The volunteers that keep the non-League world turning

Mick Sundercombe
Mick Sundercombe

Love, not money. Rarely has a book been better summed up in its title.

The irony, and the beauty, of this book is that the author really belongs in it himself.

Dave Pelling

Dave Pelling

Just like his subjects, he is “non-League man”. In his other life, David Bauckham is a local lecturer, at the University of Brighton. But give him a camera (as it happens, a rather sophisticated one) and a voice recorder, and on a typical Saturday he will set his Satnav for a grassroots football club anywhere from Alton Town to Altrincham.

David already has among his publishing credits books on football grounds and dug-outs.

But his latest offering is not about eccentricities, but about non-League’s driving force: the officials, the volunteers, the supporters.

Non-league football is a curious animal. Although it shares the sport with the big boys, and their big salaries and big egos, it is also a world apart, and the two worlds do not often collide.

Barry Winter

Barry Winter

And yet – as Bauckham skilfully shows – non-League has the stronger claim to be truly the “People’s Game”.

Because this book is about people: ordinary people doing things for club and community.

Up and down the country, he has searched out those people. Often, they will have been surprised by his attention, for not one of them is a seeker of glory or self-promotion.

But it is their very selflessness that David celebrates.

The 72 people interviewed must between them have chalked up a thousand years of service, or possibly two or three times that.

They mark the pitch and run the tea-bar. They edit the programme. They carry that banner of tradition and continuity which David salutes.

Sussex is well represented. Two from his home club Eastbourne Borough, including former secretary Myra Stephens, whose service and quiet dignity are summed up in her own phrase: “You just do the best you can”.

Saffrons loyalist David Pelling is there too, alongside Eastbourne United’s Barry Winter, Seaford’s Mick Webster, and others.

And far across the country David has sought out the oldest clubs, such as Marine FC from Lancashire, and the oldest of elder statesmen like Maurice Boxall of Hassocks, who is virtually the Prince Philip of non-league. This book is a work of love, and it reflects the passion of folk for their grass-roots sport.

David’s strength is twofold: as a photographer and a writer. The Bauckham lens has that wonderful knack of capturing the personality in the image, and so bringing each subject to life.

The quality of the pictures is superb: each of his subjects has a wry smile or a pensive stare, a twinkle of an eye or a wrinkle of a brow weatherbeaten by decades on the touchline.

Beneath each picture, there is a fairly simple half-page of text. A little biography of each subject is followed by his or her own words.

If you understand non-league, you will be greedy for this book.

If you don�t understand non-league, your first step is to get reading it.