Non-League

While the professional north-east clubs are battling for mediocrity, two other sides from the region are flying the amateru flag, writes Michael Whalley

While Newcastle, Sunderland and Middlesbrough spent the season cheerlessly scrapping for 13th place in the Premier League, one area of North-East football has thrived: the amateur game. Professional success may have bypassed the region, but its two best pub teams have been almost invincible, dominating the FA Sunday Cup.

They showed the power of money in football but ultimately tripped up by planning poorly for the future, writes Michael Whalley

As football crash-and-burn stories go, it’s hard to beat the implosion of Colne Dynamoes nearly 20 years ago. In the late 1980s, the Dynamoes – bankrolled by millionaire chairman-manager Graham White – charged through the non-League pyramid on a budget to make some Football League clubs jealous. And then, in August 1990, having been denied promotion to the Conference because their ground wasn’t up to standard, they folded overnight.

It is now 19 years since a non-League team knocked a top-flight side out of the FA Cup, but at Anfield David Nicholls saw Havant & Waterlooville come closer than anyone dared imagine

Comments flooding on to the havantandwaterlooville.net forum after the 4-2 replay win over Swansea suggested that the success had reaffirmed many fans’ faith in the FA Cup. Away ties had meant that Cup fever took a while to build, especially as the Hawks always have to fight Pompey for elbow room in the local press. The Hawks have struggled to establish a distinct identity, given their location on the edge of a large estate built to accommodate Portsmouth families displaced by Second World War bombs – the social housing is still administered by Portsmouth City Council, despite being well inside Havant Borough. However, the Cup run has now put H&W on the map, even internationally: magazines in Canada, Australia and Japan requested accreditation, while Spanish daily Marca dedicated a full page to the Anfield build-up.

Fans find their voice as 20,000 people become part of an internet revolution, reports Vince Taylor

It’s only natural that Ebbsfleet United’s supporters should feel apprehensive about the impending takeover of their team by MyFootballClub, and a visit to the organisation’s website will do nothing to allay their fears. Invited to part with £35 and in the process become the owner of a football club, would-be investors are reminded that this is no more than the cost of a computer game. With a proud history going back to the 19th century, have Ebbsfleet United unwittingly turned themselves into a real-life version of Championship Manager?

Gloucester City's ground has been submerged, reports Tim Lezard

Trevor Howard climbed on to his roof to get a better look at Meadow Park. What he saw made his heart sink: the home of Gloucester City was underwater, the crossbars just visible above eight feet of flood water.

Pete Green watches Manchester Disunuted, a film about Manchester's splinter club

When Malcolm Glazer seized Manchester United two years ago, the protests at Old Trafford elicited little sympathy from other fans. Maybe the claim that the club was suddenly “not for sale” grated a bit after United had done very well out of plc status since 1991. Maybe, when debt and changes of ownership are commonplace, outsiders saw the violent reaction to Glazer as arbitrary and disproportionate. And, let’s face it, it didn’t help that it was Manyoo. Whatever the reasons, if AFC Wimbledon became everyone’s second favourite club, then FC United of Manchester have not found goodwill so easy to come by.

A minor indiscretion is set to cost AFC Wimbledon their chance of promotion. Robert Jeffery explains how the good disciplinary record of an ineligible player made matters worse, while Scarborough have had their troubles, too

There’s nothing AFC Wimbledon fans love more than a bit of drama. The years of fighting proposed moves to Dublin, Gatwick, Milton Keynes and God knows where else; the glare of publicity as the club took their first tentative steps in the Combined Counties League; the early flurry of trophies and promotions.

A season ruined by a controversial points deduction. David Wangerin writes

A club unable to balance their books is nothing new to football; start with Chelsea and work your way down. In the case of Scarborough, though, there has been no Russian tycoon to underwrite their bid for glory and overspending problems have left the club languishing in administration for the past several years. This was converted into a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) last May, just before the Conference’s AGM.

The other United are doing well on the pitch despite the Glazers’ takeover and media interest in FC United is waning. The breakaway club are having a rougher ride this season, as Ashley Shaw reports

It began so well. FC United’s first season was accompanied by such sympathetic media coverage that even rival fans supported the brave stand made by those prepared to give up the glamour of the ­Premiership for life in football’s basement.

London clubs are shining at the highest levels, but some lesser lights in the city are in steep decline. Gavin Willacy charts the struggles of former semi-pro giants brought low in part by property prices

On August 15, Enfield FC marked the 25th anniversary of their first home game in the Conference. It was their first home game of the season, a local derby and, as on that day in 1981, was played alongside the A10. The car park was packed. Unfortunately, the drivers were there to play five-a-side next door to Ware FC, 13 miles from Enfield’s spiritual home. The home end was populated by just 13 Enfield fans and one pram (occupied), who bayed throughout their home defeat to Potters Bar Town in the Ryman League Division One North. 

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