Happy Birthday to the National League!

By Deal Town

The NLP office was in absolute overdrive last week as we celebrated 40 years of the National League.

It was while producing our special eight-page pull-out that it truly dawned upon us just how many extraordinary tales and history this division has created; so much so that we ended up writing far too much and spent most of Friday evening frantically trying to cut down word counts and squeeze in as many stories as we possible could!

There were interviews with the likes of Martin O’Neil and Neil Warnock, who both learned their trade in Non-League’s highest tier, however for me, I particularly enjoyed speaking to Peter Hunter, who was secretary of the division when the one up, one down agreement was made with the Football League.

It was during this conversation that I realised just how important the agreement made in 1987 was for both advancing the quality of the division and streamlining the entire Non-League pyramid.

Before then clubs had to apply for a place in the Football League, with just one position up for grabs.

At the time it seems as though this application process was a largely futile event for Non-League clubs to be a part of, with the bottom placed Football League club more often than not coming out on top in the lottery.

In many respects there was essentially a permanent divide between the Football League and Non-League – with the fairy tale dream of a team rising through from obscurity to break into the upper echelons of the English system seeming virtually impossible.

It is amazing to see just what an impact the promotion and relegation agreement has had on Non-League football.

Teams can now dare to dream of making a run through the divisions, while the guarantee of Football League clubs making the plunge into Non-League each year has increased both the quality and the fan base within the National League.

Nowadays, especially with the introduction of two up, two down, the division is in extraordinary health and with attendance records being broken and the likes of Tranmere Rovers using promotion from the National League as a springboard for further success, the future of the league is looking bright!

New documentary proves fascinating watching

I would recommend all Non-League fans watch “The Gaffer” on BT Sport this Saturday (24th August) evening.

The documentary follows coaches such as Harrogate’s Simon Weaver, Bromley boss Neil Smith, lower league legend John Still and his protégé Hakan Hayrettin at Maidstone, as well as Ben Strevens and Hartlepool boss Craig Hignett.

It contains some really fascinating moments that demonstrate just what an important role these clubs play within their local community and how the work for a manager most certainly never, ever stops! 

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