IT HAS been a great year for Game of the People with a huge increase in its audience, significant levels of feedback and a number of references in the mainstream media. Moreover, we’ve gone full-time and GOTP has been the catalyst for a lot of freelance assignments. And this year, Game of the People has a weekly column in the Non-League Paper.
But not everything we come across is positive. The year started with a trip to Clapton in east London. We were impressed by what we saw but our article didn’t go down well with some of the “ultras”. This was bemusing as it was mostly very positive, but some of the abuse received was unrepeatable.
It is worth repeating one of the comments received:
“I’m ‘sensing’, like a lot of people who write this sort of half arsed stuff about Clapton, that you yourself live a quite comfortable suburban existence (we’ve been to Welwyn away) with all the trappings and advantages the previous generation had. Nah, but you still feel like you’ve got enough innate authenticity to pass comment on people who despite all the pressures put on them, find their own corner in something they enjoy as they are slowly edged out of their own communities.”
I went to Clapton eager to see what I hoped would be a new direction for non-league support. I am totally in favour of fan ownership, but having been involved in the game, I know that money talks and fan-owned clubs will always be up against it.
However, after really enjoying my time at the club, I was pretty taken aback by the reaction of the Clapton fans to an objective article on what I was watching. It was amusing to be called, a “middle class twat from Hertfordshire” when I have spent most of my life climbing out of the gutter that was my, largely uneducated and penniless upbringing in a grimy part of Thurrock in the 1960s and 1970s. That first trip to Clapton was also my last, but I wish them well.
It was much more hospitable at Sutton United down in middle-class Surrey (!). This is a club that is going places once more – a new artificial pitch, cut-price season tickets, youth set-ups that are growing and bigger crowds. It was good to see.
After being accused of being a toff from Herts, I had to return to my roots. I was writing a feature for Football Weekends on Thurrock football, so started my investigation by travelling to Tilbury. This is a town that doesn’t get good press, and there’s no doubting it appears to be a hard place. It’s also a town that has been shaped by the presence of the docks that included one of the biggest container ports in the world. Around 1968, I went on a school trip to the Port of Tilbury which had just benefitted from huge investment. Today, if you walk from Tilbury Town station to Tilbury Football Club, a hike of around a mile and a quarter, you pass streets that bear witness to the commercial heritage of the town – Calcutta, Montreal, Ottawa, Malta, Quebec, Auckland, Bermuda and Wellington are all immortalised by roads named after the one-time pillars of empire. The game, against Haringey Borough, ended 0-0, by the way.
Some you may have missed:
Tilbury revisited – A return to Thurrock and the docks
Global game, global market – How globalisation is damaging football
Slough Town – Rebels with a cause – Beaconsfield-based – but no longer
Go backwards or forwards – to save European football – Some suggestions for UEFA Having a gander at Sutton United – A club with foresight
The almost forgotten men of ‘66 – The squad members who were not on the pitch in that final.