Groundhopping – what I do and what I think

The term groundhopping or groundhopper is a very vague term.

I’d define a groundhopper as simply: “someone who watches football games at numerous different locations.”

As is regularly stated, the only rule to groundhopping is that there are no rules. Some people only count grounds at say level 10 or above, while others don’t include youth football or women’s football.

I think my rules are quite simple. For men’s football, it’s just any Saturday afternoon league basically.

For women’s football, it’s any game in the pyramid (eight tiers in Durham but more elsewhere and I would go further down).

I do count youth football, but I wouldn’t say I’ve any set rules on what I count. The likes of Premier League 2 and the Professional Development League definitely count, as would the FA Youth Cup in my opinion.

Anything else, I’d just decide on whether it would count when going to the game. The likelihood is that I would count it as a ground.

I’m definitely not the most prolific groundhopper. I do probably 20 new grounds a season with being committed to Easington.

Some people will only do a new ground (they won’t watch a game somewhere they’ve already been), some will only count it as a ground if it’s at a certain level, and some will only count it as a ground if the club produce a programme. I remember seeing somewhere that one person only counts the ground if they touch the match ball!

Groundhopping can basically be whatever you want it to be.

From a club’s perspective, groundhoppers are a big part of what we look to attract at Easington. Most groundhoppers will always pay admission, buy a programme, buy a drink and many will also buy pin badges, food, raffle tickets etc.

They are a massive financial help to a club at Northern League level, and that is why we at Easington try to give them the opportunity to visit us by playing midweek games on Thursday nights.

The commitment of some groundhoppers is staggering. We’ve had people from all over the UK (and further afield) travel just to watch a Northern League Division Two game at the Welfare Park on a Thursday night. Their support is massively appreciated, and we feel we need to offer something they enjoy.

Organised groundhops are obviously beneficial to the home club, but I imagine they’re also very hard work. Clubs at Easington’s level aren’t used to 300 people all wanting a programme, 150 suddenly piling off a bus and going to the entrance, and 50 people queuing for a pie before kick-off.

Despite that, I imagine we would be more than happy to host an organised groundhop game if we were ever given the chance.

When it comes to groundhopping, the actual ground doesn’t matter to me. I’m not bothered if it’s just a pitch with no facilities. It’s a new place and a new venue to watch football.

And, with being part of Easington, going to the same ground more than once obviously doesn’t bother me.

Going to a football match gives you the opportunity to see a new place and meet new people, and this is even more so the case if you’re groundhopping.

Groundhopping is whatever you want it to be, and it’s definitely something you should consider doing if you haven’t already and you like attending a few football matches.

2019-2020 – Season Review

Given the current pandemic, my 2019-2020 season finished very early in mid-March.

I was on track for about 165 games for the season at the time, and there was a chance of me getting to my 200th ground, but that wasn’t to be.

Instead, the 2019-2020 season has seen me take in 130 games, 25 less than last season because of the pandemic.

From Altinordu U19s to Farsley Celtic Ladies, CE Manresa to Parkgate, AS Saint-Étienne to Stockport Georgians, I’ve still seen quite a variety of teams!

Continuing as Easington Colliery’s media man/programme editor/press officer/anything else has seen me take in 36 Easington games, and again, it will continue into next season.

The 2019-2020 season has seen me take in a few memorable games, and this review will look back on those as well as all the statistics.

Total matches: 130

Total goals: 482

Average goals per game: 3.707

Average attendance: 1,864.692

Highest attendance: 30,251 (Sunderland vs Doncaster Rovers)

Lowest Attendance: 15 (Both West Auckland Tunns vs Coxhoe Athletic Wearside League (At Parkside Academy) and East Durham Blue Belles vs Stockton Town Ladies

Number of grounds visited: 52

Number of new grounds visited: 14

Number of different leagues watched: 17

Number of different cup competitions watched: 16

Team watched most: Easington Colliery (36 times)

Most expensive programme: Several have been £3

Cheapest programme: Several were free

Most expensive admission: £20 for Middlesbrough vs Tottenham Hotspur

Highest scoring game: East Durham Blue Belles 8-4 Stockton Town Ladies

Number of 0-0’s: Just the one – Sunderland vs Doncaster Rovers

Number of home wins: 64

Number of away wins: 51

Number of draws: 15

Games since a 0-0: 29

Games since the turn of 2020: 44

Most memorable games:

