Don Howe is one of English football’s great coaches, with an unrivalled record at international and club level.

As right-hand man to three England managers, he helped his country to the 1990 World Cup and Euro 96 semi-finals. He helped to steer them through the 1982 World Cup unbeaten and to the quarter-finals four years later. Howe masterminded the 1970/71 double at Arsenal, where two spells as coach also brought European and further FA Cup glory. He was also an integral part of one of the greatest Wembley upsets when he helped Wimbledon’s ‘Crazy Gang’ to victory over the mighty Liverpool in 1988.

As a player at West Bromwich Albion, Howe won 24 international caps, but as a manager he failed to achieve the success he craved. Yet over a three-decade period, he won acclaim from many of England’s finest players as a genius of the coaching profession.

Through interviews with players, colleagues, friends and family, this book examines the triumphs and challenges of Don Howe’s career and assesses his contribution to English football.

(Publisher: Pitch Publishing Ltd. April 2022. Hardcover: 336 pages)

Book Review: Football Grounds Frenzy Floodlights by Mike Floate

As a kid travelling to away games, spotting the floodlights was part of the excitement of the day. And if I’m honest, even all these years later, there is still a thrill from spotting the pylons whether in the car or on a train. However, as old grounds have slowly disappeared and technology has advanced in the field of lighting, those distinctive pylons of my youth, are a very rare sight these days.

Therefore it is a real pleasure to be able to review two book about these metallic behemoths, the first Football Grounds Frenzy Floodlights by Mike Floate and the second Blinding Floodlights by Peter Miles. This review focuses on Mike Floate’s offering with a separate one for Peter Miles book.

This A5 sized book is in four parts, Introduction (providing the only text), The Underview, The Groundview and Getting to the Vetch Field. Over its 84 pages, 48 grounds are featured through 83 wonderfully atmospheric colour images.

The introduction details how this collection started, when Floate visited the Scottish club Queen of the South in 1996 and snapped the images of their floodlights (featured on pages 43 and 56), with the last picture to feature in this book taken in 2015. Whilst the majority of the pictures come from English League clubs, there are some from the non-league scene as well as Scotland and Belgium.

Some may argue that this is a pretty niche area within football, but what is important to remember is that nearly 40% of the stadiums featured have been demolished and those old style stands, and floodlights are now lost forever. This book contributes to recording architectural, industrial and social history in a brutalist-style artistry.

They also provide for me great memories and reminders of growing up in London and my regular visits to Fulham at Craven Cottage and Wimbledon’s old Plough Lane venue. The pylons at the Cottage that could be seen walking to the ground with my dad and indeed the nation, viewed as they were on the BBC every year at the Varsity Boat race as the Oxford and Cambridge crews swept past the ground on the Thames. Now as the stadium has changed, Fulham have adopted the tubular structures now favoured in the modern era, with the new Riverside Stand to have lighting within its roof, another feature of new ground design.

The images of Plough Lane also brought back a sadness, at thoughts of the grounds subsequent demolition, but Floate’s pictures on pages 38, 39, 57 and 58 made me smile too, as I recalled that The Dons, as they climbed the Football League arranged the bulbs in a ‘W’ formation in each of their four pylons. Happy days indeed.

Besides those wonderful nostalgic images from my days in South West London, there are some other eye-catching pictures within the book. And that is one of the beauties of this collection, in that you will notice something different every time you look at the images. Take for instance the pylon at Hereford’s Edgar Street ground (page 22), where the lower reaches of the structure were used to advertise businesses and forthcoming fixtures on various boards. Incongruously, an advert for World of Florida, Luxury Homes for Sale or Rent, sits side by side with those for local building and plumbing firms.

The book closes with Getting to the Vetch Field, a cracking photo-study and homage to Swansea City’s former home. The photos feature the lights from various spots around the streets, illustrating the stadiums land locked site in the heart of the city, and having a wonderful glow and atmosphere that only attending games at night can somehow bring.

Such a small book, but such a treasure.

(Newlands Printing Services. March 2016. Paperback: 84 pages)


This books and a range of other football related titles can be bought through Mike Floate’s website: www.footballgroundsfrenzy2.com as well as eBay and Amazon.

