Why non-league isn’t doing it for me anymore

NON-LEAGUE football has been part of my DNA for the past 30 years, but I’m sad to say that I no longer get the buzz I used to experience from this level of the game. There are a number of reasons and none of them imply that non-league is less important than it used to be, indeed there is an upturn in interest at some … Continue reading Why non-league isn’t doing it for me anymore

Young, gifted and green

THINGS haven’t gone particularly well for Hitchin Town this season, the first three games yielded just one point and a refashioned team was heavily beaten 5-0 at Alvechurch. Famously loyal, the fans have kept very quiet – there was a time when such a start to the season would have prompted calls for the manager to be sacked, but there’s no sign of #burkeyout among … Continue reading Young, gifted and green

Has non-league sold its soul?

IN RECENT years, non-league football has promoted itself as “real” and the game for local communities. Some clubs have embraced causes, have lent their hand to political movements and have championed inclusiveness. In particular, the drive to build the next generation of fans – a vitally important element given the audience of this level of the game – has rightly placed emphasis on youth development, … Continue reading Has non-league sold its soul?

Has non-league sold its soul?

IN RECENT years, non-league football has promoted itself as “real” and the game for local communities. Some clubs have embraced causes, have lent their hand to political movements and have championed inclusiveness. In particular, the drive to build the next generation of fans – a vitally important element given the audience of this level of the game – has rightly placed emphasis on youth development, … Continue reading Has non-league sold its soul?

Digging-in for those dugouts

WHEN the people of Hitchin marched in support of Top Field, the ancient home of the local football club, it was with one eye on a new stadium being constructed on Fishponds Road. It will be six years in December since that memorable afternoon took place, but there has been some movement on the playing fields of Hitchin. New dugouts. When you consider it is … Continue reading Digging-in for those dugouts

When game management goes astray

HITCHIN TOWN’s FA Cup run seems a long time ago these days. Since losing to Solihull Moors on November 11, they have played 14 games and have lost nine of them. Six home games in the league have yielded a combined attendance of 2,230 – whatever happened to those new found fans that discovered their local club when the TV cameras were present? How fickle … Continue reading When game management goes astray

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

Commentary Box: The uphill battle to save non-league

THE ongoing saga of Dulwich Hamlet is a sad story, for many reasons, and one that should cause non-league club chairmen and officials a few sleepless nights. Not for the first time, a non-league club is being bullied by people who know how to manipulate and also, most importantly, how to use money and the law to get their own way. The club’s landlords are … Continue reading Commentary Box: The uphill battle to save non-league

A magic carpet: How an artificial pitch can change a club

ASK most non-league clubs if they have regretted installing an artificial pitch and you’ll struggle to find one that rues the day they rolled out the green carpet. They’ve come a long way since Luton Town and QPR’s omniturf mats and the fabled 3G is now 4G and is of such a high quality that you often have to be reminded the game is taking … Continue reading A magic carpet: How an artificial pitch can change a club

The Donnelly factor

NON-LEAGUE football likes to think of itself as “one big family”, although the romantic idea of fans mingling and back-slapping is often just that. Only last season, I witnessed some rather ugly jostling as two sets of fans passed each other on their way out of the ground, and that was in the Southern League Premier Division. Not much chance of that happening at the … Continue reading The Donnelly factor

Dealing with the pitfalls of successful team-building

EVERYONE loves it when a non-league club builds a vibrant, young team that promises much and provides an admirable example of bringing together players of potential on a modest budget. The problem is, unless the team is successful, its lifespan is very limited, for during the summer months, clubs with more money and higher status come circling like a wake of vultures waiting to pick … Continue reading Dealing with the pitfalls of successful team-building

Who wouldn’t want to be Hitchin right now?

IT WAS ironic that in a week when the sacking of a manager made all the wrong headlines, Kings Lynn Town rolled into Hitchin after disposing of their “gaffer” in somewhat strange circumstances. Gary Setchell’s departure, if you believe the rumour mill, was several weeks in the making. The former Kings Lynn player had arrived at the club for a discussion over a possible longer-term … Continue reading Who wouldn’t want to be Hitchin right now?

Far from flaming, but the Poppies were never at the gates of yawn

IT MAY have been 0-0, but this was no dull affair, far from it. And although Hitchin are above Kettering in the table, and 10 points better off, it would be no surprise if the Poppies are breathing down their necks very soon. Nobody has won more away games than Kettering in the Southern League Premier this season. They just need to get their home … Continue reading Far from flaming, but the Poppies were never at the gates of yawn