  1. Carlisle United 3-4 Cardiff City

It had been quite a while since I was at Carlisle, so I was always looking forward to this visit. Me, Steven Batey and Rory Drake travelled over from Sunderland in Steven’s car for their FA Cup game against Cardiff City. Regardless of the result, it would probably have been quite a memorable trip with how rare my visits to Brunton Park are, but the game was an absolute cracker. Prior to this visit, it was Boxing Day 2012 when I was last at Brunton Park! Carlisle took the lead only for Cardiff to work their way into a 1-2 lead in first half injury time. A thrilling opening 20 minutes of the second half saw both sides score twice, and it was suddenly 3-4. Carlisle gave it a very good go, but Cardiff held on to claim a narrow win in a very good FA Cup game. It was a very good game between two sides I very rarely watch at a ground I rarely visit, and that is what made it so memorable.

2) Stockport Georgians 4-1 Hindsford

I wasn’t expecting a great deal from this game, but it proved to have everything! The ground was quite good for a step 7 side, but the game is what made it memorable. It was a very feisty game with five goals and a red card, and it was much better than I was expecting from the Manchester League! It was definitely the most memorable of the three games we went to that day.

3) Slavia Prague U19s 1-0 Altinordu U19s

I’ve opted against putting the game at the Great Strahov Stadium in this list, simply because it is going to be best ground (sorry for the spoiler, mind it’s probably quite obvious!) and because the game wasn’t very good. This game wasn’t great either, but it is memorable because of the stadium. Mind, it’s not as good of a stadium as Strahov so it couldn’t make the best ground. To be honest, I can’t remember anything about the game, but I remember trying to find a way in and then walking round the running track as the teams were warming up and then going up into the stand. Looking back, Michal Hošek scored the only goal as Slavia claimed a 1-0 win. The ground and the place are what is memorable about this one, not the game.

4) UE Sants 1-0 CE Manresa

Again, the most memorable bit about this game was the whole day, although it was a better game than the Slavia Prague Altinordu game. It was being played on a Wednesday afternoon and we didn’t really understand why until the day of the game. We woke up in our hostel to find thousands of people marching the street below us as it was the National Day of Catalonia. It was a surreal day. Those people really do care about their region and want independence. Everywhere you looked, people were wearing the exact same yellow t-shirts and marching with flags. It was all peaceful. So, as it was a bank holiday, football was on! Walking against the crowds took some effort mind, and the marches went on all day. Apparently, only 600,000 people were marching which is quite a lot fewer than previous years. It looked like millions to me! To the game and it wasn’t a bad one. If I’m honest, I was expecting the standard to be a bit higher, but it was an enjoyable game in good Barcelona weather. After the game, we went for the tour of Camp Nou and then a look around the Olympic Stadium – a proper day of sport!

Best new grounds:

  1. The Great Strahov Stadium

It’s an absolute no-brainer. I’ve said it loads of times now, but this place is truly magnificent and I 100% recommend a visit if you’re ever in Prague. It’s undoubtedly the most impressive stadium I’ve ever been to. That’s all I’ll say about it as it’s so good!

2) Brigg Town

It’s not quite as impressive as the Strahov Stadium, but it is a very nice set up at Brigg Town. The ground is all in club colours which looks good, it has character and it has plenty of cover with good viewing. What more could you want!? The ground is matched by a good club and comes with a very good programme – a perfect day out at step 5!

Biggest surprise:

I’m going to go for something a bit different here. I normally pick a ground as the biggest surprise, but this time, I’ll say Harrogate Town’s programme!

It’s massive.

It’s A4 so not exactly handy to fit in a pocket or anything and the paper it is printed on is quite thick. The text inside is in big font, and there is quite a bit of empty space.

Half the size of it to A5 and it would be very impressive. It’s certainly a unique programme.

Best programmes:

  1. Brigg Town

If I’m honest, it hasn’t been a season of real stand out programmes for me. The programme at Brigg Town is a very good effort. It’s well set out, got plenty of pages and plenty of interesting and engaging content. It’s well worth it’s £2 price and is one of the best programmes I’ve had at step 5.

2) Hartlepool United

I feel as though Pools’ programme has never got the praise it deserves. It has constantly been a good programme for a number of years, and it’s down to the very good work of Mark Simpson. Mind, now they’ve controversially made Mark lose his job, I’ve no idea what it’ll be like in the future. Mark Simpson will be a massive miss for Pools.

