You are browsing the archive for Non League.

The flipside to AFC Wimbledon’s success story: Kingstonian FC

February 20, 2017 in Multimedia

Elephant Sport reporters Daniel Racheter and Shan Gambling visit Kingsmeadow Stadium – home of both non-league Kingstonian FC and League One side AFC Wimbledon.

Ryman Premier outfit Kingstonian originally took Wimbledon in, but the Dons are now their landlords and have sold the ground to Chelsea, who want to stage youth and women’s fixtures there.

Wimbledon have plans for a new stadium near the site of their old home in Plough Lane, while the Ks have been left looking for a groundshare for next season.

News on that is imminent as Daniel and Shan gauge the mood around the club during a match against Tonbridge Angels.


Swapping Champions League for non-league

October 24, 2016 in I Was There

Champions League choices… Bayer Leverkusen v Spurs or Leicester v FC Copenhagen on TV in the
comfort of my living room.

In the end, I went for neither and opted instead to catch Woking’s FA Cup replay against Torquay in the flesh.

Admittedly, the fact that Woking’s Kingfield Stadium is just 15 minutes from where I live helped to swing the decision, but ultimately it was one I didn’t regret.

Kingfield is an impressive venue by non-league standards, with one large stand and a capacity of around 6,000 – mostly standing, though.

In true football fashion, I kicked off my first-ever trip to a non-league match by heading straight to the bar for a pint of lager, followed by pie and chips.


During my fast-food workout, I watched the players warming up and immediately noted that the quality of their drills and footwork wasn’t too bad.

Having done some research, I knew a few of the Woking names likely to catch the eye, including Jake Caprice, a fleet-of-foot full-back.

“With Woking languishing near the foot of the National League, this was a much-needed victory”

Another was Charlie Carter, an industrious and playmaking central midfielder who has made his way through the academy ranks. Plus, Dennon Lewis, a young winger spending a season-long loan at Woking from Premier League outfit Watford.

Having drawn 1-1 in Devon three days earlier, Woking were determined to make an impact from the off and reach the FA Cup first round proper for just the second time in five years.

Let’s not forget, Woking have had their moments in the competition, including a giant-killing victory at West Bromwich Albion in the 1990/91 season.

Poor penalty

Non-league teams like Woking and Torquay are desperate for good cup runs, because of the potential revenue it can produce. It was evident that this was a motivating aspect in this game.

With not even 10 minutes gone, Woking had a chance to open the scoring from the penalty spot after Carter made a nuisance of himself and was brought down by opposing keeper Brendan Moore.

However, a poor penalty from Delano Sam-Yorke and a fine save from Moore kept the ball out of the net.

Torquay capitalised on this and after gaining a corner, scored from the resulting set piece. Giancarlo Gallifuoco flicked the ball onto a post and Sam Chaney was on hand score just before half-time.

Whatever Woking boss Garry Hill said at half-time seemed to work as the hosts were fast out of the blocks again, and this time it proved fruitful.

End to end

Garry Hill and the team applauding the fans at the final whistle.

Woking applaud their fans

Caprice, confirming that he has talent, was causing trouble on the wing and whipped the ball into the box. Gozie Ugwu was on hand to slide the ball past Moore and the Cards were finally level.

Five minutes later and the game was turned on its head as Woking completing their second-half comeback.

A Fabio Saraiva corner from the left was met by the head of Ugwu who looped the ball back past Moore and into the corner of the net for his second goal.

For the rest of the half, it was end to end stuff with chances for both teams – exciting to watch from a neutral’s perspective.

The game nearly took another turn in the 88th minute, with Torquay piling on the pressure and Woking looking weary.

A goal-line scramble ensued in the Woking area, with some amazing stops from home keeper Brandon Hall, aided by Caprice, who took one for the team and blocked a certain goal with his face.

With Woking languishing near the foot of the National League, this was a much-needed victory and an opportunity to progress further in the Cup.

Woking now host Macclesfield on November 5th, and with their opposition just outside the National League play-off positions, fireworks could ensue.


Photos courtesy of David Holmes.

Football’s beautiful nitty, gritty side

October 13, 2016 in I Was There

Ten miles from the 30,000 padded seats of Brighton and Hove Albion’s AMEX Stadium, sits Leylands Park, the home to Ryman Premier side Burgess Hill Town.

Last weekend I swapped AMEX for a small terrace and the smells of hot burgers and crisp lager to watch the Hillians, as they’re nicknamed.

I even managed to get a cup of Bovril and large chips for £2.50 – now that wouldn’t get you very far at the AMEX…

Yes, the facilities aren’t quite up to Championship standard, but what Leylands Park has in spades is a sense of community, of friends and families who work hard for and take pride in their local club.

“You get to see the other side of football, the nitty gritty. A lot of people at our club put a lot of unpaid, hard work in,” Hillians manager Ian Chapman told me.

“We as a team, try to be successful for them, we want to give back, because they deserve it. All the work they put in, that’s their reward if we do well for them”.

High tempo

The turnstiles at Leylands Park

And rewarded the fans and staff truly were this weekend, with an exciting 3-2 victory over Jimmy Bullard’s Leatherhead.

My first experience of Ryman Premier football brought five goals, cheap refreshments, sunshine and a game of high tempo football. Oh, and surprisingly no bookings!

The standard may not be exactly that of Brighton down the road, but there are similar traits on show: pace, passion and determination to name a few.

Believe it or not, there is a world outside of elite football, a world in which many stars of today have risen.

The likes of Chris Smalling, Charlie Austin and Jamie Vardy are all now excelling at the highest level after starting out in the non-league game.

