We’ve heard Tommy Boyce’s thoughts on which teams will offer stiff competition in the 2021 Angling Trust Division One National. But who will fall short? National fisheries and angling manager, John Ellis, weighs in on the discussion.
It must take a certain nerve to make a living as a bookmaker; one I certainly don't possess. Tommy Boyce recently listed nearly half the field as potential champions, I've decided to be bold and select five competing teams who won't take the title and the five who I think stand the best chance.
Some squad members of the teams written off may never speak to me again; others may be inspired to put in extra effort just to prove how little I know. If one of these five teams do proves me wrong, I will happily donate £50 to an angling charity of their choice.
Crewe Match Group
On paper, they are not without a chance for they are the reigning Division 2 champions. By their own admission they had a strong draw on that Shropshire Union Canal match and took full advantage.
That good fortune at the drawbag might not be with them this time around. Losing Dave McCall who returns to the Cadence team, will be a blow. Dave, along with Paul Murrin were the 2019 Dynamite Bait Canal Pairs champions, so finding a similar calibre replacement angler will be a tough ask. Whilst they might be champion material on the Shropshire Union Canal, the Grand Union Canal is a whole different ballgame.
Thanks to the presence of zander, there isn't the quantity of squatt fish around that would favour Crewe's approach. Most importantly of all, the weight of history is against them. John Essex' book on the history of the national shows that 47 teams have tried to win back-to-back Division Two and Division One victories since 1973. Yet it remains a feat that's not yet been achieved. Why should this year be any different?
The 2019 Division two bronze medallists and with the individual winner Colin Harris they will be competing in the top flight on their local Grand Union this time around after missing out on promotion on a couple of previous occasions.
Buoyed up by a new sponsorship deal with Italian Company Colmic, they must be feeling hopeful, perhaps even confident. However, I've just a got a gut feeling that things might conspire against them and a mid-table finish is the best they can hope for now they find themselves up against the big boys.
Having failed to reach the winter league final in 2019/20, Hotrods will be looking to bounce back in style. They're a very consistent outfit who are sure to do their national homework. I expect to see plenty of squad members in the two Grand Union Canal heats of the canal pairs.
In the last four years, Hotrods have finished 6th, 6th, 10th followed by a slightly below par 15th on the Yorkshire canals last time out. Their 6th position finish on the Shropshire Union in 2017 was undoubtedly very impressive. With a better draw they might have medalled but I won't be tipping them to improve on that performance this time around, in fact I just can't see them making the top twenty. Sorry lads.
Rive A4 (formerly Sensas A4)
Founded by the legendary angling journalist Keith Elliott in the 70s, the A4 Match Group gives Drennan Oxford a run for their money every year in the winter league without realistically threatening to topple them, although they did finish a very decent 8th in the 2019 Winter League Final.
They tend to struggle on narrow canals which may not bode well for the Reading based team who came in 29th on the Shropshire Union in 2017. Since then they've finished a creditable 20th on the Trent in 2019 and another mid-table 27th in 2019 on the Aire & Calder. Incredibly, last time out their top points scorer was EA Fisheries man, Stuart Keable. His assessment of their chances this year? ‘If they can keep me out of the team they have a fighting chance of staying up'. I think that says it all.
Barnsley & District
They are the best team in the world, it's as simple as that. Their squad is the perfect mixture of experience and youth, with the likes of five-time world angling champion Alan Scotthorne providing the former and three-times world junior champion Matt Godfrey the latter.
Winners of eight national team titles, all in the modern era, they've never recorded a national victory on a narrow canal. No team has ever won three times on the bounce in the top division either, indeed only the great Trev's team has ever won three divisional nationals in successive years.
It would be foolish to rule Barnsley out entirely, especially as there is unlikely to be international events competing for practice time. I expect them to finish comfortably in the top ten rather than a repeat of their below par 2017 Shropshire Union performance when they ended up below 30th place. Given the number of strong narrow canal teams in the line-up, I just can't see a Barnsley victory or top three finish on the Grand Union but if any one of these five teams are to prove me wrong, it will most likely be the mighty Barnsley.
Forecasting the winners
The 2021 event is the most open national for many years. Doomsters are predicting a disastrous event with loads of dry nets whilst optimistic local anglers like Tommy Boyce think we are in for a decent or even a classic national.
Here are my top five predictions for the top five places;
Sensas Black Country
Let's keep our fingers crossed the world has returned fully to normal by then.
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