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4 FOOTBALLFAN THE
EDITORIAL AND DESIGN Contributing Editor
Welcome to issue 17 of TheNonLeague,
Lowe of Macclesfield Town FC and cover star
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NATIONAL LEAGUE CHAMPIONS
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THENONLEAGUE.COM - 9
h t i e K gs g i r B
â€“ Stalybridge Celtic
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When Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin lifted the Under 20 World Cup aloft, there were plenty of happy faces, both at Goodison Park and Calvert-Lewin’s former club Sheffield United. Coming through the youth set-up at Bramall Lane, the young forward who made his debut for the Blades as a teenager, was snapped up by Everton in August 2016, as the Merseyside based club came calling with an offer of £1.5 million pounds. Featuring 11 times for the Toffees since his move, Calvert-Lewin scored his first goal for the club last season during a comprehensive 4-0 victory for Everton over Hull City. At the time, the Yorkshireman will have regarded that goal as not only the biggest of his career but also one of the best...that was to change two months later though, as the frontman joined Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters as the only England players to score in a World Cup final, as the three Lions defeated Venezuela 1-0. Instantly becoming a national hero, Calvert-Lewin would have had many people to thank in the aftermath of the national final, many of which hail from Stalybridge Celtic, in which he enjoyed a brief but incredibly successful loan spell at between December 2014 and January 2015. Arriving at Bower Fold as a 17-year-old, the forward scored six times in just five appearances for the Celts, as his goals helped the club maintain their fight for survival during the hectic festive period; however it was Calvert-Lewin’s all-round play and mature performances that helped him warm to the faithful at the Tameside based club. His coach at Bower Fold, Keith Briggs was admittedly delighted to see his one-time loanee showcasing his talents on the world stage, and as a former coach at Sheffield United and an ex-Stalybridge Celtic player, Briggs is proud of what Calvert-Lewin has achieved so far in the game. Now back in the dug-out at Stalybridge Celtic for the second time as a coach and the fourth in total, Briggs has reminisced about CalvertLewin’s time at Bower Fold, as he revealed that he always knew the forward would reach the top, after watching him shine on his Celts debut in a hot tempered Tameside ‘derby’ against Hyde United. Climbing six tiers in little more than two years, Calvert-Lewin has not forgotten his time at Bower Fold either despite his meteoric rise from Non-League loanee to becoming a Premier League regular and a World Cup winner. Still in close contact with the Everton starlet, Briggs has spoken about Calvert-Lewin’s time at Stalybridge Celtic and his incredible
THENONLEAGUE.COM - 11
attitude that has got him to the position that he currently
“I have always had a good relationship with everyone at the
finds himself in, as he said.
club and even when I have left, it has never been because I
“It is always nice to see former team-mates and former
have fallen out with anyone, instead both times just felt like
players do well, but Dom has obviously gone above and
the right times to move on, and both times I have moved onto
beyond, as not many former non-league players can say they
top clubs who have fought for the title in the Conference.
have won the World Cup, no matter what age group it is at.
“Steve Burr is a fantastic manager and I learnt a lot from him
“Dom has already achieved a lot in his career and I am
while I was assistant manager at Southport last season. I
immensely proud to see where he is now. I had him on a
was also his captain for a very long time so we have a good
six week loan deal at Bower Fold and from day one he was
understanding both on and off the field. When I was asked to
tremendous for us both on and off the field.
come back to Bower Fold, it felt natural and I am delighted to
“As a 17-year-old, he came into a relegation battle and it did
be back for my fourth spell!”
not faze him one bit. I will never forget how hard he worked
Player-manager at Bower Fold at the age of just 33, Briggs
on the training field and it was his attitude as well as his
went through plenty of ups and downs in the dug-out. Keen
undoubted talent that stood out for me. If he keeps working
to become a manager in his own right in the future, the ex-
hard then I am sure he will become a top Premier League
Stockport County man believes that his big opportunity isn’t
player and an England international in the future.” Becoming Stalybridge Celtic assistant-manager in the summer after Steve Burr was appointed manager, Briggs returned not only to Bower Fold but also to senior football, after time out coaching up and coming stars at Sheffield United’s academy. Coaching the under 16’s at Bramall Lane, Briggs was happy to go under the radar, as many seemingly forgot that he was still involved in football after years of playing and coaching in the Non-League game. Having learnt much from his time in youth football, the now retired midfielder explained why the time was right for him to return to working at a grassroots level, as he said. “I have been in the game more than people think as I have been working very hard behind the scenes at Sheffield United’s academy. I decided to take a step back from adult football and working with under 16’s was a refreshing change, as I learnt a lot about the game both mentally and physically.” Briggs continued; “It has been nice to get my teeth into a different side of football but I am now back at Stalybridge Celtic and it feels very natural to be ‘home’. Results matter at this level and it will be good to play for points rather than just
too far away. Content to be Burr’s eyes and ears for the time being though as he continues to learn his trade from the other side of the white line, Briggs believes things will be different this time in the Bower Fold dug-out, as he explained why his first stint unfortunately came too early in his career, as he was still concentrating on playing a key role in the Celts side at the same time as managing the club. “The chance to manage the club came when I was very young, but I couldn’t turn it down and I don’t regret taking the job. I learnt a lot about myself and about football, and it has made me a better person in the long run. “I want to manage at the top level and at this moment in time, I believe Stalybridge Celtic is the perfect club to learn more, especially as I will be working with Steve. I am taking in as much as I can and when my chance comes in the future, I will be ready to take it this time.” After dropping out of the National League North last season, Stalybridge Celtic find themselves in the seventh tier of English Football for the first time in over two decades,
pride, in one of the most competitive divisions in this region.”
alongside near neighbours Ashton United and Altrincham.
Playing for the Celts from 2008 to 2010 and most recently
Narrowly surviving relegation from the sixth tier in recent
2013 to 2015, Stalybridge Celtic clearly means a lot to
seasons before finally dropping through the trap door in
Glossop-born Briggs. Leaving Bower Fold to sign for
late-April, Briggs is hopeful that the club can wipe the slate
Fleetwood Town to play in the same side as Jamie Vardy in his
clean in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League; and after a
first spell, and Kidderminster Harriers in the Conference in his
busy summer of ins and outs, he is quietly confident that an
second, Briggs has never left Tameside on bad terms.
immediate return to the National League North is possible.
Having played for Steve Burr in the past, the chance to re-join
With Tameside rivals Ashton United the clubs main derby over
the club in an assistant manager capacity was just ‘too good
the festive period this term, Briggs is keen to get one over
to turn down’, as Briggs spoke further about his relationship
on his former club, to ensure that the Celts have a very merry
with Burr and his undying love for Stalybridge Celtic.
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e h , d l o n r o i a e t y a g 7 e 1 l e a r “As into a did not e t m i a d c n a ” . e t i l b t t e a n b o m i h e z fa THENONLEAGUE.COM - 13
“It is always nice to see former team-mates and former players do well, but Dom has obviously gone above and beyond, as not many former non-league players can say they have won the World Cup, no matter what age group it is at... Putting rivalries to the back of his mind for the time being, the
“Yes it was disappointing that we dropped out of the National
Celts assistant manager is under no illusions that a quick start
League North last season, but we have to adapt to our new
to the division will be crucial, as he urged his side to set the
surroundings and we definitely can’t sit around feeling sorry
standard in August; with difficult games coming up against
for ourselves. The Evo-Stik Premier Division is a very tough
Nantwich Town, Whitby Town and Rushall Olympic in the opening weeks sure to be good indicators of how far the club can go this season. “We want to win every game this season, whether that be against a club that is five miles down the road or a club that is 200 miles away. Three points is all that matters to us and although we want to win the derbies, we will approach the games against Ashton United and Altrincham as we will for the others.
14 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
one this season and it is crucial that we start well. “We need to get points on the board in August and September and that will show the league that we mean business. Steve and I have been working tirelessly to bring in the right calibre of player over the summer and the side is shaping up nicely as we approach the new season.”
THENONLEAGUE.COM - 15
n o s a e s e Pr ning in i a tr rife e n e T C) H F G I m A a H h CHRIS eeper (Merts k – Goal
Last season was an extremely successful one for me including captaining East Grinstead Town for a large part of the campaign. This season I am moving up another level to play a league higher with Merstham FC, as I continue working hard towards a career in the Football League long term. In June, I was invited attend a facility called ‘Tenerife Top Training’ on a (Pre) Pre-season training camp with a goalkeeper coach known as ‘The Modern Day GK’ and his colleague known as ‘Modern Day Fitness’, who work on producing the perfect athlete, an opportunity I could not turn down. Here’s an insight to my trip:
DAY ONE My flight arrived at 11am then a short 20-minute journey from the airport to Hotel Jardin Caletta, where I stayed for the duration
16 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
ONES TO WATCH of the trip. I unpacked my case, had some lunch, then as the time approached 15:00, I decided to do some individual training/ gym work before the coaches arrived, as their flight was due to land at 20:00 hours.
DAY TWO My first day of full training with the two coaches. We started off with some activation and a mobility warm up about 10:30 am. With the amount of training I was going to be doing over the next few days, it was extremely important to warm up properly. The day involved a lot of footwork and shot stopping work, which was tiring but great fun. Flying around the goal for a total time of 5 hours over the course of a day can never be anything but that.
DAY THREE My second training session was tough. I was aching a bit from the previous day, so got to do a lot of distribution work. Distribution and modern style goalkeeping, (being quick off my line and playing out from the back), are things that I would definitely associate myself with. So, it was great to get in a day where I could further improve on my distribution.
DAY FOUR My last day with the coaches. A day where we pretty much crammed in as much goalkeeper training as possible. We worked on a wide variety of skills that could come in handy. We worked on a lot of crossing, something which I will get a lot of in the Bostik Premier League with Mertsham. We also worked with a lot of obstructions in my line of sight, e.g. mannequins etc to make it even more difficult, with the hope that it will make it much easier on a match day. After another double session, it was time for my flight home back to London Gatwick. Overall, I absolutely loved my time in Tenerife, it was extremely tough, but I definitely feel like it has put me in a great position to kick on for the rest of the season. This coming season Iâ€™m confident is going to be a great one and I am looking forward to pushing on again for bigger things. Since being released from a professional clubâ€™s academy, non-league football has enabled me to continue developing as a player and continue my path towards a full-time career in football long term.
THENONLEAGUE.COM - 17
e h ‘T dern Mo y GK’ Da
If you want to see some video clips of my time in Tenerife, please feel free to use the link below, or check my social media. Chris Haigh. Tenerife Highlights Link: https://youtu.be/_AJHFBHJcU Instagram: Chrishaigh1 Twitter: @_chrishaigh Agency: Komarni Football (Tim Miller)
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“WE MADE PROMOTION TO THE PREMIER DIVISION OUR TARGET” It is safe to say that May was a good month for City of Liverpool FC as they ended their debut season picking up three pieces of silverware.
Garry Clarke Photos: City of Liverpool/ John Rooney
First to be collected was the Reusch First
Town’s Highbury Stadium overcoming Premier
Division Cup which was won by beating
Division Barnoldswick Town 3-2 on penalties.
Sandbach United 1-0 in the final played at
City of Liverpool’s promotion came as no
Runcorn Linnets ground on May 1st in front
surprise to Chairman Paul Manning, a founder
of a crowd of an all ticket crowd of 1,263.
member of the club and an FA Level One coach,
Thirteen days later they made the short trip
as he told TheNonLeague “when we gave Simon
to neighbours Litherland REMYCA who they
Burton the manager’s job, indeed when we
defeated 3-0 in front of a crowd of 1,303 to
advertised the job in the first place, we made
win the First Division play off final and clinch
promotion to the Premier Division our target
promotion to the Hallmark Security League
for the season, so we achieved our target. We
Premier Division. Finally on May 16th they lifted
also hoped to reach a cup final, however as we
the Macron League Challenge Cup at Fleetwood
won both league cups (a feat only previously
THENONLEAGUE.COM - 19
er v e t s r i f r u o f f o g , n i n w o T â€œKick n y t a t s e r P t a n i d match w o r c 711 e v i s s a m -1 2 the g n i n n i w , e s a V A F the ch r u h c t i h W away at Alport...
20 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
accomplished by Cammell Laird in
the finals when asked to name the
2004/05) there can be no doubt that we
highlights of the first season “Kicking off
absolutely exceeded our targets for the
our first ever match at Prestatyn Town,
the massive 711 crowd in the FA Vase,
Not that the free scoring City of Liverpool
winning 2-1 away at Whitchurch Alport
found it easy to achieve their successes as
(nice people and a brilliant, tense match),
Manning spoke very complimentary about
beating Widnes 4-0 on aggregate in the
the standards in the Hallmark Security
Semi Finals of the Reusch Cup”.
League saying “Impressed is an under-
Manning believes the club is ready for the
statement, I spent a lot of the previous
step up to the Premier Division both on
season watching games at this level and
and off the pitch “We are currently in a 2
felt we had a good chance to succeed,
season football strategy, meaning that the
but when you consider that with a month
team that we started the season with has
there were eight teams who could have
been re-built, twice actually, as we seek
won the league it was very competitive
to hit the ground running for next season
and tense. There are simply no easy
and be competitive. We didn’t want to
games and the standard of teams and of
have to start all over again”.
players is amazing.
“We will be sitting down with Simon
“There can be no doubt that the six new
Burton to assess our targets for the
clubs who joined the Hallmark Security
upcoming season but we are conscious
League last summer forced standards
that the Premier Division will be a big
up across the board along with existing
step up in class and that there is currently
clubs such as Litherland REMYCA,
only one promotion place available for
Whitchurch Alport and Widnes who all
the champions. That said, I don’t think
improved. Credit must go to the League
that we as a club can plan for some kind
Management Committee who had the
of mid-table stability. We have a lot of
foresight to allow numbers in the league
momentum behind us currently, both
to increase so significantly in one closed
on and off the pitch. Off the field we’ve
done very well in an operational sense but
The public of Liverpool have certainly
administratively it’s been a steep learning
responded to the arrival of Merseyside’s
curve, but we think we’d be ready.”
newest club with spectators, whether
Manning confirmed a ground of their
seasoned non-league followers or
own within in the city boundaries is the
newcomers to the game outside the
club’s priority in the future “We hope to
Premier League, flocking to the Delta Taxi
start raising funds to purchase the land to
Stadium home of Bootle which City share.
build our own stadium this closed season
Averaging well over 400 spectators per
and to be in it and playing by the start of
game they have been the best supported
Season 2018/19”. Manning advised City Of
team in the Hallmark Security League,
Liverpool FC has a preferred site in mind
Premier or First Division. With the most
to be developed which would require
potent attack in the Division having
“a private sale, which we may or may
119 league goals and also boasting the
not move on, plus we have several other
meanest defence in the Division is easy
options with different stakeholders.”
to see why Burton’s team are such an
Having well and truly caught the non-
attraction not only at home but also
league football bug, the 48-year-old
on the road where they have attracted
concluded his chat by adding an off-field
several host club’s highest crowd of the
highlight “the brilliant partying we all
do together after every match - we are
Apart from collecting the three trophies,
making memories and in a personal sense
City’s Purple Army have enjoyed their
this has been one of the best years of my
debut season as Manning said before
life, absolutely brilliant”
THENONLEAGUE.COM - 21
Photos: City of Liverpool/ John Rooney
THE BIG INTERVIEW
Declan Gregson City of Liverpool
Moving with manager Simon Burton from North West Counties Premier Division side Runcorn Town last summer, Declan Gregson admittedly could never have imagined the success that his current side City of Liverpool would have achieved in their first season in existence. Gaining promotion through the play-offs, as well as lifting the
of the North West in their numbers, City of Liverpool had no
Reusch cup and the Macron cup, City of Liverpool won not only
problems in attracting the crowds.
enough silverware to fill a trophy cabinet for a few decades,
Cheered on by over 1,000 supporters at the North West
but also the hearts of the Non-League family, thanks in no small
Counties Division One play-off final at Litherland REMYCA, the
part to their jovial and partisan fan base.
Purples will now surely grow further in their new division, with
Breaking attendance records at nearly every away ground that
the word continuing to spread about Merseyside’s new ‘noisy
they visited, with the Purples travelling the width and breadth
22 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
“ONE OF THE BEST YEARS OF MY LIFE” Having played for the likes of St Helens Town and Runcorn Town before moving to the Delta Taxi’s Stadium, Gregson wasn’t used to being cheered on by such crowds on a fortnightly basis, and pitting his wits on both the left and right wings, he more than anyone else knows the impact that vocal support can have on his performance. Waxing lyrical about the self-proclaimed ‘Purple Partisans’, Gregson has confidently claimed that City of Liverpool’s fan base is ‘definitely the best around’ as he told TheNonLeague about the extra 10% that his clubs supporters give the side both home and away. “The fans are second to none! When I joined the club, the manager predicted that we’d be drawing in crowds of 150-200 at home and even then, I thought that was pretty impressive for the North West Counties Division One. “At Runcorn Town we had a small but loyal following, so the prospect of playing in front of 200 fans was an exciting prospect for me. Of course, the manager had completed underestimated just how much the support would take off and to see 6, 7 even 8 hundred supporters through the gate is more than I could have ever imagined if I’m honest!” Gregson added; “Personally it gives me an incentive to perform, as you want to do well for them as they have paid their hard
earned money to watch us. It’s exciting that with more local
derbies next season we should continue to see more fans come through the gate.”
Despite not featuring in the play-off final, Gregson played a
Regarded as one of the toughest divisions in the Non-League
prominent role in the Purples campaign, as he scored a number
game, City of Liverpool won’t have the luxury of a play-off
of important goals, weighing in with double figures from the flanks. Ravaged by injuries, Gregson knows that last season could and should have been even better than it was and although he is hungry to taste more success in the North West Counties, he has admitted that it’ll be difficult to match the clubs historic first campaign. “Last season was ridiculously good, I was at the club from the
position this season, with the North West Counties Premier one of the only divisions in England with a one up and three down policy. Joining the likes of Bootle, Runcorn Linnets and 1874 Northwich as league favourites, City of Liverpool will have their work cut out next season, as they embark on aiming to achieve back-toback promotions.
very first pre-season match and looking back, nobody expected
The club will also have the FA Cup and the FA Vase to contend
us to do as well as we did. When we won our first cup we were
with this time around, as they begin their FA Cup campaign
on cloud nine, but to then go on and lift more silverware was an
away at league compatriots Padiham, with a mouth-watering tie
THENONLEAGUE.COM - 23
“Personally it gives me an incentive to perform, as you want to do well for them as they have paid their hard earned money to watch us. It’s exciting that with more local derbies next season we should continue to see more fans come through the gate.”
against Prescot Cables up for grabs for the winners. Gregson is confident that his side will be challenging though and with the FA Cup on the horizon, he has stated that the excitement is already building around the club, as they prepare to enter England’s most historic cup competition for the first ever time. “This season is going to be a lot tougher, being in the FA Cup is going to be so good for the club both exposure wise and financially. Hopefully we can get a good run going and a few away trips for the fans would be great! “We’ll be coming up against teams in the league who will want to beat us and we are under no illusions that due to our fan base, we will be a scalp for a lot of teams. If we play our own game, we are confident that we can beat anybody and we all can’t wait to get going now.” With City of Liverpool strengthening in the summer with the arrivals of AFC Liverpool hitman Emini Adegbenro and Warrington Town’s Craig Robinson, Ryan Mitchell and Karl Noon, competition for places will be fierce when the league kicks off in August. Having missed chunks of last season after picking up a host of niggling injuries, Gregson is hopeful that after a strong pre-season under his belt, and with his shirt up for stake, he believes that fighting to keep his name on the team sheet will bring out the best in him on the field. “Recently I have been badly affected by injuries, I have had a great preseason though which I didn’t get last year and that should hold me in good stead. Seeing the new lads come in is a good thing for the club as they’re all top signings, I have clicked with them all immediately and I know they can help make the difference for us. The competition will drive me on and it has made me hungrier than ever to play as much as possible this season!”
