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Hammersmith, London, United Kingdom
I'm a director of Maidenhead United Football Club. For ten seasons one of my roles at the club was to produce the match programme. The aim of this blog was to write football related articles for publication in the match programme. In particular I like to write about the representation of football in popular culture, specifically music, film/TV and literature. I also write about matches I attend which generally feature Maidenhead United.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Back to the Non League Future

A week or so ago the 30th anniversary of the release of the first Back to the Future film prompted many people to look back to 1985 and ponder the changes in between. The Football League released some statistics showing how far their clubs had risen or fallen over the period so I thought I’d do the same for non league football.
With just a page to fill I’ve chosen to focus on the clubs currently in Maidenhead United’s division and those in the Berks & Bucks FA area. Obviously the Conference South didn’t exist in 1985 so I’ve opted for a best fit model when considering the relative status of the leagues in 1985 compared to 2015.
Down in the Thames Valley Wycombe Wanderers were finding their first Gola Alliance Premier League tough and would end up returning to the Vauxhall-Opel Isthmian League Premier Division in May to be reunited with Slough Town, Windsor & Eton & Wokingham Town. Aylesbury United were over in the Southern Premier.
Alongside the Magpies in Vauxhall-Opel Isthmian League Division One were Chesham United whilst Burnham (& Hillingdon) had parity in the Southern League Southern Division One.
Bracknell Town were on their way to the Vauxhall-Opel Isthmian League Division Two South title, with Hungerford Town a long way behind and Marlow rock bottom.
Thatcham was on an odd sojourn in the Spartan League Premier Division whilst bringing up the rear was Didcot Town in Hellenic League Division One.
As a last Berks & Bucks word Milton Keynes Borough was plodding along in the South Midlands League Premier Division before football history took a darker turn in that part of the world.
Four Vanarama National League South clubs were playing one level higher in the 1985/86 season. This was the final season of the Gola Alliance Premier League prior to summer rebranding (plus ca change) into the GM Vauxhall Conference.
Wealdstone were the reigning Gola League Champions having done the non league double in 1985, and they were joined at the peak of semi-pro football by Maidstone United, Bath City and Dartford (who would be relegated). This was the final season of election rather than automatic promotion to the Football League, from which Maidstone eventually benefited, although of course the Stones ended up bankrupt along with the Darts whose Watling Street ground they shared. Along with the Middlesex Stones who also lost their Lower Mead ground, all three clubs faced a long hard road to get back to their current level whilst its good to see Bath remained in relative good health at their wonderful Twerton Park ground.
In 1985 the Vauxhall Opel-Isthmian, sponsor free Southern and HFS Loans Northern Premier Leagues all promoted one club into the Gola League, making their top division the 1985 equivalent of the Vanarama National League South.
In the Southern Premier playing at the same level in 1985 as they do today were Ebbsfleet United (known then as Gravesend & Northfleet), Basingstoke Town, Chelmsford City and Gosport Borough, the latter two spending much time in the doldrums and in Chelmsford’s case homeless exile before they returned to this level.
Meanwhile Sutton United was en route to the Vauxhall Opel-Isthmian Premier Division title and a place in the Gola League ahead of Bishop’s Stortford and Hayes (more of Yeading later).
One level beneath where they are today, in 1985 in the Southern League Southern Division One was Margate who had temporarily changed their name to Thanet United, and Waterlooville (but not Havant). Whilst over in the equivalent Vauxhall-Opel Isthmian Division One were Maidenhead United, Oxford City and eventual champions St. Albans City. Oxford City was soon to be evicted from their Brasenose College owned White House ground but after a few years in the wilderness soon returned to this level.
Two levels down in 1985 from their current placing we find Hemel Hempstead Town in Vauxhall-Opel Isthmian Division Two North, Whitehawk in Sussex League Division One, Weston-super-mare in the Western League Premier and Havant Town in the final season of the Hampshire League Division One before it became the Wessex League. Finally in only their second season in senior football Yeading were in the Spartan League Premier Division.
Truro City were plying their trade in 1985 three levels below where they are in 2015, in the South Western League and we have to go down one level further to Sussex League Division Three to find Langney Sports who are now known as Eastbourne Borough. This only leaves Concord Rangers from the current Vanarama League South division as they were yet to make the transition to senior football which I guess proves that as in the Back to the Future film, in non league football anything is possible!

Credit: Richard Rundle's Football Club History Database

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