The annual event of Non-League Day saw Hebburn Town F.C. smash their attendance record, surpassing 1300 fans. The F.A. Vase fixture between Hebburn and City of Liverpool F.C. looked set to entertain, with both teams gunning for promotion and Liverpool being unbeaten prior to the match. The fixture did not disappoint as Hebburn romped to a 4-0 victory in an impressive display which looked far beyond the quality you might expect in the ninth tier.
Non-League Day was set up as a social media experiment in 2009 and has only gone from strength to strength. Intentionally coinciding with the international break, Non-League Day is designed to help lower league football and promote the awareness of local football clubs and their role in the community. The event dramatically increased the attendance at Hebburn as over a thousand more than their average turned out for the game. With lower divisions largely neglected by the FA, non-league day provides vital funds that will only benefit the club as ticket money is used to invest in facilities and their community. Manager Scott Oliver hopes non-league day can act as a catalyst to increase attendances throughout the season.
Non-league football is an ill appreciated level of the English game. Far away from the glitz and glamour of the premier league and championship, non-league provides an affordable, close-up alternative to the rising prices of elite football, especially when considering the limitations of a student loan. Often overlooked due to stereotypes of dodgy tackles, route one football and the shouting of “have it”, the lower divisions still produce top players, such as Jamie Vardy and Glenn Murray, and can provide equal excitement to that of the Premier League.
Non-League day was certainly a success at Hebburn. The flock of Fans were rewarded with a wonder goal, a red card and controversial penalty. The 1300 fans, from both Hebburn and City of Liverpool, produced a carnival like atmosphere with nonstop chanting and even pyrotechnics.
On the big day, Hebburn blew their opposition away with a dominant midfield display, described as “a day where everything went right” by manager Scott Oliver. Two well worked goals were followed up by a Beckham-esque halfway line finish from James Fairley, something rarely seen even in the higher echelons of the game. A game filled with neat passing and direct running from both sides, this was a true advert for the lower leagues.
Lower league clubs provide more than just football. Hebburn Town F.C. a centre for the local community, provides 50 teams for all age groups and genders. The club aims to develop players from their youth until they reach the first team as they have done so with promising centre-half Jack Donaghy, who is tipped to press on through the divisions. The recent development of the club house means that Hebburn Town F.C. is also a social centre for the community, hosting events such as firework nights and parties. Non-league day therefore is not just about promoting football but also supporting the infrastructure they supply, which is vital to the community.
When asked whether the university could better support local football, Director of Football Stephen Rutherford suggested that there should be greater cooperation. He said “The universities have got some good teams out there. The more universities build links between themselves and the clubs it can only benefit local communities. The university gets students from all over the globe and if they wish to play football then it’s all about building bridges and bringing them into the team.” The university is a massive landmark in the North East and there is no reason why they cannot further support local communities through sport.
If you are interested in watching more grass roots football, the Non-League Football Society travel to local games every fortnight with negotiated ticket prices and a friendly atmosphere. The society can be found on Facebook (Non-League Football Society) and Twitter (@NonLeagueSoc).
Thanks to Mon Mon from the Hebburn Town Fan Zone for the match pictures.