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Untold on Tour: A Blacksheep Report on Season 2013/14

By Blacksheep

This year Tony and I (plus assorted others) embarked upon a fairly random tour of English (and Channel Island) football grounds. It was largely unplanned (past the ‘do you fancy a game this Saturday?’ level of planning) but I have managed to see games at a variety of levels of the football league and non-league (as well as seeing all but two games played at the Emirates this season).

I’ve been to Brentford and Coventry in League One, Northampton in league two; Cambridge United and Cambridge City; Grantham, Corby, Daventry, Stamford, Crawley Down Gatwick, Walton Casuals and Leatherhead. I’ve also seen Port Vale, Shrewsbury, Wycombe Wanderers, FC United of Manchester, Bedford Town, Ramsgate FC, Hereford United, Chippenham Town, Ashton United, and Guernsey FC (three times!).

That’s 20 different teams on top of those I’ve at the Emriates (and my away trip to St Mary’s and the FA Cup semi-final).

What a lot of football! What a lot of miles! But mostly, what a lot of fun!

Brentford were probably the best team outside the PL that I saw. They play nice football and I’m very pleased they’ve been promoted. They lost their manager to Wigan but Mark Warburton has done even better. Their ground is old but it will be sad to see Griffin Park bulldozed in a few years time; maybe by then the Bees will be playing at the Emirates, who know?

My second best outfit are Guernsey; playing in the Ryman Isthmian league south they had to travel further than anyone to play on the mainland. They draw their players from the islands and so it is little short of amazing that they have enjoyed back-to-back promotions in the last two years.

They play great football – a passing game when many non-league sides simply hoof it. They reached the play-offs this season and Em and I went to see them at leatherhead in a midweek k/o. Leatherhead raced into a 2-0 lead by HT then made it 3 in the second but Guernsey dragged it back to 3-2 and had a goal disallowed. They fought like the Green Lions they are and I hope to see them again next season.

Leatherhead were promoted and Crawley Down were relegated, so what about the fortunes of the other teams I saw?

The Cobblers (Northampton Town) sacked their manager after the match Tony and I watched but they’ve stayed up by the skin of their teeth. The town I live in has just breathed a massive sigh of relief! Coventry came to the Emirates and staged a memorable protest about their owners; they finished 18th in League One (but they’d had a points deduction).

Cambridge United led the Skrill Premier for the first half of the season but ended up second and so are in the play-offs; they beat Halifax so face Gateshead at Wembley – come on you U’s! Cambridge City finished third in the Calor League Premier but lost to St Albans in the play-off semi; Bedford were relegated and Chippenham finished in mid table.

Hats off to FC United who came second in the EvoStick league but sadly they will be stuck there (sorry!) for another year at least as Ashton beat them in the play-off semi. Grantham and Stamford were both safe and fight on.

Corby and Daventry will also stay where they are after the latter failed to get past Kettering in the Calor Southern League semi. Never mind, they are another side that play good football and have a neat and welcoming ground.

I’ve eaten pies, chips, burgers and drank beer (and wine) in all these places and spoken to lots of football fans who are passionate about their local teams. Tony and I have said this before but it’s worth repeating:

These clubs need our support; they don’t have rich owners or corporate sponsors with deep pockets. They rely on the gates they get and the fans that turn out week-in-week-out to watch grassroots football. Sometimes its not pretty to watch but I guarantee non-league football can surprise you. And you can get close to the action; hear the players and the coaches; berate the ref at close quarters and even – as I did at Corby – hear from a daughter what she thought of her dad’s red card (not a lot!). So go and watch your local team/s.

Next season we have a new itinerary of clubs to visit and Tony and I are planning at trip to Leicester to see The Arsenal (its our closest away ground). I’d quite like to see Guernsey at home as well but we’ll see.

In the meantime enjoy your football wherever you go – my last game of the season is the cup final and I can’t wait!

Blacksheep63

The books

3 comments to Untold on Tour: A Blacksheep Report on Season 2013/14

  • WalterBroeckx

    You sure have been to a lot of football grounds Drew. Thanks for the report.
    Come to think of it…I also have been to a lot of football grounds last season…in my function of assistant-referee of course 😉

  • Thanks Drew, I haven’t been to many grounds this season – The Emirates once – then a few as referee or assistant, “The Arsenal” – Alderney’s Home ground many times (every Sunday for Junior League) , and three or four in Guernsey !

  • Derek Paget

    Thank you for exactly the sort of piece that makes Untold the w/site that’s consistently a joy to go to!