A year is a long time in football- The rise of Wycombe Wanderers

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wycombe wanderers

After having a last gasp survival in the Football League in 2014, now Wycombe are just one game from League 1.

What a difference a year makes for Wycombe Wanderers. On the final day of last season they were as good as down. Bristol Rovers needed only a point against a Mansfield side with nothing to play for and Wycombe also had to win against relegated Torquay.

At the end of the 90 minutes on 3rd May 2014 Bristol Rovers had fallen to a one nil defeat to Mansfield and it would be Wycombe who stayed up on the final day of the season. However much supporters expected this season to be better I don’t think any of them could imagine just what a fantastic performance their team would put in on the route to Wembley.

Credit must go of course to Gareth Ainsworth, who since taking the reins at Wycombe has dealt with the significant financial restraints at the club. To have put a squad together which for the good share of the season was inside the top 3 is a fantastic achievement and it shouldn’t be underestimated how tough a task this was.

Wycombe, by virtue of being fan owned and attempting to run sustainably will always be at a disadvantage to teams funded beyond their means and larger clubs. This season, Bury and Shrewsbury spent heavily to ensure success and both have gained promotion whilst incurring significant financial losses. Other clubs like Luton have re-emerged as a force after returning from non-league whilst clubs such as Southend and Plymouth can command higher attendances.

The reason for the financial prudence at Wycombe is something we have looked at before on this site. Three years ago, the Supporters Trust took over the club from former owner Steve Hayes and since then has struggled to get the club on an even keel financially whilst staying in the League.

Despite a potential buyer at the end of last season, these talks broke down and the Trust launched an ambitious Community Share Scheme with the aim to raise £2 million over the next five years. Looking at the share offer the financial situation of the club was starkly laid out. In 2012/13 losses were £1.3 million, last season they were £355,000 and this season a loss was projected (here).

However, the good news is not just on the pitch but off it, with £500,000 of the £2 million pledged before their play-off final. The significant cash boost that a Wembley appearance will give the club and media coverage can only help as the Trust look to clear the books and is yet again another example how despite all the difficulties fan owned clubs face (with a lot of those difficulties being inherited from others), they can still be successful.

On a wider note, it is the second appearance at Wembley for fan owned clubs this season and if Wycombe were to win it would take them back to the League they were relegated from when the fans took over. It would also be the highest level a fan owned team has got to in the pyramid since Exeter City competed at League 1 in 2011/12.

It is good sign and hopefully the start of a trend where fan ownership starts to claw its way up the pyramid, giving our cause further backing and exposure. If Wycombe can get up, the fans club will be on an equal footing with the sugar daddy ‘big’ club Sheffield United and will be the receiver of many envious glances from Blackpool fans, who’ll be wondering why they can’t have owners who care about the club.

In many ways, even if Wycombe were to come straight back down it would be far from disastrous and going up gives them more breathing space to clear the debt, free from the worry of dropping out of the Football League.

Still, they face a tough test in Southend and both teams go into the game in excellent form but regardless of the result, the owners of Wycombe can take pride in the fact that they took over a club three years ago, who were living beyond their means and heading for administration.

Today, their team will step out onto the hallowed turf of Wembley with a chance to create a memory that will go down as one of the clubs great moments which fans will talk about for generations. Not bad for a bunch of fans.

@eddyman00

Links

Wycombe Wanderers Community Share Offer- February 2015

Cameron’s ‘renegotiation’ is a fraud but who on the left will campaign to leave?

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David Cameron has promised to renegotiate Britain’s deal with the EU and there will be some people deluding themselves into thinking that will mean free movement of people will end. This will be a quick post to show why that is bunk.

This time last week, I was in Gdansk for a Conference on The future of Europe and the final speaker was none other than Donald Tusk, who is the President of the European Council. For now, all you need to know is he is in a good position to make a judgement about what Britain would be able to get from a renegotiation.

The question was asked: What could Cameron get in a renegotiation? Donald Tusk replied that there was “no chance” of free movement being taken out. I’ll repeat that again, on free movement of labour there is “no chance”. Instead, he mentioned that Britain could get some small concessions on benefits.

So, there it is. We know that just like Harold Wilsons ‘renegotiation’ before the last referendum, that this will be worthless exercise from the PR man. I won’t go on my immigration spiel again but the fact is that the ‘migrants claiming benefits’ is such a red herring and isn’t the problem. As David Davis said recently

The problem is not millions of people coming to claim benefits but millions of people coming here to work

The question for us now is not who is going to be on the out campaign from the Conservative side or in UKIP, even though Farage is now totally discredited. No, the question is just who the hell is going to campaign from the Labour or left wing side? As it stands, I get the feeling I will just be out campaigning with Jacob Rees Mogg. Not that I mind Jacob Rees Mogg but I don’t know how well he would go down on the doorstep in Darlington for example.

We’ve already seen that Trade Unions are betraying their members and killing themselves by being in favour of the EU and there is no chance of getting a new Leader of Unite till after the Referendum, so just who the hell is there?

Well we’ve got the always brilliant Frank Field but he is getting on now and how much weight is he going to be able to carry? Luckily there are some new voices coming through in the shape of John Mann, who was ignored by Ed Miliband when he routinely raised concerns over immigration and was proved right at the election. We have probably got Simon Danczuk also but this is a frighteningly thin list.

There is a faint hope for us that Andy Burnham eventually gets to a position where he demands end to free movement in the EU or campaigns to leave but his recent comments that he will campaign to stay in the EU have probably killed this.

It is deeply damaging for the campaign if the only people involved are Tories and UKIP, with some awful soap opera as to who should be head of the campaign. Even in 1975 although there were deep divisions and it was easy to characterise those who wanted to leave as the radicals (Enoch Powell & Tony Benn being voices in the wilderness), there were still people from different parties campaigning to leave.

I was going to suggest Jon Cruddas. His view against the EU fiscal policy is well known and he was in favour of the People’s Pledge (here), defying a three line whip to back a referendum in October 2011.

His credentials to lead an ‘out’ campaign would’ve been perfect. He represents a working class seat which is feeling the pressures and tensions of immigration so will be able to speak to these communities in a way Nigel Farage can’t. Consevative Eurosceptics with any sense would’ve been banging on the door of Jon Cruddas, begging him to lead the campaign.

Sadly, I read that he would vote to stay in and if this is the case, then we’re buggered. It shows that every single traditional institution (Trade Union, Labour) that used to understand the importance of democracy and were formed to move power away from a clique has now mutated into groups which defend the privileges of the powerful. It’s hard to see any of them surviving in the future.

For those of us who are against the EU for it’s lack of democracy and undermining of working class people’s lives through mass immigration but don’t want to live in some Thatcherite fantasy of Farage’s imagination, there is going to be no one who will speak for us in this campaign from our side.

Where’s the number for Jacob Rees Mogg again?

@eddyman00

Links

Jon Cruddas MP, the People’s Pledge EU Referendum Campaign – May 2012

Unite the Union is not the Enemy of the Labour Party… But it should be.

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Should Unite dump Labour? Absolutely

Should Unite dump Labour? Absolutely

Recently, there has been a lot of stick heading towards Unite the Union and Union ’Baron’ (despite being democratically elected) Len McClusky. There has also been a severe amount of calling for Labour to split off from getting Union money.

I have to say, I fully back this, not because it will save the Labour Party, which is an organization we’d all be better off without but because it could very well save Unite and give Unions some relevance this century.

To start with though, we’ll look at the criticism dished out to Unite by Nick Cohen over at the Spectator (his article has mysteriously disappeared from the website for now). He is right to criticize Len McClusky over his support for the odious Lutfur Rahman, the Mayor of Tower Hamlets who was removed from office for bringing the politics of the third world to modern Britain.

