The F-word: Rekindling old flames

Copyright: lzflzf / 123RF Stock Photo

Every Friday CasinoBeats is thinking out loud.

One of those rarest of rare phenomenons occurred this past weekend, with a diary completely free, partner busy doing her own thing and children (touch wood) but a mere pipe-dream at this juncture.

The world was my oyster; but what to do exactly?

After wasting far too much time pondering how to brighten what was very quickly becoming a very wasteful day, oh the irony, the solution, when that light-bulb moment eventually manufactured itself, turned out to be a very straightforward one indeed.

You see, in very close proximity to my humble abode, in the corner of Manchester that is also home to SBC Global’s northern office, is a certain non-league football club that this CasinoBeats journalist once had such a great affinity, and has been very guilty of neglecting, since proudly displaying various shirts throughout Australia and South-East Asia in a two year jaunt.

Hyde United Football Club, who last season found themselves adorning BBC2 television screens in a unlikely, but very welcome run to the FA Cup first round, ultimately ending in a 4-0 rout at home to a quite rightly far superior MK Dons.

Saturday’s game paled in comparison to that night, where you couldn’t move without bumping into a familiar face, in attendance terms, almost 3,000 versus approximately 150, but what did you expect (no disrespect meant in any way) in a pre-season friendly with Bala Town?

What it did do however was somewhat rekindle an old burning flame, which saw attendance each week both home and away, become more than a formality.

This was more than just turning up to watch a sports team, it was like rooting for your closest friends to achieve success on a weekly basis – if you haven’t been to see a non-league game of football, this idea of camaraderie between playing staff and fans could well seem like a rather far-fetched circumstance.  

It felt like I myself had contributed to the Conference North title win in 2011/12, memories of which adorn the social club walls, which was celebrated in great style in the season’s final game at Histon, a 1-1 draw, with a very small pocket of fans determined to enjoy their success – inflatables welcomed at a game of football was a new one on me.

So onto Bala Town at home in pre-season, not the Luton/Wrexham/Forest Green Rovers etc enjoyed in the 2012/13 Conference Premier season (my last as a “regular”) , but what turned out to be a welcome insight back into the club ahead of the Evo-Stik League – Premier Division campaign.

The game itself was never going to set the world alight but that sense of belonging remained, on an afternoon which Manchester lived up to its reputation, and seemingly wrapped up all four seasons into the duration of one ninety minute game.

Bala Town cruised to a deserved 2-0 victory on the day, the highlight of which saw a peach of a through ball played by Andy Mangan, scorer of the first goal, which Ian Sheridan duly ran on to, shook off the defender and calmly slotted home.

Following the game, and at various points this week, thoughts have often turned back to non-league football, and its place in England’s current sporting scene.

Disenchantment at the upper echelons of world football seems to be something that is rearing its head on a more regular basis, non-league football could just offer the answer plenty of individuals are seeking.

In a world where the general consensus of ‘bigger is better’ seems to becoming more and more commonplace, a pre-season friendly at the local club has highlighted that getting back to relative “basics” can be much more than just a refreshing change.