These are exciting times right now for fans of AFC Wimbledon. A plumb tie at home against Liverpool in the FA Cup, and a potential move back to their home borough of Merton is edging ever nearer. However, that excitement may not be shared by Kingstonian, the club with whom they currently groundshare.
AFC Wimbledon have played their home games at Kingsmeadow since their formation in 2002. Originally, the Dons were the tenants, but after Kingstonian fell upon hard times financially, AFC bought the lease and became the landlords. This happened in 2003. The terms of the deal were favourable for Kingstonian; a renewable twenty five year sub-lease, and the first friendly involving AFC Wimbledon’s first team. The thinking was that the income from the friendly would cover K’s rent for the season ahead. However, that friendly has not been honoured for years, which has put doubts in my mind over the club’s long term future.
The big problem for me is the ownership of the ground. Kingsmeadow has been the home of Kingstonian since it opened in 1989, but the freehold of the site is held by Kingston Council. Since 2003, of course, K’s have not even held the leasehold, so they currently have no legal ownership of the ground. What happens, then, when AFC Wimbledon move back to Merton and Kingstonian cannot afford to buy the leasehold?
Here’s what got me thinking about this in the first place. On Boxing Day last year, my club Hampton & Richmond Borough hosted Kingstonian at Beveree Stadium. As I was in the boardroom, I spoke to a couple of their club officials. I think it was around this time that AFC Wimbledon first announced their intentions to go back to Plough Lane. I asked the K’s officials the question: what happens to you lot when AFC go home?
The answer? We don’t know.
Ever since then, I have been meaning to write an article on the subject, but never got round to it. Then, recent events involving Hitchin Town FC reignited things in my brain. In case you’re unaware, Hitchin are in danger of losing their Top Field home to developers, with supermarket chains said to be interested, and the club forced to move to the outskirts of town.
Who’s to say that something similar couldn’t happen to Kingstonian? If they cannot afford the leasehold if and when AFC Wimbledon move back to Plough Lane, what then? Would Kingston council look for a new tenant on the site?
Let’s face it; Kingstonian may not be the masters of their own destiny here. Their average attendances are no more than three hundred, whereas AFC tend to get more than two thousand. Think about that from the council’s point of view. Once the Dons leave, is it viable for K’s to stay at the site? Or would the powers that be think that it would be more beneficial (read profitable) to sell the land to the highest bidder? To have a shopping centre or housing estate built there instead?
As things stand, Kingstonian would probably be ok. But years down the line when this becomes an issue, who knows how the land will lay? It could be a different set of councillors, one who have no loyalty towards the club, or no desire to have a football club at all in their borough. Remember Barnet? Their council didn’t want them, and even actively pushed them out into the neighbouring borough. That could theoretically happen to Kingstonian.
As I said, I am probably way off. I certainly hope so.
FC United of Manchester 4-0 Harrogate Town
On a freezing afternoon at Bower Fold, 903 fans braved the conditions to witness this FA Trophy tie – yet only one side decided to turn up. Read the rest of this entry
Match reports from the two most recent Halesowen Town games, against Guiseley in the FA Cup, and Ilkeston in the Northern Premier League. Read the rest of this entry
The new season has started (except for some reason in the NPL), and that means a new season of Non League Podcast. There’s plenty to talk about too, and not one but two rants from Rob! #RantyRobo
On the show then this week:
- Vanarama put the Conference back into nonleague
- Save Grassroots e-petition
- Salisbury City debacle rages on
- 3G to be allowed in Conference – apparently
- #hattrickwatch (a bit bare this week. Come on lads start scoring!)
- And Finally (courtesy of @NonLeagueCrowd)
To listen online or download the audio file, simply visit the show website, or alternatively subscribe on iTunes and never miss the show in future. Speaking of iTunes, if you could see your way to leaving us a short review that would be fantastic. It would help the show get noticed and bring us to new listeners and fans.
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Following on from my Conference Premier prediction, it is now time to turn the focus onto Step Two. Which clubs can take the titles in Conference North and South, and with it a place at non leage’s top table?
My tip for the Conference North title is Barrow AFC. Under manager Darren Edmondson, the club have made good progress, and the ex-Huddersfield Town and Carlisle United defender has assembled a strong looking squad for the new campaign. The most notable signing is probably that of striker Anthony Wilson, who scored twenty league goals for North Ferriby United as they finished second in their first ever season at Step Two.
