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Finding football's soul at Dagenham & Redbridge

Paul Fletcher | 12:32 UK time, Monday, 13 October 2008

On Friday night I watched Dagenham & Redbridge defeat Barnet 2-0 in a League Two fixture at Victoria Road.

Prior to Friday the last match I had seen in London was at Wembley, as Hull City won promotion to the Premier League by defeating Bristol City 1-0 in last season's Championship play-off final.

It was a cracking day, especially for my wife, who has shamelessly become increasingly fervent in her support of the Tigers as they have climbed through the divisions.

I like the new Wembley - the architecture, the sheer scale, the arch, the fearsome hand dryers in the toilets that ripple the skin - but watching a match there is almost a clinical process. It lacks the personal touch.

saundersdaggers438jpg.jpg The beers in the concourse are not pulled by hand but dispensed in large number by a machine, supporters are surrounded on all sides by the branding of multi-national companies and I have always felt ever so slightly like a tiny part of a huge production line being taken through a process that lightens the pockets. Like many top stadiums, Wembley is a brilliant piece of stadia but lacks character, feels a bit sterile. It is a bit like being a witness to rather than a part of something. The same could not be said of Victoria Road and attending a game there reminded me why I fell in love with watching football.

The home of the Daggers would not win any awards for design or comfort, offers a level of corporate hospitality that is hardly worthy of the name and has terraces on three sides, with both ends open to the elements, but I found the whole experience incredibly refreshing.

From the moment I arrived at the ticket office I was struck by the amount of people that knew each other. People in front of me in the queue addressed the woman behind the counter by name - and vice versa. The social club that adjoins the ground was doing a brisk trade in pre-match drinks - Stone's bitter at £2.25 a pint or £8.50 for a four-pint pitcher. Again, the barmaids knew many of the people they were serving, catching up with the latest gossip as they pulled pints. Supporters from both sides mingled happily, though non-members apparently had to fork out a 50 pence entrance fee. All around hand-made notices informed people that the social club would be open on Saturday to show the England game while photos of various teams from down the years hung on the walls.

It struck me as a much-needed antidote to the remoteness of football at the highest level. The man sat to my left was a Swedish radio journalist who travels to England a couple of times a year to cover games in the lower leagues. On Saturday he was going to watch Mangotsfield United in a Southern League Premier fixture. I asked him what attracted him to such games and he said: "Most of the game is not about football anymore, it is a business. But football is not about money, it is about soul."

And what is soul in football? Surely it is about a connection, about a bond between supporters and their club. The Daggers wouldn't exist if the people of Dagenham and Redbridge didn't come out to support them. In a true and meaningful sense club and supporter are interlinked.

And events on the pitch this season so far can only be strengthening that bond. The Daggers only just survived the drop last May, a fate that would have seen their tenure as a Football League club last precisely one season. But this year they have made an impressive start to their season and watching them against Barnet one can see why.

The fixture is regarded as something of a derby and there are certainly plenty of connections between the two clubs. Daggers boss John Still is a former manager of the Bees and still regards chairman Tony Kleanthous as a personal friend. Several players on each team used to play for the other - Ben Strevens, Mark Arber and Richard Graham, for example, now play for the Daggers but formerly plied their trade at Underhill. And the match started with the speed and intensity of a contest between familiar rivals. But the Daggers had more composure on the ball, more incision in dangerous areas and a looping cross from the right was headed home by Matt Ritchie after nine minutes.

The Daggers, founded in their current form in 1992 following a series of mergers involving several successful non-league sides, were the better side and you could hear all too clearly the increasing frustration in the voices of Bees boss Paul Fairclough and assistant Ian Hendon as they gave instructions from the sidelines. At one point midfielder Ashley Carew replied in the direction of the bench: "What could I do about that?" It was one of those nights for Barnet.victoriaground438.jpg

Strevens doubled the lead after the break and it would not have been a major surprise had the Daggers scored again but in the end they had to settle for a comfortable 2-0 win. The victory lifted them up to the heady heights of second in the table. Still explained his team's upturn in fortunes afterwards, claiming: "One of the big things this season is that we have got people fit."

Essentially, the team is the same that won promotion from the Conference in 2007 (something that must only serve to strengthen the bond between supporters and players - the sense that they have been through something important together). But last season supplier in chief Sam Saunders and striker Paul Benson, who scored 28 goals in the promotion campaign, missed large swathes of the campaign while other injuries also made Still's job harder.

I didn't really get the impression that many people expect the promotion push to last the distance but everyone seemed to think that flirting with relegation would be avoided this time around. And they certainly have some players who are attracting attention from elsewhere. A rush of scouts suddenly appeared at the press box when the team sheets appeared, most presumably to monitor the form of defender Scott Griffiths.

At the end of the game Still took his players into a congratulatory huddle while Fairclough talked to his in more serious terms on the other side of the pitch. Supporters made their way out of the stands, the crowd of 2,629 comfortably the highest of the season. As I left the ground many fans appeared to be heading back to the social club. Outside the chippy down the road stood a group of Barnet supporters holding their own post-mortem.

As I reached the tube stop for my long trip across the District Line it suddenly struck me that it must have been the best part of a decade since I saw a game from the lowest division of the Football League. I told myself that I must watch more League Two football this season because something exists down here that has been lost elsewhere.

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    I have supported Chelsea since 1995, so now I get all sorts of stick from football fans, so I took to following Salisbury City, and its been quite exiting. Lower leagues are great!

  • Comment number 2.

    I found this blog pretty enlightening. As a Manchester United fan, I can definitely relate to what was said about feeling witness to something rather than part of something. Although, to be fair, when I go to Old Trafford I'm sometimes struck by how the club has managed to maintain something of a family atmosphere amidst its vastness (honestly!)

    Still, it's nothing like what you get in the lower leagues. I am also an infrequent visitor to my local non-league club, Southport. It couldn't be much different from what I feel at Old Trafford! I love it, though. And I believe Paul has captured the experience of attending a lower league football match really well in this blog. Hats off.

  • Comment number 3.

    Great article Fletch.

    I'm a Chelsea fan, an ex-pat now so I even miss the buzz of attending Premiership games. But in the old days, I didn't travel to away games, but spent every other weekend following either of two local teams : Brentford and Hampton FC (before conjoining with Richmond).

    Oh happy days.

    Your article states the obvious - get out and about!

  • Comment number 4.

    absolutely spot on, top level football has lost its soul and is awash with too much money which has made fans bitter about having to stretch their meagre salaries to line the pockets of overly wealthy young men.

    the new trend for foreign owners and large souless stadia means that many clubs have lost touch with the fans, and there are many cheaper ways to watch football these days sue to modern technology, both legal and illegal.

  • Comment number 5.

    Excellent read , tells it how it is !

