Something doesn’t feel normal.

It’s September, and the Pembrokeshire Football League season is not yet underway.

No midweek chaos, no misleading tables, no complaints of football overlapping with cricket.

Of course with the reduction in size in the leagues this year, we now have the more convenient luxury of a Saturday start. 

Here, we look ahead to the Division One campaign, with news of who will take charge of each of the 12 sides, the opening fixtures, and some of the summer arrivals (and departures) at each club.

Obviously while Telegraph Sport is never wrong, be aware that as you read this further transfers and different developments may be happening. But we have made contact with each club to try and gauge the state of play as best we can.

To clarify, the first round of fixtures take place this coming Saturday, September 7th – and we have 2pm starts for the foreseeable future.

Monkton Swifts
Last season:
League champions.
Opening fixtures: Pennar Robins (a) and St Clears (h).

When we were all rolling out our tips for the title at the start of the 2018/19 campaign, few of us dwelled much on Monkton Swifts.

That suited them down to the ground.
Many will be sceptical as to whether they can now back it up and retain the trophy.

That will suit them down to the ground.

Under Joe Lewis they built early momentum last season and never relented, and the potency with which The Swifts attacked and scored goals, something signified by them hitting five both home and away against runners up Merlins Bridge, was telling.

Them and The Wizards have gone to penalties in their two pre-season games so the early signs suggest Monkton can be up there again, and they have strengthened by bringing in keeper Stuart James from Pennar. Jimmy Wilkes from the Haverfordwest Academy and Richard Hughes from Bridge.

For James and Hughes in particular, it’s an interesting one first up though as Lewis takes his side to Bush Camp for a derby start with Pennar, before a home game with St Clears.

Merlins Bridge
Last season:
2nd and West Wales and Senior Cup winners.
Opening fixtures: Narberth (h) and Hakin United (a).

It was almost the perfect domestic season for Merlins Bridge.
Despite an inevitable pile up of fixtures, under Matthew D’Ivry they recaptured the Senior Cup and won a first ever West Wales Cup.

Time and time again, they found a way to come through games when it mattered.

That theme continued last week when after a thrilling 3-3 draw with Monkton, they prevailed on penalties in the Jubilee Cup at the Meadow.

The Wizards are now under new management with D’Ivry stepping down, although he will still be available as a player, with Simon Thomas and Gareth ‘Taffy’ Williams taking over.

Losing Joe Leahy to Carew is undoubtedly a blow, his goal tally last season, not to mention that dramatic late double against The Rooks in the Senior Cup final, was integral to the club’s success.

Jordan Williams has come in from Narberth though, and the experienced duo of Simon Gilderdale and Lee Hudgell have returned from Camrose and Goodwick respectively. Keeper James Dickson has also signed from St Clears.

They start at Narberth before an undoubtedly quiet trip to The Obs to play Hakin.

Goodwick United
Last season:
Opening fixtures: St Clears (a) and Saundersfoot (h).

It didn’t quite happen for Goodwick last season.

At the turn of the year they seemed strongly placed in the title race but ultimately came up short, and in the West Wales Cup quarter final led 1-0 at Hakin before unravelling. That followed losing at Monkton in the Senior Cup.

Again though, Wayne O’Sullivan’s squad looks strong on paper and they are likely to challenge on three fronts.

O’Sullivan has new coaches to assist him with brother Chris stepping down for work commitments, although he has signed on as a player, and Hudgell heading back to Bridge. But in has come Ashley Williams, a B licence coach who has worked with the Carmarthen Academy and he will be helped by Nigel Delaney.

Goodwick have also strengthened in terms of players with James Bryan signing from Carmarthen Stars, Ben Adams from Pennar, and Jake Smith from Johnston. Significantly Steff Williams has also returned from Haverfordwest County – but injury problems have hampered his pre-season.

On paper they have a favourable start, and they’ll be targeting six points from the opening two.

Last season:
4th and both West Wales and Senior Cup runners up.
Opening fixtures: Clarbeston Road (h) and Fishguard Sports (a).

In the 2017/18 campaign, Carew reached two major semi finals and finished fourth in the league. That signified progress.

A season later, they reached two major finals and again finished fourth in the league, but this time just six points off the top. That signified further progress.

Now is the time to convert progress into silverware.

Under Rob Scourfield and assistant Jeremy Griffiths, The Rooks were as strong as anyone when at the best in 2018/19. They have grown into a unit of few weaknesses and have added to the squad this summer with the notable signing of Leahy, as well as Fraser Finlay from Haverfordwest, Nathan Evans from St Clears and Curtis Hurlow from Saundersfoot.

That has been tempered by the departures of Lloyd Hughes to Narberth and Ian Darbyshire to Newcastle Emlyn but if Carew can maintain consistency, they’ll be well in the title picture. And they’ve already proven their credentials in cup competitions.

They start with tricky games against Clarbie and Fishguard before their third league match (September 28th) at Hakin. Starting fast in that first fortnight is therefore very important.

Hakin United
Last season:
Opening fixtures: Neyland (a) and Merlins Bridge (h).

After winning back to back titles, The Vikings slipped to fifth last season but were still only a penalty shootout away from the West Wales Cup final.

Therefore, Kristan Bennett’s departure at the end of the season did come out of the blue and it is Scott Davies, who along with assistant Leigh Broome guided Hakin 2nds to the Division Two title in 2017/18, in charge for this season. 

And the squad has strengthened with youngsters Garin Gardner and Jaden Chapman re-signing, as have Sion Price and Ashley Bevan.

Leon Luby has joined the latter in coming over from Haverfordwest, Scott Reid is back from Herbrandston and Adam ‘titch’ John returning to fitness after a broken is a huge boost.

