Morpeth Town chairman on National League aims, Craik Park plans and Senior Cup success

Orginally published in the Techflow Marine Senior Cup Final programme.

Ask any Morpeth Town fan about Ken Beattie and they will only have positives to say. In matter of fact, ask any Northern League fan about Mr Beattie and you will be informed of why he is one of the most prevalent figures in the north east football scene.

He can be described as Mr Morpeth, always dressed to impress and distinguished with his trim black blazer and amber and black tie – the two colours he has bled for over 40 years as a player, manager, committee member and now chairman of his beloved Morpeth Town Football Club.

The atmosphere Ken and his committee have created around the club can be reported as a family-friendly one. You are greeted by the same volunteers at every home game and can always enjoy a natter in the club house after the contest with fans from both sides; something you’d never experience higher up the footballing pyramid.

Ken has been a long-term financial backer of his hometown club for many years through his family-owned company, the Techflow Group, whom provide a range of specialist products to the offshore oil, gas and marine industries. He took the helm at the business in 2006 and has since combined his professional career with developing the south east Northumberland side into one of the now biggest teams within the county.

When asked about how he first got involved with the Highwaymen he laughed and joked: “Where do I start?” He continued: “I was a player in the 70s and 80s and played about 14 seasons altogether – so it’s been a long time. Then in 1992 I was roped into the committee and became chairman that same year.”

As Ken recollected on his past playing days, he also mentioned Craik Park, named after W. and R. Craik who had been the club’s secretaries between 1920 and 1985. He oversaw the move from their previous premises at Storey Park to their current location, which was initially built as the home for Morpeth Harriers & Athletics Club. In 1994 the football club built a 100-seat stand, new clubhouses and erected floodlights which allowed for evening fixtures.

Little did Ken know that in 2019 their new home would be developed to a FA ‘Category C’ ground grade – now suitable for step 3 of the National League System – which is where they look to be heading as they currently sit top of the Evo-Stik Division One East table by 10 points with a game in hand.

“There was no scope to develop the ground behind the Sun Inn (Storey Park) and the council suggested a move,” he explained. “We’ve been on a rollercoaster since then, winning the Northern League [Division Two] and the FA Vase – we now get 500-600 people average each game which is great.”

“We had a visit from the FA and we passed [ground grading] with flying colours, but we have to put things in place like a retractable tunnel, turnstiles and extra seating so anyone coming to the ground will see a big difference.”

craik park
Craik Park – home of Morpeth Town. (@MorpethTownAFC)

It is apparent that the club is going through a big change and Ken has no plans to slow down with aspirations of National League football within the next few years. An achievement which would be a great contrast to the club who were rock bottom of the Northern League Division Two, unable to even pay the player’s expenses and on the brink of folding in 2011.

Ken has always been vocal about the travel cost implications of promotion but spoke confidently of the club’s long-term aim: “We are aiming for National League North, it’s a good level and I think we can compete quite comfortably. Yes, to go to the National League would be one hell of a big financial jump – but you’ve got to get it right off the field first.”

But as the Highwaymen set their sights on League promotion, they find themselves in a position to bring the Senior Cup back to Morpeth for the first time since 2007; a day in which they edged Blyth Spartans 3-2 at St James’ Park.

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The Techflow Marine Senior Cup which is contested at St. James’ Park. (KH Photos)

And along with his backing of Morpeth Town, it just so happens that Ken’s company is also the main sponsor of today’s historic 135-year-old competition which is competed between the top teams affiliated to Northumberland Football Association.

It’s something that Ken is very proud of and just speaking to him it is obvious that the sponsorship is more of a ‘giving back’ exercise to the county rather that a ‘profit-making’ one for his business.

“The Senior Cup has a superb tradition which needs to be endorsed so that is why I wanted to help out,” said Beattie. “Being against North Shields we prefer it as it gives a bit more of a derby atmosphere. It’s the final we would have wanted, and I think they will give us a hard time – it’s two good sides so I think it will be a great occasion and one I’m looking forward to.”

Aside from the result today It is fair to say that Ken Beattie’s humbled approach has created something really special at Morpeth Town. It’s a club which signifies what non-league is all about; a community feeling with a great connection between the players and fans along with a real ‘rags to riches’ story behind it.

And long may that notion continue with the success the team is currently enjoying.

Pascal Chimbonda signs for AFC Killingworth

Former Premier League full-back Pascal Chimbonda will ply his trade in the Bay Plastics Northern Alliance Premier Division for AFC Killingworth this season – the 11th tier of English football.

