NONLEAGUEMAGAZINE ISSUE 19 - R.R.P. Â£3.95
FINNIGAN SOUTH SHIELDS FC
K JOIN TODAY SEE BAC COVER FOR DETAILS PAGE 1 - 16 THENONLEAGUE.COM
EDITORIAL AND DESIGN Contributing Editor Phil Brennan
Alan Burge Daniel Barker James Burch Will Burch
Photography Front Cover â€“ Peter Talbot Alan Burge Andy Walker Avro FC Conor McNamara David Tinkler @fja_photography Giuseppe Zuppardo Kem Izzet Kings Lynn Town FC
767 black / shocking orange / shocking orange
Mark Lee Peter Talbot Will Burch Frank Sinclair Marathonbet Paddy Miller Sean Kelly Declan Gregson Kevin McEllin
Illustration Paul Mitchell Rob Purdon
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NONLEAGUEMAGAZINE Welcome to issue 19 of TheNonLeague, the
McNamara about his role in the show, whilst
football magazine for supporters of non-
we also speak to FA Senior Communications
manager Andy Walker about his love affair
Our magazine is proving to be very popular
with Solihull Moors.
as our audience grows with each publication,
We have a feature written by an Emmyâ„˘
once again the last issue saw our biggest
award winning filmmaker, Michael Fitzer, who
figures since we started the magazine two
is currently working on a project about the
years ago, our thanks go to all that read the
non-league game along with our usual mix of
interviews and articles from the non-league
Inside Issue 19 we have features from various
levels of the game including interviews with
As ever I offer my thanks to everyone that
former Football League stalwarts Jon Macken
helps us to produce our magazine, without
and Frank Sinclair now the management team
their help we would not be able to continue
at Ev0-Stik outfit Radcliffe FC, Grant Holt who
providing TheNonLeague magazine at such a
has recently signed for Kings Lynn Town and
Kem Izzet, former Colchester United captain, now manager at Stanway Rovers FC.
Should you wish to join in the fun and write, or send in photos, we are always happy to
Our Cover star Carl Finnigan talks us through
receive articles and photographs from new
his career from Newcastle United through
contributors, email your details to editor@
to his current club South Shields, whilst
footballer turned boxer Curtis Woodhouse is back in management with Bridlington Town, as well as being back in training for a return to the ring.
Finally, our thanks to each and every person that has downloaded TheNonLeague, whether it be one copy or every issue, we really appreciate your support.
The BBC have made a big commitment to non-league football this season by showing action from all the early rounds of The
Phil Brennan - Editor
FA Cup, we talk to commentator Conor 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: email@example.com
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.
cover story 28
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O T D R A H D E K R O W E “I HAV A WINNING N I G N I BR . . . Y T I L MENTA 6 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
It has been a summer of change at the NeuVen Stadium, with Radcliffe Borough not only changing their name but also many of their current players. Ditching the ‘borough’ and electing to become Radcliffe FC, the side’s players however struggled in the first month of the 2017-18 campaign, finding themselves in and around the relegation zone. Losing their first six league matches and getting beaten in the first qualifying round of the FA Cup, the Greater-Manchester based club decided that enough was enough and on the 13th September, manager Joe Gibbons gave up his managerial seat by ‘mutual consent’. In a footballing hotbed, applications were not sparse for Gibbons position, and with ambitions to one day climb further up the Non-League pyramid, many out of work managers saw the role as a fantastic opportunity. With Radcliffe FC backed by the equally ambitious Paul Hilton, the side who narrowly survived relegation last season opted for a manager who despite having no managerial experience has over 450 appearances under his belt. A cult-hero at Preston North End, Barnsley and Walsall, Manchester United youth graduate Jon Macken has age on his side and at the age
of 40, he is ready to get Radcliffe FC up into the higher echelons of the Non-League game. Finishing 20th, 19th and 18th in the last three seasons, Macken is ready to stop the rot at Radcliffe FC, and with the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Division One looking stronger than ever before this time around, the club won’t have the luxury of relying on other teams to help them survive this term. Making an immediate impact at the NeuVen Stadium, the ex-Republic of Ireland international over-saw his new side defeat Skelmersdale United 4-1 in his first game in charge, and despite a few minor hiccups since, things have begun to look up at the club. Recently appointing ex-Chelsea defender Frank Sinclair as his assistant, Macken hasn’t wasted any time in bringing in familiar faces to the Non-League game, and with an extensive contacts book from his playing days, there may be more big names coming to the club as we reach the festive period. Looking to work alongside Sinclair and the vastly experienced board at Radcliffe FC, Macken has revealed the quick process that saw him firstly approached and then appointed as a Non-League manager, as he said “The club made their decision to let the previous manager go and contact was then made with me which was of course flattering. I was very interested to hear more about 7 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
92’, F O S S A L ES HE ‘C .. .AFTER T OWS WHAT IT TAK ... KN ER MACKEN A TOP FOOTBALL E TO BECOM what the chairman had to offer and after meeting Paul, my mind was made up. “Radcliffe FC are currently showing huge ambition to progress as a Non-League club and they have listened to me and bought into my own dreams and goals. This is a great opportunity for me as an up and coming manager and I am going to give my all to making this a success.” A long-standing servant of the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League, Radcliffe FC have been in their current division for over a decade, as they fly the flag as one of Greater Manchester’s oldest and most historic semiprofessional outfits. With Macken injecting a new lease of life into the club, there is hope however that the three-time South Lancashire shield winners will move into unchartered waters in the not so distant future, with their new manager setting his sights on promotions and silverware. Having the unwanted reputation of survival experts, Macken is now working tirelessly to up morale in the dressing room to create that ‘winning feeling’, as he revealed that recent performances on the training field have shown that his squad are quietly building up a real head of steam. 8 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
Winning just 12 of their 42 league matches last season, acquiring 44 points in the process, Macken wants his team to be looking up rather than over their shoulder this time around, with confidence, desire and hunger now seemingly in abundance at the NeuVen Stadium “The club want to start operating in the same manner that a full-time professional club would and that is one of my main aims, having played professionally for a very long time. When you come in as a new manager, you always come in because the results haven’t been good enough and straight away that needed to change.” The prolific forward added; “I have worked hard to bring in a winning mentality to the club and through winning comes consistency. I want to bring on my squad both as a unit and as individuals and the more we can grow, the more chance we will have of bringing success to Radcliffe FC.” Coming through the youth ranks at Old Trafford just three years after the ‘Class of 92’, Macken knows what it takes to become a top footballer. Used to training five to six times a week during his playing days and
receiving state-of-the-art treatment, the proud Mancunian is under no illusions that this isn’t the case further down the pyramid. Having played for eight professional clubs, plus spells in non-league football with Northwich Vics, Stockport County and Bamber Bridge, Macken hasn’t ruled out calling in a few favours from a number of old friends to bring strength and depth to his squad. Nevertheless, determined to keep the nucleus that has served him well so far, he has simply said that new recruits will be chosen on their talent rather than their name in the game “I want my Radcliffe FC team to push themselves both on and off the field. The big difference between my playing career and theirs is the fact that my managers were working with me on a day-to-day basis, whereas I may only see my team once or twice a week! “Time with my team is short, meaning that every second on the training field and in the dressing room is crucial. Non-League football is a balancing act between work and play, and that is something that I need to learn. Getting this club competing is what I want, and it is in my interest to bring in the best possible players to help me do that. If that means using my contacts book then so be it…” Just months into his first ever managerial tenure, Macken is already looking ahead, and despite being fully committed to Radcliffe FC, he has openly admitted that he sees his long-term future in the Football League. With all aspirational managers aiming to one day make it in the managerial hot seat at a top professional club, Macken sees the NeuVen Stadium as the ideal platform to grow and nurture his undoubted talents in front of the Non-League spotlight. Amassing hundreds of games on his CV, the Englishborn Irish international is now ready to make a name for himself on the other side of the white line, as he finished by setting out his stall for the season ahead and the years to come “Every manager wants to manage in the Football League and I do believe that I can reach the top myself and I will do all I can to get there. Starting in the Non-League game is a great way to earn my stripes and I have already learnt so much in such a short space of time. I want to achieve big things at Radcliffe FC and with determination and a bit of luck, I have no doubt that we can do just that.”
Photos: Jon Macken/ Mike Petch
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“WE AR E SERIO MOVING US ABOU T U P T H E DIVISIO NS... R I A L C N I S K N A
FFE I L C D RA
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After ex-Manchester City star Jon Macken took the managerial vacancy at Radcliffe FC in earlySeptember, there was much speculation as to which former professional would be making up his backroom staff at the NeuVen Stadium. Going solo for a number of weeks, Macken and the club announced that Frank Sinclair would be assisting from the dug-out, to the delight and excitement of players, fans and boardroom members a like at Radcliffe FC. With an abundance of experience on his CV having managed at Colwyn Bay, Brackley Town and Hednesford Town, Sinclair has brought a youthful point of view to the club, as well as over three years’ worth of tales, experiences and techniques while in the hot seat. Working under tricky circumstances at the Welshbased club, caretaker manager at Brackley Town and unfortunately sacked at Hednesford Town in the National League North; the
ex-Jamaica international has already had his fair share of highs and lows. However, with Radcliffe FC a club on the up and with Macken at the helm, the input from Sinclair will prove vital, as the Greater-Manchester based outfit aim to firstly move away from the relegation zone and secondly edge towards the play-off places. With over 650 professional appearances under his belt and a current UEFA A licence candidate, Radcliffe’s new assistant-manager has high hopes for the months ahead, with a number of winnable games coming up for his new side both home and away. Revealing why he decided to get back into the game after nearly 12 months out, Sinclair has spoken about his admiration for Jon Macken and his burning desire to help Radcliffe FC reach professional status in the years to come after buying into the chairman’s long-term plans. “I have been keeping myself busy with my media work since leaving Stoke City under 23’s in January, but I have been keeping my eye out on any potential opportunities along the way and when I saw that there was a role going at Radcliffe FC I was instantly interested. “I’ve known Jon for a long time now and I recommended him to Oldham Athletic when I left my position there which we really appreciated. I know what he wants from his team and after a brief chat to catch up, he asked If I would be interested in coming on board at 11 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
“I HAVE BEEN KEEPING MYSELF BUSY WITH MY MEDIA WORK SINCE LEAVING STOKE CITY UNDER 23’S IN JANUARY... Radcliffe FC. “I spoke to Kevin Campbell who is doing a lot of work behind the scenes at the club, I met up with Jon and the chairman and from what I was hearing, it all sounded really positive. The plan to take the club onto the next stage really excited me and with my experience in the Non-League game combined with Jon’s hunger, I thought it would be the perfect fit for us to work together.” With Macken a rookie to the Non-League managerial game, Sinclair will act as the eyes and ears in the dressing room and away from the field of play. With man-management and trust a big aspect of the semi-pro and amateur levels, it will be crucial that a high level of communication is kept up between Sinclair, Macken and the Radcliffe FC squad. A larger than life character who isn’t afraid to voice his opinion when things aren’t going right, Sinclair is not going to be taking a background role as assistant, as he boldly stated that he has joined the club to do all he can to ensure that Macken goes from strength to strength in his first ever managerial role. “What I will do here is pass on my years of experience and knowledge to Jon. There will be plenty of 12 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
things happening both on and off the field that he won’t have witnessed before and it is up to me to help him in those aspects of the game. “It is always good to have an assistant on board who has seen it and done it before, and even from our first chat, Jon told me that he wasn’t interested in appointing a yes man who would bow down to him 24/7. “He wants somebody who will challenge him and speak up when things aren’t going right, and I think I am the perfect person to do that, as we will be able to bounce ideas around and build the strongest squad possible.” Echoing Macken’s statements, the sky is the limit for Radcliffe FC and despite years of struggles and under-achieving in the eighth tier, smiles are slowly beginning to return to the faces of those involved with the club. Narrowly avoiding relegation last season thanks in no small part to the poor showings of Goole and Burscough, Sinclair is desperate to avoid any repeat performances from 2016-17, and as the club continue to move up the table, any repeats of a 20th placed finish are now diminishing to the relief of the Radcliffe FC faithful. Mirroring the success of FC United of Manchester, AFC Fylde and Curzon Ashton, the Radcliffe FC
board know that it is not inconceivable to quickly evolve from Evo-Stik strugglers to National League promotion hopefuls with a hint of luck and some financial backing, as Sinclair continued by saying. “The long-term plan for this club is to go all the way! The owners are very ambitious and they want us to be a fully professional set-up in the next five to 10 years. They believe in this club and it is hard not to agree with them when you see what is happening behind the scenes at the moment.” The 1996-97 FA Cup winner added; “The situation I find myself in isn’t as serious as that of Colwyn Bay a few years ago, however we still need to pick up points to ease the pressure and to move away from the drop zone. “We are serious about moving up the divisions and we need to make sure that we are in a strong position in the table going into the New Year to turn this dream into a reality.” Winning three trophies during his 15-year career including the League Cup with Chelsea and Leicester City, Sinclair is a natural born winner who does not like losing football matches in any way, shape or form. Playing with and against some of the world’s best footballers over the years, the no nonsense defender knows what it takes to become a trophy winning international footballer, and with everything still to play for, he is now hungry to acquire his first piece of silverware from the dug-out in the not so distant future alongside Macken, as he exclusively told the Non-League Magazine. “We aren’t under pressure at this football club as this is a long-term project and not a quick fix. All I can say though is that the more games we win, the more confidence will grow and as we move up the table, hopefully the crowds will also increase. “Jon and I have a great working relationship and we have combined well so far to get some good results. I have no doubt that we can succeed and despite taking things one game at a time, we are both excited for what the future holds at Radcliffe FC.”
ERM T G N LO “THE OR THIS F L PLAN S TO GO AL I CLUB Y! A W E H T Photos: Frank Sinclair
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In September Pitchero, the UK’s leading digital sports network, launched its new Pitchero Club app ready for the new season. To celebrate the launch of the Pitchero Club app, Pitchero created a one of a kind fixture for a Pitchero invitational XI led by Stuart Pearce and YouTube sensations Hashtag United.
to improve group interaction, creating the
Pitchero’s Club app is the #1 app for all
Alex Kaye, Head of Product, Pitchero, said
grassroots players, with a variety of brand
“We wanted to make it easier than ever for
new features including a match highlights
players and parents to engage with their
video stream from Pitchero Play. The
clubs. The new Pitchero Club app is built
app also contains a completely rebuilt
for every club member from the players to
messaging system that has been designed
the fans. This allows them to easily access
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ultimate communication platform for all clubs. Other features include a new and improved interface, and a fully personalised schedule that will show relevant team fixtures, club events, player availability and match day team selection. The Pitchero Club app will be available for free on the iOS App Store. More information is also here: https://join. pitchero.com/the-all-new-club-app.