Is next criticism is also spot on. Bluntly, Unions are dying and are failing to attract new members, with their membership base increasingly old and Unions have totally failed to represent the new working class. People who work in supermarkets, cleaners and those working on the shop floor in bookmakers. All of us who work or worked in service sector jobs are not joining up and really Unions have very little to offer. As a result, what right does Unite have to claim to represent the new working class when they can’t get us to join? Here, Nick Cohen makes a fair point.

However, this is where me and Nick Cohen depart because the question of “Why don’t Unite attract or represent the new working class in service sector jobs?” has an answer that people like Nick Cohen will probably not want to hear.

The answer is one word: Immigration. Migrants made up 16% of those in low skilled work in 2014 (here) and that when bosses pay less than the minimum wage…

An employer can expect a visit from HMRC once every 250 years and a prosecution once in a million years.

We had a migration observatory report out  in March 2014 (here) showing “low-wage workers lose while medium and high-paid workers gain.” Simply put, the working class lose from immigration. This isn’t just on the economics though that Unions should be against any immigration for low skilled work, the other reason is just as important.

As David Goodhart points out in his still excellent observations in ‘London: All that Glisters’ (here) Quoting UCL research, he states that “In around one third of the 33 London boroughs the equivalent of half their populations move in or out every five years.”

Well how are you supposed to organize that? What reason would people have to make an investment in their community and colleagues at work if they are just temporary transient workers, looking for the first opportunity to leave?

It gets better, with the same article reporting:

20 per cent of low-skill jobs are taken by people born abroad and according to Ian Gordon of the LSE wages in the bottom 20 per cent may have been depressed by as much as 15 per cent in periods of peak inflow.

So that’s 20% of people who are incredibly poor, working with others they have no linguistic, cultural or social connections. We already know from the work of Robert Putnam that people go into their shells when they are confronted with diversity, having less levels of trust not only with people from the “other” groups but people within their own background.

I could go on forever and quote Professor George Borjas but there is a reason why big business loves mass immigration and it’s got jack all to do with the wonders of multiculturalism. It’s because of cheap labour which is culturally divided , segregated and has no chance of unifying.

The facts are in and the conclusion is simple: If you are in favour of mass immigration then you are part of the problem, you are a clear enemy to the interests of the working class.

This is why Unite should have dumped Miliband and the Labour Party, not because it was some left wing dream under Ed Miliband but because it embraced the smug, affluent metropolitan love of cheap labour whilst suffering none of the losses.

Now I have to say I admire the writing of Nick Cohen and when I first went to University, one of the first things I did was go hear him speak in Lewes on the subject of free speech. However, I suspect he thinks you can have good Unions with mass immigration and is therefore part of the problem. We need less Nick Cohen and more Rod Liddle.

Today, the latest immigration figures came out and were once again massive. You would expect any Union that actually cared about working class conditions or it’s members to be going absolutely ballistic at these numbers. They should be screaming blue murder and demanding the end of free movement in the EU.

What has Unite the Union done? Nothing. It’s as if nothing has happened today of any importance and I have not seen a Union online make so much as a single comment on this. So Nick Cohen is right about Len McClusky but maybe not for the reasons he thinks.

So, what should my Union do? Well here’s what I’d do: Immediately suspend any money to the Labour Party and get out of the business of funding any political party. This doesn’t mean we stop funding candidates, oh no, it just means we can fund candidates from other parties as well.

Any candidate in a swing seat who is in favour of stopping mass immigration would get money if they need it. If London liberals want to have their crappy metropolitan party, they can fund it themselves. This is about Unite having real influence and not just chucking all the eggs into the Labour basket.

Just think, if Unite had supported David Davis for Tory leader in 2005 instead of screeching “evil Tory”, then we would’ve had a politician off a council estate who would have won the election in 2010 and the era of mass immigration would’ve been stopped.

Now we have David Cameron who has no intention of leaving the EU or reforming the free movement of labour. A Trade Union should not have permanent alliances but permanent interests, so I don’t care if Jacob Rees Mogg needed some cash to get over the line, we should give it to him.

Crucially and way more importantly, every single penny spent on lobbying and the millions clawed back from wasting it on the Labour Party should actually be spent on, wait for it, actual organizing. Why don’t Unions build housing for their members or fund housing co-ops provided people sign up to join the Union? Since 2010, Unite had given £11.9 million to Labour by 2013, just think of all the amazing things we could actually do with that money if only we stopped wasting it?

Unite says that it wants higher pay for restaurant workers, well why don’t we set up a chain of businesses and put workers on the boards to ensure a good salary? Yes, heresy I know, a Union should actually set up businesses instead of demanding others do it.

What about organising like Supporters Direct organise fans and set up workers trusts, with the aim of getting workers a stake in the company under a one member one vote scheme? There are so many things we could do everyday to change people’s lives instead of praying for one election result every five years. Plus, free of the Labour Party, we could have good relations with the many Conservative MP’s who aren’t fans of open borders and probably end up with more influence regardless of who is in power.

For Unite the Union, breaking with the Labour Party wouldn’t be the end but just the beginning as it re-emerges as a real force and has a real stake in society, as a funder of new businesses and job creation. Unite is not the enemy of the Labour Party but if it wants a future, it bloody well should be.

@eddyman00

Links

Migration Advisory Committee – Migrants in low skilled work – July 2014

Migration Observatory – The Labour Market Effects of Immigration – March 2014

David Goodhart – London: All that Glisters – October 2014

The sad and obsessive fan owned season review

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With another season behind us, we look back at how the season has gone for our ever-growing list of fan owned football clubs in the English Pyramid.

The list of achievements for fan owned football clubs this season means I picked the very worst six months to go abroad and as a result, missed out on the almost weekly promotions for fan owned clubs. So, we can be sure next season there will be a ton of relegations for me to enjoy instead. MK Dons may have been promoted but there is plenty to celebrate in the English pyramid.

Some people have serious meaningful relationships but not I, dear reader; it’s because of that I can bring you another round up of the entire fan owned clubs in the Non – League. I must also point out that a few clubs who I was unaware had become fan owned will be included from next season onward, you lucky things.

Right then, off we go…

Hinckley AFC – Midland Football League Division 1 – Step 6

Pre-season prediction: Top 3

 Well they left it late, but Hinckley got me off to a good start from my preseason predictions. Two wins from their first 10 league games and a first qualifying round defeat in the FA Vase. However, since then they went 26 games undefeated in the league and pinched third place on goal difference on the final day, with a 5-1 victory in front of roughly 250 people. At Step 6 and ground sharing, it shows Hinckley AFC have a long term positive future.

Sadly, with league re-organisation only one team went up from this division this season but Hinckley will be in a strong place to challenge next season and you would expect them to be in the top 2 and heading for promotion.

Result: Top 3, FA Cup entry next season

AFC Croydon Athletic – Combined Counties Division 1- Step 6

Pre-season prediction: Promotion

AFC Croydon Athletic did what they had to do this season. The club moved back to Thornton Heath (the old clubs home) and with 21 wins from 30 games, they should be confident of surviving next season at Step 5. They also had a London Senior Trophy win to their name, to go with a trophy from their first season so it is all positive for AFC Croydon Athletic. The challenge now will be to stabilize and then try to get out of the nightmare that is Step 5.

Result: Promotion

Saffron Walden Town FC – Eastern Counties Football League Division 1- Step 6

Pre-season Prediction: Promotion

Talk about leaving it late. Saffron looked like they had missed out on promotion but a final day draw against Great Yarmouth Town in front of 762 people saw them wrap up the final promotion spot in third place. They have decent infrastructure in place and a good crowd for Step 5, so they should be more than capable of holding their own next season.

