There needs to be a more strategic plan to help youngsters and non-league clubs - Johnny Cantor

A familiar sight across non-league grounds at this time of year
A familiar sight across non-league grounds at this time of year

It’s starting to look a lot like Christmas.

There is no snow just yet but the lights are up and when it comes to the football schedule things get busy.

For those teams in the Premier League it has been a rare period with midweek fixtures with 4 more games to come this month. After a trip to Huddersfield and a match at Brighton for me it was off to Burnley.

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As anyone who watched BBC Final Score or Match of the Day the weather was far from welcoming ! Driving rain with huge gusts of wind. The players were squinting, not from the sun but the water blowing into their faces.

Turf Moor provides a dramatic back drop with a view across the grey slate rooftops to the rolling hills behind. It was a throwback to the days when flat caps and ties were worn to games. However, on the pitch there was no mud. Just down the road the game Accrington Stanley was postponed but the pitch for the Premier League match was unmarked and held up superbly.

As we head into winter I must admit I miss seeing some of those boggy surfaces from days gone by. Ronnie Radford blasting the ball into the back of the net in the FA Cup for Hereford against Newcastle is an iconic picture in my mind. Many will also remember George Best skipping past tackles, and muddy patches to pass the ball past goal keepers.

Those pitches were huge levellers in the FA Cup and helped fuel many an upset but are rare in the top-flight and the Football League now. That has to be a good thing if we crave decent technical, free-flowing football. However, we must also spare a thought at this time of year for the groundsmen and women across the country further down the pyramid who attempt to halt the deterioration of pitches from rain and frost.

The gulf between the wealth of Premier League sides and the lack of funds at non-league clubs is arguably as big as ever. The introduction of artificial pitches has helped but still requires investment. Mums and Dads across the land will be checking on whether their sons and daughters matches are on or off over the next month or so. Weekend plans are in the balance as they await news.

Some concerns remain over the injuries that are suffered on 4G pitches but the quality is improving.

There needs to a more strategic plan to helps youngsters and non-league clubs to allow everyone to enjoy playing the game, for as much of the year as possible. As we head into the festive period we are encouraged to think of others.

We are urged to offer thanks and gifts to those we love, cherish and have helped us on our journey. It is also time to congratulate and give thanks to the army of helpers and volunteers who work in the rain and in the cold to give others a chance to enjoy the game we love.