NLP Column Written by David Richardson
A couple of weeks ago I saw a video that reminded me of why Non-League football increasingly appeals to so many people.
The first half of the footage sees Liverpool’s squad, and manager Jurgen Klopp, boarding their team coach in 2017 doing their best to ignore supporters standing only yards away with their arms outstretched clutching replica shirts for the players to sign.
Now, before this becomes an attack on Liverpool, it is worth nothing that this is largely the same squad and manager who travelled to relegated Chester in pre-season, and respected their opponents by fielding an XI in each in half that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a Premier League fixture.
The match attracted a crowd of over 4000, securing vital funds for the National League side. Klopp has done the same in recent seasons with visits to Tranmere.
The video also conveniently cuts short before Daniel Sturridge and James Milner stop for fans – most of the 1.1 million people who saw this video won’t have known these facts, although that is no excuse for the other Reds player and their manager.
In the second half of the video, there is a striking contrast.
At Preston station, on the way back from their opening day defeat at AFC Fylde, Bromley players secured the National League club a supporter for life.
James, who looks no older than five or six, decked out in Bromley shirt, is stood on the pavement being introduced to every Ravens player with a handshake by captain Jack Holland as they step off the team coach.
James’ face as each of his heroes greets him is a picture. The video lasts for just 28 seconds but that is all takes to create a lifelong memory.
It was a timely reminder as the season started of the inclusivity of Non-League football – the reason myself and many others watch this level.
It’s being able to chat to your team’s star striker before, and even during, the warm-up or afterwards in the club bar. It’s being able to ask the manager over a pint why the two wingers swap sides. It’s doing ‘your bit’ for your club to help the cogs turning.
So well done to Bromley and Non-League for keeping things real. Football is just a game but let’s keep the experience fun, inclusive and enjoyable.