Recently I travelled up to London to see family and in doing so visited the Emirates Stadium for Arsenal’s Carabao Cup tie vs Norwich City. Arsenal came out 2-1 victors in a relatively entertaining affair, whilst my team, Chester, won their National League fixture against Barrow with the very last kick of the game. In a football sense, it’s clear which experience I would rather have had, for a cheaper price as well. Now although it is a coincidence that these two circumstances occurred on the same night, it’s proof that lower league football isn’t as dull or drab as some stereotype it to be.
Now before I get into my point, I want to emphasise that I am not criticising against those who choose to support Arsenal, or any team in England’s top-flight for that matter. My two experiences at the Emirates have been two of my all-time favourites in football, being with great people and watching some decent football. There’s just a feeling about it that I just don’t experience unless I’m in the terraces at the Deva, or at any lower league ground for that matter.
Lastly, I must emphasise that I’m not telling anyone to change allegiance from one club to the other; for one reason or another you choose a football club and then they are yours for life and you become loyal to them. If your local club is one in England’s two top divisions, the Premier League and Championship, or you live a way-out but support your club home and away, as I do with Chester, then this doesn’t apply to you, and I applaud you for doing your bit for your local club. But for those who can’t follow their team due to a long-distance relationship with said club, or you just can’t afford it, then this is the article for you. Watch your local team. It’s the best decision you’ll ever make. Yes, this is coming from someone who decided to support a non-league team well over two-hundred miles away, but that gives me the opportunity to branch out and experience football in the South West…
Take this weekend for example, Chester’s game with AFC Fylde was postponed due to the latter’s involvement in the FA Cup. Following this, I decided to try my hand at groundhopping in the region, and went to watch my local team Brixham AFC take on Ilfracombe Town in the Devon Premier Cup. Although a Cup tie between two eleventh-tier sides wouldn’t be seen as the most glamorous by those used to cheering on Romelu Lukaku or Alvaro Morata, the tie had a very unique and special feel to it. Paying £4 for entry and £1 for a drink, I saw eight goals, two red cards, a goalkeeping coach in the visitors’ net and had friendly conversations with the spectators at the game. Albeit less than a hundred of them, the crowd were some of the most friendly you’ll meet; which is a theme you’ll consistently see with the long-term fans of England’s lowest divisions.
Additionally, some of the best days you’ll ever have as a football fan come in the shape of away days, and fans of League One, League Two and below will never take these for granted. I, myself, completed the seven-hour round-trip to Chester’s away fixture with Aldershot this season. Expecting nothing, the Blues took a 2-1 win and three points back to West Cheshire, leaving us travelling fans a delighted bunch. Those are the days we live for as fans; I’m not saying you can’t experience this further up the English pyramid, and I know for certain that you can, but to those who can’t fulfill this desire further up, do it with a local team that need your support – and you won’t regret it.
Rather than sitting at home staring blankly at a vidiprinter in the hope your team will score, get out there and experience the sport for what it is. If you know you can’t see your team this weekend, you’re better off on your feet, in the terraces of your local club and giving them your support, because they need it – and they won’t get it whilst you’re sat at home.
This sport is the best on the planet, and some of the most entertaining and great examples of it come where you would least expect it. Get on your feet and behind your local team as thousands of fans will also be doing this weekend!
What do you make of these thoughts? Let us know in the comments below!