Chimbonda, now 39, has played over 400 professional games for the likes of Tottenham Hotspur, Wigan Athletic, Sunderland and Blackburn Rovers. However, after leaving Northern League Division One side Washington last season, he was tempted into dropping two divisions – signing for newly-formed AFC Killingworth in a player/coach role on Friday evening.

“We have a quite strong Washington contingent from last season and he has kept in contact,” explained Killingworth manager Dean Nicholson.

“He was obviously clubless and played pre-season for Blyth (Spartans). We were then approached and as soon as we heard the potential of it happening it was a no-brainer for us.”

Being a former Northern League player himself, Nicholson hopes the signing will influence results on the field and bring the club closer to their goal of being promoted to the tenth tier within a short timeframe.

“I went to go watch him play a few times at Washington and he was the best player on the pitch by some way,” he added. As long as he puts performances like I saw last year he will play week in and week out – hopefully he will help us push towards the top of the division.

“The ambition of the club is to get into the Northern League at least in the next 12 to 24 months and Pascal is going to play a massive part in that as far as on and off the pitch is concerned.”

Despite his age, his new boss has been quick to rubbish any doubts over his overall fitness and would like the veteran defender to play a big part in the first team squad this season, alongside his coaching job within the academy.

“He still has a focus on his fitness, he goes running everyday – as far as that and his age it’s not a concern at all for me,” added Nicholson. “I know Pascal is keen to play a big role with us, including a lot of coaching in the local community.

“What comes with the coaching is that we get him on a Saturday as well – so that is brilliant for us.”


Article originally published on NonLeagueDaily.com

Phoenix Clubs Are Ruining Non League?

Since the emergence and success of AFC Wimbledon, a phoenix football club set up by fans of former Premier League team Wimbledon FC, there has been a surge of newly formed clubs in recent years. But what does this mean for non league football?

When a club goes into financial trouble or are declared defunct then the new parent company (phoenix club) are normally relocated into a division further down the English football pyramid. This poses real problems for the teams currently in the lower divisions as they simply can’t compete with these big teams dropping down the divisions.

Using AFC Wimbledon as a case study, the Dons have achieved 6 promotions in their fifteen year history, which averages out to around a promotion every 3 years. And they aren’t alone. Other clubs, such as Darlington, have achieved 3 promotions in 5 seasons.

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AFC Wimbledon were formed in 2002. (afcwimbledon.co.uk)

The problem with this is that it seems very unfair on the teams who have been building their teams for years, only to be denied a promotion by a team who have entered the division with a big advantage in terms of resources available to them. Many of the lower divisions such as the Northern League Division One (step 5) operate in a one up, one down system – with the occasional second place promotion up for grabs.

This meant that when a team like Darlington, in 2012, were relegated to that division it restricted Spennymoor Town from a possible promotion. Darlington won 40 games out of a possible 46 that season, helped along by top goalscorer Amar Purewal, who was leading scorer for Durham City in the division above the previous season.

Amar Purewal scored 24 goals in the 2012/13 season. (darlingtonfootballclub.co.uk)

Admittedly, some teams opt to stay in the division at step 5 level if they don’t have the ground grading or the financial resources to play higher up. But in this case Spennymoor Town won the league the following season and took promotion to the NPL Division One.

My point is that big teams in the lower leagues have the advantage of club status and support from a large fan base. They have the finances to sign these quality players and the pulling power to persuade them to drop a few leagues. Attendance figures play a big part in the finances, for example Chester FC had an average attendance of around 2,500 for the three seasons they were promoted consecutively from the NPL Division One to the National League – this dwarfs many other clubs attendances and revenue.

I think on the other hand, it is important to explore the benefits of phoenix sides in the non league system. Abnormally large attendances can benefit other clubs’ matchday income when they host these big teams at home. It is like an FA Cup game against a Football League side, and brings in some much needed revenue for clubs who may struggle just to break even.

Another valid point would be that it raises the profile of non league football. These big teams will no doubt get a lot of media coverage and this can translate to higher attendances and a larger interest into what is happening in non league – which I am absolutely in favour of.

Merthyr Town, a fellow phoenix side, had a crowd of 2,612 at home to Hereford on Boxing Day.

There are currently a few teams who are rising through the steps of non league, Hereford FC are the latest, after forming in 2015 they have won the league twice and are challenging for promotion to the National League South this year. The Bulls are a club who are a prime example of the points made in this article and are a club many will be watching in the seasons to come.

