Football - FA Premier League - Liverpool FC v Manchester United FC

HERE we are again then. Not Easter, eating fish, buying chocolate and pretending to be religious, but an international break. Can’t be arsed with them. I can’t get excited about international football when there’s absolutely nothing riding on it. I’m only mildly interested when there is. A friendly in Germany. Another at Wembley versus the Dutch. With Roy Hodgson making the decisions. Who’s arsed?

So that makes it a prolonged period of time during the football season without football being played by Liverpool FC. What we currently collectively call ‘The Reds’ are dotted around the planet, giving interviews that will no doubt be “lost in translation” later in time and potentially picking up knocks that could impact on fading hopes of a top-four spot. We’re already down to only one fit forward with the news Christian Benteke and Divock Origi pulled out of Belgium’s game.

But before attentions turn to how Liverpool will line up versus Spurs, there’s a four-day extended weekend slot to be filled. And a chance for me to climb on the soapbox about football away from Liverpool and the Premier League once again.

The top flight in England is now a world away from the rest of the sport. Bloated financially by staggering TV deals, nods to the rest of the football pyramid rarely seem to be quite what they should be. Richard Scudamore can speak with his faux sincerity about “Solidarity Payments” to the Football League and top lines of press releases will point to a doubling of commitment to grassroots football.

Yet the demise of the game away from the highest level seemingly continues apace; a fact underlined by the growing phenomena of ‘phoenix clubs’ — clubs reborn from the ashes of those that fall into financial oblivion.

The fact is that the lower down the leagues you get, the less help there is. Ploughing cash into academies is one thing, but what about the clubs — amateur, semi-pro and pro — that pick up the pieces? What about the junior clubs that hone the skills of kids not hoovered up by the big boys? And what about the less-heralded senior clubs right across the country that offer a chance to all the players spat out of the academy system at 18?

Earlier this season, I watched a game at Prescot Cables, a club that has been in existence since 1884. These days it is entirely supporter-run. No-one is driving big cars, or drawing big salaries. It’s done for the love; for the town. It exists to be a football club; not to be a business. It is treated as a community asset, at least by the community if not by football authorities or governments, central or local.

At Prescot, and hundreds of clubs like it, the values seem to be the right way around and the same can’t always be said higher up the football food chain.

Over Easter, it isn’t Non League Day. It isn’t Watch Football Somewhere Else Day. But it is a chance if you enjoy the experience of attending football matches to try something different.

There is a joy to be had watching a game initially blind to the talents on the two sides. And equally it’s a different vibe when you’re not emotionally tied in. You can relax. You can take it in. And if it’s not the greatest match of all time, unlike with the Premier League, you haven’t blown your budget for a week.

There’s a snobbery from many about watching lower league or non-league football and it’s understandable if you’ve feasted on the top-flight for a lifetime. The sportsmen are not of the elite level of the Premier League, but it is sport nevertheless; a contest, a battle — tactically, physically, mentally.

It’s also a cheaper and easier way to expose the next generation to the game before Minecraft, Disney Infinity and the rest win the war for attention. And your money is more likely to be making a difference. Non-league clubs in particular will be grateful of your dough.

I’ll step off the soap box now. But if you fancy the experience of live football away from the television, here are a few options over Easter.

GOOD FRIDAY: MARCH 25

Tranmere Rovers FC

Where is it?
Prenton Park, Prenton Road West, Birkenhead, CH42 9PY

Who are they playing?
Lincoln City (kick off 3pm).

What league are they in?
The National League. Or ‘The Conference’ as everyone still calls it. The league below League Two.

How are they doing?
They’re sixth, so handily placed to challenge for the play-offs. Rovers are two points off fifth, although they’ve played more games than the three teams above them – Braintree, Dover and Grimsby. In their last game, Tranmere drew 1-1 at home with title challengers Forest Green. Gary Brabin’s side have lost only once in their last 10 games and Lincoln have beaten them twice this season so revenge and all that.

What are the crowds like?
Home crowds this season have ranged between 4,000 and 7,000-plus, with most gates around the 4,500-5,000 mark.

How much are the tickets?
Under-12s from £2, under-17s from £5, young persons and seniors from £10 and adults from £17.

You can buy tickets online at: www.trfctickets.co.uk, phone 0333 014 4452 or pay on the gate.

Soccer - npower Football League Two - Accrington Stanley v Macclesfield Town - The Crown Ground

Accrington Stanley

Where is it?
Crown Ground, Livingstone Road, Accrington, Lancashire BB5 5BX

Who are they playing?
Leyton Orient (kick off 3pm).

What league are they in?
League Two.

How are they doing?
They’re doing well. John Coleman’s side are fifth in the league, comfortably in the play-off spots, with nine games to go. Stanley are just a point behind Bristol Rovers who occupy the third automatic promotion spot in the division.

Accrington Stanley: This Is Who They Are

What are the crowds like?
Home crowds this season have ranged between 1,200-2,300.

How much are the tickets?
Adults £15, over 65s £10, Under 16s £10, accompanied under 12s free.

SATURDAY: MARCH 26

Chester FC

Where is it?
Lookers Vauxhall Stadium Bumpers Lane Chester, CH1 4LT

Who are they playing?
Barrow (kick off 3pm).

What league are they in?
The National League, same as Tranmere.

