Thursday, 5 July 2018

Come Wind, Rain, Snow Or Shine - 2017/18 End Of Season Review

I’m not sure if its the added strain of having had a new baby this season, my daughter arriving just before 2017/18 got off and running, turning up just around the same time the dress rehearsal for this summer's World Cup was coming to an end, but I feel even more exhausted than I have ever felt at the end of previous seasons.

It's not a long day at work tired, but a headed out early, got back late from a day of fun on holiday tired. Satisfied not drained, but ready to relax, kick back, feet up and take a minute to recharge.

For the last eleven months our search has been pretty relentless, covering more ground than ever before, even venturing to new countries and right at its conclusion, experiencing international football for the very first time, but in a far more exciting way than attending a bleak meaningless friendly at Wembley.

As with 2016/17 we started on the coast, and with the extra preliminary round of the FA Cup. The first of many long drives this season, it was worth every mile, as we finally got to tick off a club, whose charming ground is nestled between the red brick town hall and a cricket club. Once upon a time the simple fact one of the two teams had a bear on its badge, would have been enough to justify three and half hours in the car, however glorious sunshine, biblical rain, drums, Galatasary references, saxophones, a man in a hockey mask, another in a horse one and the chance to see the tin foil FA Cup waving fan group Pier Pressure, meant we got the season off to the perfect star. BLOG Welcome To Hell - Eastbourne Town FC Vs Bearsted FC & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - Eastbourne Town FC Vs Bearsted FC

Oh Essex, we do love you so, how often we have traversed your highways and byways these past few years, how good it is to be back in your hearty non league bosom. Although we didn't know it then, our visit to Cressing Road would not be our last encounter with The Irons, in their garish orange strip. Not only did we encounter what may have been the finest club shop we’ve ever come across, an Aladdin's cave of programs, general football tat and old shirts, but Tom tucked into a burger that not until the last months of the season, all other burgers would be compared to. BLOG Sexy Football - Braintree Town FC Vs Dartford FC & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - Braintree Town FC Vs Dartford FC

If the world of football is so scathing of the 50/50 scarf, what would it make of a 50/50 stadium? This is what we went to find out as we dipped our toe into the FA Cup once again, where an ambulance drove on to the pitch, and not because I found a wall of mugs for sale at the ramshackle club shop, among them one so nostalgic, so beautiful, a diamond in the rough, I almost needed a defibrillator. BLOG Man Sandwich - Erith & Belvedere FC Vs Cray Valley Paper Mills FC & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - Erith & Belvedere FC Vs Cray Valley Paper Mills FC

It was a slightly rainy, miserable, chipless evening in East London at the home of The Daggers, where we watched our second National League game of the season, from the dark and grumbling terrace of Victoria Road. The visitors Sutton United breaking the home fans hearts and in doing so went top of the league. BLOG Falling In Love With U's - Dagenham & Redbridge FC Vs Sutton United FC & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - Dagenham & Redbridge FC Vs Sutton United FC

More FA Cup and not for the first time we cross paths with Hampton & Richmond Borough. The National league South side had made hard work against their Bostik league North opponents Potters Bar in the first match, so a replay at the Patax Stadium was required. The well travelled blue and red army did not disappoint, making perhaps the most noise this sleepy commuter belt town had ever heard. We were treated, I say treated, we were horrified at the up close view of a man pissing behind a stand, and got an insight into the mindset of then Hampton & Richmond coach Martin Tyler and his mafia esq touch line chats. BLOG See You In Cinderford - Potters Bar Town FC Vs Hampton & Richmond Borough FC & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - Potters Bar Town FC Vs Hampton & Richmond Borough FC

Unbelievably our visit to The Arena was our first ever Non League Day. A comeback of Istanbul type proportions, a chance meeting with Ric Flair and Eminem and the away side dressed like Christmas, oh and a near death experience thanks to an conker. BLOG Dirty Santa's - Brentwood Town FC Vs South Park FC & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - Brentwood Town FC Vs South Park FC

It’s not only the later rounds of the FA Cup that can kick up an upset, our rain soaked Saturday in the West Midlands, the other side of Stourbridge FC’s very own Arc De Triomphe and once we had tried the faggots, did just that. A fiery ninety minutes played out under drizzly grey skies, roared on by
boisterous shirtless fans and a man in a wizards hat. BLOG I Wanna Watch Match Of The Day - Stourbridge FC Vs Alfreton Town FC & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - Stourbridge FC Vs Alfreton Town FC