There is no solution to this problem as such, but in my opinion the blame lands with the FA. There should be an independent body overseeing National League sides’ finances to prevent clubs from having troubles and eventually reforming – or in Hereford’s case a stricter ‘fit and proper’ test for new owners of football clubs.


Just a note that this is not an article slating the phoenix clubs, it’s a discussion article in which I have delved into both sides of the story, from both the small club and reformed team’s perspective.

It’s a debatable subject and I appreciate reading your comments so please let me know your opinions in the comments below or tweet me with the links below.

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Header image via Hereford FC.

FA Vase: Dominated by the North East

The FA Vase may as well be called the Northern League Cup. In fact, since 2009 there has been at least one Northern League side in the final at Wembley – including a three year FA Vase winning streak for Whitley Bay between 2009 and 2011. But why do Northern League sides perform so well in the competition?

The Northern League has proved to be a breeding ground for top talents in the past few years with players like Luke Hannant, Jordan Hugill and Lewis Wing now playing in the Football League; the latter signing for Middlesbrough last summer.

The case is that further up the pyramid there are a lack of North East professional clubs. To live and play professionally in Tyne and Wear you have a pick of either Newcastle United, Sunderland or Gateshead.

A lot of academy rejects from these teams have no other option than to drop down and play for the likes of Blyth Spartans and South Shields, and failing that, a Northern League club who will pay them a decent amount of money on top of their full time day job.

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Dillon Morse (pictured right) left Carlisle United’s academy and signed for Northern League side Newcastle Benfield before making his way back up the pyramid. (Image: Peter Talbot)

Recently the FA have rejected a request from the Northern League to implement another step in between Division One and the NPL Division One North. The proposal was likely because of the cost of travel when going up to the 7th tier.

In the past, clubs had to apply for promotion at the start of a season, but this year they will be forced to play in a higher tier should they be successful during the season. Morpeth Town are a team who will be forced to take promotion should they finish in the top two, and manager Nick Gray feels it is unfair on the club.

“It comes down to resources and volunteers, sometimes you’ve got to live within your means,” said Gray on the NEF Podcast.

“Its a great thought but we are 46 miles south of the Scottish border and the Northern League has been strong because of where it is.

“Automatic promotion has just been put on us this season. My chairman is at the point where he is saying if people want to go up [from the Northern League] then let them go up.”

Automatic promotion to step 4 of non league should see an influx of North East teams making their way up the footballing pyramid and also more level playing field in the FA Vase in the years to come, a competition the Morpeth Town manager suggests is monopolised by Northern League sides.

“You can play the Northern League teams in the FA Trophy and I don’t think they would have a problem with that,” Gray told the NEF Podcast.

This year in the FA Vase there are two Northern teams who remain in the quarter-finals. The bookies have Marske United as firm favourites to win the FA Vase at Wembley this year, followed by fellow Northern League side Stockton Town.

Vase head to head

The two sides could end up facing each other in the final (depending on the draw) should they win their respective ties this Saturday and progress through from the semi finals afterwards.

Marske United will travel to Bracknell Town of the Hellenic League Premier Division and Stockton Town host Windsor at Bishopton Road West. Both games will kick off at 3pm.


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Header photo by Peter Talbot

Jersey Goalkeeper Looking to Make His Mark in England

After his call up to the England ‘C’ training camp back in October 20-year-old goalkeeper Euan van der Vliet aims to push a move to play in the English league system.

“I want to play at the highest level possible,” said the former Southampton academy player.

“I’ve had no offers from English teams yet but I’m definitely going to try and push on and get myself a club.”

Currently playing for St Paul’s FC on the Channel Island of Jersey, Van der Vliet saved two penalties against the England ‘C’ side when playing in between the sticks for the island in their penalty shootout victory in May last year.

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The Jersey national team are not affiliated with FIFA or UEFA, therefore cannot compete in the World Cup or the European Championships. (Image: Jersey FA)

The young shot stopper was then called up by Paul Fairclough to train with England’s semi-professional set up leading up to their International Challenge Trophy final against Slovakia. Van der Vliet didn’t make the final squad but appreciated the chance to test himself at a higher level.

“I thought the three day training camp was a good experience,” said Van der Vliet.

“I was surrounded with players who play at a good level and I think I grew into things over the three days.”

Players from Jersey take the risk of travelling to England and trying and forge a career in the professional game. However, Van der Vliet will take confidence in Channel Islanders such as Brett Pittman, who plays for Portsmouth in League One and his national team captain, Cavaghn Miley, who joined Eastleigh in the National League last summer.