  • Comment number 6.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 7.

    Swansea 4 Hull 2.

    I feel sorry for supporters that have not had a chance to follow their team in the lowest division. Having seen my club one game away from non-league football it makes it all the sweeter to be surviving in the Championship now. You feel more a part of your club and more sense of ownership and belonging.

  • Comment number 8.

    Great blog Paul.

    As a Leeds fan its one of the few positives about being in this division, going to new, smaller, more traditional grounds.

    Its a part of football that is passing sadly, and while the money men won't mourn, I think the fans will. There is something special about the atmosphere at football, the sights, sounds and smells of aftershave and tobacco smoke, that will soon be just a memory.

    I'm not looking forward to the new Colchester stadium for that particular reason.

  • Comment number 9.

    Absolutely agree with this blog 100%.

    I miyself at the weekend went to watch a non league game between Dinngton Town FC and Long Eaton United in the North Counties division, I would say about 200 people paid to watch.

    Dinngton has two little stands, one behind the goal one at the side.

    Around 10 Dinngton Juniors sat on the stand behind the goal and gave the Long Eaton keeper hell. So much so he was taking goal kicks and physically laughing his head off.

    There were old guys there watching who had obvioulsy been watching their towns team for years and years, there were guys with kids in prams, happy that it was safe enough to take their little ones with them. I would never take a baby in a pram to a championship/premiership game.

    The people watching this game just wanted their team to win no hidden agenda, no question of contracts or big money, football in its purest form.

    Brilliant and as they say "I'll be back"

  • Comment number 10.

    What a great article. Can football at the highest level ever hope to have it's soul returned?

  • Comment number 11.

    What a fantastic article. Although a Spurs fan I started going to watch Salisbury play in the conference last season having lived there for a decade and I really feel like i've gone back to my footballing roots. There's no 'family stand' and the 'corporate area' is the only bit with seating (incidently the corporate area is a balcony above the club shop). I never have to worry about becoming a member to get tickets or can I get tickets for 8 of my mates. We all go together and pay on the door. The passion matches anything i've seen by Spurs this season and it's much easier to get chatting to people around you than sat in a £70 seat at White Hart Lane. Although i'll always support Spurs I feel that the terrace atmosphere is needed if football is to regain it's soul from the money men at White Hart Lane

  • Comment number 12.

    A nice piece. As a supporter of Exeter City I can empathise. I can barely watch any Premiership game for more than a few minutes on TV before boredom sets in. Watching live football - albeit clearly at a lower skill level - with people who care passionately is still a joy.

    The likes of Dagenham and Redbridge, Barnet, Exeter etc. are still just football teams, not " brands " as the dreaded Scudamore would like us to believe.

  • Comment number 13.

    You describe grass-roots football at its very
    best. This is really what it is all about. My friends and I are no particular fans or supporters of any club - we just love watching the great game of football. All we ever wish for when we attend a game is that the team which just so happens to play the best football on theat particular occasion wins the match. Full stop - no more need be said. Keep well away from
    Premiership and Championship if you wish to see players giving every effort for the Club.

  • Comment number 14.

    You've 'hit the nail on the head' here.
    I am an Everton supporter, and while we are currently not financed by a billionaire am still getting disilllusioned by the business overtones in the modern game. It is now a league of haves and have-nots.
    My local non-league side is Burscough, with Southport not to much further away and I have seriously considered watching and supporting them rather than the prima-donnas of the premiership.
    I was involved with Junior football a few years ago, and the sheer delight shown by players who were playing for fun, the enthusiasm, and above all the commitment made it all worthwhile. I am fed up with seeing players who are paid exorbitant sums of money just strolling around seemingly with the belief that defending is beneath them.

  • Comment number 15.

    As a Daggers fan, its great to see us getting a mention.

    Dagenham are a great advert for the lower leagues and the ground, staff, fans etc, all make for a great matchday experience.

    I also follow Arsenal a bit but if I had the choice of an Arsenal match, in the corporate stadium, watching players earning more than an average annual salary in a week, or the Daggers with all the passion and a real atmosphere, there is no contest.

    Up the Daggers

  • Comment number 16.

    Spot on Paul,

    I used to watch Hendon FC games back in the mid 90's as a young teenager. Tuesday nights at Claremont Road would always see the same faces turn out to stand behind the opposition goals each half, giving the keeper what for and even sometimes getting a reaction out of him.

    Also you really real what the FA Cup means when your small team makes it ti the 1st round proper.

  • Comment number 17.

    I am sorry to disagree, but a club cannot have SOUL when it has ripped out the soul from non-league football in East London.

    RIP:

    Leytonstone
    Ilford
    Walthamstow Avenue

    It is a fake club like Milton Keynes.

  • Comment number 18.

    I totally agree with Fletch about the soul that still exists in the lower echelons of football, especially those grounds which are old stadiums.

    Unfortunately my team, Gillingham, due to spending 5 years overachieving in the Championship had to convert our stadium to an all-seater one.

    When fierce rivals like Swindon come visiting the Rainham End generates a pretty decent atmosphere but it will never compare to the atmosphere generated when it was a terrace.

    My abiding memory of the Rainham End will always be as a 9yo with my dad being one of those that packed the terrace, and stadium as a whole, for an FA Cup match against Sheff Wed.

  • Comment number 19.

    I published a similar piece – with an identical title – online at the back end of last season after a fantastic journey which started on a grey and wet November Saturday afternoon at Palmerston Park, Dumfries.

    That day, it mattered little that Queen of the South lost 3-1 at home to an impressive Grenock Morton in the Scottish First Division, for I too went in search of football’s lost soul and was rewarded with the most memorable journey I have ever made watching football over the past 35 years culminating in a classic Scottish FA Cup Semi-Final at Hampden and from there into Europe.

    Little Queens’ reminded me of why I fell in love with football in the first place back in the early 70’s on the ‘Chicken Run’ at Ayresome Park, and took me to a place I know is lost forever to the Middlesbrough I still love today.

    I fear for the young fans growing into the football of today. They have missed out on something. Something fundamental to their own development. It’s like the missing gene that can never be replaced...

  • Comment number 20.

    As a Peterborough fan for more than 25 years, this sums up how it feels to follow a team in the lower leagues. You are part of the match, not just there to watch it.

    Every real fan should get out and watch lower league football - it really is the heart and soul of the game.

  • Comment number 21.

    Great article. Cannot fault it at all.

    Hopefully this will get though to some people and they will get down and support their local team. It offers so much more than supporting a premiership side.

  • Comment number 22.

    Great article.

    As a Kilmarnock fan the big crowds and corporate atmosphere of the Premiership are a distant, far off thing. I can't remember the last time I saw Rugby Park full or, short of an old firm game or an Edinburgh derby, saw any SPL ground sold out for a game.