In the presence of Essex's own football loving Yoda, in the shadow of one of Europe's largest container ports, preceded by a quite magnificent sunset, but no 50\50 but at least there was a raffle and the chance to win a box of chocolates, a single goal, which thankfully was a bit of a special one, separated the two teams. BLOG Easy This Managing Lark - Tilbury FC Vs Cheshunt FC & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - Tilbury FC Vs Cheshunt FC

Wind, wind, wind, wind, wind, some wind and a bit more wind, punctuated our long drive to Dorset. Once there the flags of the Wimborne Massive, a man dressed as a town crier and a thumping home win, made up for spending most of the day scared that one of the nearby trees or a loose bit of the stands roof above us was going to get blown over or ripped off and kill someone, in the end the worst thing that happened was that Storm Brian blew over my Coke. BLOG #StormBrian - Wimborne Town FC Vs Swindon Supermarine FC & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - Wimborne Town FC Vs Swindon Supermarine FC

Little was expected from our Tuesday evening in Hertfordshire, if I’m honest. Once we'ed made all the possible ‘Ware’, ‘where’ jokes, the home of Ware FC was not exactly one that will top any list for looks or style, the centre line of the pitch looking like it was drawn by a drunk spider. However we were pleasantly surprised, and ended up bearing witness to a game that will live long in the memory, where the man of the match was the keeper who conceded four and we saw the most ridiculous free-kick, thanks to our old friends Bowers & Pitsea. BLOG Back On The Burgers - Ware FC Vs Bowers & Pitsea FC & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - Ware FC Vs Bowers & Pitsea FC

November's here and it's woolly hats a gloves time, as the first of what felt like a never ending stretch of chilly games begun, that took place on a Sunday of all days, a near non league miracle a match on the sabbath. Three things stood out that day, one sad: I didn't get a programme, one remarkable: forty five year old Barry Hayles was playing for the away team, one jaw dropping: Windsor FC’s shirt. BLOG Cockneys All Together - Erith Town FC Vs Windsor FC & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - Erith Town FC Vs Windsor FC

It was hardly a classic match, a 1 - 1 draw thanks to a brilliant team goal and a goal keepers howler, but the presence of one particular person, the ‘Witham Town Ultra’, a stand right out of a non league coffee table book and al fresco dinning, plus pick and mix, and a bit of harmonica from the musical home fans, meant Tom truly caught some feelings as I think those on Love Island would put it, for a certain Bostick League team with a stag on their badge. BLOG Clap That Rivals His Shout - Hertford Town FC Vs Witham Town FC & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - Hertford Town FC Vs Witham Town FC

Good chips and Christmas cards were some of the highlights of our time at the home of Cambridge City, although it's not really their home, that's not even in their city. Cold again, and a far from entertaining game, which was robust but lacking somewhat in quality, allowed plenty of time for poor puns from Tom and talk of Shepard's pie. BLOG Moneyfields Not Moany-Fields - Cambridge City FC Vs Moneyfields FC & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - Cambridge City FC Vs Moneyfields FC

In a ground where machines are replacing people and the linesman wore tights, with a main stand gleaming like a new build housing development, with more glass than a minimalist's dream, the home side fell to a last minute sucker punch and the club merchandise was sold out of a cupboard your mum keeps the good china in, as we pushed the limits of our midweek excursions, ending up in Suffolk. BLOG Rise Of The Machines - A.F.C. Sudbury Vs Soham Town Rangers FC & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - A.F.C. Sudbury Vs Soham Town Rangers FC

It's December now, so Santa outfits are a must. Passing Stonehenge on the way and getting dietary advice from the server in Costa, ended up as mere footnotes on an afternoon in Somerset of epic proportions. Six goals, an ex Premier League player and TV pundit turned manager losing his head and being pelted with paper aeroplanes, cherry Tango and a Cornish pasty, the police and just the small matter of winning on a scratch card, made for one of the best days out of the season. BLOG Whatever Will You Write About Now - Taunton Town FC Vs Salisbury FC & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - Taunton Town FC Vs Salisbury FC 

Snow, ostentatious Christmas lights, and a cat, made our final game before the chocolate orange binging commenced, a bit of a odd one. It was so cold, and so close to never happening, it was only thanks to the witchcraft that is 3G that meant we were able to see a game, but no programme and plummeting temperatures meant it is a game I look back on with mixed feelings. BLOG No Room For Numbers - Bromley FC Vs Margate FC & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - Bromley FC Vs Margate FC

