Tuktuk Day Eleven

(It’s a long one!)

I have been a Gillingham fan since 1964 and proudly still think of them as my professional club. After university I lived literally next to Manchester City’s Maine Rd. I watched City one week and United the next because, even as an impoverished student, I could afford to! As time moved on I became a HUGE Manchester United fan and even bought a house on Salford Quays to be near the ground as the short journey from Bramhall could sometimes take two hours because of the traffic. When I went to Spain there was no professional club at a sensible distance so I started following FC Torrevieja with its famous Torry Army set up by Chelsea fan Eduardo Cagigao …and LOVED it. I LOVED the entire level nine, ten experience. Talking to fans home and away, no fear of violence, no chants about Hillsborough or Munich, Bradford City or St Andrews etc. There were no over-excitable stewards or police,. You could sit where you wanted. You could share a drink with the players and even the manager and chairman. “So, Stevie, I thinks you not was impressed?” “No, Sr. Manager. We were rubbish.” “Oh, is good. We does get better than lass weeks?” And then we both laughed.

I came back to West London a few years ago but health issues, hospitalisation etc meant Gillingham was at least a six hour journey and that’s not great for me. Lamenting my fate, Eduardo said, “You need to get your axxx down to see FC Deportivo Galicia” … and a new love affair started. All was good for two seasons and I was getting into following them home and (especially) away. Sixteen months in hospital slowed things but since then I have been loyal. Last season I missed not a single game home or away and was often the sole visitor or one of a handful Depor fans. I LOVED IT and this is why I am supporting them this time around. Please check this out

So, I was very interested to read Christian Obray’s article about “The Rise Of Non-League Football.” I thought it was so good and so timely that I asked him if I could reproduce it and he kindly agreed. He also kindly agreed to a little interview. Thanks, Kind Sir.

Steve “Hi, Christian. What a GREAT article. Congratulations and thanks for taking the time to speak to TheShirt2010 readers.

Christian My pleasure. It’s a great cause Prostate Cancer and also supporting a Step 6 club. Delighted to help. Me? I am Christian – 32 years old and a football fan!  

I work as a Regional Marketing Manager for Arriva UK Bus helping to promote destinations/ services as well as making connections within the community in the forms of partnerships and charity work. 

Steve Oh, interesting. I am a HUGE transport fan. Planes, boats, trains, buses …… my life. We can speak later!

Christian It is through one particular partnership that really struck a chord with me and has done ever since, that partnership was the one with Chatham Town FC. 

First and foremost I am a football fan, growing up as a Gillingham fan (a family choice) I have always been around football, not too much success but a sprinkle of it! In my role at Arriva I have no worked alongside a number of sports clubs in different types of partnership agreements. 

Steve Choice, curse??

Christian It opened up my eyes to the world of non-league football and the whole community which was sitting there all along that never really gets the time or recognition it deserves. 

I wanted to reach people who turn their noses up at non-league football and highlight what they are missing out on, in the hope that they might give it a try. 

Steve What has been the response?

The response has been absolutely amazing, i was initially shocked by the amount of people that reached out to me and wanted to be a part of the blog and have their story told. I think that initial response confirmed everything I thought about non-league fans, pure pride. 

Steve What’s next?

I am actually in the process of launching a brand new series of blogs/bios under the name ‘Through the Turnstile’. Each of these will focus on a non-league team, highlighting their history, their matchday experience, how they have got to where they have done so far and speak to some of their staff and fans. I am very excited to get the project off the ground! 

Steve Fantastic. Similar to me but at a tangent. I wish you every success. I can definitely suggest a few clubs: FC Deportivo Galicia would be delighted to welcome you to Heathrow. Ascot United have a great story as do Stonewall and Clapton CFC in East London and I have always had a lot of time for what Farnham Town does in their community. Shout if I can ever help

X – @christian_obray 

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/chrissyobray

Steve Thanks again, Christian so grab a coffee, guys and enjoy this!


The Rise of Non-League Football

Football has been and inevitably will always be the number one sport in England. A proud beacon of success that is always pointed to by the fans when discussing football in England, is the competitiveness and quality of the Premier League. The quality of the players that play in it week in, week out and the fact that every team in it can beat each other on any given week. It is never predicatable.

