Monday, 8 September 2014

TLFG: 8-14 September 2014

Well it's all over for another year.

What am I talking about? Non-League Day (NLD) of course.

The last few days of the campaign became quite intense as more and more people got involved and backed the campaign. It was pretty overwhelming, in a good way, as things just got bigger and bigger.

Getting great pre-event publicity is the sort of thing you dream of but if it's not backed up by people actually attending games then the whole thing becomes a bit pointless.

On Saturday morning I rose at about 6am to have a bit of breakfast and get the social media side of things off and running. Before too long we were one of the top trends in the UK (ultimately we finished fifth over the whole day).

Completing my 50th parkrun on Wormwood Scrubs
In previous years I've had to anchor myself to my laptop to keep generating interest to keep us in those top spots but this year I was able to take a couple of hours off, go and complete my 50th parkrun (which has taken me about two-and-half years to achieve), do a bit of post-run socialising and come back home again. Every time I checked, #nonleagueday was in the top four - an excellent sign.

Crucially, the weather was also holding up. All was going to plan.

I'd chosen some time ago to spend my afternoon at Isthmian League club Dulwich Hamlet who were playing Hampton & Richmond Borough in the seventh tier of English football. The south London club had never been at home on NLD and had always promised to throw the kitchen sink at it if they ever were.

They have a relatively large, diverse, colourful and lively fanbase who usually generate crowds of 600-700 so I knew it would be worth going whatever happened.

I met a few work colleagues at East Dulwich station and then headed up to the ground followed by a procession of fans, driven on by a drummer, who had walked from nearby Peckham Rye as another way of generating publicity.

One of the club's stated aims of the day was to smash their attendance record of 1,835 which had stood since 1998. Deep down I thought this was ambitious with anything over 1,000 a highly creditable effort.

A packed Champion Hill watches as Dulwich go close to opening the scoring
With the game under way and most people in, Champion Hill did seem busy and I figured the 1,000 mark had almost certainly been reached.

Safe with this thought, I settled down to enjoy the game. Midway through the first half I was joined by Francis Duku - one of the NLD team and a former captain of Dulwich. As he made his way round the ground to meet me you could track his progress by the sections of the crowd chanting his name as he walked past - a true legend in the area.

On meeting up, he quickly assessed that there must've been 2,000 present and being someone who's played in front of many crowds he was probably a better person to be able to judge.

For me, the game became secondary as I just soaked up the atmosphere, took everything in and tried to find out what was happening elsewhere in the country.

I got so distracted that with the game coming to its conclusion I realised I'd completely missed one of Dulwich's players being sent off and only found out from Francis after Hampton's injury-time goal which salvaged them a 2-2 draw. In all the commotion surrounding that incident, we'd both also missed the attendance announcement and found out a few minutes after the final whistle that the crowd had actually been 2,856 exceeding all our wildest expectations!

Celebrating news of the fantastic attendance with Francis and the rest of the crew
I'm still pinching myself now. Only Grimsby Town, a former Championship club, had a higher crowd throughout the 'non-leagues' and it also exceeded that of five Football League clubs including Crawley in League One.

Although I've yet to see proper stats for most divisions, there were many other positive stories. One simple stat showed total attendance in the three divisions of the Conference was up 7,000 on last week.

The next few weeks will be spent trying to collate data and discuss with the rest of the team how it went and where we go from here, so the work never really ends.

Don't forget, there's another international break on 11 October so although it's not officially Non-League Day, there is another great opportunity for clubs to try and bring some new fans in or bring other ones back. If you're feeling adventurous, the first overseas version of NLD will be taking place in Germany that weekend. Called Lokalrunde, the event will also be taking place in Switzerland so give it a go if you fancy a weekend away.

Anyway, that's it from me. Don't forget, you can get all the latest ticket information for our local clubs and other big games taking place in the capital on the 'Match Ticket Info' page .

If you're going to see a game, whether you're a local or a visitor, please let me know what you've been up to. If you're interested in reviewing a ground within the London area for this blog then get in touch. You might also want to have a go at writing a 'Top Ten' one week. I also very much welcome photos of your football travels.

Got any questions about visiting London? Don't hesitate to ask - be they football or more general travel/touristy queries.

You can contact TLFG through the comments section below or via FacebookTwitter or even by good old email.

Please follow this link or click on the tab at the top of the page for all the information you need about how to get a ticket, what's currently available to non-members at London's biggest clubs and any other special offers or promotions which might be running.

There are 90 matches in the London area over the next seven days so there's plenty to choose from whatever your budget.

However, please make sure you check with clubs before you travel just in case a game has been called off or venue has been changed. Also, please let me know if anything is wrong or missing.

Details on all of this week's games can be found in the following match map. If you've never used it before, please note that when there is more than one match at a specific ground you'll only be able to see individual match pins if you zoom right in. If you don't, the pins obscure each other and you might miss them. To avoid this, you can also scroll down the list of games on the left side of the map page to make sure you get all the information.

Also if you're unfamiliar with the English league structure I indicate the level at which an individual league sits in the national 'pyramid' with the Premier League at the top (Level 1) and various minor leagues at the bottom (Level 10). Typically a top level game will see crowds of anywhere between 20,000-60,000. These figures will gradually decline as you go down the leagues until you get to Levels 8-10 where attendances of 150 or less are most common.