24 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
LIFE OUTSIDE OF
THE FOOTBALL LEAGUE
>>>> In a football world where the media is heavily biased towards the goings-on at the likes of Man United and other Premier clubs, it’s sometimes a difficult task to admit that your tastes operate at a different level. In my case the guilty pleasure is the Step 9 and 10 Level of the North West Counties Football League. It’s true that I usually attend matches higher up the Pyramid
Having read everything available from the professional game I
as part of my media work and even hold a Stoke City Season
was then drawn to the Classified Results. I was amazed to find
ticket, but it doesn’t take long after the final whistle to
that towns like Nantwich, Sandbach and Congleton – venues
search for the results from the likes of Alsager, Kidsgrove and
that were known as places to visit on a bus trip from the
Potteries – had football team’s good enough to be mentioned in
If I ever wanted to seek psychiatric help to cure my obsession
a Sunday paper. And I could only dream of what the exotically
I am pretty sure that the quack would define the root cause as
named Ramsbottom and Rossendale could be like.
the News of The World. As a young lad, most of this paper was
Eager to discover more I asked a family friend Stan Steele – a
kept away from my innocent eyes but I was allowed to read the
star Port Vale player of the time – if he could enlighten me. Stan
sports pages at the back of the paper.
stepped back and, with a face that looked as if it was sucking
THENONLEAGUE.COM - 25
a lemon, explained that for a professional these were places you were sent to if you fell out of the Manager’s favour. It was a
R FC ALSAGE
round of lukewarm baths after ninety minutes on a poor pitch with cold tea at half-time until you got back in the first team again. “I even prefer going to Gateshead in January”, he finished off. Wind the clock forward twenty years and I was able to view these clubs from a different perspective. As a match official hoping to climb the refereeing ladder I found myself frequently officiating at these grounds. Rather than finding a frosty welcome I was generally looked after well and – so long as I didn’t award a dodgy penalty in the closing stages (sorry!!!
You know who you are!!) – the showers were always warm.
“I even prefer going to Gateshead in January” On any free Saturday, I used to take my pre-teen son to watch the now defunct Eastwood (Hanley) and his football bug was born! A walk along the disused Stoke Loop railway line brought us to the rear of Trentmill Road where we sat in “our” seats and watched the footie while consuming burger and Bovril. What could be more English, traditional and family-orientated – the very essence of non-league? Shortly after I was invited (I would like to believe headhunted!!) to join Kidsgrove Athletic where I had spells as Chairman and Secretary before becoming a Director of Leek Town. There
NF W O T H C TWI
then followed five seasons of covering the NWCFL for The Non League Paper before moving on to other things. It is now ten years since I actively worked with the North West Counties and, as it celebrates 35 years since the blessed union of the Cheshire League and Lancashire Combination, I have the itch to get back. Over the coming issues I hope to re-visit both present and former NWCFL clubs and see how they have fared. There will be a sprinkling of anecdotes – learn how I was served tea by a Loose Woman, literally shared a seat with a Liverpool legend and got the verbal’s from a member of the extended Royle family-, along with a look at the grounds, histories and matchday experiences. I am really looking forward to it and I hope that you will be too.
ARTICLE BY DAVE STRINGER
26 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
Learning Curve >>>> THENONLEAGUE.COM - 27
Student life is all about late nights and hangovers, right? Not if you’re part of Loughborough University’s football team, who juggle getting good grades with achieving results on the pitch. As the Scholars battle for success on multiple fronts, the players are leading the way for a new breed of educated footballers to infiltrate the country’s game. From playing two matches in six hours and trying to stump a team during the Christmas holiday, to hosting Liverpool and playing at St. George’s Park, playing football at Loughborough is a truly unique experience. In Learning Curve, Chris Evans explores the idiosyncrasies of university football and finds out why studying for a degree might just be a smarter decision than most young people realise. Evans meets student footballers past and present to reveal the untold stories of British football’s best-kept secret.
s ’ n e “Wh n Gerrard e v e t ” S ? e r e h g n i t t ge 28 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
“When’s Steven Gerrard getting here?” asks a young fan to
horizon, while a large pile of sand – akin to an oversized anthill
nobody in particular.
– signals that yet more facilities are set to spring from the
Dressed head to toe in a red Liverpool kit, the boy looks
ground in the near future. The perfectly mown pitch is in good
longingly towards the gap in the hedge that leads to
shape too, despite the season’s hardships; while a tall electronic
Loughborough University Stadium’s car park, willing for his hero
scoreboard completes the picture.
If somebody told any of tonight’s visitors that this was the heart
The question hangs unanswered for a few seconds before
of a training centre built for the youth teams of a nouveau-riche
another member of the small group of children musters a reply.
Premier League club, they’d probably believe them.
“Steven Gerrard will be here in two minutes,” he announces,
Instead, the ground is more used to hosting a team made
with all the conviction of an eight-year-old who has just told the
principally of university students, as they go up against
perfect white lie to impress his friends. For a little while, at least.
fellow Midland League heavyweights such as Heanor Town or
But while you could forgive the childish chatter of youngsters
expecting to see one of England’s most-capped footballers at
The ground isn’t the only way the club bucks the trend with
a non-league ground in the middle of Leicestershire, tonight it seems that idea isn’t that farfetched. In fact, as well as the hopeful infants, there are fans, photographers and match officials buzzing around, all keeping an eye out for Stevie G. Loughborough University FC may only just have confirmed their place in next year’s Midland Premier Division, English football’s ninth tier, with a game to spare last season, but the student team are preparing to welcome Liverpool for a post-season friendly. Of course, it won’t be Jurgen Klopp’s mob who are making their way out to play against a group of students. It’s the Reds’ under-18 team that has made the trip to East Midlands to play tonight’s fixture – cue the clamour for a sighting of Gerrard, who is set to take charge of the Anfield outfit’s youth side next season. The lack of stars on the pitch doesn’t seem to have deterred the locals though, who have turned out in force to get a glimpse of that famous Liver bird facing a team representing their town. Inside the ground, a swell of supporters snapping pictures and excitedly finding their seats in the main stand are creating a real sense of occasion. Out on the crowded terrace, a clutch
the rest of non-league though. With two managers – one for non-league matches and another for British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) competition – and a team of sports scientists and nutritionists to help the players prepare for every single match, this is more a professional outfit. Some people inside the university have even drawn comparisons to the way a top Premier League is forced to rotate their squad to handle the priorities of multiple European and domestic competitions. Fixture congestion has been an issue that has blighted the students since joining the non-league ranks in 2007. Earlier in the campaign, Loughborough were regularly playing three matches in a week, with league fixtures on Saturday afternoons and Tuesday evenings, as well as a university match on a Wednesday afternoon. One week, the scheduling of a league cup match against local rivals Quorn on a Wednesday night meant students had to play two matches in the matter of six hours – all against the backdrop of studying for a degree at one of the country’s most-demanding education establishments too. Tonight, is a chance for students to forget those pressures. The marquee match with Liverpool was announced a few weeks
of students dressed as hot dogs (as well as a solitary ketchup
ago and the fervour has been steadily building ever. And with
bottle for good measure) are raising smiles.
the prospect of bumping into a former England captain as part
It’s not the normal way for a non-league team to bring the curtain down on a relatively disappointing season. But then,
of the Reds’ contingent has triggered more than a few cursory glances towards the row of 10 empty seats with signs saying
Loughborough University isn’t a normal football club. One look
“RESERVED – LIVERPOOL FC” emblazoned on them.
at the surroundings for tonight’s match would tell you that.
While most of the crowd is on Gerrard watch, the next
Despite their low status in the non-league pyramid, the
generation of stars set to grace Anfield are being put through
Scholars play their matches in a £4 million stadium that has still
their paces on the field. Surrounded by a large coaching team
maintained the same box-fresh look it had when it opened in
assembled from the club’s Melwood training ground, the
academy team ooze energy and talent as they take part in a
The all-seater main stand is the focal point, towering several
series of short drills.
feet up above the clean, metal terraces that run alongside
On the other half of the pitch, the Scholars are being prepared
the pitch. Tagged onto the stand is a set of fully furnished
for the big night by interim performance manager Alex
conference facilities, doused in university purple.
Ackerley, who has been given the nod to take his place in the
To the left is a large, pine-coloured building fitted with wide
dugout because it’s a university rather than a non-league game.
glass windows that offer a glimpse into the Loughborough’s
Ackerley, a former Loughborough student who has stayed on
state-of-the-art gym. Ahead, more new builds clutter the
for another year to get some coaching experience, has only
THENONLEAGUE.COM - 29
just taken up the post after his predecessor Michael Skubala became England’s new futsal head coach and elite performance manager. At just 24 years old, Ackerley is joining a long list of impressive coaches who have taken charge of Loughborough’s student footballers. Back in the ‘60s, FA visionary Allen Wade led a Scholars team, including the likes of Arsenal goalkeeper Bob Wilson and a host of soon-to-be pros, to the FA Amateur Cup quarter finals, while future Antigua & Barbuda national team gaffer Tom Curtis was also head coach before going on to better things. Now, with first-team manager Karl Brennan watching on from the stands, Ackerley faces a huge challenge against Liverpool. But he’s in a buoyant mood. “Training has been going well,” Ackerley remarks on his way back to the dressing room.
“Ohhhhh, what a goal!” “We’ve watched a video of how Chelsea played against them in an under18s match last week, so we’re going to set up in a similar way. Now all we’ve got to do is be as good as Chelsea – it’s that easy!” If the students are going to cause an upset tonight, they’ll certainly have something to remember the occasion by. As a slew of cameras jostle for position to get the best touchline footage, another row of lenses are poised towards the pitch from three temporary television gantries set up to beam a live feed for Loughborough Students’ Union Media TV’s broadcast. They’re not alone either, with a Liverpool FC TV cameraman also doing the rounds. Despite all the furore, this isn’t the first time Loughborough have hosted one of the country’s big boys at the stadium. Since moving in five years ago, the student side has faced Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Leicester City, and gone up against future internationals, including Marcus Rashford. It’s part of the university’s unique allure that they’re able to attract such illustrious opposition to play them. Prior to re-entering the non-league ranks less than a decade ago (following a 35-year hiatus after dropping out of the Leicestershire Senior League in 1972), it was these friendly matches against the youth teams of the country’s professional clubs that set Loughborough’s football programme apart from any other university. Over the decades, frequent visits from top Midlands sides, such as Notts County, West Brom and Aston Villa, became commonplace as an array of student XIs pitted their wits against players who were hoping to graduate into the Football League in the future. The players turning out for Loughborough’s opponents weren’t the only star turns on show though. For the initiated, there were plenty of other prized assets to watch in the friendlies. As well as big names like Wilson, the Scholars boasts a former player list that includes Wimbledon and Chelsea man Lawrie Sanchez and five-cap England goalkeeper Tony Waiters. In more recent years, Football Leaguers George Williams, Bradley Pritchard and Robbie Simpson all kick-started their careers
30 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
“I’m sur e the bac he was sat a k t o f t he stan a hoody d in s o n o body co tell it w uld as him.”
>>>> by pulling on Loughborough purple. Critically acclaimed Kes
that British academies cherish, means it’s hard to tell the age
author Barry Hines even turned out for the university side as a
difference. The home fans certainly don’t care and are baying
full back during his formative years.
for the students to strike an early blow when a through ball
As the 2017 vintage emerges from the tunnel to kick off their
towards lone frontman Ben Ward-Cochrane draws an excitable
match against Liverpool, they make up no less of an eclectic
roar within moments of kick off, but the fast reactions of
bunch. Far from a ragtag bunch of hobby players, the squad
Liverpool number one Caoimhin Kelleher see to the danger as
includes a youngster who turned down a professional contract
the Irishman gets there in the nick of time.
at Chelsea to continue his studies and an Austrian exchange
The game soon settles into a rhythm, but not one that not many
student who moved nearly 900 miles away from home just to
of the regulars have been familiar with this season. The blood-
be part of Loughborough’s football programme.
and-thunder high tempo that pours out of the non-league
The players jog out onto pitch and are greeted by a loud cheer
matches hosted at this stadium is forgotten, as the two teams
from crowd all around them. The dazzling scoreboard on the far
take it in turns to play keep ball across the backline.
side confirms the occasion: Loughborough 0 Liverpool 0. It’s
Liverpool, marshalled supremely by midfielder Liam Coyle,
time to show that attending a professional academy isn’t the
who with an easy posture and perfectly tucked-in shirt has the
only route to success on the football pitch.
demeanour of a chiselled veteran rather than a spotty 17-year-
For once, the Scholars aren’t the youngsters of the piece, as
old, look the more dangerous. And when the rapid Liam Miller
Liverpool line up with several 15- and 16-year-olds in their ranks.
escapes down the left flank, it’s only the smothering arms
Although the additional respect that the trademark Liverpool
of Conor O’Keefe that stop him from burning off the entire
red grants the visitors, paired with the incredible physiques
Loughborough right wing.
THENONLEAGUE.COM - 31
The experience of playing regularly
“Ohhhhh, what a goal!” purrs a
in senior football, albeit the Midland
Loughborough fan as the crowd jump up
Football League, begins to show as the
in united celebration. “Who’s the Premier
purples start to put themselves about.
League side?” shouts another.
A series of hard challenges by captain
Down on the pitch, the players are
Elliott Legg and another from Jack Poxon stir the locals.
The struggling non-leaguers – a team
Trotman shows that it’s not all hard work
made up of university students and
and industry in Loughborough’s ranks.
Football League rejects – are on their
The full back, whose spell in the Football
way to a famous win.
League with Luton Town might have
First, they need to dig in to protect
takes control of a bouncing ball and hits a dipping half volley past Kelleher and into the net. Cue mass celebration.
32 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
exuberant Ackerley beats the air in joy.
Then breaking down the right, Luke
ended differently if it wasn’t for injury,
Learning Curve by Chris Evans is available on Amazon https://www.amazon. co.uk/dp/1527210685/ref=sr_1 _1?ie=UTF8&qid=1500007460& sr=8-1&keywords=learning+curve+chris+evans
huddled together in jubilation, while the
their lead, as Liverpool flood forward in search of a goal. Substitute Herbie Kane narrowly misses from close range and O’Keefe turns round another effort that’s
The locals can scarcely believe their eyes
whistling towards the bottom corner.
as the scoreboard clicks over to show
The clock on the scoreboard continues
that the hosts are ahead against the five-
to count down towards the final whistle.
time European champions.
Not long to go. Liverpool shot, saved.
The Reds won’t lie down and continue
Defenders throw themselves in the way
to probe in the final third, but time and
to block a further chance. Then comes
again Loughborough get something on
the final whistle. It’s over, Loughborough
the ball to break up the attacks. Then the
University have beaten Liverpool.
blonde-haired Lewis Longstaff escapes
A surge of noise goes up around the
down the right and fires in a low cross
stadium, as the players embrace. The
into the penalty area, evading everyone
cameras fill the pitch again to record
but Miller, who takes one touch before
the university’s glory and Ackerley is
pulling back to equalise. Only the ball
grabbed by a man with a microphone
doesn’t go in, as Trotman and O’Keefe
to do an interview for Liverpool FC TV.
somehow get in the way to clear the
“We haven’t scored one goal like that
all season, let alone two,” he says to the
As the whistle goes for half time at 1-0 to
camera. “It’s been a great experience.”
Loughborough, the smiles all around the
Excitable chatter fills the touchline as
stadium tell their own story.
Loughborough’s players bask in their
The match soon settles into a similar
unlikely glory. Then one of the players
rhythm to the first half, with Liverpool
remembers himself, turning to an injured
dominating possession but failing to
team mate who watched his missed
create many clear-cut chances, bar a
opportunity from the stand.
Rafael Camacho strike that flashes wide
“Was Gerrard here in the end, then?”
of O’Keefe’s far post.
Given more time to play, Loughborough
“Oh, yeah,” the side-lined player replies
are enjoying the chance to show what
mischievously. “I’m sure he was sat at the
they can do with the ball. Another neat
back of the stand in a hoody so nobody
interchange on the edge of the area sets
could tell it was him.” His bombshell is
Ward-Cochrane through and the striker
met with a few disbelieving sniggers.
pulls back a low centre into Matt Crookes’
Until the myth starts to grow legs once
path, where the student pulls off an
again. “The trouble is,” says the player.
audacious flick with his hind leg to turn
“After all that has happened today, he
the ball into the goal.
could be telling the truth.”
Joe Gaughan Silsden AFC
Over the last three seasons, Silsden AFC have lacked a cutting edge in the final third, meaning two comfortable mid-table finishes sandwiched by relegation from the ninth tier, have meant the Yorkshire-based clubs supporters havenâ€™t had much to cheer recently. THENONLEAGUE.COM - 33
the campaign begins again in mid-
“The move had been on the radar for a while and even when I was out of football, I always had one eye on Silsden’s results being from the area myself… to be honest signing for the club was a no brainer.”
The one time Oceania Champions League
A large chunk of this optimism has come
preliminaries top scorer added; “Silsden
from the signing of prolific front man Joe
AFC haven’t always been an attractive
Gaughan, who after a three year hiatus
club, but they are definitely on the up
from the club, has returned ‘home’ to
now. Things are going well behind the
finish the job that was started well over
scenes and that is now transmitting itself
36 months ago.
onto the field.”