Yes Manchester City have dominated for the past few seasons but even with their vast wealth and squad depth, they still havent had everything their own way. However being arguably the best top flight league in the world, the Premier league has I feel two huge problems, with no prizes to anyone for what one of them is, the dreaded VAR. Alongside VAR is the ever increasing power that the TV broadcasters now have, this power is slowly but surely strangling the life out of the Premier league and killing its appeal for more fans every week that passes.

Premier league and even Championship teams fans are simply an afterthought, changing a Saturday 3pm fixture such as Brentford away at Newcastle to be a 7.45pm kick off on a Thursday night, takes zero consideration about any of the fans that may wish to attend the match, but now can’t. It may also apply to League One and Two teams next season but with the current TV deal in place, rarely are either of those leagues covered and therefore affected by these kind of changes.

Moving the focus to the 3 lettered acronym which every (most) football fans hate…VAR – no words are needed, but in my personal opinion it kills every game in which it is used. Correct decisions are paramount of course but so is the essence of football and VAR has stripped fans of even the most basic joys of celebrating a goal. That pure ectasy of when a goal is scored can never be the same when VAR is in place, as in the back of every fans mind is…I wonder if VAR are going to look at this. To me, that is not what football is about, it is about celebrating those huge moments with friends and family there and then. Not with a 5 minute wait for VAR to check if a players shoulder is ahead of the defenders left kneecap or that a foul was committed earlier in the play.

Breathe out…….have no fear!

As I truly believe that the true success of English football is the Football pyramid that sits below the Premier league. There is simply nothing like it in any other country and honestly it is the foundation and cornerstone of everything good that is in the game we all love.

Looking at the pyramid above it is hard to comprehend just how many teams and how vast the structure is. But one of the things I find both fascinating and compelling is the success of teams such as Hashtag United & Dorking Wanderers, these teams entered the pyramid at the very bottom and are now competing at level 7 and 8 respectively.

For all their critics, Dorking represent in a nutshell possibly one of the best parts of our entire football system in England. Having only formed in 1999, starting off by playing in the Crawley and District league, they have now been promoted a total of 12 times in their 24 year history. A truly amazing feat and one of the best success stories in lower league football.

The sheer fact this this is even possible feeds into the brilliance of it all. It also allows people/fans to dream, that in 10 years time that might be us. The possibilities are endless and non league football provides opportunities to these hopes and dreams, along with so much more.

However I am guessing some of you are reading this and thinking – why should I even care. Why shouldn’t I just sit indoors and watch sky sports for 8 hours instead or head to the occasional premier league game?

Well you can of course but here are some of the reasons as to why popping your shoes and coat on and heading to a local non-league game might be the better choice for you, now more than ever:

– Affordable Games
– Freedom of movement around the ground
– Drink around the pitch
– Hidden gems unearthed
– You feel a part of something
– Your ticket money makes a difference
– Authentic experience of football where every game matters
– Family friendly
– Food offerings are always better
– No VAR

Football at its core is an entertainment business, but anyone who is a fan of football knows that football is much more than just entertainment. It becomes a part of you as a person, you invest your time into supporting a club and in a way the club becomes an extension of you. It becomes something to talk about between friends, days out to places you may never have been before and meet people who you may never have otherwise of met. Football brings people together and in non-league more than ever that community spirit is palpable.

I am a Gillingham FC fan and have been all my life, my dad supports Gillingham and his dad before him. It is a family love of the team that has been passed down through the generations. It goes without saying really as The Gills are not a team heaped in glory so you dont get many glory hunters down Priestfield stadium!

Being a Gills fan has been quite tough for the past few seasons and until last year when Brad Galinson took over the club, there were many fans who were extremely unhappy with the owner Paul Scally, so much so that they simply stopped coming to the games. Those fans were not happy with the way the club was being handled, how they were being communicated/treated, the overall matchday experience being below poor and the fact that they simply didnt feel valued by the club anymore. It was not a good time or place for the club, which thankfully we are no longer in, although Scally remains at the club in a minority role, to the dismay of many.

Now during this time many fans actually switched alliegances to another local team – Chatham Town. Chatham at that time were playing in the Isthmian League South East Division and were doing really well in their first season after just being promoted into the divison that year. The team play their matches at The Bauvill stadium which has a capacity of 3,000 (500 of that being seated), a lovely little stadium with a smart bar lounge area, mutliple food and drink outlets and even an in stadium club shop.

