Another falls by the wayside

Greenwich

Sometimes an article just drops itself into your lap to write, sometimes more than one in a day. Upon checking through Facebook this afternoon, I came across the one thing a football fan never wants to see, but something that may become ever more common  over the next few years, maybe even months.

Greenwich Borough of the Southern Counties East Division tendered their resignation this afternoon as the club became the latest to disappear from the footballing landscape. Despite being as close to London as they are to Kent, Boro’ have been encased in Kentish football since the mid-80’s.

They were the team that launched the career of star striker Ian Wright on his way to Crystal Palace, Arsenal and England stardom and also for those more local to Kent and Sussex, Mark ‘Smokey’ Gall who starred for Maidstone Utd and finishing at Brighton before injury curtailed what should have been a long Football League stint.

However for the past eleven years Greenwich  have been non-league nomads, no permanent home to call upon which in general for a non-league club means the death knell is coming. Whilst ground-sharing for a year or two can provide respite to get a ground up to standard it has a huge financial strain with no income or very little coming their way and going beyond those years can consequently send a club to the wall.

Interestingly Borough stated their resignation isn’t down to financial issues which has led some to believe there is an issue with their ground share with Phoenix Sports, their final destination of a tour around Kent. It’s been documented that Borough were well financed which enabled them to rise up to the then Bostik League South Division for a three year stay at that level before relegation last season returned them back to the Southern Counties East Division.

As though has been seen in the past, without a good budget when you jump up one division chances are you’re coming back down again, although Borough’s troubles didn’t surface until last season which would suggest the financial backing was withdrawn and their resignation comes as the club were staring down the barrel of a second successive relegation. Who knows if the club would have even survived dropping down one further division had they completed this season and whilst most clubs disappear through financial issues, this one does show that while the budget might be manageable for their standard, without that significant investment or a bigger budget through whatever means the game becomes a struggle at any level even in non-league.

There is a danger that as the pyramid takes full effect in the next couple of years some clubs will find they can’t afford to compete with those around them nor compete at levels higher and will fall by the wayside, I’m not sure exactly how you police this down to County League levels but to lose so much history is criminal despite some seeing it as ‘natural selection’ as time goes by.

Why non-league?

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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……………………….

Rebels brush Merstham aside

Worthing vs Horsham 1

I was aiming for a trip to Sevenoaks Town on Saturday, my home town and where I used to live 5 minutes walk from the ground. But, as time ended up being against me I found my way to Woodside Road for another Worthing game, my fourth in the space of less than three weeks, not bad considering I hadn’t pitched up there all season before mid December.

My last two outings watching the Mackerel Men yield three goals on both occasions for the men in red without reply so I was pretty confident that I was likely to see goals once again. Having left it a little late to leave home, I was in the ground just about on kick off time so I had to kind of check the line up whilst waiting to get through the turnstile. No surprises in it and good to see Marvin Armstrong once again fit enough to make the bench.

Not long after we’d made our way to the stand on the dug out side than the first goal scoring chance arrived, Ollie Pearce bundled over clumsily in the box and stepped up to take the resulting penalty. Despite being well struck, the keeper was equal to Pearce’s effort and the ball stayed out of the net. There wasn’t long to wait for the first goal though as Ricky Aguiar struck a half volley into the ground and subsequently the net just four minutes later.

As if that wasn’t enough Worthing made it two before fifteen minutes were on the clock, Jasper Pattenden pounced on a loose ball in the box for 2-0. The hosts were looking as if they could score with every attack whilst the visitors struggled to maintain possession for any length of time, Reece Meekums going close from 40 yards after beating the on-rushing keeper.

Just as it was three weeks ago at home to Enfield, Worthing were well in command of the game only to give away a sloppy goal and that repeated itself as Joel Colbran gave the ball away near his own box for the ball to be crossed into ex Rebel Shola Ayoola to halve the deficit.

This time though Worthing composed their play and made sure the visitors were not going to get back into this game and the skipper Alex Parsons popped up once again with an goal, sending a spinning overhead kick into the net for a deserved 3-1 lead at half time.

The second half was extremely comfortable for the Mackerel Men although it took until the 65th minute for an addition to the scoreline, Colbran striking the post from the edge of the box only for the ball to fall at the feet of Pearce who made no mistake from a few yards out.

Aguiar then fired home a free kick twenty five yards out with the help of a slight deflection to wrong foot the keeper on 72 minutes to give the hosts a deserved 5-1 lead before the best goal of the game coming five minutes from time with substitute Marley Marshall smashing the ball into the net off the crossbar with absolute force to send the 905 in attendance home after a quite ruthless performance.

Coupled with a 1-1 draw for Folkestone Invicta the result sends Worthing to the top of the table for the first time this season by two points and that lead can be extended on Tuesday evening as the Mackerel Men head to Bishops Stortford.

Credit to Merstham who tried to keep things nice and tight and play football, but they came up against a side very much in form, unbeaten in the league since October and very much in a title race. The interesting fact from the visitors, Barry Hayles now 47 years of age still charging around a football pitch long after his Football League days but ultimately very much starved of any service all afternoon.

