Just four days before David Bowie became the first in what has seemed like an endless avanlanche of celebrity deaths in 2016, I made the fairly short journey over to Bedfordshire and a return to Bedford Town. It was at The Eyrie, in October 2012, that Base of the Pyramid was born so revisiting the ground was a nice way to start off the year. http://www.botp.co.uk/blog/back-to-bedford. As with my first trip the home side won the agme and managed to keep a clean sheet. Maybe I am good omen for The Eagles?
A week later on a night that saw many games get called off due to the sheer deluge of rain, I finally managed to visit Culham Road, home of Abingdon Town. As it happened it was a very timely visit as I believe the club has since, very sadly, folded IIf anyone knows differently, please let me know). I loved Culham Road. What a wonderful example of a non-league stadium, possibly second only to Hardenhuish Park in my books. Such a sad state of affairs that Town will no longer play there. http://www.botp.co.uk/blog/brooksiders-enjoy-mud-bath
That was it for January. A business trip to The States combined with bad weather meant that there was no more live action for that month.
The highlight of February came in my first outing, a Spartan South Midlands Premier game and a first ever visit to Holmer Green (http://www.botp.co.uk/blog/comrades-curse-the-greens-quietly). They were taking on Berkhamsted who, as I pointed out, may have been distracted by their FA Vase run. They were due to take on Morpeth Town on the following Saturday. As it transpired, I would be watching Morpeth myself in just a few months time. Airedale Park, home to Holmer Green, has a small claim to fame having featured in David Bauckham's book Dugouts. (http://www.pyramidpassion.co.uk/html/dugouts_book.html).
Another stadium that had long been on my list, Victoria Park, Bromsgrove was on my list for March. Bromsgrove's main team, Rovers, had at one time been as high as the National League and were a major force in local non-league. However, a very sharp decline in the financial fortunes of the club saw them plummet in obscurity by 2008-09. A group of former directors, seeing the impending doom, had already formed a phoenix club, Bromsgrove Sporting, taking a position in Step 8 for the start of the 2009-10 season. The club still uses the old Rovers colours of green and white as their second kit. http://www.botp.co.uk/blog/sporting-chance
I have to say though, the highlight of the month was the crunch Hellenic League Premier clash between Thatcham and Kidlington. The three-way battle at the top, with these two and Flackwell Heath, waa really hotting up and this game turned out to be something of a pivotal pont of the season. http://www.botp.co.uk/blog/green-party.
It's hard to pick a highlight for April. The month started with a long awaited trip to Calthorpe Park, home of Fleet Town. (http://www.botp.co.uk/blog/no-bore-draw). Fleet is one of the friendliest clubs that I have visited and I have to say I was deeply saddened and shocked to here of the passing of Chairman Steve Cantle just before Christmas. A tragic loss to his family, to Fleet Town and to non-league football in general.
A first ever venture into the Eastern Counties League for a game between Godmanchester Rovers and Felixstowe & Walton United also proved to be well worth the long drive. An absolutely enthralling game between two sides with only three points on their minds. http://www.botp.co.uk/blog/april-14th-2016.
Towards the end of the month there was also the day that Hartley Wintney clinched the Combined Counties Premier title at Westfield (http://www.botp.co.uk/blog/duff-cook-combined-champions) and a fascinating Southern League Play-off Semi-Final between Redditch and Leamington which went to extra-time and penalties (http://www.botp.co.uk/blog/late-night-spa).
This was a month pacjed with finals. It opened with a cracking Birmingham Midweek FLoodlit Cup Final between Coventry Copsewood and Nuneaton Griff (http://www.botp.co.uk/blog/copse-cup-coup). There was a Peterborough Derby in the Hinchinbrooke Cup (http://www.botp.co.uk/blog/sports-stars) and finally, the icing on the season's cake, Non-League Finals Day at Wembley. What a superb idea and a thoroughly brilliant day out this was. (http://www.botp.co.uk/blog/day-of-the-underdog)
The Non-League action took a back seat in the Summer months, allowing the England team time to under-perform in another tournament before it was time to head back out onto the road in August.
I spent a lot of the month watching Wessex League games. The Hampshire/Surrey border being a rather pleasant area to drive around on warm summer's evenings. However, my highlight was sandwiched between trips South. An FA Cup Preliminary Round Replay between Nuneaton Griff and Dudley Sports. Pingle Stadium had long been on my radar and what better thime to visit than when they were playing a team from my town of birth? As it happened it was also an absolutely belter of a game, once again going to extra-time and penalties. (http://www.botp.co.uk/blog/a-bostin-cup-tie).
Two games stood out in September. A seven goal thriller under the flighpath of Heathrow Airport as Bedfont Sports edged a real see-saw affair aginst Badshot Lea by 4-3. (http://www.botp.co.uk/blog/eagles-edge-seven-goal-thriller). This was followed up by another late night as the FA Vase Replay between Malvern Town and Birstall United went into extra-time. The home side eventually coming from behind to win it in dramtic fashion right at the death. (http://www.botp.co.uk/blog/the-antidote)
Finally a chance to see my own team, Stourbridge, as they took on Corby Town in the Northern Premier League. Great to catch up with some fellow Glassboys and a couple of old school mates. Even better when, after a poor start, Stour came from behind to take all three points. (http://www.botp.co.uk/blog/benbow-cor-be-beat).
A month of red cards or, to be more exact, two days of red cards. For the first time in a while I had a week where the opportunity arose for two matches on back to back evenings. First of all a trip East to watch the FA Trophy Replay between St Neots Town and Marine. The game ended up going into extra-time, the home side picked up three red cards (this after they had two sent off in the initial draw at Marine) and the away side running out 4-2 winners on an eventful evening. (http://www.botp.co.uk/blog/saints-or-sinners). The following day I witnessed Abingdon United winning at Hook Norton in a game which saw two more red cards, both for Hooky. (http://www.botp.co.uk/blog/us-end-hooky-home-run).
I'm going to start December with a negative point. Following the postponement of Stourbridge's original game against Northampton, which I was planning to attend, I had to miss out on the re-arranged game. As you know, it turned into an historic night for the Glassboys. One which I will always regret missing. However, I do have a ticket for the Third Round tie at Wycombe, so fingers crossed for more history.
A trip to Beaconsfield SYCOB was definitely a highlight of December. A ground that I pass almost every day but had never visited turned out to be a gem. Well woth a visit for any hopper out there. It wasn't a bad game either. (http://www.botp.co.uk/blog/7-up-for-sycob).
In a very nice piece of accidental symmetry, the year ended as it had started, watching Aylesbury United. This time, a Boxing Day local derby with Aylesbury. (http://www.botp.co.uk/blog/french-polish).
Here's to a great 2017 of football. Happy New Year to everyone, especially to the thousands who give up time and money to keep the non-league game going.