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The joys of discovering your local non-League club

Jumping on bandwagons isn't always bad

icon nofans20 November ~ None of us at work had ever been to see Salisbury City play. We talked regularly about football over morning coffee in our small office off the A36, about three miles south of the city, but our discussions rarely left the well tread paths of our own teams: Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool, Coventry City and Southampton. It was only earlier this season, while casting my eye over the league tables in Monday's newspaper, that I noticed Salisbury had streaked ahead at the top of the Conference South.

They are currently six points clear, though those below them have games in hand. Having paid such little attention to my work place's local club I felt as if there was some kind of debt to pay them, so one evening after work I decided to make a visit to the Raymond McEnhill Stadium, if for no other reason than to shamelessly piggy-pack their current table-topping form.

Sadly, nobody else in the office shared my enthusiasm. At the ground an elderly attendant stopped me at the gates to the car park. He wanted £2. This was the moment when I began to have second thoughts – what sort of person goes to watch football on their own on a Tuesday night in the drizzle? I was distracted from answering that question by the queue of cars building up behind me, so I paid my parking money and bought a ticket. I was not to regret it.

Dorchester Town were the visitors, who proved that they are far from push overs by knocking Plymouth Argyle out of the FA Cup. Yet a cavalier and motivated Salisbury performance blew them out of the water and they won 4-0 in front of a crowd of over 700. Such occasions are usually the cue for home fans to gloat. No such behaviour here. Instead, a spectator behind me preferred to whistle his way through Wind of Change by Scorpions.

Perhaps being faced with such dire financial circumstances over the last few years has given the club's fans a sense of humility, or an ability to put the result of a single match into the context it deserves. After going into administration in 2010 Salisbury were demoted to the Southern League, which Chris Mann explained at the time. Having been promoted to the Conference South at the first attempt, a return to the Conference National is now in their sights.

Several factors had prevented me from seeing Salisbury play previously – sloth and being too tight to pay £13 for a ticket being two of them. But having now been I would like to think I'd go again. With any luck I'll drag some work colleagues along with me next time. I wonder if anyone has had a similar experience, where for whatever reason they have been oblivious to the local club until a certain moment. In my case that moment came when I jumped on a bandwagon. Mark Sanderson

On the subject...

Comment on 20-11-2012 13:33:26 by ingoldale #733813
Is it not a surprise Salisbury are 6 points clear? I believe they are a full time outfit (there can't be many at this level)as they were last season when we - Grimsby - played them in the Cup. And duly lost in a replay.
Comment on 20-11-2012 14:04:27 by Big Boobs and FIRE! #733823
These days the Conference, be it premier or the north/south divisions, bears much greater resemblence to the lower end of the football league than it does traditional non-league.

If you work three miles south of Salisbury, then the local non-league clubs are Downton or Laverstock and Ford, which are a much better representation of lower league football.

Bloody glory hunters.
Comment on 20-11-2012 15:10:48 by GerryForrest #733859
What about Bemerton Heath Harlequins - they're in that neck of the woods. Never seen them play, but what a great name.
Comment on 20-11-2012 18:08:01 by Big Boobs and FIRE! #733943
Bemerton also have by far the greatest range of illegal sports channels in their clubhouse. You can watch any of the premier league games on the various TVs dotted around the place.
Comment on 20-11-2012 18:09:00 by ingoldale #733944
@Big Boobs and FIRE! This is pretty much reflected in the broadcasts by the BBC's non-league football show which hardly devotes any of it's time to the Conference these days

Another gripe about it is that despite it now being a national radio programme it is still very southern centric.
Comment on 21-11-2012 11:58:05 by Lincoln #734225
Agree with that ingoldale, since Lincoln got relegated the football league podcast doesn't cover us, obviously, but I gave up on the Non League one. Although it is produced by BBC London so likely to be Southern looking.

There seems to be this hinterland where you are too crap for the league but you are not too obscure to get the purists going on about your club like some white record label album they got from that shop on the high street run by a man of 50 in hoodie. As exampled here by someone daring to suggest watching Sailsbury was watching non league, "Sailsbury is luxury! When I watch football I sit in a rusty bean can with a thermos flaks of warm piss and watch one legged dogs kick some rolled up socks into a crisp packet."
Comment on 21-11-2012 16:38:21 by biziclop #734334
Halifax Town are much the same: not big enough to have a chance to climb back into the Football League but far too big to earn me any Purist Points.
Comment on 21-11-2012 22:20:00 by Big Boobs and FIRE! #734484
I think this pretty much sums up the conference.

