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Nicky DeBonis sets up new club Cleevonians to play in Cheltenham Football League

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Author: Roger Jackson, Posted: Wednesday, 15th June 2022, 13:00

Nicky DeBonis is counting down the days to the start of the new football season Nicky DeBonis is counting down the days to the start of the new football season

Nicky DeBonis, the first ever female team manager in the Cheltenham Football League, has set up her own club.

Cleevonians will compete in Division Three of the Cheltenham League next season and 23-year-old DeBonis is counting down the days to the big kick-off.

She was in charge of Bishop’s Cleeve Development for three seasons and helped them into Division Two at the end of the last campaign – they will be known as Bishop’s Cleeve B in 2022/23 – and looks back on her time with the club with a lot of satisfaction.

“The first two seasons were wiped out because of Covid but we finished fifth last season, and with the restructuring of the league that was good enough to get them promoted,” she said.

She said about half that team have joined her at Cleevonians who will train and play their home games on the astroturf at Winchcombe School.

“Setting up my own football club is something I’ve always wanted to do,” she said, “it’s always been an ambition of mine.

“I see it as an opportunity to offer something a bit different to the community.”

DeBonis will continue to operate as a manager – she is still the only female team manager in the Cheltenham Football League – but said that some of the senior players who have joined her at Cleevonians will help with running and marketing the club.

“We’ve already got enough players to put out a team,” she said, “but we’re on the lookout for more players.”

The first pre-season training session is on Wednesday 6th July and DeBonis is certainly ambitious.

“The aim is to finish as high as possible but hopefully we can get promoted straight away,” she said. “The aim is to build a team and go through the divisions but it is a long-term project.

“As always, I want to develop the players and also develop the club.”

And what about a cup run?

“Definitely,” she said. “We’ll be entering quite a few cup competitions so hopefully we can do well in the league and have a good run in one of the cups.”

The Cheltenham League will be made up of four divisions next season, each 12-strong, with a Premier Division followed by divisions one, two and three.

Shurdington Rovers and Montpellier have both entered 2nd teams in Division Three while Winchcombe Town have dropped down from the Northern Senior League into the Premier Division.

Andoversford Reserves, meanwhile, have been re-named Cheltenham Athletic Reserves and will play in Division Three.

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