Result: Promotion

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AFC Rushden & Diamonds- United Counties League Premier- Step 5

Pre- season Prediction: Top 3

I didn’t want to stick my neck out here with Step 5 always being a league where a moneyed team playing in front of one man and his dog can come and snatch it away. However, this year there was no one who could live with the Diamonds after the challenge of Holbeach United fell away. The Diamonds wrapped up a League & Cup double as they bid farewell to the nightmare of Step 5 and enter the Southern League Central.

With local rivals Kettering winning the league that the Diamonds are about to enter, the league has opened up for them. Averaging 550 fans despite ground-sharing with Wellingborough, the long term aim remains a home of their own in Rushden but they can look forward to making a push for the top half of the table and continue their progress both on and off the field.

Result: Champions

Fisher FC- Southern Counties East League- Step 5

Pre- season Prediction: Lower Half

So the Fish have done what they had to do really. A season in which survival was assured means that they will begin life at their brand new 3G facility back in Bermondsey, after ground-sharing since their unlikely resurrection. At a time when clubs across London are naturally going to be put under pressure by property developers, it is a great achievement that Fisher has secured their future.

So a solid 16th, job done and now Fisher can start to think about moving up the streams of non-league football. Hats off to all at Fisher for a wonderful job so far, the rewards aren’t that far away.

Result: Lower Half

Newport (Isle of Wight) FC – Wessex League Prem – Step 5

Pre- season Prediction: Top 3

So, a season of transition for The Port with a new Chairman and Manager being appointed in April and a season where they have finished far off the pace in 7th , 31 points behind the eventual winners. With the latest incarnation of the constantly self-bankrupting Salisbury City likely to enter at Step 5 it is hard to see any other winner of the league next season.

As a result, it will be a time for Port fans to ask themselves what the long term aim of the club is and start to put the building blocks in place for it over the coming year.

Result: 7th

AFC Liverpool- North West Counties Prem – Step 5

Pre-season Prediction: Mid Table

So another season over for a club whose original concept, to be against high ticket prices for Liverpool fans but not the owners of Liverpool (who set the prices), has consigned them to obscurity. As it turns out, people don’t like watching ‘B’ teams and you can’t see AFC Liverpool making any progress.

However, with Liverpool fans seemingly breaking out of their delusions and realizing there is as much chance of Liverpool getting into the top 4 or competing for the title as there is of Kylie Minogue showing up in gold hot pants to give me a lap dance, there is a chance for AFC Liverpool to drop the “why can’t we be friends?” nonsense and be a real alternative.

If not, I suspect that AFC Liverpool will remain as they are now, going nowhere fast.

Result: Lower Top Half

1874 Northwich – North West Counties Prem – Step 5:

Pre- season Prediction: Top 5

A season that really could not have gone any better for 1874, who now have back to back Top 3 finishes in their first two seasons as a Football Club. Finishing six points between 2nd and 4th with attendances stable at over 300, the future looks good for 1874 Northwich.

There are challenges, with the Zombie Vics returning to the local area after agreeing a ground-share with Witton Albion has probably closed off a way back for 1874 to Northwich in the short term. I do not suspect fans to drift away from 1874 back to the Zombie Vics, whose ownership had abused the fan base for too long to be given another chance now.

Also, with Witton Albion relegated to Step 4 and the old Vics missing out on promotion (thanks to fan owned Bamber Bridge) it means there is just one league between all three teams and that should be good enough motivation for 1874 to push on and fight it out for promotion against the most unlucky fan owned team at Step 5 in football…

Result: 3rd

Runcorn Linnets – North West Counties Prem – Step 5

Pre-season Prediction: Top 2

You have to feel sorry for Runcorn Linnets who have been the bridesmaid and not the bride over the last two seasons, with consecutive runners up spots. 187 points and only nine defeats in their last 82 league games has still not been enough to break out of the nightmare of Step 5.

The club could easily manage at Step 4 and probably Step 3, with great infrastructure in place and an attendance in the high 300’s but they seem to always come up against a team where someone will throw money at them like it’s going out of fashion.

However, fingers crossed next season will see no crazy money man and it will be a straight fight between them and 1874 Northwich. The last two years have been a painful experience but Joey Dunn will pick them up and it should be third time lucky for the Linnets.

Result: 2nd

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Merthyr Town- Calor League South and West – Step 4

Pre-season Prediction: Promotion

After last season and what can only be described as choking, the Martyrs made no mistakes this time, romping home as Champions with 102 points and 122 goals scored this season. The title and promotion was ensured with a 9-0 home win, in front of 1,500 people on the 3G pitch the fans built, which just shows the potential of this club.

The main aim completed, Merthyr may be disappointed with their lack of progress in the cups but the real aim this season was the league. The club is now back at the level the old club went bust at and with booming attendances combined with great infrastructure it shows that the fans are clearly more capable then any private owner in bringing success to their club.

Next season, they will have a play-off level average crowd, one of the best facilities in the league and a catchment area with no competition. Don’t be surprised if the Martyrs are mixing it in the playoffs this time next season.

Result: Champions

Prescot Cables- Evo-Stik Div One North- Step 4

Pre-season Prediction: Survival

We turn our attention now to Step 4 and a League whose quality and financial backing made it as competitive as the leagues above. We start with the perennial strugglers and survival experts Prescot Cables. Yet again, they took up their customary position of third from bottom to secure survival.

They seem to be in a situation where they can’t move forward or step up so I hope there is someone at the club is able to formulate a plan that will allow them to compete at the right end of the table in future seasons but for now, it is job done.

Result: Survival

Scarborough Athletic FC- Evostik Div One North- Step 4

Prediction: Top Half

Another former Football League team trying to find a way back up the pyramid under tough circumstances, this was a great season which any other year would’ve secured a playoff place. As it turned out, Boro missed out on a playoff place by just two points to Spennymoor Town.

Off the field, return to Scarborough remains a tortuous journey but there is progress and if the club can continue to perform on the field then it should keep enthusiasm up until they can get back to Boro. They had the 3rd highest attendance despite ground-sharing miles away in Bridlington and with Darlo getting promoted, it will now be the second largest.

So a solid season after being transferred from the Division One South, the playoffs will be the aim next season and that looks a very likely prospect.

Result: 6th

Bamber Bridge- Evostik Div One North- Step 4

Pre-season Prediction: Top Half

After last season, I thought Bamber would struggle. Not because they lack quality but just because of the sheer amount of competition from ex-Football League teams, bankrolled teams like Salford and Spennymoor Town, who could support Conference North football in the future.

This makes another play-off final a fantastic achievement and they did the whole of British football a favour by ensuring Northwich Victoria would not be going up via the play-offs. However, two back to back playoff final defeats is going to sting and a lot of energy will be required to lift themselves for next season.

Still, with moneybags Salford and Darlington buggering off they should be confident of making a challenge for the title next season and the experience of this year should only drive them in the season to come.

Result: Play- Off finalists

Darlington FC- Evostik Div One North – Step 4

Pre- season Prediction: Play-offs

They did it the hard way but they won’t care a bit. The rise of Darlington continues at a relentless level after their play-off final victory against fellow fan owned club Bamber Bridge, making it two promotions in three seasons and never having finished outside the top two places since the fans took them over.

It gets even better as the club will be back in Darlo for next season. The club were already averaging over 1,000 a game playing in Bishop Auckland (which is a total bloody nightmare to get to), which would’ve made them the biggest team at Step 3 anyway.

Now, they will be pushing 2,000 fans a game with an easily accessible facility and will attract the cream of non-league footballers in the north of England. A great season comes to an end for Darlo and there is a good chance that not even the Manchester United ‘b’ team will be able to live with them next season.

Result: Promoted via Play-offs

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FC United- Evo- Stik Premier- Step 3

Pre- season Prediction: Promotion… or else

Get in. Get in. Get in. Get. In.

