Graphic: No Norwich City this weekend - so why not get behind your local non-league team?
Archant © 2012
With the Premier League on a break and England done and dusted well before Saturday afternoon arrives, the region’s non-league clubs are aiming to make sure football fans are not left twiddling their thumbs.
Tomorrow has been designated as the third Non-League Day, aimed at getting supporters to sample their local club on a Saturday afternoon.
And with a host of senior action on offer, ranging from Ryman League, through the Thurlow Nunn League to Anglian Combination, there is no excuse to miss out on the special non-league guarantees of low prices and friendly welcomes.
“The day is a great initiative that we fully endorse,” said Norfolk FA chief executive Shaun Turner. “Weekends without fixtures being played in the Premier League and Championship are few and far between, but represent an excellent opportunity for football fans to reconnect with the grassroots game by going to see a game at a lower level.
“Indeed, it even creates a chance for those fans to dust off their boots and have a game themselves – so, we hope that all those Canaries fans with a spare afternoon this weekend will consider supporting grassroots football in our county.”
Lowestoft Town have one of the tastiest fixtures on offer locally as they face Ryman League leaders Kingstonian at Crown Meadow, where joint manager Micky Chapman believes visitors will discover that it is pure passion which sets the non league game apart.
“We all know how passionate the game is at this level,” he said. “You see the superstars in the professional game and how much money they are on and sometimes you wonder if there is just a bit of passion lacking.
“I’ve had people talk to me and point it out – they see games at our level and say the passion is more obvious. That’s not to say it isn’t there at the top level, but I think it is more obviously a part of our game. We have a great place to come and watch football – we get more supporters than most, which perhaps proves the point – but I’d urge anyone in two minds to give it a try. It is well worth it.”
There’s also a scent of Wembley in the air with several of our clubs in the first round proper of the FA Vase.
Two of the Norfolk contenders, Dereham Town and Swaffham Town, are at home against opponents from Northamptonshire – S&L Corby and Desborough Town respectively.
The Magpies will be boosted by their success in reaching the third qualifying round of the FA Cup – bowing out only in a replay to Met Police, from two levels higher in the non league pyramid, in midweek.
Yarmouth Town have had their moments in recent seasons, while a campaign earlier in the year was needed to help save the club from its parlous financial state.
So manager Mike Derbyshire believes Non-League Day can play a small part in the club’s future – and they are already guaranteed at least one extra fan for the visit of Saffron Walden Town in the shape of Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis.
“I think people realise that when they come and watch games at this level, they will generally see exciting football and certainly that is the case at Yarmouth,” added Derbyshire. “We try to play attractive football and some people say we should be more defensive, but we will never play like that. Of course we would like to see more fans at the Wellesley and if they do come they would be rewarded with a decent game and good facilities.”
Also in home Thurlow Nunn League action tomorrow are Fakenham, who face Cornard, and Norwich United, who start life properly under new manager Damian Hilton with a Premier Division visit from second place Mildenhall.
Gorleston will be out of the county at Burnham Ramblers in the FA Vase. But their manager, Stuart Larter, hopes the day proves a success.
“It would be good to get people to come and watch the teams which are pretty much on their doorstep,” he said. “Obviously it’s not the same standard as the Premier League, but I don’t think people would be disappointed.”