Near enough every single Saturday I venture out of my front door en route to watch Gloucester City play in the Conference North, the 6th tier of English football and the 2nd tier of non-league football, just 2 promotions away from the promised land of the Football League.
Non-league football may not be a very glamorous prospect for armchair Premier League fans like most of my friends, but it’s a whole lot better than sitting on the sofa w**king off to a team that plays in a city 120 miles away. There is something magical about non-league football: tiny stadiums, poor quality pitches, no scoreboards, what could be better? Premier League football you say? Nah you’re alright.
Non-League football is the corner-stone of English football.
Non-league football is as much of a British institution as the Royal Family, Wimbledon and a nice cup of tea. Some of the matches played out in non-league football may not show off the greatest players ever to grace a football pitch, but they do offer great entertainment.
Take this past Monday for example, Oxford City vs Gloucester City in the Conference North. I spend most of the 2nd half, as Richard Keys would put it, ‘enjoying some banter’ with the Oxford manager. Predictably, Oxford score in the 91st minute to make it 2-1. Gutting. The manager is loving it. Tw*t.
But then, the goalscoring machine that is Charlie Griffin pops up in the 95th minute to equalise! He’s off celebrating with the fans, I’m banging on top of Oxford’s perspex dugout, the manager is hating it. Lovely stuff. Nothing beats seeing the smile wiped off a smug bastards face I can tell you that!
This is just some of the stuff I like to see at non-league matches, but what I absolutely love to see is the player’s passion, their desire. In non-league football, the players actually care for their club, something that is definitely a dying art in the Premier League, Championship, etc.
The quality of football might be better in the Premier League and there might be a lot less hoof-ball in the Premier League (unless you watch Stoke every week) but when all is said and done, those players in the higher up leagues play for the money, the lifestyle that it brings and not for the love of the game/club. Non-league footballers however, they’ll throw themselves into any tackle without hesitation, they really care when their team loses and they don’t need to be told by the manager to applaud the 50 hardcore fans that travelled to Histon (Cambridgeshire) on a cold Tuesday night at the end of a match. They play football for the love of the game.
Sure, Old Trafford might hold over 75,000 fans, but the atmosphere is flat and dull, it’s completely different to a Conference North match. If you go to Old Trafford as an away fan, you are corralled like wild animals and penned into a tiny area. If you go to a non-league match as an away fan, you are allowed complete freedom to roam around the ground (unless you go to a segregated match), you’re allowed to mingle with the home fans, you’re allowed to have a bit of banter and a pint with them.
And the cost of all this? Including admission, food, a matchday programme and a couple of pints? Less than £35. A day out, 90 minutes of football, burger and chips at half-time and a couple of pints. What more could you ask for? And if you say ‘good football’ then pipe down, you don’t get ‘good football’ in non-league, you get proper football. Football how it was meant to be played: no diving, no cheating, no racism, respect between players, loyalty to a club. This is football. This is non-league, and I bloody love it!
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Kelsey De Maria
Don’t miss Yatesey’s rebuttal post coming soon, only on the SevernSport website!