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2010/11: Blue Square Bet Premier Division Promotion Final

In another time and another place this was a game between FA Cup Winners and League Cup Winners, a fixture played between two teams from the top division of the professional game in England. Last season it was a match that marked their respective debuts in the Blue Square Conference Premier Division and on Saturday 21 May 2011 they faced each other in the biggest game in Non-League football – the Blue Square Bet Premier Promotion Final. The winners securing the prize of promotion to the npower League Two and back into the fold of the English games top 92 clubs. If you haven’t guessed by now, the teams in question are AFC Wimbledon and Luton Town.

In 1988, the month of April was an interesting time for Wimbledon FC and Luton Town. The teams met in the FA Cup Semi-Final at White Hart Lane on the 9th of that month. Wimbledon emerged victors that day with a 2-1 win on their way to a completely unexpected FA Cup Final victory over Liverpool. Luton though bounced back and just 15 days later carried out their own Cup shock by stunning Arsenal 3-2 at Wembley with two goals in the last eight minutes to take the League Cup. The 23 years since these sides won major domestic honours have seen countless twists and turns, many of which have been cruel, whilst others have been inspirational.

For Wimbledon, the FA Cup win was the pinnacle of an incredible journey that only saw them come into the Football League in the 1977/78 season. Following the Cup win, the Dons finished in 12th position in 1988/89 in the First Division, and had very respectable finishes in 1989/90 and 1990/91 of 8th and 7th respectively. However, storm clouds were gathering behind the scenes with regard to their Plough Lane ground and in order to meet the requirements relating to all seater stadia moved to Selhurst Park to ground share with Crystal Palace from the 1991/92 season. This proved to be an unsettling period for the Dons with three managers (Ray Harford, Peter Withe and Joe Kinnear) seeing out that last First Division season prior to the formation of the FA Premier League. Wimbledon continued to defy their critics with year on year respectable League finishes and in 1996/97, the Dons reached both the FA and League Cup Semi-Finals as well as finishing 8th. Joe Kinnear was an inspirational manager during his period as manager in the nineties and when he stepped down due to ill health prior to the 1999/2000 season, the consequences for the club were to prove terminal. Controversial Norwegian coaching guru Egil Olsen was appointed, but his tenure didn’t last the season and it was left to Terry Burton to oversee an unfortunate last day relegation from the Premier League.

This relegation was part of the beginning of one of the most distasteful acts that has taken place in English football. With the Dons unable to regain their Premier League status at the start of the new millennium, the club decided in August 2001 that it was to move to Milton Keynes. There was outrage amongst fans but it was to no avail and the relocation was sanctioned in May 2002. Thankfully the Dons faithful rallied and AFC Wimbledon were founded and the club today as it was then, are wholly owned by the supporters via the one-fan, one vote Dons Trust. The 2002/03 season saw AFC Wimbledon ground share with Kingstonian FC under the leadership of ex-Dons player Terry Eames and participated in the Combined Counties League. Prior to 2003/04 the Dons bought the ground and went onto secure promotion to the Isthmian League Divison One under caretaker manager Nicky English after Eames was sacked in February 2004 on disciplinary grounds. A second straight promotion followed in 2004/05 under new manager Dave Anderson and AFC Wimbledon found themselves on the up once more and in the Isthmian Premier. However, Anderson couldn’t make the next breakthrough and current boss Terry Brown came to the club for the 2007/08 season and immediately led the Dons into the Conference South. Brown then managed another promotion into the Conference Premier after securing the title in 2008/09 for the Dons. And so after one season acclimatising to life in the top flight of Non-League football, the Dons have battled their way to the Play-Off Final after a convincing 8-1 aggregate win over Fleetwood Town.

