Can we have our football back?

How the Premier League is ruinning football and what we can do about it….’

Written by John Nicholson. Published by Head Publishing 2019.

This book has been touted as one of the best published in the past 12 months about football so I devoured it on my recent holiday.

It set the historical creation of the Premier League and delivered on many aspects of how it has, is and will continue to take the game from the fans and football as a whole.

The book delivered everything I expected.

The book is well written and at first it feels like John Nicholson is ranting at you to wake up and get on with some action to regain control of Football. John analyses and explains what has happened and then proposes changes that are set out to achieve a more equitable game for fans, players administrators and all teams. I could say it is a type of socialism for top flight football but that would be wrong, it is a passionate call for some equity in the game and a revolution against the all powerful monolith that the Premier League has become.

The first part of the book is ten chapters of laying bare the Premier Leagues web of marketing myths and truths that have brought us to a belief that they are all conquering and the salvation of the game. Parts two and three talk of a revolution and dreams for the future culminating with the manifesto. Finaly there is a. Manifesto of what John want at achieve which I will leave for you to find out by reading the book.

Since reading the book some of John’s predictions have come true. He says that there is a myth about the League’s global dominance and continuous revenue stream. This has been badly dented with the announcement that they have had to cancel the £564M Three year contract with PPTV in China after non payment.

Fans have also campaigned successfully for a pay per view service to be able to see their clubs specific match rather than the broadcasters match scheduled. This was in the main what was available during lockdown and fans want it to continue.

Come the next round of negotiations for TV rights the playing field will have changed and part of the revolution will be in motion.

John, a really thoughtfull and engrossing book, up the revolution.

The real football season has begun.

The real football season began with The Extra Preliminary Round of the 2020/21 F.A. Cup and I missed it.

My predictive ability looks poor as I expected the season to start later and was away on a two week holiday on the Kintyre Peninsula in Western Scotland.

The games come fast now for Non League clubs with rounds of the 3 National cups already drawn despite the FA Vase and Trophy from last season not quite completed.

Who says there is no glamour in the F.A. cup anymore when you could be one of the 20 first time entrants in this year’s draw dreamimg of a trip down Wemley Way in far off May.

This could be, no will be, the year of the underdogs with preparations for all teams disrupted and finances fragile which could just turn a few things upside down.

I made it to my first match at South Emsall in West Yorkshire to see Frickley Athletic at home to Newcastle Benfield in the F.A. Cup Preliminary Round. As I wandered down Westfield Lane to the ground summer was still with us which was evident by the cricket match in play just before the car park.

The online ticket booking had been easy as the game was played under Covid restrictions and the attendance was limited and Track and Trace was in operation. In the event the crowd of 192 was not near the allowed number.

It was good to be seeing my first live game since March and it was a glorious end of summer day with blue skies and some high cloud. Sitting in the large stand the ground looked as if it had been lovingly worked on since the last game with lots of newly painted areas. The pitch was immaculate and looked very flat until I walked round the perimeter to see a large slope existed from the stand to the far edge of the pitch.

There is mention of Frickley Colliery Athletic Club as far back as 1908 but with the demise of the coal industry the Colliery name was dropped in the 1970’s. Evidence of the mining roots can be seen from the stand as it overlooks an old mining spoil tip that has been contoured and is now used as farm land with the hay bales in the fields which acted as seating for some people to overlook the ground and watch the game. Frickley ‘s best performance in the F.A.Cup was in 1985 when they reached the third round only to lose at home to local rivals Rotherham United. At that time they were playing their football in the highest level of Non League Football and were founder members of the Football Conference the following year. Since then they have slipped down some levels but are a well run and established club.

Benfield by contrast were only formed in 1988 and have had a few name changes on their journey to becoming settled members of the Northern League Premier Division. They have reached the quarter finals of the F.A. Vase and are always a hard team to beat.

Frickley Athletic 3 Newcastle Benfield 1

The game started competitively and Frickley soon stamped their physical advantage on the game but some accurate long passes to the Benfield forwards put them under pressure.

After only 6 minutes Frickleys Nyle Blake was played through and he was able to slide the ball between the advancing goalkeepers legs and into the net despite the efforts to clear off the line by a despairing Benfield defender. The same player should have doubled the score on 15 minutes but dragged his shot wide of the left post.

Benfield started to have the best of play and on 42 minutes their left back, Turnbull, who was my man of the match, was again fouled and the freekick from Noble was headed home at the near post by number nine Brayson.

