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4 FOOTBALLFAN THE

TheNonLeagueMagazine

Welcome to issue 18 of TheNonLeague, the

is currently working on a project about the

football magazine for supporters of non-league

non-league game along with our usual mix of

football.

interviews and articles from the non-league

The new season is now underway and already

game.

there have been some big shocks, with surprise

We also have a special feature from the game

teams at both the top and bottom of tables,

played between Corby Town and a team of

we have already seen some clubs and their

Premier League ‘legends’ which was arranged

managers parting ways and this all in the first

by our partners MarathonBet. The now annual

few weeks after the big kick-off.

event was a huge success, the pinnacle

Our last ‘digital only’ issue was read by the biggest audience since we started the magazine two years ago, we are hoping to continue this growth throughout the coming season, as we bring you stories from up and down the nonleague pyramid. As ever we will be continuing our ‘reseller’ offer to club’s and supporter groups to enable them to raise additional funds each time a copy is

of MarathonBet’s #NonLeagueChallenge

James Burch

Art Director Nick Williams

Designer Simon Jakes

Abi Goodwin Aidan Jones Alan Burge Christopher Lincoln Dan Mason Dave Stringer Garry Clarke Jamie Summers Joshua Green Michael Fitzer Michael Knight Tim Miller Tom Feaheny

match against a team that included the likes of Chris Waddle, Matt Holland, Trevor Sinclair and many others. Watch out for the #NonLeagueChallenge again in the new campaign, for the chance to win yourself and your club a huge cash bonus.

us to produce our magazine, without their help

our shop tab on the website www.thenonleague.

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Photography

appreciate your support.

Front Cover – Nicky Hayes Abi Goodwin Aidan Jones Alan Burge Christopher Lincoln Dan Mason Dave Stringer David Tinkler Michael Fitzer Michael Knight Mark Lee Nicky Hayes PA Images Rebecca Batchelor Tim Miller

Phil Brennan - Editor

Illustration

been described as the non-league equivalent of

Should you wish to join in the fun and write, or

‘marmite’, the Billericay Town owner/manager

send in photos, we are always happy to receive

Glenn Tamplin. We also feature one of his many

articles and photographs from new contributors,

big-name signings Jamie O’Hara.

email your details to editor@thenonleague.com

We have features from various levels of the

Finally, our thanks to each

game including interviews with former Millwall

and every person that

stalwart Alan Dunne, now plying his trade

has bought

with National League side Bromley, to players

TheNonLeague,

looking to establish themselves in our regular

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or every issue, we really

In issue 16 we inadvertently used a photo in our Hereford Goals article without giving credit to the photographer Andrew Walkden, our apologies go to Andrew for this error. If you have any ideas for articles or just want to have your say on this issue you can find us on TWITTER AND FACEBOOK

Otherwise you can contact us at: editor@thenonleague.com

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Chief Writer

Articles

issues, and indeed future issues, are available on

award winning filmmaker, Michael Fitzer, who

Phil Brennan

£10,000 cash prize and the chance to play the

As ever I offer my thanks to everyone that helps

We have a feature written by an Emmy™

Contributing Editor

competition, with Corby Town clinching the

sold the club makes £2 profit. All available back

Inside Issue 18 we feature the man who has

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Subscribe to our magazine: www.THENONLEAGUE.com The views and comments expressed inside this magazine are the personal views and comments of the individual writers and not necessarily those of Thefootballleague Magazine. Every effort has been made to trace the source of information/illustrations and to ensure that copyright has not been infringed. We offer our sincere apologies to anyone whose name that has been inadvertently omitted. *articles and/or photos are subject to amendment and can only be used if they do not violate any copyright or personal boundaries.

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COVER STORY 62

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FEATURES

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D L R O W RD O C RE KERS… A E BR ! N I A G A

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“KIND OF SURREAL REALLY, IT’S AN AMAZING OPPORTUNITY WITH AN AMAZING BUNCH OF PEOPLE...

>>>>

THENONLEAGUE.COM - 7


The Lee Knight Foundation who

did a few years ago, so to be asked to play this

broke the record for the longest

incredible! If he has any spare time then he comes

five a side football match two years ago have now got together again and gathered more to join the group. Together they have broken the Guinness World Record for Futsal, after playing 50 hours of non-stop football! The group of players were made up of both supporters and non-playing staff of Tranmere Rovers, some of which were part of the last group that broke the record for 5 a side football. The record attempt was organised to raise money for the Lee Knight Foundation in honour of Lee

time round is an honour. Dave Higgins has been down and takes the training session, he’s a real Tranmere legend and a privilege to work alongside him.”

“WHO IS IT GOING TO HELP- ALL MONEY RAISED GOES TOWARDS THE LEE KNIGHT FOUNDATION WHICH IS A CHARITY CLOSE TO EVERYONE’S HEARTS, AIMED TO HELP IMPROVE THE DISABLED FACILITIES IN AND AROUND PRENTON PARK”

Knight who unfortunately passed away who was

At the event, I spoke to two of the players taking

the leader of the group and had put so much plans

part in the event, Paul Harper and Chris Sharp.

in place to make football and sport in general more

Chris - “It was amazing, second time all for a

accessible for disabled people but he was not able to bring his plans into use, so his brother Michael has started this already.

good cause. So just need to keep going and make edit difficult for anyone else to break.” Paul - “I did not really know what to expect

Following the previous attempt, there has been

when we first set out on this kind of adventure I

more disabled viewing areas installed at Prenton

suppose you could call it. Nothing ever prepares

Park, the home of Tranmere Rovers which has

you for tiredness, the pain, the lack of sleep and

really brought the club’s reputation within the rest of the football world a good one as not many clubs unfortunately support disabled supporters as

blisters. Everyone has helped each other get through it even the opposition have been great. It has been a privilege.”

much as Tranmere Rovers do, with the help of the

Chris - “There has been a lot of differences to

Disabled Tranmere Rovers Supporters Association.

last time than this time. This one has been harder

One person that the event would not have happened without is Andy Doyle the chairman of the Tranmere Rovers Supporters association. Anyone would say that he has put tireless hard

because it is hard on your ankles all the time and you are always indoor whereas last time we were out on the grass and it was not too hard the surface for us. A lot of people are suffering with blisters as well but as Paul said everyone sticks

work into organising the event in the previous

together and gets through it. We have had a

months and then at the actual event he was always

great support for the event which we appreciate

keeping everyone organised, this is what i seen for

so much, but when we finish tomorrow it would

myself when I visited for a couple of hours in the

be great to see many people here to see us break

night to support the group.

the record.”

I spoke to one of the players about the event

Paul - “It is difficult with the breaks, because

before it took place:

when you come off you only have half an hour

“Kind of surreal really, it’s an amazing opportunity

get your rest while you can!”

until you come back on, so we realised that you

with an amazing bunch of people, I was really interested in the record the 5-aside record the lads

8 - THENONLEAGUE.COM

Article by: Aidan Jones

Photos: Michael Knight


DAVE H INCRE IGGINS HAS DIBLE! B HAS AN IF HE EEN THEN H Y SPARE TIM AND TA E COMES DO E SESSIO KES THE TR WN A N , H E REAL T ’S A INING AND A RANMERE LE P WORK RIVILEGE T GEND O ALONG SIDE ”

>>>>

LEE KNIGHT THENONLEAGUE.COM - 9


“MY FAMILY WILL BE FOREVER GRATEFUL” When Andy Doyle (events manager for LKF) came to me with his idea it was a no brainer for us to give it a go, the club has a great Futsal setup and pretty much everything we would need to put the event on. I was playing for the Tranmere Rovers Futsal team at the time so had a decent understanding of the rules etc.

Leah who supplied the oranges and hugs. Dave’s sessions were great and helped us along our way after having them involved in the first record attempt we knew we had a team that was capable of pretty much anything. The effort and commitment shown by the current and new members of the LKF was unbelievable from the start the training times weren’t great at all but nobody complained they just got there and got on with it. Training was brilliant and we all enjoyed our time in the hub there were Laughs, tears and injury’s over the 8 moths we spent in there training but I don’t think any of us would change a thing…well maybe Neil Dennett who

I knew we could do it and going

broke his leg in two places… (Sorry Neil)

off our previous record playing

June hit and before we knew it we were setting

5 aside football outdoors for 70 hours was surely going to be harder than 40+ hours playing Futsal. Andy rounded up the LKF family with help from some new additions to make up the 24 needed we set to work training twice a week using the Futsal hub whenever we could get it. Training times were Tuesdays 10pm-12am (Midnight) and afternoons on

up for our Guinness world record attempt the weekend was upon us and there was no going back. With our tents, sleeping bags and cooking equipment all set up and ready down the side of the court it was time to kick off and put all are training into action and at 9am on the 30th June we did just that. We were flying through the hours but I think I speak for most of us when I say thoughts of the last challenge being harder soon disappeared this one was something else, the surface really takes

a Sunday whenever the hub was free. We did some

it out of you your joints and muscles ache like

6 hour sessions and a 12 hour session to prepare.

nothing I’ve ever felt before dragging yourself of

Tranmere Rovers Legend and LKF Member Dave

your camp bed to do another 2-hour shift on the

Higgins was our coach along with his partner

court was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had

10 - THENONLEAGUE.COM


RECORD BREAKERS

>>>>

THENONLEAGUE.COM - 11


to do. The togetherness and will to get through this challenge

picked themselves up and the final push was on. The pictures of

was amazing, Everyone helped each other through the tough

us hitting that 50 hour mark say it all. I can’t put into words how

times in the dead of the night is when it really gets tough that’s

it felt to finish the attempt but it’s a feeling I’ll never forget.

when the thoughts of what am I doing this is madness creep in, you have to remember why you are there you have a look around see that everyone is there for the same reason and that’s enough to give you the kick to keep going.

To be a part of this with the people I got to do it with has been amazing, me and my family will be forever grateful for the times they put themselves out to train and the pain they went through to complete such a challenge in Lee’s Name and for the

We hit the 40 hour mark equalling the current record at 1am on

cause he started. We are very proud of them all from helpers

the Sunday morning what a feeling. We had a little cheer a few

to players everyone played their part and it wouldn’t have been

hugs and carried on, At around 7am that morning I had a chat

possible without them all and I’d like to congratulate them all on

with Andy bodies were draped over beds people in tears the

becoming world record holders.

pain was unbearable it was beginning to become a real struggle. We had to make a decision on when we would finish so we picked the 50 hour mark. With just 4 hours to go everyone

12 - THENONLEAGUE.COM

Michael Knight


ONES TO WATCH

HEAD T O HEA D E C E RE T N A GR >>>>

THENONLEAGUE.COM - 13


REECE GRANT Age: 22 Position: Striker Height: 5’11 Foot: Left Current Club: Heybridge Swifts (Ryman North) 2016-17 season stats: 38 app, 26 goals Previous Clubs: Millwall, Wealdstone,

KEANU WILLIAMS Age: 22 Position: Striker Height: 5’8 Foot: Right Current Club: Whyteleafe FC Previous Clubs: Watford, Wealdstone, Margate, Sittingbourne Tell us about your football career so far RG: After my stint at Millwall I went onto sign for Wealdstone at 18

then left to join Heybridge Swifts to play more regular senior

games. KW: I started my football career with the Pro Touch football academy

under the guidance of Ash Rahman. I moved onto Watford FC

and played through to the Under 14’s. I then played for Weald

stone under 21’s at the age of sixteen. After a short spell in Spain

I returned to the UK and played for Margate FC and Sitting

bourne. I have just signed for Whyteleafe and can’t wait to get

started with them in pre-season.

Have you always been a striker? RG: Yes, as I love scoring goals but having adapted to the non-league

game I can now play anywhere across the front three.

KW: No when I was younger I was a winger but I transformed to a

striker when signed for Watford.

Who was your idol growing up? RG: Thierry Henry, loved watching him growing up and what he

brought to the Premier League.

KW: Ronaldo (R9), loved watching him growing up, his ability to beat

14 - THENONLEAGUE.COM

defenders and score goals for fun has had a big effect on me as I

dream of being successful just like the man himself!


>>>>

KEANU WILIAM

S

THENONLEAGUE.COM - 15


Which team do you support? RG: I’ve grown up following Arsenal KW: Manchester United Best goal so far? RG: It would have to be my goal against Thamesmead Town. Good

build up of play, then I made a good run as the ball was chipped

in to me I lifted it over the on-rushing keeper and into the back

of the net.

KW: It would have to be scoring the winner for Sittingbourne Fc in

the last home game of last season in the 90th minute, the fans

went wild I loved every minute of it!

How do you relax away from football? RG: Make sure I eat a good meal to refuel and help the body recover.

Go down to the sauna and have a swim then relax until the next

match or training session.

KW: I like to go out to eat with friends, play Fifa and go to the gym. What are your aims in football? RG: Climb the football ladder becoming the top scorer at the clubs I

play for and seeing how far in the game I can go up to pro level.

KW: I want to be playing professional football and simply be a

success at the highest level!

What boots do you wear? RG: Adidas Xs KW: Adidas Glitch What advice would you give to young aspiring footballers? RG: No matter how many times you get knocked down and turned

away keep knocking at that door until you give them no chance

but to open it.

KW: No matter how many times you get knocked down and turned

down keep knocking at that door until you give them no chance

but to open it.

What is your pre-match meal? RG: Oatmeal porridge on a Saturday morning and chicken and pasta

for midweek evening games.

KW: Porridge with a banana on a Saturday morning and chicken and

pasta for the midweek fixtures.

What Does the future hold for you? RG: My season with Heybridge Swifts has just finished, so now time

to have a small break and get back to the hard work and graft in

time for pre-season then get next season off to a flier.

KW: Big things and lots of goals. I’m working tirelessly hard to reach

16 - THENONLEAGUE.COM

the top and won’t stop trying!


E I M A J RA A H O’

N W O AY T

IC R E ILL

–B

“GLEN N MAD B IS COMP L U E T T HAT’S TELY LOVE HIM” WHY W E

>>>>

THENONLEAGUE.COM - 17


Once time tipped to join the list of England’s greatest midfielders such as Paul Gascoigne, David Beckham and

public, and lasting 27 days out of 32, the midfielder’s personality had seemingly helped change everything for the better. Leaving the hit-Channel 5 show in late-January 2017 and getting into tip-top condition for the upcoming pre-season, O’Hara

Paul Scholes, Jamie O’Hara had it all as

admittedly had ambitions of getting back into the Football

a youngster coming through the ranks

the Big Brother house, the midfielder shocked the footballing

at Arsenal, before moving to Tottenham Hotspur in 2003.

League at the age of 30. However, just two months after leaving world, as he was unveiled as a Billericay Town player, just a few weeks after another former top-flight player Paul Konchesky had joined the Bostik league club. Joining Glenn Tamplin’s revolution at the AGP Arena, O’Hara will

As his game developed the midfielder joined London rivals

have surprised many by dropping into the Non-League game.

Millwall to gain first-team experience, following which O’Hara

Yet, with age still on his side, the project at the seventh-tier club

came back to White Hart Lane as a man on a mission, catching

was clearly too good to turn down, and with a point to prove,

the eye of then manager Juande Ramos, it didn’t take long

the ex-Spurs man is looking forward to playing for the Essex-

before that long-awaited dream of a first team debut became a

based outfit.

reality.

With Jermaine Pennant and former Wolverhampton Wanderers

Under Ramos, O’Hara shone and as he continually chipped in

team-mate Kevin Foley joining the Blues in the summer, O’Hara’s

with his fair share of assists and important goals, his standing

move into the Non-League game no longer looks a strange one,

continued to grow at the club. The Kent-born midfielder picked

and with manager Tamplin not shy to speak of his ambition to

up a League Cup runners-up medal as his side lost on penalties

get the club into the Football League, the midfielder has clearly

to Manchester United, his future at the club appeared to be

bought into the steel-tycoons dream.

assured.

Clearly keen to show his doubters that his injury-prone days are

However, with nothing certain in football, Ramos lost his job and

behind him, O’Hara has described his move to Billericay Town as

as Harry Redknapp took the managerial hot seat, O’Hara slowly

a ‘no brainer’, as he told TheNonLeague magazine that he is now

began to lose his grasp on a place in the Spurs starting XI.

enjoying his football again in the Bostik League after time in the

Several loan spells, including a successful season at

wilderness.

Portsmouth where he played in an FA Cup Final, and a move to

“After coming out of Celebrity Big Brother, I was on a mission

Wolverhampton Wanderers later, the seven-time England Under

to get fit and I was waiting for the phone calls to come in from

21 international began to slip down the leagues, as he found

managers and chairman at clubs. Glenn called me, and he gave

himself in the second and then third tier at Molineux, as the

me an opportunity to get back onto the pitch after a prolonged

west-midlands club suffered consecutive relegations in 2011-12

period on the sidelines.

and 2012-13. A string of niggling injuries including a stress fracture and a double hernia didn’t help, and as the injuries continued, O’Hara struggled to re-find the form that saw him named as one of the country’s hottest stars as a youngster. Joining Fulham, Blackpool and later Gillingham to regain his fitness and form, O’Hara was again hampered by reoccurring injuries. Out of contract after leaving Gillingham and in search for a break, the 2009-10 Portsmouth FC player of the season found himself in a completely new venture, as he hit the screens.

“THE MANAGER SHOWED ME HIS AMBITIONS AND I COULDN’T REFUSE HIS OFFER, AS HIS PLANS BLEW ME AWAY. I WANTED TO GET PLAYING AGAIN AND I HAVE TO ADMIT, I HAVE LOVED EVERY SECOND OF MY NON-LEAGUE JOURNEY SO FAR!” Playing in a League Cup final and appearing at some of Europe’s biggest stadiums over the years, O’Hara is a winner who has a

Temporarily hanging up his football boots after leaving the Gills,

burning desire to collect silverware, and with the chance to win

O’Hara took part in series 19 of Celebrity Big Brother, alongside

the Essex FA Cup, the FA Trophy and the Bostik League, the

Calum Best, model Nicola Mclean and American rapper Ray J.

midfield maestro has set his sights on winning the lot.

With a ‘tainted’ image in the press before appearing on the show,

“At the end of the day, I have been very lucky and privileged to

O’Hara’s honesty and sense of humour won over the British

play at the highest level and I will always cherish that. I have had

18 - THENONLEAGUE.COM


>>>>

my injuries, but I have never stopped loving football

current ‘gaffer’. After the club finished 8th last

and Billericay Town have given me that chance. I

season, O’Hara has no doubt that this season is

wanted to be a part of this project and I cannot

the year that Billericay Town begin to stamp their

speak highly enough of the way the club have

mark on Non-League football, and with the likes

treated me since I came in last season!”

of Pennant, Foley and Konchesky in tow, the Blues

As a professional who has seen and done it all, receiving a call from Glenn Tamplin could and maybe should have been a non-entity. However,

midfielder is convinced that Tamplin, along with coach Harry Wheeler is the man to take the club into the Football League.