And there will be no shortage of goalkeeper competition with former Johnston keeper Martin Langdon signing at The Obs with Adrian Devonald and James Manson still both available.

As always, Hakin will challenge and other clubs will be wary. In recent times, whenever they’ve had a barren season, they’ve returned hell bent the next.

Pennar Robins
Last season:
Opening fixtures: Monkton Swifts (h) and Narberth (a).

Again last season Pennar comfortably finished in mid-table - and also reached a Senior Cup semi final.

Improving on sixth place this time around won’t be easy given the strength of the top five but with Chris Lloyd continuing as manager, they are the kind of side who can cause anyone problems. Especially at home.

They have however been dealt some blows this summer with Adams, their top scorer last season, going to Goodwick and of course keeper James joining rivals Monkton. Both have been pivotal to Pennar in recent seasons.

But Patrick McDonagh is proven at this level and he has joined the club, and Saturday should be feisty at Bush Camp when The Swifts arrive as reigning Division One champions.

I suspect they won’t be getting a guard of honour………

St Clears
Last season:
Opening fixtures: Goodwick United (h) and Monkton Swifts (a).

Nothing like two simple fixtures to ease into a season.

Indeed, it is perhaps St Clears who have the toughest start and regardless of the results, they need to set a tone and compete well.

They’ve lost Nick Squire and Steve Thomas to Emlyn as well as Evans, Dixon, Joe Gouldingay (Narberth) and Kyran Lewis (Pendine) and when a club has that many departures, the last thing they need is to be under pressure early.

However, Craig Weston has returned to manage the side alongside Scott Page, and in Will Evans they have one of the most promising young players in the Division. Sean Seymour-Davies is also proven as a goal scorer in this league so they are hardly down to the bare bones.

They retained their top flight status comfortably last season and I expect their priority will be doing the same this time around.

Clarbeston Road

Last season: 8th.
Opening fixtures: Carew (a) and Neyland (h).

After a big two seasons which saw them reach back to back Senior Cup finals, Clarbie were hit last time out by player availability.

Indeed, they fielded five different keepers in their first six games, and manager Matthew Ellis will crave a more settled side in this campaign.

The club has lost Jason Griffiths to Neyland which is obviously a blow given his prolific scoring record in recent seasons, but Tom Glover is close to full fitness after a long injury lay off.

They have a tough start at Carew before welcoming, you guessed it, Neyland. At least the Clarbie defence will know what's coming.

Last season:
Opening fixtures: Merlins Bridge (a) and Pennar Robins (h).

In recent seasons Narberth have regularly troubled opposition defences - but have also lacked the consistency and strength in depth to challenge at the top end.

Losing forward Jordan Williams to Bridge is a blow but they have reinforced as well. Lloyd Hughes was instrumental to Carew last season and if he can repeat that form for the Bluebirds, he’ll be a big asset. As mentioned Gouldingay has also signed while Ashley Williams will take over as player-manager. His brother Ryan will assist him as coach.

They have a tough start at The Racecourse but shouldn’t need any motivation. They sent a depleted side to Bridge at the end of last season and were hammered 14-0.

That memory alone should be enough to spark a performance.

Last season:
Opening fixtures: Hakin United (h) and Clarbeston Road (a).

After struggling early on last season The Nomads did haul themselves into a position of safety – but they will be looking for improvements this time around.

They have freshened things up with Wayne Parry, a pivotal player for the club for so long, managing the side along with Mike Chandler.

And they’ve made one crucial signing in particular with Jason Griffiths coming over from Clarbeston Road. If nothing else, he guarantees goals.

Nico Morrison (from Monkton) and Jamie Evans (Herbrandston) have also signed, Nick Koomen is back after a couple of seasons out and keeper Patrick Hannon is hoping to be available more regularly.

Patrick Bellerby is also likely to be involved having played rugby last season. 

On that note, they have lost Will and Olly Hughes to the oval ball game but my hunch is Neyland will be stronger this season.

Especially with Griffiths on board.

Saundersfoot Sports
Last season:
Opening fixtures: Fishguard Sports (h) and Goodwick United (a).

As things turned out, Saundersfoot were one place above the (amended) relegation zone last season. That opening game with Fishguard Saturday already looks an important one, especially given they go to Goodwick the following week.

It hasn’t been an easy summer for the club with Hurlow and George Taylor (Tenby) leaving, and four players picking up major injuries.

Having picked up a serious knock himself against Clarbeston Road late last season, Geoff Marsh has stepped back from playing to manage the side so they have a good club man in charge – but will have to dig deep in the opening weeks.

If they can do that, and get the injured players back, they’ll give themselves a real chance of staying up again.

Fishguard Sports
Last season:
Promoted as Division Two champions.
Opening fixtures: Saundersfoot Sports (a) and Carew (h).

As mentioned, that ‘all Sports’ clash this Saturday will be important.

At any level when you’ve just been promoted, you want to get three points on the board early.

Fishguard’s Eddie Merry game with Monkton suggested they can compete at this level - and having waited so long to return to Division One they’ll be desperate to make it count.

Brian Kinsella continues as manager with Steve James assisting him, while Ricky Bowen has come in as fitness coach. And new signings Karl Hedley, Jordan Raymond, Tom Merry and Jake Booth will bolster their squad strength.

They too have fitness worries though, with keeper Dean Hopson missing much of pre-season and captain Anthony Couzens struggling with a nasty eye injury picked up in the John Bailey Cup.

Regardless, Kinsella’s team will be no pushovers this season.

Predictions for Saturday:

Carew 4-1 Clarbeston Road

Merlins Bridge 4-1 Narberth

Neyland 1-2 Hakin United

Pennar Robins 0-2 Monkton Swifts

Saundersfoot Sports 2-3 Fishguard Sports

St Clears 1-5 Goodwick United