After enjoying a successful stint at
Handed an 11 month ban for violent
Barnoldswick Town, the forward who
conduct while playing down under
temporarily retired from the game
for Stopout Sports Club, Gaughan’s
last year, has unfinished business at
undoubted passion has at times brought
his hometown club, after a plethora of
out the worse in him. However, at the
impressive performances in 2014 led to
age of 23, the forward is now playing
Gaughan gaining cult-hero status at the
like a man well ahead of his years, and
Having had an abundance of talented midfielders to create chances over the years, the Cobblydalers biggest problem of late has been putting the ball in the back of the net, with the club losing more games than any other side in the top half of the North West Counties Division One in 2016-17. With Danny Forest in charge for the new term, an air of optimism has however suddenly come over the Keighley Road Stadium, and after a busy summer of comings and goings, the Cobblydalers could well be challenging at the top, rather than lingering at the bottom when
Keighley Road Stadium.
having shed his ‘bad boy’ image, he is
Beginning his career at League One outfit
determined to prove his doubters wrong.
Rotherham United, before playing in New
Speaking further about his decisions
Zealand for Stopout Sports Club and Kiwi FC, Gaughan has high hopes that Silsden AFC can rub shoulders with the big boys this term, and with 13 members of last season’s squad re-signed and plenty of new faces through the door, the signs are looking positive. Revealing why the time was right to re-join Silsden AFC, Gaughan has stated that the best is yet to come both from him and his new club, as he told TheNonLeague that after years in the doldrums, the Cobblydalers finally mean business. “I have known the manager Danny Forest for a long time now, way back from when I was at Barnoldswick Town. He’s a top
behind joining Silsden AFC and his plans for the future, Gaughan is hungry to learn more from his new manager, as he continued by saying. “Personally I believe I’ve matured so much over the last two years, both as a footballer and a human. I’m proud to play for my local club and I am now ready to show everyone what I am made of on the football field. “Silsden AFC is now an attractive club to play for and prospective players are now choosing to join us over other local sides which can only be a good sign. The new manager has been fantastic to me so far and I’m ready to knuckle down and learn
guy and a really talented manager, so the
from him week-by-week here!”
minute he came on board I knew that the
In their first season back in the tenth
call may be coming.
tier last season under the management
34 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
of James Gill, Silsden AFC flattered to deceive finishing 11th, 19 points off the final play-off position. 20 victories from 42 games was a strong return nonetheless, however 20 defeats and only just two draws meant that reaching fifth place was always out of grasp. With Widnes, Charnock Richard and City of Liverpool no longer in the division, the North West Counties Division One title, on paper, looks like anybody’s this term. As New Mills, Nelson and Cammell Laird 1907 join the pack, Silsden AFC will feel quietly confident that a spot in the play-offs can be achieved this time around.
With a young, hungry and primarily homegrown squad at the helm, Silsden AFC fronted by Gaughan have all the makings of a team that can challenge, and having enjoyed a strong pre-season, the ex-Colne man has re-iterated his earlier point that things are currently looking brighter than ever at the Keighley Road Stadium. “Looking at our current squad, we definitely have the ability to challenge at the top and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t win plenty of games this time around. The way we’re preparing for every match and improving as a team, the play-offs have to be the aim…however I am ambitious and I honestly think we can win the league!” Having taken time out away from the game to concentrate on his career, Gaughan has had no problems staying in shape, as his five month hiatus away from the game has led to plenty of long-distance runs in aid of a good cause. Now training to run the Great North Run on the 10th September in aid of ‘Dreams Come True’, Gaughan finished by speaking about his upcoming marathon and his new-found love for running, as he said passionately. “In recent weeks the football has taken over and I haven’t had time to run, but I am working hard to be in peak condition for September and to run for such a great cause will be an honour. I’d just like to say a huge thankyou to everyone that has already donated to my Just Giving page and if anyone would like to pledge, they still can at www.justgiving.com/joegaugh”
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Having excelled as club physio at Ashton Town last season, Lucy Weir’s dedication and undoubted talent has seen her move into the North West Counties Premier Division for the new campaign, with Merseyside outfit Bootle FC the lucky suitors. Despite Ashton Town’s relegation from the tenth tier in 201617, Weir’s emergence was seen as one of the only bright sparks from a dreadful season for the Greater Manchester based club. As well as working at Edge Green Street, Weir was also found in the treatment rooms at Litherland REMYCA and Cheshire League side Daten FC on an ad hoc basis, not to mention Maine Road, where the sports therapist worked for the second-half of last season. Attending an incredible 104 matches, both as physio and avid Non-League Groundhopper, Weir has no regrets from her breakthrough season in the dug-out, and after receiving plenty of plaudits for her skilful and thorough work, the Bolton Wanderers and Atherton Collieries fan has opened up about her ‘crazy’ first 12 months in football. “I moved clubs quite a few times last season, as I was trying to help out anyone that needed me basically. I started as Ashton Town’s physio, before officially signing for Maine Road in January. This didn’t stop me from working every waking hour though, and I still did a lot of work at Ashton Town even after leaving, as they tried all they could to stay in the North
West Counties. I also worked for Litherland REMYCA at the North West Counties Division One play-off final against City of Liverpool and I helped when possible at my local side Daten FC. I really pushed myself and I really did love every minute of it!” Recruited by then Litherland REMYCA manager Phil Stafford for his clubs play-off final, Weir impressed everyone at the club, and despite the final going by without any serious incidents, the 21-year-old was still on hand to deal with all the trials and tribulations involved in a huge game. With Stafford moving to Bootle in the summer, Weir was quickly snapped up and having worked through her first pre-season at the Bucks, the part-time Sports Rehab student has waxed lyrical about her new club, as she exclusively told TheNonLeague: “I can’t wait to get going at Bootle now, the pre-season campaign has been great for me and I can’t speak highly enough of the club so far. I knew that I would be moving here from the off, but I had to keep it quiet for a month or so which was tough. As soon
“Bootle definitely have what it takes to get into the Evo-Stik, the North West Counties is of course one of the tightest divisions around, but if we play how we did last season, we will have every chance of being in the mix come April.” THENONLEAGUE.COM - 37
as I could spread the word, I received so many good luck messages and most importantly, plenty of people told me that Bootle was one of the best clubs around to pit my wits as a physio in Non-League football. From personal experience, Bootle have a great set of supporters, a top set-up and ofcourse a brilliant football team, so to move here was a no brainer if I am honest!” After narrowly missing out on promotion to the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League last season, Bootle will be hoping that they can lift the North West Counties title this time around. Joined by the likes of City of Liverpool and Runcorn Linnets, Weir is confident that the Bucks can follow in the footsteps of Atherton Collieries, as she continued by saying. “Bootle definitely have what it takes to get into the Evo-Stik, the North West Counties is of course one of the tightest divisions around, but if we play how we did last season, we will have every chance of being in the mix come April.” In demand before joining Bootle, it surely won’t be long before Weir makes the next step up into the higher echelons of the Non-League game. Whether that be with the Bucks or another club, there is no doubt that the physio is going places. Revealing that she did have the opportunity to join a number of clubs in the Evo-Stik and above, Weir explained why staying in the North West Counties was the most sensible decision, as she confidently said: “I had spoken to quite a few clubs in the summer about the prospect of working for them, some of which were in higher divisions than Bootle. I am learning so much at this level though and in the North West Counties, I can really get stuck in at a grassroots level. While I am still learning my trade, I wanted to stay in the ninth tier and thankfully Bootle gave me that opportunity. I love what I am doing and hopefully now I am also on a rehabilitation degree, I can pick up more practical skills that can be used on the football field and in the treatment room.” Officially a fully qualified sports therapist, having passed her final exams in July, Weir is set to embark on the biggest adventure of her flourishing career, as she enters a full-time sports rehab degree from September. Constantly learning and thriving to one day become a physio in the Premier League, Weir is currently living the dream and with age on her side, she has big dreams of working in the professional game well before her four-and-a-half-year degree finishes. “Doing a part-time degree at the University of Bolton will mean that I can continue to work in the Non-League game, as well as learning the practicalities behind what it takes to become a top-profile physio. I am enjoying it so much and who knows where I’ll be in four years’ time. All I can say is I am so happy to be at Bootle and fingers crossed I can be a part of a trophy winning side this season!”
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Matty Pearson Accrington Stanley
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One of the top performers in League Two over the last 18 months, there were rumours that Accrington Stanley’s Matty Pearson was set to move up the footballing pyramid this summer, with a host of top clubs showing an interest in the versatile defender. Handed the captains armband for the first time at the Wham Stadium last term, the 23-year-old has consistently played like a man with hundreds of appearances under his belt; at times singlehandedly leading Stanley through games, as they finished 13th in arguably the tightest division in English football. Registering 65 points, John Coleman’s men finished just five points outside of the play-off positions, with the side going into the final game of the 2016-17 season with a chance of climbing into the top five. A club with a proud reputation in the Non-League game before their historic promotion to the Football League in 2006, Stanley’s humble supporters have never forgotten their roots; as the Lancashire-based club still continually play with the heart, pride and passion that is found up and down the country in the Non-League game. Beginning his career at Blackburn Rovers as a 10 year old, Pearson progressed through the academy at Ewood Park, eventually signing his first professional contract in the summer of 2011. With Blackburn Rovers a top Premier League outfit at this time, game time was few and far between for Pearson however, and it was a move to the Non-League game with Lincoln City that really handed the defensive stalwart his chance to shine. Showing glimpses of things to come at Sincil Bank, Pearson later moved on to Rochdale in League Two after leaving Blackburn Rovers, before again moving into the Conference with FC Halifax Town, firstly on loan and then permanently when his loan expired. Making over 100 appearances for the Shaymen over a three year period, Pearson turned from a boy to a man at the Shay, as he consistently stood out as one of the best players at the Yorkshire-based club.
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“Playing non-league football taught me how to look after myself”
Appearing 46 times and scoring twice in all competitions throughout his first full season as a FC Halifax Town player, the Keighley-born defender was rewarded with a new contract when his 12 month deal expired, and it was from there, the big boys began to sit up and take notice. Again the first name on the team sheet at the club during the following season, FC Halifax Town battled for a place in the play-offs, despite eventually falling short and finishing 9th, 13 points off fifth placed Forest Green Rovers. A man with dreams to play in the Football League, Pearson was approached by Accrington Stanley that summer, and after admitting that he would have ‘regretted it if he rejected the opportunity’, the non-league’s star man was presented to the Stanley fans, as John Coleman finally got his man. On the brink of becoming a centurion at Accrington Stanley, Pearson is a man destined for the bright lights of the Premier League, and it is testament to his character that he has already played over 200 games at the age of 23. Thankful for his grounding in the Non-League game, the Yorkshireman has admitted that he will forever be grateful for FC Halifax Town for presenting him with the platform to showcase his talents in the fifth tier, as he said. “At Blackburn Rovers, the academy was fantastic, but of course playing youth and reserve football is completely different to what it is really like in the professional game. Things didn’t take off at Ewood Park and thankfully, FC Halifax Town gave me the chance to play week in week out. “Playing non-league football taught me how to look after myself, I was just a teenager when I first joined the club, and at the age of 18 and 19 I had to quickly stand up for myself, because non-league football is unforgiving.” Pearson added; “From a young age, I have been used to the physicality that comes with Conference football. There are definitely plenty of comparisons between the fourth and fifth tiers, and my two seasons at the Shay have helped me greatly this season at Accrington Stanley.” While at FC Halifax Town, Pearson wasn’t able to get the Shaymen over the line despite his best efforts, as the club missed out on a play-off position during consecutive seasons. Nevertheless, the sides of 2013, 2014 and 2015 will go down in living memory as one of the best of this generation, with many of the famous faces from those teams now playing in the Football League. With Pearson at Accrington Stanley and Lee Gregory now at Millwall to name just a few, Pearson has spoken further about
his time at the Shay, as he waxed lyrical about his former manager Neil Aspin.
THENONLEAGUE.COM - 41
“Of course it helped as I was playing in a good team, however the manager was fantastic to me and he taught me a lot both on and off the field. Neil Aspin gave me the chance and I’ll forever be grateful for that.” Preparing for another promotion push at Accrington Stanley this season, Pearson is quietly confident that Stanley can overcome the odds this season, after a number of heart-wrenching and unfortunate near misses. Making his England under 18 and England C debuts in 2013, Pearson also has dreams of one day playing internationally for Gareth Southgate’s senior side. However for now, he is just concentrating on getting Stanley into the third tier, as he stated that the clubs under-dog spirit, will surprise a lot of the division’s big boys this season.
“Every player dreams of playing in the Premier League and I am no different. I’d love to play as high as I possibly can and with age on my side, I am focused on improving week by week at Accrington Stanley. Our dressing room at Stanley is very like that at of a non-league team, in a way that we face every game as under-dogs and we have a ‘us against the world’ mentality. We love playing against the big clubs because we get in their face and they don’t enjoy it, we get underestimated by everyone before every season, but I see no reason why we can’t surprise everyone again by reaching the play-offs this time around!”
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ONES TO WATCH
k c Ja am h r Ba ts
r o p S x i Phoen
Age: 2 1 Positio n: Strik er Height : 5ft 8 Foot: R ight Previo Heybr us Clubs: Ch Thurroidge Swifts, elmsford C ity, Tilbury ck FC FC,
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My football career began at Chelmsford City FC in their academy. I went on loan to Heybridge Swifts to get game time and improve my football at a senior level. I was actually a right back until the manager Jody Brown got the job at Heybridge a couple of months into my spell there and asked me to play upfront. That was the real start of my career as a striker and I finished the season with 20+ goals in half a season. Colchester United FC then invited me to trial with them, but the manager at the time left the club which left me in no man’s land. Tilbury FC came in for me and I felt I needed a new challenge. I got off to a great start bagging a goal on debut against Brentwood Town. Promotion chasing Thurrock FC later came in for me and I played a part helping them win promotion to Ryman Premier ending with 15 goals in an injury hit season. I have just signed with Phoenix Sports to fire them to promotion and keep progressing towards full time football when I’m ready. Have you always been a striker? I started off as a right back at Chelmsford City before Heybridge Swifts manager Jody Brown converted me into a striker. Who was your idol growing up? My idol has always been Jermain Defoe, his finishing is unreal and off the pitch he is so inspiring. Which team do you support? Tottenham Hotspur Best goal so far? During a game against Cray Wanderers the ball got put through to me and from about 30 yards out i smashed the ball into the top right-hand corner of the goal. How do you relax away from football? Away from football i like to chill out with my friends and play a bit of golf as well as going down to the gym to chill out in the sauna and jacuzzi What are your aims in football? My aim in football is to get that professional deal and in the next couple of years nothing is going to stop me, I am going to do whatever it takes. What boots do you wear? I like to wear either Nike Mercurials or Adidas X16 What advice would you give to young aspiring footballers? My advice to any young footballers is that nothing is easy in life and if you really want it you’ve got to put your life into football, working hard every day and never ever think your not good enough because people will always put you down but that has to make you stronger, so hard work is key. All the little things in football are the things that matter the most so keep your head down work hard and show people why you should be at the top level What is your pre-match meal? My pre-match meal will always remain the same, 2 pieces of toast, 3 eggs and baked beans all over the top. Honestly its the best! What does the future hold for Jack Barham? The future, well in the next 2 years i want to get into the pro game and show people I’m good enough to be at that level, i feel like I’m ready to make that step now.
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Tell us about your football career so far?
Newport Pagnell Town FC
A month is a long time in football, as Newport Pagnell Town FC manager Darren Lynch discovered first hand in June. THENONLEAGUE.COM - 45
With the Swans finishing a comfortable 10th in the United Counties Premier Division last season, Lynch had planned to build over the summer after a 12 month period of consolidation. However, Chairman Ian Ford made the decision that Lynch wasn’t the man to take the club forward and in mid-June, it was concluded that Newport Pagnell Town and their manager would go their separate ways, as Lynch resigned from his role. With the club in limbo and Lynch back on the market looking for a new club to manage for the 2017-18 campaign, the larger than life character received an unexpected call from the Swans hierarchy, as they offered him the chance to return to Willen Road, less than a fortnight after he left. A young and hungry manager, Lynch’s first tenure at the club was one of great success, as the Swans reached the quarter-finals of the FA Vase, creating history as they eventually lost out to winners South Shields in the last eight. As the club progressed in one of the Non-League’s premier competitions, the small Buckinghamshire town of Newport Pagnell started to believe that an unexpected trip to Wembley was on the cards, as a record number of 764 supporters watched Milton Keynes most successful Non-League club beat Sunderland RCA in the FA Vase fifth round. Smoothing things out with the board at Willen Road after his shock move back to the club, Lynch has revealed his decisions behind initially leave and then returning, as he told TheNonLeague… “This summer has been the strangest of my footballing career, both as a player and a manager. It hasn’t been great preparation for the new campaign but that is football for you. I have had a tough couple of months as it is never easy to lose a job, and having set my mind set to being away from football for a while, I quickly had to get back into football mode when I came back a fortnight after resigning.” Lynch added; “When I discovered that I had the backing of the players, I said I would return to the club and I have a lot to thank them for, as without them, who knows what would have happened.” As the Swans fans and players travelled up in unison to Mariners Park for the biggest game of the clubs 54 year history, Lynch began to believe that the impossible was nothing against South Shields.
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“This summer has been the strangest of my footballing career”
Despite losing the game in front of 3,000
“The clubs chairman and director of football
supporters, the Swans boss saw with his
have confirmed a few things that I didn’t
own Eyes what continued backing and
think were in place and they have shown
ambition could bring to his club, and despite
me that the club are moving in the right
finishing way behind United Counties league
direction both on and off the field.
champions Peterborough Sports last term, Lynch’s head was filled with dreams of taking Newport Pagnell Town to the top. Disillusioned by the direction that the club was going in, Lynch has spoken further about why he initially resigned his position at Newport Pagnell Town, stating that being involved in the FA Vase run increased his self-confidence and his ambitions for the club, which at the time wasn’t matched by those above him at Willen Road. “A lot of the disagreements that were had in the close season came from me getting the taste for success thanks to the FA Vase games, especially the fifth round against Sunderland RCA and the quarter-final away at South Shields. “Putting out a competitive team in a quarter-final away from home in front of 3,000 fans really whet my appetite and at the time, I thought the club weren’t willing to back me, as of course I’d love to be competing in the final stages of the FA Vase and fighting for promotion in the league every season.” Lynch continued; “That’s the main reason why I resigned, but having spoken to the chairman and the board since then, they’ve shown me a lot of plans that do match what I am working towards and they have now proved to me that we mean business for the season ahead.” Allowing Lynch to bring in a number of ‘big name’ signings, Newport Pagnell Town now find themselves in a strong position to challenge on all fronts. Capable of beating anybody on their day, the Buckinghamshire based outfit will now feel like they can replicate their FA Vase performances on a regular basis, and with Lynch back at the helm with a point
Photos: Peter Talbot, NPFC
to prove, fans of the Swans are in for an exciting season.