So from that heady day in April 1988 when Steve Foster held aloft the League Cup at Wembley, how have the Hatters found themselves at the City of Manchester Stadium battling to regain their League status? A year after the 1988 triumph Luton were back at Wembley to defend the League Cup only to lose 3-1 to Nottingham Forest. Sadly their League form was in decline and in the following seasons they only just clung onto their First Division status, finishing 16th (1988/89), 17th (1989/90) and 18th (1990/91). Finally in 1991/92 their luck ran out and Luton along with Notts County and West Ham were relegated, so missing out on the inaugural Premier League season. Things didn’t fare any better in 1992/93 and 1993/94 as the Hatters only avoided relegation in both seasons by two points. Whilst in 1994/95 the Hatters finished a comparatively comfortable 16th place, David Pleat left the club after his second stint as manager ended with Lennie Lawrence taking over. However, a change of leadership didn’t help the Hatters as they were relegated to the third tier of English football. In 1996-97 Luton did manage to finish third to make the Play-offs, but lost to Crewe in the Semi-Final games 4-3 on aggregate. There followed three seasons of mid to lower league finishes, before relegation to the bottom tier of the professional game in 2000/01. Joe Kinnear came to the club and achieved promotion as runners-up with the club the following season. There looked to be stability about the team when in 2002/03 Kinnear took the Hatters to a competitive 9th place finish. However, in May 2003 John Gurney sacked Kinnear and in came Mike Newell. With a summer of confusion and the club in administration, Newell’s first season saw a 10th place finish and then lead the Hatters to an impressive title winning season in 2004/05. 2005/06 saw a respectable if unspectacular 10th finish in the Championship under Mike Newell and did nothing to hint at what would happen to the Bedfordshire club in the next 6 years.

Against a backdrop of more financial uncertainty, the 2006/07 season in the Championship was not a memorable one for the team from Kenilworth Road, with the club being relegated with 40 points. Worse was to follow in 2007/08 as the season saw the club in administration and with a 10 point deduction, drop further down the League ladder, as they finished bottom of League One. Luton fans must have wondered if things could get any worse, but they did as the club started the 2008/09 in League Two with a devastating deduction of 30 points. Mick Harford bravely saw his team accumulate 56 points, enough to have seen the Hatters finish in 15th position, but for the deduction. With 26 points Luton were placed bottom. Despite their inevitable relegation, Luton picked up the Football League Trophy in front of over 55,000 fans at Wembley, overcoming Scunthorpe United 3-2. However, this couldn’t take the edge off the club having to drop out of the Football League. Under Richard Money, 2009/10 saw Luton finish second in their first season in the Conference Premier, but didn’t make it to the Play-off Final after losing both legs of the Semi-Final Play-offs 1-0 to York City. Money looked set to take Luton into the Play-offs once more this season, but left the club in March being replaced by Gary Brabin. Brabin steered the Hatters to finishing third in the Conference Premier table, 6 points behind the Dons, and through 5-1 on aggregate against Wrexham in the Semi-Final Play-offs.

For my part, my journey to this game goes back to 1976 when as a Fulham fan, I was taken to Plough Lane to see Wimbledon beat Sutton United 3-1 a FA Trophy First Round replay. Whilst I remained loyal to the Whites from Craven Cottage, I’ve always had a soft spot for the Dons and that game sparked my love of Non-League football. If Fulham were away, I would head for Wimbledon and was there the day they played Halifax Town in their first game in Division Four in August 1977. I’ll lay my cards on the table and say without hesitation that AFC Wimbledon are the continuation of the original club. MK Dons should never have been sanctioned and my wish is to see them out of the League structure – they have no place in the Football League.

Therefore I travel to this game as nervous as any fan. As I set off for the match from Leeds station I spot a Luton Town shirt and think, is that an omen? Are Luton going to win 1-0? Quickly I see an AFC Wimbledon shirt which makes it 1-1. In search of a winner, I search the platforms but don’t see any further shirts as I board the train. The journey is spent looking out the window, checking the time and suddenly we are stopping at Huddersfield. Surely that’s a good omen for the Dons, as that is where Wimbledon got promoted to the First Division after a 1-0 win at the old Leeds Road ground back in May 1986. Onwards we go again and without realising it I can see the City of Manchester Stadium coming into view. For Luton fans, if they think of Manchester and particularly the blue half, they must think of the relegation game on the last day of the 1982/83 season. I can remember watching it on Match of the Day and David Pleat’s hop, skip and a jump as a last gasp Raddy Antic goal saved the Hatters and relegated City.