They have done it, after years of anguish and torture of play-off final defeats or Championship near misses, this band of rebels has finally got their reward for years of perseverance. No play-offs this time around and a league title well deserved for a truly unique club.

Karl Marginson deserves a hell of a lot of credit for playing the “let’s see how far we can be behind at Christmas before we p*ss this tinpot league” game one last time. You could’ve got them at 8/1 before the start of the New Year when they were miles behind in points and games but they got it done, with a game to spare.

Not to forget their exploits in the FA Trophy, marching all the way to a narrow Quarter Final defeat to Torquay United after beating moneybags Fylde and Chorley, both teams who have denied FC United promotion in seasons past.

The club should also be given credit for sticking with Karl when many others clubs would’ve dumped the manager but this isn’t just another club. In many ways, their trajectory is the same of Darlington’s but just one league ahead. FC United will finally have a home to call their own come the start of next season and having already been averaging 2,000 plus at Step 3 as nomads, who would bet against a 3,000 average attendance in the Conference North?

FC United fans should feel proud as punch over what they have achieved and back to back promotions are not out of the question. Ten years ago, Stockport County was in League 2 and FC United were starting their first season in the North West Counties Div Two. Next season, they will contest two games in what will probably be one of the most passionate local derbies in Non-League football.

Many fan owned clubs could be aggrieved that FC United pinch a lot more limelight then is fair and you’d think from mainstream media that fan ownership began with FC United, having replaced AFC Wimbledon as the media darlings. However, this season and on their 10 year anniversary, it is 100% deserved.

Result: Champions

Lewes FC- Ryman Prem- Step 3

Pre-season Prediction: Top Half

Just what the bloody hell is wrong with Lewes FC? Off the pitch, they are a shining example of the best of fan ownership. The club has raised enough money for a 3G facility for use by the whole community and a revenue generator for the club, improvements are building made to the Dripping Pan without damaging this gem of a non-league ground. They even have cool match day posters and lovely little beach huts to watch the game from for God’s sake. Stuart Fuller must be pulling his hair out about why it just won’t click on the pitch.

This season, the club yet again just managed to stay up by five points and only two spots above relegation. They have a new manager in place after Garry Wilson fell on his sword in February and Steve Brown coming in to steady the ship.

With disaster averted, the owners of Lewes have a right to demand a performance on the pitch next season which reflects the work off it. Now that Maidstone United and moneybags Margate have gone up, Lewes have the second highest attendance in the league to Dulwich and unlike Dulwich, have long term ground security.

A top half finish next season should be the minimum requirement and realistically it’s about bloody time Lewes fulfilled its potential and were challenging for the playoffs. Credit should also go to Lewes for their solidarity campaign with are next team…

Result: Survival

Enfield Town FC- Ryman Prem- Step 3

Prediction: Lower- Mid Table

A fantastic season has a horrible ending for Enfield. I have no desire to go through the whole issue again but a 3 point deduction which delayed the Ryman Play-offs, thanks to FA incompetence, also denied Enfield a playoff place by two points leading them to finish 7th.

Despite this, it was still a fantastic season for Enfield and hopefully the bitterness will not obscure the fact that this is the highest finish in the short history of Enfield Town. It is the first season you can say they have start to live up to their potential and like Lewes, they now command a play-off level attendance.

If the club can use the injustice of this season to spur them on next season, there is no reason why they can’t be in the playoffs with enough points to spare that the FA can’t take it away from them.

Result: 7th

Hendon FC- Ryman Prem- Step 3

Pre-season Prediction: Mid Table

A fantastic season had a bittersweet end for a club who deserve success more than anyone but it just wasn’t to be. A playoff final defeat to pre-season favorites for promotion Margate is nothing to be ashamed of but to be so close and yet so far has to hurt.

Still, two cup wins, 2nd place in an incredibly tough league and 25 games unbeaten before that defeat to Margate remains a great achievement. The task now will be to hold onto a Manager in Gary McCann (probably one of the most underrated managers in the non-league scene) and if they can manage that, they have a good chance at the playoffs next season.

The most important events are happening away from the pitch with a return to Hendon at Silver Jubilee Park not so far away and the club has already played their first competitive match back in Hendon this season. They are being delayed in moving in properly as they are still waiting for planning permission but the sooner they get home the better. Considering how less than two seasons ago it could’ve been curtains for Hendon, the fact that I can even talk about Hendon returning to their local area is a testament to the work of everyone at Hendon for persevering and not giving up.

Result: Play-Off Finalists

Dorchester- Calor Southern Prem – Step 3

Pre-season Prediction: Survival

Well after a nightmare start and some serious worries that the club would face back to back relegations, the tide has turned with survival ensured with 13 points to spare. Club legend Mark Jermyn was appointed as Manager in January and has seen an upturn in results with the last six games of the season seeing Dorchester have play off form.

Plus, with Poole Town and Weymouth both choking their promising Title and play-off positions respectively the Dorch have two local derbies to still look forward to and will also be joined by fellow fan owned club Merthyr Town. The Board has had a tough job in shedding the debt and moving to a community benefit society but the worst of it is now out of the way.

Next season, the club should fancy its chances of competing at the top half of the table and if they can take the momentum from the end of this season into the next, a run at the playoffs is not out of the question.

Result: Lower Half

Telford

AFC Telford United- Conference Prem- Step 1

Pre-season Prediction: Survival

If there was one prediction I got badly wrong, it was this one. I assured you all Liam Watson teams would be tough and don’t get walked over but in truth, they were down by Christmas. A new man in Steve Kittrick came in just before the new year and although Telford have good recent form and only finished 6 points off survival, the good results only came when relegation had been confirmed.

A bright spot was an FA Cup run coming to an end against Bristol City in the 2nd round but questions move to the task now of returning to the Conference at the first time of asking. With FC United in the league, moneybags AFC Fylde staying down and Stockport County appointing ex Chester Manager Neil Young, it is going to be a hell of a lot harder than it was two seasons ago but their average attendance of 1,500 puts them in the playoff mix.

In many ways AFC Telford United are becoming the old West Brom of Non-League football, bouncing between the two divisions and as much as it may hurt when you go down, play-off final wins and titles are a hell of a lot more interesting then finishing 12th every season.

Result: Relegation

Chester FC- Conference Prem- Step 1

Pre-season Prediction: Mid-Table

Another season of year on year progress for Chester is complete and a solid mid-table finish after survival was assured through the AGM Cup last season. A solid 12th place, combined with a tidy run in the FA Cup to the 2nd Round and there is a lot to be proud of.

However, they now have to ask the question: Where do we go from here? 16 points off the playoffs and 18 off relegation, I do think that they will struggle to force their way into the playoff picture. Eastleigh and FGR will throw money at it again next season, Tranmere are replacing Bristol Rovers as the biggest team and Barrow, who have just come up from the Conference North, have a sugar daddy backing them so it will be just as tough next year to compete.

For now though, it is job done and if anyone can push Chester FC forward, it’ll be Steve Burr.

Result: Mid-Table

Wrexham FC- Conference Prem- Step 1

Pre- season Prediction: Top Half/ Play-Offs

In many ways, if Wrexham had won the FA Trophy this would have to be classified as a good season. A second FA Trophy and three trips to Wembley in three years, combined with resurgent form in the league leading to a top half finish plus a good FA Cup run to boot and you could’ve said that this was a solid season of transition as Wrexham get ready to challenge next time around.

As it turned out, Wrexham had a shock loss in the FA Trophy final to North Ferriby United (whose money man stated they would pull the plug just after) which cost Kevin Wilkin his job. Since he left, results took a dramatic upturn in the league but it was all too late by then.

