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Thursday, 2 September 2010

Non-League Leaders

A lot of people I’ve spoken to so far this season can’t remember the last time they went to a ‘live game’ of football. Most will be either just about to, in the middle of, or recently finished watching a ‘live game’ – on the telly – but this doesn’t seem to count. ‘I would go, but you know, it’s impossible to get tickets’. Ah, the Premier League – making fans watch telly since 1992.

With the international break, there aren’t any Premier League and Championship fixtures this weekend. What’s more, with the Euro 2012 qualifiers also taking place on Friday night, a lot of the country’s football fans may find an unusual hole in their lives on Saturday afternoon. No games to follow on Soccer Saturday with Jeff and the boys. No Match of the Day to watch. No Fantasy League points to keep tabs on. The midday and 5.30 kick-offs coming from League One and the Blue Square Premier, respectively (though only the midday game is on Sky, obviously). I can hear the screaming from White Hart Lane and Stamford Bridge already. But haven’t you ever seen those weird and wonderful results on the vidiprinter every week? The 8-1s? The 6-3s and the 5-4s? Wouldn’t that be a good fillip?

All is therefore not lost, Premier League and Championship fans. You can still enjoy a Saturday afternoon of football, as long as you’re prepared for it to be at a ground you’ve never been to, watching two teams you’ve probably never heard of. Saturday 4th September is Non-League Day, and while it might not be the same as watching Didier Drogba scoring four against a hapless defence or Roberto Mancini playing three defensive midfielders as if his life depends on it, it will certainly be better than a trip to Ikea.

Yes, I’m sure you have heard it all before, the criticism that you should ‘support your local team’ and not treat ‘the Pub’ as your Premier League side’s home ground. I’m not going to argue that you don’t have the right to support whichever team you want, or try and enforce some kind of geographical catchment area on the clubs you ‘would be following if you were a REAL football fan’. I’m certainly not going to suggest that you boycott any Football League game you might be going to in order to support the cause. This is a one-off though – a fortuitous break in the calendar. And if you currently have no game to go to on Saturday afternoon at 3pm or you’re separated from your Football League side by distance like me, why not join the many supporters going to check out their local non-league team for the first time?

You can check out the website for Non-League Day here: http://www.nonleagueday.co.uk/. You can find your nearest non-league side and who they are playing, home or away. If you don’t visit the website, here’s a very pertinent quotation from it: ‘[Non-League Day is] an opportunity for fans to experience life at the other end of the football spectrum where many clubs are kept alive by the benevolence of hard working volunteers. There is a richness and depth to the non-league game that should be experienced while we have the chance… with more and more clubs facing hardship or folding every season’.

The queues at the bar will be less, the prices much lower. You can tell the players what you REALLY think, if you’re prepared for some feedback yourself. I thought it would be a bloody cold day in hell before I quoted the Sun or indeed, the kid in the Sun’s advert for the new football season, but here goes. “… come on (*shudder*). No heartache. No cynicism.” Go to a ‘live game’ for the first time in ages. Help your local team out.

1 comment:

  1. I went to my first non-league recently & must say it was a very refreshing experience. So very different from what I'm used to following Sheff Utd. We visited Bradford Park Avenue & had a crackin' day out. Folk at the club were genuinely pleased that we had chosen to visit their ground and made us feel welcome. If you've never been to a non-league day then do it and do it on Saturday.