Tamplin has a habit of working his magic as he

“Glenn is completely mad but that’s why we love

has shown, and after a short phone conversation,

him! He is so passionate about Billericay Town and

O’Hara was quickly sold on dropping into the

he loves the club. He has created the hype that

seventh tier.

currently surrounds the ground and fair play to him

O’Hara is in no doubt that Tamplin is the man to take the Blues to the top, and despite playing under

for getting us not only into the regional news but also the national spotlight.

the likes of Ramos, Redknapp and McCarthy, the

“He is 100% committed to getting the club into the

30-year-old has nothing but admiration for his

Football League and I completely agree with him to

THENONLEAGUE.COM - 19


be honest. He wears his heart on his sleeve and he inspires us all in the dressing room. He is getting the best out of us and long may it continue.” O’Hara added; “Glenn won’t stop until the club reaches the top. The foundations are now in place for us to compete both on and off the field, and from the training ground, to the stadium and the new signings, the future is looking bright for Billericay Town Football Club.” A big name in the Football League and a huge name in Non-League football, O’Hara’s presence in the seventh tier has done wonders for the league, with attendances at an all-time high in the Bostik League. O’Hara is under no illusions that Tamplin’s men will have to play at their best in order to win the league. And though somewhat initially surprised by the standard of football in the division, the former CBB man has sent out a message that the Blues mean business, as he finished by saying. “Last season Paul (Konchesky) and I came in late, and I only played six games which was unfortunate, as I built up a head of steam just before the league season ended. I’ve worked hard over the summer both on and off the field, and with a strong squad, I have every confidence that we can challenge for the title. There are plenty of good teams in this division though, and we cannot take anything for granted if we are to win this league” Photos: PA Images/Nicky Hayes @NickyHayesPhoto

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N N E L G PLIN M A T

THE BIG INTERVIEW

WN O T AY

RIC E L – BIL

“I WO N ANYT ’T SETTL H E I N G LES FOR THE F S O T O H T AN B LEAGU ALL E THIS C FOR LUB” >>>> THENONLEAGUE.COM - 21


Love him or hate him, Billericay Town

consecutive promotions, moving from the Evo-Stik Northern

manager Glenn Tamplin is here to

2013-14 to 2016-17.

stay! The larger than life character has catapulted himself into the national spotlight over the last year, pumping his own fortunes into his local club, to the delight of some and the disgust of others. Tamplin is open about his journey to transform Billericay Town into a powerhouse in the Football League, and despite narrowly

Premier League Division One to the National League North from

Behind the grand mansion, the flash cars and the trash talk, Tamplin has a heart of gold, and although the haters continue to surface, the local, regional and national media have rightfully shown the work that the 45-year-old has done for six-year-old Harry Parker, who has cerebral palsy. As Harry dreams to play football on his own two feet one day, Tamplin has taken him under his wing, paying for him to have selective dorsal rhizotomy surgery at Great Ormond Street Hospital, in the process naming a stand after the heroic child.

missing out on a play-off place last season, he has set his sights

In a frank, honest and inspirational interview with TheNonLeague

on an unprecedented treble in 2017/18.

magazine, Tamplin has no ambition to tone down his passionate

A self-made multi-millionaire after building his steel business, the

rants and larger than life persona, as speaking about his burning

Blues manager-owner has had an incredibly busy summer, with a

desire to bring the local community together, he has stated that

host of new and well-known faces coming through the gates, at

he has ‘no fear’ going forward, with Billericay Town currently

the newly named ‘The AGP Arena.’

riding the crest of a ginormous wave.

Named after Tamplin’s successful steel company, the AGP Arena

“I am not scared of pushing the boundaries and trying new

has never been so busy, and with crowds almost tripling on last

things, when I have an idea in my mind I run with it and no

season, the Essex-based outfit have the foundations in place to

matter anyone else thinks or says, I will always give it 110%. 20

create a real storm in the Non-League game.

years ago, I borrowed £50,000 to survive and lived on a council

With the likes of Jamie O’Hara, Kevin Foley, Paul Konchesky and

estate. I use my previous struggle as motivation to succeed and

Jermaine Pennant joining the squad, Billericay Town FC have a

no matter what happens at Billericay Town now, I feel like I have

starting XI that can now boast over 1,000 senior appearances,

exceeded all expectations.

a League Cup win, a Champions League and Europa League runners-up medal and two England caps. Bringing in players of such calibre clearly comes at a cost and it has been no secret that Billericay Town have a sizeable playing budget for a side in the seventh tier of English football. However, with Tamplin’s riches, combined with a burning desire to be so much more than just the ‘noisy neighbours’ in Essex, the Blues boss will do all it takes to make the club a success story, with his own rags to riches tale, acting as an inspiration for everyone in the Lion-themed dressing room at the AGP Arena. Consistently challenging for a spot in the top five over the past four season without avail, Billericay Town’s depth in positions has let them down. However, with an ever growing squad, a passionate manager and a burgeoning fan base, the omens are currently looking good. Boldly predicting that Billericay Town would maintain top spot from day one, Tamplin and his side flattered to deceive on the opening day of the new Bostik League season, as Kingstonian came to the AGP Arena and spoiled the party, as they ran away

“IN TERMS OF BILLERICAY TOWN, I BELIEVE WE CAN NOT ONLY WIN THE LEAGUE BUT ALSO THE FA TROPHY THIS SEASON! I DON’T BELIEVE A CLUB FROM OUR LEVEL HAS EVER WON THE TROPHY AT WEMBLEY STADIUM AND AFTER DOING WHAT WE HAVE DONE, I FEEL LIKE TWO CUPS IS THE MINIMUM WE AS A CLUB SHOULD EXPECT TO WIN.” Signing ex-Tottenham Hotspur midfielder and two-time England full-back Paul Konchesky at the back end of last season, Tamplin has lived up to his word, as he promised that more big names would be acquired for the new campaign.

with a ‘smash and grab’ 1-0 victory.

With the aforementioned Pennant and Foley also in tow, along

With the team now gelling nicely and the club flourishing both

with former Athletico Madrid star Elliot Kebbie, Leo Chambers

on and off the field, Tamplin is ready to replicate the success

and Rob Davies, it is fair to say that Billericay Town are currently

of the ‘Class of 92’ at Salford City, with the Ammies winning

the ‘galacticos’ of Non-League football.

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L U Y A P K S E H C KON – BIL

CAY LERI

N TOW

>>>> THENONLEAGUE.COM - 23


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Three divisions away from the Football League, Tamplin has had to use every ounce of his persuasion to attract such big names to play in the Bostik league. Admitting that on paper players such as Pennant and O’Hara would never join the club, Tamplin has revealed that it is his face-to-face interviews that win potential new signings over, as with a steely determination in his eye, it is near on impossible not to buy into the vision that the father-of-five has. As the club discovered on the opening day against Kingstonian, Billericay Town are now the side that every club in the division wants to beat, and with so many ‘superstars’ in the side, Tamplin has explained why the intense pressure to win every game is a help and not

JERMAINE PENNANT

a hindrance. “Clubs up their game by at least 20% when they play us, it is a fact! That shouldn’t affect us though, because with the players we have, they are ready to face anything that comes up against them. Once a player meets me and looks into my eyes, they buy into my ambition and my passion, and that same passion is what helps us battle to the last second of every game, no matter who we are playing. Our ground would probably pass as a League Two ground, so the players can see that I mean business and I will not stop until we are a side in the Football League, it is as simple as that.” Famous for his pre-game dressing room speeches and adopting R Kelly’s ‘I am the greatest’ as their anthem, Billericay Town are not a millionaires ‘play thing’ like many think, instead they are an establishment that is going places, with a manager on board who loves the club more than anything else. Winning their first league game of the season away at Lowestoft Town on the 15th August, the Blues went on a good run and despite being the ‘big spenders’, it is crucial that they keep up the momentum throughout the campaign, if they are to challenge the likes of Leatherhead, Dulwich Hamlet and Margate at the top. Stating when he first took the managerial hot seat last season that he would walk away and find a replacement in May, Tamplin now

THENONLEAGUE.COM - 25


believes that staying on as manager has made him a better person, and aided by experienced coach Harry Wheeler, he is growing by the day. Despite spending an estimated £30,000 a week on their playing budget, Billericay Town are now running like a well-oiled machine off the field, and as they continue to market themselves as a club pushing for the top, Tamplin has reiterated the point that the Blues are pushing in the words of R Kelly to be ‘the greatest’, as he finished by confidently saying. “I won’t settle for anything less than the Football League for this club. I have got a fantastic backroom staff and plenty of people working in the background. I have set the club up as a business and the club has already progressed so much over the last 12 months. In terms of me being a manager, bringing in Harry Wheeler has been a God send as he is one of the best coaches I have ever seen. Harry brings the technical aspect of the game, whereas I pride myself on my people skills, which helps us work as a duo. “When I do my speeches, my players believe in me, and that selfconfidence, combined with the work that Harry does on the training field, is the perfect combination. I can get the best out of people, and I will do so for as long as possible. None of the players want me to step down and they are happy, so as long as they keep winning football games, my position won’t change. As I keep saying, nothing but promotion this season is enough, and it is now up to the players to show everyone just how good they can be.” Photos: Nicky Hayes/BTFC/David Tinkler

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THE RICAYS

A C C E B E R R O L E H C T A B >>>> THENONLEAGUE.COM - 27


T N A T R O P M I O S S E K A T “IT I O T N E M O W R FO ” T R O P S N I T PAR Who said Non-League football wasn’t glamorous? At Bostik league outfit Billericay Town, there are stars a-plenty in the squad and a multi-millionaire in charge, meaning the club has never been more popular. With much razzmatazz surrounding the club and an A-list feel surrounding the player’s car park full of sports cars, Billericay Town are clearly a club going places both on and off the field. As manager Glenn Tamplin continues to pump his millions into the AGP Arena, Billericay Town is now becoming the most talked about establishment in the county, ahead of hit reality TV show TOWIE!

Paul Konchesky continue to flourish. However, off the field, there

Tamplin’s big name acquisitions and social media outbursts have

from Tamplin, the model hopes that fans of the club will now

propelled the club into the national spotlight, and as the crowds

enjoy match days win, lose or draw, as she said. “The Ricays are

have continued to grow, so has the pressure to entertain. On the

Billericay Town’s official cheerleading team. Glenn Tamplin was

field of play, the likes of Jamie O’Hara, Jermaine Pennant and

looking for cheerleaders to provide some family friendly match

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are a new ‘team’ that are stealing the limelight. Warming up the crowd and creating an atmosphere before the game and at half time, the Ricays, Billericay Town’s official cheerleading squad, have gone down a storm since bursting onto the scene in July. Headed up by Rebecca Batchelor, the Ricays have gone about creating a family friendly match day environment, for the many youngsters now following the Bostik league favourites. Made up by a team of enthusiastic cheerleaders, the Ricays have managed to combine winning on the field, with winning fans off it, with dances, cheers and routines extremely popular with everyone at the AGP Arena. Mirroring other top-flight clubs who have used cheerleaders in the past, the club are in safe hands with Batchelor, who has also helped mastermind the revolution of West Ham United’s Hammerettes. A model as well as a cheerleader, Batchelor has brought a sense of beauty to the club, away from the rough and tumble of football action over the last few months, as Billericay Town’s prized assets continue to dazzle in the league, as they currently sit towards the summit of the table. Revealing how the clubs cheerleading team were formed thanks to co-operation


day entertainment for the fans and that’s where the Ricays came along! “I met Glenn after he found out I was the owner of the Hammerettes at West Ham and from there, we put our team together. With auditions to join the Ricays taking place at West Ham’s training ground in mid-July, Batchelor and Tamplin created an X-Factor style process, which whittled down the hopefuls into the final team. Speaking further about her ambition to create a buzz at the AGP Arena, Batchelor continued by saying: “From day one we have always hoped that we could create a feel-good feeling around the club on a matchday. It is great to see so many young boys and girls smiling in the stands watching our performances and long may it continue. We are hoping our performances will be appreciated by home and away fans, and hopefully it will give our supporters something to enjoy even if the team aren’t winning!” Making their cheerleading debuts during the clubs first home game of the season against Kingstonian, the Ricays have quickly become a permanent part of the match-day experience. Despite there being sceptics, Batchelor has revealed that her cheerleading team has received nothing but good press since coming on board at Billericay Town, as after mastering a number of new routines, she now hopes that young fans will continue to get involved with her inventive cheers. “The reaction so far from fans has been very position and we have been lucky to be approached by a number of fans who have told us that they are very happy that we have come to the club. We will be doing a brand-new routine for every single home game, which we train for on a weekly basis! It would be nice to get some young fans involved in one of our performances too, as we continue to strengthen relationships with the supporters at Billericay Town.” A team of young girls predominantly local to the Billericay area, the Ricays are currently flying the flag for the club, acting as ambassadors for youngsters looking to express themselves, both in sport and in everyday life. Attracting a crowd of 1,141 against Kingstonian, there is real hope that attendances will continue to grow thanks to the Ricays, with a trip to watch Billericay Town now a real family-day out for those living in Essex. Acting as role models for those wanting to follow in the Ricays footsteps, the model continued by speaking on behalf of her team. “It is so important for women to take part in sport as it is

“I MET G L OUT I WA ENN AFTER HE FOUND S T H E O HAMME W RETTES NER OF THE AND FRO AT WEST OUR TEA M THERE, WE PU HAM M TOGE THER... T

>>>>

THENONLEAGUE.COM - 29


a great way to keep active and boost self-confidence. When I

formality, Batchelor is also dreaming about representing the

was younger I used to look up to the Hammerettes on match

club at Wembley Stadium, if and when the club reach the FA

days and I always hoped that I would one day dance on the

Trophy final “We have no doubt that Billericay Town will win

pitch as they were doing. Hopefully young children will see us

the league this season. We have a strong team of players, who

performing this season and it will inspire them to go to a dance

have been training extremely hard to reach their goals. With

or cheerleading class in the process. It’s a great way to meet

the positive energy surrounding the club and the overwhelming

friends at that age and if the Ricays being at the club can help

support from the fans, we believe we could also win the FA

that, then we have done our jobs!”

Trophy and we’ll hopefully be there to support them on the field

With Glenn Tamplin confident that Billericay Town will scoop the lot this season, it seems that his optimism is shared by the Ricays cheerleading boss. Adamant that the league title is a

30 - THENONLEAGUE.COM

if that happens.” Photos: Bekka B


WHITC H U ALP RCH ORT

>>>>

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According to official North-West Counties Football League records a total of 127 clubs have participated in their competitions since 1982. Some have been ever present while others have spent spells of varying lengths within their ranks before moving onwards and upwards or fading back into relative

“IN COUNTY” UNTIL THEY HAD MADE THE NECESSARY PROGRESS THROUGH A FEEDER LEAGUE...

obscurity. In this edition, we meet two clubs who have had both spent a brief time with the League but with very different outcomes. Firstly, I wish to introduce Whitchurch Alport -based in the North Shropshire market town famous for its clockmaking tradition – who had to fight the rules to join the Hallmark Security League Whitchurch were founded like many others in the aftermath of the Second World War by a group of friends who had enjoyed a game of football before hostilities commenced. Unfortunately, one of the group – Frederick Ambrose Edmund Maddocks who went under the nickname of Cooley – was not around to celebrate the start of the club as he had lost his life in August 1944 as the Allies struggled to break out of the bridgehead at Bayeux. However, he was honoured when the name of his home – Alport Farm – was incorporated into the new club’s title. As with many clubs there have been ups and downs in the ensuing seventy years. Long attached to the Mid Cheshire League they became the first non-Cheshire club to take the title in 1970 and also won the Welsh Amateur Cup in 1974. But there were also dark days when the club decided to field a side made up of entirely local players. This decision led to two consecutive bottom place finishes. Alport came desperately close to folding in 2013 but pulled themselves back from the brink and joined the Mercian League. Crucially this League is outside the National League System and that fact almost put paid to planned progress. The Shropshire FA rigidly applied the rule that prevents an established club from leapfrogging

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“I LAST VISITED YOCKINGS PARK SOME TWENTY YEARS AGO AND MY MAIN MEMORY WAS A BLACK AND WHITE PHOTOGRAPH OF THE NIGERIAN NATIONAL TEAM THAT HAD VISITED BRITAIN SOME SIXTY YEARS AGO...

into Step 6 and told Whitchurch that they had to continue to

is still a nod to the past with a large portrait of the 1946/47

play “in County” until they had made the necessary progress

squad sitting alongside a shot of the current club and plans for

through a Feeder League. With the NWCFL apparently keen

future projects. The Main Stand remains from the 90s but has

to accept Whitchurch into its set-up the case was taken to

been completely refurbished with seating from the Aquatics

Wembley where objections were overruled and, following hasty

Centre of the 2012 Olympics and has a well-appointed Press

ground improvements, Whitchurch were able to take the field

Area to the rear. Opposite there is a low covered area behind

against Rochdale Town in August 2015.

the dugouts with some seating towards the Farm End of the

The Committee must have had doubts that the fight had been worth it during that inaugural season as, after a promising start, performances and passion faded leaving the club with

ground. A large tree dominates the skyline behind this area while fields stretch into the distance behind the bottom goal to extend the rural feel to the ground.

just sixteen points to show for its efforts. However, a change of

All in all, this was a very pleasant place to spend a balmy July

management team has turned the tables. Pipped for promotion

afternoon even if the friendly against Altrincham was a very

at the Play-Off stage last season, the club has every intention

low-key affair that ended 1-1. James Poole gave the visitors the

of going one better this time round.

lead with an effort that left the keeper flat-footed but the Reds

I last visited Yockings Park some twenty years ago and my main memory was a black and white photograph of the

levelled before the break through the impressive Luke Walley who netted his fourth in two matches.

