I was wrong.

I didn’t think I would be watching any more football this season but some leagues lower than step 7 have restarted to complete their season and spectators are able to attend if it is a public park.

So I was all set to visit Glapwell and checked their Twitter feed an hour before kick off to find that their opponents had cried off because they couldn’t raise a full team. A frantic look at other games within my now constrained travelling time to find Ripley Town F.C were at home to Clifton All Whites Development Team only 30 minutes away.

The ground at Greenwich Park was easy to find alongside the A610 and was an open area next to a skate board park. Being the first of May a cricket match was in progress just beyond an adjacent football pitch.

The weather was disappointing for May in that although dry it was overcast with heavy dark clouds and a cold chill was in the air. The pitch was very undulating and reminded me of past Sunday League pitches I have known and loved. The goal mouths were bare of grass but a nice strip of dandelions and daisies ran down one side.

Ripley Town FC

There has been a football team named Ripley in the town for over 130 years although there have been many restarts, mergers and reorganisation. Ripley Town F.C. currently play in the Central Midlands League Division 1 South.

Clifton All Whites Development Team

Clifton All Whites have been going 1963 starting as a youth team in Nottingham, originally named Thistledown Rovers and in 1973 formed a senior team. They have played their football in and around Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. The club is a community club with men’s and women’s teams of varying ages.

Ripley Town 2 Clifton All Whites Development 2

Ripley started the game most promisingly but a dull game was brought to life 7 minutes before half time when The All Whitles number 7, James Itokun, who had mafe some mazy runs which ran into cul de sacs, stooped to head home a great right wing cross.

The second half quickly started with just a quick 5 minute turn round. The dullness of the first half disapeared as Ripley pressed to equalise, which they did through Jason Whitehead. The All Whites now came back into the game strongly to go ahead through Ben Cooke. During this period of play they had a goal disalowed and a penalty saved by Ripley’s keeper diving to his left. However it ended all square with Alex Crossley getting the equalising goal. It was an enjoyable second half only dampened by some unnecessary swearing at the referee by an All Whites defender.

Soup instead of chips

With no food available at Ripley I could not have any ‘chips’ so I took a flask of soup instead. It must be because I have been used to non organic tomato soup all of my life that this just did not have the flavour I expected. At least it was hot on a cold day.

Should we be here !

On Saturday I watched the last 16 round of the FA Vase online between Warrington Rylands and West Aukland. Not very remarkable you will say but for me in two ways.

Firstly because this game should not have been taking place because West Aukland had been comprehensively beaten and eliminated from the competition by North Ferriby in the previous round 4-0. However an administrative error by the North Ferriby team that had failed to register a sending off of one of their players in December meant he should have not played in the tie. So the FA took sanction on North Ferriby and it was West Aukland who were reinstated to play Rylands.

The game was however dull and did not live up to what it should have been. Rylands were by far the better team while West Aukland seemed almost embarrassed to be there. Perhaps they were not prepared only finding out in midweek that they were playing. Rylands took the lead but a scrappy equaliser brought West Aukland level but at the end of the 90 minutes they had nothing to offer against Rylands perfect penalties. North Ferriby must be licking their wounds as they would definitely have been sterner opposition.

Rylands have now beaten two teams in a row from the North East on penalties and fate has now paired them at home against another, Hebburn Town, in the quarter finals.

The second reason for the tie being remarkable for me is that although not a supporter of either team I was able to watch the tie. I hope that the streaming of games will continue post Covid.

The Non-League Football Paper

With a lack of local football to watch I have turned to the weekly (Sundays) Non League Football Paper for some of my fix but they too are struggling to keep a broad range of interest. They only have the National League and the final rounnds of the Vase and Trophy to repoprt on, some intersting pen pics of clubs and players and a League Table section that gets more aged by the week.

Last weeks issue 18th April 2021 there was a very good full analysis of the FA restructuring of the pyramid system which is now going ahead for the 2021/22 season. Over 220 clubs will move sideways or upwards and as well as the changes there will also be a need for extra upward moves to plug the holes left by those teams who have folded. With cosultation and applications it will take to at least May17th for the final positions to be confirmed which seems a long time and again not giving some teams time to recruit players to their new level and ensure they have the ground, administration and finances in place for the new horizon.