NEW ‘ C L AVAIL UB’ APP A B FROM LE match information, communicate with their team mates and keep up to date with the latest news from their club. It’s an exciting time for Pitchero and we’re proud to share the app with our 10,000 clubs and counting. Pitchero’s Club app launch follows the recent launch of Pitchero’s Manager app, which is now also available on the App Store. The free Manager app is compatible across iOS and Android (search ‘Pitchero Manager’) and is designed to making the process of organising and playing community sport more efficient and enjoyable for lower-league club management no matter whether semi-pro or five-a-side. The Manager app also offers coaching staff the unique chance to capture video of their team and upload instantly online to create their own match highlights, entirely free. 15 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
E U G A E L N E O G N # HALLEN C 16 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
PERFORM THE BEST GOAL CELEBRATION
WIN £20,000 AND A MATCH AGAINST LEGENDS Returning for a third consecutive season, and exclusive to non-league football, The Marathonbet #NonLeagueChallenge is the chance to earn your football club a huge cash prize, a plethora of media coverage and a place in the history books – all for coming up with a unique goal celebration. In a nutshell, Marathonbet is searching the length and breadth of the country to find the best goal celebration in non-league football. It’s as simple as that. Marathonbet’s mission with #NonLeagueChallenge is to raise awareness of life outside Europe’s biggest and brightest football leagues. That’s because in England we’re blessed with some of the best lower-tier football the continent has to offer. It’s a concept that engages clubs, players and supporters from the lower echelons of the Beautiful Game… and Marathonbet would love your club to be part of it.
2015/16 #NonLeagueChallenge The winners of Marathonbet’s first #NonLeagueChallenge would scoop a £10,000 cash prize and the chance to play a match against a team of Premier League Legends. After sifting through all the entries Marathonbet staff decided on a final shortlist of celebrations: https://www.nlc.marathonbet.co.uk/shortlist-2015-16 17 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
E U G A E L N E O G N # HALLEN C 18 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
The winners were declared as National League South side Wealdstone FC who won the first ever #NonLeagueChallenge thanks to the Wealdstone Raider’s Paul Gascoigne-inspired celebration.
likes of William Gallas, Chris Waddle, Emile
The club walked away with a huge £10,000 cash prize that funded the purchase of a new player and stadium improvements.
#NonLeagueChallenge 2015/16 match
The Marathonbet #NonLeagueChallenge is
In its opening season, the likes of Teddy Sheringham, Dion Dublin, Nigel Winterburn, Lauren, Ruel Fox, Trevor Sinclair, Kevin Davies and more were all involved in the NLC.
The winners of the 2017/18
Match highlights: https://www.nlc.marathonbet. co.uk/2015-16
2016/17 #NonLeagueChallenge Last year saw a record number of entries for the best goal celebration in non-league football, with Arsenal legends Ray Parlour and Nigel Winterburn given the task of whittling the list down to a shortlist of just 10: https://www.nlc.marathonbet.co.uk/ shortlist-2016-17 The Marathonbet #NonLeagueChallenge of 2016/17 really caught the imagination of the national press and went viral on social media – Marathonbet are very proud to have given non-league football in Britain another gentle nudge into the spotlight. Corby Town were triumphant with Jason Lee’s hilarious pint-swigging antics and for that, Marathonbet awarded the club a very well-earned £10,000 prize.
Heskey and Eidur Gudjohnsen. 2016/17 #NonLeagueChallenge game highlights: https://
2017/18 - #NonLeagueChallenge back for the 2017/18 season – and this time with double the prize money!
#NonLeagueChallenge will claim a huge £20,000 along with a once in a lifetime game against our NLC legends. The #NonLeagueChallenge is all about big celebrations, money-can’t-buy prizes and championing everything that’s great about grassroots football. It’s bigger and better than ever. Don’t miss out!
This Season’s Prize Here’s the part that’ll get your club’s finance department rubbing their hands with glee. The winners of Marathonbet’s 2017/18 #NonLeagueChallenge will scoop a £20,000 cash prize and the chance to play a match against a team of Premier League Legends. Corby Town, last year’s winners, welcomed some 2,000 supporters to their Steel Park stadium in July for a clash against expros with Champions League and Premier League credentials. Aside from lucrative gate receipts, fans
The club also took the gate receipts from a hugely-anticipated and publicised match
were given the chance to have their photos
against a Premier League Legends side
featured in local and national press. It set
organised by Marathonbet, featuring the
the local community alive.
taken with their idols and the club was
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The £20,000 prize could make a huge difference to a club like yours. It might cover your squad’s wages for the season, fund that new striker you’re desperate for or help improve training facilities. And remember, there’s minimal effort to get involved. All you have to do is think of a goal celebration that’ll get chins wagging, film it and upload to our #NonLeagueChallenge website: www.nlc.marathonbet.co.uk
HOW TO ENTER 1 - Perform the best most original
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to www.nlc.marathonbet co.uk
and a member of the
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See the Marathonbet website for terms and conditions: https://docs. wixstatic.com/ugd/1c54fb71865a919 004ae0a13eab3946b88474.pdf Keep a look out on Marathonbet’s @ NonLgeChallenge twitter for all the latest news and confirmation of the NLC legends for the 2017/18 end of season game. 20 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
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forget that moment. Silencing a full stadium barring our small group of fans going crazy in the corner”
As a youngster Carl Finnigan was consistently on the score sheet for Newcastle United’s youth and reserve sides, but with the likes of Alan Shearer and Craig Bellamy above him in the pecking order for a place in the first team, the striker, like many before him, had to move on to find a first team place. Finnigan made his first move away from home to sign for Falkirk in The Scottish Premier League. “There was a frustration seeing so many big names ahead of me and the realisation that I probably wouldn’t break through to the first team, but I used that situation to learn from these top players. I was fortunate to train with the first team daily for a season which allowed me to watch closely how the top pros trained. Also playing with some of them for the reserves helped me improve as a player. I signed for Falkirk at 21 years old then soon after scored my first professional goal away to Glasgow Rangers at Ibrox, 51,000 Rangers fans and 1,000 Falkirk fans crammed in the corner, I’ll never 22 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
Finnigan also played in The Scottish Cup Final whilst with ‘The Bairns’, coming close to writing his name in Scottish football folklore, when his equalising goal against Rangers was ruled out for offside. “The Scottish Cup final was probably the best occasion of my career, we worked extremely hard that year to get to the final. I scored a Penalty in the quarter final to win that game and help us on our way. But the actual experience was amazing. From the week leading up to it, the actual day and even weeks after. A full capacity 52,000 packed into Hampden Park, the place was electric. Having that goal disallowed was devastating, I thought I had gotten us the equaliser. Despite losing one-nil, we had an open top bus back in the town and the turnout was phenomenal” After six years in Scotland, the last two being blighted by injury, the big striker was approached to ply his trade on the other side of the world, and made the decision to move to South Africa, joining Chippa United. “An ex-team mate from Newcastle was playing out there and had told me it was a special place to live and the football was a huge party of life for South Africans, and after horrendous time with injury, I had undergone three knee operations and spent 13 months unable to play during my last year contract at Dundee. I felt I needed something fresh to get my love
DS F C
T A L A O G A G Y N I L E R T O I C N I F ...S E D S I Y E L B WEM O T D D A O T E ON . . T S I L THAT 23 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
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for the game back. So, I jumped at the chance to play professionally in a foreign country and further my life experience in a completely different culture” A spell back home at Gateshead FC in The National League, was followed by another move abroad, this time to Botswana where Finnigan joined Township Rollers, managed by his former boss Mark Harrison. “I had been told Africa is a special place, and it didn’t disappoint. I fell in love with the place. Mark is a fantastic coach and a great man so I jumped at the chance to work with him again. The team I signed for was extremely professional, however the league is still developing and has a long way to go to catch up to other African countries. My team, Township Rollers dominated every aspect of the football. Often winning most Competitions and having the biggest fan base by miles. Again, it was a huge culture change for many reasons but an experience I won’t ever forget” In the summer of 2016 Finnigan returned home again to sign for South Shields, a club clearly on the up, and the striker is currently enjoying the best spell of his career in goal scoring terms, including notching the opening goal at Wembley in last season’s FA Vase Final. “I’ve mentioned several moments in my career that will stay with me for life, and scoring a goal at Wembley is definitely one to add to that list. I had dreams as a kid of one day playing at Wembley
so to eventually achieve that was immense for me personally. Then to make sure I scored a goal and for it to be the first goal and help us on our way to winning the trophy put the cherry on top. I had said weeks leading up, I wanted to take a penalty in open play, just to feel that pressure and see how I would cope with it. “The whole FA Vase journey was a special one, we had a fantastic group of players who worked extremely hard for each other all season. Bearing in mind we were trying to win all four competitions and managed to achieve it together with the Vase trophy being the final one. It’s fair to say the celebrations after that were decent” Having won their League last season, South Shields Football Club made the bold decision to take promotion from The Northern League, when so many others have refused previously, however, Finnigan admits this was a popular decision throughout the club. “Every person at South Shields football club has the ambition 25 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
to take the club as far as we can go. Yes, there’s more sacrifices and a lot harder work, but that’s what football is about. We are fortunate to have a fantastic owner who wants to progress the club as far as we can go, and he’s giving us the tools to make sure that’s a possibility. Add to this the fantastic growing fan base we are accumulating, then it’s a special place to be playing football. The north-east has been crying out for some footballing success, and it’s even better that we have been providing it, even if it’s just from a non-league perspective. I’d like to think we’ve been showing nonleague football in a good light and attracting more and more people to come out and support it, whether it be with South Shields or their own local club” The Mariners, to give them their due, have taken to their new surroundings with apparent ease, they are flying high in the Evo-Stik First Division and have already progressed in The FA Cup and FA Trophy, meaning that Finnigan has an eye on another Wembley trip, he is convinced that the club have made the right decision to push themselves to see how far they can go up the football pyramid. “There’s nothing more I’d love than another trip to Wembley. Although I think the FA Cup is just out of reach (laughing). The FA Trophy is a huge challenge, but we’ve played seven teams in much higher leagues than us from start of season and haven’t lost to one of them (beating a few already to get to this stage). We have a fantastic squad, of which many players have and still could play at a higher level so as long as we keep our focus and work ethic high, then there’s always a chance and one we’ll believe in until otherwise. “With regard to how far can the club go, I guess time will tell. Right now, we believe we can win this league, that’s the current goal. After that it’s about changing our focus to the next league. The management are extremely professional. Lee (Picton) and Graham (Fenton) are very motivated to maximise the club’s potential. They work immensely hard on a daily basis to get the best out of us as players (I think that’s shown by what we’ve achieved so far). So, I have no doubt they are the best people to progress the club as far as possible. The club is growing in the right direction and I’m hoping that continues because there are some fantastic people at the football club, from management, coaching staff, players, fans and everyone working behind the scenes” 26 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
Photos: Peter Talbot
QUESTIONS FOR CARL FINNIGAN
1. Best player played with - Russell Latapy at Falkirk, a Trinidadian, unbelievable play maker, a dream for any striker. 2.
Best player played against - Stephen McManus, Scottish International centre half, had a few battles with him, we both got sent off for a little fight when he was at Celtic live on Sky Sports. We (Falkirk) won that game).
3. Best dressed player at club - Matthew Pattison, always in top designer gear. 4. Worst dressed Alex Nicholson, simply awful gear with nee idea.
Team DJ â€“ dressing room music - Liam Connell, top DJ, always produces the tunes before kickoff.
Worst taste in music - Andrew Stephenson, always listens to love songs. poor lad is lonely I think.
Best goal scored - against Consett away last season, flicked round corner for a one-two, ball came over my head and left foot volley went in under bar from outside box. (even Soccer Am showed it).
Club supported as a boy - Newcastle United, my dad wouldnâ€™t have had it any other way.
Favourite ground played at ALEX NICHOLSON - Celtic Park, I scored there to put us one-nil up, and silenced 60,000 home fans.