Next season:

It should be more of the same from me next season. As I write this, I was meant to be in Greece but obviously that was cancelled. I’m meant to be in Budapest in August. We have tickets for Sziget festival but it’s now been cancelled. If we are able to go and it’s safe to do so, I’ll try to find a match.

I finish University (definitely fully finished!) in September and I graduate from my Masters in November. I’ve no idea what I’ll be doing after that!

With EURO 2020 being pushed back a year, I may have a second chance of getting tickets for that, but it certainly isn’t a guarentee.

In all, it should be more of the same for me next season!

A massive THANK YOU to everyone who has taken time to read my posts throughout the 2019-2020 season and I hope you follow my travels next season too.

Like I have been doing for the past few weeks, I will be looking to produce some form of content on here every weekend until next season starts (whenever that may be!).

If you’ve any suggestions as to what you’d like me to write about (any stats pieces, opinion pieces, reviews etc), get in touch and I’ll try to get it sorted.

In the meantime, take care of yourself and others.

Programmes – what I have and what I think?

Thanks to Ryan who suggested I do an article on the programmes I have on last week’s post.

It was a good idea, and I thought I’d develop it a bit further to look at what programmes I have, what I think of programmes, my experiences as a programme editor, and what I think the future of programmes is.

Programmes are a big part of going to a football match for some people, and there are some groundhoppers out there who won’t attend a game if there is no programme.

I regularly hear of groundhoppers going to a non-league match somewhere and then refusing to go through the turnstile and going home when they find out there isn’t a programme.

For me, if there is a programme available, I’ll get one, but it won’t ruin my visit if there is no programme. I’ll always buy one if there is one available, and I think I would say it is for a few reasons:

  1. It’s a physical thing which acts as a memory for a match
  2. It helps the club out
  3. There is some good reading and interesting pieces in some programmes

I don’t collect programmes from games I wasn’t at.

As for the programmes I have, as I say, I get a programme everywhere I go, but not everywhere I go does a programme.

I’d think around two-thirds of the games I go to do a programme, so I probably have almost 700 programmes from the last six or seven years.

I dread to think of how much was spent on them!

I’ve always just kept them in boxes under my bed. A box was given to each season, but then I ran out of boxes and they were being placed anywhere.

Two weeks ago, I got them all out and was planning on sorting through them, but I underestimated the task and gave up and just piled them all back in. I did pick out the ones I thought were most memorable/most likely to be looked at in the future and kept them seperate.

Here’s a picture of them all piled up when I got them out to sort!

I don’t just have football programmes. If I go to any event really, I’ll get a programme if there is one. Probably the most important event to get a programme for me is horse racing as you’re more or less bound to actually look at the racecard.

Of the top of my head, I have programmes from horse racing, greyhound raching, basketball, rugby, cycling, darts, cricket, snooker, golf, tennis, speedway and athletics.

There are probably a couple of others too.

I remember the person in front of me getting the last programme when I went to Billingham Stars ice hockey a couple of years ago. That’s a programme collectors nightmare!

Obviously, the quality of some of the programmes you get differs massively. It all boils down to effort put in and tools available.

If you’ve got access to Adobe InDesign (I definitely don’t – too expensive for me!), then you’re going to be able to produce a good professional looking programme.

When I do Easington’s programme, all I use is Microsoft Publisher so it is a lot more difficult to produce a professional looking programme.

I think the programme I do for Easington is a decent enough effort, but it’s far from being the best in the Northern League.

Some people who go to games seem to underestimate how much work goes into producing a programme.

It takes at least a couple of hours for me to produce each Easington programme, and it’s definitely going to be longer than that if you’re doing a programme on InDesign or if you’re producing a programme like the 96 page effort Marske United used to do!

It was probably done using Publisher or maybe even Microsoft Word, but I remember really appreciating Stockton Town’s programme when they were in the Wearside League. Some of the stats in that must have taken absolutely ages to work out!

When it takes in excess of a couple of hours to produce a programme, it’s a bit disheartening to go at full-time and see that you’ve still got a box full and only three were sold.

Programmes are still very popular among some, but if I’m honest, I think they’re a dying trade.

At Easington, and it’s the same at many other clubs, they’re a financial burden. Even if we sold every single programme, we wouldn’t make any money.

