Home And Away
Round Britain in search of non-league football nirvana
By Dave Roberts
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UEFA’s disgraceful decision last week to limit access to the Champions League (16 teams from Europe’s ‘Big Four’ leagues will effectively be guaranteed a starting berth in the lucrative 32-team group stage) will come as no shock to football fans.
Many of us have watched in silent, head-shaking despair as the game has been annexed by deep-pocketed broadcasters, a development which has attracted a motley crew of bandits, gangsters and other brigands to the helm of a large number of football clubs, each in avaricious pursuit if the filthiest lucre.
Yet meander away from the flimsy veneer of top-flight glamour and you discover less cynicism, greater enthusiasm amongst supporters who appreciate their club is unlikely to drop £50 million on a new striker and, joy of joys, indigenous footballers who have a chance of getting a game.
It is into this world that Dave Roberts, author of the wonderful 32 Programmes and long-term Bromley fan, takes the reader in his latest book.
Roberts had lived abroad for more than 30 years. He and his wife wondered if they could still live in the UK and had decided to return for 12 months to see if they could live here again. This dramatic family decision coincided with Bromley’s promotion to English football’s ‘fifth division’, the Vanarama Conference, for the first time in their 130-year history.
Sensing an opportunity, the author happened upon an idea that received a lukewarm reception from his wife: why not follow Bromley for a season, home and away, to get a complete picture of the UK and afterwards we can make our decision, he proposed. Actually, ‘lukewarm’ is possibly overstating Mrs Roberts’ reaction.
None the less, following an indifferent start (one win in their first seven) to a purple patch that saw Bromley win eight of their next nine, Roberts takes us on a journey from Grimsby to Halifax, Torquay to Tranmere and all points in between. It’s a cracking, beautifully-observed pilgrimage with a purpose: can the Roberts family make the UK their home again? You know that if they do, Dave Roberts wouldn’t give two hoots for the Champions League. Sensible man – perhaps more of us should follow his example.
We’ve teamed up with www.sportsbookofthemonth.com and have a copy of Home And Away by Dave Roberts to give away.
To win this prize, visit the www.sportsbookofthemonth.com website and answer the following question:
Which team were Vanarama Conference champions in 2015-16?
See full story in the Chester Leader