It should also be noted that the top four levels are for fully professional teams. Level 5 has a mixture of professional and semi-professional teams, while Levels 6-10 will see most players paid but it will vary from no more than travel expenses at the bottom, right up to several hundred pounds a week at the top (e.g. clubs in the Conference South).

Yellow pin - Monday fixtures
Green pin - Tuesday fixtures
Turquoise pin - Wednesday fixtures
Magenta pin - Friday fixtures
Blue pin - Saturday fixtures
Red pin - Sunday fixtures

View London match map 8-14 September 2014 in a larger map

Next up is this week's TLFG match recommendations where I list a few games which I think could be worth a watch. If I miss one that you think should get a mention then add your own in the comments section below.


1. Arsenal v Manchester City - after a couple of weeks off, the Premier League returns with a bang as two of its biggest clubs meet in this lunchtime kick-off. After three games, neither are yet firing on all cylinders with Arsenal unbeaten but only having won once and City winning twice but suffering a shock home defeat to Stoke. Historically this has been a very bad fixture for the Mancunians who have won only two league games away from home against the Gunners over the last 40 years. However, the visitors are now a dramatically different side to the one that competed for most of that time and will probably start as favourites. (Saturday 13 September, 1245pm. Ticket info)

2. Chelsea v Swansea City - not many people would have predicted that these two teams would be locked on level points at the top of the table at this stage of the season, something borne out by it's run of the mill Saturday 3pm kick-off. As they move into their fourth season in the top flight, the Welsh side are really starting to establish themselves. Aside from a shaky patch last season, the other two campaigns were impressive. Under new, untested boss Garry Monk some might have feared this could be a tough campaign but there's no sign of it at the moment with the highlight being their opening day win at Manchester United. The Blues have been more free scoring though and should have enough to take all three points. (Saturday 13 September, 3pm. Ticket info)

3. Charlton Athletic v Watford - the Addicks have continued to build on their solid start and are one of only two teams to have unbeaten records after five games of the Championship season. As a result of drawing three of them they only find themselves in sixth. The Hornets, on the other hand, have 12 points and are tucked just a point behind leaders Nottingham Forest in second. Games between these two can go either way and often produce at least three or four goals. (Saturday 13 September, 3pm. Ticket info)

4. Brentford v Brighton & Hove Albion - the Bees are new to the Championship following promotion and are starting to get a strong foothold in the division after a slightly wobbly couple of games. Currently in a very respectable eighth they next host Brighton who should be doing better than they are under new boss Sami Hyypia. The Seagulls came unstuck in the play-offs, saw their manager resign and then sold their top scorer to Leicester. Despite this they are still one of the biggest clubs in the division and should challenge for promotion again. Given Brighton's close proximity to London they will bring a large following and I expect quite a lively game. (Saturday 13 September, 3pm. Ticket info)

5. Boreham Wood v Eastbourne Borough - nothing in the next three divisions is taking my fancy so next up it's the Conference South clash between the teams currently ranked third and second. Both sides had pretty unremarkable seasons last time so it's quite something to see the two of them right up there. Eastbourne have a game in hand on leaders Basingstoke so will go top if they win this. The Wood enjoyed a fine win at Gosport on Non-League Day but this means they'll have little recovery time unlike Borough who've had a week off. (Monday 8 September, 745pm. Ticket info)

6. Wealdstone v Bath City - at the other end of the table we've got a clash of the bottom two in an early season six-pointer. The Stones came up from the Isthmian League last season and I thought, like quite a few others, that they'd acquit themselves pretty well. However, it hasn't proved to be the case and they have become the only side in the division not to have won a game so far this season. Despite having won a game, Bath are actually the basement side but do have a game in hand of Gordon Bartlett's team. The last time these sides were in the same division some seven years ago, Bath won both games. (Tuesday 9 September, 745pm. Ticket info)

7. Clapton v Barking - over in east London we've got this tasty looking derby in the Essex Senior League. Both sides have begun well and fill spots in the top four. On Saturday, Barking came unstuck at Stanway in the FA Vase while the Tons had a bye so had the week off. As mentioned many times previously, the hosts have a much larger and more vocal support than many in this league so London's oldest ground shouldn't lack atmosphere. (Saturday 13 September, 3pm. Club info)

8. AFC Hayes v Harrow Borough - this Saturday it's FA Cup time and there are a few derbies in town. Over on the west side we've got this game between two neighbours. Hayes, formerly Brook House, play a level below Harrow and have only managed two draws this season so start very much as underdogs. Apart from a couple of seasons, Harrow have a pretty atrocious record in this competition and regularly lose to clubs like this so it's anyone's. (Saturday 13 September, 3pm. Club info)

9. AFC Hornchurch v East Thurrock United - on the other side of town we've got an Essex derby between two Isthmian League Premier Division sides. The Urchins have been one of the shocks of the season having begun so badly (one point from nine games) despite starting as one of the favourites. East Thurrock only just avoided relegation last season but have begun much better this time round meaning they start as favourites in my book.  (Saturday 13 September, 3pm. Ticket info)

10. Grays Athletic v Harlow Town - last up this week we have this FA Cup tie between two more Essex rivals. After a slow start, Grays have started to pick up a bit of momentum winning four of their last five league games. Harlow play a level below in the Isthmian League Division 1 North but currently top it after winning seven of their eight games. Two teams on a good run will hopefully make for a compelling match. (Saturday 13 September, 3pm. Ticket info)

If you have any questions or want advice about watching football in London, you can contact TLFG using the comments section below or via FacebookTwitter or email.

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