20 October 2012
Ebbsfleet Utd v Alfreton Town
The following is the article that was mainly used in last week's Ebbsfleet United matchday programme.
Today is a very special day. Not only for Ebbsfleet United, but for all non-league clubs across the country.
Today has been designated ‘Non-League’ Day. An annual event which aims to celebrate the lesser footballing lights in England. It takes place when there is a break in the Premier League due to international fixtures, and gives those fans the chance to go along and watch some true grassroots football.
Here at the Fleet we have fans who travel far and wide to cheer on the lads. Even if it is a winter mid-week game away at Barrow AFC, you can be sure that there will be a few die-hards making the long trek from North Kent to Cumbria. Having done a Carlisle round trip in a day, I can tell you it is dedication of the highest order. It is also a great feeling if your team wins, as the journey back home feels all that much sweeter!
Due to the MYFC exposure, the club has fans in a number of countries worldwide. These include Australia (yours truly), United States, Germany and Italy to name just some of our global reach. One fan, Gianfranco Giordano, regularly makes a 1,100 mile round trip from Turin in Italy to Stonebridge Road to cheer the Fleet on! Gianfranco also traded in his Serie A season ticket for AC Milan to follow our club. This is true dedication of the highest order and is what some lengths fans will go to in order to follow their beloved team.
As for myself, it is obviously not that easy to do a 12,000 mile round trip from the wilds of Sydney to Ebbsfleet. However, I do often stay up to 3-4am on a Sunday morning to listen to the Fleet play their games. I know there are other fans around the world that do the same as myself. Thankfully, social media helps a lot with this.
Grassroots football is also important for the players. Let’s not forget that players such as Stuart Pearce, Chris Smalling, Ian Wright, Les Ferdinand and Chris Waddle all started out plying their trade in non-league football. We obviously hope that Mike West who we sold to Crewe Alexandra in the close season, goes on to emulate the likes of these players. Remember also that Roy Hodgson, the England manager, only ever played non-league football. Mainly for a club called Gravesend and Northfleet. Now whatever happened to that club??
Hopefully there will be a number of ‘new’ fans in the stands, who have made the trip today to see a great game of football. It might lack the skills of the Premier League, but it will certainly be a game that exudes 100% passion from both teams.
Football clubs are still the backbone of their communities. They give locals and external fans alike a common cause to follow. How do we all feel when our team wins? Or when our team becomes giant killers? Answer - We feel great!
A big warm welcome then to the players, officials and fans of Alfreton Town who have made the long journey from Derbyshire to Kent. I hope they enjoy the game, but not too much! Whatever happens, let’s hope that some of the neutrals in the ground today enjoy what they see and come back for more. They will certainly be most welcome!
UP THE FLEET!