Non-league fans don't like it because it's full of failed ex-league clubs from northern shitholes which are only good for guide pubs, or bankrolled ex-isthmian clubs who've spunked their wad on the same old journeymen and an Atcost stand to meet the grading criteria.

Supporters of clubs in the Conference don't like it because it's a hell hole no mans land which is a bit of a bastard to get promoted from and in the meantime you have to waste a Saturday visiting Braintree.

To me, lack of Lincoln and Halifax coverage is a much greater BBC scandal than randomly exposing MPs as peados.

Tssk, this country.
Comment on 22-11-2012 16:33:42 by geobra #734684
It also has ex-Isthmian league clubs that are part-time, not bankrolled, play on the same ground that they have been at for 90 years, in the same colours and with the same nickname. Clubs whose stated aim is not to mortgage their future even if it means risking dropping back into Conference South. Well, one at any rate. Woking. In my opinion a classic non-league club. But I'm biased, because I cut my footballing teeth at Kingfield, and will be forever grateful to the Cardinals.
Comment on 22-11-2012 19:41:31 by Big Boobs and FIRE! #734753
That will be the same Woking that at one time, were paying 70% of there playing budget to a single player which subsequently led to mutiny amongst the playing squad and relegation?
Comment on 22-11-2012 21:04:08 by geobra #734774
Of course during their 125-year history Woking haven't always been well-sdministered. What club has? But at least they seem to have learnt the lesson of their 2009 relegation. And they're still around, which is more than can be said for several of the clubs I grew up with.

I don't understand why there is so much negativity towards the Conference. People should realise that nowhere else in the world is there a fifth tier that provides such a high level of skill and attracts such good crowds. I have no doubt that many Conference clubs could hold their own in Italy's third tier. And though I enjoy watching one of Serie D's top clubs, I have no illusions about how they would fare in the Conference.

And anyway what do people want? A return to the days of the old pals act when breaking into the league was almost impossible?

The one change that I think is now essential is four down and four up between League 2 and the Conference National.
Comment on 22-11-2012 21:04:22 by geobra #734775
Of course during their 125-year history Woking haven't always been well-sdministered. What club has? But at least they seem to have learnt the lesson of their 2009 relegation. And they're still around, which is more than can be said for several of the clubs I grew up with.

I don't understand why there is so much negativity towards the Conference. People should realise that nowhere else in the world is there a fifth tier that provides such a high level of skill and attracts such good crowds. I have no doubt that many Conference clubs could hold their own in Italy's third tier. And though I enjoy watching one of Serie D's top clubs, I have no illusions about how they would fare in the Conference.

And anyway what do people want? A return to the days of the old pals act when breaking into the league was almost impossible?

The one change that I think is now essential is four down and four up between League 2 and the Conference National.
Comment on 22-11-2012 23:09:25 by Big Boobs and FIRE! #734796
I think your missing the point somewhat.

The gulf and attainment possibility between the majority of non-league and the conference is the same as that between the conference and the premiership.

Those foreign to non-league see it as one great entity which feeds into the league. They do not realise that the difference between the top and bottom is far, far greater than the difference between league 2 and the premiership.

The original article reflects this as it portrays itself as a dip into an earthly local scene when the intact the club is in question is a far shadow from the traditional non-league club it used to be.

It sold its legendary city centre park ground it did have, blew its money on a two sided soulless stadium in the middle of no-where and has since rattled between massive spending of money it doesnt have and financial oblivion.

It only survived one of these because the league didn't accept it's resignation because it wasn't on headed notepaper.
Comment on 23-11-2012 07:52:00 by geobra #734845
You're talking about Salisbury, who did all that. I'm talking about Woking, who haven't, yet. To be fair, though, I think they considered a new stadium during their glory years in the 1990s when a place in the league looked a real possibility.

Maybe the reality is that English football now has four levels. At the top the Premiership, then the Football League, then the Conference, and finally non-league.
Comment on 23-11-2012 08:35:12 by geobra #734849
And another thing. From the Premiership to League 2 there are 92 clubs. The non-league pyramid has literally hundreds, so it's hardly surprising that there is a huge gulf between the top of the Conference and the lowest feeder leagues. It could hardly be otherwise.
Comment on 23-11-2012 17:20:17 by chill999 #735032
I think the non-league pyramid is now structured brilliantly. It's great that in theory I could set up a team on my local field and with enough ambition and luck I could take it to the Premier league.
Comment on 23-11-2012 18:01:12 by Big Boobs and FIRE! #735050
Are you George Rolls?
Comment on 23-11-2012 19:12:15 by geobra #735064
In 1969 Chievo were playing in the penultimate tier of the Italian pyramid. In 2001 they reached Serie A. It can be done.

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