In a week’s time, step three of the Non-League pyramid will be concluded with the final promotion places decided by the play-offs. Unfortunately, the process of determining who will be playing where starts at this point as the respective leagues will enter into horse trading to ensure a fair and equitable split of teams. This undoubtably will lead to winners and losers. Unfortunately, the nature of the Non-League pyramid means that the words fair and equitable simply will not exist next season. In the past few seasons “Southern” teams such as Gloucester City , Worcester City, Bishops Stortford and Histon have had to ensure travel misery as they were placed in the same league as Workington, Barrow and Harrogate Town meaning teams have to travel thousands of miles each season. In the Ryman Premier League we have three three hundred mile plus away trips to Suffolk, hardly fun on a Saturday, let alone on a Tuesday night.
Rumours started surfacing a few weeks ago that the most westerly clubs in the Ryman Premier League may be asked (and by asked I mean in footballing terms which equates to an order with a complicated appeal process involving unicorns and dragons) to move across to the Southern Premier League. With Wealdstone powering their way to the Conference South, it has left Harrow Borough and their current tenants Hendon in a potentially sticky situation of not knowing whether they will be heading to the seaside of Margate or Poole next season, or wearing their Christmas jumpers against Hampton & Richmond Borough or Chesham United. The 300 mile long return trips east to Lowestoft Town and Leiston would be replaced by near 600 mile jaunts to Truro City or 450 to Bideford FC. Fun for all the family I’m sure.
Travel costs are a big part of any clubs budgets at this level, with coaches a pre-requisite for most away games with a match day squad of up to twenty five people when you factor in the management team. Gone are the days of players hoping on public transport with their boots to games. Today it is all about Travel Suits, Beats by Dr Dre and Snapchat. Guernsey’ position potentially in our league next season, assuming they win through the Ryman South play offs, has raised a few interesting eyebrows as they currently fund trips to the island for away teams and their management team, although that has led to a few issues this season including away teams delayed by fog, air traffic control restrictions and on one occasion, an air rage incident.
Our final away trip of the season was Harrow Borough. Despite there being a pub on virtually every street corner in London, the modern world hasn’t quite made it to Northolt Park and there wasn’t one single pub (well, apart from the Earlsmead Arms which Beer in the Evening give a generous 2/10 and the last comments suggest it was now closed) within a fifteen minute walk of the ground, so we would slip under the radar of the Police and meet at Baker Street instead before hoping on the train.
Few of us actually felt like coming at all. Our season had ended weeks ago and like our hosts, we would be playing for pride alone. In fact we had no idea whether we would actually have 11 players due to the number of injuries in the squad. But come kick off time, a squad had been found and the sun was shining. Ninety minutes to finish our season on the road with a win.
Harrow Borough 2 Lewes 0 – Earlsmead – Monday 21st April 2014
It is the tradition in the UK that we should go to DIY stores on a Bank Holiday. That may have been the better option today. Lewes were better than in recent weeks but simply came across a keeper in inspired form. Four or five times James Shea made top-drawer saves to deny the Rooks, whilst at the other end Borough took their two chances to grab all three points.
It was a damp squib to end our travels but we can’t really complain when we weigh up the alternatives of what we would have been doing on a Bank Holiday. Only time will tell if Harrow remain in our division. Talking to a few of their fans, they are happy where they are, every season hoping this will be the one. Let’s hope we will be assembling again at some point next season at Baker Street for the visit to Harrow Borough.