The Non-League Football Paper

We shouldn’t despair of the Paper though as they are trying hard to keep interest going and are in my view doing a fine job despite the situation. To have kept going since 1999 they must be doing some thing good.

There is also an on line version you can subscribe to but it feels great to be able to have a paper format for £1.50 after spending too much time trawling the internet for news and sport.

The most recent reference to any circulation figures I can find was an internet comment by ‘The Telegraph’ on 28th May 2019 that said “With a cumulative monthly circulation of more than 80000, the NLP is Britain’s biggest-selling sports publication.”

During normal times my favourite part of the paper is the two pages showing the lower league tables where you can contrast and compare how all of those locally strange named teams you have visited are doing over two facing pages, without having to keep going into one league at a time on the internet.

Keep going. we need you.

Finding Jack Charlton

Finding Jack Charlton, Doccumentary, released on 6th Decemvber 2020

DirectorsGabriel ClarkePete Thomas

Music composed byJames Copperthwaite

Executive producerAndy Townsend

ProducersJohn McKennaTorquil Jones

I wouldn’t advise you to watch this doccumentary I would suggest you watch it twice or more.

Although it explores Jack Charlton’s life and a final battle with alzheimer’s (Like his brother and many other footballers and sports peolple) it concentrates mainly on his phenominal decade long career as Manager of The Republic of Ireland’s national football team.

Having had a fantastic playing career with Leeds and England, winning the World Cup in 1966, he went on into football management initially with Middlesborough and in 1985 was invited to be the Irish national Manager. His initial lack of response gave no indication of the succees in two World Cups and a EUropean Championship that would follow. The matches are all doccumented with some great clips but it is the special relationship that Jack developed with the Irish people that shines through. It is so sad that in his later years he could not remember this.

Past Presidents and Taoiseach’s praise him for his raising the moral and spirit of the country but it falls to clips of Larry Mullen, drummer with U2 to put in context of how Jack Charlton’s success with the team amazinly increased the belief of the peolple of Ireland that they were as a country able to stand up to and with any other country on earth. This new belief was at a time of great troubles and decline and paved the way for the new self confident Ireland of today.

Jack Charlton chose and worked with a band of British Isles born footballers with Irish ancestors who also caught the mood and took their chance to prove themselves. Niall Quinn and Parick Bonner give great background stories, David O’Leary explains why he was overlooked but was there to slot home a World Cup second round penalty shoot out deciding goal. Andy Townsend (Executive Producer of the doccumentary) reads out some of the notes that Jack Charlton kept throughout his career that are cleverly shown on a 3D board throughout the 97 minutes.

But it is the story and relationship with Paul McGrath that gives me the tingling moments. Paul explains what it was to be different in Ireland and how you had to fight to overcome the predjudice in a very closed society which was felt by many and led to some of the emigration. Having watched Paul in his Aston Villa career I already admired a man who was a top footballer despite his demons, no wander he is idolised wherever he played.

The Charlton family raidiate love for Jack, his wife and son and the rest of the family show that in their support and care for him.

On a personal note I did not realise that I watched the end of his Republic of Ireland career on 13th December 1995 when I was able to get two tickets for the European Championship play off between the Republic of Ireland and The Netherlands at Anfield for my son and I. The Netherlands won two nil in what I remember as a one sided game. Having found a parking space near the ground we were intrigued to watch a black Mercedes pull up opposite us and four men get out, go round to the boot, change out of their very good clothes into orange t shirts, boiler suits with orange hard hats and march off to the ground. I was also aske inside the gound by a Dutchman ‘what is this Bovril’, how do you exlpain! Jack Charlton resigned the next day.

This is a great doccumentary which transformed my undestanding of a great man, deffinately in the same class as Bobby Robson. Jack’s wife asks why didn’t he become a ‘Sir’ and I have to say, a complete mystery.

Hope not Nostalgia

At Non-League level below the National League we have now lost two seasons to the Covid pandemic, nevertheless it looks hopeful that there will be a proper start to the 2021/22 season with a full pre season.

However we need some very positive trends to ensure future success rather than looking backwards to what has gone before which as a country we are too good at. If there were Olympic medals for ‘Nostalgia’ we would win gold, silver and bronze.