    Its all about following the team through good and bad, going to the rainy games in Dundee in the depths of winter. Thats when you get the real connection - it means something to us when Killie win

  • Comment number 23.

    Absolutely spot on article Paul.

    I fell out of love with the Premiership some time ago and not been to a match there for over two years. Now go to see South Shields in the Northern League and really enjoy the cameraderie that exists between supporters of both sides and players too.

    Wouldn't dream of going back to a Premier League game again. For £4.00 you get two teams giving 100% and straight back up after tackles etc. Tons of effort and endeavour from both teams.

    If you're fed up with what the Premier League serves up, get yourself along to a local league game or two. You'll be made welcome, and wish you'd discovered it a lot sooner.

  • Comment number 24.

    Brilliant article! I follow Aylesbury Utd - the Ducks and after 2 very lean years, after relegation from the Southern premier League we finally had something to shout about - a 1-0 win away at Bath city in the 3rd Qualifying Round of the FA Cup. Great result made all the better by the really nice comments of the Bath City fans in the social club after the game! In fact the whole game was plain and simple - fun. I even like the look of the punk night in November - if only i lived locally!! bring on the bovril!

  • Comment number 25.

    Loved the article.
    I'm A West Brom exile living right by the Dartford Tunnel/Bridge who travels to all 'home' games as well as the occasional away match too. My mates and I often talk of the good old days, eg. the stalagtites in the outside toilets.......I'll never give up going to The Hawthorns but I still go to see The Daggers and the other local teams of note, Thurrock and East Thurrock, if only to really enjoy the spectating sensation. I've plenty of other mates around the country who also now do the same - as apparant from the other submissions above. There's a growing army of fans leaving the delights of The Prem and Fizzy League to get back to their roots. It's not just the financial consideration; as many have mentioned it's really about the atmosphere and the feeling of being part of something real.
    So I'll be back at The Hawthorns for the Hull game on the 25th but thoroughly enjoying myself the following Tuesday watching the Daggers v Grimsby - true football glamour!

  • Comment number 26.

    Great to see the Daggers still have Heart & Soul. Football for the community Played in the community For the community By the community !!!!!

  • Comment number 27.

    a nice read...

    I too was there on Friday night (and, being a Hull City fan, co-incidentally was at Wembley for the play-off final)

    I agree about the character of both, and although Wembley was one of the best ever days (slightly eclipsed by the Emirates the other week)... you're right in that there's something missing and it's great to see the lower levels.

    So, there was a lot of head-tennis going on on Friday, but it was a good atmosphere and I'm glad I went.

    Having witnessed Hull over the years in the lower leagues, it's what football's all about.

  • Comment number 28.

    Great article. I went to Daggers for the Barnet game in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy earlier this season and it was great fun, as others have said, this is football that hasn't sold its soul to Mammon. Very friendly and only £8.

    As a Southend fan I'm dreading leaving Roots Hall to go to a new stadium with no character...give me Burnham Ramblers over Blackburn Rovers or Mangotsfield United over Manchester United anyday.

    Hoping to tick off the improbably named Lincoln Moorlands Railway this season...!!

  • Comment number 29.

    I am from India, have never seen a live football match. I follow British football quite closely and frequent the BBC Football site. It may be irrelevant, but I had a certain satisfaction in choosing Dagenham and Redbridge in FIFA 08 on the PC and playing with them for four seasons until I reached the premier league. Every victory was felt in my heart, every missed goal rued.

    If there is hope, it lies with the proles.

  • Comment number 30.

    My brother lives in Canada and wanted to experience the smaller leagues on his last visit - so we went to Leyton Orient. Very similar experience, it was a wonderful friendly atmosphere and cheap pasty at half time. The only down side was sitting in front of 3 old codgers who had obviously been going there for years, so they knew all the history of the club, but seemed to know very little about football. The guy next to us actually moved as he couldn't put up with it! Having said that the O's won convincingly and I saw more goals that day than I have in my visits to White Hart Lane this season!

  • Comment number 31.

    Spot on blog. I'm a Villa fan but I always look out for how Racing Club Warwick have fared, what with them being my nearest club and have been to couple of their games. I also look out for Gateshead as I lived in Newcastle for a while and worked in Gateshead.
    Also, I like watching the early stages of the F.A Cup every season on MOTD as you can really see the passion and spirit that is sometimes lacking in the Premership. Havant & Waterlooville being a good example. That is autumn and winter right there.

  • Comment number 32.

    Now then,

    Thanks very much for all your replies.

    MichiganFlicker - I understand the point you are making but I don't think it means the Daggers themselves have no soul. I certainly didn't get that impression on Friday.

    I'm definitely going to try to take in a Conference game this season and I want to get down to Aldershot as well. My brother was in the forces many moons ago and developed a soft spot for the Shots when he was based down there.

    Purslow4 - what in match day at Aylesbury like?

  • Comment number 33.

    What a pointless and boring blog. Pretentious and annoying.

  • Comment number 34.

    I'm visiting Victoria Road this Saturday to watch Bury play them, as part of my bi-monthly groundhopping with some other like minded football supporting mates.

    I gave up on top flight football years ago, and decided to dedicate all my time to watching my home town team Corby Town, rather than split it bewteen watching Premier League football.

    Though it was always to see the football, (whereas 22 years supporting the Steelmen was a loyalty thing) what put me off was the type of people attending these games. I've always loved the working class nature of football, something which these 'brand' clubs have lost touch with. Couldn't feel part of it with the premier league team I follow.

    Trying the local ale, picking up gomm badges, standing up to watch the game, getting frost-bitten toes somewhere like Bromsgrove on a Tuesday night. And losing. Yeah I'll go for that, think I'll just stick to watching Champions League highlights on the telly !

  • Comment number 35.

    Great article. If you think the lower leagues are good, you should try non-league!

    My local club, Buckingham Town serves the half-time tea in proper mugs, that you are allowed to wander round the ground with and return to the tea hut at the end of the game.Plus it's only £4 to get in.

    If only non-league football could get together as an entity and promote the virtues of the game. Once you've tried it, you'll think twice about paying £35 plus a game for Championship/Prem football.

    Modern Football is Rubbish (with the exception of the lower leagues/non-league), someone should write a book about it ;-)

  • Comment number 36.

    As a Luton fan for 15 years I've seen my fair share of football from three divisions and in all that time have kept supporting my team. In all that time although I wanted us to do well and win games (who doesn't?) I never really wanted to go higher than the Championship for the very reason that I thought the club would lose some of it's soul. The real fans tend to miss out as the entire town suddenly wants to watch a successful team play the big guns and you can't just wake up saturday morning and decide to go to a game!

