HOW BIG CLUBS CAN HELP THE SMALL

The Football League Paper - - GRAHAM WESTLEY -

I WENT along to watch Alder­shot play Wok­ing on Tues­day night in front of a packed house at The Recre­ation Ground. It was a ter­rific at­mos­phere in a big Con­fer­ence lo­cal derby.

Alder­shot are fight­ing to bounce back into the League while Wok­ing are seek­ing pro­mo­tion for the first time.

It took a spec­tac­u­lar set­piece strike from nearly 30 yards for Wok­ing to win a tight game.

Alder­shot have had to rise from the ashes. I played in the En­field team that drove the fi­nal nail into the orig­i­nal club’s cof­fin when we knocked them out of the FA Cup im­me­di­ately be­fore their demise.

One thing stood out to me on Tues­day. The game was played on a Desso pitch that was dug up and trans­ported from Stam­ford Bridge to The Rec. Chelsea made that in­vest­ment to en­sure their U21 play­ers are able to play on the finest sur­face when they are down at Alder­shot.

I re­mem­ber Al­trin­cham host­ing Manch­ester United and Bore­ham Wood’s ar­range­ment with Arse­nal has seen Wood’s ground grow and im­prove.

Rather than think about B teams, per­haps Premier League teams should be en­cour­aged, even re­quired, to share a re­gional ‘men­tor­ship’ with a lower League part­ner. That would in­volve shar­ing play­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for younger play­ers and in­vest­ing in their fa­cil­i­ties.

Part­ner­ships could be cre­ated ev­ery two or three years and the ba­sis of the ar­range­ments could be sim­i­lar to the Amer­i­can NFL draft where the Premier League clubs se­lect a part­ner on a bot­tom up/re­gional ba­sis.

How good would it be to see Manch­ester United forced to make, say, Bury a bet­ter foot­ball club by gift­ing younger play­ers and in­vest­ing in bet­ter fa­cil­i­ties. The game would come closer to­gether after years of drift­ing apart.

Greg Dyke would achieve his goal of com­pet­i­tive op­por­tu­ni­ties for young­sters and lower clubs would re­ceive vi­tal help.

The foot­ball at Alder­shot was good to watch. I have no doubt the play­ing sur­face aided that im­mensely. That is what big clubs can do for smaller club’s fans with a lit­tle thought.

PIC­TURE: Andy Nunn

RAIS­ING THE FLAG: Alder­shot’s Recre­ation Ground on Tues­day night

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