On September 4th 2010, due to international fixtures, there will be no games in either the Premier League or the Championship. With the fans of forty-four teams left empty-handed throughout the land at 3pm, James Doe has called on fans of all teams in the top two tiers to pay their local team a visit as part of Non-League Day. This has been done through an excellent social networking campaign which grows by the day. I shall be partaking in Maidenhead, supporting the away side, as my home-town team of Bromley take on the locals, and there are five good reasons why everybody reading should do the same. Go along to your team that is. Don’t all come to Maidenhead. There’s probably not room.
1) Football Can Be Fun Again.
When I go to Stamford Bridge, I get angry. Perhaps not as angry as those at Upton Park or Anfield, but the pressure of supporting a well-supported team and the embarrassment that will result on Monday morning if we get cuffed by Hull on Sunday evening will inevitably burst me a blood vessel one day. Non-League fans care about their side, and I wouldn’t suggest that they don’t. But the opportunity to watch a game from wherever you want, standing up, perhaps even mixing with opposition fans, promotes a more light-heartened, and dare I say it, fun, footballing experience. This is something we should all embrace. Football is a game, and games were made to be enjoyed. On Non-League Day, a local team will help you remember this.
2) Beer. In Some Places, Whilst Watching The Game.
I don’t mean to paint all football fans as Stella-swilling lager louts. However, I think many would agree that the feeling of being able to have a pint by the side of a football pitch on a sunny September afternoon does appeal a tiny bit. However, it must be considered that in the last twelve months I have been subjected to machine-poured Heineken for four quid at Stamford Bridge, Fosters with a lid on it for £3.50 at Reading and bottled Carling at Dean Court, all of which must be chugged in twelve minutes at half-time whilst holding a pie hotter than the surface of the sun. The thought of a pint of freshly-poured lager at a reasonably priced bar during the actual game appeals somewhat more now, no? I bet the pies are cheaper too.
3) The Personal Touch.
If you venture below the Conference at Non-League level, you’ll find everyone, but everyone, has a story to tell you about one of the twenty-two men on the pitch. My next-door-neighbour-but-one used to play full-back for Bromley FC in the mid-90s, and every person who accompanied me to a game would usually find this out within minutes of entering the ground and reading the programme, if they hadn’t already on the bus on the way there. This was usually followed by a ‘G’wan Andy!’ every time he went anywhere near the ball, as if the personal support of the ten-year-old down the road would improve his usually below-par performances. I’m sure that I wasn’t alone in this, and I’m sure not much has changed today. Embracing football at such a level will immerse you, not only in the fans and the culture, but in the players themselves, and that’s something you don’t get in your average soulless Championship bowl.
4) Doing It For The Kids.
In connection with the previous point, the effect such an exposure to the lower leagues will have on a football-loving youngster is stronger than anything you will gain from the Premier League. A youngster’s first experience of catching a wayward shot and actually touching the match-ball will live in infamy in their own tiny minds. The experience of seeing your next-door neighbour play in front of hundreds of people will spur them on to practice and make it onto the torn-up hallowed turf one day themselves. Seeing their idols in the Premier League will make your children look to the stars, but seeing a Non-League football pull into the car-park in a Vauxhall Corsa will ground them into realising that being a footballer requires hard-work and mastering the simple stuff. All this can be achieved whilst you have your pint during the game…
5) Every Little Helps.
On a serious note, with so many clubs in the Football League moving into administration, every football club in the land needs the help of their supporters to stay afloat. Non-League Day provides us all with a chance to have a trial run at your local club, and if what you see takes your fancy, to go along more and aid your local team’s survival. Every programme, pie, or scarf bought helps, and what better place to start than September 4th.