Podcast 221: Strength in Depth – A History of Non-League Football, Part 1

by | Sep 12, 2020

​It’s the start of a new season, so it’s time for the start of a new podcast series. And this one is, in many respects, the most ambitious project that I’ve yet taken on. Welcome to Strength In Depth – A History of Non-League Football. This is the third series of these podcasts that I’ve written – Winning At Dominoes, a series of standalone documentaries from football history, and An Echo of Glory, a history of football in England & Wales, are still available for those who want them – but this was most definitely the most difficult.

There are two main reasons for this. Firstly, the history of non-league football is like a forest in which it’s easy to get completely lost. Most stories about football are linear in nature, but this one certainly isn’t. Secondly, a lot of you know an awful lot about the non-league game, so there are a lot of people who may be expecting me to trip myself up, here. With that in mind, I’ll apologise in advance for if I’ve missed out anything significant. I don’t think I have, but it’s always possible. Apologies if I’ve glossed over your team’s run to the 1935 County Amateur Senior Trophy Shield, in other words. It’s nothing personal.

This first episode isn’t really about non-league football, either, though. Prior to 1888, there was, depending on how you look at it, either no non-league football because there were no leagues, or only non-league football. But it’s important to retell the story of the codification of the game of football, because it – and in particular those behind it – are a fundamental part of the story of the non-league game in this country. Many attitudes still held today have their roots in this period, and we can learn a lot about ourselves from these voices from the past.

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