The welcome and warmth and return to being able to enjoy the true elements of football to many was everything that they had been missing from Gillingham, add into that the ability to have a drink around the pitch, the reasonable ticket prices, cheaper food/drink, along with a much improved community feeling when going to the games, really struck a chord with some.

Fast forward to the end of that season and Chatham Town were promoted as champions and this season are playing in the Isthmian Premier Division, currently sitting second in the table. During this time some fans have returned to the support Gillingham as long standing barriers between the club and fans have been removed by the Galinsons arrival, but not all fans have. There are a number of fans who have stuck with Chatham town and state that they are pleased that they gave the club a chance and that by doing so they have fallen back in love with football all over again.

Now this story is not an isolated incident, sure these circumstances are unique to the area, but all around the county there are fans who once supported an EFL or Premier league team who no longer do. I wanted to highlight and share some of those stories here, so that you can read them, as I believe that they highlight the huge impact that non-league football has on people.

Who did you support before?
Notts County

Why did you support ……. (previous club) ?
Used to go to matches with my Dad

What made you choose ….. (new club)?
We moved to Alfreton about 10 years ago.

What was your first game you attended, what was it like and was the experience better than expected?
First game was with my new neighbour against FC United of Manchester and yes the experience was a lot better than I thought it would be.

What would you say is better about non league football?
The football is better and more competitive with no prima donnas. They play for the love of the game and not the money.

Is there anything you miss from league football?
Don’t miss league football at all.

What did football mean to you before?
Nothing more than just the habit of going

What does football mean to you now?
Now it’s more of a social thing meeting friends and getting to know other people from all over the country. I enjoyed it so much that I now volunteer as a steward on match day.

What is the biggest misconception about non-league football?
The football is a lower standard but that is not the case. I have been to non league games that have been full of guts and passion. There have been many many games that would beat anything in the premier or the EFL.

What would you say to someone who is thinking of attending non league football!
Do it. You won’t be disappointed and maybe you will be converted just like me

Who did you support before?
Coventry city

Why did you support ……. (previous club) ?
I supported coventry city because I was born in cov and a mate and his dad took me up to watch them when I was about ten. From then I was hooked.

What made you choose ….. (new club)?
I chose my new club coventry united because citys owners, sisu, had a rent dispute with the council and took the team to play at Northampton’s ground for a season. Also a mate of mine was managing cov utd at the time and he talked me into going to watch them

What was your first game you attended, what was it like and was the experience better than expected?
I believe it was at home against pershore. At the time we were playing home matches at coventry sphinx ground.we won 3-0 if i remember, trouble broke out in the stand, nothing serious, one of pershor’s players started arguing with cov utd supporters. It was a great atmosphere and I just thought ‘yep I love this club’.

What would you say is better about non league football?
It was a lot better than I expected. Basically I expected Sunday morning soccer. I was wrong Non lge football’s better because its cheaper, you’re closer to the players and have an opportunity to socialize with them, and its real footy, especially at our level. The players are playing out of loyalty not for the money

Is there anything you miss from league football?
Nothing

What did football mean to you before?
Football meant everything to me when I supported city. Like I stated earlier I ate slept lived for cov city. When they got to the fa cup final in 87 I queued up all night for a ticket.

What does football mean to you now?
The same just for a completely different team

What is the biggest misconception about non-league football?
So many league club supporters say to me “its just Sunday lge soccer. If they went to a non-lge game they’d see its not. They think the standard of footys bad at non-lge games. Their missing out i guess. But I do wish they’d be a bit more open to it. I’ve been there. I didn’t watch cov utd straight away because I thought it wouldn’t be good football.

What would you say to someone who is thinking of attending non league football!
Give it a go. You won’t regret it.

Non-league football is all about the community and the feeling of being appreciated that you just don’t get as much at a big club! You could be having a bad a week and you go down your local on a Saturday and everyone wants to speak to you and it just makes you feel amazing! Also being able to drink alcohol outside! And its a cheap day out in comparison to the higher leagues!Luke Coates – Blandford United Fan

Who did you support before?
Derby County

Why did you support ……. (previous club) ?
Derbyshire born and bred, my mum was a big Derby County fan.