Nigerian national team that had visited Britain some sixty years

A whole raft of changes to the teams disrupted the play but

ago and had used Whitchurch as its base. A match arranged

there was enough evidence to show that Whitchurch have the

between the two teams – with many of the visitors pictured

right levels of fitness and playing technique to do well this

with bare feet – produced what was for many years a record

season. So, if you are lucky enough to be in the area you could

attendance until being surpassed just a few months ago by the

do far worse than popping along to Yockings Park which has

670 who saw the crucial game with Litherland REMYCA.

the facilities of a club further up the Pyramid and a warmth of

The photograph took pride of place in the old clubhouse but was not to be seen in the new extended social club. There

welcome that could grace any club in the land. Article by: Dave Stringer

THENONLEAGUE.COM - 33


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It may sound strange to say that a club less than five years old is entering a new era, but that is exactly what is happening at 1874 Northwich FC. Formed in November 2012, the Hallmark Security League Premier Division club is entering their fifth season of competition with a new management team at the helm. The duo of Paul Bowyer and Wayne Goodison stepped up from their roles of assistant manager and coach becoming joint managers towards the end of last season following the resignation of Ian Street. One of the first players to sign for 1874 Northwich in 2013, Paul Bowyer who played in 1874’s first ever game, a friendly at Lostock Gralam in July 2013, and has since served the club as player, coach and assistant manager. Wayne Goodison, an experienced respected coach and manager in non-league circles and played over 200 games in the Football League for Barnsley, Crewe and Rochdale, joined 1874 twelve months ago as first team coach. Bowyer told TheNonLeague magazine “The good thing about us taking over has been the continuity – myself and Goody knew all the players and the set up and I think that helped the players too.” “We didn’t know each other before Wayne joined the club in summer 2016” explained Bowyer, who added “It was soon clear that we had a similar approach to how the game should be played and we had a good chat once the opportunity came to take over. We both

PAUL BOWYER

believe the partnership works well and I would say we complement each other. Goody is an excellent coach with lots of experience at higher levels. He’s collected in his thoughts and has a very good way of putting his message across to the players. We speak daily about ideas and thoughts regarding games and run everything past each other. Of course, we now want to show how successful this is come the start of the season.” As with any managers wanting to put their own stamp on their new team the pair have implemented a number of changes to the way they are running the team as Bowyer explained “There have been a number of alterations, the shape of the side and the way the team is set up will be slightly different for the coming season and this should be evident once the season begins”. Goodison added “We also want the players to be able to take more responsibility and have an input into what we do. I believe that at this level everyone has to feel involved and part of what you are trying to achieve so to get that it’s important that all involved feel valued. What has been really pleasing is that after every game so far the lads have been able to discuss and pinpoint what they have done well and

>>>>

WAYNE GOODISON THENONLEAGUE.COM - 35


brought rewards and what hasn’t gone well and caused our problems in those games”. With two teachers running the football side of the club, it is no surprise that younger players are being brought more into the first team squad as Bowyer explained “There’s a much stronger link between the First Team and the Under 21s. I have been at too many clubs where reserves or youth sides are run completely separately and you never see players progressing. We’ve already promoted 3 players from the U21s to the First Team squad and they’ve done very well in the opportunities they’ve had. A number of others have featured in First Team friendlies during preseason”. “We’ve also trained together as a club throughout preseason - every session has been put on for the First and U21s together and this has been mutually beneficial with the U21s experiencing the required standard both technically and physically whereas we’ve worked a lot on shape and phases of play during pre-season and have benefited from being able to train 11v11 with the U21s - much better than walking through sessions against imaginary players”. And training started much earlier than usual. 1874’s players were recalled to the enjoy the delights of pre-season training after just a five-week break, Goodison explained “one of the main factors we felt was that we needed to be much more organised as a team and indeed much fitter if we were to play a much more expansive and positive style of football. That meant us bringing the players back much earlier than normal as we had to factor in holidays etc., so based on that we wanted everyone to do a minimum of six out of the eight planned weeks.” At the training sessions amongst the established players retained from last season and the U21s were a number of new faces, some who have been signed and some who haven’t. Goodison explained how the process of signing players has worked “Bow and myself have spoken to a lot of lads about joining us, but we are not just going to take a body for the sake of it, we want people with the right attributes and character as well as joining for the right reasons. Any players that have made their first decision based on what financial rewards we can offer are not likely to join us.” “Both the board and ourselves are in full agreement that we will not break our budget but will be competitive based on what we have. Some players seem to think we are worth asking for more expenses just because of who we are and in truth I always doubt the character of anyone whose first though is that.” Having retained the Mid-Cheshire Senior Cup last season Bowyer and Goodison aim to use that triumph as a springboard to future success, but as Bowyer said, “although this was said when we won the trophy for the first time the previous season.” He continued “I think the important thing is that we progress as a club both on and off the pitch. We have a good blend of youngsters and experienced players and we feel this will give us a good chance of a successful season. If you look at the clubs who have won the league over recent seasons each of them has a backbone of players who have been with the club for a while and know what the league is all about.

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“ALTHOUGH THIS WAS SAID WHEN WE WON THE TROPHY FOR THE FIRST TIME THE PREVIOUS SEASON.”


We certainly have that with the players we have but so do many other clubs in our league and it’s how we adapt our style of play during the season and ensure we are consistent that will determine just how good a season we have.” The restructuring of the non-league system, which sees the possibility of an extra promotion place up for grabs in the Hallmark Security League Premier Division, and up to six teams facing the prospect of relegation, has not changed the way 1874 Northwich have prepared for the 2017/18 season with Bowyer saying, “The approach to the season remains the same - to be as strong as we can be right from the off”. “We’ve all seen how beneficial the play offs have been since they were introduced in the First Division and a potential additional promotion place can only be a good thing in our league. It’ll be interesting to see how easy it is to predict the amount of promotion and relegation places from our league during the season as comparisons are made with other leagues in direct competition for the places”.

“With the strength of the league as it is whoever wins the league this season will have achieved something incredible, I think it is stronger than ever this season, and I expect it to go to the final few games of the season”. “There are a number of sides who are more fancied than us this season and I’m more than happy for this to be the case. A lot has been written about the usual contenders - teams with the experience of finishing towards the top of the league. Runcorn Linnets and Bootle are the main contenders for me with City of Liverpool a bit of an unknown quantity who I expect to do well. Charnock Richard and Padiham could upset a few teams too.” ‘Double Trouble’ as they have been christened by 1874 football secretary Vicki England are conscious of the fan owned club’s development and philosophies as Goodison explains “We are keen to ensure a close involvement with our fan base, it is after all their club and whilst I know not everyone will agree at times with what we do or how we do it, I think the one thing that will be constant is that everyone involved in 1874 are working towards the same aim of growing the club and its infrastructure in a sustainable manner.” When taking over in March, initially as caretakers, Bowyer said “we want to put smiles on people’s faces; we want people to be excited when they come to watch 1874 Northwich.” Article: Garry Clarke Photos: 1874 Northwich

THENONLEAGUE.COM - 37


L A T N E TIM

N E AS

Y A D

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I was first contacted by Tom Simons from Royal Antwerp Pioneers about organising an anniversary match last year via the club Facebook page. The first match was played in December 1892 when Harwich travelled by steamer to Antwerp, the Antwerp City side then journeyed to Harwich twice the following year. This first match has now been officially recognised as being the first match played by English and European side and we were with presented with a certificate stating so. After a lot of planning the match took place on the historic Royal Oak ground, home to The Shrimpers since 1893, at 4pm on Saturday 29th July. The Antwerp side were met by Harwich town’s Mayor Cllr. John Brown and his wife Carol, the Deputy Mayor Cllr. Charlie Powell and the Town Cryer James Cole. The town crier welcomed both teams to the Royal Oak and then addressed the crowd and welcomed everyone to this historic rematch. Throughout the first half play was evenly balanced and the half time score stood at 2-2, the long journey from Belgium that morning took its toll and the final score was 9-2 to Harwich & Parkeston. Harwich manager Glenn Eldridge said “It was a sentimental game for the club, but we are trying to get in to winning habits and I was pleased to see we were prolific in front of goal. It was a lovely day for the town and the certificate we got is something special for the club and something to be very proud of” Harwich presented the Antwerp side with a special silver plate and in return Antwerp presented us with the certificate and pennant along with some Belgian beers and wine. I was very pleased to be presented with a Royal Antwerp shirt by members of the Pioneers team as a thank you for organising the day. Article & photos: Abi Goodwin (Harwich & Parkeston FC) Harwich & Parkeston FC currently play in the Essex & Suffolk Border League Premier Division

THENONLEAGUE.COM - 39


“WATCHING FOOTBALL IS NOT A CRIME”

Twitter: @FSF_Faircop

CLICK HERE TO JOIN THE FSF 40 - THENONLEAGUE.COM


If you’re in bother at the match and thinking of taking a police caution to avoid the hassle of the Courts – stop and take advantage of the free legal advice on offer. FSF caseworker Amanda Jacks has a cautionary tale explaining why…

me out as they were waiting to release the supporters’

A not uncommon response to some of my tweets around

been explained properly to her. She wasn’t offered a solicitor

informing supporters of their rights if arrested is “if you behave, you won’t need to know as you won’t get arrested”. The vast majority of supporters follow their clubs all their lives without having any contact beyond the positive with police or stewards but as these stories demonstrate, even the best of us can fall foul of the law. I’ve recently been advising a grandmother of seven, and one-time foster carer, who has followed her club home and away for nearly fifty years. For safeguarding reasons, she has to undergo regular Disclosure Barring Checks (DBS) at work which highlight any criminal record, including police cautions. To maintain her privacy, I’m going to call her Sue. Towards the end of last season, Sue started taking diet pills.

coaches. I wasn’t able to read the forms, partly as I didn’t have time to do so and partly because I didn’t have my reading glasses with me.” To her horror the next day, Sue discovered that she’d signed forms accepting a simple caution, therefore, admitting guilt to the charge of being drunk when entering a football stadium an offence exclusive to football. She made urgent contact with the police force saying that she was unaware of what she had signed and that it hadn’t at the time and is challenging the caution. The police force treated her call as a complaint, the conclusion of which was that the officer who dealt with Sue “only vaguely remembered her” but did recall going through the paperwork with her, explaining the consequences of accepting a caution but accepted he’d done so in a hurried way so Sue could get on her coach. This officer was the recipient of “words of advice” from a senior officer. It didn’t end there. As a result of a regular DBS check, her employers became aware of Sue’s caution and suspended her, something she found devastating. Thankfully she was reinstated but faces another check later this year.

The pills came with no advice to avoid taking them when

And if that wasn’t enough for this respectable grandmother

drinking.

of seven, who prior to this had a blemish free record, to worry

It was one of the last away games of the season and as she

about, details of her caution were passed back to her club

usually did, Sue travelled to the match by coach. During two

who have banned her from home and away games for three

stops en-route and over a three-hour journey, she had in total

years. She is appealing that decision, something I’m assisting

three alcoholic drinks. Hardly excessive and pretty much the

her with.

norm for Sue.

This story may well have had a different outcome since Sue

On arrival at the turnstiles however, a steward pulled her to

tells me that had she properly understood she was being

one side and said that as she looked a little drunk, it would be

offered a caution, she would have refused it and opted to

a good idea for Sue to go back to her coach, drink a bottle

have her case heard in court.

of water and come back in half an hour. Despite not feeling drunk, Sue took the advice and then as directed made her way back to the turnstiles. What happened next is in her own words: “As soon as I put my ticket in I was grabbed by two police officers and my hands placed in handcuffs behind my back and informed I was being arrested for being drunk. At this point I was really confused as I knew I wasn’t drunk. I didn’t resist arrest, argue or be obstructive in any way. I was then marched around the stadium to the custody suite where

Had she come to us for help and been referred to the indomitable Melanie Cooke of Football Law Associates, it is very likely that this salutary tale would have had a happier outcome. I think there are two morals to this story – firstly, everybody should know their rights and thinking you’ll never need them is naïve. Always, always, take up the offer of legal advice at the police station even if that means missing your coach home. It’s free

I was kept in a cell for the entirety of the match.

of charge and completely independent of the police.

After the match, I was brought back to the front desk where

‘Watching Football is Not a Crime!’ is part of the FSF’s

the officer said we needed to hurry to enable me to get back

ongoing drive to monitor the police in their dealings with

on the coach. I was then taken to a room where they took

football fans and work with them to ensure that all fans

DNA, fingerprints and photos before being taken back to the

are treated fairly and within the law. You can contact FSF

desk and hurriedly asked to sign some forms before rushing

Caseworker Amanda Jacks via: email: faircop@fsf.org.uk

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Photos: BUFC

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BEDWORTH UNITED FC

In this modern era of £200m transfers and £40m/year salaries, it’s easy to overlook the lower echelons of the English game and the endless hours of effort and determination required to keep our “Grass Roots” clubs operating. With the football season upon us, it felt like a good time to share the amazing transformation of one such club - that of Bedworth United FC (AKA the Greenbacks) playing in the Northern Premier League. It’s not a football transformation in the usual sense… it’s not about promotion and cup runs and big signings, in fact it’s not really about the football at all. This story is about the tough business of financial survival at the lower end of the professional game and how one man’s vision and determination has created a thriving football “business” and a lasting legacy for the benefit of the whole community. Their story has never attracted much publicity either nationally or locally. In an area witnessing the distressing decline of “big-time” neighbours Coventry City FC, who are homeless and dying under Sisu leadership, the local community is crying out for some good news and Bedworth United’s transformation could be just that! The journey that the club has made in such a short space of time is something that will hopefully inspire other professional and semi-professional clubs (not limited to football!) to review the way they operate. What the club has created is a model that their Chairman (and driving force behind the transformation), Neill Rayson-Randle, believes could be a blueprint for many other grass roots clubs to follow. “In simple business terms, our biggest assets (The stadium and the pitch) were only being used every two weeks ... and for only part of the year. The rest of the time they were lying dormant, costing money and generating nothing! – this is a crazy situation faced by many clubs and it isn’t sustainable” Operating many divisions below the heady heights of the Premier League, Bedworth United are a small-town club in a former mining town about 6 miles outside of Coventry. Like many other clubs at that level, operating on low gate receipts and heavily reliant on volunteer labour, they were struggling to make ends meet year on year... until Neill and his board developed their “Way Forward” plan. The plan is based on a number of defining principles: CREATION of a Non-Profit entity so that no individual could take money out of the club. INVESTMENT only in projects that improve the financial sustainability of the “business”. ENGAGEMENT .... Fully and Inclusively with the local community. CONSTRUCTION of a facility for the use and enjoyment of the local community for

>>>>

many years to come.

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, n o i s n o “Vi i t a n i m r dete d bloody ....an work”. hard Since defining the vision, Neill and his team have embarked upon an array of projects that support these principles and in only 3 years they have already delivered an amazing transformation in the club’s fortunes. Their financial model has now completely changed with 40% of their revenue coming from activities that simply didn’t exist 3 years ago. Over 700 people from the local community use the pitch every week - all ages, sizes, sexes and ethnicity. Local youngsters are gaining valuable qualifications via the club’s accredited BTEC Level 3 Football Education Programme run by 1st team manager (Stuart Storer) on-site at the stadium. With a Commercial Manager in place, they are broadening their community appeal off the pitch via the extended use of their conferences and events facilities. Neill is a very successful man for sure, success that was built with his own hands from a business started in his garage at home nearly 3 decades ago. But this is not the story of the intervention of a sugar-daddy looking to massage an over inflated ego. Rather a simple, determined and down to earth man who has never forgotten where he came from and who has a real determination to create something of lasting value for the community he holds so dear. When I asked him about the secret, Neill is fairly dismissive, insisting that all it takes is “Vision, determination....and bloody hard work”. What Neil and his committee of volunteers set out to achieve at the club was highly ambitious. What they’ve managed to deliver is an incredible legacy that will ensure the club thrives and supports its local community for many years to come. I’m not

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convinced that they get the credit or the publicity they deserve locally, but Bedworth United FC are definitely a club of which their community should be very proud. When reviewing successful transformations, I always ask myself what was the key to success. There are usually a number of items short-listed as contributing factors, but the most important factor in almost every occasion is the person at the top - Bedworth United is no different. Like many clubs, they have an army of loyal and hardworking people who want the very best for their club, however, without Neill’s intervention and determination none of this would have happened. He provided the vision, the drive and the financial support to get the ball rolling 5 years ago and continues to apply the focus to keep the momentum now. I’m sure like most successful and driven people, Neill can be stubborn and single-minded at times. He’s a man who likes to achieve things and finds it hard to understand why the levels of effort of some people do not match his own. He’s definitely ruffled a few feathers along the way - that’s what leaders have to do to drive change and is the bi-product of radical transformation. I’m sure that there were those who didn’t see the bigger picture at the start but hopefully many of those have slowly been won over. What they have now at Bedworth, is a facility and a business that other clubs will envy, an end product that has hopefully made all of the “pain” worth-while. Behind the talk of sustainability and community, there is also a genuine desire for the club to produce a football team to make the town proud. I would love nothing more than to see their efforts rewarded with success on the pitch ... EVERYBODY AT THE CLUB THOROUGHLY DESERVES IT! Article by: Andy Kearns


“WE NEED TO BE CHALLENGING AGAIN THIS TIME AROUND” – ALAN BARTLAM

>>>> In the lower echelons of the Non-League game, it is the dedicated volunteers and the loyal supporters that keep the club afloat. With little to no sponsorship on offer and small attendances, keeping clubs in the black in the tenth and eleventh tiers can be incredibly tough.

As far back as the 1930’s, South Liverpool have been banging on the doors of the Football League, and boasting the likes of Jimmy Case and John Aldridge as former players, it is financial problems and financial problems only, that have ever prevented the club from moving into the North-West Counties League and above.

With the average attendance in the West Cheshire League less

Defeating Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road in their first ever appearance in the FA Cup first round in 2003, broadcast around the globe for their second-round tie against Macclesfield Town and one of four founder members of the Conference North to remain in the league for its first ten seasons, the Motors were expected to push on towards the Football League.

than 50 last season, it isn’t hard to see that it is the love of the game, rather than profit that keeps chairman, players, volunteers and board members returning week on week. When looking at the West Cheshire League as a neutral, there aren’t many names that instantly jump off the page. South Liverpool in Division One have a proud tradition in Non-League football, as do Vauxhall Motors, however there is a reason why both now play so low down the pyramid…and that is finances, or more importantly, lack of finances.

Vauxhall Motors on the other hand have also enjoyed success both on and off the field over the years, with the club rubbing shoulders with the big boys in the Conference North as recently as 2014.

However, announcing their intention to withdraw from the sixth tier three and a half years ago due to the ‘ever-increasing costs’ of semi-professional football, the Motormen ended their spell in the Conference North, finding themselves in the West Cheshire League for the beginning of the 2014-15 campaign.

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Witnessing the clubs rise and fall through the divisions, club chairman Alan Bartlam has seen it all. From receiving the massive windfall from the famous FA Cup run, to having to cut the budget accordingly as the side slumped six tiers in seconds, Bartlam definitely has the patience of a saint and a fantastic story to tell. With one of the best junior set-ups in the North West, with sides representing the club at every age level from under 5’s to seniors, Bartlam believes things are finally looking up again at Riveracre Park, and with plenty now going on behind the scenes, he is optimistic of progression after three years of stability in the West Cheshire League. Speaking about his incredible journey from avid supporter on the terraces, to club volunteer and then finally to longstanding chairman, Bartlam has reminisced about the ‘good old days’ at the Cheshire-based outfit, as he revealed how he became involved in the club after a lot of persistence from an old friend. “I had become a fan of Vauxhall Motors in 1993, but prior to that I’d always been a huge fan of NonLeague football in general, as I watched most of the teams in Merseyside on a weekly basis. I had worked with the North West Counties and been involved with South Liverpool FC as well, so it is safe to say that I was very busy! “Tony Woodley, the Vauxhall Motors chairman at the time had approached me on a number of occasions while I was merely a supporter and he’d asked if I was interested in helping out behind the scenes. I’d always say no, but my curiosity got the better of me one day and I ended up giving him a call. I agreed to become the clubs programme editor, but me being me, I wanted to get involved more and after taking on a number of roles, I ended up becoming the chairman, I’ve been at Riveracre Park now for over two decades, and the last 12 have been as chairman, which I have absolutely loved!” The likes of Ben Tolitt, Steve McNulty, Mark Duffy and Danny Collins have come to Riveracre Park and moved on into the Football League over the last decade, and with an exciting crop of players currently at the club, there may be more stars moving up the pyramid in the foreseeable future. No matter what happens this season though, the Motormen teams of the early 2000’s will never be beaten, as the club dominated the Non-League scene in Cheshire and Merseyside. As gates began to drop and the FA Cup money diminished, the troubles in the boardroom started, as Bartlam told TheNonLeague magazine.

