Last weekend saw the curtain come down on another thrilling season in the Blue Square Premier. And after visiting 9 grounds, watching 9 games and talking to various different people, my travels around the Blue Square came to an end.
What a ride it has been. I have come from not knowing about the Blue Square Premier, to an avid fan. I have seen some fantastic games being played, most notably Luton’s 6-1 demolition of Ebbsfleet United. I have also met the most passionate fans like Dave and Ann, who follow Histon home and away and follow their team no matter what. It just shows you, you don’t have to support a big team to absolutely love watching the beautiful game.
My Journey began at Priory Lane, the home of Eastbourne Borough. Here I met some fantastic people, working as volunteers, helping to prepare the ground for match day. I even saw at one point, the chairman Len Smith, drill in hand, helping with the last minute repairs. I have no higher praise than for these volunteers, who give up their time in order to help run the football club. I would like to thank Colin Hutchinson and Lee Peskett for showing me around such a fantastic club and I am glad they can look forward to another season in the top division.
My next stop was Histon and the Glassworld stadium. Histon are only a village side and their rise up from the bottom leagues to the Blue Square Premier has been remarkable. Although I witnessed probably the dullest game of all my travels, I was able to speak to Histon captain, Matthew Langston, who has probably scored the most special goal in Histon’s history as they beat Leeds United in the FA Cup. This was also a great experience and I have to mention Graham Eales, who works tirelessly and is well respected around the club for giving the chance to show my around the club.
Crawley was my next destination as they played host to Cambridge United. Although Crawley boss Steve Evans has put together a strong team and were unlucky not to be challenging for promotion, I felt that the crowd did not do enough to get behind the team. I was standing in the away end and the Cambridge fans were making more noise and their team were losing!
The next stage of my journey, took me to Chester. I was meant to go and watch the derby game between Chester City and Wrexham, but as a result of the police not being paid, the game was postponed. Consequently, this event along with the Chester City players refusing to get on the team coach on their way to play Forest Green Rovers, saw them expelled from the Blue Square Premier. To see yet another team erased from the game is sad and this has to be echoed by all football fans. But I honestly do hope Chester can rise again and make their way back to the top pyramid of non-league football and maybe even further.
Luton Town provided me with the best atmosphere I have experienced at a Blue Square Premier game. Luton actually lost the game 2-1 against AFC Wimbledon, but the 7,000 plus crowd made the game entertaining. I was definitely impressed with such a huge crowd which would probably beat most attendances in the two bottom tiers of league football and even though they were tipped to win the Blue Square Premier this season, they finished 2nd, and I am strongly tipping them for an instant return to the league as they compete in the play-offs.
Onto Stonebridge Road, the home of Ebbsfleet United, where unfortunately for the home side, I saw them on the receiving end of two heavy defeats. The first one being a 4-1 defeat by Barrow, meanwhile the second game a 6-1 defeat by Luton Town, was the best game I have witnessed not only in the Blue Square Premier, but throughout my time following football. Luton were 1-0 down at half time and not playing very well. The funny thing was at half time, the Luton Town fans were all disappointed but I heard one of them say ‘wouldn’t it be funny if we battered them second half.’ The team must of heard him as they not only scored 6 goals, they completely outclassed the opposition.
I then made the trip to AFC Wimbledon and even had the privilege of taking my girlfriend for her first experience of non- league football. She absolutely loved it and I think I have passed the bug onto her. Although I don’t think she was impressed with the language of the home fans, but that’s all part of football.
The Blue Square South was my next destination and a trip to champions Newport County. This was to be my first experience of watching Newport and after they played Maidenhead United off the park with some neat football, they thoroughly deserve to be in the Blue Square Premier next season and I wish them the best of luck.
My last trip of the season was a Thursday night trip to Hayes & Yeading, which in truth left much to be desired. I did however for the first time, witness a female referee, officiating a game. However after dreadful performance, it will be a long time until female officials start refereeing league games.
The Blue Square Premier has taught me that football is not only about money and winning, it’s about enjoying the game. I have seen the passion and commitment shown by not only the players, but by the fans and everyone involved with every club and it has really impressed me. The standard of football is not as good as some I have seen in the league, but you can’t beat the atmosphere at some of the grounds and being amongst proper football fans.