anger management

As people who know me would testify without delay, I have been known to react disproportionately to the merest of situations, often triggers which observers would struggle to explain even after detailed analysis. Following an innocuous remark directed my way, my balanced and mature response was a full-on flounce resulting in an unscheduled snooze at a bus-stop in Standish. That happened last year; I was thirty-one years old.

This ‘red mist’ and its responses are analysed by people earning a lot more than I ever will researching what makes the behavioural ‘tick’, mostly in men, which turns frustration into an outburst. Basic, back of the envelope assumption would conclude that there’s a) inability to deal with intense situations brought from childhood onwards, b) a mental imbalance of some kind, or c) a bit from both and more besides. As with all personal problems, from drug addiction to persistent low-level crime, admitting there is something wrong is always considered the first step: from there comes working with others to resolve whatever is curdling the brain.

Critics of David Cameron use the term ‘flashman’ to deride the Prime Minister’s occasional bursts of temper and red-faced snapping. Like many who suffer from this tendency to react badly to pushes and prodding, Cameron looks as though his eyes genuinely do fall behind a cloud of red smoke, and his mind becomes blinkered to exits, alternative options, spaces to breathe. It’s partly the nature of Prime Minister’s Questions, I wager, though it’s clearly part of Cameron’s nature. The “calm down dear” approach to argument might have been ill-advised sarcasm, but from that event onwards the suggestion of ‘red mist descending’ has become increasingly convincing.

Where could Cameron go with this? Will he bring something of the Australian parliament to Westminster by swearing or biting the head of a bat?

I come to this from the little local difficulty involving Joey Barton yesterday. Now we all know that Barton likes his philosophy and chin-stroking consideration, which frames many of the arguments pro- and anti- defending him for repeated violent moments and verbal outbursts. The growth of wisdom, as Nietzsche suggests, may be gauged exactly by the diminution of ill-temper, and as Barton claims to learn from Nietzchean philosophies, you’d assume that the ill-temper/wisdom see-saw would have been  rebalanced at some point. Yesterday’s nail-biting, heart-pounding, sweat inducing final Premier League day was not ruined by Barton’s elbow/knee/head, though it has cast a shadow. As thousands of people watched the games unfold – I did so in a pub which showed both Manchester games on adjacent screens which didn’t help the heart rates – the Barton flip-out took over the conversations across the pub as much as the David Cameron “LOL” revelation threatened to hijack the Leveson inquiry analysis that day. Sometimes the silly, trivial, the curiosities are bugs eager to dig into the topic to take it over, to divert attention from the really important stuff. Luckily both games had enough other stuff happening – and Aguero’s goal, Rooney’s miss and such were momentous enough – to allow Barton’s ‘red mist’ to be pushed to the fringes.

Because of his repeated assurances that he’s learning, self-analysing, reflective, Barton’s constant return to the stage of silliness has stripped away almost all sympathy from neutrals and fans. QPR fans have taken to the internet and phone-in shows to disown him. Barton took to Twitter, his own personal Speaker’s Corner, to act bullish with an edge of accountability. The edge was as thin as the head of a southern-pulled pint, which exhausted yet more patience.

Over at the arena of politics, D-Cam has a few more days before facing another bear-pit PMQs. More often than not, the bun-fights with Ed Miliband bring out the worst in Cameron’s argument technique.  He usually ‘wins’ against Ed, because the Labour leader has all the weight of a speak and spell machine, though it’s how Dave conducts himself which gets the attention, blogs and commentary pieces. Whilst Labour are led by a man who struggles to set jelly never mind the agenda, Cameron’s fits of pique shouldn’t cause too much damage. The term ‘flashman’ has stuck, and some MPs know how to press the right buttons. Cameron hasn’t learned from Tony Blair about how to flavour temper with sarcasm and theatrical flair. It’s all in the tag, as Kenneth Williams would advise. It’s all there in the punchline, the pay-off – get it wrong, and you’re a bully or a short-tempered prat.