I change trains at Manchester Piccadilly and take a local service to Ashburys. A short walk and I’m at the stadium. So far all I’ve seen are Hatters fans, but then realise that this area is designated for the Orange Army. Much has been made pre-match about he ticket prices and I’m sure the attendance will be affected by the sky-high prices and associated admin and booking fees.

About 2.30 I make my way to my seat and I’m struck by how well the pitch looks. With mid-May sun lighting up the pitch and stadium it could be the opening day of the season in August. The teams go through their pre-match drills and as the respective sets of supporters drift in the volume and sense of anticipation increases. To my right and ahead of me there is a sea of orange and in the area I’m sat and to my left, the blue and yellow of the Dons fans is evident. The players go off to applause, knowing the next time that emerge onto the pitch the real action will begin. There is a brief lull. All around me there is expectation and this is reflected in faces that are anxious and faces that are just enjoying the moment. Sunshine greets the players as they enter the arena passing the Play-off Trophy and the volume reaches a new high for the day. Fireworks burst into life and jets of flames add to an already hot atmosphere. The team’s line-up, but quickly officials are ushering them into a different position as they await the presentation of match guests. As they do so, players nervously wave to loved ones in the crowd. All those around me agree that the game is too close to call and that one goal will win it.

Wimbledon kick-off, but immediately give it away and concede a free-kick. The game is held up further as players stamp on blue and yellow balloons that drift across the playing surface. Play resumes and within the opening first five minutes Luton and AFC Wimbledon both win corners, which neither defence defends comfortably. Gary Brabin the Luton manager, arms folded prowls around his Technical area. His opposite number Terry Brown remains seated during the opening exchanges. The defences look nervous and Seb Brown in goal for the Dons doesn’t come for a through ball. Suddenly the ball switches into the Luton half, seven minutes gone, Kaid Mohamed shoots, Hatters keeper Tyler saves and Kedwell crashes home the rebound. The Dons players, fans and management explode with joy, but it is short-lived, the linesman flag indicates off-side, Hatters fans taunt their rivals. Luton respond well and have a couple of shots off target. Terry Brown the Dons manager is now out in his Technical Area as the first third of the first half elapses. There is a great deal of tension in the play and possession is too easily given away and corners and free-kicks are wasted by both sides, the prize so much of a burden at this stage. Twenty minutes gone and Luton start to build some pressure, as they win another corner. A fine save by Brown from Claude Gnakpa, as the Frenchman gets into the game. Still the mistakes continue as a Luton player throws the ball straight out of play, both managers exchange a smile to relieve their tension briefly. Thirty minutes gone and Luton are enjoying a good spell, Dons skipper Kedwell knows this and his sense of frustration is evident. Gnakpa threatens the Dons defence once more, but is fouled by Brett Johnson and the first booking of the day is made. With five minutes before half time, AFC Wimbledon have a decent spell and their supporters are lifted. Good runs are made down the wings, but lack of numbers or poor delivery means the chances are lost. The official holds up the board to indicate 2 minutes of time added on and with it a booking for Luton’s Keith Keane. Half-time. Those around discuss a first half of wasted possession and an AFC Wimbledon team that currently has a midfield that appears to be playing too deep. Others around me continue with the mantra that one goal will be enough to win it.

