Non League Daily

NON-LEAGUE NOVICE: Tower Hamlets v Basildon

So two months after realising that I had never watched a Non League game and didn’t know how the league worked, I started out on my journey of discovery at Tower Hamlets FC.

I chose them as they were officially my “local” club and got in touch with them via Twitter. They were brilliant and gave me a contact to ask some questions prior to the game plus who to speak to on the day. You wouldn’t get that from a Premier League club, taking time out to speak to you as an individual, I really appreciated it. You can check out their thoughts at the end of this blog.

My journey to the game involved getting the District Line and I ended up sitting next to a young couple. The guy noted “St James’s Park” was one of the stations on the line, he decided to test his girlfriend’s knowledge to see if she knew which team played at the ground sharing the same name.

She didn’t seem too interested in this football pop quiz but guessed “Chelsea”. Not wishing to let her off easily, he decided to give her clues including: “they play in black and white” and “they are a Northern club”. These didn’t help her as she guessed “Crystal Palace” and his attempts at a geordie accent only served to confuse her rather than help.

I got off at Mile End station and wondered how many more guesses she would need, for all I know they are still travelling up and down the District Line as he holds out for the correct answer!

After a short walk from the station I arrived at the Mile End Stadium. The ground is next to a leisure centre which I initially thought was the entrance. A walk round the ground and past a number of 5-a-side pitches and I arrived at the correct entrance. I was greeted by a guy called Dave (I think it’s mandatory to have someone involved in a football club called Dave) I paid £6.50 to enter and for a copy of a programme.

Mile End Stadium has one main stand, you can chose to sit in it or stand on the tarmac in front of it. A running track goes around the pitch, with a sand pit at one end and a hammer throwing net at the other. Whilst watching the sides warm up, I started chatting to a guy called Dermott. He was like a Non League encyclopedia and provided me with some excellent information about the Essex Senior League and other local Non League clubs I should visit.

He is a West Ham fan but found the Premier League has become too expensive, instead choosing to watch local games, this was his second game of the day! One of the interesting pieces of information he shared was that the USA Olympic team had used the stadium as their base during the London 2012 games. They had invested in helping renovate parts of the ground including fitting new floodlight bulbs and painting the stand, it was great to see a visible example of the 2012 games legacy in the local area.

I took my place leaning against the barrier as the teams came out to the pitch. They lined up before each player shook hands (which is great to see continues lower down the leagues) and took their positions for kick off. At this point about 4 kids jumped over the railing and made their way towards the pitch, I presumed that they wanted to play on the running track but turned out they were actually the ball boys.

I overheard some fans talking that this was a new initiative and the kids were from some of the local families involved with the club. The mums were on hand during the game to coach the young boys on what to do, one boy kept running to get the ball which had been kicked off whilst still holding the ball he was meant to throw back into play. Another kid was trying the best he could with one arm in a sling. I was impressed however with both of their commitment!

On the pitch, the game started evenly with both teams matching each other in the opening 15 minutes with only a few half chances for each side. As the game wore on, the front paring of Omar Rowe and Edison Teboren for Tower Hamlets started to cause more issues for the Basildon defenders with their pace and trickery. The latter was described by one Basildon fan as having “more tricks than Houdini”, I couldn’t sum it up better myself!

It was clear that Hamlets liked to play short passing game, opting to play out from the back and looking to play through balls to their pacey strikers. Hamlets won a free kick 30 yards out and opted to take it quickly, a quick one-two and Rowe was in to slot it past the onrushing goalkeeper. Basildon responded with a few chances of their own, with Craig Gillam looking the most likely to equalise for the Bees.

As half time approached, I got chatting a guy called Richard. Turns out he was the Vice Chairman for Basildon United and for the game that evening he was also the Club Secretary and in charge of the club’s twitter account. It was great hearing what the club’s expectations were for the season and he kindly invited me down to check out The Hive on my travels (which I definitely will do). The referee blew for half time with the score 1-0.

I bumped into Dave again at half time when I got myself a coffee. After chatting about my blog earlier, he came back with a whole stack of programmes from the previous seasons to help me read up on Non League clubs in the local area. It was a very kind gesture and will ensure I have plenty of night time reading for the next few weeks.