What made you choose ….. (new club)?
Have followed Gresley Rovers since a kid, went to my first game age 8/9 years old.

What was your first game you attended, what was it like and was the experience better than expected?
Can’t remember who my first game was against, just remember thinking that the Moat ground (Gresleys home pitch) was a special place, it felt huge as a kid.

What would you say is better about non league football?
The sense of community, belonging to something you can get involved in, the connection between fans and the club/players

Is there anything you miss from league football?
Don’t really miss anything

What did football mean to you before?
Football meant a lot before, was a little obsessed with watching derby.

What does football mean to you now?
Now I can appreciate football a lot more, it’s more enjoyable watching non league, generally plan my week around it

What is the biggest misconception about non-league football?
That it’s a poor standard, yes you get some poor teams but overall I’ve found it to be pretty good

What would you say to someone who is thinking of attending non league football!
I’d say to anyone thinking of attending non league football to go for it, speak to people involved at the club, volunteer or just go a long to support, every little really does help at the lower levels, to me there’s something quite special going away and being one of only 20/25 away fans

Who did you support before?
Barnet FC.

Why did you support ……. (previous club) ?
The atmosphere at Underhill was incredible. Grew up in Watford so should support them but the atmosphere at Vicarage Road for me was too quiet. Also my Dad and Grandad supported Barnet so it was easy to get lifts to games.

What made you choose ….. (new club)?
After Barnet did an MK Dons on us by moving out of town against the wishes of the fans, me and my mates decided it was not the club we fell in love with so we stopped going. When Hadley redeveloped Brickfield Lane in 2016 it was our most local club and we thought we’d check them out.

What was your first game you attended, what was it like and was the experience better than expected?
Away at Sun Sports in a league cup tie. Extremely foggy. So bad that the lino had to stand on the pitch to see all the way across to the other side of the pitch. Lost on pens after a 1-1 draw. Experience was like nothing I’ve ever seen before.

What would you say is better about non league football?
Friendlier, better banter, you can drink beer while watching the game, more relaxed fan culture, less people so you get to know your fellow fans personally. Get to interact with the team, manager and board. Chairman is extremely approachable. He’s been on holiday with us. Manager has been to my gigs (I’m a musician). More interesting grounds, more standing areas (I hate all seater grounds). Regionalisation means away travel isn’t too far. Furthest we have to travel is 2 hour drive and most away grounds are less than an hour away. Cheap ticket prices. Season tickets at Hadley are £50.

Is there anything you miss from league football?
Getting drawn against big teams in the FA Cup 3rd round. Chances of seeing your team play at Wembley is also much higher because playoff finals are played there.

What did football mean to you before?
Always loved it.

What does football mean to you now?
Same. I still love watching big games on TV.

What is the biggest misconception about non-league football?
1 man and his dog attendances. Sunday league standard of football.

What would you say to someone who is thinking of attending non league football!
Give Hadley a try.

Who did you support before?
Nottingham Forest

Why did you support ……. (previous club) ?
My uncle took me to a Forest game and i stuck with them.

What made you choose ….. (new club)?
I chose a new club because I used to go to Forest games on my own and didn’t feel connected in any way

What was your first game you attended and was it better than expected?
My first game watching Alfreton was an fa cup tie,it was so exciting especially getting a late equaliser.

What would you say is better about non league football?
Non league is better because you feel part of the club, you can have a chat with the chairman, drink in the bar with friends and players after the game,it’s one big family

Is there anything you miss from league football?
I don’t miss anything from league football, it’s boring to me

What did football mean to you before?
Football before didn’t really mean anything before, just something to get out of the house on a weekend

What does football mean to you now?
Now it means much more, it’s being with friends , travelling together for away matches, having a stop off before the game and talking about past and future games.

What is the biggest misconception about non-league football?
The biggest misconception about non-league football is the quality of players and standard of football

What would you say to someone who is thinking of attending non league football!
I would say to anyone thinking about attending a non league to just do it, you will never look back, watching players who some have worked full time jobs before playing games, put everything on the line week in week out, is much better than watching over paid players rolling about on the play acting.

Who did you support before?
Spurs

Why did you support ……. (previous club) ?
Probably influenced by school friends at an early age and players with England (Chivers, Peters, Mullery).