    Nowadays, Luton are looking increasingly likely to be playing Conference football next year. Of course I'll be upset at losing our league status (mainly due to certain people, The Football League and the FA) but at the same time, it opens a whole new world of small, old fashioned and real football grounds to me.
    Next year, Conference or not, I'll still be heading up the likes of Morecombe or Altrincham for an all round football experience.

    Great article and spot on!

  • Comment number 37.

    I think there are arguments for both the 'soulless' Premiership and the more 'real' lower leagues.

    I watch my local side Bognor Regis Town regularly in Conference South and you really can't beat a cold Tuesday night game for atmosphere and excitement. However I also enjoy the rare trip to watch a Premiership game too, mainly for the sheer quality of play on offer and suberb stadia.

    Would Hull fans really swap their trips to 'soulless' Arsenal, Newcastle and Tottenham this season for trips to Dagenham? I somehow think not.

  • Comment number 38.

    I fully agree,
    I'm a Man City fan and I was (I hate to say this) licking my chops in hope of points deductions and relegation into the lower leagues at the start of this season. Alas we became the richest club in the world and football was snatched a little further from us.
    Fortunately I have moved to Cornwall now, so I'm going to give Truro City a visit and see a bunch of people grafting to grind out a result with real fans and a realistic atmosphere. Football is not the opera, for me it's a working class event, I want loud boistress fans and standing only. I'll always love Man City, but the stadium and club are no longer ours.

  • Comment number 39.

    That was fantastic Paul, correct all the way.

  • Comment number 40.

    Great article

    I wish there were more people willing to give a lower league or a non-league game a chance. I am forever hearing from my mates why are you going to that game, it's bound to be rubbish.

    I am a Bristol Rovers season ticket holder and have consitently watched them in the lower leagues since I started watching football in the early 90's. When ever Rovers aren't playing or I am unable to watch them away due to cost I always try to find a local game to watch and have seen teams like Mangotsfield Utd, Bath City, Team Bath and Bitton play.

  • Comment number 41.

    I largely agree with the article - though I disagree with some of the points made about Wembley. You might be right about it lacking a 'personal touch', but when you have such a massive capacity I much prefer efficiency in dealing with that rather than tea ladies chatting with people, painstakingly pouring drinks one by one. I'm a Bristol City fan and was there for last season's playoff final and, despite us losing, I enjoyed the day, with the atmosphere being a big part of that.

    I guess what I'm saying is that watching a Premiership club and watching a lower-league side are totally different experiences, with the former generating more of a sense of magnitude and occaision and the latter a sense of intimacy and character - and when you get used to one set of qualities you yearn for the other. I think that's what makes games at Wembley so special; at least for lower-league sides who only get there every few years for play-off/Johnstone Paint/FA Trophy finals, because you look around and think: 'wow - this is a really special occaision that I might not get to experience for years to come', and that's why even small town clubs can sell-out their allocation when a trip to London comes along.

    Anything that encourages people to support their local club is a good thing and hopefully this will persuade some people to try it out for size, rather than watch the Man Utds and Chelseas on TV from the other side of the country.

  • Comment number 42.

    good to see this highlighted.

    to be honest its perhaps only for the benefit of top flight fans though who have such arrogance that they dismiss the lower leagues out of hand.

    most people who love the lower leagues know this already.

    however i don?t think d r should be praised for having a rubbish ground. because lets be honest its diabolical. you can still have lower league football with half decent grounds that still have terrace & atmosphere.

    as for the shots the wreck is also a diabolical ground so i guess you will like that.

    my advise go as an away fan and watch with delight the kids shouting stuff that cant be repeated here.

    p.s. if your going to watch conference Cambridge is the place. loudest support in bsp, plus a good ground. oxford to be avoided at all costs. faceless / soulless / expensive.

    honourable mentions to Burton Albion. worth a visit as well.

  • Comment number 43.

    Excellent contrasting piece highlighting 2 sides of the English footballing sphere. I draw a resemblence with D&R to that of my local RL club, Hull Kingston Rovers; a club who have improved no ends in the last 4 years but still holds together that family club atmosphere.

    You paint D&G in a fine picture, and one that I remember from our time as a National League club.

    'In a true and meaningful sense, supporter and club are interlinked' is a lovely phrase to use and one that shows a modest club with a small but faithful band of fans.

    This mirrors what we at Hull KR had. A small but dedicated band of supporters, we knew each other, we'd 'grow' together as supporters of all ages and all generations of this club, one steeped in grand history and tradition.

    The chairman and directors, the sponsors, many whom are fans, together as one.

    Now we are n the top league and have been awarded club of the year for 2008 - we are now looking to progress into the end of season playoffs and challenge the big guns.

    It shows what can be done and is also refreshing to see this type of behaviour in football clubs too.

    Good article!

  • Comment number 44.

    To echo most of the comments on this page, Non-League football is definitely where it's at. There's nothing quite like the smell of ralgex wafting out from the dressing room, or the chairman's cigar. I have so many fantastic memories from watching my local team (Fleet Town) over the past 20 years or so. The feeling of being part of something definitely hits the nail on the head.

  • Comment number 45.

    Top blog Fletch.

    I am looking forward to going there for the first time this season with Brentford.

  • Comment number 46.

    Sorry but as a Londoner I always wish the best for any London club. Yes, even Chelsea. But Dagenham and Redbridge (or, Dagenham and Walthamstow and Leytonstone and Ilford to give them their full name) stole the soul from East London football. And I was happier last season than this, concerning their fortunes.

  • Comment number 47.

    "It is a fake club like Milton Keynes."

    Blimey, that's a bit harsh.

    Since I moved to the area I've been going to see the Daggers and you really do get the feeling that the supporters and players have a real connection. The players on the pitch are always rallying the fans and responding to the encouragement, shall I say, of the supporters.

    Just being in the crowd and getting behind the team, spurring them on to grab a goal back or take the lead is satisfaction at it's highest level, and when the team does well, the supporters are with them, but more importantly, when the team does badly, the supporters are with them.

    In a huge stadium I agree, it's hard to get something like this, and I just hope the Daggers continue playing well and prosper.

  • Comment number 48.

    Paul, Having so many comments over the past few hours, virtually all saying the same thing, shows you have hit the nail very much on the head.
    If only the people that really mattered would read, listen, take notice, and act on the fact that those at the top are slowly killing the game that we all love.

  • Comment number 49.

    I'm a Colwyn Bay (Unibond League Division 1 North) fan who travelled to Clitheroe in a cramped minibus with a few of my mates, and whilst the quality of the football isn't particularly brilliant (neither the pitches as well, Clitheroe's pitch seems to be considerably higher at one end!), the passion that it is played for is equal, if not more.

