I joined Altrincham Football Clubs media team in 2017 and have been an integral member ever since From my own experiences I couldn’t recommend a better starting block for aspiring journalists than Non-League.
Now you may think that Non-League footballers are just overweight workmen that just turn up on a Saturday to kick a bit of ball around, but it is almost the opposite in terms of commitment and fitness.
In fact, the two training sessions a week seem measly compared to that of the professionals but it does require a certain level of commitment to train and play upwards of 50 games in a season (dependent on how far you get in various cup competitions.)
Altrincham are a massive club in the Non-League game having a proud record of the most ‘Giant Killings’ in the FA Cup for a team that has never seen the dizzy heights of the Football League.
Playing football that is very unlike the traditional Non-League ‘punt the ball up to the tall striker so the small striker can score’ style, Altrincham play along the floor, using the pitch’s greasy surface to their advantage. An approach that saw them reach the play-offs in the 6th tier of English football last season.
Non-League can be more engaging for fans, with the stands rarely more than a couple of metres from the goal line; a nightmare for shot-stoppers as there is little you can do to avoid the tirade of abuse, something Premier League ‘keepers will rarely have to deal with.
The connection between the players and fans is too a commodity of lower league football, with some fans often choosing to travel with the players on the coach to away games. Perhaps keeping the players grounded and close to their roots.
Players and staff take time to thank people for their support in post-match interviews, showing their gratitude to them after the final whistle and sitting in the Community Sports Hall with them after the game.
Gripping games last season including Altrincham vs Blyth Spartans in the play-off quarter finals that saw the Robins (Altrincham) victorious on penalties. Games like this can show that Non-League can be even more gripping than derby games in the Premier League, tension is part of football no matter what league you are in.
If you are a fan of a Non-League football team you keep the players families fed, the club from going into administration and adding to the managers transfer budget just by the mere fee you pay to watch the game.
Clubs like Altrincham have ‘Patron Schemes’ which mean you give a small fee every month which goes towards running the club and adding to Phil Parkinson’s (manager of Altrincham) budget to bring in the players he identifies as transfer targets, something he’s been fortunate to achieve since joining Alty, with major scalps including Nathan Arnold being in Parkinsons repertoire of signings.
In my opinion a team in the 6th tier of English football is more fulfilling to be a part of than those in the Premier League, you matter more to the club because they rely on your business.
A club like Manchester City won’t miss out if you don’t turn up to a game, but it is more noticeable in Non-League grounds, with small attendances the norm, as they strive to get people interested in the game and supporting the local team.
Non-League football is on the way up, more and more people are going to games each season, with a New Years Day fixture between Altrincham and Stockport County having an attendance of 3383.
Go and support your local club!