The phantom football season of 2019/20

Yes The Non-league season of 2019/20 should have ended yesterday with the final league games being played,  leaving only the play offs and Wembley finals to be concluded. There was no jubilation, celebration or despair as promotions, playoff spots and relegations were not decided. All games from step 3 and below have been deemed not to have taken place and the season became a mirage that certainly was there but disappeared in the world created by the Covid pandemic. There are still positions to be worked out in the National Leagues and perhaps some legal issues to be sorted on the way to a new season whenever that may start. Some mystics are predicting that Non-league games will not start until January 2021 but no one knows. My fear is that some teams will not survive the shutdown or the new normal to follow, a quote from John Betjeman seems apt: “It’s strange that those we miss the most/ Are those we took for granted.

However for me  the season was not a mirage and it gave me a great deal of fun, enjoyment, entertainment and chips.

It started for me on a very very wet Sunday afternoon in September at O N Chenecks in Northampton. The FA Cup qualifier was spoilt by the rain but it had the excitement and cut and thrust of this grand old competition.

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The stand out events of the season were:

Hearing two young men talking about their futures in the Athersley Recreation Club House eating my chips prior to an entertaining evening game.

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The excitement of the home supporters at Clay Cross as they sneaked a deserved cup win on a foggy November 5th. The fireworks were not just in the sky nearby.

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The A6 derby on Boxing day is always a goalfest and vocally supported. This is a Christmas highlight.

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Being warmly welcomed in the club house at Workington and seeing this club resurrecting itself from a disastrous few years.

My 70th Birthday celebrations that saw me visit Hellas Verona for a Serie A match on Sunday, Aston Villa’s league Cup semi-final win on Tuesday and finishing the week with a trip to Everton on the Saturday. Thank you to everyone who made this possible.

A trip to F.C. United (A must for all football fans) which really restored my faith in the future of Non-League football. They have so many ideas here that should be looked at by other clubs.

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But my best memory was a visit to Walthamstow FC where on a beautiful sunlit Saturday afternoon I was privileged to see a real community atmosphere of all sexes, ages and ethnicities enjoy their afternoons football. Keep it up Walthamstow I’m sure you will achieve your promotion next season.

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Of course I must mention the chips and that Shirebrook Town again won my chip league despite having a poor season on the pitch.

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I look forward to next season whenever it starts and have already started my list of must see games.

 

 

Footnote: The Lockdown has found many of us the time to tidy, computers, homes and gardens and I’m sure a few gems have been turned up. I have found the three bricks I was given by the demolition men as they tore down the old Holte End, an amazing reminder of some great times.

My son has some as well as some of the mosaic bricks from the old Lion emblem that used to adorn the stand that the Doug Ellis Stand replaced. I believe that the vandalism that wrecked the mosaic and the stained glass windows keeps haunting the Villa and they should be recreated in the new North Stand when it is finally built and the good times will then come back. I hope the current owners Mr Nassef Sawiris and Mr Wes Edens take note.

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