Next season, Gary Mills (who has previously got York City a promotion and FA Trophy double) will be in charge after leaving Gateshead, which has gone down well with Wrexham fans and has put optimism back into the club. He has clearly been brought in to get the club into the playoffs and if he can get Wrexham off to good start, crowds could swell again at the Racecourse Ground.

Result: Top Half

Right, that is your lot for now.

We will be back after Wycombe have their play-off final game on Saturday for a review of the four Football League teams that are in fan ownership. Fingers crossed we can have one more promotion to wrap up this season.

@eddyman00

UKIP- The party of the new working class… If it wants to be

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Third in the share of the popular vote, a hatful of second places in Labour seats and after the defeat of Farage, will UKIP destroy Labour in 2020?

This has been a good election for UKIP, regardless of what people say or how UKIP members may feel this weekend. Roughly 3.9 million people voted for UKIP under a system where it’s so hard to see a party breakthrough, their vote share climbing 10% since 2010 and although they only have one MP, this should be seen as just the start for UKIP.

Many people are saying that with Farage gone, UKIP are finished and they will fade away. In fact, many of the progressive liberals who have destroyed the Labour Party (here) took comfort in Farage losing, they should have been more upset then UKIP members because now, UKIP has a chance to embrace it’s working class membership and replace the Labour party.

Now I am not a UKIP member, I remain a Labour one but I have met many UKIP members and supporters, not from the leafy suburbs but up north. Not a single one spoke with a cut glass accent or is well to do, they were all either in working class jobs or were from a working class background and had achieved social mobility (a lot through grammar schools).

The argument I am going to lay out is a simple one and that is if UKIP wants to win seats, grow into a political force in parliament and perhaps win this EU Referendum, it must pick Paul Nuttall as the new leader.

UKIP picked up a huge amount of second place finishes in a ton of seats, 120 to be precise, with a big amount of those being in Labour seats. Yes, many were in Tory seats but even some of those seats are not wealthy. Boston & Skegness is not a wealthy area and look at whose vote they will need to squeeze in 2020 to take it off the Tories, it’s the traditional working class Labour vote.

A lot of those people who were Conservative minded appeared to have flocked back to Conservatives when they got to the ballot booth, as Farage found out but it was the traditional working class vote that held firm.

We can now see this to be true as the areas where UKIP had the largest swing to it (see here) were in Yorkshire & Humber and North East (at 13.8%) and with the southern areas much lower (under 10% in the South West), it is clear who stood firm and who drifted back. Even in Thanet, where UKIP won their first Council, it was Labour seats they destroyed, not Tory ones.

The second reason is that the political reality and calendar favours a Northern working class leader. It was Cameron who was victorious and stayed, so there is no pressure really that a Farage type leader could have now. We are getting a referendum and to win an ‘out’ campaign, it’s votes in the north that will need to be changed for us to leave.

More importantly, it is Labour who has a Leadership election and the contenders lining up are stuck in a time warp. All the candidates are deluding themselves. Chukka Umunna has already come out with his pro – immigration, pro EU metropolitan nonsense which can only win in London. Others are coming out saying we are too left wing but what all the candidates have in common is more than their differences.

All are in favour of the EU, all are in favour of mass immigration. The most stupid thing that Labour leadership candidates are saying is that Labour needs to appeal beyond it’s ‘core vote’. They are correct but not in the way they imagine. They assume the ‘core vote’ is a working class one and this is factually not correct, the real ‘core vote’ of Labour since 2010 has been a middle class, progressives who love immigration or are public sector managers. Basically, the core vote is people like Chukka Umunna.

Now, if Labour pick someone like Chukka Umunna to be leader then the absolute polar opposite to him is Paul Nuttall. One went to a private school, one went to a comprehensive. One is a London based metropolitan who is in love with immigration, the other is a scouser who is in touch with the working class northern base.

Bluntly, Paul Nuttall will destroy Labour in 2020 if they pick a metropolitan like Chukka. Look at the elections which are coming up as well, the Welsh assembly is coming up and Wales is not an affluent place. An EU referendum in 2017, with the only party making the argument that mass immigration has damaged working class wages and lives would be UKIP under Paul Nuttall. Many ex Labour voters will feel that Labour have committed their last betrayal and this would be the final straw.2020 would be a bloodbath for Labour and they will be finished as a national party, existing only in London and probably finally dropping the name Labour for good.

The final but crucial reason is that Paul Nuttall understands all this. I have had the pleasure, and it is a pleasure, to speak to Paul on several occasions. The first time was back in Telford several years ago and again more recently before a bye election.

Paul also has a great story to tell, a working class lad who went to University and achieved success for himself but stayed in Liverpool, where he was from, giving him the perfect mix of social mobility and a sense of community.

Now people say that Nigel Farage is great, telegenic and all the rest of it. He certainly is but Paul Nuttall has got that in spades too, it’s just that the media need to keep saying ‘it’s a one man band’ because they love Nigel more than they will ever admit and are terrified of losing him.

Politically, Paul gets it. I remember him saying that “Blue Labour” is very dangerous to us (UKIP in the north) but he should be grateful that the smug, metropolitan Labour membership would never embrace it. Paul really does have a chance to seize that Blue Labour agenda for his own and take UKIP, under his leadership, to be the party who replaced Labour outside of London.

I happily admit my politics is Blue Labour and unlike others, I do not particularly care which party it finds a voice in. The old adage that Margaret Thatcher’s greatest success was that she “forced her enemies to change”, so if all the parties in Britain were out competing themselves to build more mutual societies and have workers on boards then I would be delighted.

When it comes to the upcoming Leadership election Blue Labour may find itself with a candidate who embodies and understands the growing detachment and powerlessness that people feel in their lives but more importantly, he will give people the belief and confidence to change it. Just a shame then he will be in UKIP.

@eddyman00

Election Blues- Should Blue Labour go it alone?

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Blue Labour has had painfully little influence on this Labour Campaign and with Labour’s total failure, should Blue Labour break?

Well I can imagine there are some Labour members and activists feeling the ‘blues’ right now. A pummelling defeat which was even worse than the defeat of Gordon Brown. Annihilation in Scotland, a complete failure to win seats like Weaver Vale (which a few 1874 Northwich fans will have voted in) and this was a total embarrassment.

Also, I should hold my hand up. I had been hoped for a Labour minority government but not for the reasons I suspect other Labour members wanted. No, I thought a small Labour government would mean Cameron goes, the Tories pick a leader who campaigns to leave the EU at a referendum and UKIP would start to hammer Labour in local elections. With lots of UKIP second places after 2015, Miliband would be forced to have a EU referendum.

As a result, UKIP plus the Conservatives would campaign to leave and Labour’s final remnants of its traditional working class voters would deal the decisive blow to the EU and we’d leave, killing the fabians for good and ushering Blue Labour politics.

UKIP held up there side of the bargain and with Farage losing, they have a great chance to be the party of the new working class (but we will look at that another time). Sadly, we got a Cameron majority which means barring a miracle, when a 2017 referendum comes, the three largest parties will all campaign to stay in and it will be over.

Firstly, let us go back to when the Blue Labour book was published a few months ago. Many writers contributed, from the conservative Ed West to Blue Labour Godfather Maurice Glasman. It espouses the principles of reciprocity and not of universalism. The idea that actually friendship and movements are built by people contributing to the cause and not just taking out.

It talks about family and why it is so important. Yes, family, that thing that Labour has spent decades destroying. In a time when generations of people are told that success is abandoning where you are from to run down to London, it says that the places people are from matter.  Crucially, it is a clear rejection of the ‘voice for the voiceless’ mantra we hear from the well-off clique running Labour.

The reality is that Blue Labour has had very little traction with those who make the decisions in the party and the Blue Labour mantra is in clear opposition to the London metropolitans who run the party and make up the membership base. Blue Labour and the Labour party aren’t on the same page, we’re not even in the same book.

