Printed in the Southern League Central Division game v Marlow Tuesday 14th September 2010. We lost 3-1 in front of 229 people.
‘Changing Ends’ is one of those books where you nod your head in agreement as you read the content and pretty much know the conclusion, but are glad you read it anyway to reaffirm your convictions. Mike Bayly was a lapsed Kidderminster supporter, bored of watching football on the TV, who while re-reading David Conn’s excellent book ‘The Beautiful Game’ chapter on Glossop North End makes him wonder if lower down the leagues there is still ‘a beautiful game’. He then spends the whole of last season travelling around the country from Colwyn Bay to Poole Town from South Shields to Stansfeld Oxford and Bermondsey Club to find out, meeting the people along the way that keep the clubs alive.
He encounters various ways of running clubs like Enfield Town, the first supporter owned one in the country, to ones born out of protest like FC United of Manchester, to Truro City who rely on one mans cash to power them through the pyramid. He talks to disgruntled supporters who’d had enough or just can’t afford Premiership football anymore. He travels to London APSA – the leading Asian non league side and speaks to the chairman about how to get Asian players to break through in greater numbers. He goes to Dudley Town, who are struggling to reclaim their former glories after their ground literally fell into a hole. Their vice-chair talks about how hard it is to attract crowds, how you must stay professional and how essential it is to have a group of volunteers to keep your club going. “I’m not sure why a family want to spend £100 rather than £10 at the football, when they could get a similar experience coming here…An extra 10 or 15 paying members of the public each week could make a massive difference. We even send out free tickets to schools and still can’t get interest, so we rely heavily on people who want to help out with their local side. We have a strong team here who help out with press reports, website development, washing the kit, and other things which may seem minor but are hugely significant in our day to day running. You cannot put a value on the services these people do. ”
As one Colwyn Bay supporter tells the author “There is a massive culture of watching football in the pub now, as if the terraces are recreated in the pub – it’s almost like ‘retail park’ football where you get everything under one roof. At some point you need to make a conscious decision whether you want to be part of that world or not.”
Mike writes “Blind optimism is the preserve of most football fans. Aside from a handful of clubs the season will be littered with let-down, bitterness and mediocrity, punctuated with the occasional semblance of glory.” But as he discovers and as most of already know, supporting clubs lower down the footballing pond, is much more than just about watching the football. A Halewsowen Town supporter, a team perpetually overshawoded by near neighbours West Brom, hits the non league nail on the head “A day out at the Hawthorns would cost you £50. At Halesowen you can get entrance to the ground, a few pints, a pie and a programme for under £20. Plus you can go on your own and are guaranteed to see people there you know. It’s more like a social club for the community and its fans.”
* Changing Ends by Mike Bayly is available online at www.blacklinepress.com or by sending a £15 cheque payble to Blackline Press, 15 Lister Road, Ipswich, IP1 5EQ