Published 22nd February 2012
I was involved in a minor way when the FA`s major restructuring took place a few years back, so have a vested interest in the proposed move to reduce the number of Step 5 league to twelve.
I also have another interest in that the club I am currently involved with - AFC Rushden & Diamonds – will hopefully be members of one of the Step 5 leagues affected - the ChromaSport & Trophies United Counties League - next season and in the not too distant future any restructuring now will affect us.
Firstly I have to say there is absolutely no way clubs such as Wellingborough Town, Irchester United or Thrapston can travel all the way across to the east to regularly take on the likes of Gorleston, Wroxham, Diss Town or Great Yarmouth, assuming the latter avoid the drop.
If the current proposal goes ahead, the death bell will sound for those clubs.
I have to say that the UCL are right in fighting their corner on the FA`s proposal as it stands.
But on the other hand I know for a fact that many clubs, including some of those named above, would welcome a change so that they are able to welcome new opponents to their grounds and travel to new places.
The UCL is a tough league to play in and not the easiest to get out of either, although King`s Lynn Town look as though they might well make it this time around.
People look at the STL Northern League and suggest it must be one of the best Step 5 leagues in the country, given how well their clubs do in the FA Vase.
But in fact one of the major reasons why the Northern League is so strong is because of the lack of Step 4 clubs and above in its boundaries.
Gateshead, Darlington, Blyth Spartans, Whitby Town and Durham City, with possibly Workington and Barrow AFC factored in on its outskirts, are the only clubs looking to challenge Northern League outfits for players.
Compare that with any other of the current Step 5 leagues and you will get my drift.
In fact look a little deeper into the Northern League conundrum and one finds that, apart from Gateshead and to a lesser degree Durham, all the others are struggling this season, with maybe players preferring to stay `local` in the Northern League rather than travel all over the place in higher divisions.
Like the UCL, Northern League officials are extremely protective of its member clubs, but the time is right to look at both areas and have a re-jig.
As far as the new Step 5 league involving UCL clubs is concerned, I would send the eastern-most Ridgeons League teams south and leave the furthest distance between say a line across from Ely to Wellingborough.
Sounds simple, but I can tell you from experience that it`s not easy!
Staying local, I cannot believe what`s happened to my home-town club Kettering Town.
It saddens me to see what a mess the club I signed for as a youngster in 1972, managed at under-18 level and was programme editor etc., etc., is in.
Everyone`s blaming current chairman Imraan Ladak. I don`t know the bloke personally, but he seems to have put a lot of his own money in over the years.
The club has been in `trouble` for many years. I have lost count the number of `Save the Poppies` crisis meetings I have attended over the past thirty-odd years!
Sadly for me I fell out with the late Peter Mallinger when he was chairman of the club, and hadn’t set foot in the old Rockingham Road ground since the mid-1990s, apart from when managing under-18 teams against Kettering.
Now it looks as though I never will again as the old stadium appears likely to have 49 new houses built on it!
The extremely enthusiastic lads who run the newly-formed AFC Rushden & Diamonds outfit feel very bitter and twisted about how they lost their spiritual old home at Nene Park – and I feel exactly the same about Rockingham Road as, I am sure, former favourites like Roger Ashby and Ron Atkinson do too.
**Please note that these opinions are my own**