10. Worst ever trip to a game - Dover, seven hours on a bus is no good for anyone.
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R O CON AMARA N C M
OR ALL T A T MEN E FOOTB M O C GU - BBCON-LEA ON N
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A ground-breaking moment for football below the Football League, The BBC broke boundaries this summer by announcing that they would be screening a game from every single round of the FA Cup throughout the 2017-18 season, with the first fixture broadcast live via BBC Sport Online on the 5th August. Returning to the BBC in 2015 after a temporary hiatus, the historic television channel had previously screened games from the FA Cup first round proper up until three months ago, with the preliminary rounds ignored year on year to the annoyance of supporters below the fourth tier. With more watching Non-League football than ever before, the decision to showcase ‘grassroots football’ was well received, and as Litherland REMYCA and AFC Liverpool lined up to face each other at the Litherland Sports Park on a summers day in Liverpool, history was made. In a leafy district of Merseyside, a fixture between the two North West Counties rivals would usually draw in a respectable crowd of 100 – 200 supporters, however with
the BBC backing the FA Cup clash, thousands were in ‘attendance’ this time, as the masses tuned into the game around the globe. Standing tall on the make-shift gantry, the BBC cameras, alongside the expert commentary team featuring ex-Manchester United star Danny Webber witnessed an end-to-end game at the Litherland Sports Park, as two second-half goals from the hosts, meant that Paul McNally’s men were in the hat for the next round. As the BBC have continued to showcase the Non-League game with the likes of South Shields, Ashton Athletic and Deeping Rangers making their television debuts in recent months, more are now sitting up and taking notice of the passion and community spirit behind the Non-League game. The voice behind the early rounds of the FA Cup, esteemed broadcaster Conor McNamara has described visiting the gantries at Litherland Sports Park and various other Non-League grounds as a ‘breath of fresh air’, with the Irish-man no stranger to the press boxes at Wembley Stadium, Old Trafford and the Emirates. Regularly commentating on Premier League fixtures for BBC Radio 5 Live and Match of the Day, McNamara has reflected on some of his favourite moments from the 2017-18 FA Cup competition so far, as he pin-pointed one goal in particular that is still fresh in his memory. “We have been lucky that the FA Cup games picked so far have been very entertaining with plenty of goals from both teams. “The Litherland REMYCA 29 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
game in particular was one that sticks in the brain, as it featured a great goal from a kid called Lennon Whewell. You can still watch all of the goals on the BBC sport website and I would highly recommend watching that one!” McNamara added; “In a nice way, there has been a real nostalgic feel to commentating on these Non-League FA Cup games. The managers have been really approachable and I have been able to have phone calls with them in advance of the games to get advice on their formations and tactics. “In the old days, you would have this sort of interaction with certain top-flight managers, but very rarely these days given the massive demands on their time, so stepping back into the grassroots game was nice.” With Non-League clubs making the occasional appearance on our television screens in the early rounds of the FA Cup when the ‘big boys’ came to town, there have been many great under-dog victories over the years. As the likes of Hereford United, Sutton United and Histon FC have shown over the years, shocks can happen in the nation’s oldest cup competition, and with several shocks already taking place this year, the standard of football is seemingly improving year on year. Keenly 30 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
observing the lower leagues over the past two decades, McNamara has seen first-hand just how far the Non-League game has come, and with a host of ex-league sides now playing in the fifth tier and below, the game is only expected to grow over the next five to ten years. With Stockport County, Tranmere Rovers, York City and Leyton Orient now plying their trade in the National League and National League North respectively, the BBC reporter has commented on the changes that he has seen in the lower leagues, as he told the Non-League Magazine. “The whole set-up around NonLeague clubs have come on leaps and bounds in recent years, with the fitness of players and the quality of coaching a real improvement compared to say 10 years ago. “The back-room staff, the preparation of playing surfaces and the crowds have also improved, making NonLeague football more professional now than ever before, meaning that these early round games certainly haven’t looked out of place when transmitted by the main broadcasters.” Located in Manchester for his work, McNamara is based in a heart-bed of Non-League football, with FC United of Manchester, Salford City, Ashton United and
Stalybridge Celtic to name just a few clubs on his doorstep. Usually working on Saturday afternoons, the University of Salford graduate is unable to stand on the many terraces across Manchester’s suburbs most weekends. However, when time allows, he enjoys travelling to watch his local Evo-Stik Northern Premier League outfit… Growing up with Non-League football from a young age, McNamara has enjoyed feeling apart of the community while visiting lower league grounds in the area, as he revealed the club that he enjoys watching the most in the area. “I am fortunate to work most weekends at top flight games, but if I do ever have a Saturday off I enjoy going to watch Altrincham FC play. There is a good social experience at the games, they do a lot of really good work in the community and for underage football and I really like that. “Clubs like Altrincham play a really important role in the community and it is fantastic to see that Non-League football unites so many different people almost every Saturday and Tuesday.” McNamara continued by saying; “Growing up in Ireland, I also used to watch Limerick FC play a lot at the ramshackle Rathbane ground. It was very basic compared to Non-League standards in the UK, but it always had the same vibe “Sam Allardyce started his managerial career at Limerick FC, I wonder what ever happened to him?” With the qualifying rounds of the FA Cup set to
finish imminently and the FA Cup first round proper just a number of weeks away, the majority of the mainstream press will soon be preparing to get behind the competition in early-January as the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea come to town. As many Non-League clubs battle it out in the summer months to get through the rounds, the champions elect will not have the problems of playing qualification games on bumpy surfaces in front of a handful of supporters. This however is the magic of the FA Cup and with no side currently in the competition below the Evo-Stik division, McNamara has explained why there is a hint of sadness behind waving goodbye to the early rounds of the cup for another season. Desperate to return for the 2018-19 season, McNamara has stated that BBC’s live-screenings this year have been a fantastic opportunity for Non-League clubs to show what they are all about, as he said. “The world of broadcasting sports rights is a complicated business and certainly above my pay-grade! Technology is making it easier and more affordable now than ever before for broadcasters to transmit games, and that can only be a good thing. “The rights 31 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
to games are very expensive, but the methods of transmission are more varied than ever before too thanks to internet streams. This can only be a positive for NonLeague football, as we have seen this season already. “As a commentator, it is important to stay neutral but undoubtedly we all want the underdog to do well. The further any Non-League side goes in a competition, the more any commentator would be queuing up to want to do that team’s games. “That’s the nature of the beast, as we chase the fairy tales and the dramatic stories, because that is what draws the audiences in.” As Non-League football continues to churn out players who go onto play in the Football League and the Premiership, there is hope that this will continue over the next 12 months, as the television money slowly trickles down the divisions. Jamie Vardy, Charlie Austin, Andre Gray, Chris Smalling and Michel Antonio are just five top flight stars who have a lot to thank the Non-League game for, and although it isn’t as well documented, there are also plenty of commentators, pundits and broadcasters who also started at the bottom and built their way up the ladder. Recommending budding journalists and footballers to gain their stripes in the Non-League game, McNamara stated that ‘practice makes perfect’, with NonLeague football ideal to hone in both playing and commentating skills. “NonLeague football will always be a supply line of talent to higher leagues, and the many impressive youth systems now in place at semi-professional and amateur clubs will only increase that further in the future. “I think there will always be a sadness for Non-League fans to see their best young players snatched away by league clubs, but you would have to have 32 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
a very cold heart to resent players chasing a dream to play at the highest level! “In terms of broadcasting, I always recommend young journalists to practice and experience their role in the Non-League game. You can generally find some space in a corner of the ground to report with getting funny looks! Commentary is all about practicing and you can’t learn that in a classroom, you have to go out and do it for yourself, which is why Non-League football is so perfect.” Commentating on the 1997 FA Cup Final for Irish national radio station Today FM, McNamara started his journey at a young age, with his debut commentary taking place while he was still at University. Joining the BBC in 2002, McNamara is into his 15th year working at the top of his game, and having seen it all from the FA Cup extra preliminary rounds to the Champions League final, one of the most distinguishable voices in football finished by explaining why he wouldn’t change his job for the
world. “There is no established route into commentary and a huge amount of it is being in the right place at the right time. However, the element of luck simply gets your foot in the door and from then on you need to deliver the good or you won’t last in the industry for very long. “I have seen a lot of people who were sure they wanted to be commentators, until they actually got the chance to do it and they ran a mile! “It’s not the same as watching a game with your mates. It’s not the same as cheering on your old team. Just because you “love” football doesn’t mean you are going to “love” commentating. There is a discipline involved in this job, you have to do a lot of homework, a lot of travel and you need to keep a straight head…it’s a lot more like being a referee than a fan. “That said, it can be fantastic fun and I wouldn’t swap it for anything else!” Photos: Conor McNamara/BBC
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Not many sportsmen can say they have out-muscled David Beckham in the heart of midfield, played for their country at Under 21 level, managed in the dug-out and then also gone toe-to-toe with some of Britain’s best professional boxers. Bridlington Town boss Curtis Woodhouse can though, and despite only being 37-years of age, there seems to be no stopping him yet, as he continues to put the hours in the ring, as he plans to add to his impressive 23-7 record. Fighting in England, Northern Ireland and Scotland; Woodhouse has had a number of title fights over the years, with the victory over Darren Hamilton to obtain the British light-welterweight belt arguably the highlight of his career. A baller turned brawler, Woodhouse’s determination, 34 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
grit and British bulldog spirit has helped him reach the top since he made his professional football debut in 1997 and his first bout against Dean Marcantonio nine years later. Coming through the youth ranks at York City, Woodhouse has played in all of England’s top five divisions, with three Premier League appearances for Birmingham City in 200203 and spells at Rushden & Diamonds and Mansfield Town in the Conference between 2006 and 2009. A cult-hero at Sheffield United and Birmingham City, the Yorkshire-born midfielder didn’t have the most conventional start to life as an aspiring footballer either; looking up to Mike Tyson and Nigel Benn as his idols rather than Diego Maradona and Pele. Always destined to become a boxer, Woodhouse has lived the dream by combining his two loves over the past two decades, and despite hanging up his boots in 2011, there is still hope that the manager may make a return to the football field this season. Currently in the managerial hot seat at Northern Counties East League outfit Bridlington Town, Woodhouse has recently celebrated his one-year anniversary in charge at Queensgate, having been appointed to the role in lateSeptember 2016. With experience managing at Sheffield FC, Goole and most recently Hull United, the midfielder is no stranger to being a manager in the lower echelons of the Non-League game. However, he is now hoping that his next job after Bridlington Town will be a professional one.
S I T R CU DHOUSE O O W OWN T N GTO
DL I R B â€“
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ST E G G I B E H T E M H O T R T F U R B FA N E O I V S A I H V â€œWE IN THIS DI ARANTEED T BUDGE RE ALWAYS GU E... LADS A ONEY ON TIM THEIR M 36 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
Guiding the Seasiders to a respectable third placed finish last season in the ninth tier, Bridlington Town were unfortunate to be in the same league as run-away champions and FA Vase finalists Cleethorpes Town. With a bigger budget and a sizeable following, Cleethorpes Town were always favourites to win the league and it is testament to Woodhouse and his side that they chased the Owls all the way, eventually finishing 20 points behind them. As Pickering Town set the early pace in the division this time around, Woodhouse is again under no illusions that lifting the title in late-April will be tough. However, with the backing of his chairman Sir Peter Smurthwaite, confidence is high at Queensgate. Picking up 17 points from their first 10 games, Woodhouse believes that the club are currently building up a head of steam as they prepare for the hectic festive period, as he stated that despite plenty of bad luck injury wise, things are looking up for Bridlington Town. “The summer was not the easiest one for us, and that showed in August as we had a slow start to the league. We lost four of our best players to long-term injuries and that has really hindered us. “We have regrouped though and with anything in life, there is no point sitting back and feeling sorry for ourselves. We still have a great squad here and with plenty of football still to be played, we are in touching distance of the top three which can only be a positive sign as we haven’t been at our best.” Still three years shy of his 40th birthday, Woodhouse has already experienced more than most seasoned managers. Thrown in at the deep end and having had to deal with a number of obstacles in the dug-out at his previous clubs, Bridlington Town are currently getting the best out of their boss. With Hull United thwarted by financial problems and stadium issues and Goole undergoing boardroom changes, Woodhouse is simply happy to now be at a club who can guarantee him safety and security, as he continued by telling the Non-League Magazine that he no longer takes anything for granted in the semi-professional game. “Stability is key for any manager and in my previous roles I have not always had that. At Goole, the chairman left and my position was up in the air and at Hull United we had to play 22 away games in a row as we had no home ground! “Conditions like that aren’t ideal to build a successful squad, but to have those two experiences behind me has really helped me mature and learn as a young manager and it has put me in good stead for Bridlington Town and my future challenges.” As many club’s struggle to live up to their promises in the Northern Counties East League, Bridlington Town continue to pride themselves on paying players on time and working within their means to produce the best possible results. 37 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
With Sir Peter Smurthwaite regarded as one of the best chairmen in the Non-League game, Woodhouse continued by waxing lyrical about the set-up behind the scenes at Queensgate, as he thanked the clubs board for giving him the tools to put together a promotion push. “We have far from the biggest budget in this division but the lads are always guaranteed their money on time and that gives them job satisfaction and the confidence to push on and give 110% for the club. “Having a fantastic chairman on board also gives me a platform to attract a good calibre of players and although some may go off to chase the so called ‘bigger money’, more times than not they want to return when they see that the grass isn’t greener on the other side!” With Woodhouse desperate to make it at the top, Bridlington Town were presented with the ideal opportunity to showcase their talents in earlyAugust as they drew Evo-Stik Northern League favourites South Shields in the FA Cup. Away from home and in front of a bumper crowd, the game was also chosen as BBC’s FA Cup game of the round, to up the stakes even further for Woodhouse and his youthful side. Despite losing the game 3-1, it was Bridlington Town who played the better football and although they eventually crashed out of the cup, Woodhouse revealed that the club’s impressive performance that day showed that the future is looking rosy at Queensgate. Coming up against a side who have aspirations to make it into the National League in the not so distant future, the ex-Grimsby Town man added. “The South Shields game was an excellent day for the club. The lads did really well on a big stage and in front of that crowd and the television cameras they definitely did not disgrace themselves. “It gave us a taste of what we can achieve with hard work and a few of the squad showed that they are capable of playing at a higher level in the future. I am ambitious and I want to work as high up the ladder as possible and games like that in the FA Cup only made me more determined to achieve my goals as a manager!” With four jobs in five years, Woodhouse is ready to settle down and consolidate at Bridlington Town, with his primary goal to help the club out of the Northern Counties East League for the first time in just over a decade. Packing plenty of punches both in the boxing ring and on the side lines, Woodhouse is a man on a mission now and after amassing more than 350 professional appearances as a player and 160 rounds in the ring, he now wants to make a name for himself as a manager, as he said. “I have had four jobs in the Non-League game now and I am now sure in myself that I won’t take another job at this level or the Evo-Stik leagues again! “The Northern Counties East League have given me a great platform to learn and gain my apprenticeship as a manager but I am an ambitious person and I want to go all the way in this role. “I’ve learnt a lot over the past five years and when that big job comes along, I will know whether it is right or not. At the moment my aim is to bring success to Bridlington Town and I won’t stop until we have achieved that!” 38 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
...PAC BOTH KING PLEN THE S IN THE BOX TY OF PUN MAN IDE LINES, ING RING ACHES ON A M WOOD ND ON H ISSIO N... OUSE IS A 39 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
During a recent break to visit family and friends in Sicily I decided to take in a game at the splendid Essento Stadium in Agrigento on the stunning south-west coast of the island. 40 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
The Essento Stadium is set in a beautiful location in the region known as ‘the valley of the temples’, sitting below the imposing City skyline, with the valley of ancient Greek Temples and the glorious Mediterranean Sea just behind it. The local football club, Società Sportiva Akragas
Città dei Templi, better known as S.S. Akragas, had endured a torrid opening to the new campaign, with four successive defeats before a hard-earned draw at table topping Monopoli prior to the visit of the days visitors Paganese Calcio 1926 (Paganese FC). The visitors were just three points
THE V A L DISCO LEY OF NTEN T better off prior to kick off having won and drawn their previous two games. The original football club, Associazione Calcio Agrigento, played for many years in the Italian league, mainly in the lower reaches of Serie C and Serie D, before closing down due to
financial difficulties in the early 1950â€™s. Nowadays S.S. Akragas, are currently playing at their highest level since the club was reformed in 1952, their 10,000-capacity stadium now witnessing football at the heady heights of Serie C, the third tier of
Italian football. The big news before the game was this would be the home clubâ€™s last home game until they install the floodlights that are now a standard requirement for the game at this level in Italy. Having won their division two seasons ago, Akragas 41 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
