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European Super League proposal makes this the perfect time to start throwing support behind your local non-league clubs



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It's probably a sad thing to admit for a man of 32 years of age, but I love Manchester United. They're my team, always have been ever since my dad took me to my first Premier League game at Old Trafford against Swindon Town in 1993.

I cried every time United scored (they won 4-2) because of the noise of the crowd and I spent large parts of the game with my hands over my ears. Even so, I was hooked.

Growing up I'd watch season reviews on VHS over and over again. I can still recite the commentary from so many of those games and I was also fortunate enough to get to watch those players in the flesh many times with my dad - a season ticket holder until the late 1990s/early 2000s. Eric Cantona was my hero - the leader of a team that won week after week, trophy after trophy. Looking back I realise how lucky I was.

Not my most flattering picture! Me (centre) celebrating a Dan James goal for Manchester United.
Not my most flattering picture! Me (centre) celebrating a Dan James goal for Manchester United.

As the years have advanced priorities change - work, buying a house, having kids - but (and I'm sure much to the annoyance of some understanding family and friends) watching United has remained a major part of my life. I think (hope!) I'm getting better, but I still find their results play on my mind until the next game comes along.

Having said all of that, I'm also not blind to what the club has become, particularly since the takeover by the Glazer family in 2005. For a long time football has been about money and very little else. And do you know what? On reflection, I'm probably a very tiny part of the problem. I've got a Sky Sports subscription, heck I even paid out for the paper-per-view game away at Newcastle United earlier in the season (that still makes me cringe). I've watched United on BT Sport and Amazon this season - all companies that have helped to fuel this greed. And while I'm by no means a regular, I've also lined the pockets of United's owners by going to games at Old Trafford in recent years as a paid up member.

But there has to come a point where enough is enough - and as much as it pains me to say it - I think I've reached that point with United. Even if this abhorrent 'European Super League' proposal falls through (and I still feel that it might go that way), it all feels far too shady and seedy for my liking.

You'll have read by now all the details about the breakaway league written by reporters a lot more articulate than myself, but essentially it's a case of the rich looking to get richer. I cannot and will not get on board with that, especially during a time when the whole world is on its knees financially.

Would Old Trafford be full for Man United versus Real Madrid or Liverpool against Barcelona at Anfield in the opening game of this farce? Sadly, it probably would be, but I'd like to think there will be a lot of people willing to make a stand.

Which leads me to the main crux of this article. For fans of those so called 'Big Six' clubs, get yourself down to your local non-league club when restrictions allow it. These are the clubs that are truly in desperate need of your hard-earned money, especially after the last 12 months or so. It won't hit you in the pocket anywhere near as much, and despite this sometimes ignorant viewpoint that non-league football will be like watching the Dog and Duck versus the Red Lion, it's actually pretty damn good.

Within the last year or so at Suffolk News we've seen AFC Sudbury academy products Liam Bennett and Tyler French move to Cambridge United and Bradford City. Ross Crane - another off the Sudbury conveyor belt before switching to Bury Town - has joined Ipswich Town. Callum Page of Needham Market is currently on trial with the county's leading club.

It's the sort of thing that has always happened as well. The likes of Ben Coker, Mat Mitchel-King and Danny Wright have all cut their teeth locally at non-league before turning professional. And obviously don't forget England goalkeeper Nick Pope!

Does non-league football have its faults? Of course, 100 per cent it does, particularly when it comes to certain clubs living above their means financially and others having to groundshare year upon year.

But what you will find is that a decent majority of the people involved are honest, hard working volunteers who do what they do just so their local community has a team and a club for its people to come and watch every Saturday afternoon or Tuesday evening. These are environments that provide an escape for people, a lifeline for others who perhaps do not socially interact with others the rest of the week. I go to a lot of matches and the people at these clubs have a genuine pride in what they do, and rightly so.

You'll be made to feel a part of things. Your money is not only needed, it will be appreciated, and at a lot of grounds you can pay to get in, have a pint, grab a burger, watch some decent football and still come home with change from £20 knowing you've helped your local club.

Try it, you may just enjoy yourself!

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