It’s very rare we sell all of the programmes so we’re always at a loss on programmes.

We charge £1.50 as I feel it’s a fair amount. It’s just my opinion, but I don’t think you can really justify more than that for a programme at Northern League level.

Clubs must produce a programme in the Northern League otherwise they’ll be fined, so if you’re wanting a step 5/6 team who do a programme, you’re likely to get on in the Northern League. Mind, there are a few who don’t produce a programme and risk the fine.

After all, you probably are better off working on your clubhouse and making a bar where people will buy a few pints at every game. That way, you’re going to make yourself probably a tenner per person on the bar, and that’s much more than breaking even by really pushing your programme.

As you’ll all be aware, more and more clubs are moving their programmes online, and it makes sense. Moving it online takes away all of the losses you make from printing costs, but you still can’t make any money from it.

Funding a non-league club is difficult enough without losing money on programmes.

On the other hand though, for many, including myself, I’m unlikely to really look at an online programme. I do feel as though the main reason I get a programme is to be a physical memory of the game, and an online programme can’t do that.

An online programme is one way to produce a programme without the costs, but it definitely doesn’t work for all.

Another problem is simply commitment. You need someone to be very committed to get them to produce a programme every other week for your non-league club!

There are Football League clubs who no longer produce a programme, and if it doesn’t work for them, it certainly isn’t going to work for teams five or six levels below the Football League.

I will continue to buy a programme everywhere I go and I will keep producing programmes for Easington, but if I’m honest, I think a physical programmes will be a thing of the past in the next 10-15 years.

As I keep saying, I am looking to keep content on this site to keep me busy and you somewhat engaged/entertained (or at least that’s what I hope it does!). If you’ve any suggestions as to what you’d like me to write about (any stats pieces, opinion pieces, reviews etc), get in touch and I’ll try to get it sorted.

In the meantime, take care of yourself and others.

Six grounds I need to visit soon

Last week, I looked at my six favourite grounds, so this week, it felt appropriate to look at six grounds I need to visit.

Most of these grounds are grounds I’ve looked at going to numerous times, and I’ve been wanting to get there for years, but still haven’t got round to it!

Most of them reasonably easy for me to get to too.

Obviously, I haven’t been to these grounds, so I’ll use a picture for each club when I’ve seen them away from home.

So, here goes (in no particular order):

  1. Whitby Town

People are surprised I haven’t been to Whitby Town’s Turnbull Ground. I’ve looked at going there every year for probably the past five, but still haven’t got round to it.

It does take a while to get to on public transport from here so that’s probably why I haven’t.

But I will get there soon, I promise.

It’s probably one of the first grounds outside of the Northern League you’d expect me to do but I haven’t.

2) Doncaster Rovers

It looks like a rather average new build, but it’s one I’ve been looking to do for a while.

It’s mainly because of how easy it is to get to with a train to Doncaster and then a walk to the ground.

I nearly went between Christmas and New Year when Sunderland went, but they wouldn’t sell a ticket to me with my postcode.

I’ve looked at going a few times to watch the men’s professional side, and I’ve looked a few times at going to watch Doncaster Rovers Belles, but it still hasn’t happened.

I remember looking at the Doncaster vs Sunderland game and I could have got there for like £15 return with Unidays discount on LNER.

3) Queen of the South

Palmerston Park just looks a lovely ground.

It’s not that far away from me with being in Dumfries, and when I eventually get there, it’ll be in the rare breed of Scottish Football League grounds I’ve done.

It does require a few trains to get there from Durham, but it is quite doable.

In fact, I’ve been staying up that part of the world a few times for weekends, and I’ve been staying probably within 20 minutes of Queen of the South, but they’ve been away every single time.

Even a few weeks ago, we were meant to be going up that way on four weeks ago this weekend (I think (obviously it was cancelled)), but they were meant to be away that weekend too!

I’ve done quite a few other grounds round that way before, but never the main one in the area.

Sorry for the lack of a picture, I’ve never seen Queen of the South home or away!

4) Windscale

Now this is a hard one to get to.

But it’s needed to complete the Wearside League.

Windscale and West Auckland Tunns are the two Wearside League grounds I haven’t done (I’ve seen West Auckland at home but not at their usual ground), but Windscale is definitely the most difficult of the two to get to.

Cleator Moor Celtic is the only ground over that way which I’ve done. I’ve no idea when I’ll get to Windscale.