Our last game of 2017 saw us visit another Bostik League new build, Parkside home of Aveley FC which is about as new as new can be. The smell of fresh paint is still in the air, and they've only just taken the plastic covering off the furniture. The outstanding facilities, and last minute drama of the away teams equaliser, both fell into second and third place respectively, to the winner of best thing we saw that day, which was the man in the stand pulling on waterproof trousers, without a drop of rain in sight. BLOG The Future - Aveley FC Vs A.F.C. Sudbury & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - Aveley FC Vs A.F.C. Sudbury

To this day I still don't understand how this game went ahead, climbing higher and higher into the snow covered Pennines, the fields around the town of Mossley, nothing but white, I was sure that Tom’s train ride to the North West, for our first game of 2018 was going to be a wasted one. Pardon the pun but only thanks to the grit and sheer determination of the locals, and their bag fulls of grit, and some help from a very lenient referee meant that we saw a match. Frozen hands, partially obscured excellent views, unused hand warmers and eight goals all in conditions similar to them on Hoth. BLOG Get The F**king Grit Down - Mossley A.F.C. Vs Skelmersdale United FC & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - Mossley A.F.C. Vs Skelmersdale United FC

What better way to celebrate our third birthday than with a day at the seaside? Many of you would probably agree, but not in February. The sight of Margates desolate promenade, was not quite what we were expecting at the end of our drive. A go on the 2p machines was certainly what we had in mind, but the sticky handled arcade a little spooky considering we were the only ones in it, but still enjoyable, until Tom cashed in his winnings and got Black Jacks. A stunner of a goal from the son of an ex Spurs player, the effigy of a man sized stuffed crocodile and a certain Margate fan, made for a perfect birthday. BLOG Temporary Coffin Stand - Margate FC Vs Thurrock FC & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - Margate FC Vs Thurrock FC

The first and only time I’d been to Wales was about twenty years ago on a school trip, where the most exciting thing I saw was a dead pheasant and my English teacher drinking Baileys. If I’d known going back the next time I would be plied with whiskey, have the chance to eat chips from a hollowed out loaf of bread and be welcomed by a group of people, I’d never met, like I was family, I would have been back sooner. Our first ever International non league game, was one of the best we’ve ever done. BLOG We Love You Iceland We Do - Merthyr Town FC Vs Weymouth FC & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - Merthyr Town FC Vs Weymouth FC

Compared by a Guy Ritchie baddy, by far the coldest game we have ever been to, thanks to the football Gods, was also one of the most exciting. The FA Trophy replay, where the away team made a two hundred pluss mile trek down from the North East, is one of those games one can proudly stand up and say “I was there”, as seven goals filled the nets, and free-kicks from absurd distances were the order of the day. BLOG Got To Be In It To Win It - East Thurrock United FC Vs Spennymoor Town FC & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - East Thurrock United FC Vs Spennymoor Town FC

A spot of Friday night football took us to South East London, to cross paths with 2017/18's sponsored player, where we watched football at the lowest tier we would all season, but in no way did that detract from having an excellent time. A positive goal fest and the appearance of an AFC Wimbledon legend and an overweight Spanish one too, got a busy footballing weekend off to the best possible start. BLOG Did Your Heart Flutter? - Welling Town FC Vs Sporting Club Thamesmead FC Reserves & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - Welling Town FC Vs Sporting Club Thamesmead FC Reserves

What should have been a very pleasant spring afternoon, under a cloudless sky, was tinged with mixed emotions, as we finally got to see Thurrock FC at home, after all the fun of last years Play-Off Final. However with it being one of their final home games, of their final ever season, after 2017/18 this well respected club would cease to be, it wasn't exactly a happy reunion. No win either for the home team only added to the strange atmosphere, a wonder solo goal and the added beauty of Tom’s burger loving cousin improved the mood, but all in all it was a bit of a sombre affair. BLOG Better Than Stamford Bridge - Thurrock FC Vs Hendon FC & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - Thurrock FC Vs Hendon FC

Hertfordshire I hear you say, not Essex, are you OK? Yes we're fine, we just fancied a change, so we headed north instead of east for once, where we nearly ended up at the bottom of a pothole in one of non league worst maintained car parks, at the home of the Tottenham women's team, we witnessed a goal filled local derby, with the possibility of seeing a Champions League winner pull on his boots. BLOG Outmuscled - Cheshunt FC Vs Waltham Abbey FC & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - Cheshunt FC Vs Waltham Abbey FC