    Tonight we play Trafford in the League Cup, then Chasetown in the FA Trophy. It's fantastic lower league football, being on the top striker's facebook, and getting to know people at the club is awesome.

    Some things never change though. Dave Challinor - ex lower league mainstay who famously led Tranmere to the final of the Worthington Cup with his long throws - is now at Colwyn Bay, sure enough Clitheroe did block up the players tunnel to stop his run up to long thows!

  • Comment number 50.

    As a Daggers fan, this was an excellent article :)

    Thank you :D

  • Comment number 51.

    I went for the first time to the Daggers, to the match on friday with my 9 year old son to.
    It cost me £22 for both of us, the atmosphere was really friendly, my son was at the side of the pitch with other kids getting autographs of the subs warming up, I managed to park my car within 2 mins of the ground and the daggers played great football!
    A real great night, great value, great atmosphere and great football which I am still talking about today! Even my son has become a daggers fan.... well after man utd (Kids r glory hunters!). It was how I remember football matches to be when I was a Kid and I am planning for me my son to go again very soon!

  • Comment number 52.

    Despite being a QPR fan, I still remember my first game was watching Brentford play. Nearly a decade ago, I took my son to see Brentford at Griffin Park. The pure atmosphere of the game meant he was instantly hooked. Although we are QPR fans, before we had our money and were in league 1, we always preferred going to away games due to the sheer atmosphere and comeraderie amongst the fans. The day we got promoted at Hillsborough remains one of my best match day experiences ever. Currently at Loftus Road, it feels to clinical. Long live lower league football. By the way, Paul great column.

  • Comment number 53.

    MichiganFlicker

    Get off your high horse.
    I don't know the ins and outs of the whole situation but it was a number of mergers, mergers in which all clubs would have agreed to. We haven't stolen the soul from anyone. Many clubs have merged in the past, it happens - get over it.

  • Comment number 54.

    MichiganFlicker what are you talking about? I've been watching the daggers play for as long as i can remember, and to say they have no soul is ridiculous! Dagenham didn't steal the identities of any of its pre-existing club, it saved them from extinction. That is why the club still carry the "& Redbridge" on its name. The old Ford United club moved from its Rush Green home, in Dagenham, to play football in Barkingside (Redbridge) hoping to pick up on the crowd the daggers had supposedly left behind. This hasn't worked and the daggers are still the big-small club in the area.

    Just wanted to add, Excellent blog Paul!! :) i've just woke up (at 4:40 NZST) and it was excellent to see my old local side mentioned :) ive seen one game from each of he last two seasons, and i'll always miss my trips to the Vic. :)

    as Dagger83 said...
    Up The Daggers!! :D

  • Comment number 55.

    Very Nice Article

    Thank you for reminding me of some of my best memories associated with our great game.

    As a life long Chelsea fan there's no doubt that i have been enjoying the success the blues have had in recent years, but, in the days when it was affordable to go to more than one game a week i visited Victoria Road frequently as they were my local team.

    I'll never forget the terrific experience i had when the Daggers won the FA Trophy at Wembley in the early 80's. I remember how heartwarming it was to see the whole community turn out for the victory parade and to see the pure joy on those fans faces young and old.

    Even with all Chelsea's success of late I don't think i've had an experience since that Trophy final that i've felt so personally involved with.

  • Comment number 56.

    Could not agree more with this blog topic

  • Comment number 57.

    The clubs may have agreed to the mergers but the fans didn't.

    And isn't the point of the article the fact that the fans carry the soul of a club?

    Sorry, it's a great article that would have made more sense on any other League Two club.

  • Comment number 58.

    Great article. I'm a Yank and have been a *real* football supporter for ages (as opposed to "throwball!") Across the Atlantic we only get Premiership and one or two Championship games a week (at about 15 quid a month.) However, every magical May we get complete League 1 and 2 playoff coverage. As well as the Toon, I support Darlington. In fact, I only play Football Manager and FIFA as Darlo. It was too much fun too see the lads spar with Rochdale, despite the result. Too bad we have such a huge stand to fill (or rather to not fill every Saturday!) The wife and I are making a trip to the UK at the end of next summer, the trip cunningly timed :-) to take advantage of the start of the football season. We plan to take in a match at St. James, but the game not to miss for my money will be at Darlington stadium. And who knows, we might even have a chance that week to see Blyth Spartans too!

  • Comment number 59.

    #19

    Can i just agree that Queen of the South is a great example of an old fashioned, proper community-type club...

    im from england but i lived in Dumfries & Galloway for a while, and QOS is such a fantastic club - completely divorced from the corporate, impersonal feel you get down south.

    The local league (south of scotland league) is brilliant as well. Locals have a real interest in it, even though the standard isnt always the highest. And all the clubs are v friendly, a lot of nice people in those leagues and in local football there...

    Sorry to turn this into a pro-S.W. Scottish football rant, but its just so different from what we get down south..

  • Comment number 60.

    I went to Victoria Road for the final game of last season - an anti-climax as my team (Mansfield) were already relegated. It is 'homely' to say the least.

    Of course I was gutted that we were relegated, but I think it is great to see a small (no offence meant), well-run club making progress in the league. It is what every fan of lower-league clubs dreams about. What they have achieved so far this season is nothing short of astonishing and I take my hat off to them - looking back I can't understand for the life of me why they were so poor for much of last season.

    Good luck to the Daggers and their fans and I hope we'll meet again soon - preferably in League One!

  • Comment number 61.

    I follow Horsham FC and find the passion and fans much better than the higher leagues...

    Prices are cheaper.... less distance to travel for games.... you can have a laugh with the players, both sets, fans do not insult one another, but just have a drink together and wish each other luck for the season.

    A shame however that we must play in Worthing for our home ground now, 20 miles away whilst our council sorts us out a new ground...

    Long live non league football!

  • Comment number 62.

    As a fan of a lower league team (Barnet) I found this a bit patronising to be honest. It's like those people who say "I have some gay friends" but in private are a little bit homophobic. Ok, you've been to a lower league game and can tick it off in your "1000 things to do before you die", fair play, but I'd take this more seriously if it wasn't so twee.

    All the people posting "I support Premier League Club X but I do like to go and see Unibond Premier Club Y" are equally risible.

  • Comment number 63.

    I do see what you mean I used to be in the armed forces and joined when sunderland still played in Roker park i was based all over the country it was hard getting used to the sheer size of the stadium of light when i returned back home permanently id obviously been quite alot but becasue i wasnt living in the city i didnt really seem to develop any affinity with the ground till i returned home last year. I do miss going to shrewsbury at gay meadow and the walks to watch kings lynn i even miss carrow road although not a small club it was still quite a reassuringly freindly atmosphere those days were great i finished watching the dundees and occasionally hibs. just going to random places ussally tied into trying local ales. one thing i do miss is match of the day exclusive coverage of the first round of the FA cup it was great seeing all those small grounds with motson doing the coverage from what looks like an elevated shed it was there ussally freezing november day in the sun, but still seeing crowds in the thousands these scenes still exsit and maybe the main bbc sport dosent really give it the coverage it deserves as match of the day had the whole show devoted just them it would be good to bring that back to show how thae majority of football fans watch their football.

