Simon Wright’s open letter to supporters of the 4 promoted clubs: Banbury United, Buxton, Peterborough Sports FC and Scarborough Athletic.
Welcome to National League North, Midlands, Oxfordshire and Norfolk .. yes that full title is rarely used. You are not going to like the following observations when your football world is new and exciting. Maybe best if you don’t read them now because you won’t want to believe them. Stash ‘em away electronically until say a day in December and then read. You’ll get it then.
You are now in what in many ways is the old Division Four. The lowest tier where some ‘ballers can scratch a living without having a second job. A functional league without glamour, laden with senior old pros slowing down but still possessing a cynical football brain. How is your stock of Big Blokes? You need ‘em. Size does matter. In between the wrestlers, you will need some young talent, desperate to impress though if they do impress, they’re gone. Goal scorers in particular. Do tie your talent down to a contract. It won’t stop them leaving but will provide some limited compensation.
Nearly all visiting teams are defensive by nature. Every club feels pressure not to lose at this level, even more so with an alarming four relegation places to squabble over. There’s no joie de vivre in Step 2. Some visitors will do nothing for your mood. Want names? I give you Southport, Leamington, Kettering and Alfreton, doyens of threshing machine hoofball.
Travel? O ye Gods, there’s a lot of it and you will all know of potential signings deciding they didn’t want to spend Saturdays or Tuesdays exploring the extremities of the motorway network.
NLN offer footballing outposts and chuck in “bleak” where you wish. There just aren’t words to describe the stacked shipping containers which comprises Gloucester’s “stadium.” There’s no fun in Farsley, no succour in Spennymoor, no sexy football in Southport. In fairness to Blyth, they do welcome visitors but my it’s the end of the earth.
Ticket prices? Oh dear, you’re not going to enjoy these. Entry is higher than Step 3, a lot higher in some cases. Kings Lynn, Kidderminster and Hereford demand the most. For a seat there, there’s not much change from £20. Do anticipate segregation at any club deemed “bigger.” Generally speaking, it’s pointless and unnecessary, especially when terrace supporters are separated, but seated ones aren’t.
There is money in this league. And, of course, there’s unequal distribution. You’re fortunate to join when there are only 3 full time clubs. There were six, now we have only FA Cup flushed Kiddy Harriers, the something of the night Kings Lynn and moneybags AFC Fylde. In addition, Spennymoor, Boston and Brackley enjoy deep-pocketed owners.
Do try to find your fun where you can. There is very little hostility anywhere and most hosts welcome visitors into their bars. And do travel to Hereford. Central location and best seated view in the League. Best fanzine too.
And the responses? Ranged from generous praise from the Peterborough Sports Vice-Chairman who’d clearly smelt the coffee and mainly good-natured mickey-taking from Scarborough supporters clearly still in promotion celebration mode. They’ll learn.