An international break seems like a good time to think of other things besides Birmingham City. Things such as going to a Non-League game. Today is Non-League Day, which is designed to encourage Premier League and Championship fans to support a local non-league side.
Most games still kick off at 3pm and ticket prices are realistic. It’s easy to find a game you can go to. The Non-League Day website has a match finder page. When you enter your location, it displays a map and list of your local games. You may not see the same level of skill as you would see when watching a top team on TV. But you’ll be closer to the action and you can often stand (and drink!) anywhere in the ground.
One of our loan players came from non-league football. During one week last December, Cohen Bramall was made redundant by the car factory he worked at and went for a trial at Arsenal. You may have seen his interview on Soccer AM. He moved from non-league Hednesford Town to Arsenal, who sent him on loan to us.
Non-league football is probably a better preparation for Championship football than being in an academy. An article in the Guardian discusses the dangers of the current industrialised academy system and describes the struggles facing boys who are rejected by academies as football’s biggest issue. The overwhelming majority of young men who go through academies do not end up with professional football contracts. Huddersfield Town has just closed the 8-16 age group part of its academy after they “found that of all the boys who had come through their system, not one had played in the Premier League since Jon Stead, who graduated in 1999. That is 18 years of boys being taken out of local and school football from the age of eight.” There is a high casualty rate for boys “tossed aside” by academies, with some ending up in prison and one committing suicide. There is a dark side to the beautiful game.