Book Review: The Bottom Corner
The Bottom Corner
by Nige Tassell
Published by Yellow Jersey Press
Non-League Football has enjoyed something of a renaissance in the internet age – news of its oddities spread quicker, youtube viewings of outrageous halfway line goals are common, results are available at fingertips and there will always be a small corner of the web to focus on your particular obsession.
But it’s the morass-like nature of Non-League that can also make it seem unessential – Maidenhead United may float my boat but they are unlikely to float yours while debating a disallowed goal for Woking at Barrow is unlikely to rival the Great British Bake Off as a water cooler topic of conversation.
So distilling what makes the alleyways and ginnels of Non-League so persistently enjoyable is a tough job – no matter how much the BBC tried to pretend that Wayne Shaw’s pie eating antics were amusing as Sutton United took on Arsenal, most of us were simply exasperated while the sight of hoardings emblazoned with adverts for The Sun at Gander Green Lane was enough for many of us to plead to the Premier league fat cats that we did, after all, still prefer their version of the sport.
So Nige Tassell has done us all a great service by reminding us of what makes Non-League football a key part of the fabric of British soccer in his book The Bottom Corner.
This is all due to the author’s shrewd choice of topics. While the fortunes of Tranmere Rovers and Somerset’s Bishop Sutton FC over the course of the 2015-6 season are a thread that links the ten entertaining chapters in Tassell’s book, he has chosen wisely to concentrate on subjects that reach beyond the humdrum events at a particular club.
Hence, we have examinations of former Premier Leaguers now plying their trade several divisions below (Julio Arca, Barry Hayles), FA Cup third round appearance makers (Eastleigh FC), clubs started up in protest (FC United of Manchester), prodigious goalscorers who may or may not be the new Jamie Vardy (Emley’s Ashley Flynn) and phoenix clubs (Hereford FC).
There’s also room for the hipsters of Dulwich Hamlet – who, as we suspected, are nothing of the sort but quite as genuine as the next bunch of anoraks – fan ownership in the shape of Lewes FC and the societal ecosystem of Hackney Marshes. All along, the smell of stale tea and sound of football boots being clattered together in an attempt to get rid of mud loom large.
English football’s siege mentality and unwillingness to mend its ways is evident too – the potty mouths of Hackney, uncompromising management style of Salford City’s Anthony Johnson and cliché spouting of Bishop Sutton’s Colin Merrick reminded me too much of my own generally unenjoyable days taking on the pub teams of Bracknell in the East Berks League but for all the huff and puff, there are stories such as that of United Glasgow, formed to provide a club to play for for asylum seekers.
Personally, I’ve most enjoyed my non-league experiences when I have had a team to support week-in and week-out and when taking in individual matches, the day quickly becomes more about the before and after, the drinks and the chance to visit somewhere new than the football itself. So, I’m less of an evangelist for the genre than many of my blogging peers such as The Real FA Cup and The Cold End. Tassell’s excellently written and good natured volume did remind me of what a treasure trove sport at this level can be.