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HELLO ALBERT, HELLO SPION KOP!
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HELLO ALBERT • ISSUE 22  

Fantasy Football
Duff Signings No.7/Fanzine Football
The Slump of '96
For Whom The Trapdoor Beckons

FOR WHOM THE TRAPDOOR BECKONS.

It seems almost certain that, unlike the last three years, the team which finishes bottom of the league this year is destined to join the Vauxhall Conference. Stevenage Borough tried to overturn the recent trend by appealing that the League’s ruling that their home ground was not up to scratch by the end of December was a restraint of trade. The courts more or less said that they were right but that it was too late to reverse the decision and promote them to the Third Division because of the unfair effect this would have on Torquay. Certainly the prospect of the drop has inspired both Torquay and Scarborough to get their acts together this season.

I have felt some sympathy for the supporters of Stevenage and Kidderminster and Macclesfield in turn as they have been rejected from entering the League. But not much sympathy should be given to the clubs themselves who knew the rules before the season started and only chose to protest when there was any chance of them winning. Fans of other Conference sides moaned bitterly about Kidderminster who had chosen to spend money on building a team rather than rebuilding the Aggborough stadium until it was too late. It was ironic that our erstwhile hosts Macclesfield were refused League status when we had played there for two years but it was never going to be our permanent home (At least only in nightmares). I was intrigued to learn that they had proposed sharing the Deva Stadium while the Moss Rose was upgraded.

Macclesfield in fact did quite well out of sharing with Chester. A visit to the Moss Rose now shows that the Star Lane End, which was improved while we were there, is now covered and that there is a flimsily canvas clad construction to the south of the main stand which brings the seating capacity up to minimum League standard. The Bramble End also had some considerable work done on it during last season. Much of the initial improvement was due to the money earned from Chester’s two year stay.

There is in the Conference now a whole swathe of clubs who would automatically qualify for promotion if they won the championship. The three who failed most recently would qualify if they won this season, so would Woking – owners of an impressive new stand, Southport (The ground where Chester won promotion from the Fourth Division for the first time, without kicking a ball) and Rushden & Diamonds, newly promoted and backed by the Dr Martens (Will they ever go out of fashion?) Millionaire Max Griggs. There could be a case for saying that the Conference is becoming the unofficial Fourth Division of the League.

Yet it is questionable whether every team in the Conference has the backing or the will to sustain life in the Football League. “Some clubs are simply not interested in gaining entry to the professional ranks; they could not afford it, ground improvements being just a small percentage of the overall extra costs of running a league club, overheads which are unlikely to be covered in the short run by big enough increases in gates”. so runs an article in Non-League Monthly recently. The article also quotes a Conference Club chairman’s estimate that no more than seven clubs from the division have serious professional aspirations towards Football League status. Hardly worth having an automatic promotion arrangement.

I used to feel that if Chester ever dropped into non-league football it would be the end of the world but having experienced the charm of the Moss Rose compared to the comparatively sterile Deva I do feel sort of wistful for that type of ground. I made a nostalgic trip back last season to see Macclesfield trounce Kidderminster and what the crowd lacked in atmosphere and the play lacked in quality was to no small extent compensated for by idiosyncratic appeal. The freedom, for instance to walk round the whole ground while the match was in progress or to queue up for chips and still be able to see the game, gives the whole thing a different feel. A semi- detached way of watching football which is somehow closer to sanity than fervid concentration on the field of play for ninety minutes.

Even Terry Owens, the Aldershot chairman who has revived the fortunes of the club from being expelled to the nether regions of the pyramid system and has helped to inspire their progress towards League status once again, has grown to thoroughly enjoy life in non-League football. “It is no longer the be all and end all to return to the Football League. I am enjoying football tremendously at this level and there are a lot of nice people involved in the game.” he says.

Whoever falls through the trapdoor at the end of this season can at least look forward to meeting a lot of nice people.

Albert


ISSUE 22 Fantasy Football
Duff Signings No.7/Fanzine Football
The Slump of '96
For Whom The Trapdoor Beckons
 

 

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