 “The standard of football in Jersey isn’t the best, but I believe there are a few players here who could easily be playing in England – they just don’t get the chance to be seen.” added Van der Vliet.

The transfer deadline for Football League clubs has passed; however, Van der Vliet is free to join any side on a free transfer outside the window.


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Header image by Rex Features via BBC Sport.

National League End of Season Projections

We are over half way in the 2017/18 National League season and it’s shaping up to be a very competitive end to the season; with just 6 points separating the top 8 teams as it stands in the top tier of non league football.

Based upon recent form I have calculated the projected end of season table and it looks as if the table is going to be even tighter come the season finale.

STEP 1

Predictions

For me, I think Wrexham will be champions this year. It’s been a long time coming, they are a sleeping giant in this league and are currently undefeated in 8 league games. I can see it being Aldershot v Tranmere in the Playoff final. I’ll give credit to Macclesfield for challenging this season on the budget they have, but again, both Aldershot and Tranmere are Football League sides and it will take something special to stop them in pursuit of promotion.

I think that Bromley finishing second is slightly ambitious. Taking nothing away from the club, but prior to their recent run of form they only managed a single league victory in the whole month of December. They also have a packed schedule with the club competing in the quarter finals of the FA Trophy and still have to play the likes of Wrexham, Tranmere Rovers and Aldershot Town in their remaining fixtures.

In terms of relegation I expect Hartlepool United to escape the drop in the aftermath of the recent news story that their tax bill has been paid off by the fans. Additionally, Pools have a few winnable games coming up against bottom half opposition to get themselves back on track. On the other hand, Guiseley have been in a relegation battle each season since they were promoted to the division and it seems their decision to turn full time wasn’t a smart one as The Lions only have 4 wins to their name in the current campaign.

Team to watch: AFC Fylde

roweAFC Fylde didn’t make the top 7 in the projected table, but from the calculations they are not far off the Playoffs. They are newcomers to the top tier, having won the National League North last season. Danny Rowe plays up front for The Coasters, averages a goal every 176 minutes and is the league’s top goalscorer. He is a massive asset for the team and his goals win them games.

It’s out of character for the former Manchester United scholar to not hit the back of the net in a fixture; he hasn’t scored in 180 minutes and the team have consequently picked up a single point in their past 2 games. If Rowe can stay consistent until the rest of the season I would consider AFC Fylde a real dark horse if they make the Playoffs.


STEP 2 North

Predictions

Salford City have always been firm favourites in my eye. The club just missed out in the Playoffs last year to FC Halifax Town and this summer signed a few players from the National League to make sure they fill that single automatic promotion spot.

The Playoffs are always a lottery, and any team can perform on the day. But when it comes to knockout competitions there is no better team than York City; The Minstermen won the FA Trophy last season and also won twice at Wembley in the space of 8 days in 2012 (just thought I’d remind everyone of that one). Jon Parkin scores goals for fun, and Martin Gray is slowly but surely building his team for a tense end to the season.

I was a little surprised at North Ferriby actually making it to the National League two years ago, they only get attendances of around 700 a game and are dwarfed by local Championship side Hull City. And it seems they are already preparing for the free-fall by singing a number of players from the NCEL league. Curzon are another small fish in a big pond who have done well to stay in the division following their 2015 NPL Premier Division Playoff win.

In contrast, Telford used to be a Conference side, and have yo-yoed between the fifth and sixth tier in recent years. But this season they seem to be struggling and the departure of former Premier League striker Sylvan Ebanks-Blake they will hope that other strikers can step up in the final stages and make use of their 3 games in hand.

Team to watch: Blyth Spartans

Dan_Maguire_2016-17-300x300Spartans were just promoted from the NPL Premier Division last season and have been the the Playoff places for the majority of the season. It’s only down to the fact that they have picked up just 4 points in their last 5 games that they are not in the projected table.

The Green Army have National League/League Two quality in their side and with the return of Dan Maguire, who scored 37 goals last season, and the loan signing of Kieran Green and Macauley Langstaff from Gateshead. As they are a part time side they will be fighting against fitness but the North East side will no doubt be raring to get themselves back on track.


STEP 2 South

Predictions

Team to watch: Chelmsford City

dicksonThe Clarets made the National League South Playoffs last year where they were beat 2-1 in the final by big spending Ebbsfleet United. They regularly get high attendances for the division but lost last seasons top marksman Louie Theophanous to fellow Essex side Billericay Town. Currently there is no player who has filled his boots, but the team as a whole has managed 43 goals in in 28 games so aren’t struggling to score.


