THE UniBond League voted to keep the national league system in virtually its current format at its annual meeting, writes RAY SIMPSON.

The league has been discussing two suggestions put forward by the Football Association. One was to split the Conference into north and south sections, with two feeder leagues, and the other was to reshuffle the Doctor Martens and Rymans leagues, with the UniBond acting as a third feeder into the Conference, as it does now.

One of the main stumbling blocks has been the future of the Rymans League, which under the first suggestion was going to be demoted as a feeder league, and as a result over fifty clubs might have been relegated across the pyramid.

But the UniBond League has decided that it doesn't want any major changes in the national system, and their backing for the alternative suggestion will now be communicated to the FA, which has hinted that it could make some sort of major announcement in the near future.

The FA has taken a considerable amount of time to canvas opinion of the proposed restructuring across the pyramid, and its final suggestion is almost sure to provoke criticism.

Northern League chairman Mike Amos wasn't exactly full of praise in his annual report to clubs at the Northern League AGM earlier this month. "The matter has ground on, and come close to grinding me and others down. The final proposals were meant by now to have been agreed by the FA Council but after innumerable and sometimes interminable meetings the latest round of consultation has just been completed.

"Though we seem no closer to a final outcome than we were 12 months ago, my guess is that - after all this time and all this talking - nothing up here is going to change a bit.

"It is to be hoped that the post mortem into this extraordinary and expensive exercise asks some very demanding questions of those involved."

The Northern League is still hoping that the FA will consider a new league based between the Tweed and the Humber and run by the Northern League, but the prospects appear to be receding.

Peterlee have appointed their former player Neil Hixon as their new manager. Hixon, who was in charge of Second Division club Eppleton, played for Peterlee three seasons ago, and takes over from Eddie Freeman, who quit near the end of last season.

Club secretary Danny Cassidy said: "Neil is working his way up the management ladder, and coming to Peterlee is a step in the right direction for him."

Hixon was due to meet the playing squad last weekend, and begins training on July 2 Hixon has played for several Northern League clubs, and brings with him Bob Brook as assistant manager, and former Sunderland player George Herd as coach.

Meanwhile, Peterlee are putting the final touches to their 25 year celebration dinner on August 2nd at Shotton Hall, and are asking all past players to contact secretary Danny Cassidy on 0191-5814591. Tickets are £7.50 each.

Newly-promoted Prudhoe have appointed Steve Smith as their new manager.

Prudhoe moved quickly to appoint Smith after previous manager Tony Harrison surprisingly quit to become manager of Second Division Ashington, who lost their First Division place to Prudhoe at the end of last season.

Smith didn't manage a club last season, and instead he concentrated on playing duties with Second Division clubs Shildon and Horden. He was previously manager of Seaham Red Star, whom he guided to runners up spot behind Bedlington two seasons ago.

"My aim is to help Prudhoe stay in the First Division," he said.

Smith has appointed Sean McKenna, who has been at Seaham Red Star, as his assistant.

Evenwood have appointed Ken Houlahan as their new manager.

Houlahan has management experience in the league before, having been boss at Esh Winning over a decade ago, but he has a wealth of experience in other aspects of the game, particularly in sports science in which he has a masters degree.

Marc Coulson has been appointed as Houlahan's assistant.

"Our first aim is to develop good coaching and fitness programmes, and build from there," he said.

Houlahan takes over from Terry Laffey, who quit at the end of last season, and he has already made enquiries for several players.