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a n i d e s a b s i a e b r u a l c t n e e h T m “ h c t p a a c t e o hug e need t ve a and w hat, we ha . . t . g o t n i n i w o l l o f l a y o l


“We had some fantastic teams in the 2000’s! I’ll never forget when we won three trophies in three days and then of course the biggest giant killing of my generation, as we went to Loftus Road and beat Queens Park Rangers on their own patch in the FA Cup. Seeing the club on SKY Sports in the next round against Macclesfield Town was also something I will never forget and despite a few hearts in mouth moments, we managed to keep our status in the Conference North for a decade.” Bartlam added; “The FA Cup money from 2003 guaranteed our safety for a number of years but unfortunately we weren’t able to make that next step up. Sadly, we started to lose money year on year and that was our main problem. If we could have had a steady attendance of 300 to 350 on a fortnightly basis, I thoroughly believe that we could have maintained our place in the sixth tier, but sadly that wasn’t the case as the gates dropped despite our survivals in the Conference North.” With the club finishing 8th out of 16 in the West Cheshire League Division One last season, there is plenty to work on, as the new term begins. Manager Karl Bell has put together an exuberant group, headed by a host of ex-Prescot Cables starlets. Desperate to return to the North West Counties for the 2018-19 campaign, Bartlam has urged the surrounding community to turn up in their droves to back the club, with Vauxhall Motors currently entering into one of the most exciting periods of their 54 year existence. Building a new training facility and upgrading the Motormen stadium, Bartlam believes that the infrastructure is now in place for the club to return to their former glories, as he said in a confident manner. “The good times can definitely return to Vauxhall Motors, there is a lot of work being done at the club both on and off the field at the moment and there is a lot of optimism around the place! We want to return to the North-West Counties and then eventually the Evo-Stik, and if we want to do that, we need to be ambitious. There is plenty of football people in the region who will be up for watching the club, but success definitely helps bringing new and old supporters through the doors. “The club is based in a huge catchment area and we need to tap into that, we have a loyal following at the moment and if we can show the community that we are battling for promotion come Christmas time, hopefully the locals will get behind us and help us

>>>>

stride back up the pyramid were we belong.”

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n e e b s y a w “I’ve al en v e , l r a K n no e e k y l l a e t r o c s e r P t sa a w e h n e wh y r e v s a w I Cables, e h t y b d e s impres is h t a h t l l a footb d e y a l p e d i young s

L L E B RL

KA

Bringing Prescot Cables Reserves manager Karl Bell into the managerial hot seat midway through last season, Bartlam has been impressed by Bell’s enthusiasm, drive and vision for the club in the long-term. After a busy summer of comings and goings, the Motormen chairman has seen the club impress throughout a challenging pre-season campaign, which has seen games against Airbus UK Broughton, Morecambe, Bootle and Accrington Stanley. Favourites to lift the West Cheshire League title this season, Bartlam has been vocal about Vauxhall Motor’s chances this year, as he finished by waxing lyrical about Bell, in the process bluntly predicting what he expects from the club on the field over the next 9 months.

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ALAN BARTLAM “I’ve always been really keen on Karl, even when he was at Prescot Cables, I was very impressed by the football that his young side played. Having got to know him over the last six months, I have discovered that he is an incredibly loyal manager and that is very admirable. He was adamant that he wouldn’t poach the majority of his Cables side last season, but he has now been able to bring in the players that he wanted and we are hoping that all of these will enhance the team going forward. We finished last season very strongly and we need to be challenging again this time around…will we be in the North-West Counties for 2018-19? That’s what we are expecting!” Article by: James Burch Burch Photos: VMFC


MR MILLWALL

ALAN DUNN – BRO

MLE

Y FC

E

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Labelled ‘Mr. Millwall’, Alan Dunne has dedicated much of his career to the Lions, playing 14 consecutive seasons at the Den and making just shy of 400 appearances in the process. Born in Dublin, Dunne is an adopted Bermondsey boy, and despite possessing an Irish passport, the Millwall faithful will always see the tough tackling defender as one of their own, with the clubs youth-graduate winning two promotions at the Den. Dunne’s passionate and fiery temperament saw him receive 85 yellow cards and 10 red cards while at Millwall, whilst also helping him fit in with the hot-blooded Lions faithful. His player of the year accolade in 2010 confirming his status as a fans favourite. Released from the club in 2015 after two decades worth of service, Dunne has recently found himself at National League outfit Bromley, after a brief spell at Leyton Orient. Coming into the latter years of his career, Dunne has begun to plan for life after playing football, and taking his UEFA A licence last year, the defender is now ready to go into management when he hangs up his boots. Confident that he still has more energy in his legs as a player though, the Millwall cult-hero has combined time on the field with coaching at Hayes Lane since January, with the 34-year-old currently the Ravens player/first team coach. Having captained Millwall for many years, Dunne’s leadership qualities are now unleashing new life into a Bromley squad that finished 10th in the National League last season, with the club currently one of the front runners in the fifth tier in 201718. The Ravens may be one of the smallest clubs in the division budget wise, however on the field they are playing like a team worth millions of pounds, with the 6-1 drubbing of Leyton Orient one of the stand-out performances of the season so far. Keeping three clean sheets in their first five games, in the process claiming the scalps of Orient, Hartlepool United and Dover Athletic, Bromley clearly mean business, and with Dunne working wonders both on and off the field, many are beginning to sit up and take notice of the five-time London Senior cup winners. An ever-present in the side last season, Dunne has taken a back seat so far this term, with his coaching role taking precedence. Alongside manager Neil Smith, the defender is under no illusions that the hard work has just begun, but after consolidating in their first two years in the fifth tier, this year could just be the best one yet for Bromley. Appearing in the Championship, League One and League Two, Dunne has revealed that the bridge in quality between fourth tier sides and the Ravens is very minimal, as he has boldly stated that clubs in the National League can continue to write off Bromley FC at their peril, as he said. “In terms of standard of football, the National League is now like a Football League three. When you watch a League Two game and a National League game, there is little difference in terms of intensity, quality and entertainment.

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“Bromley brought me in to the club because they wanted me to help get them into the Football League, simple as that...

>>>> THENONLEAGUE.COM - 51


“With so many big clubs now playing at this level and below,

“We are a professional football club and although we have been

players are no longer daunted by the prospect of playing Non-

written off by everybody, we go about things in the correct way

League football, and although we may not have the funds to sign

and we conduct ourselves in the same manner that a League

that calibre of player, we have put together a fantastic young

Two club would do.

squad over the last 9 to 12 months.” Dunne added; “Bromley is only a small district with a population of 70,000 people but we are now progressing and growing as a club and we have no plans to stop anytime soon. We’ve brought a professionalism here that wasn’t necessarily here in the past and since going full-time, we have been able to compete both on and off the pitch.” Kick-starting the Bromley revolution way back in 2011, Neil Smith has worked wonders at Hayes Lane over the last six years, initially as an assistant and then interim manager in 2016, before finally becoming manager last year. Briefly featuring as a player for Bromley in 2008, Smith has also enjoyed a fantastic playing career that can match Dunne’s. Over 200 games for Gillingham, and time at Fulham, Reading and Stevenage, Smith alongside Dunne can boast over 1,000 senior appearances in the Football League. With both acting as role models for the youthful Bromley dressing room, Dunne is hopeful that his wisdom can help the inexperienced players in the team, as he continued by explaining why he chose to join the club in the first instance. “Bromley brought me in to the club because they wanted me to help get them into the Football League, simple as that. After a strong finish last season, the clubs target for the current campaign is the play-offs and I really do think it is achievable. “The crowds have slowly started to come through the gates too which has helped. I honestly believe that we can start rubbing shoulders with the big boys in this league and I think our performances in August have shown that, as we have beaten two sides that have just been relegated from League Two and Dover Athletic on their own patch.” Reaching the second round proper of the FA Cup in 1938, 1939 and 1946, Bromley are still searching for their first appearance in the much-coveted FA Cup third round draw after 125 years of trying. With dreams of going all the way this year, the dream away tie at Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspurs, or even

“As all Non-League clubs will be doing, we are praying for a good cup run this season and if we can get a top draw and a huge crowd either home or away, the revenue will be a God send, as we are currently going in the right direction and any extra help we can get would be fantastic.” Enjoying the coaching side of the game, Dunne will have ambitions to make a real name for himself as a manager in the future, after gaining his stripes in Non-League football with Bromley. Learning from his mentor Smith and relishing each challenge he faces in the National League, Dunne has set his sights on taking Bromley into the Football League and beyond, as he finished by saying. “I spent over twenty years at Millwall, playing in the Championship and League One. Moving to Leyton Orient and then Bromley, I have been able to play in every division from the second tier to the National League, so it is safe to say that I have the experience.

Dunne’s own Millwall would mean so much to the Ravens loyal

“I’m still learning my trade as a coach and I want to help Bromley

fanbase.

achieve league status, hopefully this season. This will probably

The National League’s underdogs, Dunne is eager to combine an unlikely promotion push with a cup run, as he explained why reaching the second and third rounds of the FA Cup, would finally put the club on the footballing map after years in the wilderness.

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be my last year as a player before I turn my full attention to coaching, so it would be fantastic to end my career on a high with promotion before starting my new career in League Two with this great club!” Photos: PA Images


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“At M a the f rine, a appr ns e every ciate t we d hing o”

A B M I S I K A B M I S KI

AFC E N I AR

–M

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Kisimba Kisimba, so good they named him twice! Still a teenager, Marine AFC midfielder Kisimba Kisimba has already seen and done much more than many footballers twice his age. One of the shining lights in Rochdale AFC’s youth-set up, the diminutive defensive midfielder was an ever present for Dale’s under 18 side, as he sat in front of the defence and played the ‘N’Golo Kante’ role to great effect. With pace, strength and passing ability, Kisimba was tipped to break into Keith Hills plans at Rochdale, with Dale famous for giving the youth a chance over the years. Joining the youth set-up at the League One club in October 2014, he made a name for himself at the club as he helped Dale’s under 18’s flourish both in the league and the FA Youth Cup, despite never making the breakthrough into the senior team. Released in the summer of 2016, the teenager then moved to National League North side FC United of Manchester, along with Dale under 18 team-mate Harry Pratt. As Pratt moved on to pastures new, Kisimba became a fans favourite at Broadhurst Park, thanks in no small part to his honest, wholehearted and passionate performances. For an inexperienced player, Kisimba was thrown in at the deep end at FC United, and playing senior football for the first team in his career, the National League North was a difficult platform for the youngster to fully showcase his talents. Despite impressing both the FCUM faithful and manager Karl Marginson, game time was limited for Kisimba, and despite being patient and waiting his turn from the sidelines, the exDale man was always desperate to play more minutes on the field. Leaving Broadhurst Park with a hint of sadness and frustration, Kisimba moved a step down the Non-League pyramid and after a number of brief stints found himself at Merseyside-based Marine AFC. Having never properly found a ‘home’ since spending two years at Spotland, the Marine faithful immediately took Kisimba under their wing, and as this happened, he slowly but surely began to produce the performances that those at Rochdale Under 18’s had become so accustomed to. Joining Marine in a relegation battle, Kisimba’s grit and determination, combined with his point to prove, worked wonders for the club, as despite looking destined for the drop, the club survived in the seventh tier with a game to spare.

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In demand over the summer, it is testament to Marine AFC that they managed to retain their man, and with the club hopeful that they will be challenging at the right end of the table this time around, Kisimba is hopeful that a play-off spot could be on the cards. “At the start of pre-season my options were open and I had a few clubs looking at me. It was obviously nice to know that I was wanted, but after reassessing my options, I realised that Marine AFC were the best club for me. After a fantastic preseason, I am now raring to go, I am excited to see what the next eight months hold for myself and for the club.” Reflecting on his brief spell at FC United of Manchester, Kisimba Kisimba has no regrets despite only playing a bit part at the club. Looking back on his time in the sixth tier, he spoke about the great experiences that the club brought him, stating that playing in the National League North opened his eyes to the trials and tribulations of mens football. “My objective at FC United of Manchester was to play as many games as I possibly could. I learnt a lot at the club and the manager was fantastic with me. The fans were fantastic and although I wasn’t at Broadhurst Park long, I learnt so much about the physicality in this league, which has really helped me going forward. Spending a lot of my time on the bench, I also realised that patience is key in this game, and I know that when it is my time, I will know and I need to be ready for that, which is why I am keeping myself in prime condition!” Desperate to help Marine secure a top five spot come late-April, the goal is to be playing in the National League North next season. However, looking at the bigger picture, Kisimba hasn’t given up hope of playing professionally, despite receiving a set-back at Rochdale. “My aim is to be playing in the fifth or sixth tier come next season, hopefully that will be with Marine as I believe we have a great chance this year. My dream is to play professional football and that is why I chose to drop into the Non-League game, as I knew being here would give me the perfect opportunity to showcase my talents on the main stage!” Managed by Tommy Lawson, Kisimba has the perfect role model to look up to. With Lawson a seasoned boss in the Non-League game, the Mariners will at worst expect a year of consolidation, and with everyone firing on all cylinders, there is no reason why this can’t be the club’s year. “At Marine the fans appreciate everything we do, and the volunteers are great as well. I feel loved here, the stadium feels like home to me and I am the happiest I have been on the football field for a long time. The manager has put together a really strong squad and I see no reason why we can’t push on now going into the autumn and winter period.” Article by: James Burch

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Photos: Kisimba Kisimba/Marine AFC


“My aim is to be playing in the fifth or sixth tier come next season, hopefully that will be with Marine as I believe we have a great chance this year.

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, y a d r u o “On n beat a c we ody” b y n a Running away with the Evo-Stik Southern League last season, Chippenham Town rarely looked like dropping a point, as they acquired a fantastic point’s tally of 103 points, earning themselves a historic promotion to the National League South in the process. Playing with pace, power and steel, the Bluebirds were not only water-tight in defence conceding just 47 goals, but also clinical in front of goal, with the club scoring more than any other side in the seventh tier. Hitting the back of the net 94 times, Mark Collier’s men were indebted to leading marksman Andrew Sandell; with the front man’s tally ending at 27, as he rightfully scooped the golden boot award at the end of the 2016-17 campaign. On the eve of their 150th anniversary, the Wiltshire-based club are currently playing at the highest level they have ever played at, and with the stakes high, Collier’s side will first and foremost want to survive in the sixth tier this season. With many expecting the club to be involved in a relegation dogfight, the Bluebirds would have been forgiven for ditching their attacking style of play that served them so well last year, however, that hasn’t been the case, and as the goals have continued to flow, many are now revaluating their pre-season predictions, with the club currently well above the relegation zone, after a positive first month in their new surroundings. A stalemate on the opening day, in front of a packed out Hardenhuish Park whet the appetite; However, it was three days later that the Bluebirds truly introduced themselves to the National League, as they thumped local rivals Bath City 5-2 away from home. Sending shockwaves through the sixth tier after the game, the sides near perfect performance was clearly the sign off things to come, as Sandell, Pratt, Smith and Ferguson ran riot at Twerton Park, to the delight of the travelling support.

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An un-used substitute that day, Scott Donnelly was

With over 300 games under his belt, Donnelly is

able to watch from the sidelines as his team-mates

arguably the most experienced player in the squad,

created chance after chance, against a well-established

but despite playing in the Football League before, he

sixth tier team.

has admitted that his place in the starting XI isn’t a

A goal scoring midfielder himself, the 29-year-old was

certainty.

clearly left frustrated after failing to come onto the field

Kept on his toes by his manager and the club’s

of play that day, but after winning a shirt for himself

backroom staff, Donnelly has explained that fighting for

and making it his own in recent weeks, Donnelly is now

his shirt week-in-week out in training has helped him,

clearly a man on a mission.

and with competition for places fierce, the cultured

Still three months shy of his 30th birthday, Donnelly has done it all, playing for 11 clubs, appearing in the

midfielder knows he has a role to play at the club whether he is picked or not.

Football League and lifting the Conference National

“Every player is at the club because they are good

play-off trophy at Wembley for Newport County.

enough to be here. I believe we will be successful this

A product of the Queens Park Rangers youth academy, Donnelly has a wealth of experience, and this has shown both on and off the field, with the ex-Swansea City man acting as a role model for the younger players in the Bluebirds side. Initially set to sign for Evo-Stik Southern League side Farnborough in the summer, Donnelly was gearing up for a fourth stint with the Yellows, but the chance to join Chippenham Town in the summer was just too good to turn down: “I came in late in pre-season, but that hasn’t stopped me from gelling in straight away and I must say, the dressing room is one of the best I have ever been involved with. The club did fantastically

season because our squad is so strong and from the substitutes to the first-team, the options the manager has are incredible. Nobody is guaranteed to play every game, me included, but as an experienced former pro, I want to act as a role model and show my experience in the dressing room and on the field, There are a lot of players who’ve played in this league before, but if I can give advice to any players in the team, I will be more than happy to do so.” With a win, two draws and two defeats coming from the clubs first five league games, the Bluebirds will be quietly confident that their best is yet to come, and still finding their feet in the division, Donnelly’s impact will

well last season, and that momentum has really carried

continue to prove vital as the season wears on.

on in the opening month of the National League South

With the play-offs now opened up from second to

campaign.

seventh place, there will be at least 10 clubs confident

“The manager has kept the players that won promotion and signed some good players over the summer to complement them. I think we can surprise a lot of people, and it wouldn’t surprise me if we were the dark horses!”

of reaching the end of season lottery after the festive

Despite being new to the sixth tier as a club, many of

that the division is very open this season. There’s a lot

the current Chippenham Town side have played at this

of good teams in the National League South, but we

level before, with Sandell formerly of Bath City and

are one of them and with the new play-off system in

Alan O’Brien and Will Richards at Hungerford Town and

place, we will be aiming to finish in the top seven!”

Solihull Moors respectively.

