Artificial Intelligence or Pitch Perfect?


The calls for more clubs to install 3G pitches reaches fever pitch every time there is a spell of bad weather in this country but having an artificial surface is not necessarily the answer.

During the first few days of March, the ‘Beast from the East’ delivered snow and freezing temperatures to many parts of the United Kingdom that we had not seen for many years.  Public transport ground to a halt, many major roads became unpassable and unsurprisingly, sporting fixtures suffered.  At the time of writing three Championship games have already been cancelled, including Sky Sports Live game at Wolverhampton Wanderers as overnight temperatures have dropped as low as -11 in some parts.

The Non-League programme has been decimated with just four games surviving from steps 1 to 4 from a total of 140 games due to be played this Saturday.  Two of those four (Dover Athletic and Folkestone Invicta) have benefited from their coastal location whilst the other two (Grays Athletic and Worthing) both play their home games on a 3G surface.  So you could put an argument forward that 3G’s have proved their worth in this instance, with both Grays Athletic and Worthing likely to get bumper crowds due to the lack of other games in the area (many Lewes fans are heading to Worthing for instance rather than sitting at home, whilst I myself am heading to Aveley FC, where Grays Athletic play).  But that isn’t strictly true.

Many other clubs have 3G pitches and have seen their games cancelled.  Cray Wanderers, Horsham, Walton Casuals, Merthyr Town, Redditch Town and Romulus among others who use an artificial pitch have seen their games today cancelled whilst in Scotland, every professional side who uses a 3G pitch including Clyde, Alloa Athletic, Montrose and Airdrieonians has seen their games postponed too. Unfortunately, just because you replace grass with a synthetic material, you do not avoid all of the side-effects of the bad weather.

An artificial pitch is not simply a big roll of fake grass that is laid like a carpet.  There’s significant amounts of preparation work that has to happen to the ground itself before you get to that stage.  The shock-pad is like an underlay for a carpet.  That is the bit that does the hard work and like any underlay, the quality and therefore the longevity of the pitch itself is based on cost – the better shock pad used, the more expensive it is but the more wear the pitch will handle.  Once the “grass” is laid then the filler is used – in most instances rubber crumb – which keeps the blades of grass upright and also adds as an additional layer of absorption.

The issue at the moment is when snow falls and settles on a 3G you can’t simply sweep it off as you will remove the rubber crumb in the process.  No rubber crumb means you damage the top layer of the pitch when you play on it.  If the snow compacts and freezes and isn’t allowed to thaw or be removed, then playing on it will increase the pressure on the shock pad and could damage that.  Replacing that would involve completely removing the pitch first – a very expensive job.

Whilst some 3G playing surfaces may have been fit for football, the surrounding areas such as terraces, stands, walkways and car parks may not.  In the case of Cray Wanderers’s game today, at Bromley FC, this was the issue that saw their game postponed.  There’s very little a club can do to protect these areas from the freezing temperatures – again something that few people factor into their argument as to why clubs should have a 3G pitch.  I saw this first hand in December when I visited Airdrieonians for their game with Raith Rovers.  The temperatures fell well below zero and whilst the game went ahead on their frosty 3G, the car park was akin to a curling rink and was incredibly dangerous for spectators leaving the ground.

The costs in installing a 3G are prohibitive to many clubs.  Whilst there are huge benefits aside from being able to use it in bad weather, such as the opportunity to create a community facility and one that produces a regular revenue stream (and allows clubs to save costs on renting external training facilities), they have to find the initial cash to build one.  Like many things, costs can be reduced, but a decent 3G pitch will set a club back in excess of £500,000 – hardly small change.  There are some grants available from the Football Foundation and Sport England, but not every club is able to qualify for those.

And then, of course, there is the issue of the Football League rules.  Any clubs that have ambitions of moving up to the professional game in England is thwarted if they have a 3G by the rule, set by the Football League clubs themselves, that does not allow for 3G pitches to be used.  No such rule exists for the FA Cup, the Champions League, UEFA and FIFA competitions – in fact every professional league in Europe allows them (including Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales) but England doesn’t.  So for clubs like Sutton United, Bromley and Maidstone United, challenging currently for the National League Play-offs, they face a dilemma of either dropping out of contention or ripping their 3G pitch up (which in part is the revenue generator that has allowed them to rise up the leagues).  Should they do neither and qualify for the Play-offs they face demotion down to the National League South.  How is that fair in a sporting sense?