What made you choose ….. (new club)?
Locality, ease of travel and i knew people who went. I started going occasionally when I moved to Dartford in 1983, probably influenced by people I knew locally

What was your first game you attended and was it better than expected?
Dartford v Fisher March ’84. I enjoyed it but it was completely different to what I had previously experienced by way of atmosphere. I went again a few weeks later for the Southern League Cup Final 2nd Leg (which we lost 3-0 in extra time!).

What would you say is better about non league football?
Everything is more local and within (almost) everyone’s budget. Matches are generally at 3pm on Saturday unlike Prem League where you can’t plan anything else until TV have their say

Is there anything you miss from league football?
I miss the atmosphere in the stadiums but that’s about it.

What did football mean to you before?
Football was a Saturday treat and big games were affordable.

What does football mean to you now?
I still have the same passions but have little or no sympathy for the people in the Premier game with the money they earn

What is the biggest misconception about non-league football?
That there is no passion. Players and supporters still love to win and hate losing. People don’t just go to walk their dog around the pitch!

What would you say to someone who is thinking of attending non league football!
Try it. You won’t always get a classic (you don’t at any level) but it is far more social and away fans are generally welcomed and not shepherded away. There is rarely any trouble and you’re not watched by dozens of police every minute of the game.

Who did you support before?
Crystal Palace

Why did you support ……. (previous club) ?
At aged 12, the name appealed to me.

What made you choose ….. (new club)?
I lived very close to Bromley FC so, easy choice back then.

What was your first game you attended and was it better than expected?
March 70, home to Southampton. Won 2-0. Atmosphere & just a great experience.

What would you say is better about non league football?
There is still player/fan connection at non league level, you can talk to them before & after a game.

Is there anything you miss from league football?
I suppose I still miss the atmosphere, especially at away games.

What did football mean to you before?
During my teenage years, football was everything, I wanted to make it as a player too.

What does football mean to you now?
Football is just something I do for ‘me time.’

What is the biggest misconception about non-league football?
That it’s not as competitive as higher level.

What would you say to someone who is thinking of attending non league football!
If you want to see football how it used to be, give it a try. Great facilities now at Bromley fc & no VAR!

Who did you support before?
WBA

Why did you support ……. (previous club) ?
Used to live in Brum and parents knew John Wile (captain)

What made you choose ….. (new club)?
Now live in St. Albans

What was your first game you attended and was it better than expected?
First game vs Dover. Rained. Not a great game 😕

What would you say is better about non league football?
Community, beers, no seat allocation, cheaper

Is there anything you miss from league football?
Big games and seeing top players

What does football mean to you?
Football is and was entertainment. That’s all

What is the biggest misconception about non-league football?
That the quality is poor. Its pretty good

What would you say to someone who is thinking of attending non league football!
Give it a try, have a pint and chat to strangers

The biggest misconception is that non-league games lack atmosphere. That it’s all ‘one man and his dog’. I’ve found some of the funniest, wittiest, and most volumous fans at non-league level. Even when there are only half a dozen away fans that turn up to a match, their presence is not only a testament to their dedication but also they make up for lack of numbers with enthusiasm.
James (AFC Wimbledon fan)

Who did you support before?
Derby as a child in the 70s, but in Premier league I have tended to look out for the smaller teams and their success/failures

Why did you support ……. (previous club) ?
As a child my favourite player was Wales captain Terry Hennessey and he moved there from Nottm Forest

What made you choose ….. (new club)?
I have always been fond of my local clubs, but since starting with local radio, I have attended many good games. I’m not supposed to be biased, but unofficially…

What was your first game you attended and was it better than expected?
I was 8 and my Dad took me to Everton v Newcastle. Alan Ball scored the winner. The experience was humbling – so many people. Grown men going mad when he slotted the ball in. I was a bit overawed

What would you say is better about non league football?
People are more accessible. Less ego. Less crowd issues (not completely free, but…) Can talk to players, other fans, officials, refs as human beings. And winning means a lot to most of the team, as they have links with the area. So much cheaper and food isn’t a rip off

Is there anything you miss from league football?
Possibly the big occasion atmosphere

What did football mean to you before?
I drifted from football for a while to rugby after being in the middle of some problems at a Leicester v Chelsea game.