5) York City (new stadium)

Whenever they move into their new ground and fans are allowed in, I’ll pay them a visit.

It’s going to be a bit more difficult to get to on public transport, but it’s still reasonably easy even if it’s in a much worse position for public transport than Bootham Crescent.

It does actually look as though it may have a bit of character too.

6) Guiseley

Guiseley is probably the one of the lot I’m least urgent to get to, but it’s still one I’d like to do.

I have looked at it a few times, and it has been a big contender when I’ve been staying in Bradford.

Instead, I’ve down the likes of both Ossett grounds and Farsley Celtic.

It’s the sort of place I need Hartlepool to play away on a convenient day for me to get there.

Apologies that today’s article is slightly shorter than the past few, and that it is also a day later than I’ve been publishing for the past few weeks.

One final thing, what do you think of the pictures looking rounded like this? I didn’t know I could make them like that, but I’ve just discovered it so thought I’d have a look at what the pictures look like.

As I keep saying, I am looking to keep content on this site to keep me busy and you somewhat engaged/entertained (or at least that’s what I hope it does!). If you’ve any suggestions as to what you’d like me to write about (any stats pieces, opinion pieces, reviews etc), get in touch and I’ll try to get it sorted.

In the meantime, take care of yourself and others.

My six favourite grounds

When it came to thinking of something to write about on here this week, I kind of wanted it to link to the article I produced last week (Why do I choose non-league over the professional game?).

That article went down very, very well. It was shared across a few different platforms and gained plenty of interaction on Twitter, Facebook and a load of forums. So far, it has received about 1,000 views.

I kept thinking about what I could write to link to it, but I just couldn’t think of anything which would even vaguely link. If you can think of any follow up I could possibly do, let me know!

So, today is something different, and I definitely don’t expect it to be as popular as last week’s, but I’m going to go through and talk about my six favourite grounds I’ve been to.

So, here goes (they’re in no particular order. Well, apart from the first one):

  1. The Great Strahov Stadium

I’ve mentioned it loads of times since I visited this place last July, but it’s simply breathtaking.

Just to see such a piece of architecture is incredible.

I can’t comprehend what it would be like with 250,000 people in with a match going on in the middle of it.

It’s not a ground you’d get in Britain as it does have a somewhat central European feel to it.

We were just freely able to walk around the huge complex, and the football on the pitch definitely took second stage that day even if it was two teams I’m unlikely to ever see again.

If you’re ever in Prague, I most certainly recommend you go and have a look at this place, even if there’s no games on. It’s stunning.

2) Linlithgow Rose

If someone asked me for the best ground I’ve been to, I would always say Strahov, but there are plenty of other very nice grounds I’ve done, and this is one of those.

I’ve only ever been to Linlithgow Rose once, and it came on the Scottish groundhop last year.

They were the late (8pm I think) kick-off on the Saturday and played out a good game against Jeanfield Swifts.

The main stand is what makes this ground. It’s a very recognisable stand raised above the changing rooms and it’s in club colours.

That’s not all though. There’s a very nice covered terrace on the other side of the ground, and there are steps of terracing around most other parts of the ground too.

Some parts of the ground have grassed hills, and large bushes ensure the ground is enclosed behind the main stand.

The whole ground is very neat and tidy, and it’s definitely a ground capable of holding matches at a higher level.

The floodlights were on for the game I was at, and I imagine it makes the ground look just that bit more special.

3) Sporting Khalsa

The idea of a new build is basically hell for most groundhoppers. They see them as package based grounds which all look the same.

That can be the case, but it certainly isn’t with Sporting Khalsa.

Sporting Khalsa is definitely one of the nicest new builds I’ve been to.

It’s modern, it has a 3G pitch and it has seven-a-side goals on the side of the pitch. For most groundhoppers, those three things are a big no, no.

But Sporting Khalsa is different. It certainly isn’t your run of the mill new build.

The stand on the clubhouse side is a well put together new modern stand, but it’s not a pre-fab stand and it does have character. The seats offer a good view and there is branding on top of the stand.

The other stand, as you enter the ground, is the one that stands out for me. The seats are kind of what you’d expect apart from you walk behind them rather than in front, but it’s the roof that makes the difference to me. It’s a gable roof (Google tells me), but it’s really low and gives the stand an almost cozy feel.

Again, the seats are in club colours and there is branding on the roof.

