I’ve wanted to write this piece for a while now. It was going to be how the club I watch most these days either ended up winning the league that they were leading for a majority of the season, or how they were dramatically pipped at the post.
The season finished on Saturday 29th April, but the reason I haven’t written this before is not because I’ve been carefully honing this feature to ensure it is a thing of journalistic beauty (I think you’re probably well aware of that anyway). It is because over three weeks after the final games of the season no-one yet knows who will end up crowned as champions.
I’ve been taking my six year old along to see Shoreham for a couple of years now and this season – under new management – the Musselmen outplayed the majority of the clubs in the Southern Combination Football League Premier Division, sitting pretty at the top of the league for long periods of the campaign.
But, in a fashion that Spurs fans will be all too familiar with, performances dropped in the final weeks where they only won three out of the last six games. Considering they had only lost three games the entire season before then shows what a fall from grace this was.
One of those defeats came at the hands of Haywards Heath Town, Shoreham’s main rival for the title, with just five games remaining. Unfortunately Shoreham’s lack of form coincided with Haywards Heath upturn in fortune and Town ultimately won the league by four points, beating Horsham YMCA 7-1 away from home on the last day of the season to really ram home the point.
But that wasn’t the end of the story. First there was a rumour that a couple of the Haywards Heath side were actually ineligible under league rules to play for the club. When this was disproved it looked like Shoreham would indeed be playing at the same level (nine steps below the Premier League) for at least another season.
But then it turned out that another player was still under a ban from another county league when he played for Haywards Heath. The club have now been charged and are currently appealing that decision that could rob them of the title and promotion to the Ryman South division. If they are still found guilty of the charge there will be a points deduction that could hand Shoreham the title.
The SCFL are currently reviewing the appeal so no-one knows who has actually won the league – and the clubs don’t know whether to start preparing for another season at county league level or the more demanding Ryman South.
As much as I would love to see Shoreham promoted and look forward to the higher level of football on offer next season, the main concern right now is how long this decision is in coming. And for anyone used to the machinations of non-league football this uncertainty is unfortunately all too familiar.
On Sunday, as I attempted to do a bit of work that needed finishing, I used the wonders of browser tabs to also watch live coverage of Bearfight FC’s match against Lower Bucks County United in their first match in their home city of Wilmington, DE (courtesy of the good people at Non League America).
The fact that I was watching an amateur friendly football match from the United States at that time at a weekend probably says much more about my social life than I care to admit, but after finding out that a live YouTube stream would be up and running I just had to catch some of the game.
First attempts at watching the feed were not overly successful with what seemed to be tests carried out in the (phone) camera person’s car. But when I returned a little later it was working properly and I connected just in time for a Bearfight equaliser. I know that it was a Bearfight goal as the person filming the match told me. The stream itself was not the greatest quality in the world – but that didn’t matter.
Watching football through a phone camera on the other side of the world is never going to be HD standard and, although I would have loved to watch the match in person, I didn’t really care that I couldn’t always make out what was happening. One of the main reasons why I have been so interested in clubs like Bearfight FC is their whole ethos. The idea that “we should stream the match live” is the important factor here.
I watch non-league football in the UK and don’t kid myself that it is the best football on offer. But I do know that I may well see something so amazing – good or bad – that it will make up for all the terrible football on show. I also appreciate that there are people invested enough to keep clubs of limited stature going – and the fans that make it possible.
It seems to be a very exciting time for the equivalent of non-league football in America (although with the set up over there the term doesn’t really work). Small clubs, formed by football fans promoting the sport and community involvement is what makes what they are doing so important.
I’m not going to lie and say the main thing that initially attracted me to the club wasn’t their frankly awesome name. But discovering more about the people behind the scenes – and their fans - has been immensely worthwhile.
Bearfight ended up drawing 3-3 on Sunday and I look forward to future live streaming of games. I might have to miss out on the post-match tacos and beer but as long as the coverage is there I will be too.
Today's interview is brought to you by MeritFit. MeritFit.co is a Kansas City based fitness and nutrition blog run by one of my good friends and certified Personal Trainer, Dustin Duewel. He played soccer for 12 years, inspiring his passion for fitness and nutrition. Check out his blog for all kinds of useful information to up your game and get ahead of the competition.
Today's interview is brought to you by LeagueApps. League Apps is your one stop shop for streamlining your day to day activities at the club and league level. They have multiple options based on your needs, including one that's free! Visit LeagueApps.com to find out more and see what they can do to make running your club and league easier.
Hello AP readers! I've got a real treat for you today. This aritcle is the first from one of our new writers, Dan Roberts! If you missed it last month, and now last year, you can read a little about Dan and what he's going to be bringing to AP by Clicking Here. I hope you enjoy his writing and unique perspective on the world of soccer. Check it out.