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Header photo from Aldershot Town FC

The Demise of Hartlepool, Chester, Macclesfield, Dagenham and Torquay?

This season in the National League many clubs have opened up about their financial troubles and have exposed the faults in how teams are run in the top tier of non league football.

This has lead to many fundraisers such as the Hartlepool United just giving page, which has raised almost £85,000 to help save the club and prompted other clubs to coming out and confess to their troubles off the field.

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Macclesfield Town, who are currently top of the National League, seem to be having these problems as the players and staff recently released this statement. (@BBCRMsport)

Many clubs in the National League and below have owners who bankroll their teams when they make a loss; spending more than they should. This is seen at York City and their owner Jason McGill, who has covered a loss of £3.638million since taking control of the club over a period of ten years. It creates an unsustainable business model to run a football club in the fifth and sixth tiers of English Football.

The league is getting tougher every season as more teams opt for full time status, and the presumption would be that teams cannot simply afford to do this. There are only two promotion spots to the Football League which means that the losses will only be worth it for two of the however many teams who overspend in the division.

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Heavily backed with resources, Fleetwood Town won promotion to the Football League as champions in 2011/12 with a 29-game unbeaten run in the same season. (Pintrest)

If you look at teams like Guiseley, the club have attendances of around 900 a game and have just escaped relegation by a single point the past two seasons running. They have decided to go full time this season and, again, are in the thick of a relegation battle. So why have the club gone professional? This is the case with many teams, the assumption is that in order to compete at this level then you need to operate as a professional outfit, despite what finances may suggest.

It’s of the opinion that the Premier League and FA should contribute more money to the National League. Clubs like Manchester City and Chelsea pay millions for a single player, and just a fraction of these transfer fees could help a non league club in need.

It’s worth mentioning that grassroots football already gains £100million from the Premier League each year which helps develop the game, but why should the Premier League have to subsidise what is effectively another teams mistake?

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Countinho’s transfer from Liverpool to Barcelona was an intial £105million. Just 0.19% of that fee is enough to reach Harlepool United’s fundraising target. (SkySports)

It’s my view that the influx of money offsets what non league is all about. Non league is supposed to be football in it’s purest form, which is why many fans are converting to their local clubs rather than supporting a top level team where prices have skyrocketed in recent years.

An idea that was proposed on one of the Facebook groups I follow is a financial fair play rule. If the National League can regulate and put certain financial restrictions on clubs then this will force teams to run as sustainable businesses instead of throwing money into the pot in a desperate attempt at promotion in the same season. This would hopefully create a more competitive league as well as making sure the teams are looked after properly.

It’s a debatable subject so let me know your opinions in the recent events. It would be interesting to hear views from Hartlepool United, Torquay United, Macclesfield Town, Dagenham & Redbridge and Chester fans.


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Header image by Rex Features (BBC Sport)

 

3G Pitches: Coming To A Football League Near You

Sutton United are a team who face relegation from the top tier of non league football down to the National League South if they are promoted and do not take the step up into the Football League.

The fact that Sutton United would have to rip up their pitch is absolutely insane considering the surface was only just made eligible in the National League when they won promotion in 2015/16. Why can’t the EFL accept that it is 2018, football is modernised, and we have to move on with the times. They are already implementing goal line technology and VAR into refereeing decisions – why can’t the EFL allow a modern take on football turf?

Upholding the ban on 3G pitches could be very detrimental to Sutton United and destroy all the hard work the club have put in off the pitch over the past few years.

“We have always considered ourselves to be a non league club and the ambition has been to play at the top level of non league.” Sutton United chairman Bruce Elliott told BT Sport.

“But ambitions change, and if we had the opportunity to play in the Football League, would we take it? Yes of course we would.”

The main argument is that the technology has moved on so much since the 1980s when Oldham, Luton, Preston and QPR installed plastic pitches. The latter being at Loftus Road which Joe Royle, of Oldham Athletic, recalls a lot about.

“It was a nightmare, basically a layer of Astro Turf on top of concrete,” he said. “I once saw a keeper take a goal kick and it bounced so high that it flew over the crossbar at the other end.” Royle told BBC Sport.

As a consequence of these abominations 3G surfaces were banned in 1995 for all professional clubs. That was twenty-three years ago.

QPR’s Loftus Road with it’s ‘Omniturf’ surface. (asia.eurosport.com)

Fast forward to today and the FA Cup is a competition which allows artificial turf. This means that clubs as high as the Premier League have the possibility of playing a competitive fixture on the surface. This was seen in last years FA Cup when Arsenal played at Gander Green Lane in the 5th round. 3G turf is also used in the Champions League, Europa League and Euro qualifiers.