So let’s go to the election night and as much as I was disappointed that we wouldn’t get a Labour minority to force into an EU referendum, when it became clear what was happening, I couldn’t help but gloat. We, the evil ‘un-progressive’ people who were outside your precious little middle class circle were right and you were badly, badly wrong.

I can still see their faces. The times I went to Labour events years ago as a younger person and openly said I thought mass immigration was bad, that actually I don’t think University expansion had been good for the working class, who now found themselves hounded out to make way for students renting family sized homes off state handouts

What they hated the most (just after the immigration thing) was that I thought the people who should stand for Labour and run the show were not well trimmed private schoolboys and girls who were passionate about ‘being a voice for the voiceless’.

No, I said it should be working class people. It should be the bloke who stacks shelves in Marks and Spencer’s or the women I knew who worked in call centres. Bluntly, it should be working class people who have to labour and toil who should be the voices and leaders in the Labour Party.

You would not believe (or perhaps you would very much believe) the wall of anger, exasperation and snobbery that came pouring back out. The poor are to be seen not heard and we don’t like looking at them either if we can help it. We like to talk about them condescendingly in nice little middle class gatherings but when they actually come across the people they talk about, they hate us.

 I wish I could see their faces now.

They got to run the show and look where it got Labour. They wanted to be a ‘voice for the voiceless’ and discovered that terrifyingly, my God,  the working class had voices of their own and had told them to “f*ck off”.

I won’t name names but one particularly sweet moment was seeing the seat of the Vale of Glamorgan, where one of those achingly middle class progressives had worked as an organiser, stay Conservative and the Labour share of the vote actually went down. I’ll give her some free advice, if she wants to see what good grass-roots campaigning looks like she should take a visit to Barry Town United.

I won’t go through result by result but look at some trends and what they mean for Labour and how Blue Labour should act. At 2010, more middle class people voted Labour then the working class and the result was total defeat. I suspect this pattern will have remained the same and as a consequence, so has the result.

Labour could only take seats off the Lib Dems and shows they were really only able to attract the votes of affluent progressive types who were disgusted by the Lib Dems going into coalition with the Tories. Sadly for Labour, there are not that many seats to win in that contest because, bluntly, there aren’t that many people who are social progressive liberals in the country.

UKIP are now second in most Labour fiefdoms (the amount of which grows smaller every year) where Labour has clung on,. UKIP will be hungrily eyeing these seats come 2020 and the UKIP vote looks ominously similar to that of the SNP in 2010, where they got a hell of a lot of second places but didn’t breakthrough.

Finally, the real reason why Labour is dead can be seen from the contrast between London and the rest of the country. In London, the metropolitan liberals like Chuka Umunna and David Lammy saw their percentage of the vote climb 10% and 8% respectively with most of their votes coming from (you guessed it) progressives who voted Lib Dem in 2010.

Outside London, this progressive liberalism massively hurt Labour and cost it the chance of getting even 250 seats. It hurt them in Wales, it hurt them in the vast majority of the country and only goes to show what we all know, that London is a foreign country which happens to take part in UK General elections.

Who increased there majority outside of London or bucked the trend of a big swing away from Labour? Well that would be Simon Danczuk (up 10%), John Mann (losing 1.8%) and Frank Field (up 5.1% and now on 67.6% of the vote share). All of them are opposed to the cosmopolitans of the London based establishment, all want a referendum and all are deeply hostile to mass immigration.

Bluntly, there is no position the Labour party can adopt which will allow it to win in London and the rest of the country.

What’s been the reaction of the commentators? Unsurprisingly nonsensical is the answer. I haven’t heard Blue Labour mentioned once, which is perhaps a sign of how we failed to break through but also of how all commentators are based in London.

Toby Young has come out with a dozen others saying that Labour needed the other Miliband and Blairism. Blairism vs Brownism, like some terrifying nightmare you can never wake up from and it shows how very much stuck in the past people are.

It was Blair who opened the door to the despised mass immigration and it was under his watch that eye watering debts were run up with nothing to show for it. The reality is that there would have been frighteningly little different if David Miliband had one, we’d just be hearing a more ‘left’ wing offer was needed.

In many ways, it’s better that Ed won because it has allowed us to see that both models have nothing to offer anyone outside of London and that what the two wings of the Labour party have in common (social progressive mentality with a very liberal attitude to mass immigration and the EU), was way more important than the insignificant differences.

What though does this mean for Blue Labour? Firstly, it means we were right and we shouldn’t be afraid to say it. Maurice Glasman was side-lined and hated by the Toynbee’s and her ilk for his comments on immigration and the EU, others despised him for his nerve to attack the much vaunted 1945 welfare state, which has given so much power and prestige to the type of people who have come to dominate the Labour Party.

 Most importantly though, it means Blue Labour should leave the Labour Party and go alone. It is clear that Labour need us more then we need them and the reality is, the association with the likes of Diane Abbot and Polly Toynbee is only holding us back.

The membership is overwhelming middle class and metropolitan, so if Blue Labour take over the party or Labour lose it’s the same result for them, they lose power. So why on earth would they ever give it up? Also, UKIP are going to do it even if Maurice Glasman won’t.

The real reason Blue Labour should break though is one which is a hell of a lot more positive than just political calculations. Now those of you who follow this site know that I am obsessed with fan owned clubs. Why? Because in most cases they are Blue Labour.

They were formed by people who didn’t need to be a bloody PPE graduate with a Masters in Social Policy. They are ground up movements where solidarity is built not legislated and make a real difference, rooted in their communities in a way ‘progressive’ politics never is.

Who runs them? In most cases, not the middle class experts who think they are better than the people or patronising folks who want to be a ‘voice for voiceless fans’. No, the leaders are the bloody fans. They have much more of a vested interest in making it work then, say, someone who works for Shelter has in making sure the working class get good housing.

They are also deeply conservative. In an economic sense, they are all about financial prudence, never spending more than we can afford and on the social side, it’s all about preserving a tradition, heritage and history that outside forces are determined to destroy so they can sell it off for a quick buck.

I’ve had the chance to see a lot of the country doing this and it doesn’t look, sound or feel like the Labour Party at all. It feels like Blue Labour, it is Blue Labour.

If we can get working class fans to stop waiting for someone to save us or think change is a crappy petition then why not renters? Why can’t we get Trade Unions to instead of wasting their member’s money on useless Labour candidates, start (horror) opening businesses themselves and providing work for their members?

Imagine a movement where Tesco workers and call centre staff have as much authority as those who got useless degrees? Where we had a genuine mass movement, bringing together fan owned clubs with housing co-ops and the businesses with workers organised to get a stake in them, into one large family?

There is no reason why those of us who believe in Blue Labour can’t do this except our own fear and fatalism. It is time for an actual party for people who have been told (by Labour) that they are just a commodity, who have no right to have a sense of autonomy over their own lives, to break free.

With the final nails going into the progressive coffin, it is time for something radical. It is time for Blue Labour.

@eddyman00

Links

http://www.bluelabour.org/

Judgement Day for Oyston

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”Judge me in May” said Karl Oyston and after one of the worst seasons in living memory, Blackpool fans are more than ready to let Oyston know what they really think.

By the time this goes live Blackpool will have probably kicked off for their final Championship game, which I suspect will be there last for a very long time and Blackpool fans have been waiting for this game for a long time. We don’t need to go over just how extensively Oyston has sank Blackpool FC.

All we will look at briefly is what the fans have prepared, the recent actions of the owner and where the fans should go from here. It appears Tangerine Knights and Blackpool Supporters Trust have taken it upon themselves to lead a big final day party for Karl Oyston.

