Being able to sit in on a Sunday morning this past week and watch the FA Cup ties – especially the Sutton United vs. Leeds one – is always one of my favorite things to do and always has been. When I first began watching football, I drew a fascination to the smaller stadiums and underdog teams despite my real love affair with Manchester United. I always looked forward to the early rounds of the FA Cup a little more than I did the final or big European nights. The more I watched and got involved the more I learned of this culture and community you can only really find in non-league football.
Morpeth Town team journalist Andrew McDonnell says “It’s like a small family. Everyone knows everyone and the reaper is mutual among everyone.” Only at a non-league game can you get the satisfaction of knowing you’re probably gonna run into the skipper or the ref at the pub after the game. Football is regarded as a religion and when you read about entire towns turning out to football matches where you have grandma cooking pies, grandad cutting the lawn, kids collecting tickets, it’s a community event. Why be drowned out in a crowd of 80,000 at the Camp Nou when you can be one of maybe 100 standing along a rusted torn down railing along a terrace. So you may be wondering what non-league team it is I pour my heart and soul into, well let me introduce you to them…
Along the banks of the River Wansbeck, a town of roughly 14,000 people exist, and its name is Morpeth. A little quaint town 20 minutes drive from the coast and 35 minutes from Newcastle. It is a small market town founded back in the 12th century and first ruled by the De Merlay family. The original market charter granted in 1199 is still run every Wednesday in the town center but has decreased in popularity since the railroad was invented and ran to Newcastle and sea towns easier. All of which is very important but more importantly, it’s home to Morpeth Town AFC.
Morpeth Town AFC was founded in 1894 after the amalgamation of Morpeth United and Morpeth FC. They didn’t join the Northern Alliance until the 1936-1937 season. Prior to the 1954 season, they moved into their own ground Storey Park. For Morpeth Town supporters, it was a long 47 year wait until the club won the league for the first time in 1983-1984 season and they did it again exactly ten years later in the 1993-1994 season. Currently Morpeth Town are the holders of the FA Vase trophy which they won in May of 2016 at Wembley. They play their home fixtures at Craik Park which has a capacity of 1,000 but only 100 seated but it’s a renovated covered stand.
“The club is arguably the biggest in Northumberland, they are battling for the league title in Division One, no other team in the county is doing that.” That’s how club journalist Andrew McDonnell regards the importance of the club to the area. Not only is the club growing in popularity in England, it’s gaining recognition abroad such as in America. “Non-league football is huge in this country and you often see a better game at that level compared to the millionaires of the Premier League. International support will bring the club more interest and fans, like yourself, can follow the club through social media sites like Twitter and YouTube.”
It’s not easy following a non-league team from abroad, especially when you try and contribute an intelligent article to their matchday programmes. That’s why I hope everyone who can take advantage of this does, and for me, well maybe one day, but for now I’ll appreciate my fourth tier local team and continue to be that one American support for Morpeth Town AFC.