It’s time to sweep away our reticence and urge the F.A. to complete their pyramid restructure tomorrow and let all the new leagues issue their fixture lists and give hope and interest to players, officials and fans to have something to really look forward to.

Plans could then be made on budgets and new innovative ideas shared and enacted by clubs to make the 2021/22 season one to remember and lay foundations for a renaissance of grass roots football.

Some clubs have unfortunstely not been able to weather the storm. For rxsmple in July, FC Oswestry Town announced they would be withdrawing from the North West Counties League and folding and In August, Droylsden FC resigned from the Northern Premier League.

On the flipside to this disappointing news there have been some major stadium updates or new stsdiums that will see their first games at the restart e.g. Wimborne Town , Staveley Miners Welfare and Boston United. They all incorporate 3g pitches for a wider community use and extra income generation. Boston’s new stand incorporates a climbing wall and a dance studio. What is needed is for local authorities to be more flexible in planning to allow club moves to new grounds but only when it is for the benefit of the community and not property developers.

Along with the restructure The F.A. should be arranging video forums for clubs to exchange ideas to encourage attendance and generate income, let’s not just keep ideas to oneself.

For example I attended a ground where the ‘gateman’ turned to his mate and said ” another ‘xxxx’ groundhopper”. This was so insulting and disappointing when on a visit to another ground a chat with an official said they had on average 10 groundhoppers per game who spent £10 each. This equated to £4000 per year. Why not encourage more groundhoppers and away supporters with a card (£5 each) for each league e.g. the United Counties League that they could get stamped on a visit to a stadium.

Why can’t teams in a region work together to promote each others games and have staggered kick off times to allow people to attend two games in a day. Take Sheffield for example:

Sheffield FC Northern Premier League Division One South East.

Hallam FC  Northern Counties East League Division One

Handsworth FC  Northern Counties East League Premier Division

Dronfield Town FC Northern Counties East League Division One

Stocksbridge Park Steels FC: Northern Premier League Premier Division

Yes there is great rivalry but working together they could achieve more. Perhaps Sheffield United and Wednesday could work with them as well they may find that they have a budding star on their doorstep. This is quite pertinant when looking at current Premier League players having had experience in the lower Leagues, Jamie Vardy at Stocksbridge, Tyrone Mings at Bath and Ollie Watkins at Weston Super Mare, just three examples. There are also nearby teams in Rotherham, Barnsley and Doncaster who could be involved too.

The new ‘Hope’ should take into account all interests children, youths, seniors’ female and male to create an inclusive culture that will generate the income that is needed for a continuing development.

Just a rant as I reflected on an Easter break devoid of local football

How Football Explains the World

How Football Explains the World – (An Unlikely Theory of Globalisation)

Written by Franklin Foer

First Published in the UK by Arrow Books in 2005

This is an interesting book written by Franklin Foer, American writer and editor, who looks into the game of football in various countries and explains how he see’s it gives an insight into what is going on in the world and the character of different groups within countries.

What struck me most was that that Foer was writing obout his experience that globilisation had not changed local identity or culture well before the backlash to globalisation itself. The rise of nationalistic leaders and nostalgic politics have followed his book and perhaps his bold title of ‘How Football Explains the World’ was a very insightful predictor of the future or was the secondary title of ‘An Unlikely Theory of Globilisation’ completely off the mark.

The chapter about Nigerian footabllers being sought by clubs in the Ukraine widening out about Ukraine’s society and their football scene in general was for me was the most interesting.

A chapter on football in Iran gave the impression that there was an udercurrent through football fans that would overthrow the Islamic revolution. Hmmmm.

The British comment regarding fans of Celtic, Rangers, Chelsea and Tottenham gave me a miserable feeling of continuing intollerance and anger which I had thought had diminished. Has it just been controlled in the grounds but not on the streets or in general society.

An interesting book to gain knowledge but not one to uplift your spirits.

Life’s a Pitch

Life’s a Pitch (The passions of the Press Box)

Compiled and Edited by Michael Calvin

Published by Integr8 Books 2012

I put this book down half read because for Christmas I had been given the latest tale about John Rebus by Ian Rankin. Having read all the previous adventures I had to quickly keep up to speed and as usual I was not disappointed.

