I’LL be honest, we missed the kick off. I was still in the pub with Big Ian (he’s about seven foot). Thought we had time for one more in the Deanes House and it was 3.05 by the time we clicked through the turnstile at Valerie Park. It’s nice that it doesn’t matter though. That I’m not all in. Just watching a game of footie and not too stressed at missing the start. Just making the effort because it’s Non-League Day.
As I handed my seven quid admission over, the fella raised his eyebrows and smiled, “They’re 1-0 up you know. Makes a change.”
He wasn’t messing.
Prescot Cables kicked off the season with a 3-1 defeat away to Clitheroe. Then they lost 6-0 at home to Witton Albion. Then 4-0 at home to Glossop North End. Then they travelled to Trafford.
And lost 8-0.
Unsurprisingly, they’ve changed the manager since then. And results have improved. But Cables have lost their last two matches 5-3 and 4-0. And the back story to how they are currently operating is quite mad, at least to my ears as someone who follows a Premier League club. So the raised eyebrows at the early lead over Ossett Albion? Understandable really.
I bump into Chris Hayden in the pub. He used to go home and away watching the Reds. Chris hated Brendan Rodgers. Hated him from the start. Thought he was full of shit. He’s glad he’s gone and he thinks Jurgen will do well.
He also thinks Premier League football is too expensive. And he’s right – it is. So, a while back, like Richard Felton with Marine, he decided to go all in on the non-league. Watching Prescot is a regular thing now for Chris and his mates. Having a laugh, having a pint (while watching the game), there’s a lot to be said for it. He’s even doing some aways. And I can honestly see why.
But the back story. Prescot Cables — competing in the Evo Stik Northern League Division One (snappy), four steps away from league football — are skint. Despite being in existence since 1884, Cables is the only club in its league that can’t afford to pay its players.
I wanted to pick up a programme but they’d sold out. Which seems good until you find out they only printed 80. Kids are let in for free. One volunteer says, “but they’ll come with their dad. And he’ll pay in. Then he’ll buy them food and drinks – it more than works out.”
The officials are glad of an attendance of 238 today (plus at least three dogs and a fella with a drum and a trumpet) the club’s second best gate of the season so far. But I’ve got to know more about the players playing for nothing at this level. I’ve known lads playing much further down the pyramid who were paid per game.
“They get some expenses,” says a volunteer. And as we chat the lads, mostly local, mostly young, are filing out after the match and grabbing a pint and a pie in the clubhouse. It’s fair to say they’re doing all this for the love. And that alone makes for a nice atmosphere around the place.
The game itself is a mixed bag. There’s a glaring Prescot miss in the first half that would get Ronnie Rosenthal off the hook for that one against Villa. The Cables keeper has a blinder, great on one on ones, good kicking, good saves. He had me thinking about Simon Mignolet and not in a good way. A couple of eye-watering tackles are thrown in and one seemed sure to end with a red card. Only a yellow was produced.
There’s a Russian linesman moment for Ossett, with a shot from distance crashing against the bar and landing over the line only for it not to be given by officials who were 20 yards or so away from it. The Albion manager bizarrely bollocked the referee for the decision claiming you could tell it was a goal “by the shape of the ball”. Needs a re-think that one. Chris and his mates rip the piss out of him. Relentlessly.
Prescot led 2-0 at half-time and second half they step it up, eventually winning 4-0 (with goals greeted by a party popper being set off by one of Chris’s mates) and climbing to 15th in the 22-team league. After the match celebrations seemed slightly tempered by the club’s plight. Robert Doran’s hat-trick put smiles on faces but the fact he — and the rest of the team — are only on seven days’ notice must be a continual nag for everyone involved at the club.
With that in mind, supporters are being asked to ‘pay a pint’ – a scheme asking fans to pay £2.50 a week to give the club, which doesn’t have a major sponsor, a chance of holding on to its best players, such as Doran, by offering them a contract. Chris is in. And he’s even tried signing people up without their knowledge.
I hope Doran stays and I hope Prescot survive. And I’ll go to watch them again. I might even take the dog. It’s a different world from the Premier League — almost a different sport. But it can be anything from a backdrop to a pint, a pie and a natter with mates to something you passionately follow as you would Liverpool. At £7 a game you can afford to take your time on making your mind up. Up the Cables.
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Great to have you at the game today!
Hope to see you again soon … And your Dog ;) #COYC #YNWA
Ha ha, thanks mate, and well in on the win today! GR.
Nice piece. One observation-from your description it sounds as if they would be able to pay the players. Sounds like money is being spent. Are the owners being held accountable?