In my opinion it’s a psychological thing for teams that they have a disadvantage on 3G pitches. This assumption is only helped by the mainstream media who jump quickly to assume that because a surface is different then it must be deemed a game changer – it no doubt instigates a discussion in the news!

Especially in non league you see more and more teams investing big money in these pitches. Teams like Scarborough Athletic, Newmarket Town and Maidstone United all rely on the surface. It forms part of their business plan and secures the club financially for years to come through an abundance of revenue streams. The clubs can also play and train on the pitch due to it’s durability so a training ground is not needed.

There is more to the argument but I hope just some of the points I have made can be taken into consideration. For more information on 3G pitches, the Sutton United website is a useful source of information.


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Header picture by Bromley FCTV

The Best Non League Club Names

As you look down the English football pyramid the club names get more and more abnormal the further you go. Because of this I decided to explore a few of my favourites and look into these particular clubs.

Swindon Supermarine

270px-SwindonSupermarineNewLogo‘The Marine’ play their games close to where they manufacture Honda cars in South Marston, Swindon. They currently compete in the Southern League Division One West, which is level 8 of the English football pyramid.

The word ‘Supermarine’ comes from an aircraft company who were known for building the Supermarine Spitfire airplane in World War II. The aircraft company had a connection with the local works social club who set up the original team in 1946.

FC Deportivo Galicia

deportivo-galicia-londres-equipo-barrio-fa-cup-inglaterra-futbol-1478184794

No connection with well known La Liga side Deportivo de La Coruña, but the original club was set up by Spanish immigrants from North West Spain, which is where they get their name from.

The club was set up for the rapidly expanding Spanish community and are based in Bedfont, a suburban district in West London.

Cadbury Athletic

Cadbury Athletic are actually affiliated with the confectionery company and play in Birmingham, where Cadbury’s was founded 194 years ago.

cadbury

The club can take credit for the development of Daniel Sturridge, Demarai Gray and Corey O’Keeffe – all players who once played in purple and white and are currently professionals in England’s top two tiers.

Whitchurch Alport

whitchurchteam_5991d15d1a6c8

At first glance people may presume that the 10th tier side are named after an airport. In fact the club is named after Alport Farm in Whitchurch, which was home to a local footballer who died in 1946 during the war.

Alport currently play in the North West Counties League Division One and regularly boast attendances of over 200 per game at Yockings Park.

Handsworth Parramore

Handsworth_Parramore_logoI think a lot of people would be tempted to make the link to American rock band ‘Paramore’, but sadly that’s not the case. The club is a merger between Handsworth FC and Worksop Parramore. The latter gaining their name from a group of Sheffield-based ironfounders called ‘F Parramore & Sons’, who founded the club in 1936.

Handsworth Parramore however, were formed in 2014 and play their trade in Northern Counties East League Premier Division – finishing 4th last season.

Crawley Down Gatwick

200px-Crawley_Down_Gatwick_F.C._logoIf any of ‘The Anvil’ fancy a week away to the Canary Islands or even Paris then they can. The club are situated just an 11 minute drive away from London Gatwick Airport via the M23.

Crawley Down Gatwick play in the the Southern Combination Premier Division and the club’s badge even features an airplane, which pays homage to the local runway.

Godolphin Atlantic

Godolphin_Atlantic_F.C._logoI think the graphic designer missed a trick when he didn’t include a dolphin on the crest of the Cornwall-based club. But that might have something to do with the fact the club are actually named after the street in which their ground is located.

 

Northampton Old Northamptonian Chenecks

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Northampton ON Chenecks are not surprisingly a team based in Northampton – it does say it in their name twice just to reassure you!

The United Counties Premier League team was founded in 1946 as Chenecks FC by a Coroner Sargeant. In 1960 they added the ‘Old Northamptonian’ label as they joined a local sport club and relocated to Billing Road, their current home to this day.

Roman Glass St George

romanglass

‘The Glass’ are a merger club between Roman Glass FC and St George, who created the current team name in 1995. Roman Glass FC were originally a street team and are actually situated in Bristol and play in the Western League Division One.


These are just a handful of teams I have seen whilst scrolling through the football pyramid, and I’m sure there are loads more interesting names further down which I haven’t discovered yet.

If you find any interesting ones, tweet me, or leave a comment on this article.

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Are professional clubs at a disadvantage in the National League?

