News, Sport

Non League Life is Just as Good

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Radcliffe Borough FC BadgeTired of the soap opera that is the Premier League? Your local, lower division alternatives are just as exciting – and valuable, writes Matthew Bostock.

By Matthew Bostock

It has been a busy summer of football this year with the World Cup taking place. But with the new football season well under-way Brazil 2014 is already a distant memory. Far away from the siestas and samba music in Rio, many lower league and non-league clubs have been making their preparations for the start of the new campaign for a number of weeks. For some the preparation is already paying off.

For non-league clubs in particular, the summer transfer window can be a time of transition as players frequently move on, leaving clubs to re-build their squads from the ground up. Many players are semi-pro and have jobs to bear in mind when it comes to deciding where they play their football in the upcoming season. There are no multi-million pound deals made and there are no sulking stars moaning about their treatment to the press, but that certainly doesn’t mean that life in non-league football is any less exciting than the Premier League.  A number of supporters from non-league clubs would describe this as ‘proper’ football, where the only thing that matters is the result. However, if you think this means that clubs lack the ambition to play good football and develop young talent then you would be mistaken. Many teams place as much emphasis on these two factors as the result. This is certainly the case for Radcliffe Borough Football Club.

Elliot Rokka

Promising Future – Boro’s Elliot Rokka

Radcliffe Borough FC currently reside in the Evo-Stik Division One North and for the past two seasons they have finished in 15thposition. Yet this season promises to offer more. With a number of new faces being added to a young squad the club and the fans believe that, after such a good end to the last campaign, a top half finish is a minimum requirement.

Boro’ ended the 2013/14 campaign with five wins out of their last seven matches and left-back Sam Grimshaw and striker Chris Mason are confident that the squad is a lot stronger than the previous season and can continue to push on and develop as a team. It’s evident when interviewing these players that none of them are content with sitting on the bench. All keen to make a name for themselves and share ambitions for moving up the divisions into league football.

Boro’ have a history of nurturing young talent. One of their most recent successes is Craig Dawson who started off his career with the club and now plays in the Premier league for West Bromwich Albion. Current attacking midfielder for Boro’, Elliot Rokka, will be hoping to emulate Dawson’s achievements and make the jump into league football by a having productive season with the club after joining them from Macclesfield Town in January earlier this year. Being only 18 years old, Rokka can easily still achieve these goals with regular football and a good season under his belt.

Sam Grimshaw

Dedicated – Boro’s Sam Grimshaw

Like many footballers outside of league football, Radcliffe Borough’s squad sometimes suffers from being generalised because they are not full-time professional footballers. Players are thought of as unfit and are considered lackadaisical in their approach. This is an unfair observation made by people who are unwilling to take a closer look at the clubs’ set up. On the contrary, there are extremely high standards being set.  Players such as Sam Howell, Chris Mason and Sam Grimshaw are already involved in full-time coaching and train on a regular basis in order to maintain a high level of fitness.  At the beginning of the 2013/14 season Boro’ launched the “Boro’ Academy”. This scheme affords young people the opportunity to obtain a football and education scholarship and, ultimately, to progress in their careers within the game.  This is a great chance for 16 year olds to take full advantage of fantastic facilities available to them – and to achieve a BTEC National Extended Diploma in Sport which is equivalent to 3 A levels.

After spending an evening talking to the players and staff involved at the club it is clear that Radcliffe Borough FC should not be unfairly generalised by passive supporters who do not follow non-league football. All it takes is a visit down to Stainton Park to see that many perceptions about non-league football are not true. Of course there is a vast difference in wealth between non-league and Premier League clubs, but do not make the mistake in thinking that they don’t hold any ambitions of their own and lack the determination to succeed. With football’s top divisions becoming more and more expensive don’t be surprised to see the focus on non-league intensify; it may well prove to be key in the development of young players for future years.

Matthew is currently in his second year at MMU studying History and looking to pursue a career in sports journalism. He has a keen interest in all things football and Manchester United-related. Follow him on Twitter @mattybostock

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aAh! Magazine is Manchester Metropolitan University's arts and culture magazine.

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