“It is difficult to say whether we can cement a real push for promotion this season, as the United Counties are incredibly tough, with just one side going up. We’ve strengthened in the summer and we have proved in the FA Vase that we can compete on our day and it is now up to us to show that on the main stage.” Facing London Colney, Peterborough Sports, Sunderland RCA and South Shields on their way to the last eight of the FA Vase, the Swans defeated the winners of the Spartan South Midland League and the winners of the United Counties League in the early rounds, before eventually losing out to the Northern League champions. Proving that they can mix it with sides boasting bigger budgets and better infrastructure, Lynch finished by predicting another campaign full of ups and downs this term, as he finished by stating that he is quietly confident of ruffling a few feathers at the top end of the division this time around. “Starting strongly in this division is crucial and by October, we need to be there or thereabouts to stand any chance. If we hit the ground running then who knows that will happen? We dropped too many points from winning positions last season, so if we can sort that out, we can definitely challenge for the title.”
THENONLEAGUE.COM - 47
E P HO S G N I R P S L A N R E ET PLANNING IMPROVES THE CHANCE OF SUCCESS “It is human nature to find fresh cause for optimism” proverb At the top of our game clubs are awash with cash. Huge TV deals have inflated the transfer market yet clubs lower down the Football League and in the Non-League pyramid are struggling to survive. Premier League clubs reportedly spent £2bn on transfers last season. The boom in transfer fees has been fuelled by the increase in TV revenues. The Premier League has argued that the TV cash is helping support the wider game in this country but almost half of the money paid in transfer fees last season went to overseas clubs. This year’s summer transfer activity would indicate that the net outflow for the coming season is set to exceed last season’s figure. All this at a time when the grassroots of the game in this country is crying out for additional resources. The grassroots of the game have shown remarkable resilience; largely sustained by volunteers who put in countless hours and their own cash for nothing more than the love of the game. Much more could be achieved in the lower leagues if there was greater resource.
48 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
The grassroots of the game have shown remarkable resilience; largely sustained by volunteers who put in countless hours and their own cash for nothing more than the love of the game.
CLICK HERE TO JOIN THE FSF Just a small percentage of the additional cash that the Premier League clubs will receive from the latest TV deal would make a huge difference if invested in grassroots clubs and facilities in local areas. The request of extra cash for grassroots football is not new but rather than a demand for ‘handouts’ this is a call for investment in the bedrock of the game. The Football Supporters Federation (FSF) campaigns for increased funding for the lower levels of the game. Our very existence is to help build the game. We also want to see an improvement in the experience of all football’s supporters, in particular those supporters who attend matches and those playing an active role in helping the game survive. Our 500,000 members are made up of individual fans and members of local supporters’ organisations throughout the professional structure, the grassroots and the non-league football pyramid.
The FSF passionately believes that meaningful engagement with supporters at club level can bring financial benefit as well as valuable insight and resource. Football as a whole would be better off if supporters were more involved in the running of their clubs. Supporter-ownership is the most powerful and obvious method for fans to influence the way that their club is run and the work of our sister organisation at Supporters Direct has helped facilitate that option for numerous groups of supporters. Whilst, not every supporter wants to own their club many would still welcome greater involvement. Clubs and leagues at a grassroots level would not exist without the involvement of the vast army of football fans volunteering to run local clubs.
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The FA estimates that there are over 400,000 volunteers contributing to football in England alone. “Without the time, dedication and commitment from the estimated 400,000 volunteers in England, the 37,000 clubs would simply not exist. A football club is more than just about the players on the pitch.” The FA - Your Game website The FSF is working with the FA and clubs in the Non-League game to help clubs attract more volunteers and make the experience of volunteering at a football club more rewarding for supporters and clubs alike. Volunteering opportunities exist at junior clubs and senior clubs alike. Most non-league clubs struggle to attract enough volunteers. In a recent survey of our members up to a quarter indicated that they would like to volunteer their services to the game. Over the coming twelve months the FSF will offer assistance to football fans, leagues and clubs to help increase the number of supporters volunteering at clubs and improve the experience of volunteers.
“Without the time, dedication and commitment from the estimated 400,000 volunteers in England, the 37,000 clubs would simply not exist. A football club is more than just about the players on the pitch.” 50 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
CLICK HERE TO JOIN THE FSF
Volunteering can be a hugely rewarding experience and as well as strengthening a supporterâ€™s relationship with their club it can also lead to future employment opportunities. To achieve maximum benefit from a volunteering programme it has to be planned properly. With growing evidence that thousands of football fans are prepared to offer their time and energies to clubs we want to find a way of fulfilling that potential. The FSF wants to see more supporters actively engaged in the running of the game. A successful volunteering programme is a positive way that supporters can assist their club and the wider game achieve the best possible outcome. The FSF is committed to exploring ways in which we can make the act of volunteering easier and more attractive. We want to work with the wider game to improve volunteering and bring more volunteers into clubs and leagues.
THENONLEAGUE.COM - 51
A successful volunteering programme is a positive way that supporters can assist their club and the wider game achieve the best possible outcome. 52 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
CLICK HERE TO JOIN THE FSF As August appears on the horizon the whole of
supporters have precious little control on what
football is united in hope. The experience and
happens on the pitch, their actions create the
memories of seasons past are put to the back of the
atmosphere and environment around a club that
mind and traded for the ‘better times’ that the coming
allows players and coaches to perform to the best of
season will bring. Every team has the same playing
record before a ball is kicked; supporters harbour
With no immediate prospect of extra cash from the
hopes that the coming season will be better than the
Premier League’s growing TV revenues trickling down
last; players can finally put the close season boredom
to the lower leagues any time soon clubs need to help
and pre-season training behind them and managers
will promise themselves that they have learnt from the previous season.
Any club or league interested in
For many, the clanging of the school bell heralding
assisting with the development
the start of the new term will also see cold hard reality
of volunteering opportunities and
kick in. The dreams of another summer will be washed away by the Autumn rain.
strengthening our non-league game
Players have some control over their individual
should contact the FSF for more
and team performance, and so to a large extent do
managers and coaches. Whilst club officials and
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AN EYE ON TV
“I still cannot believe that I am on Gogglebox”
n a t s i Tr mer m u Pl 54 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
For those Non-League footballers, lucky enough to do so, featuring in the third-round proper of the FA Cup is usually a dream come true, especially when it is against one of the nation’s big boys away from home. Whether it be the Etihad, Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge or the Emirates, an ‘David vs Goliath’ cup clash will not only bring lifelong memories for those involved, but also fantastic financial support for the Non-League club, especially when the likes of Sky Sports, BT and BBC inevitably broadcast the game, hoping and praying for the unlikeliest of upsets. The average Non-League footballer is not geared up to playing in front of the television screens in front of thousands of not millions of viewers. Used to crowds of 50 to 5,000 depending on how far the pyramid they play at, it can be a daunting sight when the cameras turn up on the gantry. One footballer who has never played in the FA Cup third round, but is no stranger to the television cameras, is ex-Hereford FC man Tristan Plummer, who despite appearing regularly at Edgar Street also featured on hit Channel 4 show GoggleBox. Sat on his black leather settee in his Bristol home, along with his two brothers Tremaine and Twaine, the talented footballer can be seen every week discussing the latest goings on in the world of television. Tristan is not the only footballer in his family either, with Twaine a fans favourite at Wiltshire-based Western League Premier Division outfit Bradford Town FC. Coming from a football loving family and a product of the Bristol City academy, Plummer may never have imagined being one of the key faces in such a popular
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television show. However, at the age of 27, he has dreams of conquering not only the football world but also the world of TV. Having made 24 appearances for England under 16, 17 and 18’s, the diminutive winger has played his fair share of games in the Football League, with the likes of Luton Town and Gillingham on his large CV. With experience in the fourth tier, a season at Portuguese second tier outfit Portimonese S.C. and an ex-trialist at 2.Bundesliga side DSC Arminia Bielefeld, Plummer clearly has the talent and the character to play professionally. However, with his television career going from strength to strength, Plummer is happy to stay in the NonLeague game, and after a stop start season at Hereford FC last season, due mainly to a host of niggling injuries, the Bristolian is now on the hunt for a new club. Signing for Hereford FC last August, Plummer helped the Bulls win the treble in only their second season in existence. Proud of what he achieved in such a short space of time at Edgar Street, the Gogglebox star has no regrets in leaving the club, as he told the magazine that he wishes the club nothing but success in their new division. “My time at Edgar Street was great, I heard how well the club did in their first season in the Midlands League and I was desperate to be involved in such a top set-up. I was over the moon when Beads (Peter Beadle) signed me and I have nothing but good words to say about him to be honest! “From the moment he showed me his plans last preseason, I knew he had a vision to take the club back to the Football League and I had every confidence that we’d emulate the successes of the first season, which we eventually did do.” Plummer added; “This season is going to be a lot harder for the club, there’ll be against bigger teams and everyone will want to take the scalp of Hereford FC. It’s going to be a tough one, but I think under Beads, the club has every chance of making it a trio of promotions come late-April!” With Peter Beadle stating that he ‘wouldn’t be surprised if Plummer left in the summer after being offered deals elsewhere’ it came as no surprise to Bulls fans when their skilful wing wizard walked out of the doors of Edgar Street for the last time.
56 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
“After picking up a few injuries last season, I have kept myself fit in the off-season and whichever club I do join, I can guarantee that I will be raring to go and fitter than ever”
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A man in demand, Plummer is yet to decide where his next destination is to be; however, having revealed that National League South sides Weston Super Mare and Bath City have both shown an interest, it looks as though Plummer will be playing in at least
there, things just didn’t work out unfortunately. “I am desperate to prove to people that I have the quality to mix it at
the league above his former employees this
the highest level and after taking a
step back, I am now ready to push
Speaking during his summer break to
on again on the field!”
America, Plummer has admitted that he is close to deciding his plans for the upcoming
Appearing on GoggleBox with his two
campaign, as he told TheNonLeague: “I have
brothers over the last 12 months, the
been keeping my options open all summer,
Plummer family are currently filming for a
there has been offers put on the table but
brand new series of the award-winning show.
I am just deciding which one I prefer to be
Revealing what it takes to star on the show
honest. There are a lot of things to weigh up
and how playing Non-League and being
when it comes to joining a new club, but I
a Gogglebox star works perfectly for him,
can confirm that my decision isn’t far away
Plummer finished by predicting that 2017-18
will be a good year for him both on the field
“After picking up a few injuries last season,
and the screens, as he said.
I have kept myself fit in the off-season and
“I still cannot believe that I am on
whichever club I do join, I can guarantee that
Gogglebox! It all came from my brothers to
I will be raring to go and fitter than ever!”
be honest, they were on our street in Bristol
Having already enjoyed three separate spells
one day and a man with a clipboard came
at Weston Super Mare, it will be interesting
up to them and spoke to them about the
to see whether Plummer returns ‘home’
this month, or goes in search of a fresh challenge. With a move to the sixth tier likely, the versatile attacker is desperate to be involved in another title winning team, after gaining the taste for silverware at Edgar Street. Playing in the National League for Aldershot Town between 2014 and 2015, Plummer
“The man with the clipboard was looking for
has not given up hope on returning to
a family in the area to appear on a television
the Football League in the not so distant
show, but at the time we did not have a clue
future, as he stated confidently that ‘he has
that that television show was Gogglebox.
unfinished business’ in the fourth tier.
The man from Channel 4 came to our front
“I feel like I can definitely do a job in the National League or National League South this season. I showed that I could do it at Aldershot Town and although I played quite a few games
58 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
room a few weeks later with a camera crew for some trial filming and three months later, we got offered the chance to sign up! “It is crazy to think that I am on television, I get some stick in the dressing room and from away fans but I wouldn’t change my job for the world and I am loving every minute of it, a year on from where it all started!
â€œI am loving every minute of running @HerefordGoals and long may it continueâ€?
A keen Bulls supporter for many years, Carl Haffenden has seen first-hand the highs and lows of following Hereford FC. From League One, to trips to Wembley and a stint in the Midlands League, there has rarely been a dull moment at Edgar Street over the last decade. From watching the club on the terraces, Haffenden has moved
Filming near minute-by-minute updates and capturing all of the
on to filming and setting up @HerefordGoals, the social media
Bulls goals, @HerefordGoals has become pivotal for Hereford
man has played a huge role in revolutionising the way that
FC fans and players alike, and amassing nearly 4,000 twitter
Hereford FC fans both in Herefordshire and beyond enjoy their
followers and many more viewers, the sky is the limit for the
match day experience.
popular social media channel. The brains (and the camera) behind @HerefordGoals,
THENONLEAGUE.COM - 59
Haffenden has had his fair share of joyous
you think about it too much! We have
moments to capture since Hereford FC
Americans, Brazilians and Spaniards tuning
reformed in 2014, with back-to-back
in to watch on twitter every week. We also
promotions and numerous pieces of
get requests from away teams who want to
silverware in the trophy cabinet at Edgar
review their performances, so all round the
Street, easing the woes of Hereford United
twitter page is great for so many reasons.”
ceasing to exist.
With Peter Beadle’s men now just one
Capturing Hereford FC’s first ever goal at
promotion away from the National League
Edgar Street in front of 4,000 fans during
South, two away from the National League
a historic pre-season, Haffenden was on
and three away from the ‘promised land’
hand for Nathan Hughes strike, as Bulls fans
of League Football, excitement is building
across the globe were able to be a part of
around Edgar Street, with Hereford FC
an iconic moment.
showing signs that former glories are now
Looking back to that summery day in
just around the corner.
early-July 2015 and talking about what the
As @HerefordGoals has grown, so has
future holds for the resurgent Bulls and @ HerefordGoals, Haffenden has revealed how his hobby quickly became a serious job at Edgar Street; “I would stand on the terraces with my phone in hand and when we had an attack in my half, I would try and capture as much of it as I could. Luckily for Hereford and myself, I was on hand to film the first Hereford FC goal scored at Edgar Street. “After the FC United friendly, I thought nothing about posting the goal onto social media. What happened next was incredible, and the feedback was amazing! I was approached by the Hereford FC media manager and he asked if I would be interested in filming on a regular basis from then on. I was then granted access to all home games and the comments I have had ever since from home and away fans, players and football fans in general has been great. From there, it has been a real whirlwind and I now film all of the away games as well!” With a core of 2,500 supporters at Edgar Street and 500 on the road, Hereford FC are not short of backing on the terraces. With promotion secured in May and with the club now in touching distance of a return to the
Haffenden’s techniques and with Go Pro’s behind goals and other hi-tech equipment now giving the Bulls un-official social media feed the star-factor, the page has become the envy of many clubs higher up the footballing pyramid. Unfortunately for the budding videographer though, National League requirements will not allow the page to film kick-by-kick action if the Bulls are to gain promotion in the future, and Haffenden is looking forward to savouring potentially his last season of catching all of the action from the terraces; “I have got some great equipment that helps capture all of the action now, and Go Pro’s in particular have really been a God send. I am trying to get as much action as I can from the stands so the fans, so our fantastic supporters can experience all of the action. “I haven’t thought any further forward than next season as unfortunately I might not get to do what I do now in the sixth and fifth tiers. Saying that though, I am loving every minute of running @HerefordGoals and long may it continue!”
National League, there is every chance that
A fan of the Bulls first and foremost,
fans will continue to gather in their masses.
Haffenden has begun dreaming of a return
For those not lucky enough to live in close proximity of the Bulls home ground, Haffenden added that his videos have been viewed in South-America, Europe and
to League football, and as Hereford FC continue to brush past every obstacle that comes in their way, there is no reason why fourth tier football shouldn’t be returning to
even by ex-pat Bulls fans in Hollywood this
Herefordshire in the future.
season; “The fan base of @HerefordGoals
However, after being the big fish in a small
is so far-fetched it blows your mind if
pond in both the Midlands League Premier
60 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
and the Southern League Division One South and West, Haffenden believes Beadle’s boys will come face-to-face with better competition next season. With the likes of Kettering Town, Slough Town and Weymouth in the division next season, Haffenden is hopeful that promotion for the Bulls is still possible, and with a busy summer of recruitment ahead behind the scenes, the keen social media man is already counting down the seconds, minutes, hours and days until the 2017-18 campaign begins. “Last season, we went on a nice run at the start and that really cemented our stay at the top. Every game we played was massive for the opposition and with a big crowd guaranteed with Hereford in town, nothing less than the league was expected. However, in a higher division next season we will be tested more and it definitely won’t be as easy as the other two campaigns. We will come up against plenty of former National League outfits and we will need to bring in some good players in order to compete.
“Ther betw e is a bril fans een the pl liant bon pre-s at Herefo ayers and d camp eason nowrd FC and the wait aign begin underwa with ahead to see ho s, I canno y the t of th w we s e new h seasoape up n”
“There is a brilliant bond between the players and the fans at Hereford FC and with the pre-season campaign now underway, I cannot wait to see how we shape up ahead of the new season!”
THENONLEAGUE.COM - 61
An ever-present in Kidderminster Harrier’s side last season, Keith Lowe hardly missed a second of action in the Harriers National League North campaign, as the Harriers narrowly lost out in the sixth tier play-off semi-finals to Chorley. Appearing 46 times and impressing on a regular basis, club captain Lowe was named in the National League North team of the year, alongside teammates Zaine Francis-Angol and James McQuilkin. An appearance-based clause extended Lowe’s contact until the summer of 2018 and despite falling at the final hurdle in the play-offs, the defender had plans to help the Harriers return to the fifth tier next season. However, his club had other plans… Regarded as one of the shocks of the summer, Lowe was told that he could leave Aggborough on a free transfer, and despite many Kidderminster Harriers supporters questioning their clubs judgement, the Harriers loss was to be Macclesfield Towns gain, as we will later discover. Boasting the best defensive record in the sixth tier last
h t i Ke e w o L Macclesfield Town
season, many Non-League aficionados are interested to see how the Harriers can cope without their main man and ex-talisman in the heart of the back four. Lowe’s former centre-back partner Jordan Tunnicliffe’s move to AFC Fylde has also hindered the club further and as the 2017-18 campaign begins, Kidderminster Harriers will be aiming to win the league without two of their best players from the season before. Walking out of the gates at Aggborough for the last time in early-June, Lowe was not short of enquiries, and after speaking to a number of clubs both in the Harriers league and above, the ex-York City man took the decision to join John Askey’s revolution at Moss Rose A testament to Lowe’s quality, the defender who still has aspirations to have his final swansong in the Football League, now finds himself just one tier away from the promised land, and after a strong pre-season, he is quietly confident that the Silkmen can compete with the big boys. Finishing 9th in the National League last season, 14 points behind fifth placed Aldershot Town, Lowe is hoping to be the missing piece in Macclesfield Town’s
62 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
“I was shocked to leave Kidderminster Harriers if I am honest. I had a good season at Aggborough and I was feeling settled both on and off the field. jigsaw, and having visited Moss Rose as a visiting players in the
table at the end of every month!”
past, he has revealed that the prospect of joining such a ‘great’
Having featured in every division from the Championship to
team was just too good to turn down.
the National League North, Lowe is on the brink of making his
Reflecting back on his shock departure from Kidderminster
500th career appearance at Macclesfield Town this season.
