The title, well a very good question and one I feel in the current climate, more and more supporters are answering it for themselves. As with everything football evolves, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. You can undoubtedly say football is undergoing a period where the game might be designed for the next few years at least over the coming twelve months.
VAR is the hottest topic currently in the modern game, by my reckoning used well in the NFL, cricket and rugby codes and used blindly or stubbornly in the Premier League threatening to ruin the beautiful game as we know it and driving people to the edge of despair. Coupled with the constant movement of kick off times to suit TV and not the average fan along with ticket prices rising year on year and out of reach for some of the working class it’s no wonder that fans are beginning to turn their backs on the commercial sideshow that is top flight football.
My very first non-league game was back in 1986, my late father took me to the London Road Stadium, the then home of Maidstone Utd before the imminent sale to MFI, another retailer no longer in existence (the original Stones went the same way as the furniture giant), a 2-0 home win with goals from Steve Butler and George Torrance. That however wasn’t my first game, a trip to watch Tottenham in the days of Clemence, Hoddle, Waddle, Falco and Galvin at Brighton for a testimonial game.
But there was something about floodlit midweek football in quaint looking grounds that got me at an early age. Surrounded by a greyhound track, London Road was it for me and although as I grew up I still went to bigger grounds, non-league football meant a whole lot more.
So what made it different then? Well, in those days the players at the top level which is now the National League had jobs as well as playing football, today that’s almost unheard of with so many ex Football League sides plying their trade in this division it is predominantly full time. The grounds were small and compact and less stringent in ground gradings but they were full of character and people, people with stories and people you got to know from week to week. You had the supporters who always stood in the same spot week in, week out, it was the social event and even to this day that hasn’t changed.
When I moved to West Sussex nearly 13 years ago one of the first things I looked for was where my local club was and out of that was my attachment to Wick FC. It’s not the only club I look out for, Tunbridge Wells where my brother played for a few years and my dad worked behind the scenes, Wroxham memories of many childhood holidays, Worthing who I’ve gotten involved a small bit over the past couple of years.
Social media makes it much easier to keep in touch with any club or all clubs, information is so much easier to find and digest sometimes on an hourly basis. In all honesty I follow a lot more than the above and thanks to the Non League Paper I have information at my fingertips every Sunday.
That included has helped me make many friends and contacts, all vital in sometimes getting access to areas that not everyone can, I can point to being able to interview two National League managers this season, can you imagine getting access to Pep or Jose off a whim of a tweet or DM? Of course not, non-league can be personal, I have some more irons in the fire for blogs this year and some of that wouldn’t have been possible without personal contact via these methods. Could you also imagine a Premier League manager interacting with fans on Twitter like Barnet boss Darren Currie does?
Your money counts to a non-league club far more than it does among the rich, it helps pay a bill, the wages or repair the facilities. It’s friendly, you can change ends at half time, eat well priced food cooked by people who care and stand in the same place week after week without the need to sit down.
Next time there’s an international break or a Tuesday night when your local non-league team are at home, get your shoes on, grab your mates and check it out, I’m not saying you abandon the Premier League or Football League team you support, but lend a bit of support to what is a unique set up of football compared to the rest of Europe, we have it and we need to keep it, but only if we use it……………………….