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The pies have it: in praise of non-league football

Daniel Van der Noon gets a warm feeling at York City versus Histon FC

Published on March 29th 2011.


The pies have it: in praise of non-league football

THERE used to be an aura about Saturdays as a kid, largely around going to the football. It was a thing of mystery. A secret world.

‘Almost 2,500 fans had turned out (including 29 Histon supporters and a vuvuzela). A tannoy announcement for ‘Gary’ to phone his dad drew the first cheers of the day.’

Nowadays I piece together Saturday’s action from the plethora of radio commentaries, real time vidi-printers, pundits and websites. Then I wait up for the highlights on Match of the Day.

This is about as close as you can get to watching professional football without forking out between £25-£50 for a ticket.

There’s an answer to this, and it’s not a secret underground tunnel that I’ve discovered leading to the Don Revie Stand. It’s non-league football.

Instead of the dry qualifier between England and Wales, myself and a couple of mates hopped on a train to see York City versus Histon FC; a must-win fixture for The Minstermen, challenging for a play-off spot in English football’s fifth-tier, the Blue Square Premier League.

On entering York you’re spoilt for choice as to where to have that pre-match football-talk that naturally comes with going to the football. We stopped off at The Exhibition for a quick pint - an accommodating pub with a warm, inviting atmosphere - with an eye on giving ourselves enough time to get a Bovril before kick-off.

Turning up at Bootham Crescent - York City’s humble ground patched together over the decades with layer after layer of red paint – a £9 entry charge took us through nostalgic narrow turnstiles.

Almost 2,500 fans had turned out (including 29 Histon supporters and a vuvuzela). A tannoy announcement for ‘Gary’ to phone his dad drew the first cheers of the day.

Watching from the terraces really makes a difference to the match day experience. I picked up on the friendly atmosphere in the stand, supporters applauding spates of creativity and only muttering civil curses when the striker failed to hit the target. There was a strong sense of respect among the supporters which was refreshing, remembering my last, slightly unpleasant, trip to Birmingham City’s St. Andrews.

The fans’ patience was rewarded shortly after half time - just after we finished our steak and kidney pies - with a goal from powerhouse forward Jamie Reed. The couple of quid I placed on York to win 4-0 was looking almost likely. I was hoping the floodgates would open for City’s bustling forward line.

In the end, York held out for a 1-0 victory. Still, it was smiles all round and a lap of honour from the York players. We made our way back into town; one family of supporters only lived five doors down from the ground. Remember that?

Amid the glitz, glamour and extortionate wages, it’s good to be reminded that real football is still out there. And the pies are better.

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