What does football mean to you now?
Entertainment, enjoyment, being part of a community

What is the biggest misconception about non-league football?
Amateur means the football will be dire, there will be no excitement. Oh boy, look up and smell the coffee…

What would you say to someone who is thinking of attending non league football!
Go! Try and avoid any misconceptions about the quality and don’t get snobby about the facilities. Take it as you find it and enjoy the ride

Who did you support before?
West Brom

Why did you support ……. (previous club) ?
Just mates from school used to and the parents used to take us.

What made you choose ….. (new club)?
Worked in an around Nuneaton since 2014. Used to attend some of the matches in a professional capacity with work. Moved to Nuneaton in 2020. I liked the club and some of its history. Thought I’d try a few games as a supporter.

What was your first game you attended and was it better than expected?
Nuneaton v Stockport. (At Nuneaton) Great atmosphere.

What would you say is better about non league football?
It’s more of raw football experience. I find it more personal. You’re close to the pitch, you’re close to the players. Fans go because they want to support their team not just because they want to be seen at a game. To follow your non league team to away games you really have to enjoy and you really have to support your team, the journeys can be long and the facilities at other grounds can vary. **(At least they have a ground)**It’s better for kids, the players are more accessible and inclusive. Everything means more, wins, cup runs etc.

Is there anything you miss from league football?
No

What did football mean to you before?
I kept a listening watch. But I wasn’t that into it.

What does football mean to you now?
A lot more. The current situation at Nuneaton shows what the club means to their supporters. Shows what the club mean to the staff at the club and Jimmy who has just left. Football is more personal to me now. I have more of an interest and really really enjoy watching the game.

What is the biggest misconception about non-league football?
That it’s rubbish or not as enjoyable as following or supporting the bigger league clubs.

What would you say to someone who is thinking of attending non league football!
Absolutely try it. It’s a more immersive football experience. I find it a friendlier experience (most of the time). What’s there not to like about it.

Who did you support before?
Manchester United

Why did you support ……. (previous club) ?
I suppose on reflection it was a bit of bandwagon-jumping and glory-supporting. I’m glad I don’t do that anymore!

What made you choose ….. (new club)?
I’d followed Farnborough, the club I support now, since 2010 as that was my first game, which my Dad took me to, to meet my Grandad who was there. I didn’t start supporting them religiously until 2018-ish really, when I had no team to support, and simply decided to take Farnborough on as my own! Although it doesn’t half make it difficult explaining to people where they are in the country, or the league system, particularly those who don’t watch non-league!

What was your first game you attended and was it better than expected?
First game I attended was Nuneaton Borough v Farnborough when I was 5. I don’t remember much of it, but apparently, because my Grandad was going back on the away coach, I stopped the coach from leaving because I was trying to get on the coach back to Farnborough with my Grandad! But the experience, more generally, in non-league football, is that I find it to be a very good community feel, which ever club you go to, probably because it is an open ground.

What would you say is better about non league football?
As I say, probably the community feel.

Is there anything you miss from league football?
Not particularly.

What did football mean to you before?
I enjoy football, even now, because it is so simple. However non-league football is just that extra step, I feel, because everyone is involved.

What does football mean to you now?
Football has had a big role in my life, but nowadays it takes on a different meaning as I’m a student journalist! So the majority of games I go to, I’m worrying more about “Who had that shot” or “who scored that goal” and “when’s the deadline” rather than just taking it in, but I do enjoy it!

What is the biggest misconception about non-league football?
It’s not as good. People say that, they mean the quality. Of course, but it’s also about supporting your local community, which, even if you’re born in Manchester, there’s not as much of a community, I feel, as there would be at a non-league club in the same area. I may be wrong, but I feel non-league club has a better community than any PL club.

What would you say to someone who is thinking of attending non league football!
Do it. Go down to your local team this weekend, because they see your support and care about it. Your money may mean that the club survives for longer, whereas the owners of higher-league clubs wouldn’t be as bothered if a couple of fans stopped watching.

Who did you support before?
Sheffield Wednesday

Why did you support ……. (previous club) ?
It was either Wednesday or United and it was never going to be the latter

What made you choose ….. (new club)?
Went to watch Worksop with a friend. Got fed up with all the mercenaries in the game that didn’t give two hoots for who they were playing for.