  • Comment number 64.

    MichiganFlicker

    As Kiwi_Dagger says, Redbridge would have gone under if we hadn't have merged. As far as my knowledge goes on the subject, Redbridge did not have a ground and could not find anywhere to play so agreed to merge with us. It was that or nothing. The fans do still have a club to support, whereas they wouldn't have had with no intervention.

    As I said, clubs merge in the lower leagues all the time. Its the sign of the times with little funding all around. To say we have no soul or have stolen the soul is just just plain wrong. We are a club in our own right, have done things the right way and are now reaping the rewards.

  • Comment number 65.

    ooahmarkcarter - I'm really disappointed that you feel that way. I was very focused on this not coming across as patronising. Because the point about ticking this off is so wide of the mark.

    I used to watch a lot of lower division football when I was growing up and Friday was not some novelty trip, something to be looked down upon in any way. It had what I always believed to be a crucial component of the game - that bond between supporter and player.

    As an experience, Friday contained so much that I feel has been lost in the Premier League and it was much to be admired and savoured. I was trying to do that in this article, not patronise.

  • Comment number 66.

    the daggers are a really good team to support im a west ham but still i look out for dagenham down south east football is more loved unlike up north where rugby is more there game it football didnt have its a.coles it would be a nicer game and more people would go the nicer the player the better the fans will be and at like the daggers and westham every1 mets up b4 the game in there little groups but then they become 1 massive group so its not all about the ground its also about how the fan act when they are there

  • Comment number 67.

    Welcome to lower league football.

    I support my local team (Chippenham Town) and it is so much more fun watching non-league football and supporting my team week in week out.

    It is what football should all be about.

  • Comment number 68.

    Rubbish.

  • Comment number 69.

    Well done Paul. Only question I have to ask you is why did it take so long for you to rediscover your soul? Like many of the responses above, I have been a blue square club supporter while my team played there for 5 seasons before regaining league status. The referees were appalling, the quality of the football not up to some people's tastes and a few of the grounds rather empty, yet there was something very comforting and inclusive about the process. I still watch my team for £15 a game, and that says it all to me. Football is a game with its roots deep in the working class structures of our nation and it needs to be priced accordingly.

  • Comment number 70.

    Great article and one I can relate to from personal experience.

    As a Manchester United fan, I have been boycotting since the Glazer Takeover of 2005 as I strongly objected to somebody buying my club with mainly borrowed money and turning it from the world's most profitable club to the world's most debt laden.

    I, along with a few thousand other fans, set up FC United and that is where I can relate to this article. I have rediscovered the game I fell in love with as a child eg. 3pm Saturday kick offs, seeing the same familiar faces at the match, affordable admission prices, players you can relate to, a club that treats you as a fan rather than a customer etc etc.

    I have enjoyed the experience so much that even if the Glazer's went tomorrow I would not go back to Old Trafford full time as all the other ills of the modern top flight game would still be there.

    I have found football with real soul and I am so glad that I have.

  • Comment number 71.

    This article, but mainly the comments beneath it, is ridiculous. Lower League's are not as devout as some of you people may claim.

    - The players lower down are far more mercenary than in the Premier League. Common sense, moving from £30,000 a year to £50,000 a year, will tell you this. You can also look at the average stay of a lower league player. They always sign short contracts, then go on a free to the club that will offer them the most. Their are very few players who last 5 years or more at a lower league club.

    - When they make a long run in the FA Cup, most of those fans have never even seen the team play before, and probably never again. They are simply going to see a big club or simply jumping on the FA Cup bandwagon.

    - The atmosphere at most lower league grounds are terrible. There is virtually no in unison singing, and no intimidating atmosphere. I feel more part of an event being surrounded by 40,000 others, than 400 others.

    - I know everybody in my seat at West Ham, as I and they have had season tickets for years.

    - The standard of football is also incredibly poor, and makes watching it even more off putting. Don't tell me that watching Barnet is better than a Champions League Semi Final.

    - There is little behind the scenes action lower down, A friend of mine was only recently captivated by football, and he says he prefers the off the field drama than the stuff on it. The Premiership soap opera is brilliant.

    - The Premier League has so much sponsership and costs so much because it is brilliant. League Two doesn't because it is not brilliant. Simple

    - Finally, what is so good about a sliding tackle or 5 mins of head tennis?

  • Comment number 72.

    What a lovely and heart rending article. My Dad set up the first supporters club at Fulham when lots of clubs were going under in the 80s like Maidstone and Aldershot also Wimbledon were lodgers as were Charlton at West Ham. Anyway I'm 26 and feel empty about football: I try to latch onto clubs like Hammerby in Sweden (partner is Swedish) and Stenhousemuir since my Uncle moved north. When I talk with passion about football to Aussies or South Africans they love my Rochdale on a tuesday night stories that live up to the English romaticism of football that so many of my generation havent experienced. The one thing about football was sacred - lawyers binmen, labourers all united on a saturday when normal life is competition and less about belonging but focused on your own development in life - financially almost always. Long live lower league football to remind us that sometimes, just sometimes, turning up in the rain for a ridiculous reason gives life some weird magic that keeps us going.

  • Comment number 73.

    I was lucky when I decided to start watching matches as a neutral supporter in 2002, I've seen matches at over 120 grounds including non-league. Of the current 92 I have 14 grounds to do.
    I found this website and it spurre me on to visit more non league clubs... Take a visit to Lye Town , there a great pub and micro brewery 150 yards from the ground..
    http://100groundsclub.blogspot.com/
    I've also a Man City season ticket live in Lincoln and the furthers i've travelled to see a match in one day is Aberdeen to see them play Gretna ... a real 24 hour trip! Yes I must be mad .... but that's football

  • Comment number 74.

    Quality blog Paul. There is and was (as a Swansea City fan) something special about old grounds and real football over the moneybags premiership/Championship with the plastic stadiums.
    I have alot more respect for ppl who support their local team and attend matches at a lower level. ANYONE can be a plastic fan and walk around in a Man Utd shirt even though they've never been to Manchester. Watching the top teams these days is more of an event, watching lower league football is often a more enjoybale experience.

  • Comment number 75.

    Paul,

    Great blog, I have been watching first Aldershot FC until they went bust, and now the 'new' Aldershot Town FC. Get yourself down here, stand on the East bank and soak up the atmosphere, everyone who comes here is amazed by the noise. We've got Brentford Saturday, they will bring a full allocation of supporters so the place will be jumping!!