There are a handful of Football League quality players in the lower leagues who are playing part time and have their own business or job on the side.

Because their profession outside the game it is not financially viable for them to quit their day job and join a professional team who require full time commitment.

When you see a player step up to the Football League it is normally to a League One or Championship team. This is likely because these clubs will pay the wages required to be a professional footballer in this day and age.

leon lobjoit
Leon Lobjoit joined EFL League One team Northampton Town from tenth tier Buckingham Town last season.

Another reason is the fact that footballers careers are so short that they need a back up job for when they leave the professional game, so a lot of the talented players who could be playing higher up are playing in part time leagues.

New Blyth Spartans signing Dale Hopson is an example, he recently signed from Northern Premier League side Whitby Town where he scored 30 goals from midfield in the seventh tier.

Speaking to Hopson he tells me:

“With my work as a school teacher/coach it’s got to be a good offer from a pro team to get me to quit my job.

For me playing for Blyth fits my schedule better being the fact they are only part time.”

He was linked with Hartlepool United amongst others but opted for semi-professional football instead.

This suggests that professional teams in these regional divisions and even in the National League are at a disadvantage in terms of signing talented players.

You’d think that the appeal to play for a pro club, such as say York City, would tempt the players. But in reality a professional team like York will be looking at the players dropping down leagues who are desperate to cling on to their ‘professional footballer’ status.

Upon leaving Cardiff for York City, new signing Theo Wharton told the club’s media:

 

“Yeah [professional status] was a big thing to be honest. I wanted to keep that routine of training everyday and waking up going to work”

The assumption is that full time teams have the infrastructure as a business to operate more effectively and have the resources to develop these players further with extra training sessions.

My Say

In my opinion I think there are a lot of better players playing in non-league than some playing in the EFL. And personally I think it’s all down to a players pedigree.

A professional club will look to the academies of top teams to sign their recently released academy players instead of turning to non-league where there is arguably more talent but less reputation.


I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic so please tweet me your opinions or comment down below! 🙂

Header photo by: Bill Broadley

Football Hooliganism Is Back On The Rise

Original article: http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/european/everton-fan-fight-hit-players-holding-child-son-blames-club-lyon-europa-league-ashamed-police-brawl-a8013671.html

The term ‘football hooliganism’ dates back to the 1960’s where the UK in particular had many issues with fans acting disorderly and violent at football games. Recently a video surfaced online in which an Everton fan was seen joining in a brawl against the Olympique Lyonnais players on the pitch, it’s also worth mentioning that this fan had a child in his hand as he swung for the players – which is quite frankly disgusting behaviour.

You have probably heard and seen that many sets of fans still practice this brainless act and teams such as Millwall and Leeds United are still notorious for it. It remains a big problem and is something I’d like to go into more detail about.

The first question I’d like to ask is how did this happen in the first place? How did a fan get anywhere near the players on the field? I can only put it down to the lack of policing at football games in this day and age. I know you shouldn’t mix sports with politics but London football clubs alone cost £6.7 million to police over a typical season, this has been called a “farce” by Andrew Dismore of the Labour party. This coupled with the fact that up north the chief constable of Northumbria police has hinted that the police’s patience is wearing thin after the funding cuts of 23% since 2010 and the loss of 800 jobs in that time. It was also reported that his staff’s annual leave was cancelled in order to police the Great North Run, which would not happen if they already had the staff to cover this event.

The only solution to helping the policing problem is to make football clubs pay for their own security costs, which in my opinion is a terrible idea. This would no doubt filter down to the fans and making supporters pay higher ticket prices in an already inflated market is absurd. The government should look at football matches as a priority in policing matters considering the historical stereotype the UK has with violence relating to football matches. Football matches are no different to a music event or a parade and people already pay their taxes to make sure they are in a safe environment during these gatherings.

I believe that the journalists reporting on the news should also take part of the blame for an increase in football violence. This is because they are giving light to the situation in their news reports and in some ways this could be promoting the football hooliganism lifestyle. The ‘Gow and Rookwoods 2008 study’ was conducted with examples from the Heysel Stadium Disaster, in which 39 Juventus fans died and 600 more were injured because of rioting from Liverpool FC hooligans. English clubs were banned from European competitions for five years until 1990. The report suggests that based on interviewing the fans involved that the main cause for the violence is newspaper reports on the “casuals” lifestyle.

