Matt’s Monologue: National League football

I took a bit of stick on Twitter recently for suggesting that watching Guiseley v Tranmere earlier this month was “proper football.”

I understand what people mean. Playing at Nethermoor Park is not exactly the kind of place supporters think Rovers should be playing (unless, of course, it is a pre-season friendly!).

Indeed, the magical mystery tour of 2015/16 has seen the club visit teams some of us have not heard of and grounds we never dreamed of going to.

But my point stands. The trip to Guiseley, for me, was a hugely enjoyable experience – assuming you take away to hour stuck in traffic around Leeds! It was “proper football.”

There was simply something enchanting about the ground. It may have lacked stands or seats or executive boxes, but it made up for that in character and history.

The same can be said for Boreham Wood or Bromley or Barrow. They are proper old fashioned football grounds, made up of creaking terraces, open air toilets and wooden seats.

It does not sound glamourous. It is not glamourous. In fact, when you are there you probably lament the place.

But there you are, standing as close as you possibly could to a football match, hearing the manager bark instructions and the captain marshalling his troops. I think there is something to be said for that.

And it is not just like this in the National League. The same stands for going to Accrington, or Crawley, or Dagenham.

Now look at how the game is right at the top level. It is so far removed from the stuff we watch and love.

Fans sit miles away from the pitch (usually in an armchair), they watch international superstars play for astronomical wages and are charged a fortune to do so (often by SKY).

Of course (and the sense of irony here is not lost on me), getting up there is where every club, including Tranmere, strives to be. They want to be battling for trophies and competing across the continent.

But does it have the same romantic feel to it? I personally think not.

Lower league teams are the lifeblood of the game. So many players at the top came from down there to start with, and they know what it means to represent the club and the badge.

They pose for photos and gratefully sign autographs on their way in for a match. They are happy to be up close and personal with the fans.

Some of them are even on first name terms with the supporters (as highlighted by Ian Muir at the recent Leyland DAF celebration event). That, for me, speaks volumes for where the club is and who they are.

Football might be about success, but it is also those little things which make the game so special.

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