  • Comment number 76.

    Nice blog with some good observations. Makes me want to check out more lower league games. As for comments that you are "patronising", it's just inverted snobbery. No different from the snobbery of those who think they are superior because they support a big club.
    Sorry to be an English pedant but people are "countable" - it's "number of people" not "amount". Keep up the great writing but get some grammar lessons!

  • Comment number 77.

    "I am sorry to disagree, but a club cannot have SOUL when it has ripped out the soul from non-league football in East London.

    RIP:

    Leytonstone
    Ilford
    Walthamstow Avenue

    It is a fake club like Milton Keynes."

    This is the dumbest comment I have ever heard. We're not claiming to have a rich history of our own, or to own East London football, but I don't think I have ever come across a Leytonstone fan on the terraces wishing that Daggers would just "go back to how it was".

    With that mentality, we'd have no Man United (Newton Heath), Arsenal (Dial Sq and Woolwich Arsenal - who incidentally completely relocated the club to another area of London), Liverpool (formed from Everton walking out of Liverpool's extortionate rented accomodation...). Fake clubs? I reckon fans of those clubs would tend to disagree....

    Had you ever even heard of these teams (or even Daggers) before this article?

    Keep your ridiculous comments to the bulletin boards of whatever team you proclaim to watch and never actually turn up and see.

    Up the Daggers! (and a big high five to the fellow true supporters of the little clubs like Morecambe, Aldershot and Spurs) :P

  • Comment number 78.

    Spot on article. I've lived abroad for nigh on 30 years and the last time I attended a game was at Highbury, and I hadn't missed a home game in the previous 25 years. Would I go to the Emirates now? Only out of curiosity, maybe. I couldn't bear the thought of not watching my gunners in any ground other than Highbury. That place had soul. Those that called it the library and all that nonsense, just didn't get it.

  • Comment number 79.

    RalphWallace: Most of the players are "mercernary" because the smaller clubs often offer only shorter contracts and, after promotion, or an unsuccessful promotion run, or relegation, clean out ten to a dozen or more players in prep for next year, and often make their runs on the backs of loanees from the upper divisions. That's the nature of the beast. Players in League 2 are either on their way up or on their way down rather than mainstays in the division.

  • Comment number 80.

    The Premier League.
    No soul, one Goal

    Wring us dry!

  • Comment number 81.

    I go watching Mossley in Northern Premier League 1 North yet if people at Prem level are disillusioned and supporting non-league clubs they aren't supporting them in in East Manchester. Mid to late 80's we got 350-400 a game, now its about 180 a game, Stalybridge Celtic, Hyde, Ashton Utd have all seen falls in gates.

    This despite much better grounds, better standard of pitches and more professional attitudes all round.

    Look at attendances throughout the 'traditional' non-league, not talking about Conference National which is basically Football League Divison 4 (or 5 depending on your age), and they are no where near the standards of the 70's or 80's.

    Life is great here at Mossley, love my football as much as the most ardent Premier League fan but it ain't the new football of choice for the masses

  • Comment number 82.

    Michiganflicker is wrong about Dagenham. They have been around a long time and who can say if any of the clubs he refers to would have survived this long anyway. Dagenham still play at Victoria Road, are sponsored by a local firm, run by a local Dagenham family, supported by life-long Dagenham fans. I take my son to watch them and hope he will in turn take his son to watch them in years to come, whatever their name is and whatever league they are in for reasons that the likes of Michiganflicker will never understand. I agree entirely with what Fletch wrote, but then again, I'm from Dagenham and have grown tired of watching over-paid, over-rated, under-achievers in the premiership. what you get at Dagenham is sheer effort and hard work and its worth going along now and then!

  • Comment number 83.

    You got there before me Toon. I was also going to add that Ralph's comments sounded rather typically superior for a premiership supporter. Maybe Ralph was brought up in that area of London, in which case fair do's. He is supporting his 'local' team. No need to look down on those of us who also support our local sides as well mate. It is a well constructed piece of mis-information that the only good football happens at those large premiership venues. Our ground is much much smaller by comparison, but i would say the atmosphere is just as good with 5 thousand in there.

  • Comment number 84.

    I agree with this article, at school the mickey is taken out of everyone for people who support 'rubbish' clubs e.g below the prem. Now these people are only used to the glamour of the higher leagues and although they have never been to 'their' amazing teams like united and chelsea they still think that they are true supporters. I am a Gillingham supporter and I am 100% positive that despite how stressful and hard it can be to support them I love it, you just get a real sense of belonging. Unlike these 'normal' fans who just watch the games on tv. I guess its just the norm nowadays for young children to support a team with whom they have no connections except for 'ronaldo plays for them' and 'they won the league last year'

  • Comment number 85.

    RalphWallace:

    Most players move around clubs to make a living. We have players at the Shots on less than £200 a week. They don't have the opportunity to sign one contract and live off it the rest of their lives.

    The atmosphere at the Rec. is amazing, much better than several premiership grounds I have been to (Reading, Emirates and at the time Southampton).

    The standard of football is not 'incredibly poor'. All the games are hard and competetive, with , god forbid, tackles and all the other stuff the prem lost when it became overrun with foreigners. And as a West Ham fan you will never see your team in a Champions League semi. I predict we will be playing you in the fizzy-pop league within 3 years!:)

    I disagree with the soap opera comment, what goes on off the pitch is tedious media driven rubbish designed to sell papers, though as a West Ham fan, you propabaly have more to fear than most.

    The Premiership isn't 'brilliant'. It is a media driven circus which will move on to the next place the money is. Probably the Far East, when in about 5 years the J-League will be where the big money is.

    I support my club not for the glory, but because I enjoy honest down to earth football, played how it should be without the hype, diving, cheating and other assorted baggage the Prem brings.




  • Comment number 86.

    I read this blog and can actually smile.
    This is what football is about.
    Nuneaton Borough FC's old ground Manor Park wasnt Wembley at all, but it was the mecca for the fans and we brought Middlesbrough to the ground via the FA Cup heroics.
    Now as Nuneaton Town FC, the Britisg Gas Business Southern League Midlands Division 1, it still makes me smile to go to the newe ground at Liberty Way and to stand and watch the football.
    Thats what football is about, not the panzy Ronaldo or the crude swearing from the Premier League, non-league and lower league football is where it is at.

  • Comment number 87.

    A good article but, if you think about it, it's also kind of patronising.

    How so?

    Well a lot of us watch low-level 'real' football week-in week-out, on terraces and in rain without cover.... (even in snow, in my own case here in Sweden watching a division 3 team!)

    So, for many of us, we've never lost sight of the soul of football.

