Fixture: Toolstation Northern Counties East League (NCEL) Premier Division
Date: Saturday 21 January 2023
Teams: Handsworth v Maltby Main
Venue: Express Worktops Stadium, Olivers Mount, Sheffield
Result: Handsworth 1 (1) – (1) 2 Maltby Main
Programme cost: £2.00
The freezing temperatures of December 2022 and January 2023 have heavily impacted the non-league fixture calendar this season. Take for instance Saturday 21 January. Of the scheduled twenty league fixtures in the NCEL, only two survived, those at Handsworth and Hemsworth Miners Welfare – the common denominator? Both clubs have artificial pitches. Love them or hate them, they do have their advantages and without doubt was the reason these fixtures went ahead.
Of the two, FBR took the option of a first visit to Olivers Mount in Darnall, Sheffield who as part of a decent crowd of 254 on a very cold, but bright day, enjoyed a local fixture against Rotherham based Maltby Main, with the visitors getting a last gasp winner to take all three points in a 2-1 victory.
The welcome at both the main bar (set a little way from the ground entrance) and entry to the playing area was as is usual in non-league circles, warm and friendly. Admission was paid at a hut with a 32 page all colour programme also able to be purchased. This edition covered both the midweek NCEL League Cup fixture vs. Ollerton Town and the league encounter vs. Maltby Main. Now I know that this divides fans and even some leagues, where double issues aren’t permitted. However, in the current economic climate it seems a sensible approach to save not only money but volunteers time in putting together two separate editions with little turnround time.
So what of ‘The Ambers Review’ as the Handsworth match programme is titled? Well the cover is an attractive one featuring a member of the Ambers squad and in the club colours of yellow and black. It contains all the usual detail you would expect with the date, opposition and competition displayed, the club badge and the logos of league sponsor (Toolstation), league benchwear provider (Macron), ground sponsor (Express Worktops) and shirt sponsor (HE Barnes).
Pages 2 and 3 have the club directory and history. Here there are a couple of observations. Firstly, the history is one solid block of text, which would be visually more attractive if broken down into paragraphs. The second point is that although the club badge has the date 1986 on it, the history within the programme only provides details from 2014/15. Now there maybe a reason of space which explains why the content as is. However, from a neutrals point of view it would have been interesting to read of the club from 1986. Page 4 is given over to all the various club sponsors, with page 5 ‘From the Dugout’ the notes of Aiden Spowage (‘Spow’) part of the management team, providing his review of results to date and a welcome to the opponents.
The next five pages are pen-pics of the Handsworth squad, especially useful for neutrals and away fans unfamiliar with the home team squad. Page 11 features the thoughts of Ambers skipper San Finlaw, who in addition to welcoming both Ollerton and Maltby Main, provided his views on Gareth Bale’s recent retirement and his choice of greatest ever Premier League player. Pages 12 and 13 provided a match report of their 1-1 draw with Eccleshill United, followed by a classic of many a programme, a Q&A with a featured player. Midfielder Morgan James features in this edition of ‘Meet the Ambers’ who in response to the question, ‘What would be your death row meal?’ responded ‘Nando’s simple as that!’ It must be decent in Sheffield!
The centrespread (pages 16 and 17) contain the seasons fixtures and statistics, with the results column dominated by red blocking highlighting that the Ambers have had a wretched recent league run which saw their last victory in the NCEL back in mid-November. The stats continue on page 18 with the squad appearances for this season and their Handsworth career. Page 19 is an advert for Macron who besides being a league sponsor, also provide the Ambers kit. Another match report features on pages 20 and 21, this time the 2-0 defeat at Goole, and you have to admire the honesty of the reporting, with the writer beginning the piece, ‘Another turgid performance on the road’ – candour to be admired.
Page 22 is a advertorial from The FA featuring the RESPECT campaign and message, which has come to be more relevant with a noticeable increase in behaviour problems in non-league football this season. This is followed by a page on Ambers league cup opponents, NCEL Division One, Newark based, Ollerton Town (who incidentally, the Ambers beat 2-0 with a brace from James Eyles). Page 24 is an advert for club shirt sponsor HE Barnes followed by an article from the Non-League Paper putting the case for a third promotion place from the National League to the Football League.
The next three pages are given over to Maltby Main with two pages of history and one of pen-pics, standard programme content but vital reading for home and neutral fans. As with the Ambers history, the formatting of that for Maltby would have benefited from splitting into paragraphs.
Page 29 contains two adverts, one for league sponsor Toolstation and the other for BMW Construction. Pages 30 and 31 details the squads for both games, with the final (and back) page providing the NCEL Premier Division table. All useful for fans on the day.
All in all this programme is well worth the £2 with plenty of material to see fans through their pre-match and half-time read. It only contains five pages of adverts (approximately 15%) and is a well written, edited, produced and printed programme.