Big names in non-league

“Look at Greg Leur who we sold to Hull, there’s some good names and good footballers in non-league these days. We’ve got that with an ex-Brighton player on loan with us; Dean Cox,” said former Seagulls defender Chapman.

jimmy bullard

Jimmy Bullard gets his point across

There are plenty of current big names in non-league football too, including the likes of Jimmy Bullard at Leatherhead and Gary andf Phil Neville, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt at Salford City.

Just to watch these ex-pros and current coaches from close up on the sidelines can give any fan an invaluable insight into football.

Especially when it comes to seeing and hearing the touchline antics and choice words from the likes of Bullard himself.

Better yet, you can even share a pint or two with these players and managers afterwards.

“By being in non-league football, you’ll get more affiliation with the players for example in bar afterwards and around the club,” Chapman explained.

Give it a go

Every fan should take advantage when their professional clubs stop for the international break; go out and see the ‘nitty, gritty’ beautiful side of football at non-league level, where every penny counts.

“It’s everything you want from football, and those people have come back”

In certain areas of Brighton’s stadium you can pay up to £42 for a seated ticket. Add that to the bill of £12 to park your car at the ground and already you’ve gone way over £50 before eyeing up the pricey pie (£4.20) and pint (£4.30).

Its £10 for adults and £6 for concessions at Burgess Hill, with the ability to stand and watch the football (something you’re not supposed to do at the AMEX). Oh, and there’s free parking at the ground, too.

Chapman would “love” to see more people at Leylands Park.

“If local league clubs like Brighton and Crawley are playing away and people are at a loose end, I’d love to see more people come down to have a look and see what they think

We’ve had that this season, proper games of football, end to end, excitement, goals, tackles and bookings. It’s everything you want from football and those people have come back”.

Community matters

Clubs at Burgess Hill’s level do genuinely care about their fans, their community – it’s visible.

“We’re a community club, we get 300-400 at home and I’d like to think they get entertainment and value for money,” Chapman added.

Realistically, a club of Burgess Hill’s size do have a ceiling of how far up the football pyramid they can hope to go, but as long as they are “always looking to improve” as Chapman puts it, and give back to the community, they’re achieving their goals.

Burgess Hill warm up at Leylands Park

“The chairman would love to get to the Conference South,” admitted the Burgess Hill gaffer. “However he knows at the moment, the club isn’t geared up to do that. Financially, we’ve got to establish ourselves.”

But the opportunities to continue to improve are there for the club.

Burgess Hill has a good catchment area of around 40,000 people. Chapman believes the club has the base to have “decent crowds of 600-700 each week” providing the side are doing well.

The attendance does appear to be ever growing for the Mid-Sussex side, who are on a current 10-game unbeaten run.

Last weekend saw one of the highest crowds of the season; 482, with another high turnout expected for this weekend’s home clash against National League Dover in the FA Cup.

Chapman admitted honestly: ‘The opportunity is there to get to the Conference South, but it probably would be the maximum for the club.

“When I first joined, they were second from bottom in the league below (Ryman South). I’ve had four seasons, and this is my fifth.

“In that time we finished 8th in my first season, 6th the next, missing out narrowly on the play-offs and in my third season, we won the league, gaining promotion to the Ryman Premier.

“In this league last season we finished bottom four, but managed to stay up. This season the aim is to finish in the top half. It’s always about improving and getting better”.

Youth recruitment is essential

For a club in the Ryman Premier, it’s about making use of your resources, in this case; the community.

The Hillians’ youth recruitment is a huge part of that, as I saw at the weekend. At least four players in the starting XI were brought through the youth set-up.

“Not only could you spot the next Jamie Vardy, you’ll get your money’s worth of football, which is of a much higher standard and tempo than you might expect”

“We have to work hard on our youth set-up and recruitment at this level. We’ve had two youth team lads in the squad so far this season; one started in FA Cup last round, 17 year old goalkeeper, he was fantastic,” said Chapman.

Curtis Gayler, another youth product and just 16 years old, has appeared twice already this season for Burgess Hill.

“It’s important we keep bringing through the youth players. We always need to keep finding homegrown talent – it’s important to us as a community club.”

Chapman added the most rewarding aspect of his job as a manager is “seeing youth flourish”.

Personally, I’m sold. Not only is non-league much more affordable, it’s also a reminder of where football began, at the heart of our communities, with every penny counting and clubs wanting to give back.

Not only could you spot the next Jamie Vardy, you’ll get your money’s worth of football, which is of a much higher standard than you might expect.

The next international break comes on the weekend of 12th November, and I’d strongly urge you to go and sample the beautiful delights of the non-league game.

Elephant Sport Podcast – FA Cup Special

October 11, 2016 in Multimedia

Elephant Sport Podcast – FA Cup Special

In this edition of the Elephant Sport podcast, reporters Daniel Racheter and Shan Gambling sample the delights of non-league football as they embark on trips to Braintree and Burgess Hill.

Ahead of the final qualifying round of the FA Cup this weekend, Shan has an exclusive interview with ex-Brighton defender and Burgess Hill manager Ian Chapman, who gives us an insight into how important the cup is to club, manager and players.

Daniel visited Braintree Town and spoke to a season ticket holder as the club prepares for their cup match with  National League rivals Bromley.

We also look ahead to a few other FA Cup weekend fixtures, in which 32 non-league clubs will proceed to Round One proper. Clubs from the Football Leagues One and Two enter at this stage, meaning potential fixtures against the likes of Portsmouth, Bolton and Charlton to name a few.

Catch October’s Elephant Sport podcast here: [soundcloud url=”″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”450″ iframe=”true” /] 



Skip to toolbar