The first half sun has given way to grey skies as Luton kick-off the second half. The Dons continue as they finished the first half and look more threatening in the first ten minutes of the second period. Luton’s turn to be frustrated and Lawless, rather suitably names, goes into the book. Wimbledon continue to press as the hour mark approaches. The announcer gives the crowd at 18,195 – I look round, and consider that the Dons fans are outnumbered 2 to 1. Surely the Conference can’t be happy with the attendance and must look at how this years arrangements were made. As the game enters the last 30 minutes, both sides made changes, Matthew Barnes-Homer replaces Robbie Willmott for the Hatters and Ismail Yakubu is brought on as a substitute for Gareth Gwillim. The changes cause a bit of a lull in the game and the crowd is quietened briefly. Luton bring the match back to life as first Kroca, then Asafu-Adjave have shots off target for the Hatters. The Dons manager brings off Wellard and on comes Mulley. The impact is immediate as the latest Dons substitute curls in a shot which Tyler pushes away for a corner. As the game hits 70 minutes, Yakubu has work to do at both ends. First he fires off target for the Dons, but then is called into defensive duty on two occasions to null the Hatters threat. Gnakpa continues to be lively for Luton, but with just ten minutes to go, Extra-Time is looking inevitable. Luke Moore gets a yellow card as certain players look to be feeling the strain of the game both emotionally and physically. Bradin the Luton manager disputes a decision and the referee has to come over to defuse the situation. With five minutes remaining the Dons look more likely to score and a succession of half-chances come and go. Then in the space of two minutes Luton are denied first by heroic blocking from the Dons defence and then what looks like a goal bound header from Walker comes back off the post. The official signals four minutes of added time, but everyone is resigned to another 30 minutes.

The first period of Extra-Time seems to flash past. Few genuine chances are created as weary bodies and minds try to keep going. The dangerous Gnakpa departs for Luton as Newton comes on, whilst for the Dons, Minshull replaces Steven Gregory. Before we know it the final 15 minutes is underway and Wimbledon suddenly appear stronger, Minshull gets himself booked, but chances are created by the Dons. And with the last attack of the game Yakubu misses with a header with his skipper behind him perhaps better placed. That’s it – the lottery of penalties is the fate for these two teams.

The five players with the dubious pleasure of taking the pressure kicks line-up on the half-way line, separated from the rest of their team-mates who link arms on the sidelines. The respective keepers share a joke and make their way to the end where the Blue and Yellow ranks of the AFC Wimbledon fans are seated. Luton take the first spot-kick and England C International Brown saves from Alex Lawless. The Dons fans erupt and then calms as Sam Hatton steps up. He confidently put away the kick and his team are ahead 1-0. Pilkington, Moore and Newton all score their penalties making it 2-2 with Mohamed getting the chance to restore the Dons lead. The hat-trick hero of the Semi-Finals steps up and his kick is saved and the advantage is gone. Two penalties left for both sides. If Walker scores, Luton are ahead for the first time in the penalties and the pressure would be on the Dons. However, Brown is the hero again; his up-stretched and bear-like hand claws the ball away. Substitute Yakubu steps up and coolly puts ball away, sending the Blue and Yellow fans into raptures. Luton must score to keep their dream alive. Jake Howells is equal to the pressure and brings the scores level at 3 all. However, he and his team-mates know that if AFC Wimbledon skipper Kedwell scores, the Hatters are destined for another season in the Conference. Up steps the skipper and blasts the ball home. This cruellest of ends to any game sparks utter euphoria to my left and utter despair to my right.

The Orange Army no longer glimmers in the late May sunshine. They stay and applaud their team as the players collect their loser’s medals. I turn to watch the scenes of joy at the Dons end of the stadium as they leap and hug each other and as players bring their children onto the pitch. Amidst it all the managers congratulate/commiserate with each other. As the Dons climb the stairs to collect their prize, I glance to look where the Luton massed ranks were – there now is only empty light blue seats. With Danny Kedwell raising the Trophy, the fans erupt into cheers once more. Now as the players make their way to the pitch podium for more pictures a new chorus emerges from the travelling Dons fans, “…9 years, it only took 9 years, it only took 9 years…” Yes, just a nine year journey from the Combined Counties League to the Football League. Another remarkable story in the history of a remarkable club.

MK beware– the real Dons are back!


Paul Hatt – Editor

2010/11: FA Cup 4th Round – Where were you in ’85?

The 1984/85 season brought about to Fulham one of those oddities that seem to happen in football. In the League Cup, the men from SW6 who were then in the old Second Division, got drawn against First Division Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough. Despite being a tier lower than their opponents, Fulham weren’t disgraced in a 3-2 loss at the Third Round stage.

