Most of us support teams that are in the top tier of the some of the top footballing nations. It is but natural, they are the ones who hog the limelight, win the big trophies and sign the biggest superstars. All signs lead to the top teams.
But how many of us have heard of non-league much less know the teams that take part in it? For those of you who aren’t familiar: Non-League football describes football leagues played outside the top leagues of a country. Usually, it describes leagues which are not fully professional. The term is primarily used for football in England, where it describes football played at a level below that of the Premier League and the three divisions of the English Football League.
The clubs that constitute the non-league provide a real alternative to the higher echelons of the game. So just what is the appeal of non-league football?
5) Fairy tales
Non-league football does produce its fair share of fairy tales. There have been many, from Fleetwood Town rising out of non-league obscurity to now reside in League 1 to Lincoln City who was languishing in the fifth division who would participate in the League 1(3rd tier in England) next season.
However, none eclipses that of AFC Wimbledon, a team formed in 2002 by fans of the old Wimbledon FC, who were outraged that their club had been moved 56 miles away to Milton Keynes and renamed MK Dons. The club defied all the odds after starting life in the Combined Counties Premier Division (English football's ninth tier) by gaining promotion in five of the next nine seasons to reach professional football again in 2011.
They are produced countless upsets in the FA Cup and the League Cup. Some memorable ones are Conference Premier Lincoln defeating Burnley at Turf Moor to reach the quarter-finals of the FA Cup in the 2016-17 season and Conference Premier side Luton Town's away victory over Premier League's Norwich City in the 2012–13 Fourth Round Proper. Yeovil Town holds the record for the most victories over league opposition as a non-league team, having recorded 20 wins through the years before it achieved promotion into The Football League. The record for a club which has never entered The Football League is held by Altrincham, with 17 wins against league teams.
4) Large Talent Pool
People may have a laugh and say that the non-league does not house any talent, but that is mere short-sightedness’ this footballing world where ludicrous amounts are thrown around like confetti for players. On-league is a treasure trove waiting to be excavated.
Some of the players to rise out of non-league to reach the Premier League include Jamie Vardy, Chris Smalling, Charlie Austin, Troy Deeney, Dwight Gayle There is so much talent in non-league football, but people just don't see it. It is a travesty but nowadays scouts do come to watch these games in the hopes of finding a gem, but still not enough respect is being paid to the Non-League.
Who knows, the next Ronaldo or Messi could be waiting to be excavated from the Non-League.
3) The Money
Let’s be honest. All the top clubs have fan followings in the millions and have huge stadia and the average price of a ticket is close to 60 pounds for a premier league game. Add to that the food and drinks and the merchandise you procure, and this proves to be a costly affair. It has become a big business where the big clubs just fleece the fans and as such the average Joe is outpriced.
The Alternative, go to your nearest Non-League Stadium and support the team. The ticket prices are dirt cheap and you can be a part of the action. One can easily get access to the players and have a chat with them towards the end of the game. The owners are also quite friendly and for once, your opinion matters which is largely unheard of in the modern game
Granted, the quality of the gameplay and the players are far far lower, but the benefits overweigh the disadvantages.
Clearly, the stadiums in non-league football certainly don't have the facilities, size or glamour to match those that you'd find in the Premier League, but it has one crucial advantage in that it has its own charm and passion.
One feels special singing their heart out throughout the games in such stadia and to the players who care and are not playing to just earn truckloads of money.
When you're attending a football match; you remember the entire day, not just the game being played on the field, and non-league clubs have more memorable individual details than most professional ones.
1) Fierce Loyalty
In the modern day, where loyalty seems to be a dying quality, it is of great comfort that there are still those people out there who seek to support their local sides rather than simply selecting a random big-name team to support, with no emotional attachment to them, simply because they think they'll win trophies.
In an era where some supporters of the big clubs do not have a strong sense of loyalty towards their team and players. One feels a part of the process of watching a local team and gets a strong sense of pride about their place and this feeling cannot be underestimated in a time where people are attempting to take the heart from football and treat it solely as a business.