It started back on the 11th August with an FA Cup Extra Preliminary round game at Staveley Miners Welfare a ground I had passed many times but never visited. It was worth the wait and was the first of 28 games.
Some of the highlights were at the iconic West Aukland v Bishop Aukland local derby, I loved the ground and atmosphere at Boston (although I understand they are looking at a new ground) and saw an FA Vase game between Worksop Town and Grimsby Borough and commented at the time they would both do well in their season, both won their Leagues.
Christmas was enhanced by a cracking Peak District derby between Buxton and Matlock and into the New Year I visited Penistone Church my most welcoming club house of the campaign, hot pork pie chips and mushy peas will draw me back again. They were unlucky not to get promotion fading away at the final hurdles.
Bramhall Lane was my first visit to a ladies game for the FA Women’s Continental League Cup which has wetted my appetite to see a general league game next season.
The wall art in Sunderland is a football curio not to be missed as were the statues in Liverpool.
The jubilation of the Retford FC team and fans on their promotion day contrasted to my emotional visit to Vauxhall Motors at Ellesmere Port.
There seemed to be a genuine warmth at Shirebrook seeing their youthful team survive relegation and they now try to get interested locals to take up some of the administrative jobs to enable them to continue and prosper.
But this was not a good year for tradition as I saw Notts County’s last home Football League game and they now face a hard struggle to get back from the National League. The oldest professional League Team in the world have lost their identity. Elsewhere Berwick Rangers were relegated from the Scottish League system and there are no longer any English teams playing across the border at that standard. Colwyn Bay have opted to drop out of the English Pyramid system and play in the second tier of Welsh football to reduce costs but could push on to gain European football in the future, will others follow? Bolton Wanderers like Notts County one of the founder members of the Football League were relegated from the Championship, entered administration and look likely to start next season with a points deduction.
The flip side to this was the return of Aston Villa (the initiators of the Football League) to the Premiership via the play offs after an amazing ten match winning streak in the final 12 games of the season. The game that the Villa management believe was their best and most crucial of the season was one of only two I watched. The match was the away win at Rotherham where in the first half they missed a penalty had Tyrone Mings sent off and were one nil down at half time through the resulting penalty. They then managed to turn the game round to be winning 2-1 by the 51st minute after a wonderful goal by Jack Grealish.
The play off final was the first non-terrestrial television game I have watched on TV having boycotted Sky due to its owners reporting of the Hillsborough tragedy. Now they no longer own the company I have been set free.
But we now look forward to a new season with the restoration of more promotion from feeder leagues as the latest pyramid tweaks has been bedded in. There are still some leagues where there are not the full complement of teams competing and this must be a major problem to put right. Another upheaval is on the way with a new Step 4 League run by the Northern Premier League in the 2020/21 season. It was disappointing that the Northern League did not get the FA support to run this new league as it would have been good to see more diversity and localism within the administration of the pyramid at this level. Of the games I have watched in the Northern League you feel that both divisions are a step above where they sit in the pyramid and this is borne out by the numbers within their ranks who have won the FA Vase in recent years.
There will be one very new addition to the pyramid system in 2019/20 and that will be Jersey Bulls who have been accepted by the Combined Counties League. This was after Jersey had their application to FIFA turned down in February for themselves and their Island league joining world football as a separate country. Good luck to them and hopefully they will have the same success as Guernsey.
Finally a great thank you to all of the officials and helpers who ensure that we are able to watch an amazing depth of football in the UK. These are heroes trying to and succeeding in generating income to keep local football going through many ideas and methods as well as giving up hours and hours of their time.