Does club loyalty exist in non league footballers?

The Football in Bracknell insider.
The Football in Bracknell insider.

Isn’t it wonderful when you have that player who sweats blood and tears just because of their passion and loyalty for the club? Think of your Gary Neville’s, Steven Gerrard’s and even Dean Lewington of MK Dons (post Wimbledon) who would give everything for their club regardless of their stature.

But does this happen on the non-league stage? Are their players who choose to stay at a club purely because of their love for the club?

Well, the short answer is no.

Unfortunately, in the realms of non-league particularly around the step 4 and 5 standard, players’ loyalties most certainly do not lie with the club. If this was the case, there would not be a “player registrations” article on Football in Bracknell every week.

So where does the players loyalties lie?

The most common answer seems to be with the managers. It is far from uncommon to see the when a new manager is put in charge of a club, a flock of very well-known players to the manager joins him.

This has been evident in the local football this season; Ascot being joined by a variety of ex-Maidenhead United under 23s and Sandhurst Town being joined by several ex-Woodley United players as notable examples.

Jonny Denton marks 100 Ascot United appearances. Photo: Rob Mack/Shooting Stars.
Jonny Denton marks 100 Ascot United appearances. Photo: Rob Mack/Shooting Stars.

You might be wondering why this is the case, and the reality is because at the lower levels of non-league us players simply just want to play. We don’t want to have to move club every season, but if it means that we will be getting game time then it forces us to do.

A manager is more likely to give you game time if you have played under them for several seasons. From a manager’s point of view, when they go into a club for whatever reason, they also want to be able to call upon their tried and tested players.

This has an adverse effect on the term loyalty because it encourages players to move as they might be able to squeeze out a few extra quid by re-joining their old manager.

As a player myself, I have always tried to be loyal to the club that I grew up with and played for over 12 years. However, when I broke into the first team as a 16 year old, a managerial change three years later meant I was surplus to his requirements for an older player.

I still have an affinity to that club, and would love to go back and play there again, though it does make it increasingly difficult to do so whilst there is such short lifespan of managers in non-league at this time.

There are I’m sure some exceptions of players who do have an awful lot of loyalty to one club in the local areas. If there are, I’d love to hear their reasons for their loyalty towards the club.

Are there any players who have got more than 200 appearances for one club, in one stint? I think 100 appearances is not uncommon – in fact Ascot United’s Jonny Denton managed it last weekend, but 200 might well be near impossible to find.

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