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period, and with a never-say-die-attitude and great team spirit, there is no reason why the Bluebirds can’t be ‘flying’ come early-May. A league that generally throws up a few surprises, Donnelly is hopeful that his new club can create more history, and with a big month ahead, he finished by tipping the team to go all the way in the sixth tier. “We don’t just want to survive in this league, obviously that is every clubs aim in the beginning, but after the way we have acquitted ourselves so far, we really should have much higher aspirations than that. On our day we can beat anybody, and we have already seen


CHIP P E N TOW HAM N FC

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TEAM OF LEGENDS

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July 30th saw a cavalcade of former Premier League legends flooding to Step eight side Corby Town as David Bell’s side took on an array of former England internationals and Premier League stalwarts. The Steelman were awarded the privilege of welcoming some huge names to Northamptonshire and the £10,000 jackpot, as the Non-League Challenge made its way to the Northern Premier League Division One South. The likes of William Gallas, Darren Anderton and Danny Mills laced up their boots once again as they took to the pitch to take on the exuberant youth of Corby Town. Of course, there would be no Non-League Challenge at Corby without Jason Lee, the man who earned his team the opportunity. A Ben Milnes’ strike lifted ‘The Steelman’ above the dreaded drop zone in February 2017, a goal which the now heralded Lee celebrated by downing a swig of beer. Nearly 2000 supporters packed themselves into Steel Park, four times more than last season’s average attendance, and it was the home side who were out of the blocks fastest. Mark Crossley was called into action inside five minutes, tipping new signing Ollie Brown-Hill’s effort on to the crossbar. The ex-Nottingham Forest man would receive a bombardment of shots inside the first ten minutes. Jordan Crawford again rattling the woodwork. It would take until the 27th minute for Corby to capitalize on their dominance. Sam Mulready pouncing on a short back-pass to stab home the opening goal. Brown-Hill would double the advantage three minutes later, but legends skipper Matt Holland would put his side back in contention before half-time. The two-goal cushion would be restored five minutes into the second half, Crossley gifting the ball to Crawford who applied the finishing touches. Mulready would add another before second half substitutes Shay Brennan and Jordan O’Brien increased the lead to 5. But there was still time for former England winger Trevor Sinclair to sky from the penalty spot after Emile Heskey had been bundled down in the box. Despite the star-studded nature of the event, there was one shining light in the Steelman line-up. The day’s man of the match Jordan Crawford outshone all the glitz and glamour of the day to scoop the personal accolade. Now 20 years old, Crawford had been on the books of Corby earlier in his career before circling the local Non-League circuit. He was tempted back by new manager David Bell in May 2017 and on Sunday’s evidence he could be in for a breakthrough season at this level. Following the final whistle, I had the chance to chat with an ecstatic Crawford. “Growing up I watched all of them on TV so it was great. They are people you look up to and to get the chance to play with them is a once in a lifetime thing”. He would go on to say: “There were a lot of big names so it’s massive for the club and great to play in front of so many people. Not many people get the chance to do this so it’s brilliant from a personal standpoint.” After suffering relegation from the Northern Premier League in May, the NonLeague Challenge came as a welcome distraction. Following the sacking of Gary

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Mills in April, new manager David Bell had little chance to turn the club’s fortunes on its head. But with a new campaign just around the corner, former Coventry City midfielder Bell is hoping to put smiles back on faces at Steels Park. He said: “I really hope the supporters have enjoyed it because we’ve had two or three years of downtime as a football club so today it’s today it’s been a chance to have a really good day, which it was, and hopefully we can put them times behind us and have more good days like today”. Of course, Sunday’s match was part of the preseason preparations as Bell looked to ready his side for the visit of Romulus on the 12th August. But with such an occasion coming so irregularly he just wanted his players to enjoy the day.

“if I’m completely honest today was about enjoying the occasion, especially for the supporters and from a staff and playing point of view, it was about trying to get everybody on the pitch”. “Then in the second half when we had a fairly good cushion it was an opportunity for me to get four or five of the younger lads on. I have to give a mention to young Jordan O’Brien he’s been heavily involved in pre-season and think that’s his fourth or fifth goal for us, he’s 16-year-old and shows real composure beyond his years. So, all in all it was a good day”. After the exposure Jason Lee received following his infamous swig of beer I’m sure Non-League players across the country will be readying themselves and more importantly, their celebrations for the new campaign. The 6-1 demolition of the legends, could be the kick up the backside and boost of confidence Corby Town need to boost themselves back up to the right of the table, and continue their resurgence back up the Non-League pyramid. Article by: Josh Green Photos: MarathonBet

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With the finances and reputation of Premier League footballers ever increasing, the disparity between the heaven of football and the Non-League Is growing with every season.

Many top-flight clubs pluck the majority of their youth

Former Scotland centre-back Elliott is now 48, and has

academy from grass roots football when the youngsters

been retired 12 years since a niggling injury forced him to

are just learning what the game is all about. This makes it

depart Ipswich Town in 2005. Despite the years creeping

increasingly difficult for players and clubs to rise though

up on him, Elliott was pleased to lace his boots up one

the divisions into the Football League.

more time against Corby.

Former Foxes defensive mainstay Matt Elliott played in

He said: “I know it’s a pre-season exercise for Corby,

a multitude of English football divisions before reaching

but for me it’s just a relief that I’m still fit and able to

the Premier League. He reflected on his successful

manoeuvre myself because I must admit I’ve been

career saying: “It was a long slow journey for me up to

nervous about it all week because of the standard that

the Premier League. But I played all divisions within the

Corby are”.

football league itself as well as many of the divisions outside of it”.

With his career concluded, Elliott is become an integral part of BBC Radio Leicester. In 2014, he took over as

Of course, the tide has turned since the ambitious

analyst, and covered his old club Leicester City’s title

teenager was scrubbing boots at Epsom and Ewell. Elliott

victory in 2015/16.

told me how impressed he was with the set-up at Corby Town.

He gave his final thoughts on the day following the final whistle, telling me: “I breathed a huge sigh of relief at

“There’s hot water and everything! You don’t always get

the end of the game, but really enjoyed it, it’s a good

that luxury at some of the lesser known stadiums. But as

occasion, hopefully everyone’s a winner”.

you say it’s quite modern, the pitch was decent and they will probably fine tune that for the start of the season. Hopefully the new ground can make them an integral part of Corby’s community”. He would go on to tell me how the Non-League Challenge could bring them to the forefront of the community. “The football ground should act as a meeting place and be a part of the community, so it’s important to get people out and they certainly look to have done that”.

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With the jackpot increased to £20,000, there will be plenty of winners when the summer of 2018 rolls around. Hopefully we will see fans’ favourite Elliott returning for one more match in the limelight. Article by: Josh Green Photos: MarathonBet


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After a successful inaugural Non-League Challenge at Wealdstone last summer. The stars of game returned to take on Corby Town at Steel Park. Darren Anderton, Danny Mills and Alan Stubbs were among the names who attended the second edition of the now annual match. I had the chance to speak to a handful of the legends about the exciting new facilities at Corby Town, and how the game could propel them to the next level. Despite the 6-1 spanking the legends received, tough tackling Leeds full-back turned Match of the Day pundit Danny Mills remained upbeat about the day. He also played up Corby’s chances of a return to the Northern Premier league next season: “The funds at this level as we know are really tight so hopefully it’s a great boost for them. So hopefully they will use that money wisely and you never know they might get promoted next season”. It will have been a day to remember for many of the Corby Town squad, with an assortment of media on hand to capture the day in all its glory. Former Everton defender Alan Stubbs, gave me his view on how the day could help ‘The Steelmen’ to progress. He said: “It can only help, it’s been a really positive experience for them, I think they’ll go away with a lot of publicity from it which will do them no harm whatsoever. It was a good little pay day for them with a big crowd. So, it’s all positive for them and I’m sure they’ll remember this day for a long time”. Steel Park, the home of Corby Town was officially opened on 25th July 2011, following the club’s departure from the Rockingham Triangle Stadium. The exPremier League legends were quick to praise the playing surface and facilities of the 3,893-capacity stadium. Alan Stubbs would tell me: “I think Non-League standards have really progressed over the last few years. A lot of non-league clubs now are looking to improve their facilities and their stadium. We’ve seen today first hand an example of that and it can only benefit the football club. The facilities will always be a big plus in trying to attract better players”. While Anderton, who was capped 30 times by England would go on to say:

“It’s a very nice new ground and nice facilities. The grass was a little bit long for our liking but the way these football pitches are done nowadays it’s beautiful”. As the crowds flooded out following the final whistle, Corby Town will have reflected on the success of another sensational Non-League Challenge. With the prize fund now increased to £20,000, there will be a sense of anticipation in the air, when the legends return rolls around this time next year. Article by: Josh Green Photos: MarathonBet

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I have worked as a filmmaker for more than 20 years, which is as long as I have been a Cardiff City Fan. Those two facts are not odd however, doing both from the Southern United States has proven challenging to say the least.

just as excited for

We’ll get to the filmmaking in a moment but as a

time and as my trip

diehard follower (and player) of the beautiful game

drew near I decided

in a country where “soccer” has struggled to gain

to reach out and

ground, support any team other than Manchester

see if there was

United, Chelsea or Liverpool and you’re met with

interest in having

the inevitable “who?” or “never heard of them.” I’m

me by to film some

embellishing a bit but you get the idea. It’s hard.

test footage. I

As a filmmaker, I have gotten to see much of the world through my lens. I’ve worked on big-budget features and tiny independents. While I love all types of filmmaking, there is a special place in my heart for documentary. You’ve all heard the phrase

the non-league experience as I was to see my Bluebirds in action. Now, the idea to make a non-league documentary is one I have tossed around in my own head for some

contacted the folks at Bodmin Town FC about my visit for their scheduled friendly with Cardiff and they welcomed me as one of their own. But why stop there? If I was going to invest my time and money, why not grab footage as much as I could?

“truth is stranger than fiction,” and it is also more

So, two hours up the rail Bath City were hosting a

beautiful. I’ve told stories about food sovereignty

pre-season match the day after Cardiff played at

in El Salvador, gang violence, racial inequality and

Bodmin. I reached out to the Bath management

drug epidemics across the U.S. These stories speak

and once again… like family. Both clubs gave me

to me because their central theme is humanity.

full access with my camera. The result is a short

The Japanese have a word… “Wabi-Sabi.” It means

documentary piece, which I believe captures a bit of

“Beauty in decay.” I believe there is also beauty in

the passion fueling grassroots and it has made me

struggle. There is dignity, passion and truth.

want to tell a bigger story which I’m calling “Passion

When I was introduced to non-league football that is what I saw. Players, fans, volunteers… all coming together, sharing a common struggle. Not

Over Pay: The Stories of Non-League Football.” Like non-league, the idea and effort behind this featurelength film is grassroots.

just the struggle to avoid relegation and move up

So, I’m coming to you… the fans and players of

the pyramid but also to also breathe life into an

non-league help support this project, which I hope

institution that is not just theirs but one that is

will cover three non-league teams over the entire

shared. In a world of mega-million-dollar contracts

2018/2019 season. I have a little less than a year

and super player idolisation, non-league delivers

to plan and I look to all of you for help. Share this

the game and the people in their purest form giving

story, share the video trailer and when we’re ready

teams and fans a way to spend time together and to

to launch, share the crowd funding campaign that

service their community.

will help us get there. But, most importantly… share

I don’t apologise for sounding overly dramatic because to me this sport has always been more than

the love of grassroots football with anyone who will listen.

a sport and if you are a subscriber to this magazine

You can learn more about this project and see the

you probably know what I mean.

short trailer by visiting www.passionoverpay.com

This past July I was in France working on a film.

Article and photos: Michael Fitzer

I had a few days to myself and decided to break

Michael Fitzer is an Emmy™ award winning

away from the set to finally see some non-league

filmmaker and partner in the production company

in action. True, Cardiff City were travelling down to

180 Degrees. You can reach him at

Cornwall for a friendly (how convenient) but I was

info@film180.com

THENONLEAGUE.COM - 71


For Chatteris Town Football Club, success has not been in short supply in recent times. The Lilies won promotion to the Cambridgeshire Kershaw Premier Division alongside winning three county cups during the 2015-16 season, the most impressive victory arguably coming against higher-league Great Shelford to lift the Cliff Bullen Challenge Cup. Since then, they have adapted to life at Step 7 comfortably, finishing fifth in their first term back at that level since 2013, exceeding manager Ashley Taylor’s initial aim of avoiding relegation. Taylor, who made a swift return to management after leaving his current post in May, has his sights set on further progress for his side after the club’s promotion plans were foiled during the last campaign due to not meeting ground regulations. But the Lilies boss, heading into his third season with the West Street outfit, is optimistic progression to Step 6 is well in reach this time round amidst the challenges his players may face on the pitch. “This season is promotion; that is what we’re looking for”, Taylor said. “We applied last year and we were in a position where we could have gone up. “We had to finish top five and we did. “Again, we have to finish top five (to get promoted), but if we finish top five, then that means any team above us has not applied for promotion. “I know Eaton Socon are applying and Lakenheath are as well, so really we have got to look to finish in the top three to get promoted ideally. “From a ground point-of-view, there is not much to do. All we have got to do is get a turnstile and we are pretty much there. “I think the league this year is going to be stronger than last year where there were two teams that ran away with it. “This season, I think there are going to be five or six teams that have got a shout, including ourselves, so it is going to make it more interesting. “You will see there will not be a team that wins the league by losing three games like Hardwick (last season’s champions) did. “There will be five, six, seven games lost and a lot more open games in the season.” Town have made five new signings during pre-season with two defenders and three midfielders arriving, and when asked about how the team is looking for the season ahead, Taylor felt pleased with his squad depth. “If I am being honest, I think I have got the strongest squad that I have had since being a manager”, he said. “Last year, we were unlucky with injuries and there were times where we had one or two on the bench and our bench was not the strongest. “This year, we have got a really strong group of 16 to 18 players, so competition for places is good.

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“We have near enough got two players for every position, which hopefully gets the best out of players because when you have got competition for places, it has more of a competitive edge with players. “They know they would have to push themselves to stay in the team.” Faith in the younger generation has been apparent from Taylor with the average age of his squad, but despite hinting he may have looked for older additions, the former Doddington United head coach believes his current crop can deliver the goods. “With being young, we are always learning; we look to improve game on game. “We are going to make mistakes, but I think the good thing is we have got young players that are hungry that want to try and do something in their careers. “We are not in a beneficial position where we can have experience. “We would love experience, but unfortunately we have not got and we cannot get it. “If you are looking for a 30-year-old plus player that has played at a higher level, you have probably got to spend a bit of money and we cannot do that, so we look to bring on the youth. “I think if we keep this group together, we should do well this season.” The Lilies begin the new season with a tricky home fixture against Eaton Socon who finished just one place above Town in the league standings last campaign. Article: Dan Mason

photos: CTFC/Steve Snell

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“If I a m being have hone g o t the s st, I t that trong I hav h i n e had mana est s k I ger” quad since being a

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A Hallmark Security League specialist, goalkeeper Richie Mottram knows the ninth and tenth tiers of English football like the back of his hand…

Saved by their loyal band of supporters after a 10-point deduction relegated them to the Hallmark Security League, the Vics have slowly began to rebuild from the bottom, and after a number of new faces have joined Mottram at the club in recent weeks, the shot-stopper believes that with the fans help, it won’t be long before the Cheshire-based outfit can return to their former glories.

Having been a mainstay between the nets for

Joined by fierce rivals 1874 Northwich this season in the ninth tier, Mottram is relishing the prospect of being in another Hallmark Security League promotion push, and after success at Widnes FC last term, he has set his sights on collecting another winner’s medal this time around with the Vics, as he said.

Runcorn Linnets in recent years, the number one has suffered heartbreak more than once in the division, as Linnets have finished runners-up to Norton, Glossop North End and Colne respectively. However, after joining Widnes towards the back end of last season, Mottram was able to produce a host of match winning performances that saw the Vikings lift the Hallmark Security Division One title, banishing the painful memories brought up from finishing as the bridesmaid rather than the bride. Joining the club in early 2017, Mottram was an everpresent in the Widnes side, as Joey Dunn’s men produced an incredible surge towards the top of the table. Featuring 28 times for the Merseyside-outfit, the ex-Maine Road man led his side to 22 wins and just three defeats, earning plenty of plaudits from those at the Select Security Stadium. The 2015 Runcorn Linnets player of the season, Mottram joined Widnes with the side outside of the tenth tier play-off places. Fast forward three months and Dunn’s men found themselves at the top of the table on 96 points, four points ahead of second placed Charnock Richard and an impressive seven ahead of Litherland REMYCA. Boasting the likes of Congleton Town, Barnton and the aforementioned Linnets on his footballing CV, Mottram would have expected to have his stay at Widnes FC extended for the new campaign. However, the Vikings hierarchy had different plans, as Mottram discovered early into the summer months. In demand due to his experience, character and undoubted quality, Mottram wasn’t short of

“If you look back at the history book, Northwich Victoria have a massive name in Non-League football. I have been very lucky to play for a number of top clubs, but Vics are definitely up there as one of the biggest I have ever played for. I am also no stranger to being at clubs who have had problems behind the scenes, but I know that at Vics, the fan base is incredibly loyal and without them, there would be no Northwich Victoria anymore, so we have a lot to thank them for to be honest! “When the club approached me, I felt like it was an exciting challenge and I really wanted to be a part of the new regime at Townfield. I feel very honoured to be pulling on the Vics short and I will give nothing less than 100% percent every game this season.” Northwich Victoria Supporters’ Association, who began talks to take over the club way back in late2016, were able to raise a five-figure sum at the last hour when the Vics looked dead and buried, with help from donations by the Non-League family. Entering administration for the third time in just over a decade has not been ideal for a club with such a proud history in the semi-professional game, however with things starting to look up again, Mottram has calmed any fears that Vics players will be distracted by boardroom changes, as he told TheNonLeague magazine that the sides sole focus this season is to win games as the quest for promotion begins.

existence in June, although this didn’t deter the

“I don’t really take much notice with regards to inhouse politics, as a footballer it isn’t my job to get involved and as a squad, we are collectively staying away from all of that. I am here to play as much football as I can and hopefully we can challenge for promotion this season. The financial side of the game is of no interest to me, or any of the other lads in the dressing room and I have no doubt that the chairman and the board have everything in hand, meaning we can get on with winning football

keeper.

matches.”

options in pre-season and it didn’t take long before Northwich Victoria came calling, with the number one quickly deciding that the Vics were the perfect fit for him. Having had their fair share of financial problems over the last decade, Paul Moore’s men who currently ground share with Mottram’s former employers Barnton FC, were on the brink of going out of

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“I KNO W IT TAK WHAT E S WIN G TO A M THIS L ES AT EVEL”

E I H C I R TTRAM O M

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It was only 11 years ago that Northwich Victoria were

am the captain or not. Playing for some top Non-

reaching the third round of the FA Cup and winning

League clubs over the years, I know what it takes to

promotion to the fifth tier, watched by crowds of

win games at this level and I am more than happy to

two and three thousand. With a partisan following

share that with the younger lads in the team if they

that have stuck by the team through the good and

are looking for some guidance.”

the bad times, Mottram is desperate to see smiles

Vocal about his never say die attitude and work

on faces this year similar to those of the glory years in 2005 and 2006, as he continued by saying.

ethic, Mottram will learn plenty from his second spell under the leadership of Moore, with both

“Hopefully we can be successful as a collective unit. Northwich Victoria deserve to be playing higher up the pyramid and I am so hungry to get the club back where they belong. The fans deserve something to cheer about after the disappointments of relegation and administration, and fingers crossed we will re-write a few wrongs this year.”

sharing plenty of the same attributes. A strong

No stranger to the managerial capabilities of Paul

After Colne and Atherton Collieries made the

Moore, having played for him while at Clitheroe,

transition from the Hallmark Security League to

Mottram’s move to the Vics was in no small part

Evo-Stik football in recent seasons, Mottram wants

down to the influence of the experienced ex-AFC

his new employers to do exactly the same, as he

Liverpool boss.

said in a buoyant mood.