Harriers and looking ahead to his new challenge at Macclesfield
Having been lucky with injuries over the last two decades, Lowe
Town, Lowe has stated that he hasn’t been deterred by leaving
will be hoping to once again be the first name on the team
Aggborough, as the National League North team of the year
sheet at Moss Rose.
inductee told the Non-League Magazine.
When Macclesfield Town lost at Wembley in the FA Trophy
“I was shocked to leave Kidderminster Harriers if I am honest.
final in May, the Silkmen’s back four were dominated by the
I had a good season at Aggborough and I was feeling settled
formidable presence of York City frontman Jon Parkin. Having
both on and off the field. However, I am experienced enough
struggled at times to keep some of the National League’s top
to know that things can change quickly in football and I had to
scorers at bay, Lowe’s presence may just be the key this season
react quickly after the manager made his decision to let me go.”
when it comes to keeping things tight at the back.
The 2005-06 Football League Trophy winner continued by
Standing at six foot two, a warrior in defence and a real threat
saying; “At the end of the day, I am 31-years of age and I knew
in the air in the oppositions box, Lowe has boldly stated that he
that there was no point in sulking and calling things a day when
hasn’t joined Macclesfield Town to ‘make up the numbers’, as he
I left Kidderminster Harriers. I had to think about my family and
stated that his move to Moss Rose is a an exciting adventure,
I knew that I needed a new club in order to put food on the
that could well end in promotion to League Two…
THENONLEAGUE.COM - 63
“The first thing I want to do is play as many games as I can at Macclesfield Town. I’ve played at least 20 games in each and every season I’ve played professionally and I want that run to continue. I haven’t signed to just be a bit part player and I will do all I can to keep my shirt. I am here to play a big role in the team and hopefully all being well, the club will be fighting at the top end of the table and who knows, after a top 10 finish in 2016-17, the play-offs are our top priority this time around.” A National League club since 2012, Macclesfield Town’s supporters are desperate to see the good times return to Moss Rose. Finishing 6th, 10th and 9th in their last three seasons in the fifth tier, Lowe believes the quality is now in the Silkmen side to win promotion, as he continued by saying.
“I see no reason why we can’t be in the Football League. There’s a lot of quality in the squad at the moment, there’s a great mix of youth and experience and the spirit in the dressing room is one of the best I have ever been in. Of course we need to hit the ground running and we need luck on our side, but if we can win the majority of our games at Moss Rose and keep things tight away from home, we shouldn’t be scared of any side, as on our day we can beat anybody.” Playing for the likes of Glenn Hoddle, Mick McCarthy and Gary Mills throughout his career, Lowe will not be short of people to turn to if and when he decides to swap the boots for the dug-out. With the temperament to one day become a manager, many are tipping the former Cheltenham Town star to start gaining his coaching badges in the not so distant future. Lowe however isn’t entertaining that idea yet, and with ambitions to extend his career for as long as possible, Lowe is concentrating solely on what happens on the field, as he finished by saying. “There’s no plans in place to do my badges just yet, the coaches at Macclesfield Town are more than capable and experienced, so I’ll concentrate on my football for now. At 31, I don’t feel old, especially not for a defender. I have plenty more in the tank and I’d love to play for as long as possible.”
64 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
m o r F
Father to Son James Brown is an American citizen living in the Parisian suburbs, he is the grandson of Jim Brown who is the only Scotsman to ever score a goal in a World Cup semi-final. Jim Brown was born in Kilmarnock but as an 18-year-old he left Scotland for the USA in search of his errant father. He first played competitive football in America, eventually playing for the USA in the 1930 World Cup. The USA won their group beating Belgium and Paraguay both 3-0 before losing to Argentina in semi-final 1-6, Brown scoring the consolation in the last minute. James is currently writing a book about his family and their contribution to sport, which includes several footballers and rugby players of some renown, and has kindly allowed us access to his files to tell some of his grandfatherâ€™s story, which includes a record breaking spell at non-league Guildford City. Following his World Cup adventure Brown continued to grow his reputation as a footballer stateside but after the collapse of professional football in the USA he decided to return to Scotland in 1932. His career in the USA had however attracted some interest in the UK and whilst his ship awaited a pilot to berth, Scott Duncan the then Manchester United manager stole a march on rivals by taking a tugboat out to the liner to sign Brown up. At Old Trafford in 1934 Jim Brown scored 17 goals in 40 appearances before departing under a cloud because he was an outspoken playerâ€™s union proponent, something that hierarchies of clubs were not at all in favour of.
>>>> THENONLEAGUE.COM - 65
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66 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
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Photos: James Brown
THENONLEAGUE.COM - 67
Stocksbridge Park Steels kicked off
h s a c s l Stee big day n o n i
their pre-season preparations with a glamour tie against cross city rivals Sheffield United. The friendly between the two sides has become a regular occurrence in recent
years, with the step eight side benefitting from what is usually their highest gate of the season. The Blades packed 1860 supporters through the gates at Bracken Moor Lane, in a game in which Steel’s supporters were vastly outnumbered. An earful of atmosphere was generated by the Sheffield faithful in the south west corner prior to kick-off, but they would soon settle down as the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Division one south side kept their side at bay for the opening 20 minutes.
Article AND Photos: Joshua Green
The South Yorkshire side completed a settled season at step eight level in 2016/17, by finishing fourth and qualifying for May’s play-off semi-final’s. But they would eventually lose out to Spalding United. Manager Chris Hilton has bolstered the squad over the summer months with several new signings, but the departure of Harrison Biggins has left a gaping hole. The highly rated midfielder became a regular fixture at the Look Local Stadium, but has now joined Fleetwood Town on a two-year contract. Despite his absence, plenty of fans turned their heads towards non-league football to support their local club against the now second tier Sheffield United. Stocksbridge commercial manager Dave Bradley said: “It was a great attendance again from the blades supporters on what was an absolute belter of day. We learned some lessons from last year and got some extra toilets and some extra beer, that didn’t last long”. The additional revenue from matches such as this, can fund a lower league side for a full season. Stadium maintenance and making sure the playing surface is up to scratch, is a monumental problem for many teams at this level. So, having a Championship side visit releases some pressure on funding and resources for the season. Bradley would go on to add: “The revenue helps us survive, without these games it becomes extremely difficult to get a team to compete at our level”.
68 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
“Costs are always increasing and travel alone last season cost us £8000. We need to be playing further up the pyramid but can’t do that without the revenue from matches like this”. Despite being defeated 9-0 by the Blades, there are plenty of positives to draw from a brilliant day. The day’s revenue will fund another promotion push for the Steels as they look to regain a place in the Northern Premier League.
A Bu d lif for e...
Budweiser has rewarded the
unwavering dedication of Sholing F.C.,
who previously failed to reach promotion due to the
condition of the club’s facilities, with an incredible £100,000 grant. As part of the Budweiser Club Futures programme in partnership with the FA, and the brand’s long-standing support of grassroots football, the grant will go towards re-pitching the team’s ground, building a new clubhouse – and ultimately enabling them to reach their true potential.
>>>> THENONLEAGUE.COM - 69
Dave Diaper, Sholing F.C.’s manager and one of the longestserving managers in non-league football, and his team earned promotion in 2014 yet due to the ground’s conditions took voluntary relegation – stopping them from progressing further up the league. Over the years, the club – known as “The Boatmen” – have seen financial backing for fixing up their Universal Stadium home ground fall through and as a result, their club’s facilities have been unable to meet the more senior league’s requirements. With the help of Budweiser’s £100,000 grant, Sholing F.C. plan to start improvements to their clubhouse, changing rooms and general infrastructure. Sholing F.C. members and passionate supporters gathered at the club’s local pub as Captain Byron Mason disclosed the six-figure grant. Byron has a close relationship with the club and manager Dave, who took him under his wing as a youngster, offering to train him up as an electrician, as well as award him a place on the team. As Official Beer of The Emirates FA Cup, Budweiser set up the Club Futures programme in 2011. To date, the programme, supported by the FA, has invested over £1 million into nonleague football. Rowan Chidgey, Marketing Manager, Budweiser UK, says
“Our Budweiser Club Futures programme is all about grassroots football, and giving teams an opportunity to improve and succeed after their hard work and dedication at the coal-face of the game. Sholing F.C.’s story is an incredible one, and we couldn’t think of worthier recipients than Dave, Bryon and the club’s supporters. We hope that with the £100,000 grant we’ll see them make promotion next year and realise their footballing ambitions – Sholing F.C., this Bud’s for you!” Dan Kiddle, Head of Partnerships, The FA, says “The Budweiser Club Futures Grant is a fantastic part of our on-going partnership with Budweiser and is another example of how the backing from our Partners is helping support the game at all levels. Sholing F.C. are the latest in a long list of non-league Clubs to have benefitted from Budweiser’s generosity and we hope that the grant will bring The Boatmen continued success on and off the field. The FA would like to thank Budweiser for their continued commitment towards this wonderful initiative.” Dave Diaper, Sholing F.C. Manager, says “This is beyond our wildest dreams! During my 18 years as manager I’ve always fought for club funding so the boys can get the promotion they deserve, and not be held back by our poor facilities. We didn’t expect such a huge donation, and will be forever grateful to Budweiser and the FA for helping make ours – and the community’s – footballing dreams come true.”
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N O G N I T T U P E STYLE TH
The nature of being a semi-professional means that you can earn two incomes, both by playing twice a week for a club, as well as typically working a 9-5 job on the side. With two wages coming in, some players will actually find themselves better off financially by battling it out in the sixth and seventh tiers, as well as earning a trade throughout the week, rather than playing in the National League or even League Two. The stereotype of Non-League footballers working in sport as PE teachers or in manual labour is now a thing of the past too, with the modern â€˜semi-proâ€™ now finding new ventures to make a comfortable living.
THENONLEAGUE.COM - 71
Walking into the dressing room on a match day at Evo-Stik North outfit Colne FC is no different either, epitomising the modern game, with the mix of teachers, builders, office workers and sports coaches coming together two-to-three times a week to share their common interest for the beautiful game. At the Utility Renewals stadium however, one corner of the dressing room is unique…as it is occupied by two burgeoning entrepreneurs in the form of forwards Adam Morning and Danny Wilkins. Joining an illustrious group of football fashionista’s, Morning and Wilkins created the bespoke and edgy hat and clothing brand CAPO in 2016, and after gaining rave reviews from friends, family and team-mates over the last 12 months, they now have dreams of rubbing shoulders with ex-pro Marvin Morgan and former Man City ace Reece Wabara with their own respective clothing labels in the future. With neither having any fashion qualifications or experience in the field before creating CAPO, there were eyebrows raised that the Colne FC duo would fall flat on their faces with their ambitious dream. However, having recently sold out their latest line of hats, the sky seems to be the limit for the skilled pair. Good friends even before joining Steven Cunningham’s revolution at Colne FC this summer, the two prolific forwards actually cemented their bond while at Ashton United last season, as the pair discussed life, fashion and football on their two hour round trips from their native Burnley to Tameside three times a week. It was on one of these traffic-filled journeys to Hurst Cross for training that the idea of CAPO came about, and with Wilkins having the initial fashioned based idea, it didn’t take long before plans regarding ranges, photo shoots and marketing plans came into place. Admitting that his partner in crime is and always will be the tech-wizard behind the operation, Morning who was at Colne FC for the majority of last season, has instead played a huge role in the design of the product and the sale of the brand, as he claimed that the ambition is definitely there from all parties to turn CAPO into a million-pound business. Having learnt from their mistakes, before slowly but surely getting their relatively new brand into the public eye through player endorsements and exciting new ranges, Morning has spoken about the early stages of CAPO and how becoming an entrepreneur has been a ‘dream come true’ for him. “CAPO was all Dan’s idea to start with, out of the blue he just mentioned his plans to start a clothing brand one day while we were both at Ashton United and I really liked his vision for it. I told him that it sounded like a great idea and it all moved quickly from there really. “I gave him the motivation he needed to go out there and grab his dreams with both hands and it wasn’t long before I decided
72 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
“CAPO was all Dan’s idea to start with, out of the blue he just mentioned his plans to start a clothing brand one day while we were both at Ashton United and I really liked his vision for it.
>>>> that I wanted to get on board with it all. He’s a young lad with
“We’d love to emulate the success that the likes of Fresh Ego
plenty of ambition and as we spoke more about it on our trips
Kid has had, especially in footballing circles. Reece Wabara
to training, it became less of a dream and more of a reality.
in particular has gone from turning over £20,000 to making
“The hat game is very, very hard to get into, but in the last
almost 20 million in a very short space of time, so it just shows
couple of month’s things have really taken off and we’re now looking for the next step, as we have just opened our first office and signed a contract on securing a storage unit!” Moving from Ashton United to Stalybridge Celtic in the National League North alongside former Robins managers Paul Phillips and Stephen Halford last season, Wilkins reiterated the points made by his excitable team-mate and business partner, as he added. “The idea of creating CAPO had been kicking around in my head for a number of years, but I always found an excuse in my head as to why I should put it off. Adam told me that I’d regret it forever if I didn’t atleast give the brand a go, and I’m so thankful for the help he’s given me, not to mention the kick up the backside he gave me in the first instance!” Following in the footsteps of the aforementioned Marvin Morgan, founder of Fresh Ego Kid and the face of Maniere De Voir, Reece Wabara, Morning and Wilkins know they will have their work cut out to turn their already successful business into a nationally recognised brand.
that the hunger is there from the public if the brand is good enough. “Danny and I have now put at least £35,000 into CAPO, which I think speaks volumes of the ambition we both have. We know in our first year we wouldn’t make much profit, because everything we made went straight back into new samples and growing the brand.” The target-man added; “We’ve recently acquired a top distributor and we are confident that we are growing by the day. Touch wood, we haven’t had one return yet from online orders and plans are in place to rub shoulders with the big boys in the not so distant future.” After model and I’m a Celebrity Get Me out of Here winner Jake Quickenden recently modelled for the brand, CAPO is in the process of gathering the resources to expand further, as cap and t-shirt sales are expected to go through the roof as the weather rockets in the late-summer and early Autumn months. As he has with his football career, Morning has never given any less than 110% when it comes to his new venture in the world of fashion. Known for his commitment, passion and will to win, the
However, with new samples being created on an almost weekly
ex-Trafford FC front man now isn’t willing to stop with CAPO
basis and the backing of the Non-League community in the
until he has reached the top.
North West, the brand is spreading around dressing rooms
Despite being the younger of the partnership, Wilkins has also
quicker than wildfire, with it becoming rare now not to see atleast one CAPO cap on a player post-match in the club house.
been there or thereabouts in the higher echelons of the NonLeague game for a number of years, having played for the likes
Having overcome a number of obstacles to get to the position
of Clitheroe and Ashton United in the past three seasons.
they currently find themselves in, Morning has revealed the
Growing up in the ‘ruthless’ dressing room environment that is
sum of money that has already been spent on growing CAPO
so accustomed to Non-League football, Wilkins has used his
and the positive signs that should lead the brand in good stead
team-mates to gage how successful his samples and previous
going into the back end of 2017.
ranges have been.
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Speaking further about the brand and his hopes for the future as a young-businessman, Wilkins has high hopes that the labels grassroots Non-League fan base will continue to grow, as the hat specialists plan to gain national exposure in the next few months. “It’s always nice to see lads wearing our stuff and when I do, it gives me a huge sense of achievement. Dressing rooms can be intense places and our team-mates will always be our toughest customers when it comes to CAPO. “If the lads don’t like our gear, they’ll tell us and they won’t beat around the bush! Thankfully though, they keep coming back for more and as the word spreads, more and more people are buying our hats and clothes.” Wilkins continued by saying: “It’s been an unreal journey so far and long may it continue, Adam and I are going to keep giving it our all and I am a big believer that the more we put in to this, the more we will get out of it.” With Morning retained at Colne for the 2017/18 campaign and Wilkins signing from recently relegated Stalybridge Celtic, the Reds will fancy their chances of bettering their fifth place finish in the Evo-Stik North next season. Having kept the majority of last season’s squad, as well as bringing in Mike Fish from Mossley and Hakan Burton from Curzon Ashton, Stephen Cunningham has surely got his sights set on taking the Reds into unchartered territory after two historic seasons. Morning and Wilkins both agree that the play-offs should be the minimum expectation for Colne this season and with their business thriving, they now both have plans to celebrate a promotion and silverware on the field this term, as they finished by revealing their hopes and dreams for the next 12 months. Wilkins: “I want to play at the highest level and although I have dropped down from the National League North, I don’t feel like quality wise I am making a big change footballing wise. Travel wise moving here suits me really well and with the business as well, Colne seemed the perfect fit. “I think the play-offs has to be the minimum expectation, the manager has made no secret that he wants us to win the league and there’s no reason why we couldn’t do that, after the team went so close last season. Morning: “Cunny is a great young manager and I have a lot of admiration for him. He was a big reason why I decided to stay here, but like Danny, the travel is ideal as it means I can put my full concentration into CAPO as well. “I love Non-League football and I am here to win things, there’s a great chance to pick up trophies at Colne and playing up front with Danny, I’m sure that will only help me both on the field and in the office.”
Article by: JAMES BURCH 74 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
Boom time for York Cityâ€™s Futsal Team
r o i n u J berti o R >>>>
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“Everything that is happening now is just so great.” Those are the words of University of York, and York City Futsal coach, Junior Roberti. It’s fair to say that the last two years have not been happy ones in York. Disastrous floods at the end of 2015 destroyed many of the historic city’s homes and businesses, and in footballing terms, it’s been an equally miserable time. York City’s most recent spell in the Football League ended after just four years in 2016, and at the end of the season just passed, back-to-relegations were confirmed, leaving the Minstermen to ponder life in the National League North. Despite those struggles, it’s not all doomand-gloom, with the city’s futsal club enjoying a golden period and expanding rapidly under Roberti’s excellent guidance. Futsal – a variant of football, played indoors on a hard surface – is gaining in popularity in the UK. Roberti’s pedigree is among the highest, having played futsal professionally in his native Brazil, Spain and Italy. He also boasts a coaching CV which includes Leeds Futsal Club, Leeds Metropolitan University, Sheffield FC, Sheffield Hallam University, and Ossett Albion Ladies’ Football, before moving to York; and the tale of how he ended up in North Yorkshire has a certain charm to it. “My wife had to follow me all over the world when I was playing,” he says. “She had to stop her University studies a couple of times. When I stopped playing in 2008, I said to her “now I’ll follow you,” so we basically changed positions. Leeds University accepted her PhD application, so we moved there. “Because I was already involved in futsal and football, straight away I started getting involved, and that’s how it started in Leeds at first. I got involved at the University of York, and I started working with clubs in the city. Then when my wife finished her PhD, we said “right, let’s move to York.” The story is quite quaint really. Things really began to take off for Roberti’s side five years ago. The University of York won the national BUCS university league title
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in 2013, before taking part in the European University Championships, capturing the hearts and minds of students and local population alike. They have hardly looked back since, and Roberti’s background in the game played a major part.