Where Cameron and Barton align is the apparent lack of willingness to change, to repair the damage they cause and the damage in their own mental well-being. Whilst many are now abandoning Barton for good – the Guardian which took him around an art gallery now snidely dig at his “copy and paste philosophy” – there’s still sizeable support for Cameron and the Coalition. The temptation to go over the edge must be strong for the PM – the three years before General Election 2015 is a timeframe sprinkled with landmines, death traps, nooses and Nadine Dorries. Pushes from Labour, pokes from the backbenches, irritation from the constraints of compromise politics in this era of Coalition – all the little things which stir up the smoke, colour the mist, send the heart pounding further, stronger, harder. For a man whose ‘flashman’ snapping has been constrained within the House of Commons so far to save his reputation, Cameron will have to deal with all this before it happens in the television studio or on the stump.

Joey Barton is the very definition of the angry young man, and whilst I’m not about to dismiss him entirely, I can see why frustration with his constant return to idiocy on the pitch and at the keyboard has turned into abandonment. People can only take sympathy so far. If the constant misbehaviour never goes away, than either the person has a serious problem which requires longer-term help, or the person just has no intention of ever bettering themselves. Cameron is not some crazed loon at the dispatch box, though he has shown no sign of calming down the red-faced tendency or sarcastic snapping. The temper tantrums which infect Barton’s character, and those which taint Cameron’s responses, are parts of the same diagnosis, and both fans/voters will deliver their medicine whether it’s wanted or not.

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Adventures in Groundhopping

The football website BornOffside is just over one year old and from Shamrock Rovers to the stadia blueprints in Qatar, it’s been quite a journey. There’s a lot of exciting things to come from the BornOffside lads in the coming months, so if you’ve not checked the site out yet, be sure to do so.

As I noted a few months ago now, this current football season is one where I’ll be hopping around the lower and non-league grounds (…within affordable public transport reach, natch), and scribing about the experiences for BornOffside.

It’s been two months already and I’m ticking off some great little games and cracking grounds, but much more than that, I’m enjoying people watching, comparing pies and noticing how all right-backs are frustrated centre midfielders who just want a CHANCE IN LIFE DAMMMIT.

By way of a catch-up, here’s the run down of my adventures thus far. There’s  more to come, hope you enjoy the ride as much as I do….

A day trip to Squires Gate, and then to Lancaster, covered in The First Weekends.

An early FA Cup qualifier saw Prescot Cables take on Warrington, all scribed up as Prescot Punch

Trying out plucky little Flixton against the “phoenix club” AFC Liverpool in Flawed Phoenix

Taking the 30-minute walk from my house down the road for Bamber Bridge in Bridge Too Far

Making my way to North Wales to take in the beautiful game from the vantage point of the Welsh First Division, which I hope was translated accurately as Y gêm hardd

Down the West Coast Main Line for the charms of Wigan, only without the threat of bumping into Gary Caldwell, which was all a bit all pastry, no filling

Last weekend I found myself on a park in Radcliffe for the lowest level of non-league football I have ever watched. It should be up on the site later this week, so check it out.

pies, chips, and anoraks

One regular column inside the Non-League weekly newspaper is called “Diary of a Groundhopper”. Written by different fans every week, its tales and regales follow the national football scene which exists beneath the 92 League teams, beneath even the Conference and its feeder divisions. From the website 50 Yards Wide, this one description of a groundhop should give you the idea of what is meant…

With our original plans thrown into disarray by the lack of a referee at Talysarn, it was a case of any port in a storm at 1-30pm on Saturday. Luckily, Llanllyfni is no more than a couple of miles from Talysarn and arriving at 1-40 it was good to see both teams out warming up for the 2pm KO.Ths is one of those grounds that you’d struggle to find if it wan’t a match day. The goals, pitch perimeter fence, dugouts & advertising boards (banners to be precise) all disappear once the game is over, leaving an open field behind the village hall. However, with everything set up, it feels very much like a proper venue, the only thing it lacks is cover.

Another site, now moved, called “Extreme Groundhopping” lists the grounds visited by the author so far – Arsenal’s Emirates and Bolton’s Reebok joined by Brantham Athletic (they play at a Social Club of the same name, and I’ve never heard of them), and Norwich United (played within the Ridgeons League Premier Division).

Everything in life collects its obsessives. Ale festivals are great for this, one table always reserved for the men of a certain vintage exchanging tour anecdotes like society-ball veterans transported from another age in anoraks and t-shirts. “Selbeh 92, ‘member that, eh? Nowt like that any more, Grimsby last year being an exception, of course!”