The rest of the ground is very tidy hard standing with a raised platform behind one of the goals and down the side of the stand with a low roof.

If you’re going to build a new modern ground for a club at step 3-6, try to get something like Sporting Khalsa. Their ground is a very good one.

4) Crook Town

I couldn’t put this together without mentioning Crook.

The ground just shouts to you with the glory days from the past.

It’s an absolutely classic ground with tonnes and tonnes of charachter.

I visit it at least once a year now, so maybe I don’t appreciate it for what it is every time I visit, but it is an absolute beauty.

If you visited for the first time without looking at any pictures prior to your visit, you’d go through the turnstile and up the small hill and just think “wow” when you got to the top.

It’s kind of the Northern League’s smaller version of the Strahov Stadium in a way!

The covered terrace is probably my favourite bit of the ground at Crook, but it all comes together to make a wonderful non-league football ground.

5) Hawick Royal Albert

Like Linlithgow, my only visit to Hawick came on the Scottish groundhop when it was the last of four games on the Saturday.

It’s the setting and the main stand which make this ground.

The main stand is a beauty, and it’s a bit like Crook’s main stand in some ways.

The ground is set in a sporting area a short distance from the town centre, but it’s also quite a scenic and rural setting.

Trees surround the ground, and opposite the main stand is a steep grass bank with a few bushes growing in random spots.

I would describe it as a tranquil ground.

You would never guess that it’s within a couple of hundred metres of a recycling centre!

Behind the main stand is a hill with more trees on, but they’re actually on the other side of the river which you can’t see from the ground.

I’ve already said it, but it does remind me of Crook in some ways. I’d say Crook is more historic, but Hawick is more tranquil.

6) Pollok

My trip to Pollok was the last game of my busiest ever season – game 190 of the 2015-2016 season.

It was for a cup final between Renfrew and Auchinleck Talbot, and the ground was a big reason in why I went to the game.

The ground is a stunner.

It’s all about the big main stand opposite where you enter the ground.

The roof is what you notice straight away, with its big frame put into big black and white stripes.

It’s not just the main stand though. There’s a lot of terracing just down from the main stand, and the opposite side also has nice hard standing.

In fact, there’s a few steps of terracing on all sides on the ground.

It’s another wonderful Scottish ground!

Many other grounds could have made it into this list, and many of them are also Scottish.

That’s it for today!

As I keep saying, I am looking to keep content on this site to keep me busy and you somewhat engaged/entertained (or at least that’s what I hope it does!). If you’ve any suggestions as to what you’d like me to write about (any stats pieces, opinion pieces, reviews etc), get in touch and I’ll try to get it sorted.

In the meantime, take care of yourself and others.

Why do I choose non-league over the professional game?

Whenever you meet someone and talk about football, one of the first questions they’ll ask is: “So who do you support?”

I normally answer with: “I used to be a Sunderland season ticket holder but now I watch non-league.”

Regular responses are: “Non-league? Wow. That must be worse than (insert whichever bottom half League Two side they don’t like here).”

If I were to say: “Easington Colliery,” they’d have no idea who I was on about.

When I was younger, I watched plenty of professional football. I was a season ticket holder at Sunderland while they were in the Premier League/Championship, and I think I had a season ticket for five or six seasons.

Nowadays though, I’d never get a season ticket to watch Sunderland week in, week out.

I would say the same for Newcastle and Middlesbrough.

I watched a few non-league games when I was a season ticket holder at Sunderland, but it wasn’t until the 2013-2014 season when I started watching non-league football regularly.

There are tonnes of reasons why I now love to watch non-league football.

You go to a Premier League game and are sat there watching with 30,000 others. You pay £10 (or maybe even more) for a pint and a burger (don’t you dare take that pint anywhere near within a view of the pitch!), you pay in excess of £30 for a ticket, and then you watch the game and either go home or go to a pub in the city/town afterwards.

You have no (or very little) interaction with the club.

If you go to a Northern League game, you’re likely to be able to get your ticket, your pint and your burger all for £10, and you can talk to whoever you like in the club. I’m not convinced you can go to watch Chelsea and have a conversation with Roman Abramovich at half-time.

Non-league is a sense of community, and there’s a much greater sense of involvement and influence at a non-league club.

You can suggest how you think the club could improve and it’ll likely be acted on.

You can sit in the clubhouse after the game and have a pint with your players.