The second half kicked off and Hamlets started brightly, having a lot of possession. This paid off in the 51st minute when Yusuf Ali picked up the ball about 25 yards out and drilled it into the top corner. I don’t think I will see many better finishes on my travels this season and the likes of Neuer or Courtois would have struggled to keep it out.

Ali continued to improve as the game went on, he is a small lad but has a Messi-like ability to keep the ball at his feet as he glides past players. Hamlets were 2-0 up and this was nothing less than they had deserved. Basildon did have a few chances including a header from captain Taylor Sinfield which narrowly went wide from a corner and a penalty appeal turned down by the referee. Whilst they were a much for more physical side than Hamlets, they had some skilful players who tested Hamlets keeper Sean Bazell.
At one point during the second half, a Basildon player was flagged offside by the linesman who wasn’t the thinnest of chaps (to put it politely). This prompted a Basildon fan to shout out “the player wasn’t offside but your belly was” to which the linesman replied sarcastically “your teams doing well mate”. I thought it was great that the official could get involved in some banter with the fans, I bet there are loads of Premier League officials who wouldn’t mind the chance to respond to some of the abuse they get from fans!

The last 15 minutes was end to end as Basildon looked to get a goal back to start a revival whilst Hamlets pushed for a third to kill the game completely. Rowe was put through for Hamlets but couldn’t get enough on the ball to lift it over the goalkeeper. Basildon pressured the Hamlets goal with a series of corners and free kicks but to no avail. 2-0 was the final score and I think on reflection a pretty fair result.
It was a fantastic evening for my first ever Non League match. I met so many people who were passionate about Non League football and keen to educate a novice like me. I was impressed with the quality of football showed by both clubs and hope they both do well this season. A great first game and I’m looking forward to many more like this in the future.


Result: Tower Hamlets (Rowe 19, Ali 51) 2-0 Basildon

Match: Essex Senior League (9th Tier / Step 5)

Cost: Entrance £5, Programme £1, Coffee £1

Novice rating: 8/10

Tower Hamlets FC Q&A

How was the club founded?

Tower Hamlets Football Club was founded in 2000 by Mohammed Nurul Hoque and Akhtar Ahmed, as Bethnal Green United FC. The club was created to give young people in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets a sense of identity. We also were able to promote community cohesion by developing mutual understanding between young people from different backgrounds. This was an opportunity for them to excel in a sport that they love and show what they could achieve.

Chairman Mohammed Hoque registered the name Tower Hamlets FC when the club achieved senior status, and changed it as the club felt the original name did not represent the wider Tower Hamlets community.

After the 17th place finish last year, what are the club’s expectations for this?

To finish a lot higher than last season and progress well in the FA Cup and FA Vase. Most of our squad is under 23 years of age, and progressed to the first team, after playing for the reserve team last season, who won the Essex Senior League Reserve Shield and achieved a 7th place finish in the Reserve Division. They are progressing well so far, so I am optimistic they can do good things this season.

How does the club attract fans to support the team?

Friends and family an our community not forgetting social media and local news papers

On average match day it can be from 20 to around 60 plus depending on the away fans. It would have been lot more if the ground had a bar in the club house we are working with local council on this matter.

Why should people watch non-league football?

Clubs at the grassroots level need support. It’s where the real football is at. A lot of people have chosen to watch non-league football in recent years because of the overpricing of ticket prices in the professional game. It’s real football with real life people who do daily jobs. Clubs like ours don’t pay our players or volunteers, and they are part of the club for the love of it.

What style of football do Tower Hamlets FC like to play?

Pass and move don’t hold on to the ball to long play the ball through various channels, and maintaining possession.

Which players should I looking out for when I visit?

As I said earlier, most of our squad is under 23 and we have some very talented youngsters. Harry McLean is an excellent midfielder who is a great leader too. Yusuf Ali is very fast down the wing, and Randell Williams is a strong player too.

You took a point from Basildon last season, what is your prediction for this game?

The team have worked very hard during pre-season, I think we will win it 2-1.


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