The way in which some newspapers report on football hooliganism just adds petrol to the fire. For example when ‘The Sun’ newspaper reported that hooliganism was the cause for the fatal Hillsborough disaster in 1989 there was absolute uproar from the fans of football clubs up and down the country. The newspapers were assuming facts just to make the stories more popular or try to cause a problem which wasn’t necessarily a big issue in the disaster. This links to Herman and Chomsky’s propaganda model which is the idea that the mass media try to manufacture a particular issue and manipulate a situation for economic gain.

This undoubtedly leads to backlash from fans and especially in the direction of the police at games. So I would say that recent crowd troubles or groups of individuals who go out to cause trouble are actually protesting against the police because of what the newspapers have reported in the past. They see these people as the enemy because of the apparent lies they have told previously and because of the emotional bond the supporters have they will support each other against such lies, especially at Liverpool, who have now banned the Sun newspaper from Anfield.

But have the fans not learned their lessons? There are countless injuries and deaths from football related violence – and for what? Supporting eleven men on a field who kick a ball for a living? It’s stupidity at its finest and I believe the FA is doing a good job under the resources that they have to combat the problem. The ‘FA Respect’ campaign has worked really well to stop racism within the sport, especially from ‘The National Front’ members. Now we have 33% of black minority players playing in the Premier League which is a great thing to stop the game from being inclusive and it encourages more support from ethnic minorities and most importantly sensible support at football games.

There will be exceptions and like ex Manchester United hooligan Colin Blaney said in his autobiography, many use hooliganism as a substitute for more serious crimes like theft and burglary. There is no other way to deal with these people other than the football clubs giving them lifetime bans. The man with the child at Everton has been banned for life at the club and I think this is a positive move to combat violence in football. It sends a strong message and will deter those who are just at football games to cause trouble and filter them out of the equation.

In conclusion I believe it is very important for the longevity of the game that the troublemakers are pushed out as it will result in a more family friendly atmosphere which will attract more support and generate more revenue for football clubs. Historically I would say that football is a gentleman’s sport played by thugs, but this is slowly changing thanks to the good work by the FA and Premier League football clubs. There is still work to do an in my opinion, the government should support the initiative with funding and the media should do their bit by not widespread reporting the incidents. I hope my words are taken into account by authorities and we can start building a positive environment for all.

Why do footballers force a transfer by refusing to play?

Footballers careers are short. The average professional playing career is typically around 15-20 years, and because of this players will normally milk as much money as they can in order to sustain themselves when they retire from the game.

You see higher up in the footballing pyramid, especially in the Premier League, players will refuse to play for their clubs until they get a transfer to an interested party. However, this has recently happened in non-league football with Hartlepool United striker Pádraig Amond.

Last seasons top goalscorer, Amond, made himself unavailable for selection in Pools’ recent 2-0 defeat to Bromley in the National League. This has come off the back of Football League interest from the likes of Newport County coupled with a refused transfer request submitted by the player himself last month.

Manager Craig Harrison vented his frustrations to Hartlepool Mail on Saturday.

“[He] came to me on Friday morning, before we travelled down for the game, and made it clear he was not in the right frame of mind to be involved. So he made himself unavailable for selection or to travel.

We need to talk about it and look at it. We need to communicate over the next few days and work out exactly where we are.”

harrison
Hartlepool United manager Craig Harrison. (Hartlepool United YouTube channel)

This sparks the debate over who has the actual power in this situation. Historically if a team bids for a player it is the clubs decision whether to sell or not. This is because it is against FA rules for an interested club to speak to another player until a transfer fee is accepted.

But with footballers and agents working together in the modern-age of football they can get around this rule and take matters into their own hands by refusing to play until they can speak to a new club.

Hartlepool fan Luke Marsh made a good point in a National League fan group on Facebook about his loyalty.

“This man has severely let myself and many other Pools fans today. [He] wanted a move away so has had to take the cowards way out by just simply outright refusing to play.

No player is bigger than the club. Complete lack of respect shown to the club and hopefully I never have to see him in a Pools shirt again.”

Amond started his career with Shamrock Rovers in the League of Ireland after graduating from the clubs youth academy. Since then he has gone onto play for Paços de Ferreira in Portugal before playing in the English Football League with Accrington Stanley, morecambe, Grimsby Town and now Hartlepool United.The prolific striker has a career league record of 116 goals in 365 appearances which average out to a strike rate of 0.32.

He is a player in demand and the most time he has spent at a club is three years, which promotes the assumption that the player doesn’t consider club loyalty to be a decisive factor when it comes to his footballing career.

What do you think of footballers being able to have such a big effect on transfers in the modern game? Do you blame Amond for wanting to play at a higher level of football?