Why I’m proud to be a part of the lower league community.

by Edward Watson

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012
 

I’ll always remember the first game of football I ever went to: I was aged six; the location was Aggborough in Kidderminster as the Harriers took on Aston Villa in Graham Allner’s testimonial. It was a few years before I was ever introduced to top flight football at Villa Park or First Division football at Molineux.

From that day on I was hooked, I was bought my first Harriers shirt and my first Harriers scarf (which I still wear to every match to this day). Even having been introduced to top flight football my love for lower league football never left me and there are many reasons why. Here’s just one:

Like every football fan, I’ve had my highs and my lows following the football club that I love. We’ve won the league, suffered relegation and thrown away a two goal half time lead in a cup final. There’s been moments I will always remember and one’s I’d rather forget. I’ve seen us make history in more ways than one, devoted countless Saturday afternoons and Tuesday evenings and watched us up and down the country – from last minute winners to crushing defeats; I’ve seen it all over the last 15 years.

But there’s something you get supporting a lower league club that you don’t get higher up the divisions: and that’s a sense of community.

Now, I can hear you all saying, “What a load of rubbish, of course there’s community higher up, all our fans stick together. Take Liverpool, for example, singing ‘You’ll never walk alone’ before every home game.”

This isn’t what I’m saying: In the lower leagues – and in particular Non-League – everyone is part of the community, no matter who you support. There will always be rivalries and fans dislikes for each other but in general we are in it together.

Lower league fans know it’s not all about having money and winning all the time – because that never happens, otherwise we wouldn’t be in the lower leagues – it’s about supporting your team through thick and thin. And that’s why, when we see another team struggling we help them out because we know just what that football club means to its supporters.

Last season, something happened that stuck with me, and shows just how fantastic lower league fans and clubs are. My team, Kidderminster Harriers, were about an hour away from liquidation. The weekend before York City – now a local club for me – had a bucket, well a few buckets, go round their ground raising money to help us survive. They raised £750 – not a massive amount – but it all went towards the £155,000 we needed to keep going.

And I give you two other examples from this week alone: Wrexham – a club who last season were close to going under themselves – this week helped to raise around £1,400 for Kettering Town whilst Cambridge United have announced that their next charity collection will go towards the Darlington FC Supporters Trust.

It’s this level of support for one another that proves to me how fantastic the lower league community really is. You don’t see other clubs banding together to try and help the likes of Portsmouth or Plymouth. Okay, their levels of debt are far superior but the thought doesn’t seem to be there.

This is just one massive reason I love and always will love lower league football. I’ve supported teams higher up for various reasons (none of your usual Man United or Arsenal’s though) and moved on. I don’t get half the emotion from watching any of them as I do watching my fifth tier side. This is where the beautiful game is played – whilst the top divisions are tainted by finance – and we get on with it on minuscule budgets out of a pure love for the game.

For more from Ed Watson visit his sports blog at http://watsonscommentary.wordpress.com/ or follow him on twitter @edwatson91

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