Welcome to the first in an occasional series of articles for the website. I’d like to start by thanking Parso and Simon, and everyone else at the club, for this opportunity. As this is the first article, I thought I’d start by introducing myself.
The first thing to say is that I don’t come from Grantham. I was born in South East London and moved to the Medway Delta when I was 8. I went to university in Nottingham, where I met my wife, and stayed up here. We moved to Vale of Belvoir in 2010, and our son was born in 2011. I like to say I grew up and now live in two places most of the country hasn’t heard of, and isn’t overly sure they really exist.
I also don’t come from a footballing tradition. I support Crystal Palace in part because I presumably wronged someone in a past life, and in part because the first house I lived in was exactly halfway between Selhurst Park and the Eagles’ training ground, but I wasn’t a regular there or, after we moved, at Priestfield, home of Gillingham FC. Instead, the sport my dad took my brother and me to watch was ice hockey, a sport that is the perfect combination of speed, skill and toughness.
At the time, our local side (Invicta Dynamos) were in the third tier, albeit in a structure without promotion and relegation, but one that enabled some fierce rivalries, local or otherwise. There were plenty of great moments over the years, but perhaps none greater than going to the Alexandra Palace in April 2002, knowing a victory over Haringey would guarantee the league title – the points were secured and we all celebrated on the ice with the players. Things dipped a bit after that and the Dynamos ended up dropping down a level, with reduced operating costs and the chance to be a big fish in the smaller pond. At the time, they appealed to fans to volunteer in all manner of different capacities. We (mainly my dad) contributed a column to the matchday programme, usually an amusing story from the North American minor leagues. As I got more involved, at one point I was the only person in the UK contributing articles to three different teams: Invicta, the Nottingham Lions (for whom I was co-general manager for a single, title-winning season), and Streatham.
While I gave all of those up some years ago, and haven’t seen an ice hockey game since my son was born in 2011, I still enjoy writing. Most of what I write these days appears in the Football365.com mailbox, as I prefer starting and contributing to discussions that way rather than either participating in below the line comments, which seem to encourage outright abuse, or writing my own blog. In one of my other lives, I’m involved in the Campaign for Real Ale; I used to do a lot for the Vale of Belvoir branch, but have stepped back from most of my roles, instead concentrating on my national campaigning: I’ve been a member of the national Marketing Committee since 2015, an opportunity that came about because I wrote an article for the members’ newspaper, What’s Brewing, which caught the attention of a national director.
So how did I end up here? My son was the right age to start taking a proper interest in football at Euro 2016, though I think he enjoyed collecting the stickers more than watching the matches. Being that sort of parent, I wanted to find a way for him to know football was something that he could watch in person, rather than simply on television, but had always found the cost a bit prohibitive. However, in August 2017, a few weeks short of his sixth birthday, I had an offer on cheap tickets for Nottingham Forest versus Leeds United, a game moved for television on a bank holiday Saturday in need of a big crowd, so had the perfect chance to take him to his first game. He enjoyed the game (I didn’t) even though Forest lost, but he didn’t like anything else: the 5.30pm kickoff made it a long day for him, we had to park miles from the ground, and he found it too noisy when 25,000 people were singing Mull of Kintyre.
It then occurred to me that our local non-league club might offer a solution. Our first game, in October 2017, was an FA Trophy game against Halesowen Town in which Jordan Hempenstall got the only goal; a game that kicked off at 3pm, where we could park close by, and with roughly 300 people in attendance, no matter how enthusiastic people are, the noise will always be easier on delicate ears. There’s also the brilliant idea that children can have free entry with a paying adult, which makes a trip to the match affordable.
That game probably won’t be one that lives long in the memory, but that didn’t stop me writing into Football365’s mailbox about the Gingerbreads, as I’ve done every time I’ve been to a game. In doing so, I’ve presented the club as an example – unwittingly – of how much fun you can have by actually going to football matches. I bang the drum more generally for the whole of non-league, but it’s the experience at the Meres I can relate to first and foremost.
On a footballing level, I think this season has had an ideal start for Grantham: an incredibly dramatic last-minute underdog victory followed up with earning a point away and then grinding out a second win, before Whitby very kindly administered a bit of a reality check. As a bigger picture, it suggests that we are capable of competing with any opponent, but only if we’re at the best of our abilities and our application.
I’m looking forward to the rest of the season, and the chance to put my thoughts into words.
Until next time!
Ed Taylor (@EdQuoththeraven on Twitter)