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Friday, September 02, 2016

Non-League Day


It's Non-League day tomorrow and many clubs hope to take advantage that there is no League football taking place because of Internationals.

Now in it's sixth season it has become an annual event which aims to celebrate affordable, volunteer-led community football.

In the publicity surrounding the event, the story of Jamie Vardy's rise from Non-League is noted. The same story could be written about Sam Clucas who, now with Hull, was with Hereford United in the Conference a couple of seasons ago.

The Global Times has a list of clubs in Non-League 'worth looking out for' and they include Hereford FC.

Sportsmanship - The Wealdstone Raider
Gordon Hill - not the one known as the "King of All Cockneys" at Old Trafford back in the 1970s, who started his career in non-league - is a fan of West London side Wealdstone FC who is better known as the "Wealdstone Raider."

Hill became famous for a video where he taunted fans of Whitehawk in Brighton at a Vanarama National League South game and quickly amassed over 100,000 Twitter followers. The builder became a cult figure at grounds across Europe but used his fame to the advantage of his team and various charities - including a top-five single in the UK charts.

Tradition - Sheffield FC
Sheffield FC are the world's oldest football club, predating the FA's codifying of the laws of the game in 1878 by 21 years. Sheffield originally played by the Sheffield rules, a long forgotten version of football, and they have been rivals of Hallam FC - known by cinema fans as the team where Sean Bean's character made his name in the film When Saturday Comes before moving on to Sheffield United in the lower-key 1990s version of Vardy's impending film. They are currently in the Northern Premier League Division One South.

Inclusivity - Dulwich Hamlet
The south London side have become increasingly well-known for an inclusiveness that stands out even in the rather welcoming world of non-league football. The Hamlet, who play in the Isthmian League, count former England internationals Peter Crouch and Ian Wright as ex-players but are better known for their backing of anti-­discrimination and anti-homophobia initiatives, and their friendship with European clubs. They even have their own Dulwich Hamlet lager. 

Glamour - Salford City
There has perhaps never been as much glamor in non-league football since Simon Clifford got Brazilian World Cup winner Socrates and ex-Manchester United winger Lee Sharpe to play for Garforth Town in the early 2000s. But the "Dirty Old Town" of Salford City beats it for Sharpe's replacement on the left wing at Old Trafford, Ryan Giggs, and his Class of '92 teammates: Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and the Neville brothers. The quintet are the owners of the Vanarama National League North side and have taken them up a couple of divisions since taking over; they've also put non-league back on the map with the BBC documentary Class of '92: A League of Their Own, which has just returned to English screens.

Community - Sporting Bengal United Football Club
The team, from Mile End in East London, were formed in 1996 to encourage the capital's Asian population to play football. Currently in the Essex Senior League, Sporting Bengal is far from being the only Asian football club in English non-league football but it holds the honor of having been the first to reach the third round proper of the FA Vase and one of the few non-league teams to ­supply internationals - in their case to Bangladesh.

Continental flavor - Biggleswade United
For many years Biggleswade United were just another non-league side. They were just another Spartan South Midlands Premier Division side until 2010 when the chairman approached Spanish football journalist Guillem Balague to rope him in to help the club. Balague now writes for The Non-League Football Paper about ­Biggleswade's adventures and has been instrumental in the attraction of Spanish players and coaches including recent signing Sergio Urbano who played under Pep Guardiola at Barcelona B.

Principles - FC United of Manchester
"It'll be all over by Christmas" was what MUTV's Alan Gowling said of the rebel reds when they formed back in 2005, following the Glazer takeover at Old Trafford. Since the club formed it has become the poster boy for taking a stand against the modern game and how it treats the fans - with affordable football and 3 pm ­Saturday kickoffs being part of the club's mantra. A few board issues last year appear to have been dealt with and the club looks for another ­promotion to the Vanarama National League this season.

Rising from the ashes -Hereford FC
Formerly Hereford United - famed for knocking Newcastle United out of the cup in 1972 with a Ronnie Radford goal - the Bulls had enjoyed league football for a long time but then dropped back to the Conference in 2012 before a variety of financial setbacks saw them subsequently dissolved. Hereford FC are the phoenix club for their fans to put right the wrongs - much like the AFC Wimbledon team that is now in League One after forming following Wimbledon's move to Milton Keynes. The new Hereford formed in 2014 but have a promotion already and will compete in the Southern League Division One South & West this season.