.
As a result, along with the usual promotions and relegations, a number of teams who played against the Rams last season have now been moved sideways.
Local derbies against Radcliffe and Atherton Collieries have been lost due to their promotions, whilst our old friends at Glossop North End have now been moved into South East.
Also moving with them are Chasetown, Kidsgrove Athletic, Leek Town, Market Drayton Town, and Newcastle Town after a single season of competing against Ramsbottom United following on from last year’s move from a North and South First Division split.
In their places return some former opponents, Ossett United (an amalgamation of the two Ossett teams, Town and Albion), Brighouse Town and Tadcaster Albion.
Joining them are two old foes who both suffered relegation from the Premier Division, Marine and Workington, whilst the Rams will be welcoming a number of sides for the first time in their history.
City of Liverpool come up as North West Counties League champions, whilst the top side in the Northern League, Dunston UTS will see the club having a long trip up to Gateshead, whilst other longer trips will see journeys up to Marske United, Pickering Town and Pontefract Collieries.
All of which leaves the club with a minority of clubs still in the Division from last season, namely Clitheroe, Colne, Droylsden, Kendal Town, Mossley, Prescot Cables, Runcorn Linnets, Trafford and Widnes, but losing Skelmersdale United who were relegated to the North West Counties League.
So, providing the new set-up is approved at the NPL AGM in June, the Rams will have quite a variety of opponents next season, with ten new teams to play, against just nine who competed together last time out.
Proposed Evo-Stik North West Division line-up for Season 2019/20:
Brighouse Town, City of Liverpool, Clitheroe, Colne, Droylsden, Dunston UTS, Kendal Town, Marine, Marske United, Mossley, Ossett United, Pickering Town, Pontefract Collieries, Prescot Cables, RAMSBOTTOM UNITED, Runcorn Linnets, Tadcaster Albion, Trafford, Widnes, Workington