In my first blog post to you I would just like to highlight the key differences between the Professional game and the Non-league game in case you didn’t already know. The professional game in England is made up by four leagues consisting of the Premier League, the Championship, League One and League Two. In all of these Leagues the players train full-time and their sole job is to go out and win football games (simple!) In comparison, the Non-League game is made up of seven Leagues with the vast majority of the teams being part-time outfits. This means that while players may pick up a bit of money from playing football, the majority of their wage will be made up by a full-time job. This is where the difference lyes. I personally have been lucky enough to experience life as a professional footballer after spending three years full-time at Watford FC. Unfortunately the dream couldn’t quite become a reality and I am now playing semi-professionally for Wealdstone FC in the Ryman Premier Division. Because of my experience in both sides of the game, I feel as though I am in a strong position to highlight the extraordinary differences.
I have already mentioned how semi-professional footballers play for ‘the love of the game’ and nothing highlights this more than the dedication shown by all players involved. During my three years so far at Wealdstone I have witnessed some remarkable things. Mid-week away games can be a nightmare for many players with work commitments making it very hard for people to get to games on time. Because of these I have turned up at grounds to find only six players present five minutes before kick-off, our kit-man stuck in traffic so no kit available and players driving to the wrong ground as they have the wrong postcode. Despite all the difficulties, players keep coming back for more. Players will continue to travel around the M25 in rush hour in the vain hope of making a 7.45pm kick off after a long day on a building site, as football is what they love doing.
To put this into perspective, I will now try and detail to you an away game during my time playing for Watford. Firstly, any away game no matter how far away you would travel to on the luxurious team coach with televisions, leather chairs and PlayStations equipped. Furthermore, any journey further than an hour away you would travel up to the night before and stay in a hotel close to the ground. Your kit would be taken care of right down to your underwear and your boots would be waiting for you on arrival at the ground. After the game, rather than driving home and getting up for work the next day, we would all be given the day off to rest and recuperate. It was oh so an easy life!
I hope this helps you do understand just a fraction of what a Non-League player has to go through and the massive difference to the professional game. Despite my time as a professional footballer being a fantastic experience, I can hand on heart say my time in the semi-professional game has been more enjoyable.
Despite the long trips, the cold showers and the awful pitches, the comradely between players is exceptional. There are no egos and everybody is in the same situation. While it is certainly tougher, the Non-League game is like playing football as a child again with everybody’s only desire being to go onto the football pitch to enjoy it and win a game of football.
I hope my future blog posts will bring to life my experiences, and indicate just why the Non-League game has just as much to offer as the Professional game.