At the age of 34, Mottram will act as Moore’s eyes

“Vics have a good blend of youth and experience

and ears on the field this season and with hundreds

at the moment and I can see comparisons between

of appearances under his belt, he is under no

this side and sides I have played with in the past

illusions that his experience may prove invaluable in

that have gone onto win trophies. Looking at my

a relatively young Vics squad.

own attributes, my distribution is good, and that

Speaking further about his first few months as a Northwich Victoria player and looking ahead to the future, Mottram has stated that after playing in

character with plenty still to give to the game, the keeper has no intentions of retiring just yet, and with no ambition to become a coach or a manager, the goalkeeper has expressed his delight at playing in a successful side that will ‘help him love football again.’ “I haven’t thought about retirement just yet that is for sure. I am enjoying training and playing again which is the important thing, as there was a period not so long ago that I wasn’t. I’d like to be a Northwich Victoria player for as long as possible and for now, I am only concentrating on what the season holds.” Joining a host of well-established clubs in the Hallmark Security Premier Division for the 2017-18 campaign, Northwich Victoria will by no means ‘walk the division.’ However, with a strong squad and one of the best followings around, the club rightfully deserve to be classed as one of the favourites for promotion.

will help us turn defence into attack very quickly, especially when we counter-attack away from home.”

dressing rooms with winning mentalities over the

Mottram continued by saying; “I love organising my

years, he has seen enough at the Vics that shows

defence and keeping the team composed and on

the club mean business in the Hallmark Security

the ball when our backs are against the wall during

League.

periods of pressure. All in all, I see no reason why we

“I have played for the gaffer (Paul Moore) before so I know how he likes to set out his teams and I he has been nothing short of exceptional since I have

shouldn’t be playing with confidence this season, as the whole team have the individual and collective quality to flourish at this level.”

joined the club. As a goalkeeper, I can see the whole

Article by: James Burch

pitch and I have been around long enough to know

Photos: Richie Mottram/John Rooney

when I need to act as a leader on the field, whether I

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22-year-old Bobby-Joe Taylor only knows how to win! Starting his senior career at Cambridge United, the whiz-kid won promotion to League Two with the U’s in 2014, as the club defeated Gateshead in the fifth tier play-off final. The same season also saw the U’s defeat Gosport Borough in the FA Trophy final, meaning Taylor had two winners’ medals on his CV, despite being a peripheral figure in the team, with loan moves to St Neots Town and Arlseley Town taking place in the same campaign. Later leaving the Abbey Stadium to gain regular game time, the two-time England C international moved to Maidstone United, with the club in the National League South for the first time, after winning the Isthmian League in 2014-15. Despite being a quick-footed wide man, Taylor firstly took on the unfamiliar position of right-back at the club, after regular defender Callum Driver picked up a serious injury. Featuring 36 times for the club and playing some great football after moving back onto the wings, the Chelsea FC youth graduate helped the Stones overcome all the odds, as they reached the play-offs at the first time of asking. One of the key men in the clubs play-off semi-final victory over Truro City, Taylor then scored in the play-off final against Ebbsfleet United, as the Stones completed a historic promotion into the National League. With the winning touch, Taylor’s luck ran out last season, as the Stones finished 14th in the fifth tier. However, with the club new to the division, survival was always the aim, and an ever-present in Jay Saunders squad, the versatile attacker still managed to finish the term as the clubs second top goal scorer, growing his reputation further. Clearly an incredibly ambitious individual, and with dreams of playing at the very top in the future, Taylor took the opportunity to sign a one-year deal at Aldershot Town in June. Making 81 appearances in two seasons for Maidstone United, a move away from Kent was a difficult decision to make. Nevertheless, with Aldershot Town no strangers to the Football League, Taylor’s dreams of reaching the top may soon be a reality, with the Shots starting the National League season in great form. Winning three of their first five league games, with Taylor playing a key role in four of these matches, Gary Waddock’s men were amongst the early pace setters, alongside southern compatriots Sutton United, Bromley, Boreham Wood and Dover Athletic.

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BOBBY JOE TAYLOR – ALDERSHOT TOWN


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“ALDERSHOT TOWN IS A FOOTBALL LEAGUE CLUB BOTH ON AND OFF THE FIELD” Starting the campaign with a 2-0 victory away at FC Halifax Town and a 6-0 drubbing of Guiseley, Taylor’s early impact at the Recreation Ground cannot be underestimated, and with games coming thick and fast in September, the winger will again need to maintain his top form, if the Shots are to maintain their push for promotion. Hungry to add the National League title to his trophy cabinet next summer, Taylor has admitted that he has not been shocked by the Shots fantastic start to the campaign, as he stated that his decision to join the club in June, came from believing the club would challenge this season. “We have started the season well and I think we have surprised a few people, even though we have been quietly confident of our chances all summer. The squad has gelled together nicely and we have scored plenty of goals which is always nice to see as a winger. “I’d have loved to have scored more, but having got off the mark in August, I am now desperate to reach the double figure mark as soon as possible. Promotion could well be on the cards for us, and being an ambitious, young player, I would not have left my previous club if I didn’t think the Shots had a real chance of going all the way this season!” Relegated out of the Football League four years ago, the Shots haven’t had things their own way since dropping into the National League. Last season was the first year that the club seriously challenged, and with a young and hungry squad in tow, it was only Tranmere Rovers that prevented the side from going to Wembley for the playoff final. Ending the regular campaign in fifth place, the club were seen as the dark horses in the play-offs, after sneaking into the end of season lottery via a fantastic late run of form in March and April. That was not the case however, and coming up against the aforementioned Rovers, Waddock’s men were blown

away in the first-leg of the semi-final, as a Cole Stockton brace and a James Norwood goal put the tie to bed in Hampshire. Travelling to Prenton Park with nothing to lose in the second leg, the Shots did restore some pride with a 2-2 draw, however losing 5-2 on aggregate, the clubs wait for the Football League continued, to the disappointment of everyone at the Recreation Ground. Keeping hold of prized assets Jake Cole, Will Evans and Bernard Mensah in the aftermath of the defeat, the Shots retained their core, and with play-off hurt still fresh in everyone’s minds five months on, Taylor has revealed as a new signing that the ‘old crop’ in the dressing room have used last year’s disappointment to spur the whole team on this season, as he continued. “We have kept most of the team which always helps, the manager has strengthened over the summer and on paper, I would say that the squad is just as strong, if not stronger than it was last season. “The players that were in the squad last season have spoken about the play-off defeat and you can tell how much it still hurts them. When we are down in games, we have used that as the determination to get back into games, and I must admit, it has given us that extra 10% in games, as we want to avoid those same feelings this time around.” Having played and managed at the top, manager Gary Waddock is the ideal man to mentor Taylor. Eager to learn from the ex-Republic of Ireland international for the foreseeable future, the sky is clearly the limit for the Shots new acquisition. With all signs pointing towards a possible return to League Two, Taylor will hold the key between success and failure this season, and with Waddock helping him improve both on the field and on the training pitch, the youngster has waxed lyrical about Waddock, stating that he is one of the best managers he has every played under, with promotion never too far from his mind.

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“My ambition is to play in the Football League in the future. Aldershot Town is a Football League club both on and off the field, and when you look at the ground, the training pitch and the fan base, it is easy to see that we belong further up the pyramid. “The fans are some of the best I have ever seen at this level and they will be very important for us this season. The manager is also second to none, and he was one of the main reasons that I decided to sign in the summer. “He deals with me well, he has taught me a lot already and he is somebody that I look up to, as he achieved so much as a player. He’s helped me improve so far and long may it continue, as the more we keep winning games, the more confidence will grow and we will believe further that this is our year!”

“I’D H AVE L OVED SCOR TO HA ED MO VE RE, BU OFF T HE MA T HAV RK IN NOW I DESPE AUGU NG GOT ST, I A RATE DOUB TO RE M LE FIG A URE M CH TH ARK.. E . Photos: Bobby Joe Taylor

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“HOPEFULLY I WILL START TO CEMENT A REGULAR PLACE IN THE FIRST-TEAM”

K C A J Y E M A E L – BOOTLE FC

>>>> It has been a summer of change for Bootle FC, with a host of new faces joining the new managerial duo of Joe Doran and Phil Stafford at the newly named TDP Solicitors Stadium. After narrowly missing out on North West Counties promotion last season, the Bucks have managed to keep hold of a number of their prized assets including talisman Michael Ordish and lead marksman Ryan Cox.

There has been some departures, most notably Ryan Jones and Carl Peers, however the Bucks have signed sensibly in recent months, meaning that they will once again be there or thereabouts in the promotion shake-up in the ninth tier. With so many comings and goings both on and off the field at the Bucks, it has been easy to forget about the signing of ex-Buck Jack Leamey who after leaving the club in 2015, has re-joined to prove to his doubters that he has what it takes to succeed under messrs Doran and Stafford. Coming through the youth-team and reserves at Bootle before playing a handful of first-team games two years ago, Leamey is no stranger to the club. Playing in Wales with Buckley Town, before starring for West Cheshire League side Vauxhall Motors and North-West Counties rivals AFC Liverpool, Leamey has grown both as a footballer and a man since leaving Bootle in 2015.

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“AS A NON-LEAGUE FOOTBALLER, YOU HAVE TO LOOK AT THINGS DIFFERENTLY. REALISTICALLY, WE ARE NEVER GOING TO WIN THE FA CUP... Appearing 30 times and scoring nine goals for AFC Liverpool last season, Leamey was seen as one of the ninth tiers top wingers. With Bootle possessing serious title credentials, the young attacker has joined his new club for one reason and one reason only: “I have come to Bootle Football Club to win the league! After missing out last season, we have a point to prove and if the squad can perform the way they did last year, there is no reason why we can’t take that extra step and lift the title. “As a Non-League footballer, you have to look at things differently. Realistically, we are never going to win the FA Cup and it will be difficult to win the FA Vase, so the league has to be the bread and butter for us. With Joe and Phil in charge and a new-look team taking shape, I am very confident that we are pushing in the right direction and I think our early season form has shown that, as we have defended well, scored goals and picked up points!” One of the youngest players in the Bucks side, Leamey is under no illusions that he isn’t an automatic pick in the side. With the aforementioned Ordish, Cox and Kieran Halligan all vying for game time in the attacking positions, competition is currently fierce in the side. Not intimidated by going head to head with the likes of exSouthport man Ordish, Leamey is instead hungry to learn from those who have seen and done it all before, and despite playing a leading role at AFC Liverpool, he has admitted that he still has plenty to learn before he can be considered as the finished article.

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With over 100 Non-League appearances under his belt at such a young age, Leamey believes he is progressing week by week at the Bucks, as he continued by saying: “When you play with better footballers, it is hard not to learn. Training on Tuesdays and Thursdays and playing Saturdays has really brought my game on another level, and when I am with the likes of Mikey (Ordish), Ryan (Cox) and Kieran (Haligan) I am constantly improving and learning new things. I believe my talents are now starting to show and hopefully I will start to cement a regular place in the first-team going forward!” With four well-established clubs, already on his football CV, Leamey will be hoping that his next move is a big one when it comes. Currently averaging a goal every three games from the flanks, another strong season may be the kick-start of an exciting career for Leamey. Adamant that the Bucks faithful will see nothing less than 110% from him, the youth graduate can think of nothing better than getting the side into the Evo-Stik for the 2018-19 campaign. “As a young player, I am improving all of the time and I am looking to better the form that I had at AFC Liverpool last season. Both managers have been fantastic with me since they brought me in and I want to repay them for the faith that they have put in me. If I can get my name on the scoresheet and contribute with assists I will be very happy, but at the end of the day, if the team wins then that is all that matters and promotion is the main goal for me.” Photos: Jack Leamey


T T A M Y A R R U M

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O T R E F F O N A E T H O T G N I I B “IF U D L L C U A O E W G I A E N M A MA G E ” U T I G A R E E L D I N S N NO O C Y L E T I N I F E D

Currently a member of the backroom staff at Championship outfit Barnsley, ex-Wolverhampton Wanderers shot-stopper Matt Murray has revealed that he would not count out managing in the Non-League game in the future, if the right opportunity arose. Having retired from the game early due to a re-occurring shoulder and knee injury, the 36-year-old has had to go down a different career path than first expected, with punditry, coaching and scouting a viable option when he hung up his gloves at Molineux for the very last time.

combined with his five England under 21 caps, prove that it was injuries and injuries alone that prevented him from reaching the very top. Goalkeeping coach and assistant manager at the Nike Academy, as well as academy coach at Oakwell, Murray is doing all he can to get the badges and the experience he needs to one day make it in the dug-out, whether that be in the Football League or the Non-League game first though is yet to be seen. At the Nike Academy, Murray has the state-of-the-art facilities of St. George’s Park at his disposal and working alongside exMillwall and Leeds United forward Jon Goodman, the retired number one has had the opportunity to work with some of the best young talent from across the globe, with more than 10 nationalities currently representing the academy.

Solihull-born, Murray spent two decades at Wolverhampton Wanderers, with brief loan spells in the Non-League game at Slough Town and Kingstonian giving him experience of the mens game, before he made his senior debut for Wolves against Wimbledon on 31st August 2002.

Coming through the Wolves academy with the likes of Robbie Keane and Joleon Lescott, Murray may wonder what could have been. However, with no regrets about his injury-hampered career, the Sky pundit is now fully focused on giving young players their own chance to make a name for themselves in the game.

A teenager when he made his debut in the Football League, Murray’s century of professional appearances at Molineux,

With the Nike Academy having a proud reputation for sending players into the National League and below, the one-time

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“MY DREAM IS TO ONE DAY MANAGE IN THE FOOTBALL LEAGUE”

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Wolverhampton Wanderers ‘Player of the Season’

currently doing at the Shropshire-based club, Murray

has nothing but good words to say about the Non-

continued: “When you look at managers who’ve

League game, praising the dedication and hunger of

managed in the Non-League game to learn their

those currently plying their trade below the Football

trade, Rob instantly comes to mind. He’s decided to

League.

roll up his sleeves and test himself in the National

“I would recommend any young player currently

League North and I can’t commend him highly

playing under 21 and reserve football professionally

enough for that.

to consider dropping down into the Non-League

“My dream is to one day manage in the Football

game to earn their stripes. James Montgomery left

League, however if I got an offer to manage a club

me at the Nike Academy to join AFC Telford United

in the Non-League game I would definitely consider

and he is now doing fantastically well at Gateshead

it, especially after seeing and hearing how much

in the National League.

Rob has learnt in a very short time at AFC Telford

“It is so easy to coast along at a professional club

United.”

as a youngster, but the chances are definitely there

Murray added; “I don’t believe that there is a big gulf

lower down the leagues if you are willing to take

between League One, League Two and the National

them. There’s plenty of players that I know of who’ve

League anymore, and there are plenty of teams now

had loan spells in the fifth, sixth and seventh tiers

who gain promotion into the Football League and

and then pushed on back at their parent club. It

then challenge again for promotion in League Two.

just shows, being involved in mens football where

“I think it’s crucial that young players push

three points matter is so crucial, I really can’t stress

themselves against players who’ve been there and

it enough to my own squad at Nike Academy and

done it all before in the Non-League game. Players

Barnsley!”

like Jamie Vardy, Chris Smalling and Andre Gray are

Murray also firmly believes that ex-pros who

flying the flag in the Premier League and they can

have recently retired should dip their toe into

act as an inspiration for us all!”

management in the Non-League game. With many

Announcing that his playing days were over seven

players retiring, taking their badges and holding

years ago on the pitch at Molineux, Murray has had

out for a job in the Football League, the market is

a long time to get over the hurt of his premature

currently incredibly saturated, with the managerial

retirement. Coaching the next generation Monday to

merry-go-round now more talked about than ever.

Friday, the 6’5 colossus has also begun to thrive as

As with any profession, starting from the bottom

a match reporter and in-studio summariser for Sky

and building your way up is the way to go. Against

Sports.

retired players gaining a quick passageway into

Sharing his expert knowledge in the Sky studios, as

coaching and management, Murray has used his

well as attending games and dissecting every key

good friend and former team-mate Rob Edwards as

moment in a game, Murray has taken to punditry like

the prime example of a manager who has taken a

a duck to water, especially on Gillette Soccer Special,

gamble by dropping down the pyramid to manage,

working alongside the likes of Jeff Stelling, Neil

and benefited from it.

Mellor and Phil Thompson.

Like Murray, Edwards was forced to retire early,

Revealing that coaching and punditry has helped

hanging up his boots in 2013 at the age of 30,

him overcome the disappointment of retirement,

becoming Wolves under 18’s coach the season after,

the aspiring manager is clearly destined for the top,

before working alongside then head coach Kenny

whether that be as a pundit for Sky Sports or in the

Jackett in the first team. The trainee boss could have

dug-out.

taken the easy option and worked as a number two.

With BT Sport, BBC and Sky to a lesser extent

However, hungry to one day make it at the very

promoting the Non-League game more than ever

top, the 34-year-old was named AFC Telford United

before, the grassroots game is now gaining fantastic

manager in June, and after two wins from his first

exposure, with a game from every round of the FA

five games, he looks to be building a solid squad at

Cup televised and fixtures on BT Sport aired to the

New Bucks Head, with all at the club hoping for a

masses every week.

play-off push this season.