“We had a very good two seasons in 2012 and 2013, when we won the University league and took part in the European Cup,” he reflects. “At that point the [Futsal] National League was already in my life, in the highest level.” However, the team’s initial success also relied on support from the University’s Student Union (YUSU), and its sporting arm, York Sport. Back then, York had embarked upon an ambitious programme to become among the best sporting universities in the country, as well as fuelling their annual Roses tournament against Lancaster University – the largest tournament of its kind in Europe. It was such commitment which encouraged Roberti to leave his work with Sheffield, taking a demotion to start a new project with York. “When I came to York, because of our success in the first two years, I had fantastic support from YUSU and York Sport, so I decided to leave my other work in the National League. We were in the Super League at that point, but I wanted to be in the National League with York. It was like a downgrade, because we started in the second division, but we got promoted to the first division straight away,” he reveals. The progression into the National League competitions seemed natural, after the club’s success in BUCS competition. “The reason why we entered the National League was because of the success in those first two years, and because the people involved really embraced futsal. We started the club for non-students as well; we had to balance things a bit because we realised we needed a bit of extra help,” remembers Roberti.
University sport is often closed off from public attention, but the BUCS championships operated across the country are a fine example of meaningful sport, allowing students
who can hold their own in high-level competition to flourish. The University of York side was no different. Futsal is renowned for its sheer intensity, and good players require speed of thought and excellent technical ability. Players who fit this mould – such as James Briars, who played under Roberti whilst an undergraduate, and has since returned to play for York City – thrived. A further example is goalkeeper Jonny Sim, another York graduate who now plays for England. Sim is also not the first to have progressed onto a bigger stage under Roberti’s guidance. “Jonny played for us in 2014, and started to be more visible in the futsal community. Now he plays for England and we’ll probably play against each other next season. He was here recently doing goalkeeping clinic for our academy, so we still have a fantastic relationship,” he says, the pride in his voice evident. But it wasn’t all plain sailing for York; after winning the Second Division title, they were refused entry into the Super League because they were a university side, the FA fearing that their situation was too unstable. With an insatiable desire to keep building, those involved decided to progress the club onwards, and try again. “We sat down and decided that if we wanted to take the club to the next level in the Super League and in the country, we needed to get help from York City FC,” Roberti says. “I was already working with City on other projects, so we merged with them. The University and York City worked together, and the result was fantastic. We won the league again, and the second time round, the FA gave us a spot in the Super League.” The sense of achievement in gaining Super League status for his club, having left the division behind to embrace a new challenge, is obvious when speaking with the coach. There is a feeling that there is so much more to come, but in his likeably enthusiastic style, he is keeping his feet on the ground. “We’re now in a league of only 12 teams, in the highest division in the country, playing for a place in the Champions’ League,” he beams. “Of course, we need to be realistic. Coming from the second division, we’re going to be playing against teams who have been in the Super League for a long, long time. Two teams are relegated out of the twelve, so I think our first target is not to be relegated, and after that, I think the top six would be great. I’d be very happy, and I think that’s realistic. Anything more would be amazing, but I don’t want to create any false expectations.”
“At that point the Futsal National League was already in my life, in the highest level.” THENONLEAGUE.COM - 77
As the club’s profile grows, so does the sport, which is becoming increasingly popular thanks to people like Roberti and his players. “Futsal is growing a lot in this country. If I look back and compare when I first came here with today, the growth is ridiculous. It’s huge. Of course it’s not on the TV, but it’s huge on the Internet, and it’s getting better.”
we’re getting people involved, and the positive thing is that when people come to watch us, the feedback is amazing. We talk with people after matches who find the game fantastic, intense, high-level.”
With such success happening so quickly, it would be easy to get carried away, and lose sight of things; but there is a determined sense of what motivates Roberti to continue developing his team. “There are two main scenarios where I get very proud. One is to get players interested, people like Jonny Sim; when he first came to the University, he’d never heard of futsal before. He gave it a go and now he’s playing for England. There are a few who started with me, and that’s really special. “The other is when I see kids excited. I hate to overuse the football/futsal comparison, but when you introduce them to the game, and they start texting you and say things like “I’ve been watching the Brazilian league online,” I think ‘Wow’. I love that, to know that we created that inspiration. They’re not playing for England, they’re not playing at a high level, but the pleasure they get is so good, and the same for the parents too. Regardless of how well the kid is playing, to know you introduced them to the sport is amazing. As a coach, those are the things that make me think ‘I’ve done my job well.’”
After such a remarkable half-decade of so many different highs, Roberti naturally finds it tough to place a finger on one particular highlight, but his response is nonetheless revealing of his passion – his sense of ‘living’ the game.
That ethos has served both him and his players well, but it seems almost crass that the futsal team’s success has come at a time when the football club has all but collapsed. The city of York is a close-knit community, and it seems apt that York City Futsal’s exploits in the Super League next season could help to give the Minstermen supporters a much-needed lift – though Roberti remains realistic.
months is my proudest moment, but what’s happened in
“I understand we only have a small portion of the York City fans present with us, but every time you speak to someone in York, they know about us, and that’s really exciting. They say congratulations, and I think we’re in the phase where people are listening.”
heart of their club, happy to share their thoughts on their
As recently as a couple of years ago, the club played in a draughty, temporary structure known as ‘The Tent’ (essentially a metal frame covered in tarpaulin, which had the ability to strike dread in even the most optimistic of people), in front of a subs bench and a handful of student journalists. Now, they play in a refurbished Arena in front of ever-growing crowds of supporters. “We’re quiet but people are appreciating what we do,” Roberti remarks. “We know us getting promoted to the Super League will never replace the disappointment of York City being relegated to the Conference North, but our part doing well is good for the badge and for the club. More and more,
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“It’s hard to pick one proudest moment, but if I had to choose, I think what we are living now, with everything happening is so great. The fact that we’re in the Super League; that the kids’ academy is growing, that parents are getting involved – putting futsal on the map in York is something I’m very proud of. What has happened in the 18 that time stemmed from what happened in the previous five or seven years, so it’s all connected.” Ever since they started, Roberti and his players have conducted themselves with the utmost professionalism and respect – offering the warmest of welcomes into the very games, and make people part of their adventure. Sport has the ability to be great at any time, but it is always so much sweeter when those who achieve success are also decent, genuine people. Never has this been more the case than with Junior Roberti and his players, and as York City Futsal Club embark on their next challenge, there is a sense that this journey is still only just getting started. With that in mind, it seems apt to end on Junior’s final musing: “For me, seeing kids wearing a futsal badge, talking about futsal and loving the game that I love; yeah, I’m so proud of that.”
Article by: Jamie Summers Photos: Ian Parker
Resurfacing – Saturday football comes back to Horden >>>>
A proud tradition of football on the Durham coast is coming back to life – less than a year after Horden Colliery Welfare disappeared from the footballing map. The team, which represented the former mining community for more than 100 years, ran into trouble in February 2016 when it was evicted from Welfare Park, its home since 1908, due to a dispute with Horden Parish Council. Worse was to follow. The Wearside League team continued, sharing a ground in Hartlepool, until it was absorbed into another club and moved 28 miles away to play as Darlington Reserves. Just one player made the move with the team last November, and the end seemed to be nigh for Saturday football in Horden. Not everyone was willing to let the dream die, though. In a community that has suffered more than its share of blows in recent decades, the town’s team was one of the few remaining positives in a post-industrial era. A group of volunteers, many of whom had previously been part of the old Horden CW set up, got to work on establishing a new club. Keeping the
local businesses and individuals in bringing the idea to life. The process fundraising efforts, negotiations – often delicate – with the Parish Council, and finally a license to play at Welfare Park and take up a place in Durham County Alliance League. The result: come August, Saturday football will be back in town. The dream lives on. The local connection is crucial. Club secretary Graeme Wetherell, and his colleagues, chairman Chris Cain, treasurer Ryan Cuthbert and recently-appointed team manager Jonny Payne are familiar faces in Horden football. They managed to persuade the Parish Council to look beyond the problems that soured relations with the previous club and show some faith in the new team. “We’ve always said that if we can’t get a team back into Welfare Park, there’s no point in doing it at all. We’re all from Horden and we all want the team back in the town. The Parish Council accepted us pretty well, especially considering all the problems of the last couple of years. I think they can see that we’re all local lads trying to get a local team together. The players, the
same initials, they adopted the name of Horden Community
manager, the committee – everyone’s going to be local to the
Welfare, reflecting the role played by a host of sympathetic
Horden and Peterlee area.”
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Hemmed in by rows of redbrick terraced houses, Welfare Park has the look and feel of a set for a gritty drama about the workingclass North. Indeed, ‘Billy Elliott’ was partly filmed in nearby Easington Colliery, while ‘I, Daniel Blake’ featured extras from the committee of another non-league team in the region, Hebburn Town. When the wind whips in off the North Sea, this is a proper ‘no frills’ football venue, as uncompromising as a veteran centre half. Once, it was part of the rich seam of sporting talent that came from the region. The likes of Stan Anderson – the only man to captain Sunderland, Newcastle and Middlesbrough, albeit in an era when local rivalries were more forgiving – and Manchester City legend Colin Bell cut their footballing teeth as kids in Horden. More recently, Hartlepool Utd stalwart Brian Honour and Pools forward Paul Dobson had links to the club. The trophy cabinet never bulged, but memories of great FA Cup runs live on: a narrow defeat against Blackpool in 1981 in a home game moved to Hartlepool’s Victoria Park to accommodate the crowd; newsreel footage of a jam-packed Welfare Park watching the professionals of Newport County squeak through a second-round tie in the late 1930s. But, like many similar towns sustained by a single industry – be it coal or steel, cars or ships – Horden was devastated by the closure of the pit in 1987. Today it’s part of the Durham Heritage Coast; a remarkable clean-up of the beaches made notorious by ‘Get Carter’ has created an unlikely tourist attraction from a former wasteland, but hasn’t replaced the sense of industry and purpose, nor the much-needed jobs that mining provided. As communities splintered, local sports club stumbled and fell. Where once a fistful of teams punched above their weight in the Northern League, Wetherell talks of a ‘black hole’. “Team have been dropping out all over,” he said. “We’ve lost Peterlee, Murton, Shotton Comrades from the Northern League, then Blackhall and Thornley at lower levels. There’s only Easington Colliery left in the Northern League and Wheatley Hill in the
“TeamS have been dropping out all over, We’ve lost Peterlee, Murton, Shotton Comrades from the Northern League, then Blackhall and Thornley at lower levels. 80 - THENONLEAGUE.COM
Durham Alliance. That’s why it’s important to us to keep that football history alive around here.” And it’s not just about heritage. Having nurtured some great talents in the past, the new Horden CW would love to see future generations have the chance to play the game. Wetherell finished by adding “Bringing the youth teams back to Horden is a real personal aim for me. I was running the youth teams before and I want to get back to that. It’s all about keeping our history going and making sure that the next generation has its chance to play the game.” Horden Community Welfare is still looking for support, and well-wishers can contribute via the team’s online appeal www.gofundme.com/horden-fc Any amount, large or small, is welcome as the club looks to get a famous footballing name back on the pitch again. The club’s Facebook page is Horden FC, website www.hordenfc.weebly.com
k c a b s Imp re they e h w ng o l e b
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After six long years away, Lincoln City supporters can finally look forward to starting the 2017/18 season as a Football League club. It has been a rough ride for the Imps since relegation in 2011 but the Cowley brothers have got the club back to where they belong. Many will look back to Saturday 19th November as the turningpoint in their season. Forest Green Rovers were set to move 12 points clear of the Imps with just 20 minutes left to play. However, goals from Alex Woodyard, Luke Waterfall and Sean Raggett secured a sensational comeback and gave everyone connected with the club belief that something special could be achieved. This belief is something which the Imps maintained throughout the remainder of the season. It was visibly evident in the remarkable run in the FA Cup which saw them become the first non-league side in 103 years to reach the quarter-finals of the competition. Victories against the likes of Oldham Athletic, Ipswich Town, Brighton & Hove Albion and Premier League Burnley set up the dream away day against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium. Despite this being one step too far, the Imps did themselves proud and put the club well and truly back on the football map. The 9,000 supporters who travelled to the Emirates that day and the thousands more watching back in Lincoln, knew that the management team of Danny and Nicky Cowley and the set of players they had assembled were something special. Of course, Lincolnâ€™s success on-the-pitch has resulted in success off-the-pitch in terms of finances. The Imps found themselves raising ÂŁ2.5 million in winnings from their run in the FA Cup alone. This had a positive impact on the current campaign as it allowed the club to sign Peterborough United striker Lee Angol on loan who has been an instrumental figure in the last few months. However, it will continue to have a positive impact for the foreseeable future as the Lincoln City board have already begun to make plans for life in League Two next season. Chairman Bob Dorrian has recently announced that the club are planning on giving the Cowley brothers a budget which should allow them to compete at the top end of the league once again. This highlights the trust between the board and the management team and is a sign that the club will continue to head in the right direction. There is no doubt that the squad will have to be bolstered ahead of the start of next season. The jump between the National League and League Two will be a significant one. However, the management team will be aware that the majority of the current playing staff are more than capable of playing at a higher level and will therefore might be reluctant to change too much. Back-to-back promotions is something which is not beyond the realms of possibility, such is the feel-good factor at Sincil Bank. The likes of AFC Bournemouth, Burton Albion and Rotherham United have all experienced sustained success throughout the
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ARTICLE BY Sam Straw
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lower divisions of English football and Lincoln City are certainly capable of achieving the same. Many have already labelled the Imps as the most successful nonleague side in history which is hard to argue against. However, it has not been an easy ride for all connected with the club this season. The defeat at Arsenal was shortly followed by a defeat to York City over two-legs to end dreams of a trip to Wembley for Lincoln supporters. At the same time, Tranmere were really beginning to pile the pressure on the Imps in the National League. Lincoln managed to deal with their fixture pile-up and disappointment of being knocked out of the FA Trophy very well. The comeback against Forest Green Rovers from 1-0 down to win 3-1 at the end of March was a significant result which saw Rovers’ title hopes all-but ended. However, Micky Mellon’s Tranmere’s pursuit of catching the Imps did not stop and they managed to move level on points with Lincoln just days after albeit having played one game more. Following late heartbreak against Sutton as Roarie Deacon levelled in injury-time, the Imps showed real character to not let their position slip. The 1-1 draw away at Sutton was followed up by seven consecutive victories against Bromley, Dagenham & Redbridge, Eastleigh, Chester, Torquay United, Gateshead and Macclesfield Town many of which required late drama. The victories against Torquay United and Gateshead over the Easter weekend were arguably the most crucial in regard to the Imps securing the National League title. Lincoln had players chipping in with goals from all over the pitch and Sam Habergham’s free-kick winner against Torquay caused jubilant scenes at Sincil Bank on Good Friday. This was followed up with an even later comeback against Gateshead on Easter Monday as the Imps scored two goals through Matt Rhead and Nathan Arnold in injury-time to win the game 2-1. This set up the defining day at Sincil Bank as the Imps took on Macclesfield Town in-front of a sell-out crowd of 10,000 knowing that three points would clinch the title and promotion back to the Football League. Terry Hawkridge was the hero on the day as his brace helped Lincoln to a 2-1 victory which was shortly followed by a pitch invasion and the presentation of the National League trophy. The attendances dramatically improved this season at Sincil Bank and away from home following the team’s success. Home attendances were regularly surpassing the 7,000 mark towards the business end of the season whilst the Imps continued to take a large travelling support all over the country. This is something which is unlikely to change next season with games against Grimsby Town, Notts County and Mansfield Town all also likely to be sell-outs both home and away. Imps fans will now be eagerly awaiting the beginning of their League Two campaign in August, and under this management team with this group of players, anything is possible.
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The 9,000 supporters who travelled to the Emirates that day and the thousands more watching back in Lincoln, knew that the management team of Danny and Nicky Cowley and the set of players they had assembled were something special.
Liam Hoga n
Salford City FC
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Born and bred in the City of Salford, Liam Hogan is as local as they come… Proud of his roots, having lived in the area for the majority of his life, the commanding centre-half has never been shy to admit his undying love for his hometown, and despite living in Merseyside and the North East in recent years while at Tranmere Rovers and Gateshead respectively, a return to the North West was never going to be far away. Putting pen to paper on a three year deal at Moor Lane earlier this summer, Hogan was handed the opportunity to return to the area he holds so close to his heart, after his performances in the National League last season impressed Ammies joint-managers Bernard Morley and Anthony Johnson. A Manchester United supporter, Hogan has also had the opportunity to meet his heroes in the form of the Class of 92 since coming through the gates at Moor Lane. In Messrs Scholes, Butt, Giggs and the Neville brothers, the ex-Woodley Sports man has not only shared conversations with the men he used to watch from the Stretford End, but also breakfast with them (as we will later discover!) Coming through the youth set-up at the now defunct Woodley Sports before moving onto play for FC Halifax Town, the 28-yearold has forged an extremely successful career for himself in the Non-League game. Despite captaining Gateshead in the fifth tier and playing prominent roles in the heart of defence at all his other clubs, Hogan is still on the search for that all-important first piece of major silverware, and having taken the tough decision to drop down a division to join the Ammies, he believes the upcoming campaign is his perfect chance to win trophies. After Salford City narrowly missed out on a historic promotion to the National League last term, the Class of 92 have worked tirelessly in the off-season to recruit an almost new team, with the likes of Carl Piergianni, Lois Maynard and Anthony Dudley coming in to make-up the spine of the side. Having worked as a PE teacher in the surrounding areas of Broughton and Worsley while playing amateur and semiprofessional football and living in Manchester, Hogan is relishing his new ‘job’ in the area, and after revealing why he chose to join Salford City over other possible suitors, the defender stated that the prospect of security and a three-year deal was just too good to turn down. “Joining Salford City was a really tough decision because I had done really well at Gateshead and obviously I was captain there last season. My dream has always been to get back into the Football League and despite the fact that I have moved down the pyramid, I see it as the perfect opportunity to progress in the long-term. “I feel like I have unfinished business in the Football League and after speaking to the Class of 92, it did not take me long to find out that they are putting things in place to ensure that Salford City are in the league in the not so distant future.”
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â€œI feel like I have unfinished business in the Football League and after speaking to the Class of 92, it did not take me long to find out that they are putting things in place to ensure that Salford City are in the league in the not so distant future.â€?