Artificial surfaces have their benefits but let’s all just remember that they aren’t always the answer to the curve-balls that Mother Nature throws at us.

 

Advertisements

Non-League focus back on the National League Premier Title race


After the excitement of last Saturday’s FA Trophy games, attention switches back to the National League title race this coming weekend.

Wrexham are currently top of the table on goal difference from Macclesfield Town, but just seven points covers the top nine teams with a third of the season remaining.  The North Wales side head into Saturday’s home game against Halifax Town full of confidence having recorded an eight game unbeaten run.

Many online bookmaker and odds websites make Wrexham the favourites to win the game, although it would be unwise to write off Halifax.  The Shaymen are desperate for points in their battle to avoid relegation and they managed to secure a 0-0 draw when the teams met in the reverse fixture earlier in the season.

Macclesfield host bottom of the table Guiseley on Saturday hoping to end a run of four games without a win.  Town had looked well-placed to secure promotion just a few weeks ago, but their form has tailed off over the past few weeks.  However, Guiseley have won just four league games this season and the home side are strongly fancied to get back on track at Moss Rose.

Third-placed Aldershot Town face a difficult looking test as they travel to face Dagenham & Redbridge.  Town are unbeaten in their last seven games, but the Daggers drew 1-1 at Aldershot during October and will fancy their chances of victory on their own patch.

Tranmere Rovers travel to Leyton Orient boasting a five game unbeaten run and they were impressive 3-0 winners against Ebbsfleet United over the weekend.  Orient have won their last including an impressive 4-3 victory at Dover Athletic in the FA Trophy on Saturday and they are another side in need of points towards the bottom of the table.

Sutton United were surprisingly knocked out of the FA Trophy by Brackley Town, but that defeat could prove to be a blessing in disguise.  United are just four points off behind top spot, but they have games in hand on all the teams above them.  Saturday’s trip to sixth-placed Dover won’t be easy and both sides will probably be happy to take a point from the game.

Bromley, Boreham Wood and AFC Flyde remain on the fringes of the promotion race, but the latter pair face difficult looking away trips.  Boreham Wood’s opponents Eastleigh are unbeaten in their last seven games, while Gateshead haven’t lost in their last eight and will undoubtedly be a tough test for Fylde.  Bromley should keep their promotion bid on track as they welcome Maidstone United to The H2T Group Stadium.

The standout game at the bottom end of the table takes place at Barrow as they face fellow strugglers Hartlepool United.  Both sides are just above the drop zone and in desperate need of three points as they battle to avoid relegation.

Just four games from Wembley – FA Trophy Preview


The third round of the Buildbase FA Trophy takes centre stage in non-league football this weekend, with sixteen clubs still eyeing a visit to Wembley in May.

Sutton United are the current favourites to win the competition, but they face a tricky looking trip to face Brackley Town.  The National League North promotion chasers drew 0-0 at home to Barrow in the previous round, but their 2-0 victory in the replay proved they are a team to be feared.

Sutton are odds-on favourites to win the game, although they may need a replay before progressing to the next round. If you’re inclined towards betting, you can use this new customer offer at Coral to wager on the match.

Warrington Town’s reward for knocking out National League side Ebbsfleet United in round two is a visit to Wealdstone.  Tony Gray and Jamie McDonald both scored as Town defeated their higher league opponents in a replay, but the home side are strong on their own patch and they should secure a place in the quarter-finals.

Dover Athletic will continue their quest for FA Trophy glory as they welcome Leyton Orient to the Crabble.  The Whites have never progressed beyond the semi-finals in this competition, but they have lost just four out of 16 games at home this season and are likely to be too strong for the former Football League side.

The other all National League tie sees Maidstone United host Gateshead in one of the two long-distance tie of the round. The North East side have lost one of their four previous meetings with Maidstone and may reach the last eight after a replay.

Bromley face a difficult test as they head north to face Northern Premier League side Workington AFC.  The Cumbrians have lost just three of the 16 home games in the league this season, but Bromley’s 4-1 success at Blyth Spartans in the previous round shows they are capable of getting the job done away from home.

Billericay Town, the Isthmian League’s last club in the competition, also face a tough assignment as they travel to meet National League North’s Harrogate Town.  Billericay have won 10 out of 11 away games in the Bostik Premier Division and they are well-placed to secure another step up the non-league ladder.  However, the home side are pushing hard for promotion to the National League and could be a decent wager to make it through to the quarter-finals.