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have come to the end of the probation period allowed and having lost their appeal, will play their home games for the foreseeable future at the ‘Nicola de Simone’ stadium, the home of league rivals Siracusa Calcio Sri (Syracuse FC), two and half hours across the island. Whether it was the knowledge that this would be their last game on home soil for some time to come, or the confidence gained from their battling draw in Bari, Raffaele Di Napoli’s team set about their opponents from the first whistle, and in some style. It came as no surprise that all the early chances came the way of ‘The Biancoazzuri’, visiting Senegalese keeper Lys Gomis making several saves to keep his team in the match. Despite his heroics, he was powerless to prevent the home side taking a first half lead just before the break as star player Lorenzo Longo smashed home a penalty kick, awarded after visiting defender Luca Piana had earned his second yellow card of the game for bringing down winger Francesco Salvemini in the box. The goal was just reward for the home team’s dominance and came as the club’s supporters constant chant of AGRI……GENTO……AGRI……GENTO had reached fever pitch – a perfect example of a football team and its supporters working in unison!!! Against the odds and with their small travelling army of ‘ultra’s’ urging them on, the ten men of Paganese made a fist of it in the second half, frustrating the Akragas players, supporters and management team with their dogged display. A first win of the season for the home side wasn’t assured until late in the game, substitute Filippo Franchi bundling home a late second goal to move his side above their visitors in the early table. The outpouring of happiness and relief at the final whistle was understandable from all concerned, defeat in what will be the clubs last home game for some time, would have been hard to take. The three points were welcome there is no doubt, but even an outsider like myself could tell that the win meant so much more. The Agrigento club’s supporters are understandably up in arms about their ‘temporary’ relocation and are currently holding a series of meetings to discuss ways to overcome the present situation, this amidst an undercurrent of tension between fans groups and the hierarchy at the Essento Stadium. Late in September the clubs Honorary President, Marcello Giavarini, wrote an open letter to the club’s supporters confirming the reasons behind his decision to walk away from the club declaring “I remind everyone that I have ‘donated’ 1,500,000 euros to the club in two years of managing, and as a majority shareholder, I have never taken a euro, but I only given money” On the field the team’s revival continued a few days after the win against Paganese as the first win of the campaign was quickly followed by a first 43 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
win on the road, in form striker Longo grabbing another late first half goal against Casertana, to move his side up to fourth place in the table. However, as anyone that follows football with a level of passion will know, the gods of football have a mysterious way of working, no matter what country the game is being played in, and true to form, Akragas played their first ‘home’ game in their new surroundings against their landlords. The ‘real’ home team, Siracusa Calcio Sri, running out comfortable winners by three clear goals to bring the unbeaten run to an end. In reality promotion will probably be a long-term dream for the club from ‘the valleys’ and having narrowly avoided relegation last term, Akragas players and supporters will need to make their new home a fortress as quickly as possible as they play the remainder of the campaign away from their natural home. With the knowledge that the top two teams in the division, Lecce FC, a club that were in Serie A as recently as 2011, and fellow Sicilian club Catania, relegated from Serie A just three seasons ago, Akragas supporters will be looking at their fixtures against the teams in and around them to gain the points to ensure that they are still playing at their current level come the end of the season, when hopefully the plans for a return to the ‘Essento’ are in place and peace can return to the valleys. Photos: Giuseppe Zuppardo
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He may have found romance on hit Channel 4 show ‘The Undateables’ last year, but James Beardwell has only ever had one true love…with Isthmian League North Division side Witham Town his ‘weekend compatriot.’ Travelling the width and breadth of the south to follow his beloved town home and away, Beardwell has seen the good and bad times at the Village Glass Stadium, with his first season presenting a historic promotion to the seventh tier in 2005. Going on The Undateables to not only find a girlfriend but to also spread the
word about Non-League football, the supermarket worker has worked wonders in raising the profile of his hometown club over the last year. Suffering from a learning disability, Beardwell’s enthusiastic character and refreshing outlook on life has also won him a legion of fans over the past 12 months; with it being no coincidence that attendances have slowly started growing at Witham Town since The Undateables was screened in January 2016. Describing himself as the Witham Town Ultra, the TV star needs no prompt to talk about his love for the beautiful game, and at the age of 33, he still has plenty more years to wax lyrical about the club who boast Olly Murs as one of their former players. Finishing 13th in the highly 45 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
competitive Isthmian League North in 2016-17, Witham Town survived relegation by just eight points, despite ending in a respectable mid-table position alongside Brentwood Town and VCD Athletic. Miles away from eventual league champions Brightlingsea Regent FC, the team managed by Adam Flint have again had a slow start to the current campaign, however as with his love life, Beardwell believes that patience will be the key to success this time around. Winning just two of their first eight league fixtures, Flint and co may be worried about the months ahead. Nevertheless though, with one of Non-League’s most committed supporters in tow, the club will never be short of support from the terraces. Speaking about his earliest memories of following the Essex-based club and some of his favourite memories both at the Village Glass Stadium and on the road, the Channel 4 star honestly quoted that win, lose or draw, he is Witham Town until he dies! “I began supporting the club 12 years ago and I haven’t looked back since if I am being honest with you! It was July 2005 when Russell Tanner was still in charge of the club and that was when I fell in love with the Non-League game. “We finished runners up in the Ryman Division Two that season, which meant we gained promotion and we played some fantastic football. It was a great start to supporting the club and it made me desperate to see the club go from strength to strength.” Beardwell added; “Some of my favourite memories from the past decade have been the train journeys from Witham to various away grounds. It is a great adventure seeing new places and meeting new people along the way, especially if the team pick up the three points. “Watching Non-League football is a real value for money day out and whether we get beaten 5-0 or win in the last minute, the enjoyment levels are just as high as I am supporting and staying loyal to my local club.” With the fourth lowest gates in the division, Witham Town rely on Beardwell’s fanatical support to generate atmosphere in the stadium. Averaging gates of just 88, the Village Glass Stadium is still one of the most partisan arenas in the region though, thanks in no small part to their ‘cheerleaders’ chants from the side-lines. Pleased by the recent increase in attendance and desperate to one day see regular packed out terraces at his home ground, the 33-year-old continued by talking about the Non-League game in general and the need to watch local football rather than the Premier League and SKY Sports. “Non-League football is great! There’s passion, you can get close to the players and every game is played like football should be. The players appreciate us supporting them and it is easy to build relationships with them, whereas in the top flight, you can’t even get close to the big stars. “I have a great bond with the players and the manager and they always have a chat with me at the games. They love my support and the songs I sing and although we don’t have the biggest crowds at Witham Town, I make sure that I chant loud enough to make it sound like we have 200 fans at every game!” With an estimated 2.7 million viewers watching the last series of The Undateables, there is no doubt that Beardwell’s episode in which he met Claire was seen by the masses and re-watched by even more. 46 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
With Channel 4 visiting the Village Glass Stadium during filming to capture Beardwell in his ‘natural habitat’, the television cameras were also able to grab a heart-warming shot of Witham Town’s Ultra excitably celebrating a Town goal with his idols on the field. As millions heard about the Non-League minnows from Essex for the first ever time on TV, Beardwell believes that the work he has done to promote the club has really helped the team both on and off the field, as he added. “I believe that I have put Witham Town on the map through The Undateables! Being on the television show has shown people just how great local football is and hopefully some of those that watched will one day visit the Village Glass Stadium for a fixture.” Currently languishing towards the
foot of the table, Flint’s young side have in recent weeks begun to show what they are capable of in the eighth tier of English football. Playing with a no fear approach and attacking with real pace, the signs are positive that Witham Town can begin to climb up the table before the festive period, as Beardwell finished by stating confidently that ‘the best is yet to come…’ “Things are going okay so far, we’ve obviously not won as many games as we would have liked but the season is still young and there are plenty more games to be played. I think we can push on and really challenge from now onwards and if we can believe, anything is possible.” 47 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
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Founded in 2007, as local sides Moor Green and Solihull Borough merged together, Solihull Moors have been on an incredible decade-long journey, that has seen them transform from a brand-new club watched by an average gate of just over 100, to an established fifthtier outfit, watched by over 1,000 supporters every second Saturday. Winning the National League North in 2015-16, the men from Damson Park have grown and consolidated over the past 18 months, as they ended their first campaign in the fifth tier in a respectable 16th position. Currently struggling as they find themselves in a relegation battle, the club managed by experienced ex-Walsall boss Richard Money still has hopes of bettering last season’s finish though, and with plenty of games still to play, many are tipping the Moors to do just that, with no talk of ‘second season syndrome’ just yet.
the regions hottest talent. As former star performers Omar Bogle, Jamey Osborne and Akwasi Asante have moved up to play in the Football League, faces new and old are now standing up and performing, with ex-Birmingham City star Darren Carter and 20-year-old whiz-kid Oladapo Afolayan both grabbing the headlines for far this season. In the form of the aforementioned Carter, the Moors have a man who has been there and done it all before too, with his leadership on the field proving vital in recent matches.
field and behind the scenes in recent weeks. However, with everyone now pushing to get the club away from the drop zone, there is currently an air of optimism around Damson Park. With Moor Green a National League North club and Solihull Borough in the Southern League at the time of Solihull Moors formation, the Moors have no shortage of history behind them either, which has helped attract some of
Growing up just a number of miles away from the Moors ground, Walker may no longer spend as much time in the area, with the majority of his time split between St George’s Park and Wembley Stadium. Nevertheless though, his heart is still firmly at Damson Park and as he continues to visit the club on a regular basis, he has dreams of one day seeing Solihull Moors playing in the Football League alongside
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Making his professional debut as a teenager, the no nonsense midfielder who sent Birmingham City to the top flight in 2002, has won silverware in the past, and having made over 100 Non-League appearances already at the age of just 33, he may hold the key to survival for Money’s men this time around. A man that knows Carter very well, is England’s senior communications manager and born and bred Brummie, Andy Walker; with Walker working at St Andrews between 2010 and 2014 and regularly rubbing shoulders with Carter, as the midfielder made his regular visits to the club when time allowed. Close friends away from the football field, Carter and Walker’s allegiances don’t stop there either, with the latter an ardent Solihull Moors supporter and volunteer, meaning that the FA man sits behind the scenes at Damson Park as part of a merry-band of volunteers currently at the club, when he is not on England duty.
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West Midlands clubs such as Walsall and Coventry City. Having been involved with the club for over a decade, the former social media specialist at Birmingham City has revealed his earliest memories of following Solihull Moors as a budding reporter, as he exclusively told TheNonLeague Magazine. “My association with the club dates back to the 2003/04 season when I was programme editor for the then Solihull Borough. From there, I moved on to be sports editor at the Solihull News & Times which saw me cover both Borough and Moor Green. “As a result, I was very close to the merger of the two clubs in 2007 and have followed their rise ever since. When I left my previous role at Birmingham City to join the FA, I suddenly found my weekends free so I chose to fill that huge football void by reconnecting as a volunteer. Since then, I’ve been fortunate enough to watch the club rise to their highest-ever level – and stay there.” Walker added; “I’m a proud Silhillian and love my hometown. Not only is it a fantastic place to live but it’s always been a vibrant area for grassroots sport participation. I’ve always felt the local football club, in whatever guise, had potential far beyond its status and we’re still some way off realising that.” Located in a footballing hotbed dominated by Birmingham City, Aston Villa, West Bromwich Albion and numerous other Non-League clubs, Brummies’ are not short of choices when it comes to deciding what game to attend every weekend. As ticket prices continue to rise by the year and as SKY and BT Sport’s fixture calendar changes kick-off times to unsociable hours, many Non-League clubs such as the Moors are now finding a new breed of supporters coming through their gates for the first time. With many supporters desperate to get their football fix at 3:00 every Saturday, the Moors family friendly and affordable approach to the beautiful
game is winning them a lot of plaudits, and as Walker continues to watch the club go from strength to strength, he has stated that the Moors new-found National League status, combined with their intimate ground and passionate volunteers has seen them gain plenty of new fans over the last 12 to 18 months. “A whole new generation of Solihull Moors fans are starting to emerge and as a result the club is beginning to establish a real identity in the town and wider borough. They’re no longer Blues or Villa fans with a soft spot for The Moors but bonafide Solihull supporters. “Even little things like regularly seeing ‘Solihull’ on the Sky Sports News ticker has woken non-Moors supporting residents up to the potential of their local football club. “We’re still some way off reaching the Football League but it’s certainly achievable in the medium to long term. For now, The Moors maintains that non-league charm and togetherness that had me gripped back in 2003.” Walking through the gates at the Moors Damson Park base for the first time, it is hard not to fall in love with the stadium. With a nostalgic terrace behind the ‘home end’ and plenty of greenery separating the ground from the neighbouring factories, there is certainly an endearing feeling to the club. Seeing plenty of changes both on and off the field since first getting involved with the club in 2003, Walker is excited by Solihull Moors vision to consolidate and grow in the higher echelons of the Non-League game, with Richard Money an expert in success. With Damson Park evolving to meet National League standards, England football’s social media and comms maestro is happy with the way that things are currently going at the club, despite the team’s lowly league position in the fifth tier, as he spoke of the ‘journey’ that everyone at Solihull Moors has been on since winning the National League North 53 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
two years ago. “Recent changes to the club’s backroom staff to fall in line with a long-term vision to go full-time proves that the club’s hierarchy are taking the task in hand seriously. The single biggest change for me is the attendances – from 100 or so watching on back in the Borough days to seeing 2,000 crammed in for last season’s visit of Tranmere Rovers was a world apart!
“Although there’s been the expected increase in professionalism on and off the field to compete in the Vanarama National League, the actual structure and set up around the club hasn’t changed a great deal, which is something I quite like. Yes, reaching the Football League one day would be nice but we have no right to be at the level we are currently at, so nobody should be getting carried away too soon. It needs to be a steady yet enjoyable journey.” A self-proclaimed Non-League addict, Walker doesn’t only watch the Moors either, and when he isn’t interviewing some of England’s star performers or volunteering at Damson Park, he is ground-hopping around the Midlands visiting some of the region’s best and most loved grounds. Recently visiting Midlands League promotion hopefuls Bromsgrove Sporting to take in an Emirates FA Cup game, the trained journalist believes that the standard of Non-League football is better than ever, and with so many clubs in the area now sat in touching distance of the National League, he has explained why it is currently a fantastic time to be a Non-League fan in the West Midlands. With Birmingham City and Aston Villa both falling foul to poor ownership over 54 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
the past decade, more football fans are also now flocking to their local clubs and this looks like it will only continue to grow going forward, as Walker said. “I’m a ground hopping geek – regularly tracking my progress via the excellent footballgroundmap.com – so any opportunity to tick a new one off is most welcome. “Add to that the fact that I’m a massive fan of the Emirates FA Cup, hence my recent visit to Bromsgrove Sporting. I’d love to one day follow the winner right from the extra preliminary rounds through to the final – yes, the magic is still alive in this one! “As for the West Midlands patch, seeing the likes of Birmingham City, Aston Villa, Wolves and Coventry City slip away from the Premier League only gives greater satisfaction in seeing the local non-league scene prosper. The likes of Chasetown and Stourbridge have done us proud in the FA Cup and then we’ve had AFC Telford and Bromsgrove Sporting rise from the ashes of financial turmoil. I do think the overall standard of non-league football across the country is rising, not just in the West Midlands, and that passion below tier four of the English game should always be celebrated. “I’m very fortunate to have my job and appreciate every moment. Working in football is a dream for many so to be working for the national team creates several ‘pinch me’ moments. In my role, I primarily help to oversee media relations for the England men’s senior team but my remit also extends to our development teams and the wider operation at St. George’s Park. However, The FA’s communications team is close-knit so we support across all areas – from grassroots participation to events at Wembley Stadium.” Switching his attentions to his day job, Walker is currently gearing up to travel
over to Russia this summer to cover World Cup 2018 for the three lions. After a successful qualifying campaign that saw Gareth Southgate’s men finish top of the pile in Group F, there is some optimism that England’s young and hungry crop can silence the doubters, after years of heart since 1966. With Non-League graduates such as Jamie Vardy, Chris Smalling, Charlie Austin and Michail Antonio all in with a shout of getting a spot on the plane this summer, Walker finished by stating that he hopes to see more rising stars follow in the footsteps of Vardy and co in the future, with ‘dedication, hard work and fortune’ the key to success in the eyes of the Southampton Solent University graduate. “I’m too long in the tooth to make bold predictions but the success of our men’s development teams
over the summer shows there’s plenty to be positive about. “That said, nobody at The FA is getting carried away – we’re currently ranked 15 in the world and know we have a long way to go to be number one. We’re on the start of a journey with Gareth Southgate and I look forward to what the future holds with this young, talented group of players. During my time with England, it’s been great to see a number of ex-Non-League stars earn their place in the Three Lions squad and it has been great to hear their inspirational stories from humble non-league beginnings…it’s proof to any young player plying their trade in non-league to never say never!”