Another potential star signed is James Ellison. The 22 year old striker came through the youth ranks at Liverpool, but has been somewhat nomadic since leaving Anfield in 2009. Barrow will be his eleventh club in those five years. It’s fair to say that he had struggled to make an impact at any of the previous ten clubs, until he arrived at Colwyn Bay, where he made more than fifty appearances in just over a season and scored fifteen goals. If he settles into life in the North East quickly, Edmondson may have unearthed a gem.
It’s not just in attack where Edmondson has strengthened though. Defender Danny Livesey has joined the club after spending the second half of last season with my Premier tip Wrexham on loan from Carlisle United. The 29 year old is something of a legend at Brunton Park, spending almost ten years at the club and making more than three hundred appearances. He also captained theside. His experience will be key for Barrow this season, and at a still relatively young age, is a fantastic signing.
Everything seems to be in place for The Bluebirds to have a real crack at the title next season, and the fact that they are currently the bookies’ favourites bears that out.
In the South, it was an easy pick for me. I’ve gone for Bromley FC. Just a look at the news section on their website shows how much they’ve been up to in the close season. Record season tickets and a whole host of quality signings mean Mark Goldberg’s side are rightly the clear favourites for promotion.
Goldberg seems to have strengthened every area of the squad, and every position on the pitch. In goal, ex-AFC Wimbledon favourite Seb Brown has joined. Brown, you may recall, was a hero in the Conference playoff final against Luton Town back in 2011, saving two penalties in the shootout to help The Dons into the Football League. He spent part of last season on loan at Woking, but has joined the revolution at ambitious Bromley following his release from AFC.
The defense has been added to, with Adam Bailey-Dennis rejoining the club for the new season. Bailey-Dennis spent the latter part of last season at Hayes Lane, and the former Colchester United, Braintree Town and Bury Town man obviously feels he is at the right club at the right time.
In midfield, Goldberg has really pulled off some great looking signings. Moses Ademola, Dean Sinclair, and Damian Scannell all add quality and experience, whilst upfront there have been some fantastic additions, mainly Sam Higgins from East Thurrock United, and ex-Tottenham Hotspur and Chelmsford City man Jamie Slabber from Sutton United. I’ve seen both players play live, and they should be cracking additions to the squad.
It may not have always been the most stable and harmonious club internally over the years, but things have really improved. Goldberg is now going into his fourth season in charge – in his third spell as manager. That sort of stability shouldn’t be ignored, and coupled with the new signings, things are looking good. If the manager can find a good blend, and keep everybody happy, I can honestly see Bromley FC running away with Conference South this season.
What do you think about my predictions for Step Two? Do you agree, or do you have your own tips for the titles? Get in touch on facebook or twitter (search undertheleague on either), or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively leave a comment on this post.
January 27th 1994 saw possibly the most bizarre match ever played. The match in question took place between Barbados and Grenada during qualification for the Carribbean Cup. Barbados went into the match needing to win by at least two goals to top the three team group on goal difference. Any other result would see Grenada progress. In a bizarre tournament rule, group games were not allowed to end in a draw, and would enter a period of golden goal extra time if level after ninety minutes. Oh, and if a golden goal was scored, it would count as two goals!
And here begins one of those stories that were it in a film, you would dismiss it as implausible in the extreme!
All was progressing along nicely, and according to plan for Barbados. Going into the latter stages, they had the required 2-0 lead, and were on course to progress. And then, with 83 minutes on the clock, Grenada scored to halve the deficit, and with it put themselves in pole position.
Barbados – now on the verge of elimination – realised that with the bizarre rule about the golden goal, they would stand a better chance of breaking down the mass defensive ranks in front of them during a thirty minute extra time period rather than the seven minutes that were left. So, after a spell of passing between a defender and his goalkeeper, the defender lashed the ball into the net to level at 2-2.
Grenada suddenly realised the situation aswell, and were desperate to avoid extra time. A goal at either end of the pitch in the remaining minutes would see them through! And so, spectators were witness to one of the most incredible spectacles in football history; one team desperately trying to score at both ends, while the other frantically tried to prevent it by defending both goals!
As it goes, Barbados did manage to keep the score at 2-2, and force the extra time they craved. And it only took them around five minutes to score the decisive golden goal, giving them a 4-2 win, and progression to the final tournament. Quite a match!