His response? To remove a statue of club legend Stan Mortensen for “safety reasons” which had been paid for by fans and the council and where fans were set to protest in front of as a focal point (here). No matter, the fans have got a lot more planned.

Some will be boycotting, which is always my preferred option on everyday bar today. I hope plenty of fans go into the stadium (I don’t care whether they paid or not) and they tear up what is left of that crappy pitch at the end of the game (if there is anything left to ruin). Make it so unplayable the FA forces him to fix it or prevents them from playing on it.

Hopefully he bans every Blackpool fan from attending, which can only be a blessing and give fans no excuse to go watch next seasons dross that will be served up. We only have to look at how Coventry have been driven to the brink of relegation to League 2 (and can still go down) to see how far Blackpool could fall.

Being realistic, it is probably more likely that Blackpool get relegated again next season they challenge to come back up. Who would want to come play for that club or manage it? The facilities are a joke and the atmosphere amongst those who go to games will be like a funeral at best or poisonous at worst. In short, it will probably get worse before it gets better.

The real question fans have to ask themselves after today is where do they go from here? What is the logical end game? I suspect many fans have not looked past getting the Oyston family out which is fine but how prepared are people to take the three or four years it could take and watch the club sink into non-league, which it might have to so they relinquish the club.

Bluntly, no fan should be buying a season ticket next season if they really believe the Oystons’ are destroying the club (and they are). After today, not one more penny should go to the convicted rapist and his son from Blackpool fans.

So, what do you do next season if you aren’t going to games? Well the choice is to do something else with your Saturdays (not a bad option and there is less stressful, less painful ways to spend your weekends) or go and watch another local team, like AFC Blackpool.

503 people made the game between AFC Blackpool on March 21st and that would have made a significance difference to a grassroots club and their ability to run youth football programs instead of just line their own pockets (here).

The other long term option is for the fans to simply breakaway, form their own club and watch it rise up the leagues. 1874 Northwich or Enfield are good examples of fans who rightly claimed the moral ownership of their clubs histories and heritage, so there is nothing to stop Blackpool fans doing the same.

It doesn’t have to mean you let go of never planning at Bloomfield Road again either. Slap an ACV on that thing, then when Oyston leaves you have the right to first purchase and seeing as how he will have run it into the ground so badly no one else will want to buy it, you can snap it up and maybe in six or seven years, watch a Blackpool team walk out on Bloomfield Road with a bit of pride.

For Blackpool Supporters Trust, Tangerine Knights today needs to be the start of a mass action and not the end, whether that be boycotts or starting again by yourselves. So, to all Blackpool fans I hope the day goes well (whatever that means) and it is yet another example to all of us you don’t have to take this crap lying down. Give them hell.

@eddyman00

@BlackpoolST

@KnightTangerine

Link

Blackpool Gazette- Morty statue removed

BBC Sport- Blackpool Fans Boycott Leeds Game

http://www.blackpoolsupporterstrust.org/

Hyde FC- Another one Bites the Dust

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Successive relegations and a re-brand against the spirit of the heritage of Hyde has a positive ending, as Hyde FC look set to move into fan ownership from next season.

The story of Hyde FC can be seen as a story we’ve seen a million times before in non-league. A club bankrolled through a deal with Man City leading them to be well above their natural level. They have enjoyed success with promotions and being in the Conference up until last season. However, the last two seasons have been something to forget for Hyde FC fans, whose online media profile has grown with every defeat.

Four wins in 88 league games, a points total of 31 out of a possible 264 has led to consecutive relegations from the Conference Prem down into the Evo Stik Prem as of next season. Now other clubs have gone boom and bust recently, Celtic Nation and North Ferriby being the latest examples but what makes Hyde FC different as it stands is their future looks brighter than the other two clubs by a long way.

The reason? Well as of today, Hyde FC look set to join our ever growing family of fan owned clubs on the British Isles and more specifically, within the English Pyramid. Recent news coming out of the Hyde website (here)  is the fans have been set a price of £50,000 to take over Hyde FC and the Chairman has agreed to wipe off £500,000 of loans (we all know my opinion on Chairman loaning the club they own money in the first place), giving the fans no better chance to take control.

The details to donate are on the link and if all those who followed them on Twitter chipped in £2 they would be well over the line. I fully expect Hyde fans to be able to raise the money and now they can look to the future positively, probably wetting themselves with excitement about being included in my fan owned preview next season.

Hyde averaged 400 last season, with a renewed sense of optimism and involvement as a result of fan ownership there is no reason they can’t maintain this attendance level despite being at Step 3 next season. This would put them comfortably in the middle of the size of clubs in the division and who knows, maybe a few more will come out when they don’t think they will get battered every game.

Hyde went through a nasty rebrand, removing their traditional colours and having their ground repainted in Man City colours after a sponsorship deal to bail out Hyde United (who changed their name to Hyde FC) from their financial problems.

This is yet another example how financial mismanagement can force close to give up what is most precious and how being run soundly allows a club to maintain their identity and heritage. It should be a warning to another club in the Manchester area who were recently promoted about selling your heritage for temporary success (clue, it’s not FC United).

Anyway, what’s done is done and if Hyde fans wish to change the kit colours or name, well it will all be in their hands as of next season, which is the whole point of fan ownership. Hyde fans will determine their destiny, for good or ill.

The old badge, could it be making a return?

The old badge, could it be making a return?

This post isn’t just about Hyde but more of a chance to gloat. Fan ownership is now the first choice when a club changes hand at this level and any non-league level for fans. The arguments that Supporters Direct and those of us who believe in the model had to make for donkeys are now won. We have a stack of promotions this season to our name and as other clubs are driven to ruin by private ownership (Coventry, Blackpool), we are flying up the leagues.

I did think that it would take me perhaps two seasons to get through the entire fan owned clubs in the English Pyramid but with our growth rate I’m not even sure that will be possible. It has been a very enjoyable way to see my own country and I am looking forward to making the journey to Bath, Hyde and perhaps Banbury. Also, the fan owned clubs I’ve already been to seen are in better shape now than when I saw them. Fisher FC, FC United, Hendon and Darlo are all moving to new grounds back ‘home’ next season.

The season isn’t over for some of the teams yet, Wycombe will probably be fighting it out in the playoffs in League 2 and Saturday will see a promotion for either Bamber Bridge or Darlington. Hendon are in the Ryman Prem playoff race and in yet another sign of how fan ownership is forcing change off the field, Lewes have launched a campaign to reinstate fellow fan owned Enfield Town into the Ryman Prem playoffs.

Overall, we have a lot to celebrate and all that is left to say for now is welcome Hyde to the growing family. You weren’t the first and you certainly won’t be the last.

@eddyman00

Links

Hyde FC 30th April 2015 – Supporters to buy club

Playoff Time for Bamber and Darlo

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Two fan owned clubs in the Evo-Stik Div One North will be fighting it out for promotion to step three and if results go the right way, we’ll be guaranteed at least one more promotion.

So before this blog once again carries out another ridiculous 5,000 word post season round up of how fan owned clubs fared this season we have the small matter of the playoffs. We will be looking at Hendon and Enfield Town in their match up but since the FA have decided to balls that up, for now we will look at the mighty Bamber Bridge and ex-Football League fallen giants Darlington.

Bamber Bridge vs Northwich Victoria

Bamber Bridge have once again punched above their weight in a league which has never been harder. Moneybags Salford and Warrington were both expected to challenge, Darlington are always going to threaten whilst they remain in the league and with Spennymoor making the step up from the Northern League, the playoffs looked like a big ask. Despite this, Bamber have battled their way to an impressive 3rd place in the league.

