FA Cup: Homage to the spot

AS EVER, a built-up game failed to deliver, but both Hitchin Town and Leatherhead left the field knowing they are still in the FA Cup and the prospect of a plum tie in round one was still possible. If Hitchin do end their 23-year wait for first round action, they may thank the heavens for the invention of the penalty spot. This blob of whitewash … Continue reading FA Cup: Homage to the spot

FA Cup: If only the public realised…

ASIDE from people who have an interest in non-league football, the FA Cup fourth qualifying round tie between Hitchin Town and Leatherhead will bypass most of the Hertfordshire market town of 35,000 or so people. Yet in a corner of Hitchin, actually in the heart of Hitchin, a cup-tie will take place that could, for the winners, open the door to fame and fortune – … Continue reading FA Cup: If only the public realised…

The trials of a nomadic existence

GRAYS Athletic play at a very nice stadium. Brand spanking new, great facilities and a football-friendly artificial surface that performs very well. The only problem is, the club is ground-sharing at Aveley, a town of 8,000 people some four miles from Grays. They’re in their second year of a two-year agreement, and like most tenants, there is a degree of uncertainty about the future. Grays … Continue reading The trials of a nomadic existence

Brimful of cash: Why the FA Cup is vital for non-league clubs

BELIEVE it or not, there are still many people who do not realise that local non-league clubs play in the same competition as Manchester United, Tottenham and Liverpool. The fact that a succession of qualifying rounds are over by late October, long before the game’s aristocracy even think about the prospect of new year cup-ties, only fuels the mild surprise that Ragbag Rovers from the … Continue reading Brimful of cash: Why the FA Cup is vital for non-league clubs

Fighting the cycles of time

IN the vast majority of cases, non-league football (indeed, football in general) is a cyclical business. Teams are built, enjoy some degree of success or survival, then the team breaks-up and the club starts again. Hitchin Town is currently going through a cycle of sorts, the sort of period that is often described as “transition”, “rebuilding” or “treading water”. Manager Mark Burke (left) is in … Continue reading Fighting the cycles of time

The Non-League 100: Peterborough United of the ’50s – perhaps the best?

IN the 1960-61 season, Peterborough United won the Football League fourth division in style, 28 victories from 46 games, 134 goals scored with centre forward Terry Bly netting 52. Peterborough were in their first season after being elected to the league with 35 votes, a total beaten only by Oldham Athletic who secured 39. Gateshead dropped out of the league after winning just 18. “Posh” … Continue reading The Non-League 100: Peterborough United of the ’50s – perhaps the best?

Forget the heatwave, would summer work for non-league?

THE World Cup ends and a fortnight later, we’re on the brink of a new campaign, although some clubs have been playing pre-season games since the start of July. I doubt too many people have thought about it, but in four years’ time, we have a World Cup starting in November and ending a week before Christmas. I’m talking of Qatar, of course, when we … Continue reading Forget the heatwave, would summer work for non-league?

Football didn’t come home, but it’s close to home

ENGLAND’S World Cup adventure may have ended in heartbreak, but if non-league football plays its cards right, it could exploit the goodwill impact of an extraordinarily successful campaign in Russia. There’s no doubt that the nation got behind waistcoated and bearded Gareth Southgate and his young team in much the same way that in Euro ‘96 we all believed that “football was coming home”. Football … Continue reading Football didn’t come home, but it’s close to home

Commentary Box: Time for non-league to go European?

THERE seems to be a World Cup or European Championship for virtually everything these days. The CONIFA World Football Cup drew to a close recently and captured the imagination of a certain type of football fan. It brought international football to non-league clubs in and around London. We have European competitions for every stage of the game at international level and the appreciation of football … Continue reading Commentary Box: Time for non-league to go European?

An altogether civilised experience

YOU couldn’t really get two contrasting Wembley days: the FA Cup final, full of rabid supporters, followed by the low-key, low-octane event that is Non-League Finals Day. The latter has more in keeping with cricket or rugby in terms of the audience, but after experiencing 88,000 people struggling in and out of Wembley, the relative calm of the non-league showpiece was very welcoming. For the … Continue reading An altogether civilised experience

The Non-League 100: The London Caledonians

MOST PEOPLE associate the strict amateur code with clubs like Corinthian and Casuals, but there were a host of other clubs who lived by the ideals and philosophies that gave birth to leagues like the Isthmian, Athenian and Spartan Leagues. One such club provided a haven for Scots based in the south of England – the London Caledonians. The club dated back to 1886 and … Continue reading The Non-League 100: The London Caledonians

The Non-League 100: Enfield 1967-70

UNTIL the last 20 years or so, Enfield were a huge name in the non-league game, from their triumphs in amateur football through to the club’s Conference years. The demise of a once great institution is as complex as it is sad, but Enfield made their name in the days before players were paid to play. In the late 1960s, Enfield were an outstanding team, … Continue reading The Non-League 100: Enfield 1967-70