Come the New Year and the FA Cup Third Round draw, fate dictated that Fulham and Sheffield Wednesday once again locked horns, although this time the fixture was at Craven Cottage. With Sheffield Wednesday bringing a good away following, a crowd of 11,434 gathered to see if Fulham could gain revenge for the defeat earlier in the season. Just as in October The Owls were victorious 3-2. Ray Houghton scored Fulham’s goals, whilst Mel Sterland and Lee Chapman with two, ensured the South Yorkshire team progressed to the Fourth Round. Wednesday were a robust team back in the eighties and they were certainly too strong physically for Fulham on the day.

Now for most fans, once their team is knocked out of the FA Cup, their interest pretty much ends, possibly until Cup Final day. Yes Fulham were out, but that didn’t mean that was the end of my Cup adventure that year. One of the advantages of living in London at that time was that there were plenty of options in terms of watching other clubs – and I use the term watching as opposed to supporting deliberately.

1984/85 was Wimbledon’s first ever season in the old Second Division and they more than held their own to finish in a respectable 12th position. Having overcome Burnley 3-1 at Plough Lane in the FA Cup Third Round, the Dons got a very tricky tie against one of the teams of the eighties, Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest. At the City Ground the underdogs from South London earned a replay after a 0-0 draw. Back then replays were arranged for the following week, with the game at Plough Lane set for the following Wednesday night. Given that Brian Clough’s team were one of the big attractions then, the replay was made all ticket.

The lure of seeing Old Big ‘Ead (as my nan loved to call the incomparable Mr Clough), in the flesh and a possible Cup upset proved too strong a temptation to resist and so I took my place amongst a bumper crowd to see if the Dons could beat the twice European Champions. On a night of great tension and nervous moments, Wimbledon caused a Cup upset with a Paul Fishenden goal enough to see off Forest. It was an evening when you couldn’t but help get caught up in the emotion of the occasion. That is what the FA Cup can do.

26 years later and what does the Fourth Round hold for the teams. My beloved Fulham have the misfortune to once again draw Tottenham. I say misfortune as Spurs knocked us out after a replay in the Quarter Final last year and in the seven meetings in the competition Fulham have yet to win. Sheffield Wednesday have battled through wins over Southport, Northampton Town and Bristol City to a Fourth Round tie at Hillsborough against Hereford United, in which the Owls will fancy their chances of making progress to the Fifth Round. AFC Wimbledon came through in the First Round after a replay against Ebbsfleet, but fell in the Second Round against Stevenage. Forest overcame Preston at Deepdale in the Third Round and face an interesting game at Premier League West Ham. How times have changed.

Whoever your team enjoy the Fourth Round this weekend and may it provide some more Cup Magic!

1974/75: Bridge Over Troubled Water

My match day experience is not complete unless I am able to get a programme. Over the years there have been just four games when this has happened. Thanks to the Internet the ability to try and get hold of those missing programmes has become easier. Just this week I managed to track down one of the missing four. The game in question was an FA Cup 4th Round game between Chelsea and Birmingham City at Stamford Bridge in 1975. One of the things about programmes for me is the memories that they evoke, in the same way songs, smells or photographs do for other people. They are in their own way a piece of social history. But it is also for me about being there, the shared experience and a confirming of your existence.

So it was a real joy to get my hands on the programme and get the nostalgic juices flowing. The cost of admission that day for standing was 50p (adults) and 25p (juniors), with the programme 10p and seats ranging from 80p to £2.00 – that seems incomprehensible when you consider that a programme alone currently at many Premier League and Championship clubs is at least £3.00.

Looking inside I found the results section and details of the game from the previous Saturday (details below):

Division One – Saturday 18th January 1975 (Attendance: 34,733)

Chelsea: Phillips, Locke, Harris, Hollins, Hinton, Hay, Kember, Wilkins, Garland, Hutchinson, Cooke. Substitute (Did not play): Stanley

Leeds United: Harvey, Reaney, Gray (F), Bremner, McQueen, Madeley, McKenzie, Clarke (Yorath), Lorimer, Giles, Gray (E).

