In the glory days of AFC Vulgaria, my university six-a-side team, our barrel chested West Yorkshire born midfielder had a saying for all footballing occasions - ‘it’s a simple numbers game!’
The NCEL Premier title race is certainly a numbers game, but it’s far from simple.
On the face of it Worksop Town are in a fantastic position, top of the table with a seven point cushion.
Cleethorpes are second, with a game in hand.
Tadcaster are eight points behind, with two games in hand.
And Shaw Lane Aquaforce, who were given a humiliating beating by Tigers on Saturday, are 14 points back with their much talked about six games in hand.
It’s only Aquaforce who can overtake Tigers if Worksop win their last seven, but to do so they need to win at least four of those games in hand.
The Ducks face two tricky games against an in-form Heanor, and visits of stubborn Garforth and the very impressive Cleethorpes.
Add to the equation a trio of hat-trick of suspensions, to key players, and a fixture pile up that sees them play twice a week, every week until the end of the season - the pressure is on.
Goal difference may yet come into it, although you’d have to say it’s probable that Shaw Lane will have the best in the division if they win those games in hand.
So that’s the title race summed up in fairly vague terms. But what of promotion? Another story entirely.
Winning the NCEL Premier title does not automatically grant you entry to the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League.
In previous seasons, there were just 12 promotion places available for the 14 leagues at Non League Step 5 of the football pyramid.
As confirmed by the FA Handbook, however, there is now a promotion place for each of those leagues: “Relegated Step 4 Clubs...will be replaced by the 14 most suitable Clubs from the Leagues at Step 5 as determined by the LC. The suitability shall be determined as the club finishing in first position in each Step 5 League which meets the entry criteria and wishes to be considered for promotion.”
“In the event of the first placed Club not being eligible, the Clubs finishing in second or third position shall be subject to the same criteria. In usual circumstances, no more than one club will be promoted from any one League. The Clubs to be promoted from Step 5 will be allocated to the most geographically appropriate division at Step 4.”
“Any Club seeking promotion from Step 5 to Step 4 must make application to the Association on the prescribed form, copied to their existing League, by 30th November in the relevant year. The application must be accompanied by the appropriate application fee, as determined by the LC, which is non refundable.”
All straight forward then? Not quite. You have to throw ground gradings into the mix and if you believe whispered rumours about clubs with substandard stadiums, this is another variable for what will be a grandstand finish to the NCEL Premier.
The secret to promotion can be boiled down to this then: win all your games, hope your rivals lose and get your ground up to scratch by 31st March.