As billions of pounds is spent on the Premier League

Speaking further about the quality of Non-League

game, Murray is hopeful that more money will trickle

football and the sterling job that Edwards is

down to benefit Non-League football, as he finished

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by mentioning his burgeoning career on the screens and the exposure the fifth tier and below is now receiving on a national scale. “I retired earlier than I wanted to, but I have had to adapt and although it was difficult at first, it is slowly getting easier and coaching and punditry has definitely helped me focus my attentions into something positive away from the game. “I love working for Sky Sports, obviously nothing beats playing but to get paid to watch football is fantastic. It is an honour to watch football every week and although I am a big advocate of it, unfortunately I don’t get to watch Non-League as much as I would like, although I try to as much as I can. “The coverage in Non-League football is now fantastic and it is great to see how it has come on over the years. Scouts are now scouring the lower leagues for players and I think that will only help in the future. The money is also improving, but there’s still problems and I would like to see more money sent down there, hopefully we will see that in the not so distant future!” Photos: PA Images

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ANCIENTS AND MARINERS: HAVES AND HAVE-NOTS IN THE NORTHERN LEAGUE Andy Potts is an experienced sports journalist. After starting his career covering non-league football in County Durham, he moved away, working in Glasgow, London and Moscow and reporting from the Sochi Winter Olympics and a host of world championships in sports as diverse as ice hockey and synchronised swimming. Back in Durham, his love of football made a revisit to the Northern League irresistible. Two decades after moving away from his native County Durham, Potts spent a season watching games in the Northern League, a semi-pro football competition that claims to be the second oldest in the world. He was pleasantly surprised to find that football is still a way of taking the region’s pulse. Ancients and Mariners (the haves and have-nots in the Northern League) is a story of rags and riches, of low-level sport and high-flying ambitions. It’s a changing world, held together by a shared love of the beautiful game, even when the reality threatens to turn ugly. Intro: “Like all football leagues, whatever the level, it’s a tale of haves and havenots. The buoyant Mariners of South Shields, a club transformed by significant investment going hand-in-hand with a dedicated team of volunteers, lead the haves. But they are not alone: from Morpeth to Stockton, Consett to Blyth, clubs have carved out new niches for themselves in a sporting world not yet saturated with televised Premier League hype. But there are also the Ancients. Norton & Stockton, folding part way through the season. West Allotment Celtic and Washington tendering their resignations –and happily able to withdraw them. Hebburn Town, galvanising local support to haul the club back from the brink of crisis. For all the success stories, and a growing interest in the non-league game, there are an alarming number of clubs enduring a perilous hand-to-mouth existence. There’s a temptation to succumb to easy nostalgia, to harken to a lost golden age. But that would be unfair to the sterling efforts of hundreds of hard-working volunteers behind the scenes at the Northern League’s clubs”

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K O S O B VIEW E R

“You g and a o around b t what out wear own and y e i see o ver. Mayb ng the sc ou see pe a n o e Peop e or two before y rf, the sh ple out ,b le i o You h are talk ut now t u’d be lu rt, h c in e all ab ar at the g about ere’s a lo ky to th t b o getti ut South us stop, e footba of it. in ng on ll S boar hields FC the bars club. d wit , . h it.” Everyone it’s is Ancients and Mariners (the haves and have-nots in the Northern League features interviews with several key figures from the Northern League’s clubs, exploring how football, and the towns where it is played, have changed in the past two decades. In Potts own words on his return to the North East after two decades living away, the Northern League he remembered had been transformed. His journey through last season’s games is much more than a series of match reports, the author takes the reader through a thoroughly entertaining journey, one that will tempt many to ensure that they take in a game in the region as soon as possible. From the first pre-season friendly through to South Shields superb run to the FA Vase Final, Potts brings so much enthusiasm and detail to his story that it is hard to put the book down. South Shields FC: “The homecoming was an immediate hit. Crowds went up to around 300 –more than decent for a Northern League team and a huge improvement on the stalwart 70 of Peterlee. They could visit a proper bar, meaning no more cans sold out of carrier bags. When word got around that Julio Arca was signing, 700 came to the next home game. His debut pushed crowds through the 1,000 mark –and they stayed there. An average of 765 in the league last season, 1,200 this. The Morpeth game brought over 2,000, FA Vase quarter and semi-finals had over 3,000. With Wembley more than a month away, 9,000 fans had bought tickets. Many of them bought scarves, shirts, hats and badges as well. “Our merchandise guy has been run off his feet,” Reay added. “You go around town and you see people out and about wearing the scarf, the shirt, whatever. Maybe before you’d be lucky to see one or two, but now there’s a lot of it. People are talking about the football club. You hear at the bus stop, in the bars, it’s all about South Shields FC. Everyone is getting on board with it.” Ancients and Mariners (the haves and have-nots in the Northern League) is available from www.amazon.com

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FROM A FIELD TO ANFIELD – A FOOTBALLER’S JOURNEY FROM GRASSROOTS TO THE TOP FLIGHT ‘From A Field to Anfield’ is the compelling story of Nick Tanner’s unlikely journey from grassroots football in Bristol to the glamour of thenchampions Liverpool. There were no shortcuts for Tanner, his story is not one of spending years mollycoddled in an academy system and having success handed to him, but of graft, days spent working in a factory before making it to the top, and being sold to Bristol Rovers by non-league Mangotsfield United for the price of a couple of floodlight bulbs. He then had to prove himself to a squad full of winners after his rise from the uncompromising grassroots football scene in Bristol saw him sign for the mighty Liverpool. Tanner was a member of the last Liverpool squad to win the title, he was in the stands at Hillsborough on that desperate day in 1989, he scored a Merseyside derby goal at Goodison Park, so his tales naturally include Anfield legends and A-list events with Kenny Dalglish and the rest. This is a genuinely good football story, albeit a ‘warts and all’ tale from one of football’s unsung heroes. ‘From a Field to Anfield’ takes the reader through Tanner’s football journey from non-league football to playing for the Champions of England through to the disappointment of his promising career being ended by injury just short of 60 appearances for the Merseyside giants. Including anecdotes from friends, former team mates and managers, Tanner and co-author Steve Cotton have created a book that is both heartwarming and interesting for football supporters of any club at any level of the game. Taking the reader through Tanner’s journey from joining Bristol Rovers from Mangotsfield Town to scoring on his debut for Rovers against arch-rivals Bristol City, before starting work the next morning at 7.30, to being on the verge of joining Torquay United before taking the call from Kenny Dalglish that would change his life forever. Stories include Tanner’s ‘fortunate escape’ after being coached by a man later convicted of sex offences against children to what life was like under both Dalglish and Graeme Souness, as Liverpool went through difficult times both on and off the pitch. Then, following early retirement, Tanner also spent time managing in the non-league game, with several colourful tales from those days included, before becoming involved in running a ‘Liverpool Legends’ event company. ‘From a Field to Anfield’ is an inspirational story, showing just how far hard work and dedication can take any budding footballer, whilst also reaffirming how important it is to be prepared should the worst-case scenario unfold with Tanner opening up on the personal impact of his career-ending injury, along with his various ongoing struggles. From a Field to Anfield is available from www.pitchpublishing.co.uk

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E C N I Y R R P A D U O H C

– AC LONDON

“THE C DEFI LUB IS N I THE C TELY U OMM NITIN UNIT G Y” 94 - THENONLEAGUE.COM


The date is 8th August 2011… with the country in disarray and with the government scurrying around to reassure the general public that all will soon be calmed, some of the worst riots that this country has ever seen are taking place on streets up and down the country. London has currently endured two days and two nights of horrific rioting, with major cities such as Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool and Bristol now feeling the brunt force of ‘copycat violence.’ Following the fatal police shooting of Mark Duggan, anarchy has begun, and with thousands of youth’s feeling disengaged and cut-off from the land that they once called their own, the problem isn’t calming anytime soon. With the capital city worst hit by the rioting, looting and arson; areas including Tottenham, Hackney, Brixton and Peckham were transformed from quiet London suburbs to burning infernos in

rampage. With the majority of those rioting under the age of 24, Choudary believed that founding a football team would target those caught up in the August 2011 tragedies directly. Setting up a youth team in July 2012, the club quickly forged a reputation for themselves in the grassroots Sunday League game, as their background and strong message of ‘community spirit’ engaged many across the capital. With Choudary becoming the youngest manager and chairman in the senior game, the club also had no problems in attracting the national spotlight, with over 10 nationalities representing the club, who are known in full as Academic Club London Football Club. Applying to join the Kent Invicta League at Step 10, the club initially hit their first stumbling block as they were denied access into the league. However, after a second attempt, they were successful, meaning just three years on from playing Sunday League they would be playing semi-professional football in a league, alongside the likes of Glebe, Sutton Athletic and Sheppey United. Obtaining a respectable points tally of 51 points in their first season, AC London won 15 of their 38 league matches, losing just 11 in the process. Although the club were nowhere near cementing a push for the title, the clubs first 12 months, represented hope and a future for a community,

a matter of hours. A week later, and 3,443 crimes

which was once at war.

had been committed, 3,000 arrests had been

Transferred to the Combined Counties Division

made, five fatalities recorded and an eye-watering

One for the following season, the side managed by

£200,000,000 worth of property damage incurred.

Choudary again flourished, and although they are yet

Feeling removed from society, the riots were the

to taste promotion after a number of near misses;

youth’s way of re-finding their voice, although it was carried out in completely the wrong manner. As

there is an air of optimism about the club’s chance of promotion to the Premier Division in the not so

the minority caused havoc, others were frantically

distant future.

thinking of other ways to rebuild the community,

A busy summer has seen the club bring in a number

as many locked horns with their thoughts. With

of talented prospects, stretching across 16 countries,

Croydon, another London-district destroyed by the

again promoting AC London’s key message of

riots, one bright light came from the destruction, as

football for everybody. Winning their first league

the formation of a new Non-League arose from the

games and making their FA Cup debut in August,

ashes, courtesy of a 16-year-old, desperate to rebuild

the future is looking extremely bright for Choudary’s

a broken community through his love of football.

men.

Fast forward six years and the riots are now a thing

Currently ground sharing with Isthmian League

of the past, with AC London now an established

Whyteleafe FC at Church Road, there are plans to

Non-League outfit, still managed and owned by

one-day build a stadium in Croydon, to act as a

Prince Choudary, the man who helped set-up the

social hub for all ages, genders and ethnicity’s in the

club from scratch as a teenager. A trainee solicitor,

area. However, for now, Choudary is just thankful

Choudary was one of those most affected by the

that the club that was founded with one borrowed

riots in Croydon, as he watched his uncle’s clothes

football, has cemented itself as a focal point of the

shop empty and his own street targeted, with rioters

community, as he explained the process of setting up

thankfully by-passing his family home while on a

the football club in the aftermath of the riots.

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“During my school days, the teachers gave me no chance of making anything with my life. They said I wouldn’t pass my GCSE’s and they condemned me to a life of failure. After the London riots, I was in Croydon and I saw a lot of people who’d also been given this message at school looting and causing havoc in the area. I knew a lot of them and this obviously hurt, as they were destroying the community that they had grew up in. It quickly dawned on me that our generation needed guidance and something to focus our attentions on and I was inspired to set up a football club to repair the damage of the riots. I borrowed a football and the rest is history…”

Combination side Crawley Down Gatwick FC would see them win a staggering £1,500 in prize money.

The likes of City of Liverpool, FC United of Manchester and Hereford FC have also been formed in the last decade. However, the big difference between these three and AC London is finance and backing. All three clubs had a huge fan base behind them when forming, infrastructure and financial pulling power, AC London on the other hand had nothing, and it was this lack of money that initially held Choudary back.

“The club is definitely uniting the community and I can see the changes AC London has made to Croydon and its surrounding areas over the last six to seven years. The London riots were a dark day for the area but things are looking up now. There were plenty of young people who were directed down the wrong path, but they are now desperate to become role models for those in their old position. AC London is slowly becoming one of the ‘go to’ places in the community and a park that used to be riddled by gang warfare is now home to at least 300 footballers representing our club every week.”

Never giving up on his dream and pulling in favours to get training equipment, footballs and a kit to get the club up and running, the 21-year-old was then faced with the challenge of taming some of London’s most rogue tear-away’s. With court cases on-going around the time of AC London’s formation, Choudary lost a number of his prized assets in the early season of 2012, with many of his team in prison or under sentencing. One of these players was Kieran Dowling, who despite signing for the club initially as a talented striker, was sentenced to three years in prison, with Dowling recently making his first club appearance, with his sentence now over. Speaking further about the gang problem in Croydon at the time and the troubles of instilling discipline and respect into his squad, Choudary continued: “It was extremely hard to set the club up as a teenager, at the end of the day, who wants to sign for a club owned and managed by a 16-year-old? It took time to convince players, but as soon as they signed, the hardest bit was improving the squad and maintaining the club. “The park that we trained in was rife for gang culture at the time, we’d have players who’d be training and as soon as they saw a rival gang they’d want to stop and fight! We needed discipline and I told my players that as long as they respected each other on the pitch, then we would be fine. The more we played and bonded, the more the respect came and a gang rivalry which was once fierce died down.” Lining-up to play the first FA Cup fixture in their history, AC London knew that beating Southern

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Yet, with so much money at stake, Choudary and his team were solely focused on getting their name written into FA Cup folklore, and winning the game 3-2, they did just that, courtesy of a late-winner from Dowling. Losing 5-1 to Egham Town in the next round, AC London will go again next season in the nation’s most famous cup competition. Focusing on creating a safe haven for more troubled youngsters this season, the money gained from the FA will go a long way, as Choudary revealed that the club are now seeing hundreds of young footballers turning up to training every week.

One of the nation’s newest Non-League clubs, AC London are now dreaming of rubbing shoulders with the big boys in the future, with promotion a real possibility this season. Starting as a youth Sunday League team, London’s noisy neighbours have progressed more than they could have ever expected, with the FA Vase still representing the club with a chance of glory, with Ringmer away first up on the 9th September. Desperate to attract more sponsorship and a bigmoney backer to Church Road, Choudary will not stop until AC London are seen as a blueprint for grassroots football and community rehabilitation, as he finished by saying: “We are in the process of working on getting our own ground but that is obviously easier said than done. In two years, we hope to be in a position to move into our own stadium, but for now we are very grateful for the clubs that have let us ground-share with them. AC London should also have our own academy in the not so distant future and with more youngsters than ever knocking on our doors for a chance to play, we want to act as a role model for other clubs in deprived areas, as at the end of the day, we have gone from Sunday League to Semi-Pro in three years and there is hope that we can continue to move up the pyramid as we continue to grow.” Photos: AC London


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In the past, I’d been to the impressive but now demolished Nene Park former home of Rushden & Diamonds so I thought a visit was in order to the ‘The Dog and Duck’, the ground they were sharing with Wellingborough Town. Next season AFC Rushden & Diamonds, as they are now called, are off to share with Kempston Rovers. As Wellingborough only play in the United Counties Premier League l wasn’t really expecting too much but I must admit l was pleasantly surprised. The ground is nestling behind a small business park and backs onto UCL Division One club Wellingborough Whitworth’s much smaller ground. Outside there is half an arched sign attached to a gate bearing Wellingborough’s name, but isn’t used now because the other half has gone and in its place, is a new fence. Just past this l came across the club shop, it was a scruffy looking old portacabin displaying separate Rushden and Wellingborough signs - the Rushden one had nearly faded away. Inside they sold all the usual club merchandise with a few old programmes crammed in boxes on some shelves in the corner; not one of the best shops but at least l still got my badge. On into the ground, the turnstiles were nice and neat with a smart price sign with the day’s opponents hanging on the front, Newcastle Town on this day, with a string of Easter bunnies tied round the top. As l paid my money l was offered one of their home made ‘Easter Cakes’, very nice it was too. Once inside the first thing that struck me was how well the

ground has been kept. In one corner, next to the social club was a very efficiently run refreshments building. There was a hatch on one side for drinks and one on the other side that was for the burgers etc. Here they took your order and your name and when it was cooked, pretty quickly I must say, your name is called for you to collect. Behind the refreshments was the hospitality lounge with a viewing balcony and the players tunnel next to that. Along one side was some low covered flat standing up to the half way line the rest is open. At the far end, it was also open but with a very well-kept training pitch sitting behind a smart wooden fence. Carrying on round, along the other side was the main stand centred on the half way line with open standing each side. What a lovely little stand it is too, painted blue and yellow and very spacious, it has a media box at the back as well as room for standing. Adorning the back wall are the

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that could have gone either way before AFC got the only goal to take the 3 points. It’s a good little ground although modest in size but well worth a visit. A ground I’d intended visiting for some time was The Pilot Field on the East Sussex coast, home of Hastings United. So off I went to see the Rymans League Division 1 South game against Chipstead. On arriving the first thing that became obvious was the ground has been cut into a hill. I parked in the car park of the club’s social club on the ‘high’ side of the ground, it seemed strangely remote from everything else apart from some old disused turnstiles. A brisk walk down the hill brought me to the only other turnstiles, they are brick built with an arched frontage and the club name above these also arched, although the light blue letters could do with a bit of a clean. Once inside, programme and 50/50 ticket bought, l went across to the club shop. This was run by two cheerful ladies one of whom later dressed up as the club mascot - l had an interesting chat with temporary letters AFC R&D covering the more permanent WTFC

them about the club before getting my usual badge. On and into

letters that are included in the paintwork. Between this stand

the ground, the far side was a pretty large grass bank that a few

and the near end sits ‘Dales Bar’ which seems to pride itself on

years ago supporters used to stand on but is now fenced off for

selling Wellingborough’s own Pure Beer. In front is a concrete

the usual safety reasons although three of the locals still stood

area with chairs available if you would like to use them. Finally,

up at the top. There was a flight of steps presumably used when

behind the near goal is the steel bolt-together type stand called

the old turnstiles at the top were in use. Needless to say, l went

the ‘Peter De Banke Terrace’ a name that has been brought over

up to take a few photos, and a good view it was too. Behind

from Nene Park. The game was a good end to end encounter

one goal is a good sized covered terrace partly built into the

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HAST INGS UNITE D FC slope, and next to this is what seems to be the most popular bar resembling a cricket pavilion with a viewing balcony to consume your wares. At the far end, almost at odds with the rest of the ground is a smaller more recently added standing enclosure, behind which the players and officials had parked their cars on a grassed area. Around the pitch are the remains of an old speedway track used way back in 1948 and 1949, and around the playing area itself was something I’d not seen before, an electric fence, obviously turned off for matchdays - I was told by the groundsman it was to keep the foxes off the pitch at night. The best part of the ground was the lovely old stand along the remaining side, it was built in 1923 and holds 800 people. There are a few maroon seats but over half of the seats are wooden benches, in the centre of the stand there is an area partitioned off for directors and officials with cushions placed on each seat, at the back of this area is a maroon PA box with a smart Hastings badge on the front. Under the stand are the changing rooms and at one end is the Board Room and a cosy little Hospitality Suite. The game was a real seesaw encounter that finally finished in an entertaining 2-2 draw. If you haven’t already been to this ground l would strongly advise it, it’s a lovely old ground, the locals were telling me it may not be around too much longer as the club are looking to move out. Article & photos: Alan Burge

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The 35th season of North West Counties League football ended on Tuesday 16th May 2017 with City of Liverpool lifting the Macron League Challenge Cup at Fleetwood Town’s Highbury Stadium. The 2016/17 season, the first to be sponsored by Hallmark Security Limited, had kicked off 292 days earlier on 29th July 2016 when the previous season’s champions Colne hosted cup holders Atherton Collieries in the annual pre-season champions v cup winners clash. In between those two games there was plenty of action, numerous twists and turns and many talking points to keep everyone entertained throughout the season. The 942 league games played across the two divisions yielded 3547 goals, 1735 in the Premier (Craig Cairns of Runcorn Town top scorer with 52) and 1,812 in the First (Carl Grimshaw top marksman with 43 for Charnock Richard). Constitutional changes from the previous year saw the league operating with a full complement of clubs – 44 with 22 in each division – for the first time for a number of years. Barnton, Hanley Town and Irlam were promoted form the First Division to the Premier while AFC Blackpool, Alsager Town and Silsden moved in the opposite direction. New Mills joined the Premier Division having been relegated from the Evo-Stik League First Division North. Six new teams - Carlisle City, Charnock Richard, City of Liverpool, FC Oswestry Town, Prestwich Heys and Sandbach United - were welcomed into the First Division. 2015/16 champions Colne, looking forward to their first season in the Evo-Stik League, started the 2016/17 season by claiming more silverware defeating Atherton Collieries 2-0 in the season opener. Nine months later Colls emulated Colne’s 2015/16 achievement by clinching the Premier Division title with a game to spare in front of an expectant crowd of 545 spectators when they beat Abbey Hey at the Kensite Stadium on Monday 24the April. A jubilant Colls Secretary Emil Anderson said: ‘I’m gobsmacked; I don’t know what to say. I just can’t believe it - the way the lads have played all season, a crowd of over 500 here to watch Atherton Collieries win the league, it’s unbelievable”. Not that they had it all their own way as with just a few weeks to go to the end of the season they were being chased by four other teams each harbouring their own ambitions of finishing top of the table. However, as the weeks went by their challengers one by one fell by the wayside as Colls kept out grinding out the results winning 21 out of their last 24 games to clinch the crown. Second placed Bootle, the division’s top scorers with 134 goals, ended the season eight points adrift of Colls level on points with Runcorn Linnets but with a much better goal difference. Runcorn Town and 1874 Northwich made up the top five. At the other end of the table Cammell Laird 1907, Nelson and New Mills filled the relegation spots, all three finishing some distance from safety, and taking the drop into the First Division. For New Mills, it was a second relegation in consecutive seasons having dropped down from the EvoStik League the previous summer.

