Can Non-League Football Compete with the Premier League?

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Tonbridge Angels play at the Longmead Stadium after moving out of the Angels Stadium in1980

With humongous transfer fees, gigantic sponsorship deals and ginormous broadcasting rights being common place in the Premier League it’s easy to forget about the grass roots football that is abundant throughout England. The Premier League is said to be one of the most exciting and competitive leagues in the world so the lower levels of English football have a lot to live up to but do they make the cut?

In the past month I have been to watch my local team Tonbridge Angels Football Club, who can be found in The Bostik League, play twice. The first game I saw was a closely fought 1-0 victory against Wingate and Finchley and the second match was a slightly scrappy 2-1 defeat to Tooting and Mitcham United. Both matches were very different to what I usually experience being a Tottenham season ticket holder but both games were very enjoyable.

The first difference that you’ll notice to the Premier League is the style of football played in The Bostik League. This is a league torrent with long balls, physicality and fighting for headers. Unlike the Premier League, there is hardly any room for passing play or trying to be clever with tricks and flicks. Route one is the only way. Teams are found playing the classic 4-4-2 formation, there’s no time for wing backs and three central defenders here. However, do not get me wrong, this style of football is not boring it’s the absolute opposite. It’s refreshing to see men not afraid of a crunching tackle or going in for a 50/50 unlike the pretty boys that can be found in the Premier League. At no point across the two matches did I think that the quality of football was not good enough, in I fact I found myself completely forgetting I was watching a team 147 places below the Premier League leaders. Going into the first game I expected to see football of the lowest of quality with players having a cigarette at half time like it was the 1980’s but I was pleasantly surprised by the professionalism and quality the teams showed. The Bostik League is one of physicality and competitiveness, it is most definitely not boring.

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The Angels biggest win was in 1951 when they beat Worthing 11-1 in the FA Cup

Now let’s talk pricing. With matchday tickets in the Prem rising higher and higher and a burger and chips costing me £10.80 at Wembley, it’s a pleasure to be able to attend a game and eat for less than £20. To see the mighty Tonbridge Angels play it costs £10 for adults, it’s an extra £1 for a seat, for a burger it only costs £3 and parking is free! The whole afternoon only cost me £14, that’s less than the price of the train ticket to even reach Wembley. In comparison to just park at Wembley for a Premier League match between Tottenham and Crystal Palace it costs £40. The price of attending first division games is becoming ludicrous so non-league matches are becoming more and more appealing to the average football fan.

Being a fan of a Premier League club can leave you feeling disconnected with foreign owners and the top most secrecy around the running of the club, but this is not the case at Tonbridge. Something I noticed is that all the fans call the players by their first names and this may not seem like a big deal but to me it shows the main difference between non-league and the Premier League. Players aren’t seen as gods who are better than the average fan with their mind-blowing salaries, but the Tonbridge players are normal people. This kind of connection the fans have with the players can be seen once again as the players exit the pitch via the tunnel. Here small children huddle holding out their hands for high fives and congratulating the players, which is something you just wouldn’t see in the Premier League. Something I found especially touching occurred after Tooting and Mitcham United had secured a rare away win where the Tooting players ran to the few away fans that made the trip and physically embraced them one by one with hugs and high fives. Premier League players do not have enough respect for the fans because without them the beautiful game would not be so beautiful.

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Roy Hodgson (Ex-England manager) played for the Angels in 1969

Attending a Tonbridge game was a real treat for me as there was a lovely vibe in the Longmead Stadium. If I had children I would feel much more comfortable bringing them to a Tonbridge Angels game than a Tottenham game. I did not hear any swearing from the crowd of 549 people nor was there any real aggression displayed which is something I’ve sadly become hardened to attending Premier League games most weekends. There was a real family atmosphere about the place. Another thing that was lovely to see was the elderly men, who had obviously been supporting Tonbridge for years, sat at the front in their full Tonbridge Angels attire. Each one sat down and said hello to their fellow fans who they sit with every week, this kind of companionship formed through football is a true rarity in the Premier League. Furthermore, throughout both matches I attended I didn’t see a single person film or take pictures of the match (apart from me as I needed pictures for this article and yes, I see the irony) which is very refreshing when compared to the Premier League. Most games now are full of tourists wearing their half and half scarves and watching the game behind their phone screen but at Tonbridge it was real football fans.

To sum up my experience of non-league football, I had a fantastic time and I really appreciated the change from the Premier League. Now, of course, I saw things that you’d only see lower down in the football ladder like a goalkeeper taking a throw in, an own goal as a defender attempted to clear the ball but merely hit his own teammate in the face and the ball dribbled into their net. Nevertheless, I also saw some great things that you’d only see in non-league football. I saw fans walk round the pitch at half time to be behind their team’s goal, I saw children playing football just behind the pitch being inspired by the players and I saw players running up to their wives, children and family after the game to be congratulated. Sometimes we can become too disconnected from the roots of the game as the money in the Premier League keeps rising and rising to new lofty heights. Football should be a game we can all enjoy, and we can all be involved in, it definitely should not be not an industry that is money fuelled and unattainable for the majority of fans. I highly recommend that you visit your local team.