Benfield lack of concentration let Grayson  restore Frickley’s lead only two minutes later and the home team went in 2 -1 up at half time.

Benfield had the most possetion in the second half but were unable  to get clear shots on goal and Jack Whightwick wrapped it up just before the end when he received the ball from a throw in and made a great turn and shot to put the home side into the next round.

I was excited to find Big Fellas Snack Bar and find chips on the menu. Unfortunately although hot they were a bit soggy and lacked taste. Good value and quantity but dropping half was not a disappointment. A score of only 53 to start the season.


	

Green shoots for football.

The local game made some tentative steps on the road to starting the season this last week.

The draws were made for the extra preliminary round of the F.A. cup to be played behind closed doors on Tuesday 1st September. There will be no replays this year with all games being played to a conclusion. The romance is still there and this year there are 20 new teams who have never competed in the cup before. Some of the teams have progressed from lower levels and Sunday League and show that the game is still developing despite the pressures put on Non League clubs as personified by Droylesden’s recent demise. Hope that they will be back in the future, stronger.

The F.A. also drew the initial rounds of the Vase and Trophy competitions.

The issuing of Premiership and ELF fixtures have also meant that other leagues can now progress theirs and should be out in the next few days.

20 MP’s have also written to the Government to request an urgent review of allowing spectators into lower level football matches as average crowds make it easy to Social Distance. It will also open club houses and generate some much needed income. These Community clubs need to survive and preserve the local game that helps in mental welfare, exercise and a lot more.

During the inactivity an army of volunteers have cleared, cleaned, painted and created some of the best pitch surfaced ever seen.

Finally my brand new copy of the Non League Club Directory for 2020/21 has landed on my door mat. I couldn’t wait for Christmas this year.

So some steps forward and I hope it will not be much longer until I can watch a live game of football again.

‘the miracle of castel di sangro’00o

‘the miracle of castel di sangro’ written by Joe McGinnis first published in the UK by Little Brown Book Company 1999.

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This book has been languishing in the garage for sometime and I should have retrieved it many months ago. If you didn’t know better you would think you are reading a football novel and not a true story.

The well known American author Joe McGinniss who has a love for football decides to follow the the first season of Castel di Sangro FC who have improbably been promoted to Serie B one off Italy’s Premier league after a decade of amazing progress from regional amateur football. He gets himself embedded and accepted within the team and officials and lives their amazing story as they battle to survive in a League that includes some well known former Serie A teams, e.g. Torino, Brescia. Lecce, Empolio and others.

The City of Castel di Sangro is situated in the hills mid way between Rome and Naples and boasts a population of just over 6000 which makes the achievement more amazing.

The tension of  the team, manager and games oozes through the pages as does the background wheeling and dealing. Do they survive in the League, do the individuals survive their life crises or does Italian intrigue spin out of control.

Yes it is a a novel, oh no it isn’t. 

Don t let the 400 pages put you off, you will read it in a few days because you won’t put this book down. 

If you feel the book tells a great story look up what has happened to the team since. Another story to be written?

 

 

Football Life Goes On

The death of Jack Charlton has been marked across the world but with greater poignancy in his home town of Ashington, his one club Leeds and in Ireland where his managerial and personal skills galvanised a team and country to World Cup achievements never seen before and likely not ever again.

This T shirt with Jack Charlton 5 on the reverse is a memorial to the great but humble man who was one of the people, an accolade not available to many. It has been produced by and is available from http://www.philosophyfootball.com.

The words taken direct from their website. “Yesterday a Leeds, England and Republic of Ireland Great was laid to rest. A one club man Jack was also a miner, a soldier and anti-fascist. At Leeds he won the League championship, 2nd division championship, Inter-Cities Fairs Cup (twice), FA cup and League Cup, all illustrated. With England he won the Home International Championship and most famously of all he lifted the World Cup, also featured. After Leeds he managed Middlesbrough to the 2nd Division Championship and Anglo-Scottish Cup followed by taking the Republic of Ireland to their first European Championship, beating England there, and two World Cups. The lot, chronicled on our memorial shirt.”

Thank You

I would not only like to say thank you to Jack for all of the great memories but also to everyone who reads this blog. We are just over half way through the year but have already surpassed last years stats which have risen considerably since I started in 2017. This despite no football to attend although some of the views may have been due to lockdowns in different parts of the world and a need to get a football fix of some sort.

My son suggests that I should rename the blog ‘taponthegate’ because when there is a restart payment will likely be by some mode of contactless. It looks like the Non League game could be back some time in September and I can’t wait.

