FEWER cities in the world have closer ties to football than the city of Manchester. It is the home to two of England’s biggest clubs in Manchester United and their rivals City.
However, ex-Manchester United and England star, Paul Scholes, recently said in his new book ‘Class of 92: Out of Our League’ that he prefers watching non-league football to the Premier League as it is more entertaining.
That, coupled with the seemingly always rising cost of modern football has driven several fans to watching amateur or semi-professional sides on a Saturday afternoon, rather than the big clubs.
The Football Association and Premier League clubs endorse schemes such as ‘Non-League Day’ every year, which coincides with a break in Premier League and Championship fixtures. Clubs offer incentives to fans to come and see their side play, and often it results in smaller sides seeing attendance figures doubled.
The magic of non-league
— Love Ryman Premier (@Love_non_league) December 13, 2016
The average football fan outside of the city may not be aware of many non-league clubs in the region, other than Salford City, who are part-owned by Manchester United’s ‘Class of 92’ and were the feature of two BBC documentaries over the past eighteen months.
However, there are actually 13 non-league sides spread throughout the Greater Manchester region, playing across the different tiers of football.
So who are the teams?
The sides are: Altrincham FC, Ashton United FC, Curzon Ashton FC, Droylsden, FC United of Manchester, Hyde United, Mossley AFC, Radcliffe Borough FC, Ramsbottom United FC, Salford City FC, Stalybridge Celtic FC, Stockport County FC and Trafford FC.
Who is the most well known side there?
Whilst Salford City gained recognition up and down the country from their BBC appearances, they also reached the second round of the FA Cup last season, being broadcast on BBC and BT Sport during their historic run. Hyde found viral fame on Twitter after tweets such as these:
Can’t tweet trialists real names today, so they shall all be named after left-wing revolutionaries. #DasKapital
— Hyde United FC (@hydeunited) July 26, 2014
Sub: Mahatma Ghandi on for Hyde. Have to question his decision to play in flip flops.
— Hyde United FC (@hydeunited) July 26, 2014
What division do they all play in?
The sides are spread across three divisions, the National League North, the Northern Premier League Premier Division and the Northern Premier League North. Last season Altrincham FC finished the highest of all the sides although they were relegated from the National League, finishing in 22nd. Salford City are a side quickly on the rise after consecutive promotions to join Stockport, Altrincham, Curzon Ashton, FC United of Manchester and Stalybridge Celtic in the National League North, the sixth tier of English football.
Who has the cheapest season ticket on offer?
Despite the consecutive promotions, Salford City still have the cheapest season ticket on offer outright, priced at just £100 for adults and £50 for students. However, this was even cheaper (£75/£45 respectively) if purchased before the June 30. FC United also set their season ticket prices at £100, however they operate a ‘Pay what you can afford’ scheme, in which £100 is the minimum price fans pay, but they are encouraged to donate more. On the opposite end of the scale, Stockport County are the most expensive at a lofty £285, just £14 cheaper than the lowest priced season ticket at Manchester City, despite being five divisions below them. For comparison, the cheapest season ticket at Manchester United is £532.
Which fans saw the most wins for their money last season?
Ashton United fans saw 14 wins at home, the most of everyone in the region, as they finished in fourth but lost out in the playoffs to Salford City. Mossley AFC fans were not far behind, as they saw 12, however Salford City went 18/23 games unbeaten, the best ratio on the list. Ramsbottom United could only manage three home wins as they finished bottom of the Northern Premier League.
What about the cost of match day programmes?
Salford City top this list, as they only charge £1.50 for one, however the most expensive is from Stockport County which comes at double the price of Salford’s.
Who had the best value for money in terms of goals scored?
Salford again come in first, as they scored as they scored an impressive 50 goals at home during their promotion season. This means that spectators saw a goal at the cost of just £2 if they were regular season ticket holders. There was a huge contrast between Salford and the worst ranked team in this section, which again was Stockport County.
Overall, the best value non-league side in Greater Manchester is also coincidentally the most well-known, Salford City. Here, fans can get a cheap day out that is usually packed full of goals and entertainment whilst they watch their team climb towards the football league.
However other sides in the region may be closer to where you live and they all play to a good standard of football, because of this, they are all worth a visit.