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Hogan added; “At Salford City things are happening both on and off the field, in terms of the new stands, the sponsorship and the signings that make you realise that the owners really do mean business, they’re moving in the right direction and I really wanted to be a part of that!” On 12 month deals at both Tranmere Rovers and Gatehead, Hogan now has the chance to settle at one club for the foreseeable future, and with that in mind, there is every chance the Ammies fans will see the best from him, as he said. “I am excited to be a part of an on-going project here and I can’t wait to get going, now all of the talking has been done and the new season has begun.” Despite growing up just around the corner from Moor Lane, Hogan has to look back to his childhood to remember the last time he stepped foot onto the hallowed turf at Salford City. With the Ammies predominantly a North West Counties outfit throughout the 2000’s, Hogan’s last outing at his new clubs ground was in fact a Manchester schools game. With Salford City currently plying their trade in the higher echelons of the Non-League game, Hogan believes the clubs decision to turn professional in the summer, will hold the Ammies in good stead going forward, as he confidently predicted that
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his new employers will be on a level playing field with Gateshead in 12 months’ time.
heavy heights of Jamie Vardy’s former employers in the not so distant future.
“My plan has of course been to play at the highest level possible and I’m grateful that I am now at a club that shares my ambition. As a local lad, my friends and family know what it would mean to me to be representing Salford City in League Two. People that know me weren’t surprised when they found out about my move, however there was some eyebrows raised in the footballing community, as I have obviously in theory moved further away from reaching the fourth tier. I’m confident that at Salford City we can get promotion this season and from there, the sky is the limit for the club!”
“At Fleetwood Town we had a great squad, but we also had an unbelievable team spirit and a board that back us 110% off the field. To play for a club with ambition and drive is great and I see no reason why Salford City shouldn’t be in Fleetwood Town’s position in a few years. Fleetwood Town had players like Lee Gregory when I was there and on paper looking at the Salford City team, there are already plenty of players who could do a job in the league above, if not even higher.”
Still two years shy of his 30th birthday, Hogan is yet to reach his prime as a defender. Keeping fit in the gym throughout the summer and hitting the ground running in pre-season has also helped instil confidence that the best is yet to come, especially with the likes of Michael Nottingham Piergianni battling it out with Hogan for a spot in the Ammies starting XI. With Salford City now a professional club, Hogan has had the luxury of concentrating on football and football only seven days a week, and with plans to work for the club in a number of community projects, Hogan again reiterated the importance of giving something back to the area that has always looked after him. “I’m looking to do some coaching and training in the schools and clubs in and around Salford, to work in the community is very important for me and to see the next generation of footballers coming through in the town is something that I am planning to do, now I am playing here. The area that Moor Lane is in is very near to my house and even when I drive around Salford and see the old schools I used to work in and the fields I used to have kick-abouts on, the memories come flooding back. Some of my mates have played for Salford City and others for Irlam and Flixton so I know just how passionate this area is about their local sides. It’s brilliant to be a part of something that I am so passionate about and hopefully I can excel both on and off the field for my new club.” Playing for Fleetwood Town between 2013 and 2015, Hogan has already been a part of a club who have propelled themselves from the depths of Non-League to the heights of League One in less than a decade. Seeing similarities between Fleetwood Town and Salford City, the Ammies versatile centre-half has called on his new club to take inspiration from the rise of the Trawlermen, as he stated that he sees no reason why the Class of 92 and co can’t reach the
With the Class of 92 at the helm, Salford City haven’t struggled to attract players to Moor Lane in recent seasons. Despite that though, the clubs ambition to rub shoulders with the big boys has also meant that there is no room in the squad for pre-Madonna’s looking to earn a quick buck. Comfortable both at centre-back and right back, the Ammies new recruit has plans to learn from fellow defenders Phil and Gary Neville, and after sharing an afternoon in the latter’s company before joining Salford City, Hogan has admitted that he has been inspired to achieve greatness by the former Manchester United and England great. “Being a United fan and watching the club in the 90’s and 2000’s, the Class of 92 have always been legends in my eyes. When I met Gary Neville for the first time, he was so down to earth and it was fantastic to meet somebody that I had looked up to for so long. He wants the club to do so well and having spent a couple of hours in his company, I was already chomping at the bit to do my best for the club! I think having his influence, alongside the other four members and the management team can only be a good thing as we strive for promotion.”
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l So pbell m Ca
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“Take m free a e for n d I’ll show y o what u I c an do” Photos: PA Images Former England, Tottenham and Arsenal defender Sol Campbell is looking for a management role and has stated that he would be prepared to start his managerial career in the Non-League game. The former central defender retired from playing in May 2012, and has since struggled to find his first role in management. Proud of his roots, having lived in the area for the majority of Campbell is currently working as assistant coach of Trinidad & Tobago, working alongside former Wrexham, Swansea and Crewe Alexandra defender Dennis Lawrence, but makes no apologies for stating that his long-term aim is to become a number one in his own right, and is happy to accept that he may have to begin in non-league circles: “It’s proving difficult, and if I have to start at the bottom, I will. People may think that I just want to manage in the Premier League. I’m
prepared to go to a non-league club. If they can’t pay me a salary just pay me a win bonus. “I’m up for that. I won’t be up for that four or five years down the line, but definitely for the first year. I’m itching to start. I just need a chance, even just an interview in which I can say. ‘Take me for free and I’ll show you what I can do.’” In the past Campbell has stated that he believes English football’s “archaic” prejudice toward black players has prevented him from moving into management, even openly accusing the FA of being “institutionally racist” some years ago. These days however the former England defender is fiercely determined that no matter what, he will make it in the managerial world: “I’ve got to the stage where I don’t want to keep banging the same drum. I’m a doer and I just want to do it. Whatever attitudes, prejudices, stereotypical ideas that are in front of me, I will break them. But the only way I can break them is by getting a job, and if I need to start in the gutter, I will start in the gutter and work my way up. Money isn’t an issue”
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FUTURE IS BRIGHT
l e a h c i M ingham t t No
Salford City FC
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Salford City defender Michael Nottingham says the future of the club is bright and their play-off heartbreak can help them gain promotion this season.
“This is going to be the toughest league to get out of, I look
The Ammies have brought in a host of impressive signings, Nottingham who has gained promotion from the National League North before with Solihull Moors believes that the division is so tough you have to be near perfect to go up as champions.
because there is just so little between us and most of the
“You can’t lose games against teams you are expected to beat, that was our downfall this year but you just have to find that form and get on a roll and move forward as each section of games pass. Once you have lost a few games even next season you would be struggling we just need to start well, knowing that others teams will have that good form as well.”
and see ten teams who have a realistic chance of going up, teams have come down with so much history like York. We know the start will be crucial. I wonder how many divisions have half the teams realistically thinking they can go up, sides that will be playing against us in 2017/18.” City will be another team in the division who go full-time and Nottingham says that is something he thinks will help the them. “It will give us an edge, we will be able to work on things more in-depth. We all want to be playing football all the time, having that clear focus, we have quality players and will develop, I’ve always wanted to be full-time it’s come a bit late in my career but now I can’t wait to get started.”
“I’d say it was a successful season for us, considering the fact we have just been in the league for that one campaign and to lose the way we did gives us something. We achieved our aim of getting into the play-offs and that means we can develop for the next season.” THENONLEAGUE.COM - 93
The Ammies were defeated by FC Halifax Town at The Shay in the semi-final, with the right-back getting on the score sheet that forced the game to be decided on the spot. Nottingham believes that they can look back at the 2016/17 campaign and be proud of what they achieved.
ARTICLE BY: Tom Feaheny PHOTOS: Charlotte Tattersall
“I’d say it was a successful season for us, considering the fact we have just been in the league for that one campaign and to lose the way we did gives us something. We achieved our aim of getting into the play-offs and that means we can develop for the next season.” “I’ve enjoyed the season playing in these games, there is a sense that we are growing and learning as each game passes, that is the main thing, we take the negative of not going up and learn from it.”
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a f o y r Dia dhopper n u o gr m a h d c e f e N arket M On a Tuesday evening in March I made the journey to Suffolk and to â€˜Brooklandsâ€™, home of Needham Market, to watch them take on Merstham in the Rymans Premier League. The ground is in a particularly quiet and rural area of the town and is named after a stalwart of the club Derrick Bloomfield who gave over 70 years of service to the club, both as player and club official.
Unusually the entrance to the ground is below the level of the pitch as is the club house, after clicking my way through the turnstiles and purchasing my programme I made my way up a flight of steps to the pitch side. The first thing l noticed was a brand new and very impressive covered terrace behind the near goal. After further investigation, I found it offered a good view, was well lit and included a custom built disabled area. All along the far touchline was a small cover
with flat standing, interrupted only by a smart press box on the halfway line, behind all this was a neatly trimmed conifer hedge acting as the boundary to the ground. Behind the far end goal was a small seated stand the width of the goalposts with flat standing either side, a very nice enclosure, but the downside of this is that you would have to watch everything through the net, it might have been better either side of the goal in my opinion. On the near side was another seated stand straddling the halfway line, again with flat standing each side. It is bigger than the one behind the goal but still of modest size, the steep rows of seats offered a good view; I would guess this was the first part of the ground. The changing rooms are housed below pitch level in the same building as the clubhouse, directly above them is the board room, as the players emerge up a flight of steel steps, the directors emerge down a similar flight of steps. The refreshments are also below the level of the pitch, situated on the other end of the club house near the turnstiles, which can be a bit of a nuisance. If you want a cuppa while the game is on, or to beat the rush at half time you have to miss a small part of the match, however if you
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Biller TOW icay N FC
wait until the half time whistle you have to join the throng of people waiting to hurry down the steps in search of their refreshments. The game finished as a 1-1 draw after Merstham had been leading for most of the game, I found this to be a pleasant little ground which also has a car park. But in my eyes had two slight downfalls – no club shop, although you can order goods online, and the refreshments were out of sight of the pitch. On the following Saturday I travelled to deepest Essex where Billericay were entertaining Burgess Hill at the ‘New Lodge’. The ground is situated along a narrow country road which also leads to the town cricket and lawn tennis grounds, as well as the club’s training pitch, which doubled up as a matchday car park. Once through the turnstiles I found the club shop just inside, it was an old converted shipping container and had all the normal club goods, but more importantly it contained a large number of old books and programmes to root through. The chap in charge of it was a mine of information and amongst other things told me the club has a new owner who is planning to totally smarten up the place. As l walked on into the ground l could see why
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really - while it is a nice little stadium it was looking a little run down, it made the smart new fence around the pitch seem a little out of place. The small covered terrace behind one goal is perfectly ok but has its fair share of rust, as does the almost identical covered terrace at the other end. Along the touchline is another covered terrace which is in the process of being painted - a small section of seats remain at one end - I was told by a local fan they will eventually stretch right along, with new turnstiles added at one end. The opposite side is where it all happens. The refreshments are in the corner, next to that are the changing rooms and players tunnel which are in the same building as the board room; l had a crafty look through the window and l could see it was very plush looking. The club house is the next one along and has a large Billericay Town F.C. on the wall underneath a line of windows, the clubhouse inside has been completely refurbished and the line of windows above the team name is a raised viewing area for sponsors and the like. Next is the most interesting part of the ground, the old grandstand, the steward taking the £1 entry fee told me he’s “been coming for 34 years and it was there long before that,
t e e l f s Ebb NITED FC U
it’s made of steel but is soon to be demolished due to its poor state”. The seats seem to go right up into the roof, if you decide to sit there you must be careful not to biff your head on the ironwork or get any rust in your hair. Strangely, there is a barrier with a gap in the middle halfway up which is designed to create a club official’s area in the top three rows. The whole stand offers a good view but is way past its sell by date really, and there is a small ‘no go’ area which has rusted through, it is generally patched up all round including new steel covers over all the steps. Next to this stand is another covered terrace which runs the rest of the way to the corner flag, it’s a nice little enclosure, although the dug outs obscure your view if you stand at one end. It would also look better with a coat of paint but I would imagine that is imminent. The attendance was 829, the highest of the season, helped no doubt by the home debut of former Premiership player Paul Konchesky and the presence of Mark Wright from “Only way is Essex” in the stand. The result was an impressive 4-0 victory for Billericay. ‘New Lodge’ soon to be the new ‘New Lodge’ in the near future is a pleasant and friendly place to visit and one l would recommend to groundhoppers.
>>>> My next destination was to Kent to watch Ebbsfleet entertain Western- Super-Mare at Stonebridge Road in the National League South. The ground is on a busy main road just on the edge of an industrial area on the banks of the River Thames. Parking is only for season ticket holders but there is plenty of street parking to be had. Looking at the ground from the outside I could see the new stand being built to replace the old covered terrace, which looks impressive. When completed it should have quite a smart frontage. Inside the ground, I’m not sure it looks quite so grand, the first thing that hits you is the high roof and large grey breeze block wall interrupted by a few windows. The seats are installed and in use, and the new dug outs and retractable tunnel are in and ready for when the changing rooms move across. It is comfortable and offers a very good view, but its high roof may well let the rain blow in, so if you do decide to sit here don’t forget to take your waterproof coat! In contrast the rest of the ground is old, homely and well kept, but before l wandered round the rest of it l went off to find the club shop. It is another converted, particularly large shipping container, and next to it is “The Fleet Trust and Away Travel”
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Article and Photos: Alan Burge
shed for supporters to book their seat on the next away coach. Inside the shop there is all the Ebbsfleet merchandise you would expect but no old programmes etc. which is slightly disappointing. On the wall at one end is a really good painting of the ground before the new stand was built. The amiable chap running the shop told me very soon all the old stands will be gone and pointed out in the matchday programme an announcement that the next development was planned for behind the goal, which includes a hotel. The enclosure he spoke about originated as a large covered terrace before the steps were deemed unsafe, so a bolttogether seated stand was put on the front to about half way back, the terraces are still in place behind it with “The Fleet” in large letters on the back wall. At the other end is a reasonably large banking of open terrace dominated by a huge electricity pylon behind. It includes an electronic score board and gives a good view of the game, this apparently will be the third development to go ahead. The fourth and final development will see the end of the lovely old picturesque grandstand. There can’t be many like this left in football; it is a timber construction with
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the back and sides red painted corrugated iron that shows many coats of paint, dents and patch-ups it’s had over the 100 years or so it has been there. The stand also houses the changing rooms, the tannoy room built at the back of the seats, along with home and away directors and the press area. The dug outs are the traditional old small ones with wooden benches in. The view this stand offers is interrupted by nine wooden roof supports and the leg room could be better but the experience of sitting in this old stand is far greater than these gripes. l suppose all this development needs doing, but to me I’d rather it stayed as it was because the ground oozes character and will soon to be lost under another new run of the mill ground. The game was an endto-end affair with Western-Super-Mare taking an unexpected lead, but after a lot of near misses, Ebbsfleet finally scored the two goals for victory to keep their promotion bid on track. I would advise anyone interested to visit sooner rather than later - there is still a lot to experience at this friendly old ground.
ARTICLE BY: Garry Clarke Photos: Barrie Scholes
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“WE WILL BE SUCCESFUL”
Although targeting promotion at the first attempt, Warrington Town chairman Toby Macormac has classed his club’s debut season in the Evo-Stik League Premier Division a success despite finishing 10th in the table telling TheNonLeague “I would deem the season a success given the change of manager 15 matches in which included changing the whole squad. If we had said we would be involved in the run in for the play off after being 15th on New Year’s Day I think everyone would have taken that.” Macormac believes Warrington Town have established themselves as a force to be reckoned with at the highest level of football the club has ever played at, and have provided themselves with a platform from which to launch a promotion bid during the coming season, “We have given our selves every chance to mount a challenge for a top three spot.” However, he acknowledges promotion will not be any easy task saying “Given the size of a couple of playing budgets coming into the division we have to try and attempt to get into the play offs and ensure we are there or thereabouts all-season long. If we can get into the mix it can be anyone’s from there and if we can get a top three spot and host a play-off fixture that would show we’ve had a good season.” Having taken over in the Cantilever Park hot seat in October, Warrington Town manager Paul Carden agrees with his chairman “With a full pre-season’s preparation behind us we will be going all out for promotion, either as champions or via the play offs.” Written off by many following an inconsistent first half of the season, Carden, who took over the reins from Stuart Mellish and Lee Smith, attributed the improvement in form after the turn of the year to “playing players I have brought in instead of fielding the team I inherited.” When taking over from the duo who led Warrington Town to the Evo-Stik League First Division North title the previous season, Carden inherited a squad containing a number of older players “No disrespect to any of the players who were here when I arrived, although they had success the previous season I knew they had to be replaced by better players. None of the players who left moved on to a higher league and only Tom Peers at Nantwich is still in the same division. Also, I felt we needed a younger team with more energy and running in their legs.” “I tried to recruit ambitious young hungry players who while bringing success to the club could also use Warrington Town as a stepping stone to bigger things and several of our youngsters are starting to attract attention from Premier and Football League clubs.”
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n a l Dy ssallo Va >>>> Macormac explained his decision to change managers midseason for the second successive season “I knew we would encounter disruption and a lot of change when I made to decision to replace the management team, however making the decision after 15 games I believed it would give us a chance if we could put the right playing and management staff together. “
“Some said ‘’He’s changed it again, whys he done that?” And that I had a revolving door policy. “I did it because I didn’t want to get to April and think, “Have I done everything I can to finish as high as we can?” in a division that we’ve never been in before. “Paul’s come in, we’d lost eight
games when he took over, we didn’t put any pressure on him at all, but he’s flourished.” Never having played, or managed, in the Evo-Stik League in his distinguished career, although his assistants Craig Robinson and Mark Beesley have operated in the league for many years, the 38-year-old Liverpudlian has been impressed by the standards in the league but “not surprised as I have watched many games in the league in my previous jobs” said the former Southport manager who was assistant manager at Tranmere Rovers before taking over at Warrington Town. Macormac believes he has the right management team in place telling TheNonLeague “Paul, Craig and Mark are a really good team. They are all of a similar age and same beliefs in the game which makes them strong. Craig and Mark bring vast NPL experience and Paul has that Conference knowledge that gives us good overall coverage. The training is detailed and tough giving us a well drilled and most importantly fit side to see matches out; with some summer additions off our
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target list I believe Paul’s management team can take us a long way.”
talent and I believe he’ll go a very long way in the game”.
