A View from the Bottom

A Diamond view into the life of a Non-League fan

Written by Ollie Mortimer

Let’s be honest, how many of us football fans would spend over £100, to travel all the way from Lincoln to Dover, to watch your team in an FA Cup qualifier, spending roughly 10 hours on a train there and back in the process?

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Dog and Duck Ground. Home of AFC Rushden and Diamonds. Photo: @AFCRD (via Flickr)

No, just me then……

Such is the life of your average (or in his case, maybe not average) Non-league fan. They travel up and down the length and breadth of the Great British Isles, through wind, rain, sun, and the odd flurry of snow and ice when the Christmas fixtures come around, just to get a chance to see their team play. Representing their club. Don’t get me wrong, these types of fans aren’t exclusively found in the lower reaches of English football, but to me, there just seems to be many differences between a fan of a Non-League team, and that of a Football League team.

Take me. A fan of Rushden & Diamonds from 2000 till the club went bust back in 2011, and now a diehard fan of the phoenix club which has taken its place in my heart, AFC Rushden & Diamonds. A team at Step 5 of the Non-League pyramid, and at Step 9 of English football. If I had a pound coin for every time I’d heard the question “Why do you support them?” or “Who are they?”, I’d currently be living it up in some penthouse in Monte Carlo.

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Players warming up ahead of a recent FA Cup clash. Photo: @AFCRD (via Flickr)

The truth for me is, that the sense of loyalty and togetherness within a club at Non-League level is poles apart from your regular Premier League side. The simple things, like walking into the tiny stadiums that typically surround a plot of earth, and seeing familiar faces everywhere, and the feeling that you’re home. Back where you belong. I think it’s fair to say that a large majority of fans at Non-League games are there to support the team, and the 11 players representing something that the fans care so much for. Watch something they love.

For fans of teams like your Manchester United’s and Liverpool’s, you could argue that many are there just for the experience. In no way am I saying that you don’t get your die-hard fans at this level of the game. You obviously do. But as a total percentage of the overall crowd, these can often be in the minority.

So, yes. Travelling around 175 miles, and roughly £117 to go and watch your team lose 3-1 in the 3rd Qualifying Round. Some, ok many, would call me mad. But the scenes and reaction to the goal that we scored to level the game at 1-1 is something that will live with me forever, and still gives me Goosebumps when I think of it now. That’s what the game is all about. And that’s what you get at Non-League. And why I love the beautiful game.


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