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Founded at the Chadderton factory, Oldham based Avro FC have a long tradition of producing some of the regionâ€™s best NonLeague footballers, as the club 56 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
continually challenges for success in the Manchester Football League. Recently building a brand-new stadium which was completed in May 2017, the club now has some of the best facilities in the region, with their state-of-the-art 4G pitch and modern club house helping them stand head and shoulders above establishments much higher up the Non-League pyramid.
Standing alongside the likes of AFC Monton and Royton Town, Avro FC may not have the finances to compete with the likes of near neighbours Ashton United, Stalybridge Celtic and Chadderton. However, what they do have is the ambition to move up the ladder at a sustainable rate, with the new stadium showing signs that Avro FC are a club that is on the up, thanks in no small part to the work of chairman Robert Fuller. With plans to apply for a promotion to the 10th tier in the not so distant future, Fuller alongside the other board members at the newlynamed Vestacare Stadium are also making huge strides to involve the local community in the day-to-day goings on at the club. Desperate to see more local faces through the turnstiles every Saturday, the club are also offering free admission to games to ensure that as many people from Oldham and its surrounding areas can get on board with Avro FC. At the forefront of this plan is the managerial duo of Lee O’Brien and James Hampson, with both young and ambitious, with plenty of Non-League experience at their disposal both on and off the field. With O’Brien familiar to fans of Droylsden and Hampson featuring for the likes of New Mills in recent seasons, the pair have worked wonders in putting together a strong squad, and with the team sitting pretty at the summit of the Manchester Football League, the sky is clearly the limit. Winning their first eight league matches, scoring 30 and conceding just 11 in the process, Avro FC’s joint-manager Hampson has been delighted by his teams start to the campaign, as he stated that there is plenty more work that needs to be done if the club are to win the league come April. “The chairman contacted me in January
and that is when I first started talking about the possibility of becoming the club’s manager for the start of the 2017-18 campaign. “Avro hadn’t had the best of seasons last year and I decided to feature for them on a game by game basis to try and revitalise the team. I mucked in at training and from there I helped manage the team, which has led me in good stead for my current role. “Lee (O’Brien) on the other hand was at Prestwich Heys last season and as they were flying in the North West Counties, he wanted to stay there to concentrate on getting them into the play-offs.” Hampson added; “We have really hit the ground running since we have worked as a managerial duo and 57 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
I think it is safe to say that we have brought the fun factor to the club, which in the past has been missing!” Previously playing their home games at the Lancaster Club, a move to the Vestacare Stadium, combined with a fresh and youthful outlook on the ‘match day’ experience has helped the club push towards an unprecedented promotion. With sponsorship, new kits, a younger fan base and an exuberant squad now in tow, Hampson has revealed why he decided to take up his first managerial role in the first place, as he told TheNonLeague Magazine. “From the second I met the chairman I bought into his ambitions and his visions for the club. He wanted me and Lee on board as early as possible and he has put all of his faith in us to get a team together which is capable of pushing Avro onto the next level. “The hard work and the hours he has put in behind the scenes has not gone un-noticed and that has reflected in the sponsorship opportunities and the new partnerships that we have formed in the community. “To have a mini-bus, Vestacare, HMG Paints and Sudlows all on board has really helped us funds wise and it has allowed for us to go from playing at a building site back in March to one of the best stadiums in the area six months on. “We want to get promoted and go through the leagues and I honestly don’t think anything will stop us from doing that if we continue progressing the way that we are!” With ex-FC United of Manchester defender Paul Armstrong also on board as an assistant-manager, working as the eyes and ears for 58 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
Hampson, when the forward plays, there is a wealth of Non-League experience currently on the Avro FC dug-out. Comparing Avro’s new complex to other new ones in the area such as FC United and Hyde United, Hampson believes that his 11th tier club have what it takes to rub shoulders with the big boys of GreaterManchester, as Avro continue to build for a prosperous future both on and off the field. “Between me, Army (Paul Armstrong), Lee and the chairman, we have been to or played at the majority of stadiums in the North West Counties Paul Armstrong and the Evo-Stik. Comparing our facilities to others, I have to say that we are up there now, especially as our ground is still only 75% complete! “During the summer while we were working on the ground, we asked potential signings to take a look at the facilities and it was a huge draw for them. The ground is a lot, but at the end of the Lee O’Brien day I think players want to come here to win things and by the way we are playing football, we seem to be attracting fans to the terraces which is nice to see.” Hampson continued by saying; “We encourage our fans to spread the word in the pubs, work, social
media…however they can! If we can get one or two new faces through the gates every match day, I know that they will enjoy it and that is all we can ask for.” As the club’s player-manager, Hampson has been surprised by the intensity and commitment that comes with both leading the line on the field and masterminding games off it. Spending hours perfecting the art of tactics, man-management and coaching, the manager believes that he is slowly getting to grips with the juggling act of pulling the strings from both sides of the white line at Avro FC, and with a 100% record so far, he seems to be doing a good job of it. “It has been hard to balance playing and managing, there’s no two ways about it. You have to give a lot of credit to the volunteers who work behind the scenes and as a player, they sometimes get taken for granted. “Lee and I have spoken to a lot of managers who we have played under in the past which has helped and we have tried to mirror them, at the same time putting our own ‘spin’ on things. “It is still early days in terms of being a young manager, but we’re all enjoying each challenge and luckily everything we have tried so far has paid off!” With a population of over 96,000 and just one professional club in the town, Oldham has been crying out for a Non-League side since Oldham Borough dissolved two years ago due to financial problems. Ensuring that the local community is always at the forefront of their plans, Hampson reiterated the point that he wants as many people from the area to get behind Avro FC both on the terraces and on the field, as he said. “Avro have always been a community club, with sides going from under 7’s right up to under 21’s and the seniors. A handful of the first-team have been associated with the club since they were children and we are very proud of that, as we pride ourselves on coaching and playing football the right way. “The club is always open to new and old supporters and with close links to the local rugby club Limehurst Lions and other organisations, we want the Vestacare Stadium to be a social hub for all ages!” With Prestwich Heys and Chadderton currently flying the flag in the North West Counties for former Manchester Football League sides, Avro FC may not be too far away from joining this illustrious group. Determined to win the league and style this season before moving up to challenge in the 10th tier and beyond, Hampson is determined to do all he can to create history at ‘little’ Avro FC as he confidently finished by predicting an exciting year ahead for the club. “The aim is to go up this season and then progress through the North West Counties and the Evo-Stik leagues. The ground is currently of sufficient grading to move up, so with one or two small tweaks, we will be making an application to be considered for promotion next season. “After that, the possibilities are endless!”
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As a footballer, midfielder Kem Izzet epitomised everything that a professional should be, with an immaculate approach to life off the field, and a never-say-die attitude on the pitch, with over 400 appearances in the Football League. Not officially a ‘one-club man’ on paper, the majority of Izzet’s appearances came during a loyal 12-year spell at Colchester United, in which he led the club through the leagues and into the second tier for the first time in their proud 80year history. Beginning his career at Charlton Athletic and hanging up his boots after a century of appearances in the Non-League game with Needham Market, Izzet’s proudest memories did in fact come from his time at the U’s, as he was most famously inducted into the clubs Hall of Fame in 2011. Departing the Colchester Community Stadium and playing in the Isthmian League Division One for three seasons between 2013 and 2016, Izzet was able to continue his fruitful career, at the same time as gaining his first experiences as a young coach. Playing part-time, the 37-year-old was able to study towards his UEFA B license and as well as featuring for the Marketmen on the field,
he was able to take over the role of academy manager at the same time at Bloomfield’s, a job in which he did to great effect. As Needham Market underwent a number of changes behind the scenes, Izzet’s head of youth job was removed from him, and despite leaving the club with a hint of sadness, he was then determined to put his coaching to full use, by getting his first managerial job in the NonLeague game. After scouring the market for managerial roles, the Addicks youth graduate finally found himself at Eastern Counties League outfit Stanway Rovers Football Club alongside another U’s legend in the form of Karl Duguid. With the pair playing more than 800 games combined for the Essex-based club, Izzet and Duguid have bought a plethora of experience to their ninth-tier outfit, since taking the reins in early-May of this year. Finishing a respectable sixth last season, the aim was to go one step better this time around, and despite a slow start, Izzet is still confident that his youthful side can begin to climb towards the higher echelons of the table throughout the months to come. Obtaining five wins from 61 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
their first 15 league matches, the brother of Turkey international Muzzy Izzet has stated that his long-term vision for the club is slowly coming into place, after his side enjoyed a near perfect run of results in October.
“The season is starting to look up now after a slow start. It was always going to be difficult in the beginning as we brought in an almost new squad, with only four players still here from last season. Karl and I agreed that we wanted to take the club in a new direction over the summer and with a young squad, we can hopefully grow and stay together for a number of years.” Izzet added; “I was adamant that I wasn’t going to pay over the odds for older players higher up the pyramid and thankfully that philosophy is paying off, as we are playing well now and picking up the results in the process.” ‘Mr. Colchester United’, Izzet would of course have had no problems in attracting ex-pros to join his revolution at the Hawthorns Stadium. However, attracting young and hungry players from the local area has instead been his mantra from day one. With his side-kick Duguid now in his third spell as a player at Stanway Rovers, while being the club’s permanent manager since December 2016, Izzet is keen to learn from his former team-mate, as he continues to learn the ropes in his first senior managerial position. As the purse strings start to tighten and the budgets continue to diminish as the season enters the festive period, Izzet reiterated the point that his name in the game hasn’t made him change his philosophies, as he said “At this level, it is very difficult to attract players to play for you, and that is why we have decided to put our trust in those who are here for the love of the club, rather than those who maybe want to pick up a good wage packet every week. If we were to bring in ex-pros or even players from higher up the pyramid it would cost us a lot of money and even if we did that, it still wouldn’t guarantee success. I spoke to the board when I came in and they bought into my ambitions, so I can’t thank them enough for the support they have given me so far!” With one of the youngest teams in the division, Stanway Rovers are currently competing with the likes of Histon, Ely City and Wroxham, all of which have bigger support, healthier budgets and more experience playing much higher up the divisions. Stating that his young players have had to learn quickly this season, Izzet is delighted with the way that his squad are now reacting against the ‘bigger sides’ in the division, with the most notable result so far coming on the 10th October, during a 4-1 victory against Saffron Walden Town. With a need to keep things tight at the back and to flourish in the final third, the U’s legend believes the results will continue to come as his side learn and grow week-on-week, as he confidently said “The lads are 62 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
learning something new about themselves every single game and that is helping them mature and grow both as men and as footballers. They are beginning to cut out the mistakes and that has come from experience, which is pleasing to see. When we get chances in front of goal, we have to take them and we have started to do that, so as long as we stay consistent and stick to our goals, I see no reason why we can’t be successful this season.” Playing for Leicester City, Birmingham City and Chelsea, Kem’s brother Muzzy also dabbled in the Non-League game in 2009, as he made one solitary appearance for Leicestershire Senior League side
Thurmaston Town. Making the odd punditry appearance and concentrating on his football academy since retirement, the older of the Izzet brothers; Muzzy may not be looking down the managerial path anytime soon. Kem however was always been keen to test himself in the dug-out and having started planning for life after football, firstly at Colchester United and then at Needham Market, the two-time U’s Young Player of the Year explained why becoming a manager was always the plan after hanging up his boots for the last time 18 months ago “Coaching and management has always been something that has interested me 63 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
and starting my badges while still playing, I was able to experience the game from both sides of the white line which gave me a good perspective on things. At Needham Market I saw the preconceived ideas that some people have about Non-League football and that only further strengthened my desire to become a manager, as I didn’t like people’s opinions on the game below the Football League. “I’d always hear people say, ‘oh it’s only NonLeague…’ or ‘that’s typical Non-League’ and I was desperate to get rid of those statements. I wanted to change people’s views on lower league football and Stanway Rovers have given me the perfect platform to do just that.” Rubbing shoulders with some of the nation’s golden generation of footballers, Izzet is proud of what he achieved personally while on the field, as he firstly played in the same Senrab FC side as John Terry, Jermain Defoe and Ledley King. With the Izzet brothers still household names in the game, Kem is desperate to emulate his playing success from the dug-out, and after a ground-breaking first six months in charge at Stanway Rovers, the signs are there that the tough-tackling midfielder can go all the way in the future.
Photos: Kem Izzet
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Desperate to climb through the divisions as a manager, to one day make it in the top flight, Izzet finished by setting out his ambitious for the next decade, as despite having lofty goals to reach the top, he stated that his one and only priority at the moment, is to bring the glory days back to his Essex-based club “I want to manage as high as I can, whether that takes me a year, five years or a decade…who knows? As a player, I wanted to reach the top and that hasn’t changed now I am a manager. I am striving to learn and progress working alongside Karl in the Non-League game, and I personally don’t think there is a better place to start than with this project at Stanway Rovers.”
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Although the club’s long unbeaten run, stretching over 20 matches, came to an end recently, Hyde United are a club currently on the up after a turbulent few years. One step away from the Football League just three years ago, the Tigers have slipped down the pyramid and until this season had seemingly forgotten how to pick up three points on a Saturday afternoon. Having gone through a number of managers in a search to get that ‘winning feeling’ back to Ewen Fields, it seems as though the current boss is the man now holding the keys to success in Tameside. In the form of Northern Irishman Darren Kelly, Hyde United had a man who had seen and done it all before, with the 38-yearold amassing over 250 career appearances, including 11 under 21 caps for his country. Nevertheless, Ewen Fields got the better of him, as he failed to pick up a single point in charge as the Tigers suffered another relegation, at the same time losing his job after less than a month. After a busy summer of comings and goings both on and off the field, the club’s hierarchy re-appointed Kelly and they haven’t looked back since, with the Tigers currently playing their best attractive, free-flowing football. With four wins and four 66 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
draws coming from their first eight fixtures, Kelly has seemingly won around the Tigers faithful and attracting a host of well-established faces to join the Tigers revolution, things couldn’t be better at Ewen Fields. One of these ‘well-established faces’ who joined last season, is former Farsley Celtic captain Paddy Miller, who since coming through the gates for the first time in January 2017 has been a revelation in the heart of defence. Taking the armband at Hyde United, Miller has quickly become a cult-hero at the club and re-signed over the summer, he has again been one of the first name on Kelly’s teamsheet as the club strive towards promotion. At the age of 27, Miller plays very much in the ilk of his manager, and with ambitions to enjoy a career as prosperous as Kelly’s, he has set his sights on pushing the likes of South Shields and former club Scarborough Athletic aside in the title mix. A member of the ‘M62 club’ at Hyde United, Miller is feeling right at home alongside the large Yorkshire contingent at the club and with the hard work just about to begin as Christmas edges ever nearer, the defensive stalwart has revealed the formula behind his clubs lengthy unbeaten run. “From January, we started our brilliant run of form and this has continued throughout pre-season and into the current campaign. The management team have kept us very fit, the intensity levels in training are the highest I’ve been involved with in Non-League football and that has really helped us.