Train spotting, it almost goes without saying, has the same effect upon men (though, and this is absolutely true, on the train from Wigan one afternoon I spotted a man and woman sat around a picnic-table at the side of Platform 4. Romance, right there).

The groundhopper is distinctly, absolutely, completely British. It’s the very best of the eccentric and the obsessive, the man who makes lists, the woman who always puts clothes in order of colour. We’ve all heard of “doing the 92”, a creditable trophy to chase for any football fan, which requires the committed individuals involved to watch a full game at every one for the ninety-two League stadia. (There is a very good dedicated website, soon to be updated for the coming season). As it happens, there may be purists who are shaking their head at this slap-dash explanation. Just watch the game? What about having to buy a programme? What about doing it in alphabetical order? Of postcodes?

Despite being a hobby, ostensibly, the ”rules” pervade the whole groundhopping community. Ever heard of stamp collectors who tend not to accept British definitives or anything from WH Smith starterpacks? Then we’re in the same arena here.

The question on rules was asked on the Non League Matters forum. It’s worth only enjoying this reply in all its glory;

To watch a game, you should be there from start to end, including extra time if played. (Note, Should, not Must).

For example, different people have different ideas of what to do if they miss the start, maybe due to circumstances beyond their control. This is always a potential problem on long trips.

Some will not go without a programme, or without a pasty crimp or whatever.

Some make detailed accounts of players, goal scorers, even perhaps numbers of corners – others would not be able to tell you the score if you ask 7 days after the game.

I think everyone keeps some sort of record, although I know some that are trying to create records from memory, having not kept them from the start of their football watching. [I am lucky in that from the first time I watched a match and decided this was for me, I actually kept a list of the games seen – although some friendlies were not on the list, and a match at Barking which my grandfather had taken me to some years previously was not recorded]

So talk to other hoppers at games, exchange views on here – make up your own mind and then be true to yourself, (no one else is counting for you

Yes, that’s right, an earlier poster was concerned by the sale of pies or burgers for a groundhop to “count”. We’re in dangerous territory, folks.

(You would be, in very enjoyable territory as I understand it, if you watch a game at Devon where burgers are of such massive consistency that the use of excessive tomato ketchup is recommended as otherwise the mouth would almost run out of saliva).

Accusations of ‘not being proper fans’ are thrown at groundhops as though some of the mud will stick. It’s bizarre to think such finger-pointing could have any validity; there’s enough struggle to deal with the hypnotised SKY brigade, for whom football exists for glitz, glamour and the top 10 Premier League places. Groundhoppers may not have a single team of their own to follow, though why should this be considered a handicap? Hobbies breed snobs, true, and it’s true on both sides. It can lead to awkward conversations with potential future fathers-in-law. (“Don’t have a team, eh? Poofter, hmm? One of those give votes to black disabled lesbians, I suppose?”)

I have experienced two different extremes of the groundhop within the British Isles, from the extreme of walking 30 minutes down the road to Irongate (home of Bamber Bridge, which is not called the QED stadium for God’s sake…), right to the train-bus-Metro-unintended-overnight-stay-in-Newcastle weekend to watch the FA Cup Qualifier between Burscough and Howden. All fans should have at least one nightmare away trip story, after all.

The groundhop status taps into an argument right at the core of the non-league game. Notwithstanding notable exceptions – most Blue Square Premier sides, AFC Halifax, FC United of Manchester – crowd sizes can be very small, and rather quiet. Messageboards and forums hum to the sound of perennial questions – does non league football even count? How low down the pyramid is acceptable? What’s the widely held distinction between teams playing Sunday kickabouts on the park and Suffolk County games?

My opinion has always been open minded, perhaps over-romantacisesd. There is a moment of the Saturday afternoon, in my way of thinking, when hundreds of referees across the country blow whistles in unison, momentarily and fleetingly uniting all the levels of football as one, before the differences blossom again and all games return to their rightful place in the strata. At one broadbrush level, there’s little difference between the very highest and most low of games, though only somebody so deep in denial that they hold an Egyptian passport would argue that the playing fields genuinely are level. Sadly the anorak tendency within non league has allowed the inverse snobbery to build within otherwise genial fanbases. Yes, the ‘culture’ amongst some lower league sides is at the opposite side of the Premier League glitz and glamour. That perhaps is the whole point, and should not be the measure by which some fans decide validity of support amongst others.