What was your first game you attended and was it better than expected?
1st game watching Worksop Town was Spennymoor away. It was bloody freezing and we lost!

What would you say is better about non league football?
Love non league for the friendly banter with opposing fans and feeling as if you are part of the club.

Is there anything you miss from league football?
Besides the quality of football fro a league side there is absolutely nothing I miss.

What did football mean to you before?
Football is in your blood. Just love the game.

What does football mean to you now?
Look forward to midweek and Saturday games more now than ever. My team means everything to me.

What is the biggest misconception about non-league football?
Biggest misconception I think is when people say the quality is rubbish and why bother.

What would you say to someone who is thinking of attending non league football!
I would say do it, you won’t regret it. You know the players, the players know you. Chat to the manager or the chairman, they are normal people who love the game like I do.

These stories are just a tiny sample, there were so many more people who got in touch i was overwhelmed by those who wanted to tell their stories and share their journey in football.

The overall theme from all of the stories shared is that those who have made the switch do not regret it one bit and in most circumstances their love for the sport has grown. Top flight football has many positive points, yet when i was reading through all of the responses i couldnt help but be moved by the passion in their answers.

Non-league football = Pride, Community and Friendship

This got me thinking though, what about those who still currently support an EFL or Premier league team, what are their thoughts and feelings on their clubs and on non-league football? There was only one way to find out, i reached out and asked them.

Anthony – Arsenal Fan

Who do you support and why?
I grew up in a family of Arsenal supporters, so I didn’t want to be a traitor

What do you think of the standard of football?
In my opinion, it’s the most competitive league in the world.

How would you rate the match day experience?
Far too expensive to get tickets for Arsenal, and even if expense wasn’t an issue, the tickets are nearly impossible to get hold off. Other than that, I’ve enjoyed every game that I’ve been to, the atmosphere is electric.

How close to the team do you feel?
Not very close – I feel if I was a season ticket holder, I would get a more of that club/ family vibe.

What do you think of non league football in general?
I started following Wrexham when Ryan Reynolds took over – shows what money can do to a team.

Would you ever consider attending a non league football match, why?
Probably not – unless a big name took it over.

Daryl – Gillingham Fan

Who do you support and why?
Gillingham – dad started taking me and been going for the past 31-32 years

What do you think of the standard of football?
Standard of football in league 2 is what you would pretty much expect at that level even though the standard seems to raise every season

How would you rate the match day experience?
7/10. Room for improvement

How close to the team do you feel?
Very close. Worked there back when I was a teen and played a big part in my life so far

What do you think of non league football in general?
Very high standard

Would you ever consider attending a non league football match, why?
Yes. Will try and support when I can

Neil- Everton Fan

Who do you support and why?
I support Everton, all my family support them and sadly it’s my dads fault.

What do you think of the standard of football?
Premier is the best league but money controls football now.

How would you rate the match day experience?
Everton is about the real people, but I am looking forward to the ground opening.

How close to the team do you feel?
Not really all players are out of touch now! When someone gets paid that amount you don’t have anything in common with the working person.

What do you think of non league football in general?
I really don’t know a lot about it .

Would you ever consider attending a non league football match, why?
I went to watch Prescott cables last season. It was a great experience, they have an American announcer who reads the team out, he was amazing!

English football has many many different great things about it, but at its core it’s that sense of community spirit and camaraderie and common goal. You come together to support your team and community, you can cheer, laugh, scream to your hearts content. As the answers above outline the main thing that is shared amongst the supporters of all football teams is their love for their club, the main difference is the matchday experience.

For some they simply cannot even obtain tickets to a match and even if they could, they still dont feel close to club due to the size and money that is invovled. So whilst they all argue that the Premier league is the most competitive and the best in the world, that is based on pure quality alone, the whole package of football is much more than just the 90mins, it is the sense of belonging to something and knowing that everything you do or buy when you are there is appreciated by the club and that it makes a real difference.

Football is the greatest sport in the world, but maybe just maybe Non-league football is the shining light that has always been leading that charge.

Obviously, please do not forget what we are all trying to achieve and consider supporting FC Deportivo Galicia and/or Prostate Cancer UK

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