During this lockdown you’ve found out how I became a Barnet supporter from the ashes and demise of Maidstone Utd as a Football League club, more of that one though in a later blog next month.
Outside of non-league football, I do dip into the Premier League and not just for writing. Tottenham Hotspur is my team and have been since I was about 6 years old. My dad went to Wembley to watch the 1981-82 FA Cup final and came back with both home and away shirts and that was me, my club. At one point in my life I was able to watch Spurs and Barnet on opposite weeks until the Premier League priced me out of the stadium, Barnet benefitted from that and so did non-league football, but who else do I look out for and have a soft spot?
Being from Kent originally I always notice when clubs from the Garden of England do well or stick out a bit, apart from Gillingham that is! One club sticks out a little more than others, and that’s Tunbridge Wells, the reason being my younger brother Steve spent a couple of years there as a player in the 2000’s and on the back of that my dad got involved in the backroom bits such as programme editor and the set-up of the club shop which has now flourished, work he did until his unexpected death in 2011. Unfortunately, he wasn’t around to see the club reach Wembley in the FA Vase Final in 2013 but I’m sure he was there in spirit.
I used to frequent a lot of Kent football grounds with him as I was growing up, Dartford’s old Watling Street, Welling’s Park View Road, Tonbridge’s Longmead Stadium, Darenth Heathside’s quaint little ground alongside the railway viaduct and of course Maidstone’s London Road stadium among many others. Of course three of those grounds no longer exist and at one point neither did three of the teams, but both Dartford and Maidstone have climbed back up the pyramid.
Of course with that players that move around from a Kent club to another or somewhere else I tend to notice, and that goes without saying when it comes to Barnet players! As player turnover is far higher these days there’s a fair few that crop up, but then I’m sure I’m not alone in this.
I also look out for Wroxham in the Thurlow Nunn League in East Anglia. You might be wondering why for this one, well it comes from a childhood of holidays around the Norfolk area and on the Broads which run through that part. Great Yarmouth I also had visits to during that time, complete with the continental running track around the outside of the pitch! Wroxham for years excelled at Step 5 level and eventually took the plunge to move up a level to the then named Ryman league. As with a lot of things my dad didn’t get to see them at that level, I did at Aveley before that club moved to their new ground, certainly an experience watching planes take off from London City airport and flying directly over the ground.
Due to other issues the Yachtsmen survived at that level and I got to watch Ryman League football at Trafford Park, again something my dad couldn’t do but relegation did catch up with them in the end and Step 5 is now where they reside, although there is much optimism around the area that Wroxham are on their way back, I did have a visit to watch them planned but of course fell victim to the pandemic, next season it’s a must for me!
Locally, it was Wick for many years, now it’s Worthing and a club where progress is being made both on and off the pitch, raising nearly £43K in just over two weeks to go with a grant for vital work to be completed around the ground.
Beyond that little lot, a look for Dundee Utd in Scotland, why? Because they play in amber of course, or orange depending on your eyesight. Going abroad into Italy, Sampdoria is my one. This one stems from Rob La Francesca, a mate I went to secondary school with whose father is Italian. That point though was when Samp had the likes of Roberto Mancini, Attilio Lombardo, Ruud Gullit and Gianluca Pagliuca gracing the Luigi Ferraris Stadium. I still cast an eye out for their result at times, not bad for one that goes back around 30 odd years!
Anyway, we all have our stories of the ‘extras’ we look at for, feel free to share yours…………