For groundhopping, my rules are fairly straight forward. Enjoy yourself. It’s a game of football, the significance of which should not override the more important specifics, such as roundly criticising the rightback with the acceleration of a mobility scooter and suggesting the liner closest to you enjoys extra-curricular activities with someone other than his wife. Taking a month out of supporting your team – I don’t recommend this often – to take in five or six complete unknowns in new stadia could be just the break you need (that is, if you’re an Aston Villa fan not otherwise in need of education). If there’s any judgemental element to this, it’s unfortunate and it’s human nature. Different strengths can be found all over the stands and terraces, it’s unfortunate that the mud sticks strongest below the League line.

So let’s just shake off all the complexities here. There’s only a month before the season starts, and that means it’s time enough to plan fantasy football teams, train journeys to far-flung away games, and ensure everyone knows not to purchase pies from Altrincham….

Initial considerations

It’s very easy to over-romanticise the FA Cup. Worse culprits than ITV are hard to find, with the broadcaster assured of the similarity between it and the TARDIS, the game as a time-machine able to whip up mythical good-old-days of level playing fields and jumpers for goalposts.

(“Level playing fields never existed,” comments the cynical old friend of mine. “We’d struggle not to do our ankles on the molehills.”)

It is ten years after – this should be the only time I type this today – “magic of the Cup” was debated within a stitch of its life following Manchester United’s decision to fly half-way round the globe rather than take part. From fair-weather fans to utter fanatics, the future of the Cup and by extension English football was exhaustively debated and analysed, with my then boss at the time agreeing totally with “Brand Utd” sidestepping the competition “they have clearly outgrown”.

The discussion comes round again this season, related in that spooky-fate-and-fortune sort of way to Manchester United. Following the turning of Old Trafford into a holding bay for Texan debt, plans scrawled on the back of naan bread by disillusioned fans created FC United of Manchester, a protest club which would turn into something non-league football had not quite seen before. Fan-owned, eschewed of shirt sponsors, and now with share-save style promotions to raise money for a new ground, FCUM made an extra slice of history their own this week by beating Rochdale in the First Round Proper of the FA Cup.

(Remember for teams of the Pyramids, the Cup starts in August).

FCUM polarise and divide opinion to this day. Their reputation within the hitherto stuffy world of non-league is polarised. Frankly the atmosphere and attitude was long overdue for some clubs at the lower levels, whose grounds desperately needed the singing, chanting and enthusiasm of League football which FCUM almost always guarantee. The terraces of some provincial towns must thing the echoing choruses of football crowds have been missing for generations. When Burscough, the team I follow, played Boston some years ago, their supporters acted just as they would in the League, an attitude FC has maintained despite long years clawing their way through Leagues were polite applause can be sneered at…

The FCUM attitude to the FA Cup has been one of hyperactivity, giddyness and outright hunger for success. The jokes about meeting Manchester United in the Third Round are told with straight-faced seriousness…..

…..which reflects very differently to the attitude in the London Borough of Merton…..

Below are three Tweets sent to me in response to questions forwarded to those AFC fans suggesting their potential game with MK Dons could be boycotted or even forfeited:

@doktorb Not really. It justifies them. And they say we’re arch rivals, but we’re nothing of the sort.

@doktorb why? The idea of playing the franchise isn’t like playing rivals you realise. I don’t want rivals to go bust.

@doktorb i genuinely would not want to be there which is different from principled boycott stance

The extent of the disquiet – to put it mildly – amongst AFC Wimbledon fans against a potential match with MK Dons utterly stunned and silenced me. There is no charity, no olive branch, no eagerness for playing “rivals”. The two teams may appear to have been cut from the same protest movement cloth….It is only on closer inspection that the different patterns are discovered. Although a minority of AFC fans want the game to go ahead, there is no pounding-heart nostalgia amongst the majority. FA Cup or not – achievement of making the First Round Proper or not – “Franchise FC” would not be welcome at the “home of the Dons”.

(I highly recommend this WSC blog on the subject)

Such is the continuing problems at the heart of the oldest club cup competition. AFC fans are clearly principled – mayhaps too principled to the point of blindness. It is just as easy to over romanticise the fan-power teams as it is the Cup itself. How we all paint the game in the garish pop-art colours of the ITV title sequence, wrap every fault in scarves and wooly-hats. There are hooligan tendencies within the fan base of both AFC and FCUM, there are non-league fans unhappy at the perceived easy ride given the ‘novelty factor’. Nevertheless both sides have ultimately transformed the non-league organisation as much as the game.