How are they doing?
They’re in 16th place with 43 points from 38 games — six points clear of the four relegation spots. Last time out they lost 3-0 away at Wrexham, which you should know won’t have gone down well. In their last game at home, Chester won 8-2 versus Aldershot.

What are the crowds like?
On average around 2,200, although the gate was as high as 3,700 for the visit of Wrexham.

How much are the tickets?
Adults from £15, concessions (senior citizens/students with NUS Card/unemployed with proof of unemployment/armed forces) from £10. Under 21s £10, 16/17 year olds £5, 5-15 year olds £3, under-fives free.

SOUTHPORT, ENGLAND - Wednesday, August 19, 2015: A general view of Southport FC's Haig Avenue stadium during the Under 21 FA Premier League match between Everton and Liverpool. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Southport FC

Where is it?
Merseyrail Community Stadium, Haig Avenue, Southport, Merseyside PR8 6JZ

Who are they playing?
Guiseley (kick off 3pm).

What league are they in?
The National League, same as Tranmere and Chester.

How are they doing?
They’re in 17h place with 43 points from 38 games, the same as Chester — six points clear of the four relegation spots. Striker Andy Bishop is currently caretaker player-manager after the departure of manager Dino Maamria earlier this month for “family and travel reasons”. Goals have been a problem for the Sandgrounders with only 38 scored in 39 league games.

What are the crowds like?
The home average gate this season — I’m reliably informed by SouthportStats.co.uk — is 1,149.

Southport: We Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside

How much are the tickets?
Main Stand £15 (concessions £11). Terracing £13.50 (concessions £10). 12-18 year olds £5, under-11s accompanied by a paying adult free.

Marine FC

Where is it?
The Marine Travel Arena, College Road, Liverpool L23 3AS

Who are they playing?
Grantham Town (kick off 3pm).

What league are they in?
Evo Stik Northern Premier — level 7, six divisions below the Premier League.

Read: Giving Up A Lifetime Of Love For Liverpool

How are they doing?
Not great by the looks of things. The Mariners have only won once in their last five in the league and are currently 19th in the 24-team division, just three points above the relegation zone, albeit with a couple of games in hand.

What are the crowds like?
On average around 350.

How much are the tickets?
Adults £10, concessions £5, children under 11 free with a paying adult. Everton, Liverpool, Tranmere and AFC Liverpool season ticket holders £5.

Burscough FC

Where is it?
Victoria Park, Bobby Langton Way, Burscough, Lancashire, L40 0SD

Who are they playing?
Northwich Victoria (kick off 3pm).

What league are they in?
Evo Stik First Division North — the one below Marine.

How are they doing?
Pretty good. The Linnets are sixth, two points off the play-off places.

What are the crowds like?
They’re averaging 147 this season.

How much are the tickets?
Adults: £8, students/concessions: £4, under-16s: free.

EASTER MONDAY: MARCH 28

IMAG0911

Prescot Cables FC

Where is it?
Valerie Park, Eaton Street, Prescot, Merseyside, L34 6HD

Who are they playing?
Burscough (kick off 3pm).

What league are they in?
Evo Stik First Division North.

Read: The Club That Can’t Afford To Pay Its Players

How are they doing?
OK. They’re 15th, way off both promotion and relegation.

What are the crowds like?
They’re averaging 233 this season.

https://twitter.com/CablesSponsors/status/713100693628960768

How much are the tickets?
See above.

Warrington Town FC

Where is it?
Cantilever Park, Common Lane, Warrington, Cheshire WA4 2RS

Who are they playing?
Witton Albion (kick off 3pm).

What league are they in?
Evo Stik First Division North.

How are they doing?
They’re flying — 13 points clear at the top of the league with 101 goals scored already this season.

What are the crowds like?
They’re averaging 364 this season, according to the Evo Stik League website.

How much are the tickets?
Adults: £8, concessions £5, under 16s £2 or free when accompanied by paying adult.

Skelmersdale United FC

Where is it?
Selby Place, Stanley Industrial Estate, Skelmersdale, Lancashire WN8 8EF

Who are they playing?
Nantwich Town (kick off 3pm).

What league are they in?
Evo Stik Northern Premier.

How are they doing?
They’re 16th – 10 points above the relegation spots.

What are the crowds like?
They’re averaging 229 per game this season, according to the Evo Stik League website.

How much are the tickets?
Adults: £9, Concessions: £5, under 16s: £1

AFC Liverpool

Where is it?
They play their home games at Marine – The Marine Travel Arena, College Road, Liverpool L23 3AS.

Who are they playing?
Bootle (kick off 3pm).

What league are they in?
North West Counties Premier — level nine of the pyramid.

How are they doing?
They’re 15th in the league. Bootle are sixth.

What are the crowds like?
100-200.

How much are the tickets?
Adults: £5, seniors: £3: under-18s £2.

WIGAN, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 22, 2009: Empty seats as Manchester United fail to entice a crowd during the Premiership match against Wigan Athletic at the DW Stadium. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Wigan Athletic FC

Where is it?

DW Stadium, Loire Dr, Wigan WN5 0UZ

Who are they playing?
Rochdale (kick off 1.30pm).

What league are they in?
The 2013 FA Cup winners are in League One.

How are they doing?
They’re second in the league, six points behind the leaders Burton Albion.

What are the crowds like?
8,682 is the average gate for this season so far.

How much are the tickets?
Adults from £20, juniors from £5.

Sorry, missed this one…

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