On a near waterlogged pitch and in incessant rain, Chelsea contributed to a fine match, but conceded the season’s double to the reigning Champions. Harvey made magnificent saves from Hollins and Wilkins in the first half. When Leeds were opened wide by Kember’s brilliant free-kick, scooped over the “wall” to Hay, he pulled his shot wide. McKenzie shot the first goal after 32 minutes, when Clarke headed down Eddie Grays’s cross. Clarke (pulled hamstring) was substituted early second half by Yorath, who from close range, netted Leeds’ second ten minutes from the end, when Philips pushed up Frank Gray’s cross-shot.

I realised that I had been at that game and had gone along with a friend from school. It was the first time I had seen Leeds United “in the flesh” – the reigning Champions. I was in awe of the Leeds names on display in what was a traumatic season for the club. For Leeds United 1974/75 started with the rather less than glorious 44 day stewardship of Brian Clough and ended with the great rock and roll swindle that was the European Cup Final in Paris. For Chelsea it was no better either as the season ended in relegation.

Elsewhere in the programme for the Chelsea v Birmingham games were details of the other FA Cup games taking place. It then dawned on me that I wasn’t meant to be at Stamford Bridge at all. There in black and white was listed Fulham v Nottingham Forest (then managed by Brian Clough). However, the rain has put pay to us attending that game and so the short journey to Chelsea was made instead. My other abiding memory of the day relates to the end of the game. Birmingham had secured a 1-0 win and as my dad and I left the ground, somebody in front with a radio was relaying the action from Elland Road where Leeds United had been awarded a penalty against Wimbledon. We all stopped in our tracks and waited for the spot kick to be taken and gasped as we shared the news that Dickie Guy had saved Peter Lorimer’s penalty.

Interestingly I was to watch Birmingham City in action later that season. Quite incredibly it was again in the FA Cup at Hillsborough, as a Fulham side containing Alan Mullery and Bobby Moore drew 1-1 with the Midlands team, before winning the replay and getting to their only FA Cup to date. Like Leeds in Paris, Fulham succumbed to a 2-0 nil defeat, although not in such controversial manner.

Finally, just as I was putting the programme away, my eye caught the date the Chelsea match took place. Saturday 25th January 1975. The relevance of that date? 20 years later my son Liam was born. One date, so many memories.

2010/11: Pre-season – The Non-League Option

When I lived in London, I would regularly watch around 50 games a season. As well as watching my beloved Fulham, I spend many a Saturday at Plough Lane watching Wimbledon in the Southern League and Tooting & Mitcham in the Isthmian League. It was a chance to watch football without stress, it was cheaper and invariably had a sense of a greater belonging – a friendliness. That is not to say that the football was any less committed, that supporters were less fanatical or rivalries were less intense. I didn’t feel that I was being taken advantage of or being bombarded by advertising and merchandising. Many club officials and those working in the bars and refreshments areas were volunteers and so provided an honesty and integrity when attending the games. Two stand-out memories from those days occurred at Plough Lane and showed a career on the rise and one on the way down. In a London Senior Cup tie in 1978/79 season a 17 year old Dave Beasant played for Edgware Town against Wimbledon. He had a stormer of a game and was later signed up by the Dons on the way to a long and event filled career. A couple of years earlier, Geoff Hurst, cut a rather sad figure leading the forward line as player-manager of Telford United. Not a great memory of England’s 1966 hat-trick hero.

Since coming North I still get around the Non-League circuit and I’ll add a new ground to those visited tonight when Wakefield host a Leeds United XI. Yorkshire is blessed with a full range of clubs up and down the Non-League ladder. In the Conference Premier, York City are the flag bearers for the White Rose County, whilst a division below Guiseley and Harrogate Town look to continue their progress through the Leagues. FC Halifax Town, Bradford Park Avenue, Ossett Albion, Ossett Town, Harrogate Railway, Garforth Town, Yorkshire Amatuer – are all clubs in Yorkshire who would welcome extra spectators to their clubs. A special mention for Farsley AFC (previously Farsley Celtic) who have emerged from their troubles and start life again this season. Sky would have us believe that football doesn’t exist outside of the Premier League. Many fans know this isn’t true. The fact is football exists outside of the 92 clubs as well. If you are looking for a different experience and  when your team are away and you can’t get tickets, why not get along to a Non-League game?