There will always be exceptions to prove rules. FC fans are out there now sharpening defiance against ever playing Manchester United, and of course AFC Wimbledon fans who are excited by the prospect of playing Milton Keynes look forward to each respective replays. Ultimately, however, the Cup is only a symbol for the sides at their level, an icon too far to reach, the fervour amongst clubs and fans overblown and knowing. It has not been the Cup we’ve wanted it to be for years. Blame whoever you like for ‘reinventing the wheel’.

It keeps on spinning. AFC Wimbledon and FC United of Manchester find themselves positioned on opposite sides…

Sky’s Own Goal

News that Sky Sports News is to be removed from Freeview should come as a bodyblow for, among others, fans of Jeff Stelling (in general), Dean Windass’ inability to describe what just happened on the pitch behind him, and Chris Kamara (in full).

This decision – financial, natch – leaves people, pubs and smaller clubs stuck with the inferior Final Score. Yes, Garth “Ribena Mascot Head” Crooks and his meandering sentences and forced metaphors. Remember how Kevin Keegan struggled commentating during the World Cup 1994? That’s what we are left with. Him and Gaby “I’m a sports presenter, me” Logan and Jake Humphries, the walking yet barely talking Top Gear presenter job application.

It’s enough to force viewers to the nearest stadium to watch a match. Which is exactly what I intend to do.

And now, of course, *that* Chris Kamara moment….

3D in the round

“…and you don’t get Andy Gray as a commentator…”

The marketing bods at SKY are doing an alright job pushing their 3D television coverage of Premier League football, seeing as the technological limitations are still quite notable.

(Not least, I must say, the fact that the Guinness branded shaded glasses caused the 40 of us watching the single television screen look like we were hanging around for the first rehearsal of the “television scene” from Willy Wonka…)

The negative points first, then. Unless you’re one of those rabid anti-everything types, SKY are not to blame for the Manc derby being such an underwhelming match, notable only for the midfield keep-ball and plentiful Zamorian chances on goal. Well, okay, maybe in the broader sense they are, but that’s a topic for another day…Negative points, then, and I start with the general selling point of 3D broadcasting; that an entire ninety minutes of football can be viewed as though the sci-fi futurists of the 1960s have finally been proven right.

More often than not the effect did not work. Some people have suggested it may have something to do with my short-sight, or the difference in shape between the Guinness branded 3D specs and my own, so there’s a technological issue right there that could be more prohibitive than the developers imagined. I am not entirely convinced, however, for I cannot put my hands on acres of newsprint from similarly disadvantaged glasses wearers moaning about not getting the full Avatar experience, so until then, I reserve judgement…

Football has never suited single fixed-cameras (I’m looking at you, ITV FA Cup coverage directors). It became pretty obvious that swift and often camera movements took away some of the effect; for example just when I saw a group of players on the left wing float above the screen, an unconscious correction of my eye-line took the image away. The only very impressive effects came from fixed camera shots of corners and free kicks taken just outside the penalty area, with the goalposts and corner flags seemingly aiming themselves at pint-glasses and within door frames.

The positive conclusions come from all these decently received experiences – above all, the team sheets and team layouts, which floated above the screen looking more decent and convincing than just about anything else until the final whistle.

(No, I don’t mean that ruddy kiss…)

3D broadcasting has not made any great strides. More a few uncertain side-steps. It seems to currently be at its best with static and slow tracking shots. Any sudden and swift movement loses the magic (and how many times has that been a problem in my private life…)

To ensure 3D doesn’t go the way of Minidiscs and Sodastream, I would suggest more work be done to improve both static and swift motion camera movements. And with a the Leaders Debate coming up on Thursday, SKY have a great chance to try it out this week.

We’d all tune in to see Gordon Brown appear to float under our front room lights like a hanged banker….wouldn’t we ?

playing on the right

Breathless, verbless news coverage met me this morning. BECKHAM INJURY SHOCK WORLD CUP LATEST.

