Noel Draper gets reinvigorated by football once again by the grassroots emergence of a brand new club.
It’s nearly that time of year again and up until last weekend I felt slightly underwhelmed. I should have been leaping around, excited, even at my ever advancing age, looking to embrace the pizazz surrounding the start of the new football season; keen to witness the fantastic spectacle that is the Premier League; excited to see the new signings; happy just to take it all in; but I wasn’t.
Sure I have joined the obligatory fantasy league, I have kept an eye on most club’s signings and yes I have defended the £44 million that Man City paid for Sterling – he’s young, English and only 20 – but I still felt underwhelmed and I had no idea why. I love football. Always have done and hopefully always will. It just, well, it felt like something was missing. Something I couldn’t put my finger on.
Was it the fact that the television companies, having paid an extraordinary amount of money for the rights to beam wall to wall football into my front room, now seemed a little over eager to try and capture my custom? “You’ll never see anything like this ever again”. In an increasingly loud voice.
Was it the fact that Michael Owen will soon be droning on about nothing in particular? “That would have been a goal had it gone inside the post”. Thanks Mike. Insightful as ever.
Was it the thought of seeing a referee picking a ball up from a cheap and tacky looking plinth just on the edge of the pitch before showing it triumphantly to the waiting television camera like the Archbishop of Canterbury about to anoint a new King? “…and there’s the sacred ball, about to be held aloft, proclaiming the start of this football match, not the actual official start as that happens at 17:16 precisely as dictated to us by the television companies, but still, the start.”
Was it the pointless tablet holding of the nice people on the Sky football news channel? “Look at us, we have technology and lots of it, all pointless, but still, lots of it, and we might have over paid, I say might, we definitely DID over pay for the television rights but we have tablets. Lots of shiny tablets.”
Or was it the lovely and thoughtful way the television companies and Premier League fixture teams pick and choose the kick of times with the proper fans in mind. “Hmmm…Newcastle at home to Southampton, let’s make that a 13:30 kick off, on a Sunday. I’m not going to check this but I’m sure that there will be trains. Lots of them.”
To be honest it could have been “all of the above” or so I thought right up until last Friday night when, lying in a semi drunken haze in a Chichester hotel room, I caught the end of a local television programme aimed at promoting local things for local people. Usually the content of these programmes is enough to send anyone to sleep, “Oh yes, we are a local charity that takes in injured hippopotamuses and releases them into the wild” or “Yes, the home-made ‘Scenes from the village made out of cake’ will be on show up until the end of the holidays”, but this time it was different.
On the screen sat three men. One, let’s call him the “presenter” sat opposite two other men. Both of these men had rather tight suits on as though they had been told by their wives to wear them as they looked “smart”. One didn’t bother with a tie. He might also have been naturally bald. All this didn’t matter though as both of these men were on the television show for one reason and one reason only and that was to promote the new football club they had decided to form, Gosham Rangers, and if anyone wanted to sponsor them then here were the details.
I was astounded. Here, in front of my blurry eyes, was the reason why I had become jaded by the whole “football experience”. Grass roots. Or to be honest, a complete lack of understanding by all involved about where football has come from. Today it is all about money, big money, and not the actual football itself. Why is there a plinth? Why do fans have to travel the length of the country on a Sunday just on a scheduler’s whim? Why do we need 4 referee’s assistants? Why are they not called ‘linesmen’ any more? Why?
The big money is all well and dandy but if it comes at the expense of the genuine fan then football will suffer and in my eyes, it already has a little bit.
So, with that in mind, I asked one of the two men in the ill fitting suits, what was going on. I think it was the bald one.
What made you form a new club?
The main reason was because we had played for a very well run team for the last six years but that all changed recently. We wanted to replicate the good things but put our own spin on it and create a new team from scratch.
How easy was it to set up?
Easy enough to have the idea but then we had to spend money to get it started. League rules state that you have to have certain things in place such as kit, balls etc before you can be accepted into the league, so we decided to use social media and then the television to find sponsors.
How did you get the Steve Claridge Football Foundation to sponsor you?
One of the players works for the Academy. He had a chat with Steve who was keen on putting something back into grass roots football, so he decided to sponsor us.
What made you take the unusual step of advertising on television?
They approached us after we did a twitter campaign.
Are you still recruiting?
Yes we are, we have no limit on the amount of players we want to sign on this year.
What level of player are you looking for?
We have no level as such, we are just looking for players with the right attitude and commitment.
What style of football are you looking to play?
Attacking fast paced football on the deck.
Where did the name Gosham Rangers come from?
We are based in the Gosport/ Fareham area, on the outskirts of Portsmouth, hence the name.
Who do you support?
We have supporters of Portsmouth, Spurs, Man United etc etc but quite a few of us are Liverpool fans.
What position are you realistically aiming for in your first season?
We want to win the league or at least get promoted. We are not there to make up the numbers. We are a group of lads looking to have enjoyment, commitment and play competitive football each week and see where it takes us. The main thing is enjoyment. People don’t want to give up their Sunday mornings to be whipping boys week in, week out. We are Gosham Rangers and we’ve come to win the league.
Lend the club your support on twitter @GoshamRangers
You’ll find further information on the Steve Claridge Football Foundation here