Oh, and in case you were wondering, Barbados finished third in their four team group in the finals, drawing with Guadeloupe and Dominica, but losing to hosts and eventual winners Trinidad & Tobago.
The new season is almost here! It’s been a summer of football, with the World Cup in Brazil filling the void until the real business of the nonleague season begins again. Most teams are now at least two weeks and one game into their preseason programme, and attention begins to focus on the second weekend in August, and that first league game.
Managers (hopefully) have assembled the bulk of their squads by now, with just one or two additions to be made, probably based on performances in friendlies. Chairmen are hoping that their managers have used their given budgets wisely, building a group of players that can meet – and even exceed – the clubs’ ambitions and aims for the coming campaign.
As for us fans, well this is the time of the year we get to dream. Dream about promotion, a cup run, or even surviving relegation if deep down we know that’s the end of the table we are most likely to find ourselves for the duration of the season. Whatever hopes and dreams we have, inevitably some will be met, some will be exceeded, and some will fall short.
Which brings me to my predictions for the season ahead. Those of you who listen to the Non League Podcast (episode 41 specifically) will be aware who I’ve tipped for glory. However, I thought I would put them in writing.
The Conference Premier is arguably the hardest division to get out of at any level of the game, and is a fascinating ecosystem. Clubs on their way up through the leagues come face to face with teams going very much in the opposite direction. It is always nigh on impossible to predict who will win the title, and with it the solitary automatic promotion place to the Football League. It is even harder to try and say who will finish in the playoffs or get relegated. So much can – and invariably does – happen on and off the pitch over the course of the season, that it ends up making a mockery of most “experts” predictions! Mine will probably be no different!
My choice for the winners of nonleague’s top flight are Wrexham. Like last season’s champions Luton Town, they have been in the division for a few years now, having fallen through the League Two trapdoor in 2008. Manager Kevin Wilkin succeeded Andy Morrell in March, and has set about assembling a squad he thinks will take the club up. They have strengthened their attack ahead of the new season, bringing in Louis Moult from Nuneaton Town and Connor Jennings from Scunthorpe United. Both are excellent strikers at this level, and if they can form a good partnership straight away, it could spell trouble for the rest of the division. Add ths to an already decent squad, and for me it’s the Welsh club who will be celebrating next April.
However, there will be plenty of competition for The Dragons. Barnet, Forest Green Rovers, Lincoln City, Grimsby Town, Braintree Town and Kidderminster Harriers among others will all have their own promotion ambitions (although internal wrangling sat Kiddie could destabilise the club). And then there are the two clubs relegated from League Two. Bristol Rovers and Torquay United have come down purely because of their results on the pitch, rather than points deductions and financial difficulties. However, it has been nearly a quarter of a century since a side won promotion the season after relegation from the Football League (thanks to @essexfootie for the research help). Darlington achieved the feat in 1990, two years after Lincoln City were the first club to do it (the season after being the first club to be relegated from the Football League. So the task is an historically difficult one for The Gas and The Seagulls.
So, as usual the Conference Premier looks like it will be a very strong division, and a very tough one to win. I’ve picked Wrexham as my winners, but have also named another eight who will be looking to prove me wrong. And there will always be a team who surprise everyone (like FC Halifax last season).
Am I way off? Who do you predict will take the title? And who do you think will struggle this season? Get in touch and let me know. You can tweet me (@undertheleague), or email (email@example.com) and Facebook (facebook.com/undertheleague). Or you can leave a comment on this article.
The first podcast ahead of the new season is now available to download. There is only one news story to cover, as we try and get our heads around the debacle at Salisbury City. I’m not sure we do a great job of it to be honest!
Elsewhere, it’s that time of year; predictions. Myself, Rob and Kristan predict (guess) who will win the titles from Steps 1-4. We shall revisit these ill advised psychic episodes at the end of the season to see who was least useless!
To download this episode or any of the previous forty, or to listen online, simply follow this link to the podcast website.
If you have your own predictions for any of nonleague’s divisions, get in touch and let us know. And if you like the show, please leave a review on iTunes, as it really does help bring the show to the attention of new ears. Or better yet, tell a friend or colleague about us.
