Clubs test strength ahead of new season

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The Independent Online

With the start of the National League programme just two weeks away there will be a hive of activity around the grounds this weekend as the leading teams put the final touches to their pre-season training.

Four leading Premier Division Clubs, including hosts Hampstead and Westminster, will be in competition at the 12th Annual Westminster Challenge today and tomorrow at the Paddington Recreation ground.

Cannock, with new coach David Mayer, include new signings, the England striker Chris Graham and Phil Sully in their squad today and England schoolboy Rob Mackay, but they will be missing their three England Under-21 players currently in Malaysia.

The South African Andrew Von Mayer has taken over as captain from Rob Turner for the host club who will continue to be coached by former Great Britain captain Soma Singh. Missing from the Hampstead line up will be Justin King who has returned to South Africa but is expected back for the start of the National League. A surprise signing is the much travelled, former England international Mahmood Bhatti.

Southgate's new coach, David Vinson, who is at present with the Under-21s, will be missing from their bench for the weekend, along with four of his Under-21 squad. Old Loughtonians, the fourth Premier side at Paddington, have so far announced no significant signings. Barford Tigers, Hounslow and Havant, former Premier teams, and non-League Bowdon, last year's runaway winners of the North Premier League, complete the field.

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