Black Footballers Matter

On a shopping trip I found myself near Edlington Cemetery. The significance of this is that Arthur Wharton the first ever black professional footballer is buried there.

I’d read about his amazing goalkeeping career and how he ended up a publican and for his last 15 years down the pit mostly at the almost adjacent Yorkshire Main Colliery. He died pennyless and only in 2014 after a campaign by his Grand Daughter and Football Unites, Racism Divides, a Sheffield-based community scheme’ was a fitting memorial headstone erected at his grave.

Naively I had read online that he had a black headstone and with only seeing graves in ancient cemeteries in recent years, being met with 70% black headstonees completely confused and made me realise that I had a big hunt in front of me.

Luckily a man was moving some mowers who turned out to be the guardian of the cemetery. He was really helpful and took us to the grave and talked about the campaign to honour Arthur and the search for his unmarked grave which was only revealed when someone came in to enquire about a burial in the 1930’s and there at the top of the page for the date they were looking for was Arthur Wharton’s name which had eluded them for some time.

Arthur played for Darlington, Preston North End, Rotherham Town, Sheffield United, Stalybridge Rovers and Ashton North End between 1885 and 1901. He is also remembered for running 100yds in 10 seconds to equal the ameteur world record in 1886 at the AAA’s championship. The man in the cemetery said that local legend says that he achieved this on an Ash Track at the nearby Miners Welfare in Pit Boots! Arthur Wharton was a complete all round athlete excelling at cycling and cricket too.

The full Arthur Wharton’s story can be read in detail in his biography, ‘The First Black Footballer: Arthur Wharton 1865-1930’ by Phil Vasili, published by Frank Cass. The ISBN for the paperback edition is 978-0714644592 and for the hardback edition is 978-0714649030.

A memorial 16 foot statue of Arthur Wharton can be found at The Football Association’s St George’s Park depicting him tipping the ball over the bar.

Photograph of Arthur Wharton in action from Newcastle United Fanzine ‘True Faith.’

Arthur was part of a great line of Black footballers whose achievements can be seen as remarkable despite the racism they experienced.

Andrew Watson was arguably the ‘The Worlds First Black Football Superstar’ as set out in a book of the same title that I reviewed 19th November 2019.

Walter Tull who played for Clapton FC, Tottenham Hotspur and Northampton Town and is honoured with a statue in Northampton not only for his football but the fact that he was nominated for the Military Cross for his outstanding bravery in the First World War where he was the Army’s first ever Black officer to command white troops.

Jack Leslie the Plymouth Argyle legend who was picked for England in 1925 but not played because of the colour of his skin.

Viv Anderson the first black football player to represent England in a full international match. Not until 1978 though.

Brendon Batson, Laurie Cunningham and Cyrille Regis, who were legends playing for West Bromwich Albion in the late 70’s and early 80’s and great roll models to all on how to succeed despite the racism they endured. A statue to them all in West Bromwich town centre is a fitting epitaph.

John Barnes, my personal favourite, was an outstanding player for Watford and Liverpool who suffered many racist chants but kept his cool and destroyed the prejudice not only on the pitch but also in his eloquent observations off it. I recently saw him on a Breakfast program that was trying to make an issue about racism in football but Barnes was cooly saying that it was not a football problem but a wider society one. He was dismissed by his interviewer who should now know that it was he who was wrong. My greatest memory of John Barnes play was a goal he scored at St Andrews in the FA Cup. I was sat in the stand with Birmingham supporters and when I stood up to celebrate the goal and his great skill I thought, why did I do that. To the Birmingham fans credit they all clapped because the skill was a wonder. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6jzx68fnZCQ

Marcus Rashford who humbled the Government into a U turn over free school meals this summer.

There are others but these are the ones that come to mind. There is surely enough material with regards these few alone to create a book about ‘Black Footballers Matter’.

I can’t wait for the real season to begin!

Like many I sat down to watch the return of football but came away wondering why.

Now TV showing of Sky TV opening game of Premier League restart.

Villa and Sheffield United played out a dull goalless draw with technology being the only real talking point as Orjan Nyland crossed his line with the ball after catching an average free-kick cross under pressure from his own sides Keinan Davies.

The whole experience for me was soulless with what appeared little passion considering that both clubs had much to play for. The empty stadium meant no theatre with no opposing chants, no happy faces, no body language of despair, just nothing.

I have great empathy for the players who must be so mindful to protect themselves and their loved ones.