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Preseason is well and truly upon us now, and this weekend I was able to take in two games on the same day. Heaven! Read the rest of this entry
This summer has been one of the messiest I can remember. Clubs folding, reprieves, relegations and transfers between divisions have all meant that the situation has got muddier and muddier, and the kerfuffle surrounding Salisbury City just adds to that.
Everything seemed to be going pretty well down at The Ray Mac. A good young manager in Mikey Harris, and a team that was arguably punching above its weight in the top flight of nonleague football. However, that has all now turned to dust as the club currently face up to an uncertain future. And for once, that uncertain future lies on the pitch. No manager, no players and a transfer embargo all put the very future of the club in jeopardy.
Following last season’s solid twelfth place finish, the supporters have had the rug pulled from under them, as they watch helpless while their club is embroiled in scandal before being demoted and then ultimately thrown out of the Conference structure. And it all boils down to one man; former owner Medy Outail Touzar. The Dubai based business man took over the club in May 2014 along with Mark Winter – one of the consortium that has now taken control of the club after successfully taking legal action to remove Mr Touzar from the board. The club allege that Touzar did not put a single penny into the club since taking over, leading to the legal challenge against him.
The club had come out of administration in December 2013 after five years of financial turmoil which culminated in a double demotion in 2010, but have been under a transfer embargo since April over failure to pay creditors. Reports say that players have not been paid for two months, leading to the Conference board taking action.
Their first demotion occured on June 13th, when The Whites were relegated to Conference South for failing to meet a deadline for clearing outstanding debts. This led to reprieves for Chester FC in the Premier, and Hayes & Yeading United in the South. And remember, Hayes & Yeading were already embroiled in controversy as they were already appealing for a reprieve due to the Worksop Town/Vauxhall Motors scenarios!
Then, on July 4th, it was announced that Salisbury City were to be thrown out of the Conference altogether for again missing a payment deadline. The Conference also announced that the South would carry on a club short, rather than go through the turmoil of reprieving clubs again. The club, though, were severely angered and distressed by the Conference announcement. And rightly so it might turn out.
On their official website, the club released a statement on July 4th, stating that the Conference had gone back on their original promises. The club claim that they were told that if they could pay off the debts (in excess of £91,000) and safeguard the future of the club, then they would be allowed to continue in the South. They had the money ready to transfer to the Conference account, but were told at around 3pm that day not to transfer the funds as they would be non-refundable. The announcement then followed that they were to be turfed out – to all intents and purposes – into no man’s land.
The problem for City now is: where do they play their football? With the decision taken not to reprieve a team in Conference South, that means there is nowhere for Salisbury to go. That to me seems ludicrous. Surely it would be better to try and accomodate them somewhere, even if it did mean a second double demotion in four years?
I do, however, understand that it would be extremely difficult to issue reprieves at this late stage in proceedings. The Conference fixtures are out, clubs up and down the pyramid have set budgets and started building squads accordingly, so to start rearranging now would be unhelpful in the extreme. Considering they turned down Lowestoft Town’s request to shift back to the North – where they were originally placed before everything kicked off – then reprieves were never going to happen.
That then, surely leaves only one solution: allow Salisbury City to take their place in Conference South, and thus returning the division to a full compliment of participants? I know that rules are rules, and that they are implemented to try and ensure clubs are run properly, but it does seem City have been treated harshly. They have already – justly – been demoted one division due to unpaid debts, but they are now under new ownership, and they had the monies ready to meet the Conference’s concerns, so why did the Conference then do such a spectacular u-turn?
Again, as is always the case in such situations, it’s the fans who suffer. Yes, the club have been run shoddily in the past and have endured years of ignominy and uncertainty, but it seems as though they are now on a firmer footing under new owners, and yet still there seems to be people not wishing to see the club move on. If the club are not reinstated into the Conference South, then the club could feasibly go out of business altogether. With no games – and therefore no income – for at least the next year, surely the troubled club can no longer operate. Even if they are reinstated, that doesn’t leave much time to assemble a squad and appoint a new manager. Veteran Football League striker and former Weymouth manager Steve Claridge has been sounded out regarding the managerial vacancy, but this would be a monumental challenge for the TV pundit to take on, with the new season just weeks away and no plans in place as yet.
The Conference have virtually condemned Salisbury to relegation anyway now, as even if they are reinstated, building a competitive squad at such short notice would be nigh on impossible, but it’s better that than the alternative for fans of The Whites.