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Tonbridge Angels was founded in 1947
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Tottenham’s FA Cup Dream

On Sunday Spurs were rampant against a Millwall side that posed little threat throughout the 90 minutes. Pochettino’s record victory with the club sees Spurs to an FA Cup Semi Final for the first time since 2012, where they lost 5-1 to Chelsea. The Lilywhites have drawn Chelsea next in the cup and will face the Blues on either 22nd or 23rd April. This is most probably the worst draw Tottenham could have had the misfortune of having but spirits are still high at the Lane. Tottenham are the only side to have really challenged Chelsea this season and they were the team that caused Chelsea’s 13 game win streak to come crashing to the ground. If Tottenham have ambitions of being the best team in the country they must beat the top teams consistently to prove themselves. Quite simply to be the best you have to beat the best.

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Alli scoring the 4th goal (72′)

Tottenham proved against Millwall that they could rotate players and still get the result, with 4 changes made to the starting 11 that played against Everton. Son had a sublime performance scoring a hat trick and making the Millwall fans regret their racist chants. His first goal could easily sum up his entire Spurs career, mis controlling the easy ball and getting it stuck under his feet but then pulling a wondrous strike from out of nowhere. He can be frustrating and inconsistent but he can also be truly fantastic. With Harry Kane suffering what looks to be a nasty injury, Son may need to step up in his absence and be the clubs talisman. However, Janssen’s first goal from open play may propel his form to lofty heights and he could be the one to replace Kane.

 

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Last time Spurs beat Millwall in the FA Cup they went on to win it (66/67)

So realistically, what can Spurs achieve in the cup? Glory, is the simple answer to that question. Tottenham have a real chance to break their silverware drought of 9 years and bring back the FA Cup to White Hart Lane, for what could be the last time ever. All they have to do is beat the best team in the country at a stadium where good form is hard to come by and then they’ll be halfway there. Of course it will be difficult but isn’t everything when you’re supporting Tottenham Hotspur?

Finally, before I go I’ve teamed up with the guys from Art Of Football to give you the chance to win a fantastic print like the one seen below. If you’re lucky enough to win you can choose any print from their website and it will be sent straight to your door. To enter the competition and for the details check out my Instagram (@tottenham.fanpage.) If you don’t win I highly recommend checking out their website anyway as they create quality prints and clothing! Thanks to Art Of Football and hopefully I’ll see you again next week for my thoughts on the Southampton game!

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See my Instagram for a chance to win this or any print of your choice from the Art Of Football website!

 

Dominant Spurs Obliterate Swansea!

Match Overview

Yesterday Spurs ended a run of two losses with a rampant 5-0 win over Swansea at the Lane. From the first whistle Swansea were pressed and made to look like the weaker side. The Swans just were no threat throughout the whole game and this was made evident by them having a total of one shot which wasn’t even on target. Tottenham still weren’t at their best however, as they started at a slow tempo and were not as clinical as they could have been. I think it is a compliment to the team that you can watch them batter a Premier League side 5-0 and still think they could have done better. Who can blame them for not putting in 100% effort when they can just coast to a 5-0 win? It would be waste of time and effort fighting throughout the entire 90 minutes just to win by an extra few goals. Tottenham’s best win of the season will surely restore confidence in the side after a poor run of form. I’m sure the fans and players cannot wait to get back out there. Spurs next match will be tough as they travel to Old Trafford to face a struggling Manchester United side. Even though Manchester United have not been performing to their lofty standards it will still be tough, Spurs have only defeated the Red Devils 6 times in the Premier League with their last win at Old Trafford on January 1st 2014.

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Harry Kane has scored 6 goals in his last 5 appearances since coming back from injury.

Top 3 Performers

Christian Eriksen – Eriksen improved on last weeks goal at Stamford Bridge by scoring two goals this weekend at White Hart Lane. He has now scored in back-to-back Premier League games having previously failed to score since March. When he is at his best he’s unstoppable and can push Spurs that little bit further which can really make the difference at the end of the season. Eriksen’s ricocheted shot led to the first goal which Son put away expertly. He also produced a wonderful first time pass that started the counter attack and allowed Harry Kane to score the third goal of the afternoon. The next two goals of the game were both scored by Eriksen. The first was a slightly lucky goal as Eriksen challenged for a ball in the air but he pulled away from the header as the Swansea defender raised his boot trying to clear the ball. The kerfuffle in the 6 yard box led to the ball hitting Eriksen and landing into an empty net. The second goal, a sublime finish from the edge of the box late into the match, gave Spurs their highest margin of victory in the Premier League since February 2012.