Maidenhead United and Spennymoor Town also look solid selections to progress to the last eight against Stockport County and East Thurrock United respectively.

National League promotion race set to go down to the wire


The race to win promotion to League Two is hotting up, with just five points covering the top five teams in the National League table.

Macclesfield Town are three points clear of Aldershot Town and Sutton United, with Wrexham a further point adrift in fourth place. Tranmere Rovers round off the top five a point behind the North Wales club.

Wrexham’s clash with Tranmere on Saturday is the highlight of the upcoming weekend in the National League with the Racecourse Ground heading for a sell-out crowd.

The home side are marginal favourites to win the game, with the draw a more likely result if Rovers play to their potential. If you’re inclined towards betting, you can use this Mobilebet bonus code to wager on the match.

Both sides head into the game in decent form. Wrexham have lost just two of their last 12 outings, while Tranmere have been beaten twice in their previous 13 matches.

Wrexham won 1-0 at Prenton Park earlier in the season and if the defence holds up they look likely to match that scoreline this weekend.

However, Tranmere won all three league and cup meetings with Wrexham without conceding a goal last season and they will be eager to avoid defeat at the Racecourse.

A 1-1 draw seems the most likely outcome.

Elsewhere, leaders Macclesfield Town will hope to return to form as they welcome Torquay United to Moss Rose on Saturday.

Macc are without a win in three games, but they are facing a team who haven’t won in the league since November. John Askey’s side look banker material to pick up three points at home.

Aldershot travel to Leyton Orient having lost just one of their last 12 matches. The home side haven’t scored in their last three games and the visitors look a decent bet to pick up their 15th victory of the season and keep up the pressure on Macclesfield Town.

Sutton United make the long trip north to face Barrow hoping to take advantage of any slip ups by the top two.

The home side desperately need points in their battle against relegation which makes a the more likely result.

The likes of Dover Athletic, AFC Fylde, Bromley and Boreham Wood are all currently hovering just outside the play-off places.

Fylde appeal as the team most likely to force their way into the top five over the coming weeks and they are strongly fancied to win at Woking on Saturday.

Five things to look out for in Non-League football in 2018


Apart from events at The Dripping Pan, there’s plenty to look forward to in non-league football during 2018, with clubs across the land battling to progress up the ladder.

A revised structure of the National League system will see a new steps created at tiers 3 and 4 created in time for the start of the 2018/19 season, which in theory will help iron out geographical anomalies, cut down on travelling costs and time for fans, players and officials and encourage more Step 5 clubs to climb the pyramid.

We take a look at five things from the non-league game worth keeping an eye on during 2018.

The Macc Lads making a comeback 

The National League Premier now has a dozen clubs with Football League experience, some more recently that others.  Many clubs have dropped out of the professional game and used the opportunity to become more sustainable both on and off the pitch, implementing a strategy of gradual improvement.  Current league leaders Macclesfield Town have struggled financially since relegation from the Football League in 2012, but they look well-placed to win promotion from the National League going into 2018.

John Askey’s side are six points clear at the top of the table and are favourites to win the title and should you fancy a wager on them to finish top, use this bonus code with Unibet.  Askey has done a superb job on limited resources and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him targeted by a club higher up the scale in the near future.

Artificial pitch decision could have big repercussions 

A series of meetings are planned throughout the country to look at allowing the use of artificial pitches in Leagues One and Two within the next two years.   Promotion-chasing Sutton United, Maidstone United and Bromley all play on 3G pitches and they are hoping for a positive outcome otherwise they could face extreme (and unfair) sanctions if they do not replace their surfaces with grass ones.

If the Football League refuses to change it’s rules on the use of 3G to accept artificial surfaces the clubs would be denied entry into the EFL if they finish in the play-off (or promotion) positions, but could then face relegation to step 3 of the National League.

Torquay United’s demise continues

The Gulls are in their second spell in Non-League football after twice being relegated out of the Football League in the last decade.  They are ten points adrift of safety at the bottom of the table and head coach Gary Owers is set to make wholesale changes to his squad.

The club has been on a downward spiral for some time now and it would take a minor miracle for them to escape from trouble this season, having narrowly avoided relegation for the last two seasons.