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“Keeping fit is a huge positive and it gives us an advantage over other teams, especially in the second half. The club have introduced a wearable GPS tracker system called PlayerTEK, which allows us as players and the management team to see how hard we are working individually during training sessions and games!” Miller added; “As a team we are very well organised and difficult to break down, with the manager and the assistant manager being ex-centre backs they also worked tirelessly with us during the summer regarding shape, style of play and different scenarios we may face throughout the season.” With the fourth highest attendances in the division, Hyde United has seen an average of over 300 fans flocking to Ewen Fields so far this season, with the crowds expected to swell further as the unbeaten run continues. Attracting higher average gates than Stalybridge Celtic and Ashton United in the league above, Miller believes that the Tigers are slowly regaining their title as the pride of Tameside, as despite some troubling times for the club, he believes the good times are now returning. Urging the fans to continue their incredible support this month, the club captain has explained why everyone from the volunteers, to the fans and the players are now united as one. “The club have had a few difficult seasons after successive relegations from the conference, but I’d like to think we’ve turned a corner both on and off the field now. The facilities at Hyde are unbelievable and the infrastructure which the club has with the academy and now the ladies team also is a real positive for the future. “There seems a really good buzz around the club at the moment, and to be honest I haven’t known any different since I joined in 68 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
January. The club has a real sense of togetherness with everyone pushing in the same direction. “The supporters we have create a brilliant atmosphere both home and away and it does give us that extra 10% during games, when you can hear them in full voice. You only have to watch the video of our last-minute equaliser against Warrington Town in this seasons FA Cup to see this!” With most defenders reaching their peak in their early 30’s, Miller can rest easily knowing that his best years are still ahead of him. Last season’s supporter’s player of the season winner, the Yorkshireman is clearly excited to see what the future holds for him and Hyde United. Rarely missing a game, Kelly’s ‘go-to guy’ is Mr. Consistent and weighing in with his fair share of goals too, there will clearly be clubs higher up the pyramid keeping a close eye on the tough tackler. However, enjoying his football and learning week on week, Miller has noted that his manager and assistant-managers presence in the dressing room has helped him evolve into a player he never expected to be. “I know I am playing the best football of my career at Hyde, I have a lot of experience with Non-League football having started playing at sixteen and I can see how far I’ve come over the last decade. “I would like to think my form has continued into this campaign and since joining Hyde I feel like I’ve developed massively as a player. Being a player at Hyde is something I am really proud of; the club is well
known and a big name in the area. Prior to my first game against Chester City the manager pulled me to one side and told me that he was making me skipper which is a moment I will never forget and I think that confidence has really spurred me on!” Playing on an artificial surface, Hyde United are experts at picking up maximum points in front of their own supporters. With home form a big factor in promotion, Miller is confident that fortress Ewen Fields will continue to hold strong. With a number of well backed clubs currently in the eighth tier, many of which who have sixth and seventh tier experience, there is no guessing who will win the league this season, with at least 10 clubs in touching distance of the summit in October. Coming up via the Northern League, South Shields are the bookmakers favourites, however Miller believes that there will be plenty of twists and turns 69 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
between now and April, as he stated that Hyde United are well in with a shout this time around. “Promotion is the target for us this season, but we are under no illusions how difficult it will be. This is the strongest division I have ever been involved in and you have only got to look at the likes of South Shields, Scarborough, Ramsbottom, and Droylsden to see who are challengers will be.
“THIS SEASON THERE ARE TWO AUTOMATIC PROMOTION SPOTS UP FOR GRABS AS WELL THE PLAY OFFS, SO I AM SURE COME APRIL TIME THERE WILL BE SOME MASSIVE TWISTS AND TURNS IN THE PROMOTION RACE... Photos: Paddy Miller
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“This season there are two automatic promotion spots up for grabs as well the play offs, so I am sure come April time there will be some massive twists and turns in the promotion race. We’ve just got to keep performing like we are at the moment and I am sure that we won’t be far away ourselves come the end.” Miller added; “Like I said previously, with the infrastructure, fan base and professionalism throughout the club, we really do deserve to be playing at a higher level and we are desperate to be doing just that come next season.” Signing a deal to stay at Ewen Fields until the end of the season, Miller’s future seemingly lies in Tameside. Having never played for a club outside of Yorkshire before January, the defenders leap into the unknown seems to have paid off, and as he continues to push the Tigers towards the automatic promotion spots, it will be interesting to see just how far Kelly and co can go, as they continue to pick up results on a regular basis. “My main concentration is this season and doing the best I possibly can both on and off the field to help the club be successful. Leaving Farsley was tough as we were having a great season, I was captain and I’d played at every age group for them since I was 13. I played with Darren Kelly for a short period at Scarborough when I was 21 and since then we have always stayed in contact. He is the right man for the job and our fans should be confident knowing that we will be doing all we can to make the step back to the seventh-tier next season!”
Making his Non-League debut as a fresh-faced teenager back in 1999, Grant Holt has come a long way since combining his role as a local tyre-fitter with leading the line for Workington AFC nearly two decades ago. At the age of 36, the robust front man has seen and done it all in the game, having played in all four professional
divisions in England, as well as the Scottish Championship with Hibernian back in 2016. Arguably playing his best football at Norwich City, as the Canaries won promotion to the Premier League in 2011, before finishing an impressive 12th position in the top flight for the following season. As Holt led the line and scored 23 goals in 70 appearances for the Canaries in the Premier League over an 18-month period, there were 71 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
plenty calling for the front man to get a call-up to the England squad, however this never materialised, due to the annoyance of many in East Anglia and beyond. Departing Carrow Road four years ago, Holt has struggled to find his scoring boots since. However, after recent unsuccessful spells at Wigan Athletic, Aston Villa and Rochdale, the forward has returned to the area that brought him his greatest moments in football, however his recent move has come as a surprise to many! Signing for Southern League Premier outfit Kings Lynn Town earlier this month, Holt now finds himself just an hour’s drive from Carrow Road, and with his roots still firmly in East Anglia, he is hoping to hit the ground running with the Linnets. Joining the club alongside ex-Norwich City winger Simon Lappin, many are now tipping Ian Culverhouse’s men for the title, and with Holt set to lead the line again, there is no reason why the club can’t now challenge league leaders Kettering Town for top spot. Winning eight of their first 11 league games, the Linnets have been in tantalising form even without Holt and Lappin in the squad. However, with the duo boasting over 950 first-team appearances between them, the experience that Holt and Lappin will bring to the team, may prove invaluable as the campaign reaches its climax in six months’ time. No stranger to life below the Football League, having enjoyed two successful years at Barrow AFC in the Northern 72 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
Premier League, Holt is ready to hit the ground running at the Walks Stadium. After 31 goals in 59 games for Barrow back in the early 00’s, the one-time Norwich City Player of the Year winner has revealed why he turned down offers from higher up the pyramid to sign for Kings Lynn Town, as he said “This move has been a drawn-out process and it hasn’t just come out of the blue! The chairman approached me about seven-eight weeks ago and asked if I would be interested in signing for the club. I said I would give his offer a bit of thought and after going away and discussing the potential move with my family, I looked at all of my options and decided that joining Kings Lynn Town ticked all of the boxes for me.” Born in Carlisle and making a name in the game in the North East and then Yorkshire, Holt is now firmly an adopted East Anglian, thanks in no small part to the love that he received both on and off the field while at Norwich City. Released by Hibernian in the summer, Holt returned to his ‘second home’ on the East coast on a permanent basis, and despite being tempted by moves across the country and overseas over recent months, there was only ever one place that the forward really wanted to stay to prolong his career. Linking up with Culverhouse, who had been Holt’s assistant-manager during his time at Carrow Road, the Scottish Championship winner continued by waxing lyrical about his new club, at the same time
revealing that he will not ONLY be playing at the Walks, with another role lined up for him “Living in the area, the move to Kings Lynn Town was of course an easy one for me and something that everyone close to me was fully behind. As I come to the end of my career, I want to get into coaching and the manager will be giving me the opportunity to do a bit of coaching as well as playing, which will be a great experience for me.” Holt added; “The Non-League game is the perfect place to learn, whether that be as a player or a manager. To be involved with the coaching at the club, alongside a great manager like Ian can only be a positive for me, and it is something I am looking to grab with both hands.” Despite playing week-in-week-out for the past 18 years, Holt is showing no signs that his strength, power or ability is decreasing; and with no indications that the forward is planning on winding down his career in the eighth tier of English football, defenders in the Southern League should be afraid. Renowned for being one of the best target man in the country over the last decade, Holt is planning on passing his years of knowledge and experience over to the younger players in the team, as he aims to be the managers eyes and ears from the other side of the white line. With the aforementioned Ian Culverhouse working in coaching roles at Colchester United, Norwich City and Aston Villa before taking the reins at Kings Lynn Town, Holt is eager to follow in his current bosses’ footsteps in the future, as he continued by saying “I joined the club to coach and play and so far, it has worked to great effect. Everyone knows I still want to play as much as possible, and although I’m back in the Non-League game, my hunger definitely hasn’t 73 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
gone! I’ve got one eye on life after football though, and I’m looking forward to learning more about coaching, as I want to be a top manager in the future. The boss has years of experience in the game and I’m grateful for the opportunities that he has given me.” With Norwich City a feeder club for Kings Lynn Town over the years, Holt was no stranger to the Linnets before he signed; after playing several fiercely contested preseason matches at the Walks in previous campaigns. A keen fan of Non-League football when time allows, Holt has also been spotted on the terraces watching Culverhouse’s men in the past, and having done his homework on what makes the club tick, he is confident that he can become a favourite with the fans this season.
opposition defenders over the upcoming months, Holt has reiterated the fact that he hasn’t joined Kings Lynn Town for the shortterm, as he stated boldly that he will need to be on his top form if he is to succeed in the Southern League Premier Division “I am 36 now and I was presented with chances to go elsewhere before joining Kings Lynn Town. I feel like I have a lot to offer the club though and having watched them closely, I know that the standard of football has always been very good here. I made my debut at Workington AFC many years ago and I know how tough Non-League football is, both physically and mentally. We’ll be presented with numerous challenges over the season and we will need to be at our best if we are to be successful.
Under no illusions that he may get singled out for some ‘special treatment’ from
“This division is full of players who are aspiring to make it into the Football League
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and ex-pros who have dropped down the pyramid like myself, meaning that there is never an easy game in the eighth tier. I know I have to work hard and by Christmas, I’ll be fitter than I have ever been before!” Finishing a disappointing 13th position last season, Kings Lynn Town have struggled to regain the form that saw them win the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League South in historic fashion back in 2013. A host of new faces and the appointment of Culverhouse in the dug-out seems to have instilled a new lease of life into the club, and as they sit in the play-off places in breathing distance of top spot, there is every chance that the Linnets will be playing in the seventh tier come August. With home form crucial and games coming up against sides who will have title aspirations themselves, Holt believes at least eight to 10 clubs could win the league this time around, with Kings Lynn Town currently sat in that illustrious group “The manager hasn’t actually had a chat with me regarding his goals for the season, however I know Ian well and he will definitely want to win the league this time around in his first year in charge. That’s the aim for every manager in pre-season and after a strong start to the campaign, we need to knuckle down and show those that are writing us off that we mean business in the league.” Having scored in the Premier League and dominated some of Europe’s best centre-halves, Holt could be excused for wanting to grab the headlines at the Linnets, with arguably one of the best pedigrees in the eighth tier. However, the forward is focused solely on helping his new employers enjoy a fruitful season on the field, as he told TheNonLeague Magazine that he is excited to see just how far the Linnets exciting project can go over the next 12 months “I’m not one to set myself goals at a new club but I can say that I am here to play football and win matches. We’ve got a good foundation to start on with eight wins from 11, and it is now up to us to build on that and go from strength to strength throughout November, December and January.” Photos: KLTFC
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Played 11, won 11…Runcorn Town had an incredible start to the North West Counties campaign, after a strong third place finish in 2016-17. Flattering to deceive for a number of years under the management of Simon Burton, last year saw manager Chris Herbert take the reins to great effect, as the men in Blue and White pushed eventual league champions all the way. As Burton brought a number of his dependable faces to City of Liverpool with him last summer, the likes of Declan Gregson, Daley Woods and Chris Lester were no longer at the Pavilions to steady the ship. However, from the darkness came light, and as a new crop of fresh faced stars graced the turf of Sandy Lane, the results and victories haven’t stopped over the last 18 months, with Runcorn Town now set to be favourites to win a historic promotion this season. As the club have continued to go from strength to strength under Herbert in the dug-out, the youth policy has continued to work, with more faces coming through the gates during pre-season. One of these new fresh faces, is teenager Aidan Roxburgh, who 76 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
after a burgeoning career in the respective Under 15 Welsh and Cheshire College leagues, has settled in straight away at Runcorn Town. The ‘baby’ of the squad, Roxburgh may not have played the number of minutes that he would have liked since putting pen to paper in June. However, the experience of playing and training in a winning team has helped him develop more than he ever once imagined. As Craig Cairns continues to score for fun in the ninth tier, Roxburgh has had the opportunity to learn from one of the league’s best, and as an attacker himself he has aspirations to follow in Runcorn Town’s prolific forwards footsteps. Making his semi-professional debut for Town in early-August during a 3-2 FA Cup victory at home to AFC Darwen, Roxburgh has been delighted by the start that his new club has had in the North West Counties Premier division. With the club boasting a 100% record going into mid-October, the youngster is also under no illusions that he will have to wait his turn to gain a regular spot in the team, due to the quality of the starting XI. As he told TheNonLeague Magazine that he is not surprised to see the club record 33 points from a possible 33 in the league so far, due to the skill and talent of Cairns and co. “This is exactly the type of start that the manager told us that he would be targeting when we all came together for pre-season in the summer. Our pre-season preparations involved three tough sessions a week and it has really paid off for us so far!
N A D H AI G R U B ROX OWN T N COR
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AY S O T LY E R A E OO WIN TH T Y A W S TO I Y G L T I L N I “ A O E E G S IS A R R A E I W H T ! .. E . U N G O A I IS LE V I D H TOUG “By the first competitive game came around in August, the whole squad was incredibly sharp and fit. I think the number of goals we have scored late on in matches just shows how fit we are and it is testament to our hard work that we are still firing on all cylinders in October. I wouldn’t say that we expected to win our first 11 games as that would be arrogant, however given the effort that we have all put in and the quality we have in the team, it definitely isn’t a shock for us!” Constantly in local rivals Runcorn Linnets shadows until last season, Runcorn Town are enjoying their title as the towns top side at the moment. With Linnets seemingly Town’s biggest threat for the title, many are now tipping the two teams to run away with the race for top spot as the campaign nears the festive period, with both teams already registering a combined 75 goals in the first two months of the season. Despite being young in years, Roxburgh is experienced in the game and determined not to rest on his laurels, he has urged his club’s fans to not get carried away just yet, with many of twists and turns expected between now and late-April. “It is way too early to say we are going to win the league! This is a really 78 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
tough division and every week the results across the board are showing that there are no easy games, whether you are playing second in the league or 23rd. “Our squad is determined to be in contention come the end of the season and if we can maintain our current level of performances, I think it will be very tough for the likes of Runcorn Linnets and Charnock Richard.” With the squad under-going a gut-bursting pre-season full of hill runs, sprints and bleep tests, Roxburgh would be excused for saying that his body was punished throughout the summer months. Nevertheless though, with the end goal to play as high up the pyramid as possible, the attacker has relished the chance to rub shoulders with seasoned Non-League players, as he stated that he is putting 110% in at training to push his way onto the starting line-up next month. “In my first season in senior football, I have had to be patient and it has been vital to take my chances when the opportunities have come my way. Making my debut in the FA Cup was a moment that I will never forget and it has made me hungrier than ever to play week in week out at this level.