    It's actually things like the BBC which bang on - endlessly - about Chelsea and Man U.

    Be kind of nice if you could cover the lower leagues a bit more.

  • Comment number 88.

    This is spot on. A few years ago I went to Aggborough to watch Kidderminster Harriers play Carlisle United in what was then Division 3. It was the year that Carlisle were relegated out of the Football League. Their fans were fantastic and sang for the entire 90 minutes. On the pitch, the players gave absolutely everything they had, and as they trooped off at half time some of them looked shattered and ready to collapse with exhaustion. I remember saying to my friend that they would never be able to come out and give it all again in the 2nd half. But you know what? They did just that. Players in the lower leagues probably get paid a few hundred quid a week, but my God they are ready to earn it. Step-overs and party tricks were thin on the ground that day, but I felt like I had received my money's worth when we left, Carlisle having won 2-1. The atmosphere was friendly, the people around me were genuine supporters and the whole thing was a pleasant change from the sterile rip-off treatment you get at a Premier League game.

  • Comment number 89.

    geoff49er:

    you said: "It is a well constructed piece of mis-information that the only good football happens at those large premiership venues."

    Right you are. Anyone who saw Tommy Wright's curler against 'Dale would know just what you mean :-)

    You certainly will see a higher howler ratio, I think, and you won't find 90 mins of one-touch Arsenal style play, but I would argue you won't find as much on the lower end of the Prem table either.

    BTW, is 49er a reference to NFL? Just curious...

  • Comment number 90.

    I too am a refugee of the Premiership. It's not rocket science: myself and my son (6), train fare, match tickets, food at half time, match programme....at Arsenal, over £100, for a pretty sterile football experience. At Barnet, we're talking just over £20 in the South stand and we're so close to the action, my son gets to shout at the oppo's goalie! (And hide behind the seat in front when he gets a nasty look in return!).

    Pure football, autographs, shaking hands with the mascot, etc etc

    Great blog. Let's hope more supporters of higher league clubs discover the real action in the lesser divisions.

  • Comment number 91.

    Great blog Paul. I am very glad Dagenham has been given a creditable mention.
    He is right in that the stadium does not have to be paradise to enjoy the game, one benefit of a small stadium is being closer to the pitch and therefore the action on it!

    I've watched my local club several times and im proud to be a fan, this is what bugs me with these phone-ins where Man Utd or Liverpool fans etc bug the show saying "oh we were rubbish" etc cause they didnt win. Go support a real club with hardly tons of money and you'll see what real guts and determination is.
    People like Gerrard should donate two weeks wages a year to the "small clubs" in the lower leagues to keep it going, then he and his peers may be a "hero" to some people.
    Up the Daggers! Up the Daggers Fans! We are in dreamland at present.

  • Comment number 92.

    I am an ex pat Bolton Wanderers fan and have to agree about the sterile manufactured product that top flight football has become. The Reebok is a superb stadium but at times, as a fan, you did not feel involved. I would occasionally go to watch Leigh RMI and derive as much pleasure .. not to mention park up 10 minutes before kick off and drive off the car park immediately after the game with no problem.

    I must say though that I get a great buzz watching division 1 football in Spain. I am a season ticket holder at Sevilla FC and despite the ground being a 45,000 seater one feels close to the pitch and part of the action. The cauldron like atmosphere consistently is far superior in my opinion to that which one usually experiences in England.

  • Comment number 93.

    Very Good comment Midland 20

    'It's actually things like the BBC which bang on - endlessly - about Chelsea and Man U'.

    It works the other way round too. Myself and others at my club cringe when 1st round FA Cup day comes round as the BBC goes into patronsing overdrive.

    Top scorer for Mossley (and indeed in the NPL North this season) is a striker called Mike Fish. Guess what I haven't got a clue what his job is yet the media would ask what his job is before they asked about any goal scoring exploits.

    The Beeb paints non-league fans as somewhat English eccentrics equating our viewing habits with the peculiar fascination one reserves for real ale experts or god forbid train enthusiasts (Both fine hobbies I'm sure).

    Sometimes I'd prefer it if you just left non-league alone.

  • Comment number 94.

    I dont think its a surprise that the atmosphere is better at lower league games. The players are playing for the love of the game, not for love of the money.

    In the top leagues the players get treated like kings while the fans are treated like walking cash machines. In the lower leagues the players get treated like real people, and the fans get treated like real football fans.

  • Comment number 95.

    I'm a Shrewsbury Town fan, and love it when I take my regular trips to the Pro-Star. The atmosphere there is incredble, and at the Gillingham home game(where we won 7-0) The football and the general mood knocked you off your seat! I also keep an eye on AFC Telford
    I turned my back on the PL some years ago. I have no plans to return.
    Fantastic blog, keep it up.

  • Comment number 96.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 97.

    Shetland (first post) that's ridiculous! I've supported Chelsea since my first game in 1991 (Im 22) (today :-) and if I stopped supporting them when I started getting stick I'd have quit the day Roman took over! Saying that when Chelsea aint playing or I cant get to the game I do love lower league football, Leyton Orient has a real community feel about it and reminds me of the old days at 'little' Chelsea which is nice. Agree about Wembley, was highly unimpressed, give me Brisbane or Victoria Road any day of the week!

  • Comment number 98.

    Great Blog, I am a QPR fan and like most R's supporters this season I feel I am being ripped off and feel increasingly detached from the club I love. Like Celery_schtick when I was a boy I would go to watch Brenford when Rangers were away. I work with a Bees fan and he has great days out with his mates at Griffin Park. I live in Teddington and have Hampton and Richmond, Kingstonian and AFC Wimbledon all within a short bus ride away. These money men who own football teams know nothing about football, Favio Britore claims to not even like F1 that much!? QPR filled the Daggers away end last time we were there in League 1 and most QPR fans have said that our last season in the 3rd tier of English football was the most enjoyable and well supported since we left the Premiership. Would relegation be that bad?

  • Comment number 99.

    As a Daggers fan myself I feel it's great we get a mention. The current success is fantastic and every time I go to a game, the fans all get behind the team and get involved in the game. One of best things about the small ground atmosphere etc. is the players can hear individual encouragement from fans to them.
    Lower league football is the best way to watch true, honest and passionate football and I support all those who go out to watch their local team on Saturday at 3pm!!!

  • Comment number 100.

    Great article.

    As an Uxbridge fan, who visited Victoria Road on 3 occasions in the 90's, I have to say you couldn't have chosen a nicer place or a nicer bunch of people to visit. On one occasion they even kept the bar open late into the night due to the fact that fog had caused the Tuesday cup tie to start late. Our journey home across London would have been a lot longer without the required sustenance!

    Great to see that, despite the Daggers relative success over the past 10 years, things haven't changed too much. All the best Daggers!

 

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