Class of ’92 making their mark at Salford

Aided by investment from Singapore billionaire Peter Lim, who also holds a stake in Spanish side Valencia, Salford went full-time last summer.   However, it’s the involvement of former Manchester United players Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville, Phil Neville, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt that has put the club on the map and they are closing in on promotion from National League North.  There’s no doubt the involvement of the five ex-United players has been the compelling reason for success, albeit one that has been fuelled specifically by the BBC in their “fly on the wall documentaries’ and they current sit top of the National League North, favourites for promotion.

Whilst significant investment has gone into the squad and the ground, which has changed beyond all recognition in the last three years, the owners have also dramatically improved the community and academy facilities, building closer links with the local community.

The longest season

One story that may not have hit the national headlines is that of Heybridge Swifts and their remarkable season.  After narrowly missing relegation from the Isthmian League North to the Essex Senior League at the end of last season, Jody Brown rebuilt his squad in the summer and has seen the club go on two amazing cup runs.

In the FA Cup they played seven matches before travelling to face EFL Division Two side Exeter City in November, losing 3-1 whilst their run in the FA Trophy is still alive and they travel to Maidstone United next weekend in the 2nd Round Proper.

All of this cup action has meant their league programme has suffered.  The club have currently played just 15 Bostik League North games, nine less than leaders AFC Hornchurch.  Cup success for the Swifts will mean they will be playing catch-up at a rate of at least one midweek game per week until the end of the season and that’s assuming they don’t suffer with any postponements!

Happy transfer window opening day


Hooray!  The Transfer Window opens again today, marking the start of the easiest period for some journalists who can simply make stories up (draw player name from pot one, club from pot two and then add a word such as “rumour has it” or “according to sources” and you have a story).  China will undoubtedly be mentioned time and time again, just as it was a year ago.

So it is official.  World football has gone mad.  Oscar’s transfer to Chinese side Shanghai SIPG ratified on the 1st January meaning he left these shores to become the richest player in the world, with an estimated salary of £400k.  And for Chelsea?  Well they will get £60 million as “compensation”, £35 million more than they paid for the 25 year old Brazilian or in terms of games played, a profit of £172,414 for every game he played for the Blues.

Oscar kept the “richest player” in the world for almost an hour as Carlos Tevez agreed to join cross-city rivals Shanghai Shenhua on a weekly wage of £615,000, or in layman’s terms, £1 per SECOND.

This is a very similar conversation to what we were having a year ago when the likes of Ramires and Alex Teixeira joined the league for tens of millions of dollars yet that hasn’t destabilised world football has it?  So the scaremongering about this being the beginning of the end is pure hyperbole.

In the history of football in England there have been five clear compelling events that have shaped our game today.  Whilst some people may consider other events in a similar vein, football is today a global business rather than a game of the people.  How have we got to this point?

Back in 1888, William McGregor, a director at Aston Villa wrote to a small number of other football clubs and suggested the creation of a league competition, based on the structure of “football” in the United States college system.  The league kicked off in September of that year, the first organised football league-based competition in the world.

At the turn of the century, the Football Association passed a rule at its AGM that set the maximum wage of professional footballers playing in the Football League at £4 a week, and banning any payment of match bonuses. The concept of the maximum wage stayed in place for sixty years until it was abolishing it in January 1961, the second compelling event in British football.

Money has been the root of all evil in our game and the third tipping point came in 1990 after the publication of the Football Association’s “Blueprint for the Future of Football” which essentially laid out the concept of the Premier League.  There’s little debate that the Premier League was created to ensure that the clubs at the top of English football were able to maximise revenues potentially on offer of the next TV deal.  The heads of terms agreement was signed in July 1991, with the First Division clubs giving notice to resign from the Football League a few weeks later.

Hot on the heels of the formation of the Premier League came the next compelling event – the first BSkyB Television deal, signed in May 1992, for £191 million paid over five years.  Five years later that amount more than trebled to £670 million.  Now, twenty five years later that amount is over £5 billion.

The huge amounts being offered by the TV companies also had a knock-on effect, one that today is still the most emotive subject for the fans and the media alike.  Overseas ownership of clubs.  Whilst some may point the finger for the huge sums paid for players today at the door of Blackburn Rovers, and what owner and life-long fan Jack Walker did in the early years of the Premier League by buying the best of British and delivering an unlikely Premier League title to the Lancashire club.  Walker invested nearly £100 million of his own fortune to bring a redeveloped, modern stadium to Rovers along with the league title for the first time in 80 years.