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Spurs continue their unbeaten run against Swansea stretching back to September 1991.

Harry Kane – What is there to say about Kane that hasn’t already been said? Once again he proves he is a superb player by scoring a clinical penalty and a clinical shot from inside the box. Previously being called a one season wonder is laughable now as he shows his class every weekend. Knowing rival fans they will most probably call him a three season wonder… Harry Kane’s new contract means that he could be at the club for another 6 years which could be unbelievably important for Tottenham. There has been some criticism that Kane only scores tap ins and penalties but goals win games and he scores goals, who cares how he scores them?  He is a fans favourite and is loved by all at the club.

Heung Min Son – Son provided a breath of fresh air for all Spurs fans as he scored a fantastic hooked volley during the game. It was superb finish, with his whole body off the floor, that just kept curling and beat Fabianski at his near post. Son’s 5th Premier League goal of the season leaves me trying to think of more superlatives to describe the wonderful finish. Son may not always be clinical but his pace and skill creates chances, this is clearly demonstrated by Tottenham’s third goal. Son used his pace to burst away from the Swansea deference, he tried to cut back but he hit the ball just a little too hard however, it fell perfectly for Harry Kane to tuck into the bottom left corner. Without Son the goal would not have been possible. He is proving a worthy replacement for the injured Erik Lamela.

Final Thoughts

Tottenham are back on track after losing their unbeaten run last weekend and fans will surely be optimistic once again. It must be remembered that they only beat Swansea but with players returning from injury the team can only grow stronger as they continue their hunt on the top 4. The next week will be important for judging just how good Spurs are as they play their last Champions League match of the season and then they travel to Old Trafford. Pochettino may produce a second string team against CSKA Moscow in the Champions League to avoid Europa League but he will defiantly go for the kill against Manchester United. Thanks for reading I’ll see you next week  🙂 #COYS

 

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Harry Kane has scored 50 times in his last 69 Premier League appearances.

 

 

 

16/17 Season Preview

Opening Weekend

The Premier League kicks off once again on Saturday August 13th at 15:00 and Tottenham are facing Everton away at Goodison Park. This is a very challenging start to the campaign as once again Tottenham play away for the opening game of the season. Also Everton have appointed new boss and ex-Southampton manager Ronald Koeman and we all know how good ex-Southampton managers are.. This opening game is not only challenging due to the opposition but also because of the difficult summer “break” for most of the Tottenham players. Five of the Spurs lads were involved in the humiliating England Euros 2016 campaign and will be lacking confidence after some poor results and performances. Also Kevin Wimmer had a poor Euros with Austria as they finished  last in the group when many thought of them as dark horses for the competition. Finally, the Belgium boys suffered from a horrific Euros as Jan Vertonghen injured himself, Mousa Dembele was dropped repeatably for Fellaini and Toby Alderweireld did not perform to the standards as he had in the previous season in a Tottenham shirt. The first game of the season will reveal a lot about the Spurs team and how they look to go on after a disappointing end to the previous season that promised so much.

Improvements in the League

After a disappointing 15/16 season for Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool all these clubs have tried very hard not to fail again. Hiring new managers such as Jose Mourinho, Pep Guardiola and Antonio Conte and making new signings such as Ibra, Xhaka and Mane shows that these teams are very serious about improving their squads and achieving great things. This means that Tottenham will have to compete with fierce competition to achieve a European place let alone winning the league and it also means Pochettino will have to do more than just signing Wanyama to keep up with the rest. Due to other sides improving their squads the 16/17 season will be a lot more challenging for the Lilywhites and it will show the world how good Tottenham really are.

Champions League

Champions League is back! For the first time since the 10/11 season Tottenham are playing with the worlds best! The groups will be drawn on August 25th and this will be crucial to how far Tottenham can go in this competition. The whole squad will be tested due to the Champions League. After Spurs play some of the best teams on the planet they will then play four of the six Premier League fixtures, after CL games, away. One of the home games is Manchester City, a very tough test. This means that strong squad depth is vital as in the 15/16 season one of the biggest criticisms of Tottenham is they had no one who could come off the bench and make a difference, all they had was a starting eleven. With the signing of Victor Wanyama Pochenttino has already tried to rectify the lack pf squad depth.

Final Words

With all these factors it will be a very interesting season for Tottenham. It could see them win the title for the first time since 1960/61 or it could see them sink into mid-table obscurity. Whatever happens Tottenham will be able to enjoy playing Champions League at Wembley  and getting closer to moving into their new stadium.

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#COYS