Tuktuk Day 138

Day 137 showcased TTTONLF with Darren Ashley. Today it is with Danny Pickering who I am ashamed to say I did not know. I do know, and so do you!

Christian says,” So this time we are joined by the Non-league Dad (Danny Pickering) , you may or may not have seen Danny across social media sharing his adventures with his two sons Marley (2) and Rudy (1). The three of have racked up the games and recently passed the 100 games total as a trio. We sit down with Danny to discuss what made him want to do this and also what he has found some of the best moments and also some of the challenging moments in making these trips happen.”

Name – Danny Pickering (AKA: NonLeagueDad)
Age – 32
Favourite Team – Barwell FC
Occupation – Plant Machinery Repairman (Diggers)
One thing I love about football is – The community feel around your local club, everyone knows everyone, everyone’s welcoming I think no matter who you support you get this at any level.
Football pet hate – Plastic pitches. I get why teams have them but the football is not the same
Best player you have ever seen play in real life – travelled with my eldest Marley (2) to go see Cristiano Ronaldo last year but Non League has to be Ben Stephens, we finished 3rd from bottom and he was leagues top scorer, joy to watch

Q) What inspired you and your sons to start groundhopping, and how did you get into visiting different non-league football grounds?

I’ve always been into Non League. I’m from a little village called Barwell who have a team that play at Step 3 in the Southern Central Premier Division and so I got bought up by my dad taking me there. Unfortunately he’s no longer here as he passed away when I was 8 but I knew the joy I had from him taking me that when I became a dad myself almost 3 years ago I wanted to take my children. Barwell were having a new pitch laid at the time and so all their games were away, we travelled everywhere father and son and I really enjoyed the different grounds we visited and different standards of football that I took a step back from following Barwell home and away and each week we picked a new place or team to go watch then Rudy came along and we carried on going still and it’s been a really great journey

Q) Can you describe the bond that groundhopping has created between you and your sons? How has it influenced your relationship?

It’s been a really positive experience all round. It helped me out hugely mentally in getting me out the house and spending some quality time with both kids at such a young age. Gave me the confidence with them both to go out and do stuff on my own as a father, and it was nice to just be father and son and show them my interests etc. I’d say it’s made us closer as come the weekend Marley will now ask “is it football day today” which is really nice.

Q) What is it about non-league football that you find particularly appealing compared to higher league matches?

The accessibility especially with the young ones. The cost and the family friendly atmosphere, Pushchairs for example I can go and take a walk round, you’re not tied to one seat etc and you can mingle and chat and the kids also have the freedom to run around and mix with other kids or on their own. Just really welcoming atmosphere and you feel part of whichever club you go and see and people seem grateful for your presence even the players

Q) How do you plan your groundhopping trips? Do you have a specific strategy or criteria for choosing which grounds to visit next?

There’s no real plan, since starting the Instagram and X profiles we get invited a few or recommended games that we go see I’ve even sometimes planned them around a day out with the family much to the partners surprise. We use the Futbology app so have access to a whole list of teams and games every day across the UK so I’ll have a look on there if we have a free weekend. I did however for milestone games such as 50 or 100 look for a special ground so we actually visited the Marley stadium of Steeton AFC to commemorate the achievement.

Q) Can you share a memorable groundhopping experience or a favorite ground that you and your son have visited?

Memorable one, great question there’s been so many, one of my favourites because it was something I’d always wanted to do was we planned a last minute trip to Portugal to see Al-Nassr Vs Celta Vigo and got to see Ronaldo, past his peak but I’d always wanted to see him play live so that one stays with me and I’ll never forget that.

Q) What are some of the unique aspects or traditions of non-league football grounds that you enjoy the most?

I like the fact you can meet most the players in the club house after a game. You see a lot of fans talking to them about their games some good some bad but it’s such a nice thing to see, I also really like the fundraising ideas for non league clubs as I know every little helps. My thing is I always buy a pin badge from the home team we go and see, we’ve got so many and put them on a special display banner

Q) How do you and your sons make the most out of each visit? Are there any specific activities or rituals you always follow on match days?

Whoever we pick I like to visit something in the area, either a soft play for the kids a park or something, or we head to a pub/restaurant for dinner just to make a full day out of it, however since we went Portugal I really enjoy making it into a mini break either UK or abroad, we’ve been Cyprus and Nantes, France but as long as the kids enjoy it then it makes my life so much easier

Q) Have you met other groundhoppers or made friends along the way? How has the community aspect of groundhopping been for you and your sons?

Yes. I’ve met a few. Because I post on twitter and Instagram I get a lot come up on a matchday introducing themselves or recognising me and the boys, I actually went a game in Cyprus with Marley and got recognised by someone. It’s a really friendly community who offer so many tips etc if you have any questions. I’ve also planned to meet another groundhopper next season for a trip to Scotland for a game with my boys

Q) What challenges have you faced while groundhopping, especially with a child, and how have you overcome them?

Simple answer, Nappy Changing. I took a 3 month old Marley to the CBS Arena to watch Coventry City, no stewards or staff knew where I could change a baby so they actually put me in the back of a bar and I had to change him on a keg of beer. To be honest most the matchday volunteers are so helpful. Wherever we’ve been people are so thoughtful and kind towards us we’ve had no issues, you get the occasional “why would you bring a baby to the football” but usually everyone is so nice and welcoming

Q) What advice would you give to other parents who are considering taking up groundhopping with their children?

Do it, especially non league, if it’s your thing anyway, Groundhopping or non league then carry on doing it. People are so friendly and helpful and I think people are really grateful to see new faces through the turnstile. It’s great to have a bond or a “thing” to do with your child. But just enjoy it whatever you do.

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So that brings another “Through the Turnstile Meets” to a close.

Thanks to Danny for taking part and showing the power of football and how it can not only be entertainment for everyone but also a magical opportunity to create memories for life.

I hope that you found it interesting to learn about some of his journey so far and will keep an eye out in the future for some of the other grounds the trio end up visiting!

Until next time!”

What a terrific interview. I really enjoyed it. Delighted to “meet” you Danny and you will always be welcome at FC Deportivo Galicia with or without the boys. We are near Heathrow Airport and Groundhoppers are always welcome!

…. and talking about enjoyment, I hope that you are enjoying my digital tour of the grounds but please remember that the purpose of this 180 day challenge is to raise funds for Prostate Cancer and an equal amount for my local club, FC Deportivo Galicia. As always, I do hope that you are all enjoying this digital tour of the UK and that you will consider a donation to support FC Deportivo Galicia and/or Prostate Cancer UK 

If everybody chipped in with just £1, I would easily hit my target of £10,000 and life would be easier at the club whilst the charity could continue its great work. A HEARTFELT thanks, if you can donate. If you can’t any shares of this site or even this post would be gratefully received. Thanks again, everyone.



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