It’s really, really hard to mention anything other than the unrelenting and punishing cold, where your hands hurt, you worry you might have your feet amputated, all while a man walks around in shorts, and you wonder how the fuck is he doing that. However once we’d got over quite how freezing it was, and my attempt to record Tottenham’s FA Cup Quarter Final and watch it when I get home was ruined, because I simply couldn't stay out of the clubhouse any longer, for fear of death. We enjoyed a bit of an upset in the Southern League Premier, as the league leaders came up against an all firing Basingstoke Town. BLOG Wonder If They've Got A Sausage Roll For Me? - Basingstoke Town FC Vs Hereford FC & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - Basingstoke Town FC Vs Hereford FC

Will it ever be warm again we wondered as we crossed a snow covered Tower Bridge, not to Champion Hill to watch Dulwich Hamlet, but to the home of their arch rivals, and their temporary digs, while their unscrupulous landlords considered other ways how to screw them over. Another tick in the column for games that had no right to go ahead, but managed to. Snow covered goal lines and treacherous ice covered steps in the stands, were never going to put off the pink and blue faithful, or those fans of the far from local visitors, whose drummer is one of the best we've ever come across. BLOG Two Pairs Of Socks Today - Dulwich Hamlet FC Vs Worthing FC & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - Dulwich Hamlet FC Vs Worthing FC

I’m pretty sure we’ve never seen a phoenix non league club, who used to play in the Football League that Tom remembers playing on FIFA before, have you? Getting ever closer to crunch time in the season, it promised to be massive match at the top of the Southern League East. A match that only thanks to a merry band of locals and their tireless efforts to prepare Hayden Road, happened, as the poor weather continued to play havoc. A shrine to a lost player, a welcome up with there with the best, the chance to win a manicure and a burger that officially topped the table as the best ever, made our evening at AFC Rushden & Diamonds, one of the the best of the season. BLOG Belly Buster - AFC Rushden & Diamonds Vs Hayes & Yeading United FC & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - AFC Rushden & Diamonds Vs Hayes & Yeading United FC

It is no secret that I’m a Spurs fan, I have been for twenty plus years, and I can think of nothing better than watching Harry Kane destroy another Premier League defence, but right next to their place in my heart, is a slightly smaller, but just as cherished place for another one who also play in N17 and who actually play on White Hart Lane. You can really do few worse things in life than getting yourself down to Coles Park. BLOG Tottenham's Mbappé - Haringey Borough FC Vs Mildenhall Town FC & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - Haringey Borough FC Vs Mildenhall Town FC

Soggy and brioche bun less, was how our Bank Holiday Monday panned out. What was supposed to be a top of the table humdinger, as both teams chased promotion at the top of the Bostik League South, turned into a bit of a damp squib, which was salvaged by the all singing, scarf whirling, many flag owning, urinating in a pint glass, weed smoking fans of Corinthian Casuals. BLOG No Brioche Bun As Advertised - Walton Casuals FC Vs Corinthian Casuals FC & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - Walton Casuals FC Vs Corinthian Casuals FC

I wish I could remember anything else other than being cripplingly ill, so much so that it very nearly floored me and ruined our day in Sussex. With the battering heat of the sun, a large woolly jumper and a high temperature meant I was close to being delirious. I’m told the man in the club shop trying to sell us a single dart flight, Tom referencing Borussia Dortmund and the San Siro, away fans dressed as scousers and one with a bucket on his head, actually happened, and wasn't a fever dream. BLOG It's Not Pie Weather - Lewes FC Vs East Grinstead Town FC & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - Lewes FC Vs East Grinstead Town FC

Back in Essex, on an island, a slightly smelly island, next to a gas works, thankfully the quite excellent music, a mix of 80’s and 90’s dance classics, and a bit of Michael Jackson, made up for a bit of a drab game and a strong smell of eggs, at the wrong end of the National League south. BLOG It's Like Being In Kavos - Concord Rangers FC Vs Bognor Regis Town FC & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - Concord Rangers FC Vs Bognor Regis Town FC

The play-offs are perhaps my favourite part of the season. Perched on the edge of a running track, not far from a hammer cage, with a place in the National League South Promotion Final at stake, The Clarets took on The Beavers under an unrelenting sun, in a stadium fit to burst, with two sets of fans creating an atmosphere that might be the best of the season. BLOG Don't Worry Love - Chelmsford City FC Vs Hampton & Richmond Borough FC & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - Chelmsford City FC Vs Hampton & Richmond Borough FC

What was that I just said about unrivalled atmospheres, scrap that, we had not been to The Walks yet. More sun, more forearm ruining, back of the neck scalding, if I stand out in it anymore I might collapse sun, under which The Rebels snatched the spoils right at the death. Police dogs, battens drawn, Joy Division and Blur, plus a ground to make you go weak at the knees, this was a truly unforgettable day. BLOG It's Quite Hot You Know - King's Lynn Town FC Vs Slough Town FC & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - Evo-Stik Southern League Premier Play-Off Final 2018