However, it was the arrival of Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich in West London that really changed football as we knew it.  It’s not public knowledge how much exactly Abramovich has invested into the club but it will have run into hundreds of millions.  What his investment has proved is that money does buy success and it is will some irony that Blues current manager Antonio Conte has issued a stark warning about the impact of the cash being spent on players in China could have on the rest of football.

To me, they are the five moments in the history of English football that have shaped our game more than any other events.  Like it or not, the TV deals now dictate how our football clubs think and act, with managerial careers now at the mercy of the riches on offer for simply keeping a team one place above the Premier League relegation zone.

But let’s assume for one minute that the transfer market in China does accelerate and they start making serious offers for the most talented players in the Premier League.  What are the potential ramifications for our game should we start leaving these shores?

Scenario 1 – Investment into Premier League clubs from foreign ownership comes to an end

In this case, the growth in Supporter-owned clubs would increase.  Is that a bad thing?  We only have to look at the Bundesliga, often used as the ‘model’ for successful leagues.  In Germany all clubs in the Bundesliga are issued with a licence which is based on financial criteria as well as the fact that no one individual can own more than 49% of the shares in a club.  Football clubs are incredibly resilient.  Out of the 88 clubs that played in the Football League ninety years ago in the 1926/27 season, only two of the clubs completely cease to exist today (Aberdare Athletic and New Brighton).  In that same period, huge numbers of companies have gone to the wall.  Football does have a Teflon coating and any withdrawal of funds from one source will be replaced from elsewhere.

Scenario 2 – Clubs are forced to play home-grown talent

With Chinese clubs happy to raid the Premier League on a regular basis perhaps the clubs will invest more in the pathway for the development of their players.  Instead of simply stockpiling young players who are loaned out until their value drops to a point where they are simply released, clubs will give the youngsters a chance.  The more young English players that are given the opportunity to play in the Premier League, the better it will be for our National side.  In addition, clubs will be more willing to work with grassroots clubs in the development of players through that channel.  With potentially less cash available for wages, hopefully the players that come through will be more “balanced” and more in touch with the fans.  Again, look at the situation in Germany where the majority of the team that won the 2009 UEFA Under21 Championship were also part of the 2014 World Cup winning squad – all of whom bar one (Mesut Özil) plied their trade in the Bundesliga.

Scenario 3 – Premier League TV rights are devalued

With an exodus of the “best” players, the Premier League is no longer seen as the best league in the world and when the parties sit round the table in 2018 to renegotiate the three year deal due to expire in 2019 the offer will be significantly less than we saw in 2016.  Bear in mind that initial viewing figures for this Premier League season have seen a decline by nearly 19% in the first two months, hardly the result the winning bidders expected for the record TV deal.  If the product is devalued by the exodus of players then what bargaining chips will the Premier League clubs have?  Less TV revenues coming in will reduce the level of commercial agreements and thus clubs will once again have to look at alternative revenues or cost-cutting measures.  Fans may then start to see the value of the grassroots game, and attendances may will rise in the Non-League game.

Scenario 4 – Absolutely nothing changes

In all honesty, it would take a massive investment within the Chinese league to make an impact on English, Spanish, German or Italian football.  The whole reason for the increase in investment by the Chinese clubs is to increase their talent pool.  The concept is that you bring in overseas coaches to help develop Chinese coaches, you bring in world-class players that will also hopefully increase the skill levels of home-grown players which in turn strengthen the Chinese national team.  That’s the ultimate aim.  Having played in just one World Cup (back in 2002 where they lost every game and failed to score a goal), they are significantly behind the countries who they would consider rivals.  Japan have qualified for the last five World Cup Finals, reaching the knock-out stages twice, whilst South Korea have qualified for the last eight and finished fourth in 2002.  If they cannot improve their performance on the world stage then this whole phase will go down in history alongside the ultimately failed North American Soccer League in the 1970/80s where some of the best players were tempted for one last hurrah.

Of course there may be other consequences but I think scenario 4 is the most likely to play out.  Whilst the headline numbers are all round how much some of these players will be paid, the pressure and media scrutiny they will be under to perform will be intense.  Footballers such as Tevez are already millionaires multiple times over.  They could retire tomorrow and never have to worry about money every again.  So what is their motivation to move?  Only they can answer that but I do not feel a small handful of players heading east is the next compelling event in our beautiful game.

The Forgotten little brothers


Little Brothers – don’t you just love them.  But what about football club little brothers?  There out there, often forgotten by local fans and the media but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t recognise them and the impact they have.