I still have the feeling that it is all about money and avoiding legal challenges.

Perhaps it will get better, the play off games should certainly be more competitive and the best news of the day was that Barrow have made a miraculous return to the Football League after being cruelly voted out of the League system in the 1970’s.

The light on the horizon is that I am sure that I will eventually be in a ground somewhere watching an exciting game of football, listening to the crowds sometimes strange comments, basking in the sun, being drenched or frozen to the core. What has been most abundant has been time to plan and the journey looks endless.

NON-LEAGUE CLUB DIRECTORY 2020-21

I need to admit I have broken a tradition in that I have ordered the Non – League Club Directory for delivery as soon as it is published rather than receive it as a Christmas present. Whether it’s because I am starved of football or just can’t wait to immerse myself in some planning and indulge myself in some statistics and fantasy I’m not sure, but I can’t wait.

I have just copied the info from their website because I couldn’t have put it better. If you buy the book I hope you enjoy it as much as I will.

PRE-ORDER NOW…

Now in it’s 43rd year, the latest edition of the Non-League Club Directory will possibly become the most unique of all the Directories as it records a season that, for most at our level, ultimately didn’t take place! However, up to lockdown clubs were pushing for promotions, battling against relegation or enjoying cup runs, a record of which can be found in the latest Directory. 

Team line-ups for the clubs in the National, North and South Divisions including FA Cup and FA Trophy matches, plus a data-base of over 2000 players who featured.

See how the new 2020-21 constitutions will look for all leagues in Steps 1-7.

Also included in almost 900 pages are the results from all the FA competitions, as well as England C; Irish, Scottish, Welsh and Island football; Colour and black & white photographs.

To reserve your copy and to receive it hot off the press (Mid August) as well as taking advantage of the ONLINE DISCOUNT (RRP £24.99)  click on the website http://nonleagueclubdirectory.co.uk/non-league-club-directory-2019-20.html

‘You’re not singing anymore’

It is either inspired planning or incredible luck that Minnie Birch has today released an album of football songs interspersed with reminiscences by football fans called ‘You’re not singing anymore’.

With the season ready to re-start tomorrow with no crowds we can all watch on TV and sing the title song.

Will the anticipation be met with deflation as the atmosphere less stadiums echo to their past. The opener is at Villa Park where the Holte End has always been considered the twelfth man by their fans. It may be that if we listen carefully ‘Hi Ho Aston Villa’ will still be rumbling around this great old stadium.

Minnie Birch is a football fan, an ex Sunday League player and also a very good folk singer. If the demos you can hear on line are anything to go by she will do well in her genre of music.

Minnie’s renditions made me ponder on my favourite football chant and although I have heard songs and sung them ‘off key’ many times it is ‘He’s here He’s there He’s in the Rose and Crown, Rodney Green, Rodney Green.’ This was while watching Watford where Rodney Green played for them as an old fashioned Centre Forward between 1968 and 1970 scoring 8 goals in his 30 appearances, this was his swansong in English football.

Whether this was the current Rose and Crown at Kings Langley or the Rose and Crown just down the road from the ground on the High Street I don’t know. The one on the High street seems to have closed about the time of Rodney Green’s departure. I must also say that I have no knowledge of him ever going in the Rose and Crown. However he was a liked figure by the fans and would often acknowledge their chants.

Philosophy Football

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Philosophy Football ‘Eleven Great Thinkers Play it Deep’.

Written by Mark Perryman:   Published by Penguin Books 1997

Yet another Oxfam Book buy (£1.80) that has sat on my bookshelf for some time.

A small sized book with only 131 pages I thought would be a quick read. Nothing of the sort, this book sets 11 great philosophers, thinkers, writers, musicians in Mark’s eleven a side football team. Mark reviews, extends and fits their life skills and what they have contributed to world development into their imagined position in the team.

This sounds deep and highbrow  but mark gets lots of light hearted writing even into some of the very serious team members.

For me it was not an easy book to read as I wanted reference to the individuals values that I did not know but it certainly was worthwhile. Mark Perryman is the Co founder of Philosophy Football which as the book states “is a self styled sporting outfitters of intellectual distinction”. www,philosophyfootball,com

Mark has written other books and writes regularly on different topics as well as football.

One recent article ‘Null and Void’ points out that in this pandemic top flight football has shown up to be in the main just another business that is scrambling to keep the money-spinning show on the road. I fully sympathise with his article and will look out for more in the future.

Just look up ‘Null and Void’ Mark Perryman and it will come up first on the google list.