I had assumed – expert on right-sided midfielders that I am not – that common consensus amongst front-room Fabios had agreed upon the notion of Beckham barely featuring in South Africa at all, almost to the point of inventing a Walcott/Wright-Phillips hybrid capable of combining pace with accuracy of crosses. Until such a splice actually exists – no, don’t think too much on that either – I will continue to largely sit out the 2010 equivalent of the mid-90s baroom discourse on “Why the left in English football is an almost impossible position to fill”.

If the sight of both Beckham and former England posterboy Michael Owen limping off with injuries on the cusp of middle age is not too much of a reality check for people (don’t….just don’t….), I found solace and reality all bundled together in a footballing context down at the humble setting of the Unibond Premier league. While my own club Burscough continue to suffer from successive poundings and High Court nail-biting, two places below the plucky stalwarts from Durham FC make things all the better to be alive.

In short, Durham beating FC United of Manchester 2-1 at Gigg Lane may not seem to much to make life seem nicer in a roundabout, barely tangible way. However the details really do shine a big light of reality on the hyperactive, hypereality of Premier League excess and showboating celebs. Durham barely have the right to exist, stripped of their sponsors and funding after an FA ruling against plastic pitches and “University teams”. With almost 30 games of this season gone, Durham had a goal difference of minus-120, not even a draw to their name, and the ignominy of a 6-point deduction for pulling the “Sunday League trick” of registering a player under a false name. That Durham won at all is worth celebrating; that their fans have stuck by them through cricket score drummings with Newcastle or Sunderland or Middlesbrough or even Conference side Gateshead on their doorstep is worth more than just a pint lifted to the skies. Durham sum up far more than a romantic notion of “real” football; they did what they could over a very hard season to brush themselves down, offering local teenagers the chance to play against semi-pro and ex-League players, and did so every week from Kendal in the north to King’s Lynn in the south with a good natured smile on their face every time.

King’s Lynn, of course, were wound up for debts far less than the hourly wage bill of Manchester United. That Durham got their first ever win against FC United of Manchester surely adds that extra line of black irony to the story. Long may Durham have success when the inevitable relegation occurs.

I am no more a football “purist” than I am a real-ale evangalist. It is just refreshing to have moments away from the big brands and tiresome Big 4 soap operas. Long may the lower leagues offer this break from the ‘norm’.

Premier League II

I could not put it better myself, really. Everton really must be having a ‘mare with David Moyes is now getting all Satire-waving about the “inevitable” coming of “Premier League 2”.

On the most basic argument, any additional top league in English football featuring the Old Firm rivals Celtic and Rangers would put an end to the long serving tradition of British football. As a kind of “thank you” to inventing the modern game, the four Home Nations are awarded four separate seats on the FIFA and UEFA top tables; England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales. Okay, we’re not quite unique in this, France has a separate international team within its borders, but I won’t give away this pub quiz answer today….

For Celtic and Rangers to become permanent, full members of the otherwise English Premier League, the whole future set up of the national and international game would change forever. UEFA and FIFA have made it quite clear that a separate English international football team would not exist were the Old Firm to become members of any national football division. Remember the fuss regarding Cardiff winning the FA Cup not being able to take part in European cup competitions? Think about that writ large.

If the idea of a joint Anglo-Scottish football team doesn’t jump out at you (oh imagine the pubs before kick-off…), what about the future of the lower leagues? The amount of money trickling down to even League 1 and League 2 levels is not torrenting down in great waves; an increasing number of Conference and non-league sides are up against the financial wall including Hyde, Farsley Celtic, and Chester. The possibility of having a “walled garden” outside of which survive a withering clutch of barely solvent league teams is nothing short of offensive.

“Mighty” Anderlecht are about discussing the “Atlantic League” theory in case a British “Premier League 2” falls flat. If the notion of pan-European league fills you with a logistical shiver down the spine, you may not be the only ones. But the future of British football, which is far more than sepia-tinged nostalgia for half-time pies and giant killing, relies on the four Home Nations having leagues of their own. Cross-border leagues do not exist in any other country in the world; for clear and unique reasons, the United Kingdom does not suit the notion of a grouped league football format.

Healthy and economically strong our football teams are not (Spurs aside, and there are rather dodgy non-politically correct suggestions for why…). Bringing English and Scottish leagues together in any form would merely produce an incredibly exclusive clutch of world-famous franchises kept away from the motley crews (and indeed, Crewe) below. As a fan of football, and of the lower league game specifically, the prospect does not thrill me with joy at all.