Wouldn’t it be better if none of the players got paid at that level though? Cables would never be able to pay them a fat lot. If another local side has an owner with a few bob, surely he can just gut Cables by offering their best players a hundred quid a week more than they are already getting.
If money has ruined Premier League football, why can’t it do the same thing to the lower leagues? I’d rather it was just local lads playing because they loved it.
What a pity some of the Prem Players making Six Figures per week can’t throw some of their “hard earned” cash downrange and keep the sport alive.
All too altruistic i know… but instead of buying another Ferrari, they could keep Cables running for a decade.
I think they could even just choose a non-league club to be associated with, money doesn’t even need to be given. If one of our star players who wasn’t on international duty attended the game and it was known in advance then more fans would go just to get an autograph etc. My local non-league team would see increased attendance when some of the larger teams come for pre-season but we knew the players on the pitch were largely going to be u21s, we just knew that a few first teamers who had injuries were popping down to support and that’s a big part why people went.
Went to my old stomping ground in East Dulwich the other week for their non league day as they were away yesterday. Quite a surreal experience considering I used to watch them circa 2001-2007 when I was using the gym upstairs in the main stand when they’d get about 100 people, compared to the 2000 through the gate on a “pay what you can” day.
Not sure how or why the “Hipsters” have adopted the club and not sure how long the gates will last as fashion is generally fickle. But they have also managed to tap into the local community more, loads of families in there, kids playing footie round the edge of the pitch, sort of reminded me of the “lad & dad” match day out. Think there’s a lot to be said for the level where you can have a pint and I think that’s what Hamlets have tapped into quite well. Think there are people there who would of been out for a lunchtime drink anyway but decided to go the match and buy it there instead of the pub, ale’s cheaper, you’ve put some money into local sport and had an afternoon out.
Not arsed about the level as you just adjust your mentality. It’s quite nice to watch a young lad do something really well.
As a non league day movement I’m sure there are days in the year when it could be pushed more other than just the one day it is now. Say Bank Holidays, Easter, Xmas. Days throughout the year rather than just one day which may or may not have the desired effect of generating more fans / income.
I may go and check out my local side here.
Can’t get away from him!!!
Bizarrely the two non league teams I have supported whilst moving around the UK are Cables and Hamlet.
Money is being spent at Prescot. It goes on rent, coaches all over northern England, insurance, maintenance, floodlighting, match officials fees etc. The club is effectively fan owned, as a community interest club. There is no owner taking money out.
Hamlet is a mixture of luck and hard work. They are near Millwall and in an area where house prices have soared. Many locals can’t buy and lots of newcomers move in. Most support league teams and have no desire to watch Millwall. Dulwich appointed a talented young manager who puts attractive teams on the pitch. They have also devote a huge amount of time to pushing the club in the local community, themed days offering free admission to certain groups, pay what you like days, charity link ups, attending community events. Some work well, some don’t but combined they have put the club to the forefront of the local community.
In turn this has driven a buzz about the club with all sorts of media coverage which drives more people to turn up and see what is going on.
It’s now got to the point where crowds are big enough the once desolate concrete stadium has become a warm, vibrant and welcoming place and many of those who keep coming back.
Numerous non league clubs have sent representatives to Hamlet to try and work out how they did it. Will be interesting to see what lessons they take away.
For the main I thought Hamlets looked to play it on the deck and through midfield as much as they could, then get it up front to the big lad. I thought they knocked it around pretty well although they were only playing the bottom of the league.
I guess they are afforded only be 3 stops from London bridge and right next to the train station. But certainly during the first round of gentrification through the late 90’s mid 2000’s crowds were pretty low, so they must of made a decent push to connect with the local community.
Also as you say the “Hipster” thing which I guess is linked to whats going on in Peckham and the influx of them into the area has had a knock on effect. Hamlets and East Dulwich is pretty non aggressive compared to them taking up watching Millwall which I’m not sure they’d be that welcome down there so Hamlets, having a beer doing the “hipster” football thing might of just be in the right place at the right time. I’d be interested to see how long it lasts.
Not sure what’s happening to the redevelopment of the their ground as the owners sitting on real estate gold dust.
I think PL teams investing in non-league infrastructure such as 4G pitches would be a decent thing to do. 4G would allow the pitch to be used multiple times a week & potential ground sharing for non league sides for both Sat & Sun football. Given the money in the game now it’s be a crime not see some of it invested into local schemes.
I went down to Cables yesterday, first time ever but thought I’d support non league day. I was shocked how much I enjoyed it, pint watching the game, the dug out being about four foot away, counting and cheering the keeper doing keepy-ups, it was all boss. Just gutted I’d gone in the car and could only have one(ish). Deffo be back. Good on you Gareth for promoting it through your Twitter and the site.