Non-league football has traditionally been full of bald players. Simon Bell wonders if that is still the case
Anyone who picked up a local newspaper in Surrey in the week after Woking’s 2-1 FA Trophy semi-final win over Stevenage Borough would have been greeted by an uplifting sight: planning permission has been granted for a new public toilet in Chobham. And this isn’t all. If they’d turned to the back page, they’d have seen Woking scorers Clive Walker and Andy Ellis in a joyful, idiot-grinning, gloriously hairless embrace.
You probably know about Clive. Even if you can’t remember him crossing the ball inch perfectly into the Shed or the Fulwell End, you’re bound to have seen him angling for a new contract in one of those ‘plucky little minnows’ features on Football Focus. Or heard him on Radio Five. He’s not exactly shy. Andy Ellis is less well-known. Ex-Barry Town, he wisely left before their recent European exploits exposed him to wider acclaim, and now runs his legs to bloody stumps in the Woking midfield. And he’s got fractionally more hair than Clive.
We’re very lucky. You’d think that given the Conference’s reputation for attracting the more mature ex-pro, there’d be a few more receding hairlines amongst us. It’s true that Ian Arnold adds an aerodynamic edge to Stalybridge Celtic’s front line, and that in the last few seasons both Halifax and Rushden have sported defenders who fitted smoothly into the team. But the floppy fringe and the sensible older man’s short-back-and-sides hold sway here as everywhere else, and the inexperienced spotter should not be fooled by the trend towards voluntary head-shaving.
Given that the glare of floodlights off a bare bonce is unlikely to be relayed into millions of homes if the proud owner plays non-League football, you’d think there’d be more of them about. Perhaps there are and the Bobby Mikhailov toupee effect is coming into play, even at the one-time muck and nettles end of the game. You know, where men are real men with proper jobs, barbers still only charge sixpence to trim that little band round the back of your head, and a cut and blow dry is what the wife has for her birthday.
It would explain why Stevenage’s Effie ‘Dodgy’ Sodje wears a fetching range of natty bandanas, or why Dave Lansley was sporting a 70s poodle perm for Woking in the mid 80s. If so, it’s all a bit sad. There should be less vanity in the game, more players prepared to accept the passage of time: it’s all of a piece with running off dead legs and handing your false teeth to the linesman if things look like getting a bit tasty.
Mike Lutkevitch, a plumber playing for Witton Albion, was the last seriously bald player to score in the FA Trophy final, in 1993. If you can find a bookie who’s interested, have a few quid on that record to go on 18th May . . .
From WSC 124 June 1997. What was happening this month