Having utilised the talents of several on loan players last season and with a number of players leaving for pastures new, Carden acknowledges major surgery is required to his squad before it is ready for the rigors of a new season. The first of his new signings being strikers Tony Gray from Airbus, and Salford City’s Josh Hine, who returns to Cantilever Park for a second spell.
with clubs in the Football or National League, Carden said one
“My phone has not stopped ringing since the end of last season, but we don’t want to rush into signings as we’ve got to make sure we get the right kind of player for what we need.” “I don’t want players that want to come to Warrington just to be at a nice club. We need players that don’t want to play at this level and want to push higher. They need to be like me, I don’t want to manage at this level for the rest of my career. I want to be higher and I want to achieve that at this club because it can be done.” One player who has signed on for the 2017/16 season is midfielder Dylan Vassallo who, having brought to the club by Carden after impressing in a trial game at their previous club Tranmere Rovers, has put pen to paper signing a contract, despite interest from elsewhere. Carden said of the 19-yearold who spent time at Premier League Burnley last season “For us to get him on a contract is brilliant. Some of the stuff he can do with the ball is unbelievable, he is a top young
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Having spent much of his career in a full-time environment of his biggest challenges working at a part time club where players outside work commitments often have to take priority has been “the lack of contact with the players during the week, with time training as a squad limited.” The club have learnt many lessons off the field as well as on it as they adapted to life at the highest level of the nonleague pyramid they have played at with Macormac admitting “The biggest lesson I’ve learnt is that players are technically better and that £30-£50 per week difference adds an extra dimension that our previous team were not ready for and that also was a reason for change and I’d like to think that was right given the level some are playing at now. People said the NPL North was a really tough division to get out of and the Premier will be easier but I can say that’s not the case and it’s just as tough. The travelling distances also have an affect not only on players but also selection if you have to leave at 2pm for a night match but we’re in it because we want to experience those kinds of matches and give our fans those kinds of days out. Carden concluded his chat with TheNonLeague by thanking everyone at the club for their support, and emphasized “We will be successful.”
t r i h s r e h o T llect o c >>>>
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Arjan Wijngaard, from Groningen in the Netherlands, has been collecting football shirts for over 20 years and at last count has almost 2,000.
are generally very easy to find. I like to get shirts from teams that nobody knows here in the Netherlands. I’ve recently added shirts from non-league teams like Lichfield City, Hyde United, Sevenoaks Town, Bamber Bridge, Cray Valley and AFC Hornchurch.
Arjan started with just three shirts from his favourite teams (Everton, FC Groningen and Feyenoord) and now has almost 250 from the three clubs with 70 from both Everton and Feyenoord and around 100 from FC Groningen.
“I have all the shirts in one room as you can see on the photos, and I am always searching for shirts from non-league teams that I don’t have yet. A lot of non-league teams are still missing in my collection”
England features high on his list of football shirt providers, with approximately 500 from clubs in England. Arjan also has shirts from countries as diverse as Australia, Colombia Japan and Ecuador.
Arjan is always happy to pay for shirts, including postage to the Netherlands. His preference is a large adult ‘home’ shirt but he is also happy to buy ‘away’ tops if no home is available. His criteria for adding to his vast collection of shirts is straightforward “I just look for a shirt with a kit brand, a club badge and preferably a shirt sponsor”
The Dutchman regularly spends hours searching websites exchanging shirts with other collectors, he also uses his Facebook page to get in contact with supporters of non-league teams and other football collectors. If Arjan has a preference it is the shirts of ‘smaller teams’ especially British non-league teams, his reason “the big team’s shirts, everybody has and they
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Arjan shirts are available to see on his website www.voetbalshirts.org and he is always happy to receive emails re the collection on firstname.lastname@example.org or via his facebook page www.facebook.com/voetbalshirts.org
As the end of season trapdoor open once again, Leyton Orient and Hartlepool United became the latest in a long line of clubs with a long-standing tradition as a Football League club to drop into non-league football, and as history shows it is going to be difficult to return from The National League at the first time of asking. Both clubs, and their supporters, will soon learn that every game will be like a cup final especially when they are playing at one of the smaller teams with a limited capacity. They may feel that the dogfight that they have just been through to stay up was hard, but that will fade into the distance as the atmosphere and the standard of football will surprise them. They will also meet several old foes that are trying to work their way back into The Football League and some new opponents that are hungry for a first taste of a place outside the non-league game. One common mistake that has been made by Football League clubs and their supporters, once they have dropped down, is to believe that they are too good for non-league football
l l a
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but, as has been statistically proven, no team has a divine right to be promoted from the National League, promotion will have to be earned!! In recent yearsâ€™ clubs with similar, or even longer, history as a Football League club have dropped into non-league football, some have adapted well and returned swiftly, whilst others have fallen even further down the pyramid. In the 30 years since promotion and relegation was introduced only a handful of clubs have returned to League football at the first time of asking. Lincoln City, the first side to be relegated back in 1987 won the title the following season with Cheltenham Town becoming only the second club to repeat a title win and an immediate return to League football when they won the National League title last season, albeit they have struggled to maintain their place this term. Since the second promotion place was introduced in 2003 only Shrewsbury Town, Carlisle United and Bristol Rovers have managed to return after just one season, all by virtue of winning the play-off final. Having dropped back into nonleague football in 2011, Lincoln City had spent five seasons in The National League without ever looking capable of making an assault on promotion until they appointed Danny and Chris Cowley before the start of this season. The brothers, who were still working as teachers when appointed, transformed The Imps and led their side to the title with games to spare as well as creating history with the club becoming the first non-league club in over 100 years to reach the FA Cup quarter finals. A quick look at the history books will tell supporters of
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both Orient and Hartlepool that their side will not be favourites for an immediate return to The Football League. In addition to the clubs already mentioned, Cambridge United, Grimsby Town and Luton Town all took at least five seasons to win their place back in League football. Some have been less fortunate and have yet to return. Three former League clubs Tranmere Rovers, Dagenham & Redbridge and Aldershot made the end of season play-offs this time with Rovers failing in their attempt at making an immediate return when losing against The National Leagueâ€™s longest serving club, Forest Green Rovers, at Wembley Stadium last weekend. There is no magical number for the average time for a return to the promised land, as mentioned some clubs have returned immediately, some have returned in a fairly short period of time, some have yet to return, some have fallen further down the pyramid and worse still some no longer exist!! Stockport County, a Championship club as recently as 2002 and League Two Wembley winners in 2008, fell through the trapdoor into The National League in 2011. Two seasons later they were relegated again, a fate that has befallen York City this term just one season after dropping down from The Football League. In four seasons County have yet to come close to climbing out of Step 6 football, although they finished this season in 8th place, three places outside the playoffs, their highest position since becoming a National League North club. Two more former League clubs, Boston United and Kidderminster Harriers, albeit with nothing like the League
...It won’t be all doom and gloom... history of The Hatters, have also dropped into the same division, the latter finished runners-up to runaway leaders AFC Fylde this season but were beaten in the play-off semi-final by Chorley. Since 2004-05, four clubs have gone out of business shortly after being relegated from the Football League and in Orients case, with their continuing monetary issues, this could be an additional worry. The good news however is that all four clubs have since reformed and are in the main on their way back having reformed as phoenix clubs and worked their way through the divisions. Chester FC are back in The National League, Darlington FC are just one step below and Hereford FC are continuing their remarkable transformation having gained back-to-back championships since rejoining the football pyramid, whilst AFC Rushden & Diamonds just missed out on promotion to the Evo-Stik Premier Division this term having reached the play-offs before succumbing to eventual winners Witton Albion.
Leyton Orient and Hartlepool United look forward to now they are officially non-league clubs? It won’t be all doom and gloom as the first thing their fans will feel is a sense of welcome from the many new sets of supporters they will encounter, they are a friendly bunch in nonleague football that’s for sure!! There is always a feeling of glass half-full following relegation from supporters, knowing that there will be plenty of new grounds to visit plus a feeling of being a bigger fish in a smaller pool, and then there is the feeling that their club could be stuck in the new division for a while. However, next season supporters of both clubs will have a different question in their heads – Will their club ever come back up or will they be a non-league club forever, and as any football supporter knows, it’s the hope that kills you!!!
So, what can the supporters of
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“It is incredible that I have been able to turn my hobby into a career”
Darr e Far n ley Life in the 1980’s and early-90’s was so different to what it is in the modern era. Phones, laptops, 4G internet and streaming music? Dream on! Small box televisions, live music and football on the streets was where it was at… The biggest change to the world over the last decade, alongside the four previously mentioned items, has been the emergence of social media, and it is rare now not to be on a packed commuter train, in a pub or even at a football ground without seeing at least one person scrolling up and down their phones; refreshing Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with just one simple swipe.
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Of course social media has brought plenty of evils to the world, with trolls, hoaxes and cults common place in the dark corners of twitter and facebook. However, these channels have also created a platform to post and share a host of weird and wonderful things, that ten years ago would have been unheard of. Used by un-signed musicians, comedians and even out of contract footballers to showcase their talents, social media has helped unearth plenty of ‘internet sensations’, with one click of a button now sharing content around the world in a matter of seconds. Someone who has a lot to thank social media for is impressionist Darren Farley, who after years on the circuit, has suddenly shot to prominence for his fantastic footballing impressions, with the majority of football loving feeds now sharing the Scouse funny man’s ingenious sketches.
A proud Liverpudlian, Farley has become famed for his impressions of Jamie Carragher, Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard to name just a few. However, his talents stretch further than mimicking the greats of Merseyside, with his Rafa Benitez impression also a household hit, both with football fans and with the Spaniard himself! A legend on his personal twitter feed which currently boasts over 92,000 followers, Farley has big plans to strengthen his television career over the next 12 months, after dipping his toe in the shallow end last year. Recently featuring as the face of a popular betting company’s promo for the 2016-17 season, the sky is now clearly the limit. Farley’s bubbly personality and warm character has clearly gained him plenty of friends along the way, and as he embarks on mastering the accents of more footballers and sportsmen, he has admitted that he will never forget his humble beginnings as a social media phenomenon. Opening up about his journey from being a local lad on the banks of the Mersey to becoming a worldwide star rubbing shoulders with his heroes, Farley has described meeting the likes of Carragher and co as a ‘dream come true’, as he told TheNonLeague: “Social media has been amazing to me if I am honest, it gave me a platform to do something that, I first and foremost love, and it is incredible that I have been able to turn my hobby into a career through my twitter and facebook videos. “I will never forget the first time that I met Jamie Carragher and to this day, he is still my favourite impression! Being a local lad, Jamie has always been my idol and since meeting him, he has played a big part in my success.”
Farley added; “Jamie is always happy to share my videos on twitter and we always have a real laugh when we see each other, his impression as actually the one which I get asked to do the most, so there must be a lot of Carragher fans out there. “Rafa Benitez is another impression that I love doing though and he is another one that I have an incredible amount of love and respect for. As a Scouser it took me a while to master Rafa’s Spanish tone but it’s one of my favourites to do now.” A modest character, Farley never expected to receive the fame that he has received online; with every impression video he uploads now gaining thousands of likes and millions of views respectively. In the ilk of a stand-up comedian, Farley thrives from making people laugh and in a cut throat industry, he has pressure on his shoulders to keep his impressions fresh, interesting and of course topical, as we have recently seen with his side splitting impressions of Brendan Rodgers and Wayne Rooney. Appearing on LFC TV and various other shows over the last 18 months, Farley is now desperate to share his quick witted comedy and new impressions with the world, as he continued by explaining how those interested in booking him for work can get in touch. “Being an impressionist is brilliant, and for me, it is the best job in the world! It takes a lot of bottle to do and it can be daunting at times when trying out new accents, especially in front of the sports star you are trying to mimic. I love this job so much and I feel honoured to be doing something that I enjoy so much!”
“I will first t never forget i Jamie C me that I me the t a day, he rragher an d impres is still my f to this a s Jamie h ion! Being a vourite l and sin as always b ocal lad, e played ce meeting h en my idol i succes a big part in m, he has s.” my
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Away from his impressions, Farley has recently taken an interest in watching the game below the Football League, after hearing about Merseyside’s newest Non-League club in late-2016 via a number of close friends. Attending his first City of Liverpool game last season, as the newly-founded club won promotion to the ninth tier of English football, the funny man has become hooked to the Non-League game, and despite being a regular at Anfield, he has admitted that he has found a new love in the form of the Purples. In attendance at the North West Counties Division One play-off final, Farley watched on from the grass verges of Litherland Sports Park, as Simon Burton’s men beat Litherland REMYCA 3-0 in a thrilling encounter. Comparing that game and many others he has seen recently to watching Liverpool in the 1980’s, Farley has enjoyed seeing the passion and community spirit that is common place in Non-League football, as he said. “I have supported Liverpool all my life and seen Marine a few times, but until recently I must admit I hadn’t paid much attention to Non-League football. I have got a few mates who support City of Liverpool though and after a few discussions I decided to go down with them one afternoon to see what all the hype was about. “I must admit I loved it and I have been back quite a few times since. I love the fact that you can get close to the action, have a pint and a laugh with friends and most importantly, not pay through the roof to actually get through the gates.” Farley continued by saying; “Non-League football is certainly on the rise, especially in Merseyside. There are plenty of great clubs in the area with proud history’s and more and more people are becoming interested in it now which can only be a good thing!” When asked if he would be returning as an honorary member of the Purple Partisans for the new campaign, Farley did not take long to answer as he passionately spoke further about the way that City of Liverpool has become a large part of his life away from work. “A million percent I will be watching the club as much as I can this season! I love the honesty of it all and the atmosphere is also fantastic, considering the club are only in the North West Counties at the moment. “Like I said, I watched the club quite a few times at the back end of last season and I will be on the terraces again this year as the club can hopefully push for another promotion.” Away from football and back to his day job, Farley is not just content with being a hit on social media and Youtube. Having tasted life in the limelight during his television stint as the face of Coral, the impressionist has set his sights on getting his very own TV show, as he finished by saying. “I am pushing ahead to get my own show, it has been talked about for a while now and I would love to be able to do impressions and do other sport-related things on a larger scale. You can definitely expect some big things going forward and all I can say for now is watch this space…” Darren is represented by 20ten entertainment and can be booked via www.darrenfarley.com Twitter @DFImpressionist.
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k o s o B view e r The Man from Uruguay
Danny Bergara was the first ever ‘foreigner’ to manage an English Football club in a Cup Final at Wembley Stadium, when leading his Stockport County side out in the Autoglass Final against Stoke City on May 16th, 1992. During his time at Edgeley Park Bergara led the Hatters to three further ‘finals’ at the National Stadium, unfortunately all of which ended in defeat, nevertheless the little Uruguayan had put himself and Stockport County firmly on the football map. Bergara’s footballing journey began in his home country when, as a 14-yearold, he signed for Racing Club Montevideo. He made his first team debut for Racing at the age of 15 and also represented Uruguay at under 17 level. Aged 20 he moved to Europe to sign for Real Mallorca. He later signed for Seville for a record fee before ending his playing career at Tenerife. During his ten years in Spain he won the Division 2 title twice and finished top scorer five times. In 1973 Bergara and his English wife Jan, moved to England to start their new life. They planned to start their own travel business, but due to an unusual set of circumstances he began coaching at nearby Luton Town. For the next 25 years Bergara coached at every level, including a 2-year spell with the English National Youth team and a year as National Manager of Brunei. He coached/managed at Sheffield United (twice), Middlesbrough, Sheffield Wednesday, Rochdale, Darlington, Rotherham United and Doncaster Rovers but it was at Edgeley Park that he became renowned throughout football as he put serial underachievers Stockport County on the map. Bergara spent his last few years as a ‘scout’, working for Tottenham Hotspur, Sunderland and Wolves before passing away in 2007. The Man from Uruguay (A footballing journey) tells Danny Bergara’s story from those early days in Montevideo through his rise in both Spanish and English football to his death in 2007. Bergara was a truly remarkable man who deserves to be remembered for what he brought to the beautiful game. Having held talks with Bergara on several occasions regarding the idea of an autobiography, the author worked closely with his family to ensure that the book was published in his memory. The Man from Uruguay features interviews and memories from players, managers and supporters that met Bergara alongside several original photographs from throughout his fantastic journey. The Man from Uruguay is available from www.amazon.co.uk
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Book Another Bloody rev iews Saturday Mat Guy lives in Southampton with his wife and long suffering football widow Deb. He has travelled far and wide in the name of football, and spent most of his childhood sat by his grandfather’s side at the long-gone Victoria Park, one time home of Salisbury FC.
A former season ticket holder at Southampton FC, Mat has written for The Football Pink and Stand Magazine, Another Bloody Saturday is his first book, and a good read it is too. Another Bloody Saturday is a book that celebrates all that is great with the game of football, as seen through the eyes of clubs and fans rarely bothered by satellite television cameras and the riches of the elite game, a vibrant world of humour, warmth and friendship worth far more than all the wealth of the Premier League. Mat had the following three questions that he was determined to find an answer too: Why do people head out on windswept Saturday afternoons and wet Wednesday evenings watch lower and non-league teams play when they could watch Premier League football from the comfort of their living rooms? Does an international match between two countries that technically don’t exist have any meaning? Why do some people go to so much trouble volunteering to support clubs which run on a shoestring budget and are lucky to get even a glimpse of the limelight? Over the course of a season, Mat set out to explore the less glamorous side of the beautiful game, travelling the backwaters of football across the length and breadth of the country – and beyond. He watched Bangor as they were cheerfully thrashed by Reykjavik’s UMF Stjarnan, was absolutely won over by the women’s game, and found a new team to love in Accrington Stanley. From Glasgow to Northern Cyprus, Bhutan to the Faroe Islands, Mat discovered the same hope, sense of community, and love of the game that first led him to a life in the stands at Salisbury FC’s Victoria Park, where his own passion for football was formed. Another Bloody Saturday is available on www.amazon.co.uk
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k o s o B view e r From Albion to Zazzera – The history of Ashford Town
(Middlesex) Football Club
From humble beginnings in a public park to taking on, and beating, some of the biggest clubs in non-league football, Ashford Town (Middlesex) Football Club has enjoyed a rollercoaster ride through the National League System. This book seeks to not just document that adventure, but celebrate some of the people who made it possible and who make the club an enduring force in local football today – Gareth Coates (Author) As stated on the back cover, the rise of Ashford Town (Middlesex) is a story to behold, although the author did have his work cut out as there were no official records kept prior to 1982, somewhat strange for a club that had formed some eighteen years earlier. Nevertheless, having decided to put the history of the club together, initially in time for its Golden Jubilee in 2014, author Gareth Coates began his search into the annals of history. An interesting fact was unearthed fairly early on in his research, Ashford Town hadn’t actually formed in 1964, they had merely changed their name and colours that year, and had actually been playing since 1958 – meaning that the opportunity to celebrate the clubs Golden Anniversary had already been missed. Coates has put together a very interesting book in which supporters of the ‘new’ club can finally understand the origins of the Middlesex team. Full of articles, interviews and stats from the first season as ‘Town’, when they were promoted as runners-up in The Hounslow & District League (Division Two) right up to being promoted again as runners-up in 2016 from The Combined Counties League to take their place in The Southern League Division One Central (Step 4) for the first time in their history. From Albion to Zazzera is a book that will be of interest to any football supporter that loves to read about the history of a club, it is well researched, well-structured and has some great interviews with the people that have served this fine club so well over the years. From Albion to Zazzera is available from www.amazon.co.uk
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