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HALLM ARK SE CURITY L EAGUE REVIEW 20 16/17

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The race for the First Division title was as equally enthralling as in the Premier Division with six teams in with a shout going into the final month of the season. Sitting in the lower half of the table in October when Joey Dunn took over as manager, emerging from the pack attaining top spot for the first time on the penultimate weekend of the season, Widnes, winning their last 14 league games of the season, topped the division clinching the title with a game to spare when they won 5-1 at AFC Blackpool the day after Colls triumph. Widnes Chairman Ian Ross, who the previous season had led Barnton to promotion said “‘In November I had a bet with my wife that we would win the league. In the first few weeks of Joey’s tenure, with the way we played I felt that we would be up there. Joey said himself when he came that if we didn’t get into the play offs he would walk away, so we were both confident”. Newcomers to the league Charnock Richard capped a memorable debut season by finishing second four points behind Widnes and will join them in the Premier Division for season 2017/18. While at the bottom of the table Ashton Town were relegated to the Cheshire League being replaced by Abbey Hulton United from the Staffs County Senior League. The four teams – Litherland REMYCA, City of Liverpool, Whitchurch Alport and Sandbach United – which finished 3rd to 6th, then took part in the promotion playoff series to determine the third team to move up a division. Near neighbours Litherland REMYCA and City of Liverpool battled through to the final, which was played in front of a crowd of 1,033 at Litherland Sports Village on Saturday 13th May. Three second half goals settled the game 3-0 in favour of City earning them promotion in their first season of existence. May was a very happy month for the purple clad City of Liverpool club and their fans, as they completed a hat-trick of cup final victories. In addition to winning the play off final they also won the finals of the Reusch First Division Cup and the Macron League Challenge Cup. First to be lifted was the First Division Cup which they won beating Sandbach United 1-0 in front of an all ticket crowd of 1,263 at Runcorn Linnets’ Millbank Stadium on Bank Holiday Monday 1st May, while 16 days later they beat Premier Division Barnoldswick Town 3-2 on penalties (90 minute and after extra time score 1-1) to win the League Challenge Cup. City of Liverpool were the best supported team across the league with a home average crowd of 471 also recording the highest league crowd of the season when 723 spectators watched their home game against Charnock Richard. The Premier Division’s best supported team was Runcorn Linnets (average attendance 332) but the highest attendance in the Premier Division was the 674 who attended the West Didsbury & Chorlton v Maine Road derby. The Hallmark Security League enjoyed success in county cup competitions with several teams reaching the semi-final stages before being knocked out by teams from higher leagues and with two clubs being successful in winning their county cup.

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Having knocked out National League North side Chorley in the semi-finals, Ashton Athletic beat Evo-Stik League First Division North Radcliffe Borough 2-1 in the final to win the Lancashire Challenge Trophy for the first time in their history. 1874 Northwich retained the Mid Cheshire District Senior Cup beating Evo-Stik League First Division South Northwich Victoria 1-0 in the final having beaten Vics fellow Evo-Stik League First Division South rivals, and landlords, Witton Albion in the semi-final. In the national competitions Ashton Athletic and Atherton Collieries were the HSL’s last two survivors. Athletic reaching the second qualifying round of the FA Cup where they lost 5-0 to National League North FC Halifax Town and Colls playing in the fifth round of the FA Vase, going down 3-2 at eventual finalists Cleethorpes Town of the Northern Counties East League. At the League’s Annual General Meeting in June it was confirmed that Atherton Collieries had been accepted for promotion to the Evo-Stik League First Division North. Also leaving the league are Ashton Town who finished bottom of the First Division table and are relocating to the Cheshire League and will be replaced by Abbey Hulton United, champions of the Staffs County Senior League. Also joining the Hallmark Security League for 2017/18 are Burscough, who return to the league for the first time since 1998 following their relegation from the Evo-Stik League First Division North and also Northwich Victoria, whose arrival in the league was not as straight forward. They were relegated form the Evo-Stik League First Division South, however he entity of the club has been changed to a new company, and as a result a vote was required to be put to member clubs to pass a resolution for them to take up membership of the league. This was passed by clubs, and as a result Northwich Victoria will play in the Premier Division. And so, with many twists and turns, ups and downs experienced, expectations met, exceeded or not achieved the 2016/17 season is all done and dusted and consigned to the history books, and now season 2017/18 starts with every club level and all expecting that this will be their year , over the next nine months it will be enthralling to see whose hopes and ambitions are realised and for whom it is a case of next year is our year as there is sure to be plenty of action and incidents to keep all involved in the Hallmark Security League, whether player, official or spectator, entertained. Article by: Garry Clarke

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S E N D I W C F

‘I’m gobsmacked; I don’t know what to say. I just can’t believe it - the way the lads have played all season, a crowd of over 500 here to watch Atherton Collieries win the league, it’s unbelievable”. COLLS SECRETARY EMIL ANDERSON

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The week before the season started I was lucky enough to travel down to London for a two-day training course with the team at BT Sport. The two days were very useful to learn new techniques in both the filming and editing parts of journalism. The first day was to meet the team that we would be working with for the season and to get used to the equipment that we will be using for the season to film the content for BT Sport to air to the national audience on a Sunday night. It was a little bit different to the camera equipment that I have used before at both my work placement at FC Halifax Town and from my university in Huddersfield. Although it was still mostly the same as to how the camera worked it was just a few things that were different and I had to get used to but it did not take too long for me to figure it out. On the first day, we were filming the friendly match between Leyton Orient and Arsenal U23’s, which was great as Arsenal had a number of known players named in the squad. We arrived at the ground in the early stages of the afternoon where we were introduced to the team that we would work with at BT Sport including a number of engineers and producers. As we prepared ourselves for the evening of filming we had lunch in the executive lounges at the stadium which gave us chance to ask questions and to just have a general conversation with the producing team of the programme itself. When we filmed the game, me and my journalism course colleague Joe took a half of the game each so that we both got a chance to use the high-quality equipment given to us by BT. We had to set our camera up with the tripod on the gantry built at the stadium. Filming the match was interesting to say the least. The small difficulty of getting the framing and sound levels on the

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camera correct for the standard that was expected of us but we managed it ok. In addition to the framing, we had to get the position of where we were to stand correct so that when we were panning that we did not hit the tripod with our feet which would effectively ruin the footage. When you think about filming the game you think, all that you have to do is film it with the camera but we realised that it was not going to be that straight forward as we had to get the sound microphone settings correct tor the footage would not be useful as the sound is as important as the visual part of the exercise.

DAY TWO: This was the day that was always going to be the most difficult and the day that we could not afford to make mistakes when we were learning how to edit the footage that we got in the first day, what we would need to do within hours of filming the match on the day in the season and how quick we are supposed to have it done. In addition to that we were taught how to export the footage into a specific format that would be compatible with the team at BT for them to compile our work into the final package which would be shown to viewers across the country on the Sunday.

A I D E M H T I W G N I N I TRA

it is amazing to see and realise how much work goes into just a half an hour programme. The team were so helpful to us and made us aware that any problems that we would come across that they would always be on hand to help us no matter how simple or difficult the issue occurred is, which is always good to know that we are not on our own. We were talked through step by step how to upload the footage to then editing it and then exporting it and sending it via a software to the studios in London. The guide given to us was very clear and there could be no issues with it. As part of the training course we were then given a tour around the studios that are used on a daily basis for all programmes produced by BT Sport. It was really interesting to see how it all worked and the roles of which had to be filled on a busy night in the production team when programmes are on especially if it is a live game.

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Most studios are sets and at BT Sport it was so different because they just have a big hall where the programmes were presented and sometimes two programmes at one time. They just have screens which they project different pictures onto for different programmes and when they explained it was then suddenly starting to look very familiar to the programmes that I have seen on BT Sport like the live football programme. We were also shown the special piece of equipment that projects the football pitches onto the floor and the heat maps when the presenters are analysing the matches that are being played. After the two days, we were then ready to film our first match of the season and in my case, this was to be at the MBI Shay Stadium as FC Halifax Town returning to the National League hosted Aldershot Town who just missed out on a play-off final last season. If anyone was to ask me how the game went I honestly could not tell them. This is because when you are filming the match, you are concentrating so much on just doing that one thing that you cannot remember what happened in the first five minutes. It was quite a challenge to film the game and then straight after the final whistle start editing the footage to send to BT Sport. For a first time of doing the experience I would like to think that I didn’t do too bad. However, I always think that I can always do better next time. It is going to be an interesting experience working with BT Sport, it will certainly a most useful experience and will definitely help me for the future. Article & photos: Aidan Jones

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STRUCTURE, STABILITY AND SUCCESS:

F O E S I R N E W O TH T R O O M Y N N SPE The turn of the century represented an insecure era for the town of Spennymoor. Situated just south of Durham, Spennymoor United saw financial troubles delve them into difficulties before they were forced to resign from the Northern Premier League Division One and fold after being unable to fulfill their fixtures in 2005.

A similar situation resonated at local side Evenwood as the town started to prepare for an uncertain future in the world of football. With Spennymoor and their football legacy on the ropes, it could have been easy to throw in the towel. Yet a group of fans failed to give in and a meeting at the Penny Gill pub resulted in the application for a new club...Spennymoor Town. After the relevant paperwork was completed and submitted, Spennymoor Town were accepted into the Northern League Division Two. On the pitch, they made a solid start to their new lease of life, finishing eighth and winning 16 of their 38 games. Yet rifts developed behind the scenes and the entire committee who ran the club resigned from their posts and the majority of players followed them out of the door. Only four stalwarts remained at the club.

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It was at that point the loyal few made a critical decision. With the club seemingly in turmoil again, former player Jason Ainsley was brought into the management team alongside Jamie Pollock as local business owner Alan Murray took over as Chairman. The trio worked hard to resurrect the squad as they put together a team for the start of the season and even tried to change the name back to Spennymoor United, though the proposal was rejected by the Football Association.

Things really began to click on the pitch during the 2008-09

After a slow start to their second campaign, Spennymoor began to find their form. November saw the start of an unbeaten run that lasted five months and took them to the top of the table, eventually winning the league. Yet further problems appeared on the horizon despite their promotion to Northern League Division One. The council evicted the club from their home ground after a century on the premises. Luckily Murray stepped in again to help agree a new 25-year lease.

West Ham striker Paul Kitson became President. The pair made an

Despite securing their future, again, Pollock stepped down from his managerial role and Ainsley took sole control. It was a moment that would reap the benefits over the next decade. Spennymoor established themselves within Northern League Division One, winning 14, drawing 14 and losing 14 to finish a solid 12th.

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campaign. Spennymoor lost just eight games all season to finish fourth as a high number of draws halted their push to win the league. With everything beginning to fall into place, Spennymoor were dealt another blow with Murray’s resignation as Chairman. Yet Town were about to go even more high-profile. Former Aston Villa player Bradley Groves took the reins, whilst eximmediate impact. Based upon a lethal attack, Spennymoor shot to the top of the league and remained there all season. 31 wins and just four defeats helped them to 100 points, becoming only the third side in Northern League Division One history to achieve such a feat. 118 goals in 42 games proved just how dangerous they were going forward, conceding just 33 times in the process. It was at this point that another critical decision was made in the club’s growing history. Spennymoor opted not to apply for promotion, learning from previous mistakes to put their financial stability first. It created a consistent run of form over the next four seasons. Their points tally followed suit as they recorded figures of 103, 97, 109 and 100. Scoring goals continued to be a


key feature of their game as they netted over 100 goals in three of those four seasons. Only when the league grew from 22 to 24 teams for the 2012-13 season did Spennymoor slip up in their consistent domination of the division. After three successive titles, a handful of draws ensured they were pipped to the crown by Darlington despite only losing three of their 46 games. They were duly rejected an application for promotion but did put their name on the map by winning the FA Vase. It was when they won the league for the fourth time in five years the following season that Spennymoor were granted the opportunity to spread their wings. Their request to join the Northern Premier League Division One was granted on this occasion as they prepared to add another chapter to the history books. Yet the step up appeared to cause no problems as The Moors reached the playoffs after finishing fifth. However, their familiar foes Darlington halted their progress in the semi-finals as they were thwarted the opportunity to gain promotion at the first attempt.

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They reached the playoffs again in the 2015-16 season, this time finishing second to Warrington Town after just five defeats and scoring 113 goals with Nathan Fisher netting 34 of those. Burscough were seen off in the semi-finals before they recorded a comfortable 2-0 victory over Northwich Victoria to earn promotion in just their second season. With Spennymoor expected to find life difficult in the Northern Premier League, they were prepared to spring a surprise. 96 goals helped them finish second to Blyth Spartans, reaching the playoffs once again. A 2-0 win helped them defeat Nantwich Town in the semi-finals before a 1-0 victory over Stourbridge saw them reach the highest tier in Spennymoor’s history, as either United or Town. They now find themselves in the National League North, just two promotions away from the Football League. Again, expected to struggle against a number of top quality teams, Spennymoor are ready to prove the doubters wrong and won their first three games to show their comfort taking on the challenge. With Jason Ainsley still in charge after 500 games, could he lead the side to yet another promotion? Article by: Christopher Lincoln

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N O R S A T A BER RO ING T OR

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S OM

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FC

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Pulling on the Green and White jersey of Bromsgrove Rovers in one of the clubs last ever fixtures, 15-year-old Aaron Roberts endured a torrid afternoon at the Victoria Ground, as he was substituted at half-time, before his side eventually lost 6-0. Rovers were in administration at the time, and ceasing to exist just a matter of weeks after his debut, Roberts’s dream of playing for his boyhood club seemed to have been over before it had even properly begun. Fast forward a decade, and Roberts dream has become a reality, as the robust defender continues to play a prominent role in Paul Smith’s Bromsgrove Sporting side. Having won the Midlands League last time out, Roberts is looking forward to plying his trade in ninth-tier this season, and despite heartbreak in the FA Vase last term, he has full confidence that a surge towards Wembley can be repeated in 2017-18. Eventually losing out to Cleethorpes Town in the FA Vase semi-final, Bromsgrove Sporting overcame the odds to reach the final four of the competition in heroic fashion, defeating a host of clubs higher up the pyramid, both home and away. Starting their FA Vase campaign back in early-September, the Rouslers defeated Ellistown and Ibstock United 13-0, before despatching of Tipton Town, Cadbury Athletic, Lichfield City, Nuneaton Griff, Sun Sports, Bristol Manor Farm and Buckland Athletic. Cheered on by crowds of 2,984 and 3,349 respectively in the quarter-final and semifinal, the Victoria Ground mirrored times gone by, when Bromsgrove Rovers famously welcomed Barnsley to Worcestershire for an FA Cup tie. With the Shed in full voice and Smith’s men playing with passion, heart and commitment, Roberts admitted that he was ‘heartbroken’ after defeat to Cleethorpes Town in the FA Vase semi-final. “I was devastated not to reach Wembley in the FA Vase but I look back on the competition now with great pride. We got a fair amount of luck throughout the draws and we can’t really argue about losing to the eventual finalists. The whole town has had a real buzz about it ever since the quarter final against Buckland Athletic and the team can’t thank all the fans enough. Getting crowds in excess of 3,000 was amazing and I really do believe the FA Vase helped us go on and clinch the league title” Coming through the club’s youth system, Roberts has a close relationship with the Rouslers fans, having witnessed first-hand the ups and downs both on and off the field. Desperate to repay the supporters for their continued backing, the full-back went on to say. “I have been at the club since I was a teenager and I was here when Bromsgrove Rovers were going out of business. It was awful to witness but it has brought us all closer together that is for sure. The club is very well run now, the fans are fantastic, the volunteers are second to none and I cannot thank everyone enough for the way they have made it a pleasure to pull on the Red and White shirt every weekend this season.” Having finished in second place in the previous three seasons, the Rouslers had gained the un-wanted reputation of being the Midland League’s bridesmaids. In manager Paul Smith’s first season, the club collected 91 points, losing out to eventual champions Coventry United by nine points. Last season the club won an incredible 21 of their first 26 league games, and Roberts is quick to praise the input of his gaffer: “Paul is a brilliant bloke and a great man away from the game. He is there for the players whether we need advice about football or life, and I can’t speak highly enough of the way he has helped us grow as a group of men, not just footballers. He works so hard for the club, and he has left no stone unturned in his preparation. Before last season he set out his plans and he carried them out to perfection. He lives and breathes Bromsgrove Sporting and you can see it in his eyes that he wants

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“I have been at the club since I was a teenager and I was here when Bromsgrove Rovers were going out of business... THENONLEAGUE.COM - 117


“I don’t really follow the Premiership anymore, my life revolves around Bromsgrove Sporting, both as a player and as a supporter of the club! success so badly. He deserves all the plaudits for winning the league and taking the club to an FA Vase semi-final appearance, proving just how good a manager he is at this level.” The longest-serving player at the club, promotion into the Midlands League Premier Division means more to Roberts than most, and after waiting so long to get out of the 10th tier, the defender now has aspirations of back-to-back promotions this season. Admitting that he has dreamt of lifting silverware at the club since he was a teen, Roberts finished by boldly predicting that Bromsgrove Sporting will continue to rise through the pyramid over the next decade, as he said.

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“I don’t really follow the Premiership anymore, my life revolves around Bromsgrove Sporting, both as a player and as a supporter of the club! This club is my life, and success here means everything to me. I have cried when we have lost games, and I have cried when we’ve won games, and to win promotion with my boyhood club is a feeling that I cannot put into words. I still remember my debut and after overcoming so much, I can’t wait to push on now in this division.” Photos: Aaron Roberts


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