I started to rediscover this book but with little enthusiasm as I couldn’t remember much of what went before. I am one of those people who once you start a book you have to finish it. This has meant I have struggled through some poor and difficult books.

Much to my surprise I found I enjoyed the second half.

The book is a collection of selected writings of 18 leading football writers and as explained by Marc Watson in the ‘Afterword’ they were all known to him through their work for BT’s football website.

My favourite chapter ‘Egg and Chips for Two’ by David Walker explains the behind the scenes ownership and management of Leeds United’s last great period, particularly their encounters with the European elite who tried to put them down but were firmly put in their place. Some may argue but most would see the advantage of them being back in the echelons of English football.

The other chapter that fascinated me was ‘The Tony Soprano of Old Trafford’ by Rob Smyth about his love for Rot Keane which was an unusual admission because of Roy Keane’s ‘Marmite’ personality and views. It gave me more respect for the man and his ability to play football and motivate his teammates. He’s subsequent management achievements have not matched his footballing ones but this may all change with the rumours that he is in the running for the vacant Celtic Management job.

A interesting book that brought back memories of the time and shows how football changes so quickly in a decade.

Virtual Chips

With the F.A. expunging the results of most. Non League games and resulting League Tables I have a dilemma as to what to do for my 2020/21 season Chip League. Being a non conformist I have decided to call it a day but declare a winner contrary to F.A. guidelines.

This may not be fair for Shirebrook Town F.C the previous winners in 2018/19 and 19/20 as I was unable to give them a chance to retain their crown. The ladies at Shirebrook had promised me home peeled, cut and cooked chips for this season!

With only 9 grounds visited my football has been substituted with online matches and I had contemplated eating different branded oven chips to review and score while watching each match. This fell by the wayside and would only have added to the weight I have put on during Lockdowns.

This season’s winners are Ilkeston Town who scored an impressive 85 but were closely followed by Hemsworth Miners Welfare on 83 although this ought to be attributed to Nostel Miners Welfare as it was their home game being played at Hemsworth. This means that in the coming season I have great hopes of revisiting the chips at Shirebrook and Ilkeston as previous winners. We live in hope of a positive completed season.

Payonthegate 2020/21 Chip League
Ilkeston Town85
Hemsworth Miners Welfare83
Loughborough Dynamo80
Coalville Town58
Frickley Athletic53
Selby Town0
Northampton Sielby Rangers0
N.B. Selby Town and Northampton Sielby Rangers scored nil because they didn’t serve chips.
Chips at Ilkeston Town

All hope gone.

I have been holding off writing a final epitaph to the 2020/21 Non League season for some time but the news on Friday 12th March that the F.A. have rejected the request and proposal from some National League North and South clubs to finish the season.

This followed the previous vote for the National League to continue but a majority of the two Regional Leagues rejecting that option.

So all Leagues below the step 1 National League have now been curtailed and my chances of being able to see another game this season have been ended.

Some of the lower leagues have been trying to arrange knockout cup competitions should crowds be allowed back into stadiums in maybe May/June and the FA Trophy and Vase competitions should be played to a conclusion behind closed doors.

Disappointment but if most teams survive for next season and the maximum number of people are safe you have to accept the situation.

Hopefully I will be able to visit some new and old grounds at the start of a new season that will be able to run to a conclusion.

Football curios unlocked and hopefully not forgotten.

Brent council have arranged for some of the tiled murals facing the pedestrian subway between Wembley Park Stadium and Olympic Way at Bobby Moore Bridge to be on view from 10th to 28th March.

They have been hidden behind some advertising hoardings and depict sporting events that were held during the Second World War including Ice Hockey and American Football. They were unveiled in 1993 in honour of Bobby Moore who as captain of England’s victorious football team lifted the World Cup in 1966. They were covered up in 2013 and as recently as 2019 a company was awarded permission to cover them with advertising for ten years.

Some councillors and local historians are campaigning for them to be on view during the European Championships in June and July this year and beyond. It seems pointless to have the tiles on view when we are in lockdown and we are told not to travel! A few lucky locals will be able to see them but not the wider public.

I am old enough to recollect seeing some buildings/remains of what I think were left from the British Empire Exhibition 1924 when visiting the old Wembley 60 years ago. I think one item was some stone lions but these all seem to have gone now but a few iconic pieces would have been good to keep.