 

 

Join us and support Prostate Cancer

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This blog is a little bit away from the realms of non-league but at the same time a very good cause to raise money for. In just over two months myself, Gareth Spinks, Steve Watson and James Hiscock will undertake the challenge of visiting all 20 Premier League clubs in just 24 hours.

Now, when we discussed at length last year taking on the challenge no one had completed it despite there being a few attempts. Unfortunately we won’t be the first to complete the challenge as it’s been done, but we can be the quickest! Our plan is already set in motion and we believe we’ll beat the 24 hour mark.

Starting in Bournemouth and moving along the South Coast on the Friday evening before the international weekend in March, we plan to finish in Manchester on the Saturday evening having made a visit to each club with photographic evidence and also videos along the way which will go live on our Facebook page (link below) as we travel through the night in our quest.

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We’ve chosen Prostate Cancer as for two of our team it’s personal within their families and we feel its the perfect charity to be supporting. One in eight men will get prostate cancer within their lifetime, mainly affecting those over 50 and whilst there is no cure for the disease we can raise as much as we can to help, no amount is too small and no amount is too big, we’d love it if you can donate anything.

We appreciate January is a tough month for many with pay stretching further, and we ask that if you can’t afford to donate now to keep us in mind in February and March and pop a little in the fund.

We are paying for the vehicle, fuel and overnight stay for ourselves at the end out of our own pocket, if anyone feels they or their business would like to sponsor part of the journey in some way we would be more than grateful and will do our best to keep plugging you or your company throughout the next couple of months.

The link to our Facebook page where you will find updates over the next few weeks and follow us throughout the journey is here:

https://www.facebook.com/Premier-League-challenge-for-Prostate-Cancer-108247703934298/?modal=admin_todo_tour

You can also donate via the Facebook page or go direct to the just giving page below:

http://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/24hour-premier-league-challenege?utm_campaign=pfp-share&utm_content=24hour-premier-league-challenege&utm_medium=fundraisingpage&utm_source=Facebook

Whatever you can do to help we’ll be grateful for the support.

Rebels end 20 year hoodoo

Bognor vs Worthing

New Years Day. The derby or ‘El Classicoast’ as it’s known on the South Coast, Bognor vs Worthing, Rocks vs Rebels. Personally, it was a great start to the New Year for me lined up as co-commentator on Rocks Radio, Lee Roberts a good mate of mine wanted to balance up the commentary box so I accepted, first time on the airwaves and who knows if it’s the last time?

My first experience of Rocks Radio was back in August lying on Burgau beach in Portugal listening to Lee despairing as Worthing took Bognor apart and comfortably won 3-0 to earn the early bragging rights. This game was a chance for the Rocks to seek and amend that score-line, both sides in very good form going into the game with Worthing joint top twelve games unbeaten and Bognor in sight of the play-off places, defeat for one not so costly, defeat for the other slipping away from seventh spot.

My expectations were for two sides really going at each other from the first whistle, not as robust as Worthing – Horsham on Boxing Day but still full bloodied.  What we got didn’t live up to the expectations! Worthing flew out the blocks from the first minute and should have been two or three goals in front in the first ten minutes, Adam Hinshelwood had his side well up for this derby.

As it was though we had to wait for the tenth minute for the Rebels to lead, Keaton Wood caught in possession by the outstanding Alex Parsons who raced clear and slotted past Amadou Tangara. Bognor looked unable to cope with the tenacity of the Worthing players all over the pitch, Joel Colbran and Parsons causing Wood untold problems throughout the half down the right hand side whilst the slick passing from midfield of Jessie Starkey and Ricky Aguiar were no match for the Rocks middle men.

The only joy for Bognor was the left wing play from Ashton Leigh, but unable to pick out a green head in the box on numerous occasions. When he did find Dan Smith’s head, keeper Carl Rushworth was equal to anything coming his way. With Worthing causing so many problems, Bognor opted for an early change with Brad Lethbridge coming on for a bemused Harvey Whyte and switching to a Rocks back four which brought on the best period of the game for Bognor ten minutes before half time, Lethbridge now causing havoc on the left wing but finding no way through the Rebels back line nor past Rushworth, Worthing going in at half time 1-0 up, but wondering if those missed early chances will be rued.

Bognor started the second half the brighter, Worthing on the back foot until an injury to Ashton Leigh seemed to disrupt the momentum for the Rocks and from then on there was just one team in it.  Just a couple of minutes after Leigh’s departure, Aguiar’s corner was met superbly by an unmarked Colbran to power his header past Tangara and put Worthing into a 2-0 lead.

That goal really did knock the stuffing out of Bognor, but Hinshelwood made sure his side continued pushing, harassing and pressing Bognor all over the park not giving away an inch of space. Every time Worthing broke away on the counter attack, you sensed another goal and on 70 minutes the game was wrapped up, the assured Aarran Racine sent sub Ollie Pearce away who rounded Tangara but went a little wide, had the sense to tee up the on-rushing Starkey who lashed the ball into the roof of the net to seal a dominant Rebels performance and complete a 3-0 double over their local rivals.