“Since my debut, opportunities have been hard to come by, but being involved with the squad every week has been huge for me and I have already learnt so much just from observing the team on a match day. The games are coming thick and fast this month and if the manager gives me a starting jersey, I won’t let him down!” With the club giving the former Cheshire Cup champion the chance to make his way in the Non-League game, Roxburgh has high praise for Herbert and his backroom staff. Nurturing him into a composed and mature young footballer, the teen confidently explained why signing for Runcorn Town under the current manager has been the best thing that could have ever happened to him. “Chris Herbert and his assistant manager Mark McGregor have been absolutely brilliant to me since I came through the doors for the first time. “They gave me the opportunity when many others didn’t, so when they asked me to officially sign for the club, it was an absolute no brainer. I have learnt so much both training and playing and that is thanks in no small part to Chris and Mark. The standards
and expectations at Runcorn Town are so much higher than I have ever experienced before and I know that playing in the ninth tier has already improved me so much.” As the club continue to push for an unpredicted double, Runcorn Town still have their doubters, with many NonLeague aficionados expecting the ‘wheels to fall off’ at any given moment. From the inside looking out though, Roxburgh has revealed that the ‘under-dog’ tag is suiting his team perfectly, as clubs continue to try and fail to end their long winning run. Still inexperienced in the game, the Town’s whizkid finished by stating that promotion in his first season would be a ‘dream come true’, as he ended by saying. “It would be amazing to play a part in a promotion winning squad this season. I also think we have a big enough squad to have a push at the FA Vase and the other cups. We will have to be at our best every game, but I think we can create history in 2018!” Photos: @fja_photography
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F O R E Y P R DIA UNDHOP O R G A
MILDEN HALL TOWN F. C. It was a pleasant late summers evening so l decided to travel to Suffolk to watch Mildenhall Town entertain Dereham Town at ‘Recway’. It was their first home game after stepping up to the Bostik League after many years playing in the Eastern Counties League. On arrival l found the usual entrance was closed and had been moved to the other end of the ground. After clicking through the turnstiles and buying my usual programme and 50/50 ticket, l ventured off to see the ground. 80 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
The first thing l noticed was the excessively sloping pitch but the condition of it was absolutely superb. It really was like a bowling green - one of the best l think I’ve seen in non-league circles. I spoke to the groundsman at half time as he tended the turf and he told me from end to end was a drop of between 5 to 6 feet. Both ends had high conifer hedges behind flat standing with a high net between the two, which no doubt was to prevent having to crawl around in the hedge retrieving the ball on
CHESHA M UNITED F.C. wet days. Along one side in front of a rather dented tin fence was again flat standing, apart from a small ‘bolt together’ stand at one end, with the dug outs on the half way line. On the opposite side was smart-looking covered standing near the corner flag that had been painted in thick black and amber stripes.
likely Dereham scored 2 minutes from time to take all three points.
Further along was the impressive club room accessed along a small raised area. There didn’t appear to be a club shop anywhere, but all the usual club merchandise was displayed behind a window; l guess these can be obtained from behind the bar. Also on the raised area were the refreshments nicely named ‘The Hungry Hall’.
The entrance up a narrow road soon opened out revealing the ground on my left and a picturesque cricket ground on my right set lower than the road providing an almost grandstand view of the match in progress.
Next to the club room were the changing rooms, which had two rows of seats built on the side with the overhanging roof providing cover; it had Mildenhall Town emblazoned on the front. Finally, a nice feature in the programme were two pages of jokes - they were quite comical too! It was a very close game and when a goalless draw looked
I thought for my next venture I’d travel to Buckinghamshire and the picturesque setting of Chesham United’s ground ‘The Meadow’. They were playing Tiverton Town in an Evo-Stik Southern League Premier encounter.
The turnstiles into the ground looked pretty old with part of them made of wood. The chap taking your money was almost in the dark he only had a small square mesh to see out of and the rest was boarded in. Apart from a small gap in the bottom corner for him to clamber in and out, you couldn’t see who you had paid until the game started and an elderly chap emerged to sit on a seat just inside to catch any late comers while he watched the match. 81 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
You enter the ground behind the goal and the first stand you come to is another of those ‘bolt together’ terraces. I’m not a great fan of those at all, however the rest of the ground was full of character. I started by trying to find the club shop. The club room was perched at the top of the terrace along the side so that was a good starting point, l asked one of the locals who told me the chap who normally sold merchandise from a table is on holiday and nobody has a key to where it was kept. He promised if l gave him my address he would send me one but refused to take any money, lo and behold two days later the badge arrived with a note expressing apologies for it not being available at the match and hoped it didn’t spoil my visit too much. Brilliant!
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Further along the top of the terracing was the main stand from where the players emerge down twelve steps onto the pitch, this offered a very good view, apparently it was rebuilt ‘like for like’ when the previous wooden one burnt down in the mid-eighties. From here to the corner was open terracing which included some disused turnstiles, l noticed an old club shop sign chucked in there which was a shame. Behind the goal and with the views of the hilly meadows beyond was more terracing with the covered area about the width of the sixyard box. I was beginning to notice now that everything seemed either patched up or a bit run down, this trend continued as l carried on along the opposite side. Here the terrace was all the way along with a
good part covered with the refreshments and toilets built in. However a small part of the roof was missing and had not been replaced. It was an entertaining game with Tiverton scoring in the last few minutes to secure a 1-1 draw. All in all, I thought it was a lovely friendly little ground and although a little run down in some areas the important parts were perfectly ok, it’s one I’d definitely like to visit again. Next was another evening game and a trip to Eastern Counties league side Saffron Walden to watch them take on Barking from the Bostik League North in an FA Cup replay. A sign above the turnstile at Caton Lane states they are ‘Oldest Club in Essex Formed 1872’. The pitch used to have a big
incline from side to side, which in 1996 saw them relegated two divisions due to a rule change within their League. It was good to see this was greatly improved when in August 2000 work began to reduce it, but it meant the club had to play the whole season away from home. Behind the near goal are the bright red club offices with flat standing in front and covered area behind the goal. The club room is in the corner as are the refreshments, but unfortunately there’s no club shop. Next to this is the lovely old wooden stand on the halfway line with four rows of bench seats all lovingly painted red and black. The views are ok but with ten roof supports and a cage round the players
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tunnel you have to pick your seat carefully. There is flat standing either side. Behind the other goal is also flat standing, apart from the rather high roof of the small covered area that has two rows of seats and a couple of steps behind those. There is a stand either side of the halfway line with three rows of seats which include the dug outs in the middle that strangely are cages… but on second thoughts if they were wooden they’d obscure the view of the stand dwellers, they certainly do look unusual though. The game had plenty of goals with Barking coming out on top 4-3. It’s a nice little ground very well kept and if any groundhopper hasn’t been it’s well worth a visit. Whilst in Norwich l thought I’d drive the extra few miles to Great Yarmouth and have a look around the lovely old grandstand at their Wellesley Road ground. It was opened in 1892 and is reported to be the oldest surviving football stand in Britain. The football ground is within a public park but is closed on match days so only the football supporters can enter. The pitch is
surrounded by a running track, not a great favourite of mine as you always seem at a distance from the match. Opposite the old stand for the length of the pitch is a low cover with garden benches in, unfortunately the interior walls have been covered in graffiti putting it at odds with its lovely old companion opposite. Walking round you come to the club room nestled in the corner of the ground along with the turnstiles. Past the yellow tea hut, you come onto the stand, it even looks ancient in as much as the design of it. Along the front are two bay windows with nine ornate oval windows dotted along either side. On each end there is a door with a similar style oval top window above. The three entrances into the stand were chained off, but as the groundsman was nearby he kindly allowed me into it. The floor is covered by what l can only guess is grey non-slip paint; there are black numbered bench seats on each step. At each end the large windows follow the general design of the stand and wouldn’t
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look out of place in a Church. Just to round it all off are the decorative vents carved into the gable ends and around the clock in the front gable. Although there wasn’t a game on l think with the thirteen roof supports the view wouldn’t be as good as some, however it is a superb stand to experience a game from and l would definitely recommend a visit as my description hardly does it justice. Next visit and off to the seaside again the destination was Herne Bay on the Kent coast for their encounter with VCD Athletic in the Bostik League South. Winch’s Field is tucked away down a small driveway that opens up to a little car park which is very handy. The ground inside seems quite tidy and well kept. My first stop as always was the club shop, it was one of the best, a large shed that was packed with old programmes, books and Herne Bay merchandise that included club history books. I decided to buy one of these alongside my usual badge, the chap in the shop offered to get it signed by the three authors - l went back after the game and all three had duly signed it.
The main stand with four rows of seats was on the far side, the view from the rear two was impeded by eight quite wide concrete roof supports but the two front rows had clear views. Behind both goals was similar covered standing but the far end curiously included two dividing walls that seemed to serve no purpose; the near end had none. The players tunnel was in the middle of an unusual building that included the seats for the officials either side of it and the dug outs at each end partitioned off with glass, at first glance it could be mistaken for the main stand. Between that and the club shop was the decent sized wooden club house that included a lot of photos from over the years adorning the walls giving it the feel of a real old football club house. All the stands had been neatly painted blue and white and around the ground the grass has been nicely cut and everywhere lovingly looked after, it’s a nice friendly ground and certainly worth a visit if you haven’t been before. After playing some good football Herne Bay won an entertaining match 4-0.
HERNE BAY F.C .
Article & Photos: Alan Burge
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N A E S Y L L E K DA ANA
“ON A SUNDAY, THERE’S TIREDNESS TO CONTEND WITH, PLUS THE ADDED CHALLENGE IF YOU’VE BEEN DRINKING THE NIGHT BEFOREHAND! IT CAN BE TOUGH, BUT I WOULDN’T CHANGE PLAYING FOR CANADA FC FOR THE WORLD AS IT IS A GREAT FAMILY CLUB.” 86 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
A regular in the Canada FC side since 2012, Sean Kelly has become a cult-hero at the newly promoted Liverpool Business Houses League Premier Division outfit, as he consistently wears his heart on his sleeve every Sunday morning. Despite five years seemingly sounding a long time to play for one Sunday League club, Kelly has ambitions to stay at the historic Canada FC for a long time to come, as he has even set his sights on one day joining the committee behind the scenes.
Furthermore, with work commitments preventing him from playing on Saturdays and training midweek, he has thanked his current Sunday League club for allowing him to enjoy his football once again, as he said; â€œSunday League is a great challenge as it includes so many factors, especially in Liverpool! The standard is incredible in this region and with so many Non-League players playing on Sundays; our division is arguably as strong as some 10th and 11th tiers in other parts of the country.
Formed in 1965 by John Slocombe and a group of workers from the Canada Dock, Canada FC have a proud history in the amateur game, with their alumni of ex-players including Everton, Blackpool and Wigan stars such as Frankie Corrigan and George Cummins. Winning a host of local silverware over the years, Kelly has seen it all at the club who play their home games at Lower Breck 3G. Instrumental in leading Canada FC to the title last season, he now has hopes to go all the way again in 2017-18, despite a slow start to the current campaign. Playing a season at Runcorn Town in 2014-15 and appearing for City of Liverpool for a brief spell last year, Kelly is now feeling right at home with Canada FC, with no plans to move on anytime soon. 87 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
“On a Sunday, there’s tiredness to contend with, plus the added challenge if you’ve been drinking the night beforehand! It can be tough, but I wouldn’t change playing for Canada FC for the world as it is a great family club.” Kelly added; “It is my fifth full season here now, it is a different league to what the club are used to as we won the league in 2016-17, but stepping into the Premier Division we haven’t disgraced ourselves and I’m sure the best is yet to come from us.” Making 40 appearances for Runcorn Town under Simon Burton two years ago, Kelly has now gained more freedom at Canada FC, as despite playing in the heart of defence at Sandy Lane, he now finds himself as a goal scoring threat as a Sunday League player. Scoring four times as Canada FC won 4-1 in early-April to clinch the Championship title, Kelly alongside Bootle star Declan Gregson and City of Liverpool defender Danny Dalton, have continued to shine a light 88 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
on the three time Liverpool Sunday Cup champions over recent years. Despite losing their first two league fixtures of the season, Kelly has confidently stated that the best is yet to come from his team managed by Wayne Wardle, as he told the Non-League Magazine… “Hopefully we can go all the way this season, we haven’t had the best of starts to our Premier Division campaign, but we started slowly in the Championship last season and built up a head of steam towards the end. “It is all about consistency in this division, and if we can keep our team together and win our home matches, there is no reason why we can’t be challenging the likes of Campfield AFC at the top.” An ever-present at Canada FC, Kelly is quickly becoming part of the clubs folklore and having chalked up over a century of appearances in the famous white and sky blue stripes, he has dreams of playing for many more years to come.
With Home Bargains, Mayfair and Oyster Martyrs setting the early pace in the top division of the Liverpool Business Houses Football League, Kelly and his teammates are not yet disheartened, with morale always high in the dressing room, as the versatile defender continued by saying; “Canada FC has a lot of players here who’ve been at the club for a very long time and that can only hold us in good stead going forward. We all understand the history here and we play for those that helped found the club over 50 years ago. “There is a lot of effort that goes on behind the scenes from the volunteers and committee members and it is crazy to think that there are people connected to Canada FC who have been here for over five decades now! “When you speak to people like that, it inspires you to do all you can for them, and I would love to be in a position one day where I could say that I have been involved with this club for 40, 50 or even 60 years!” A talented footballer in his own right, Kelly’s progress through the Non-League ranks has been halted by his burgeoning career as an Engineer. Calling it a day at City of Liverpool last season as work became too much, the Liverpudlian is unsure whether a return to the North West Counties or above is for him now. However, with his mind-set fully focused on Canada FC for the time being, Kelly is desperate to add to his growing trophy cabinet, as he finished in buoyant fashion by predicting a strong 2018 for his amateur club, both on and off the field. “If my work ever changed I would be tempted to go back into playing Saturday and Sunday but for now I am really enjoying playing for Canada FC and it is bringing out the best in me on the field. “I am enjoying my football here and with a strong squad, I am confident that we can really challenge both in the league and in the cups after adjusting to the Premier Division.” Photos: Sean Kelly
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E K A T S L OW T H G I FL 90 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
When some 4000 natives of North East Lincolnshire descended on Wembley in May 2017, you could have been fooled into thinking that Grimsby Town were making another appearance under the arch following visits to the National Stadium in 2013, 2015 and 2016.
35 matches and netting 144 goals on their way to finishing 11 points clear of nearest challengers Pickering Town. Only a flattering 4-0 win for South Shields at Wembley denied The Owls from adding the FA Vase to the league triumph.