The culmination of all those months of hard work boiled down to one match. Two teams went head to head, with the chance to be just one promotion away from the big time, almost in their grasps. The sun was shining, but not as harshly as previous outings, the fans of each team did themselves proud, with Essex stocks of inflatable palm trees, comedy wigs, big glasses and bowler hats depleted. The cruel mistress that is penalties decided this one. BLOG Generic Football Shouting - Hampton & Richmond Borough FC Vs Braintree Town FC & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - National League South Promotion Final 2018

Following the final at the Beveree that was supposed to be it for us, our towels metaphorically laid out on metaphorical sun loungers, as we were supposed forget about football for at least a few weeks, readying ourselves for some serious sofa time and the World Cup, but then the chance presented itself to checkout something a bit different, the chance to dip our toe into international football for the first time, that was too intriguing to miss out on. 

At the other end of Donkey Lane, at the only ground such is the beauty of its main stand, it doesn't make my skin crawl when I remember it's got a running track, a game took place between Tibet and Northern Cyprus, in a competition neither of us had ever heard of, where there was a chance of seeing a green card, yes that's right not a yellow, not a red, but a green card, that had nothing to do with Gérard Depardieu. BLOG Magic Spray & Britney Mics - Northern Cyprus Vs Tibet & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - Northern Cyprus Vs Tibet

After all the sights, sounds and non stop flute playing of Tibet Vs Northern Cyprus, and fully captivated by this extraordinary competition, the semi final at the War Memorial Sports Ground had a lot to live up to. Two teams with Hungarian roots, but both from different countries, battled for a place in the final back at the Donkey Dome. Pyro, plenty of goals and Mark Clattenburg, what else could a boy ask for? BLOG Get A Grip Clattenburg - Karpatalya Vs Szekely Land & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - Karpatalya Vs Szekely Land

Well, well, well, well, our final game of the season arrived, and Tom couldn't even be bothered to turn up, great calender management dude. No worries, because after an emergency transfer I drafted in my fiancee, and for the second time in a week we headed down Donkey Lane, for the CONIFA World Football Cup Final. The game a shocker, the bullying and over physicality of the Northern Cypriots not the prettiest of sights, but the off field antics of the Hungarian hoards supporting Karpatalya, were mind meltingly brilliant. Pyro, pyro, pyro, pitch invaders, flares and men dancing with scythes were just some of the things that made it the perfect end to the season. BLOG It’s In Die Hard Three - Northern Cyprus Vs Karpatalya & VIDEO Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game - CONIFA World Football Cup Final 2018

At time of the year, it is so important to thank all those Twitter accounts, YouTubers and organisations who have regularly helped us this season, in some cases giving us a platform in print or online to reach an audience we could only dream off: @AshAndAlPodcast, @thetoughtackler, @ldnfootyguide, @ShootTheDefence, @TheDaisyCutter1, @NonLeagueNews,  @knockernorton1, @winkveron, @richbeedie, @LasVegasWI, @wagnerc23, @VFTAE, @muzzy333, @athurston_1996, @GroundhoppingFC, @TonbridgeFanTV, @Andyspage1, @oddsunevens, @TheTeamOnTour, @TheNonLeagueMag, @NonLgeProgs, @NonLeagueCrowd, @IsthmianLeague.

Also a big thank you to anyone, who has shared, re-tweeted, commented or liked any of our blogs, pictures or videos. Your kind feedback about the work we do is so greatly appreciated.

Last but not least a huge thank you to all the clubs and players for their co-operation, time, patience and assistance this season. Without it we would not be able to do half of what we do & to you we are indebted.

I'm beat. Grabbing a spare minute to conclude this review as my daughter sleeps, I'm trying not to type too loudly so as to not wake her up. It is always so much fun looking back over the games we've been to, remembering all the people, the goals, the chants and the burgers, oh the endless burgers, and trying not to add up quite how much I spent on raffles, golden goals and 50/50.

Into our fourth year, our little corner of the internet, has really snowballed into something neither of us ever expected it too. We are not huge by any stretch of the imagination, but the positivity coming back from those of you out there who follow our search, really spurs us on.

As long as people keep reading our rambling blogs and watching our shaky videos, we'll keep making them.


For a full photographic review of 2017/18, click HERE

Watch our end of season review video↓ HERE ↓




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