By Matt Badcock
The NLP’s Christmas gifts are now part of the festive tradition, here Matt Badcock dishes out some needed presents to various Non-League clubs.
There’s a long list of pressies to dish out to the great and good of Non-League football, so here’s a sneak peek under the tree to see what will be unwrapped tomorrow.
The first one is a biggie as York City tear the paper off a DeLorean time machine. It was a strange year for Minstermen fans as the fallout from Football League relegation rolled on and on until a second drop on the spin. They did taste Wembley glory in the FA Trophy final. It was supposed to be the beginning of a new era but, while certainly not out of the National League North promotion race, there’s been another change in management and some rebuilding.
How fans would love to be whisked back to 2012 when they were back in the League and pushing for League One. So attach the flux capacitor, put the pedal to the floor to reach 88mph and go back to what they thought was the future.
If they could also pick up the Football League – sorry, EFL – from wherever they are still living and send them back to 2017, that would be much appreciated too.
Their lack of willing when it comes to talking about 3G pitches needs to be addressed. Under their current rules, a club won’t be allowed to play on an artificial surface. Well, unfortunately for them, the issue isn’t going away with Sutton United, Maidstone and Bromley all pushing for a play-off place in the National League.
Should they win promotion they will be faced with ripping up their plastic pitches to put natural turf down or be relegated to Step 2. Love them or loathe them, the benefits of 3G are there to see and it’s about time some leadership was shown by the authorities.
Leyton Orient fans probably feel like they could do with time travel too. As recently as 2014 they were in the League Two play-off final dreaming of promotion. Fast-forward three years and they’re struggling in the National League.
Now with a manager who knows what it takes to get up, Justin Edinburgh’s side will look to get motoring again in the New Year. But the drop into Non-League can drag a club and its supporters down if they don’t quickly accept the situation. Danny Cowley spoke about relegation still hanging over Lincoln City when he took over. It was time to hit the reset button and embrace the nightmare.
Look what happened there. So for Orient fans it’s a copy of NLP columnist Nige Tassell’s excellent Bottom Corner book that will help them fall in love with life outside of the top 92. Seeing as it’s Christmas, we’ll give a copy to Hartlepool United fans too.
Coming up from the other way looks to be Salford City and AN Other. Now Harrogate Town have got goalscoring sensation Simon Ainge back they will feel even better about their chances.
Better known as a centre-half, the former England C man was thrown up front when boss Simon Weaver had an injury crisis. They haven’t looked back with Ainge boasting a remarkable 33 goals in the calendar year.
It’s an even better ratio when you consider he’s just spent the best part of four months out with a leg injury.
So Aingey gets a new mantelpiece to display all the golden boot awards and match balls he’s been collecting. Because he’s also managed four hat-tricks and a four-goal haul in that time too.
Maidenhead United’s Sam Barratt has been showing his talent on and off the pitch this season. His performances for the Magpies won him an England C call-up as his career keeps following an upward curve. But away from football he’s an artist so there’s some new pens and canvases heading to the young left-sided midfielder.
Billericay Town have made big noises in Non-League football through owner Glenn Tamplin’s investment. He gets an old Nokia 3310 phone so he can stay off twitter and out of trouble with the FA for responding to his ‘haters’.
Dagenham & Redbridge defender Ben Nunn needs some more hours in the day for Christmas. The right-back is juggling full-time football with his property management company and a shaving products business. Determined to be retired by the time he’s 30, the 27-year-old doesn’t watch TV.
There’s plenty of room left in The NLP stocking for new Sat-Navs – after all, there will be plenty of clubs at Steps 3 and 4 travelling to new places this coming year when the new divisions at Step 3 and 4 are introduced ahead of the 2018-19 campaign.
The budget isn’t bottomless at NLP towers, however, so now we’re down to the token gifts. Southport are on their 11th manager since 2013 with former Bolton Wanderers striker Kevin Davies coming on board in October. They get a voucher for Next!
And we can arrange some online subscriptions to the paper for Football League chairmen. Maybe then they will start taking notice of the managerial talent in Non-League football and stop appointing the same old tired faces.
By Matt Badcock