Imagine Premier League fans having a pint with the away players and the referee after a match!

In non-league, you feel part of the club. Even if you visit just once a season and pay £1 to get in, the non-league club will be so thankful for your support.

I can’t remember exactly what it was, but I was watching Sunderland Til I Die on Netflix a couple of weeks ago and Charlie Methven referred to charging fans a fiver extra for a ticket for a big game. It all sounded as if he was trying to make the football club all about money and business.

I know exactly how important Sunderland AFC is to the city, and how passionate the supporters are. If the football club struggles, the city struggles. If the football club is succeeding, the whole city is upbeat.

Sunderland AFC is the professional football club for the people of Sunderland, and it should be there to serve the community and be totally focused on offering the city’s people the chance to watch football rather than exploiting them for an extra fiver.

I don’t know who came up with the below statement, but you see it all the time on Facebook and Twitter. Despite being seen all the time, it’s absolutely spot on!

Every part of that statement is a small reason why I watch non-league football, and when you put them all together, in my opinion, it offers a much more enjoyable experience than watching a Premier League game.

I do go to professional football games occasionally, normally at Sunderland, but it’s three years since I watched a Premier League game and I haven’t missed it one bit.

If you offer the suggestion of watching non-league football to someone who sits behind their Sky Sports and BT Sport subscriptions ‘supporting’ their London team on television, they’re likely to shun non-league football by saying the standard is terrible.

Obviously, non-league players don’t have the ability of those being paid £80,000 a week in the Premier League, but the standard is higher than many people expect.

These players work all day and then travel 40 miles to play football on a Wednesday night a couple of weeks before Christmas. Why? Because they love playing football.

There is so much more to football than just the action on the pitch, and the lower down the pyramid you go, the more you realise that.

When you’re in the FA Vase, many people (including myself) would love to get an away tie 150 miles away to some club you’ve never heard of. It’s a day out to somewhere you’ve never been before, supporting your local club and travelling all as one. You’ll meet new people, and you’ll have a great day out and maybe a few drinks with the players on the bus back. Whether you’re a player or a supporter, you are just as important to club at FA Vase level.

The sense of involvement, the sense of appreciation, the sense of community, the prices (!), the post-match food/drink with the players, the freedom you have in the ground – these are just a few of the many reasons why I choose the non-league game.

If you haven’t tried non-league football before, once this pandemic is over, give your local club a go!

23rd April – this day in history

Apologies for not posting anything last Thursday. Believe it or not, I was actually quite busy!

I couldn’t really think of anything different to write about this week, so I’m going to do similar to what I did two weeks ago and recall games from this day (and around this day) in past season. On this day (23rd April), I’ve actually only been to two games.


23/4/17 Durham Women 1-0 Brighton & Hove Albion Women Women’s Super League 2 Spring Series

Last time I did this, there were a few games I couldn’t remember anything about. This is another of those.

Games I can’t remember are normally involving teams I watch regularly, and Durham Women are one of those. Having watched probably 95% of home games in the past four seasons, there’s always going to be a few I forget.

According to my report, Sarah Wilson’s goal was the difference between the two sides as Durham climbed to top of the league.

One thing I’ve noticed looking back is that Alessia Russo was playing for Brighton and she made her England debut a month or two ago in the SheBelieves Cup.

There’s not much else I can say as I don’t remember it at all!

 23/4/16 Ossett Albion 2-1 Trafford Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Division One North

This one I do remember. But it’s because of the visit rather than the game.

It’s mainly remembered as it was the only time (and still is) the only visit I had to Ossett Albion.

Now they’ve merged with Ossett Town, I think this ground is only used for training as the newly merged United side play at Town’s old ground.

I remember standing on the side you come into the ground for the whole game just down from the dug outs. The weather was reasonable, and the ground wasn’t bad.

For some reason, I specifically remember asking for a teamsheet!

It was the last game of the season for both sides, and neither had anything to play for with them both in the top 10 but too far away from the playoffs.

Despite that, I remember it being a decent game between two good sides.

They aren’t grounds I would have expected myself to do, but I did visit both Ossett Albion and Ossett Town when they existed.

I’m yet to watch them as Ossett United though.

This game was certainly more memorable than the Durham Women vs Brighton game!