There could have further goals for Pearce and the debut making Marley Marshall but Tangara was equal to both efforts and kept the score-line to a reasonable level. Chances were there for Bognor, but not their day with Smith putting a free header well off target in the dying minutes after Walsh had tested Rushworth from distance but a clean sheet for the young stopper ensured Worthing added three more to their goal difference behind Folkestone Invicta.

Superb team performance from Hinshelwood’s side, Bognor will feel disappointed they didn’t perform anywhere near the levels they can get to, and while defeat moves them down the table a couple of places, there’s plenty of football left to get into those play-offs.

This was Worthing’s first win at Nyewood Lane for 20 years, that was as good a performance you could get to end a run like that, if they can maintain this form for another four months the title can easily be Woodside Road bound.

I really enjoyed being in the commentary box, as I use the blog  for games I go to I tend to watch very analytically as well as a fan and this worked just as well, Lee was very complimentary of Worthing’s performance despite how much a loss like this to your local rivals can really get under your skin. If you had a listen, I hope you enjoyed it and it came across well, I can’t say if I’ll be doing it again, another watch this space moment, all I can say is ‘I’d rather be a Rebel than a Rock’…………

 

Time for the final call

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Regular readers will know the image above, those of you reading for the first time or unable to recall the blogs of last year it’s Wick Football Club, my local club and until yesterday the one I was Treasurer of and also the person who ran the social media side.

Some of you may wonder why I’ve stepped away, well it’s a combination of things really. I’ve lost the enjoyment and enthusiasm to want to be involved which is not me. It disappoints me in a way because there is a good squad of players that go out onto that pitch and have the club at the right end of the table and in the mix, credit to Terry Julian and Ian a far cry from last season’s struggles.

I’ve missed quite a lot of Saturday games this year due to various commitments and if I’m honest it hasn’t bothered me, I don’t get the buzz banging out on social media it’s matchday or we’ve won with goals from X, Y and Z, that to me says I need a break from it. At times along with the job I was doing this year it was distracting me from writing articles, I wasn’t wanting to pick up the laptop despite the fact some of what I write I get paid for.

Running or being involved with a club at this level is a real eye-opener for anyone and if I could turn the clock back to when I first agreed to take over as Secretary, my answer this time would be no. There aren’t many moments where it’s been enjoyable, I can’t say I ever thought about being in one of the major roles and being led to believe it was ‘a piece of cake’ my experience certainly doesn’t want to make me do it again. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with the club or it’s people far from it, I need to step away for me.

There are factors away from the club as well that wouldn’t persuade me to take it again, lack of support from the governing bodies and leagues when you’re new to the job, no help just fine you instead from your first misdemeanour because clearly you should know what you’re doing, it’s no wonder there’s so much frustration around the non-league scene with whats expected of volunteers and no margin for human error.

Maybe one day in the future I might return, never say never, but I also have plans of my own which need to take priority next year, things to develop and some might take me into pathways which could take me to a point where being involved in a club wouldn’t be possible, as per usual though watch this space………..

 

Worthing take derby honours

Worthing vs Horsham

Just last week I made my first trip to Worthing’s Woodside Road ground to watch the Rebels maintain their place in the top two.  On Boxing day weather inflicted, Woodside Road was where I ended up once again.

My first choice was Tonbridge Angels vs Maidstone Utd, a victim to the football killer known as rain early in the morning , Longmead as I well know has always succumbed when the rain calls. My second choice was The Hive and Barnet, but rain lashing down in Wick meant I wasn’t wanting to tempt fate with an ill-fated journey for a postponed game.

So the 3G won again and I stayed at home, 2nd vs 3rd and Sussex neighbours in the Isthmian Bet Victor Premier promised a good old local derby in spite of the weather which showed little sign of stopping on the drive to the ground.

Horsham, who are enjoying a great season so far after promotion last season, started quite brightly and should have been ahead very early on something you thought might come back to haunt them later in the game.

At the other end Worthing could say the same as Reece Myles-Meekums also put the ball just past the far post. Horsham however finished the half with 10 men as ex Mackerel Man Harvey Sparks picked up a second yellow card as he clipped Alex Parsons chasing down a long through ball, the half itself was full of niggly fouls and very little time taken by the referee to calm things down, a pattern that continued during the second half.

Going in at half time 0-0 and with very few chances you felt Worthing had to make the most of the second half with the superior advantage. And within four second half minutes Parsons had put the Rebels in front after his shot seemed to go straight through the keeper.

Horsham though remained dangerous despite being the man short and it all really came alive in the final 10 minutes, firstly Dyett seeing red for pulling down Ollie Pearce as the last man and then Pearce scoring with the deftness of chips over the keeper for 2–0 five minutes from time.

But, it wasn’t done there as Pearce notched his second after an outrageous Ricky Aguiar backheel was crossed into the box for the striker to finish to keep Worthing level with Folkestone Invicta at the top of the table as 2019 and the decade ends.

A 12 match unbeaten run is taken to Bognor Regis on New Years Day, another local derby and against another side themselves in good form, this one promises to be just as fiery as Boxing Day and I’ll be there but in a different guise…………