Last season, Bamber missed out by the skin of their teeth to Ramsbottom after extra time in the playoff final in front of a 1,000 plus crowd. I thought that would be their best chance but they are back for another bite at the cherry. They go into the game in great form, unbeaten in five with four of those being wins. Bamber Bridge will be confident of getting a result but their opponents will not be easy to turn over.

Now, followers of this blog will know the Northwich Victoria are a zombie club, owned by a man who managed to drag the club to oblivion and led to the fans walking away to form 1874 Northwich, a fan owned club which holds the moral ownership of what used to be the Vics.

How they have the money to fund that squad we don’t know, especially with their terrible attendances for what used to be a big non-league player. Still, Witton Albion (who were relgated to Step 4 on the final day of the season) made a deal with the devil to allow zombie Vics to return to Northwich by groundsharing and the thought of this team beating Bamber makes me feel ill.

On paper, it’s too close to call. Both teams are in great form but I hope, for the love of God, that it is Bamber who get the result tonight.

Darlington FC vs Spennymoor Town

So Darlo yet again finish 2nd this season and despite pushing Salford all the way, the moneybags team which dumped their heritage to become a Manchester United ‘b’ team, managed to pip them to the title.

What it does do is throw up an incredibly tasty local derby between two teams with history since Darlington re-emerged in the Northern League three seasons ago.  Spennymoor could’ve felt aggrieved in 2012-13 to finish with 100 plus points and still finish way behind Darlo in the Northern League. Still, last season Spennymoor were promoted to this division and unlike other teams whose fanbase can’t support their level, Spennymoor could easily maintain Step 3 and perhaps Step 2 football.

So, rivalry resumed for the biggest game of the season for both clubs. Darlo should be confident by being undefeated in six and although two of their last three games ended in draws, Spennymoor are in poor form at just the wrong time. With one win in their last six and with that against second from bottom New Mills, Darlo should be confident of getting a result.

However, it’s a one off game and you can be sure Spennymoor will lift themselves against their new rivals. The game has already sold out meaning nearly 2,000 people will be watching a Step 4 playoff game on a Wednesday night, showing the depth that the English pyramid has.

It also shows just how vital it is for Darlo to actually get back to Darlo, as this game could’ve probably seen an extra 1,000 or so people show up to boost the coffers. Like FC United, they are moving to a new ground next season. If they can gain promotion and go home whilst moving up a division, I don’t think even Salford will be able to stop them next year.

Overall, as long as one of them goes up I will not be fussed. If it’s Bamber, then Darlo will be in great position to finally win the league at the third time of asking in front of 1,500 – 2,000 plus crowds. If it’s Darlo, then Bamber can take comfort from the fact two of the toughest teams are leaving the division and they will be in good shape to have another pop next season.

So good luck to both teams and please, don’t let Jim Rushe win.

@eddyman00

Tranmere Rovers- Welcome to hell.

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Having been relegated from the Football League with a game to go, Rovers fans are going to wake up today and find out just what a nightmare they are about to enter.

We have looked at Tranmere Rovers on a few occasions here including at the start of this season. The new ownership team had come in, promising to restructure the club and put a plan in place for the clubs long term sustainability.

We’ll skip over the pre-season promise and the good work that has been done by the new owners, after years of neglect from the previous Chairman. I will also point out that if the fans had taken over, I don’t think they would have got the lenient treatment that Mark Palios has got. In fairness, off the field developments are coming together and Mark did step up and put his money where his mouth is but I don’t think when he took over visits to Braintree on a Tuesday night were what he had in mind.

So, back to back relegations have sent 94 years of Football League status for Tranmere down the drain. Portsmouth fans should be grateful as this could’ve easily have been them last season. Which leads us to now and although welcome to hell may be a bit over dramatic, seeing how hard it is to get out of the Conference, it’s not far off.

This site has largely covered non-league, purely down to the fact that fan ownership has been a ground up movement starting at the bottom of the pyramid and is clawing its way up the leagues (with this season being especially successful). From years of following the non-league scene it is widely accepted the two hardest divisions to escape from are Step 5 and Step 1, the Conference.

So, Tranmere fans, allow me to explain just how unlikely it is that you are coming straight back up. This season, Barnet have just confirmed their promotion back to the Football League after only two years. This means that Bristol Rovers, who have averaged 6,629 this season and putting them way over Tranmere, are not guaranteed at all to make an instant return back to the Football League. That is despite a season where they obtained 91 points.

In fact, only two teams have ever come straight back up and they are my hometown club Shrewsbury by the skin of our teeth in the playoffs in 2003-04 (and trust me, we didn’t deserve to come back up) and Carlisle United in 2004-05, again in the playoffs. In this century, no team has ever come straight back up as Champions and with Bristol Rovers only managing the playoffs that is a record which will continue.

Of course, the reason is it so difficult is down to the fact that only two teams go up and only one automatically. This wasn’t so much of a problem when the Conference was a traditional non-league division but now it is an extension of the Football League.

Grimsby head into the playoffs again this season and remain the second largest supported club in the Conference. They have been stuck in this division for five seasons and have back to back playoff semi-final defeats to their name. Fan owned Wrexham have missed out in a playoff final to a moneybags Newport County two seasons ago and remain stuck in the Conference after seven long years.

Chester went bust and reformed under the fans, Halifax went bust also, as have Hereford and who will reform this season at Step 5 or 6. Stockport County have dropped into the Conference North. Lincoln City, Torquay and Kidderminster are all in financial or ownership difficulties. Macclesfield recovered this season after financial difficulties but still missed out on the playoffs. It took Luton five years despite having crowds that were bigger then Tranmere Rovers.

There are perhaps reasons to be positive for Tranmere fans. Luton had to do a lot of their restructuring whilst in the Conference whereas Tranmere seem to have got some of it over and done with this season. Many of those ex-Football League teams such as Lincoln, Torquay and Kiddy are going to have to restructure and will probably not threaten. So why is it still so bloody hard to get back out?

We need look no further than the Conference Playoffs. They will be a battle between two traditional Football League teams (Bristol Rovers and Grimsby) and the nouveau riche of Eastleigh and Forest Green Rovers.

The emergence of big money in the Conference at small teams is not new. Crawley, Fleetwood and Newport County are all recent examples. The difference is now that some of the clubs dropping into the league (such as Tranmere) are so big you can’t just buy the league anymore. It’s a dogfight however much you throw at it and the quality of players at plenty of clubs is Football League standard, as shown by James Constable dropping down from Oxford to sign for Eastleigh.

Three of this seasons play-off teams are staying down and will be threatening again next season but it doesn’t just stop there. Wrexham should (fingers crossed) be in the playoff mix next season and more moneyed young beasts are arriving in the shape of moneybags Barrow who have just come up from the Conference North, with a crowd of 1,500 on average which will probably bump by 500 or so next season.

Plus, if you don’t get straight back up next season Tranmere fans, it’s only going to get worse. Maidstone United, another ex-Football League team, finally re-emerged from their slumber with a vengeance. They will be playing at Step 2 next season having averaged 1,800 at Step 3 and will be a good bet in the Conference South next season, on their shiny 3G pitch.

Then let’s not forget that FC United are now one league below and moving to their own stadium next season and boast the 7th highest crowd in non-League, whilst ground-sharing, whilst playing against teams who average 300 a game. Don’t be surprised that if Tranmere fail to come back up next season, you end up mixing it with Maidstone United and FC United in front of 3,000 plus crowds.

The reality is the old non-league clubs are being shuffled out of the Conference to make way for larger, stronger teams or teams backed by silly money. This will continue every single season you are stuck here and won’t get any better until we move to three up, three down (unlikely) or we just accept that the Conference should join the Football League and we have a Football League 2 North/ South (incredibly unlikely).

So Tranmere fans, you may come straight back up as Champions but I wouldn’t bet on it. Good luck, you are going to need it.

@eddyman00

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