22/4/19 Newcastle Benfield 0-0 West Auckland Town Brooks Mileson Memorial League Cup final (At Seaham Red Star) (West Auckland Town win 4-3 on penalties)

21/4/19 Durham Women 1-0 Millwall Lionesses Women’s Championship

 25/4/18 Horden CW 7-2 West Auckland Tunns Mark Blake Memorial Trophy Quarter-Final

24/2/18 Esh Winning 2-1 Easington Colliery Northern League Division 2

22/4/18 Durham Women 2-1 Millwall Lionesses Women’s Super League 2

21/4/18 Willington 2-0 Easington Colliery Northern League Division 2

25/4/17 Spennymoor Town 2-0 Nantwich Town Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Premier Division Play-Offs Semi-Final

24/4/17 Wheatley Hill WMC 6-0 Blackhill & Ebchester Durham Alliance Combination League Challenge Cup Group Two

22/4/17 Crook Town 1-5 Easington Colliery Northern League Division 2

25/4/16 Sunderland West End 3-4 Horden CW Wearside League

21/4/16 Easington Colliery 6-4 Darlington RA Northern League Division 2

25/4/15 Hartlepool United 2-1 Exeter City SkyBet League 2

24/4/15 South Shields 3-1 Stokesley Sports Club Northern League Division 2

22/4/15 Richmond Town 1-4 Easington Colliery Wearside League

21/4/15 Sunderland RCA 1-4 Shildon Northern League Division 1

21/4/14 Hartlepool United 2-1 Morecambe Sky Bet League 2

21/4/14 Billingham Town 0-3 Billingham Synthonia Northern League Division 1

Although I’ve only done two games on this day, I’ve done plenty of games around this date!

I’d say Easington Colliery vs Darlington RA, South Shields vs Stokesley Sports Club, Richmond Town vs Easington Colliery, Sunderland West End vs Horden CW and Hartlepool United vs Exeter City are the most memorable.

The only reason Hartlepool vs Exeter is memorable is because I was in the press box at Victoria Park.

I was only 17 (I think) at the time and I was in the press box with a pen and paper while everyone else had a laptop. Thinking back, I’ve no idea why I didn’t just take a laptop!

I remember buying a programme not knowing if I would be given one (so then I ended up with two) and for some reason, I remember Christy Pym was in goal for Exeter.

Again though, I don’t remember much about the game.

I suppose me remembering more about the event and place means there is much more to football than just the action on the pitch.

Richmond vs Easington was my first trip to Richmond, and I think it was maybe the first time I watched Easington.

Busta (David Paul) was playing and the trip was only made possible as Mike Rayner offered me a lift down.

I know a few of the Easington players that day well now, and it’s fair to say I’ve watched the club a few times since!

Richmond Town simply is a ground everyone should visit, even if it is just a railed off pitch really!

South Shields vs Stokesley was memorable as it was Shields’ last game at Peterlee. I watched them all the time at Peterlee and I still have a lot of time for the club. The people who stuck by Shields in their Peterlee days are absolute diamonds and they deserve the club’s current success.

Chris Davidson was in goal for Shields that Friday night, and I think it was up there with their biggest crowds of the season. The crowd was 88. Imagine if they only got 88 nowadays!

James Talbot was also playing for Shields that day and Talla is now at Easington although he didn’t play much last season.

It was a comfortable win for Shields in the end, and they were to go on to move back to Mariners Park in the summer of 2015.

Sunderland West End vs Horden CW. Well. This was when I was part of Horden, and we travelled to West End for a late season midweek game with a very depleted squad.

However, Chris Tarn scored a sublime goal just five minutes in, and unbelievably, we went into half-time 1-4 up. The second half was somewhat of a different story, but we did superbly well to hold on for the 3-4 win.

It was probably one of the best wins during my time at Horden.

Easington vs Darlington RA was simply memorable because it had 10 goals!

Of the rest, I remember Newcastle Benfield 0-0 West Auckland last year in the Northern League Cup, and I remember Horden CW 7-2 West Auckland Tunns.

I vaguely remember the Spennymoor vs Nantwich play-off game, and I vaguely remember Crook 1-5 Easington, but I don’t really remember the rest of them.

That’s it for this week!

As I keep saying, I am looking to keep content on this site to keep me busy and you somewhat engaged/entertained (or at least that’s what I hope it does!). If you’ve any suggestions as to what you’d like me to write about (any stats pieces, opinion pieces, reviews etc), get in touch and I’ll try to get it sorted.

In the meantime, take care of yourself and others.