Damian Hall explains why the fifth tier is more appealing than the top flight...
1. You Actually Matter
Part of a 75,000-plus crowd at Old Trafford were you? Congratulations, but, and I mean this in the nicest possible way, you didnÃ¢ÂÂt matter.
IÃ¢ÂÂm sure you do to your 673 Facebook friends and that, but not in a real way. If you hadnÃ¢ÂÂt gone, someone else would have paid shocking amounts of money to plonk their juicy behind on the exact same seat. In the Football Conference (also known by the appalling moniker, the Blue Square Premier) youÃ¢ÂÂre genuinely adding to the gate. No one will replace you if you donÃ¢ÂÂt go. Therefore, you matter. And thatÃ¢ÂÂs a good feeling.
2. The Football is Bobbins
Why wonÃ¢ÂÂt someone else take your seat, or spot on the terrace (see number six), if you donÃ¢ÂÂt go? Because the football is utter bobbins.
The players arenÃ¢ÂÂt that good Ã¢ÂÂ OK, theyÃ¢ÂÂre better than me, but not by much Ã¢ÂÂ they miss open goals, catastrophically under-hit back-passes and the keeper drops the ball more often than their Premier League contemporaries. The pitches, stadiums and pies arenÃ¢ÂÂt as good either. Which of course actually means theyÃ¢ÂÂre better.
Can you remember when football was fun, nay funny, when youÃ¢ÂÂd have a good larf while you watched a game? In the Conference itÃ¢ÂÂs still good old-fashioned innocent fun. Like the olden days.
Plus there are no waiting lists, no need to sell a limb for that season ticket, and no queueing outside the ground like some berk outside the Apple store the day the latest iWotsit is released. Life down here is easier too.
3. Winners Are For Losers
ItÃ¢ÂÂs easy and lazy to support a big club. I know you tell that story about supporting Liverpool Ã¢ÂÂall your lifeÃ¢ÂÂ, but thatÃ¢ÂÂs like saying youÃ¢ÂÂve been brought up in a rich area all your life. Yeah, congratulations, impressive commitment.
It may have saved you from a bit of banter at school (well, in the Ã¢ÂÂ80s), but by the time youÃ¢ÂÂve grown up few will respect you for it. Support a crap team and people will admire you; youÃ¢ÂÂll seem more interesting, will make rakish new friends and will doubtless have a lithe new girlfriend within days. Seriously. I guarantee it. SheÃ¢ÂÂll be way hot.
All of these men have beautiful, beautiful girlfriends...
4. Why ArenÃ¢ÂÂt You Watching On The Box?
Premier League football is solely a television sport anyway. At the risk of sounding like I vote BNP (IÃ¢ÂÂd rather vote Paul Gascoigne), Ã¢ÂÂEPLÃ¢ÂÂ clubs are largely foreign owned and run, with foreign managers, buying foreign players, and itÃ¢ÂÂs being watched all over the world by millions of, yes, foreigners.
ThatÃ¢ÂÂs all completely fine Ã¢ÂÂ itÃ¢ÂÂs good to share Ã¢ÂÂ but thereÃ¢ÂÂs very little thatÃ¢ÂÂs local, or English, about it. To paraphrase a famous Manchester singer (who did not support United, incidentally), it says nothing to us about our lives. The Premier League is nowt to do with us anymore. Let it go. Swap it for something more intimate and personal.
5. Two Timing
Luckily the EPL is on the telly box, wireless and big interpipe, so you can have the best of both worlds; the adorable if needy wife and the wanton glamour girl on the side. However, the glamour girl is best viewed from a distance.
Like photos that replace your real memories of a holiday, the events you think you saw at a Premier League game can get replaced by the television version. Every incident is picked over by the meeja like a corpse in the desert, becoming what sociological boffins call hyper-real: more real than the real (event).
Even if you go to a game, thereÃ¢ÂÂs a feeling that you still need to watch MOTD anyway, to Ã¢ÂÂsee what really happenedÃ¢ÂÂ. So why pay all that money to watch what everyone else is watching too? After a non-league game, no one else has seen it, so you get the sense of exclusivity. Better still, do both.
6. Stand Up For Yourself
Remember terraces? Remember when you could stand up without being told to sit down? Remember moving about to get a better viewpoint (not generally a problem, admittedly)? Or just changing your position because you fancied it? Sitting down for a bit? Meeting all your mates in the same place? Game of cards anyone? Do a little dance? Get down tonight? Terraces are another reason why the Conference is king.
"Excuse me, you appear to be sat in my....oh"
7. Abuse Use
Because the crowds are much smaller, the players can actually hear you when you call them Ã¢ÂÂworse than my gran and sheÃ¢ÂÂs deadÃ¢ÂÂ, or much shorter words to that affect. Sometimes they even answer back. ThatÃ¢ÂÂs fun too. (Unless you see them afterwards.)
8. ItÃ¢ÂÂs Not Bobbins Actually...
I was unfair earlier. You will still see good players and some famous ones too. At my club alone during the last 10 years IÃ¢ÂÂve seen Tony Daley (ex-Aston Villa and England), Dennis Bailey (think hat-trick at Old Trafford for QPR), Stuart Slater (West Ham and Celtic), Paul Warhurst (Sheffield Wednesday, when they would nearly win stuff), Nigel Spink (Villa and England), Ian Olney (Villa, plus he went to my school) and this season, albeit playing for the opposition, Frank Sinclair (Chelsea, when they didnÃ¢ÂÂt win stuff). Non-league players whoÃ¢ÂÂve gone onto major fame and fortune include Ian Wright, Les Ferdinand, Kevin Phillips, Stan Collymore, Kerry Dixon, John Barnes, Iain Dowie, Steve Finnan and Chris Smalling. So thereÃ¢ÂÂs every chance you will actually see a star, either rising or falling.
9. No Wayne Rooney
Better still, in the Conference thereÃ¢ÂÂs no Wayne Rooney, no John Terry, no Ashley Cole and no Emmanuel Adebayor. I dislike those people.
ItÃ¢ÂÂs an obvious one, but itÃ¢ÂÂs cheaper too. And your money is not going into the pockets of any of the above. ThatÃ¢ÂÂs a nice feeling.
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