Instead of the black and white striped masses going down Wembley Way it was instead the followers of Cleethorpes Town making the trip for the FA Vase final. The Owls were aiming to add the Vase to the Northern Counties East League Premier Division title and the Lincolnshire County Senior Trophy, the tangible spoils from a glorious 2016-17 season. Not bad for a club less than twenty years old.
That isn’t to say the squad is bereft of high level experience, club captain Alex Flett spent time on the books of Bradford City, making an appearance in the Football League for the Bantams. Wing back Peter Winn amassed a decent career in the Football League and high levels of the non league pyramid with clubs such as Scunthorpe United, Stevenage, Grimsby Town and Macclesfield Town. Summer signing Danny North even played in the Europa League with Sligo Rovers as he carved out a prolific career in the League of Ireland which also took in spells at St. Patrick’s Athletic and Shamrock Rovers.
The club was born in 1998 as the brainchild of former Grimsby Town midfielder Tommy Watson and achieved success on a local level before renaming themselves under their current guise prior to the 200809 season. A Lincolnshire League triumph in 2012 saw promotion to the NCEL Division One, albeit at a cost, ground requirements decreed that the club needed to temporarily leave their Linden Homes Club base and play at the Bradley Football Development Centre, a local council owned facility. Following the appointment of Marcus Newell as manager, further glory was in store as the club were crowned Champions of NCEL D1 at the end of the 2013-14 campaign. Three years later (with a 2015-16 NCEL League Cup win sandwiched in), Newell’s men were NCEL Premier Champions, winning
One of the secrets behind Cleethorpes’ success is a tight knit sense of team spirit within the camp, with the vast majority of the squad hailing from the local Grimsby & Cleethorpes area.
Another factor that has aided Cleethorpes in their successes is a loyal and vociferous band of supporters, who have followed the club from the outposts of the NCEL all the way to Wembley. In the aftermath of the FA Vase Final, the supporters banded together to form the Clee Town Ultras, an official club for all fans to join and immerse themselves in the experience of following The Owls in their travails. Supporters club secretary Lee Shakespeare epitomises the euphoria currently surrounding the club.
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‘It’s phenomenal how this group of local lads have risen to each challenge and they are almost living their dream of being a pro player. The support base is growing as are the expectations and with current form who would bet against us going up again? Listening and seeing what other teams and fans are saying shows that they all fear what we are doing and rightly so. It’s great to see the committee pushing on with the new stadium and signing players with big ambitions like the club. It’s going to be a great rollercoaster of a ride.’ So where next for Cleethorpes? At the time of writing, the club are sitting pretty atop of the EvoStik NPLD1S, in the middle of an unbeaten start to life at step 4 with The Owls winning 8 of their first 11 matches and even recovering from a 3-0 half time deficit to record an extraordinary 4-4 draw with Belper Town. Progression is being made off the field as well with the club edging closer to returning to their base of the Linden Homes Club. Building work continues apace, helped by winning a substantial grant from FA Trophy/Vase sponsors Buildbase. The aim of celebrating the club’s 20th anniversary at their spiritual home looking ever more realistic with each day. Article: Daniel Barker Photos: David Tinkler @dtinklerphotos
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‘IT’S PHENOMENAL HOW THIS GROUP OF LOCAL LADS HAVE RISEN TO EACH CHALLENGE AND THEY ARE ALMOST LIVING THEIR DREAM OF BEING A PRO PLAYER...
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N A L DEC SON G E R G TLE O O B –
“ON LAST YEAR’S SHOWING, BOOTLE WILL BE CONFIDENT OF CHALLENGING FOR THE TITLE THIS SEASON... 94 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
Arguably one of the best players in the North West Counties on his day, there were many eyebrows raised when newly promoted City of Liverpool showed Declan Gregson the door. Departing the TDP Solicitors Stadium in early-August and looking for pastures new after 12 months at the Purples, little did Gregson know that he would be returning to the same stadium just four weeks later, to sign for Bootle FC. With City of Liverpool ground sharing with the Bucks, Gregson’s new surroundings are actually incredibly familiar, with the skillful winger now hoping to hit the ground running under the managerial duo of Joe Doran and Phil Stafford. Missing out on promotion to the Evo-Stik Northern league last season, as Atherton Collieries narrowly pipped the Bucks to the post, Doran and Stafford will now be hoping that the acquisition of Gregson will be the missing piece in their jigsaw, as they aim to go unbeaten in the league this month. Starting the season strongly, goals certainly haven’t been a problem for the Bucks forward line, with Michael Ordish, Ryan Cox and Steve Jones wreaking havoc in the oppositions final third. With 11 goals for and seven against in
their first four games, including a 5-0 win, a 3-3 draw and a 4-3 defeat, the Bucks have been in desperate need of defensive help, with Gregson’s tracking back from the wings now sure to tighten up the flanks. Boasting successful spells at St Helens Town, Runcorn Town and City of Liverpool on his CV, Gregson is also no stranger to the North West Counties division, and after lifting the 10th tier title with the Purples last season, he now has ambitions to scoop the 9th tier trophy with the Bucks come late-April. Making his debut at home to Hanley Town on the 26th August, Gregson is hungry to win a regular place in the Bucks starting XI, as he told TheNonLeague Magazine that the disappointment of being let go by Purples boss Simon Burton has made him more determined than ever to prove the doubters wrong. “I was more shocked than anyone when I received ‘that phone call’ from the manager. Leaving the fans was never what I wanted, but as one door closed another soon opened and I am delighted to have signed for Bootle FC.” The wing wizard added; “I took a step back after leaving City of Liverpool and I took each offer as it came to me. I wanted to take a little break from the game and after a holiday and some reflection, I felt that Bootle’s offer was the best one for me after speaking to the managerial team.” With the likes of Litherland REMYCA, Padiham and AFC Liverpool also interested in acquiring Gregson’s services, it 95 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
was obvious that the versatile attacker wouldn’t be out of the game for long, with City of Liverpool’s loss quickly becoming Bootle’s gain. Shown the door at the Purples alongside Elliot Nevitt and Allen Weston, Gregson still has plenty of admiration for the club that he won the league with last season, with the winger desperate to not let things turn sour. Adamant that he could still have done a job with the Purples this season, the winger is looking forward to facing his former employers on Boxing Day, and with promotion and bragging rights up for grabs, the young Liverpudlian is desperate to prove Burton that letting him go was the wrong decision. With Bootle second in the division last season and City of Liverpool play-off champions in the league below, there is little between the two clubs this season, with both battling it out towards the top end of the North West Counties Premier Division table. Speaking further about his new adventure as a Buck, Gregson continued by speaking about his former club, as he admitted that he is looking forward to meeting up with the Purples fans on the 26th December, despite hoping that he will be on the winning team come the end of the festive fixture. “On last year’s showing, Bootle will be confident of challenging for the title this season. City of Liverpool won four trophies though, so they cannot be discounted in this division. We’ve both hit the ground running so the derby game will be very interesting viewing. “I was down watching City of Liverpool when they beat Prescot Cables in the FA Cup and it was nice to catch up with the supporters who treated me so well last season. I’ve been warned that they’ll be a few choice words coming my way though, so hopefully a goal or two on the 26th December will silence them!”
Photos: Declan Gregson
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It is testament to Gregson’s temperament that he does not have a chip on his shoulder despite being unfairly dismissed by his former club, and with injury problems now seemingly a thing of the past, the ‘young Buck’ is now dreaming of lifting silverware with Bootle. With plenty to play for both in the league and the cup, Gregson is quietly confident of winning the league and after rubber stamping his credentials as a consistent performer in the 9th tier, he is also dreaming of stepping out at Wembley Stadium with the Bucks come mid-May. “At the start of the season, the club would have set out their stall to win the league and after narrowly missing out in 2016-17, I see no reason why we can’t go all the way this time around. “There’s also the County cup and the Macron cup up for grabs, and to be honest, I don’t see why we can’t even have a real go at the FA Vase! After collecting four winners medals last season, I’d love to pick up more silverware and I wouldn’t have joined Bootle if I didn’t believe that was achievable.”
N I V E K N I L L E C M OF Y T I –C
POO R E V I
Fans of the Purples have a lot to thank manager Simon Burton for, with the club currently pushing for back-to-back promotions in the North West Counties. Not only has Burton won four trophies in 13 months, including a historic league title, he has also put together a talented squad, with many of the division’s best players now currently plying their trade in a Purple shirt. With a number of new faces coming in over the summer, the club formed
in 2015 have strengthened, and it is testament to Burton’s managerial ability that the likes of ex-Warrington Town man Craig Robinson and former Marine star Karl Noon have decided to buy into his long-term project. Recently thumping local rivals Prescot Cables 8-2 in the FA Cup, it was the old boys from last season that did the damage, with the likes of Thomas Peterson and John Connolly both getting on the score sheet. Despite failing to score in the FA Cup, club captain Kevin McEllin played an instrumental role in orchestrating the game in midfield; 97 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
as he made Cables experience Evo-Stik side look amateurish. Arguably the Purples prized asset, McEllin had incredibly never played a full season in the Non-League game until 2016-17, with the Liverpool County Comp League the midfielders league of choice for many years. Despite revealing that it was a tough decision to eventually leave West Everton Xavier’s, McEllin has stated that he is currently living in a dream at City of Liverpool, with an exciting future ahead both for himself and the club. “I’ve been playing with my friends in the local league since the age of about 19 and we had a very good team. We were quite successful in a very competitive league and to be honest, it never really appealed to me to leave, as I was enjoying playing with my mates on a weekly basis.” Leaving his boyhood club in favour of the bright lights of North West Counties Football, McEllin knows firsthand just how difficult it can be to wave goodbye to team-mates. With a number of last season’s title winning team departing in the summer, including Declan Gregson and Allen Weston, the Purples midfield maestro has been disappointed to see the ‘Class of 2016’ disbanded, as he continued by saying. “I was gutted to see the old lads go in the summer to be honest! After everything we achieved last year, we grew very close on and off the field and it wasn’t nice to see the team broken up. “Football can be very harsh at times, and the lads who were shown the door would tell you that as well I am sure. The club made their decision and we all had to respect that, we’ve brought some good players in and I am sure that they can now help us achieve what we have set out to do this season.” A real fans favourite at the club, McEllin is lucky enough to hear his name sung from the terraces both home and away. To the tune of Earth, Wind and Fire’s ‘September’, the Purple’s partisan following can be heard bellowing the words ‘Oeo Kevin McEllin, Oeo he dances round defenders, Oeo he never gives the ball awaaaaaay!” One of the most inventive songs in Non-League football, there is truth behind the humorous song, with McEllin one of the most economical midfielders in the division. Contributing with double figures for goals and assists last season, the ex-12th tier footballer has waxed lyrical about City of Liverpool’s magnificent following both at the TDP Solicitors Stadium and on the road. “To get the support that we get at this level of football is unreal! I’ll never forget the finals that we played in last season, walking out at Fleetwood Town’s ground and seeing our half of the stadium packed full of fans singing my name. “It is something that you dream of as a kid, and I am so honoured to have experienced that as a Non-League footballer. Our fan base is growing by the day too, so long may it continue!” 98 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
Beginning the new North West Counties season in a domineering fashion, the Purples have already inflicted a number of heavy score lines on their opponents, with Irlam losing 5-0 to Burton’s men on the opening day. With the likes of Bootle, Charnock Richard and Winsford United setting the early pace, City of Liverpool will be faced by a number of obstacles if they are to lift the title this season. However, with the best fan base in the division and with a number of winnable games coming up in September, there is every chance that the Purples will be sitting towards the summit of the table come Christmas. McEllin believes the sky is the limit and with Runcorn Linnets and an FA Cup tie against Nantwich Town coming up, the club captain is excited to see were his side are at the end of the month. “We want to get out of this league as soon as possible and we believe that this year could be our year. “We’re under no illusions that the North West Counties Premier is a very tough league to get out of, but we’ve got a very good dressing room and with our backing, we’ll have that extra 10% come the end when other clubs are tiring.” Currently ground sharing with Bootle FC, McEllin is desperate to see City of Liverpool move into their own stadium soon. If the club are to win promotion this season, they will be in the Evo-Stik and with increased backing; an official home ground could soon be on the cards. Offering affordable entertaining football, the club captain is not only a leader on the field, but also an ambassador off it. With excitement in his eyes talking about what the future holds for City of Liverpool, McEllin finished by stating “everyone is pushing in the right direction to help the Purples reach the top in the not so distant future”
...NOT ONLY HAS BURTON WON FOUR TROPHIES IN 13 MONTHS, INCLUDING A HISTORIC LEAGUE TITLE... Photos: Kevin McEllin
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Being an avid Birmingham City supporter, I could never have imagined that I would now be combining my love of the blues with the rough and tumble of nonleague football…
On May the 22nd 2016, I arrived at the best football stadium in England, Wembley Stadium, to watch the Bulls face Morpeth Town in the FA Vase final. After a good season in the league, it was an unfortunate and forgettable afternoon for Hereford FC, with the game finishing 4-1 to Morpeth Town.
However, visiting Edgar Street for the first time on a warm summers afternoon back in 2016, I was instantly hit with the community spirit and passion that surrounds itself with non-league football.
Ever since Wembley, I have been to every football match in all competitions home and away with Hereford FC. It has been satisfying to watch from on the terraces, the whole team came together and progressed as each game went on. Meeting the players and the manager made my love for them become even stronger than it already was. I’d never really thought there was much more than the higher leagues because I was always brought up watching Birmingham city in the premier league and championship.
Of course, a former league club themselves, Hereford FC have welcomed me in as a supporter with open arms and although I believe the Bulls will one day return to the promised land of the football league, there is no doubt that time in the lower echelons of semi-professional football has brought the club closer together and the fan base has risen. Here’s how I fell in love with the club and where I believe they can go in the next three to four years… 100 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
Peter Beadle, the main man has managed to get back to back promotions in the Midland football league and the southern league
south and west. With quite a bit of funding he has managed to bring in some players to help them ascend the leagues. After the season had ended, Beadle had big decisions to make; one releasing Joel Edwards which me and most Hereford fans weren’t very happy with. One thing that really impressed me on my journey of Hereford FC was the large following especially at away matches. The average home attendance was 2,821 and the highest was an astonishing 4,406 which was against Evesham united. Hereford certainly know how to travel in numbers and after the tragic few seasons majority the fans have had, it’s so good to see the supporters and others keeping the club alive. I think the Bulls if they carry on with the form they have been on in the last two seasons since they have been re-founded, I could honestly see Hereford either in the football league or a few miniature steps away from being back in the ‘promised land’. Obviously as they sail up the leagues, a few changes and transfers will be needed but it is all under control in my opinion.
Article/Photos: Will Burch
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The Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF) is the democratic organisation representing the rights of fans and arguing the views of football supporters in England and Wales. The FSF is totally free to join as well so the question is, if you’re not a member, why not? Strength comes in number and you’ll be joining more than 500,000 of your fellow fans in the fight for safe standing, lower ticket prices and the protection of our clubs. Our members are made up of individual fans and members of local supporters’ organisations throughout the professional structure and many more from further down the football pyramid.
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