Ferdinand, Wilkins, Rooney, Terry, Ross.  Legends in their own way I am sure you will agree.  But what if I was to tell you I was talking about Anton, Graham, John and Paul (and Paul)?  The siblings of Rio, Ray, Wayne and John (and Jon)?  Not quite in the legends bracket are they?  The same can be said for some clubs as well.  Whilst some towns and cities can boast two (or more) clubs playing at a professional level, other places in England have a definite big brother v little brother arrangement.

Norwich City v Norwich United
2014/15 was a good year for the two teams from Norwich.  Whilst City triumphantly returned to the land of milk and honey, beating Middlesbrough in the Play-off final at Wembley, United stormed to the Eastern Counties League Premier Division Title, finishing a ridiculous 26 points above 2nd place Godmanchester Rovers.  However, for a number of reasons the club declined promotion to the Isthmian League, waiting for two more years before finally making the jump up to step 8 of the English Pyramid, by which time City were back in the Championship.  United were originally formed as Poringland back in 1903, playing at the superbly named “The Gothic”.  They were renamed in 1987 and moved to their current home, Plantation Park back in 1990.  With United’s best run in the FA Cup when they made it to the Second Qualifying Round it may be some time before they meet in a competitive match.

Cambridge City v Cambridge United
Just a couple of seasons ago the two teams from Cambridge were separated by just one division as United were playing in the Conference Premier and City in the Conference South.  Today they are separated again by four divisions as United have returned to the Football League whilst City suffered enforced relegation in 2008 when their Milton Road ground failed a FA Inspection and then again from Step Seven.  Worse was to come for City as they became embroiled in a legal battle over the ownership of the ground, which has now been demolished, forcing City to first groundshare with Newmarket Town, then Histon and now with St Ives Town. It looks like a long way back before the clubs will be on an equal footing.

Oxford City v Oxford United
In recent times Lewes have actually played both City and United in competitive games, although few Rooks fans will want to remember our visits to the City of Spires as we lost in the Conference Premier back in 2009, then crashed out of the FA Trophy in November 2014 to Oxford City, now playing in the Conference South after being shunted across from the North Division.  City’s recent experiment of importing La Liga cast offs almost paid off as they finished just outside the playoffs, although the locals didn’t appear to warm to the experiment with crowds at Marsh Lane rarely broke the few hundred mark.  City were once managed by Bobby Moore, with Harry Redknapp as his assistant.

Lincoln City v Lincoln United
Whilst both Lincoln City and United have played Non-League football as recently as last season, they are light years apart in terms of facilities and momentum.  Promoted as champions of the National League last season and enjoying a spectacular FA Cup run to the Quarter-Finals and the Emirates,  City have the 10,000 capacity Sincil Bank with four almost new stands.  This season they are sitting nicely in the Football League Division Two play-off spots.   Travel west from Sincil Bank for a couple of miles and you will reach the leafy tranquillity of Ashby Avenue (formerly the impressively-named Sunhat Villas & Resorts Stadium), home of The Amateurs, Lincoln United.  Currently played four steps below City in the Northern Premier League Division One South, their local derbies are against the likes of Cleethorpes Town, Goole AFC and Spalding United in front of a hundred or so fans.

Ipswich Town v Ipswich Wanderers
In May 2013 Ipswich finally got their hands on a trophy in front of an excited crowd at Portman Road.  Ipswich Wanderers that it, not Town.  Wanderers won the Suffolk Senior Cup in that year on penalties in front of a crowd of 1,000.  Whilst The Tractor boys have been stuck in the Championship ploughed field for a decade, The Wanderers are on the up.  They were promoted back to the Eastern Counties League Premier Division in 2014 and finished last season in 10th place.  Their former chairman is a familiar name to some – Terry Fenwick – the man who decided not to tackle Diego Maradona when he scored “that” goal in the 1986 World Cup Quarter-Final.  If only he did perhaps he could have now been chairman of Ipswich Town.

There are others of course.  Swindon Town may consider their local rivals to be Oxford United or Bristol City but Swindon Supermarine, the original works team from the Supermarine airplane company, will have a different opinion.  Southend United fans may think that their local rivals are Colchester United but what about Essex Senior League Southend Manor?  There was a story a few years ago about a disillusioned Newcastle United fan deciding to turn his back on St James’ Park and support Newcastle Town.  The only problem with this one is that the teams play 191 miles apart – Newcastle Town are based in Newcastle-under-Lyme.