The Vanarama National League column – Wannabes

Glenn Moore looks at the contenders for promotion to the Vanarama National League.

While the attention on the elite end of the non-League pyramid tends to focus on those teams seeking to enter the Football League, the scramble to get into the Vanarama National League system is no less intense. But now, as the weeks tick by, the smoke surrounding the battle to get into the two-tier, three-division set-up is clearing with two contrasting clubs favourites to step up.

Kettering Town are older than any club in the Premier League, and all but a handful in the Football League, yet currently play in the seventh tier. Also at step 3 in the non-League pyramid are Dorking Wanderers, only 20 years old but already seeking their 11th promotion. Both are poised to be among the six clubs going up to the Vanarama National League’s regional divisions, but who joins them is far from evident.

Three clubs are promoted into each of Vanarama National League North and Vanarama National League South. In the past that meant the champion and promotion play-off winner from each of the Northern Premier League, Southern League, and Isthmian League (a competition based around London and the south-east). The six would be allocated to the North or South divisions according to geography.

However this year, as part of an ongoing re-organisation of the pyramid, there are four divisions, the Southern League top flight having split into the Premier Central and Premier South respectively. So the four title-winners will go up, along with two further teams emerging from a series of play-offs.

Barring a late collapse, coming up from Southern League Premier Central will be a grand old non-League name – Kettering Town, formed in 1872. If an automatic promotion-and-relegation system had been in place before 1987, then surely they would have reached the Football League much earlier. The Poppies came agonisingly close in the following period, finishing runners-up three times in 12 years. Since then they have had mixed fortunes, achieving prominence during Paul Gascoigne’s ill-fated managerial stint and for an FA Cup run that ended at Craven Cottage, but also losing their much-loved Rockingham Road ground and going into administration. Now, playing at nearby Burton Latimer, they are thriving and sit 11 points clear with eight matches left.

If Kettering are non-League aristocracy, then Dorking Wanderers are street urchins. They were only formed in 1999 and began life in the Crawley and District league playing at Big Field Brockham, which is literally a big field. An astonishing ten promotions later they are 13 points clear in the Isthmian League Premier Division. Wanderers play at Meadowbank, formerly home to the now defunct Dorking FC. Previously the oldest club in Surrey, Dorking disbanded and effectively subsumed into Wanderers in 2017 bequeathing them the ground, which now sports an artificial pitch and doubles up as the Surrey FA HQ.

The other promotion races are much tighter. There is a three-way tussle in the Northern Premier League between Farsley Celtic, Warrington Town and 2017 FA Vase winners South Shields. Only Farsley have played in the National League divisions, managing four years before being expelled in 2010 after suffering financial problems.

The Southern League’s Premier South Division features four contenders for the automatic spot: Taunton, Weymouth and Salisbury, all of whom are well-supported with big ambitions, and Surrey-based Metropolitan Police, who traditionally find spectators harder to attract.

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Jeff Stelling’s March for Men

Jeff Stelling will embark on another epic walking challenge for Prostate Cancer UK – spanning four countries in four days, with the finale in London.

The long-serving Sky Sports television presenter has already completed 25 walking marathons for the leading men’s health charity in 2016 and 2017, raising close to £800,000, and aims to march through the £1m fundraising barrier as he travels to Glasgow, Belfast, Cardiff and London from 5-8 September, 2019.

After two trips across the Irish Sea via Glasgow and Belfast and a train trip into England following the penultimate leg in Cardiff, Jeff’s final day includes visits to three Premier League clubs and will start at West Ham United’s London Stadium. He will also visit Charlton Athletic, Millwall FC and Arsenal FC before his quest culminates at Tottenham Hotspur.

The exciting four-day event is part of Prostate Cancer UK’s wider walking programme, March for Men, which returns bigger and better in 2019 with 10 City Walks across the UK in June – including, for a third time, a family-friendly event at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park on 15 June.

Stelling, meanwhile, will follow up his two mega marches from Hartlepool to Wembley, and Exeter to Newcastle, by pounding the pavements across the major metropoles of four nations and he is urging the public to pull on their walking boots to join him and support the charity in their quest to help stop prostate cancer being a killer.

Over 325,000 men are living with and after prostate cancer in England, and that figure is more than 38,000 in London, emphasising the need to raise awareness and funds.

It’s three years since I started this life-saving journey at the gates of my club, Hartlepool United, but there is still so much work to do,” said Jeff, who regularly wears the Prostate Cancer UK Man of Men pin badge on Soccer Saturday, alongside former Arsenal stars Paul Merson and Charlie Nicholas.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, with one man dying every 45 minutes from this disease. That’s unacceptable, and that’s why I’m walking again.

It’s an indiscriminate disease, affecting men and their loved ones across the UK. I’ve walked alongside many of them and am proud to call some friends. Their reaction and positive outlook despite being dealt the toughest of hands is simply unbelievable. I’m marching for them – and everyone affected – in a bid to fund the research to change the game.

That’s why I’m taking our walk across into all four home nations and would love the public to join me en route. I live in England and work in London but the wonderful work of Prostate Cancer UK stretches into Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, so I will be pounding the pavements in four historic cities – and it wouldn’t be a football march without popping in on some iconic stadiums along the way.”

Not only will Stelling navigate 26 miles of walking on each day and trips to 16 new clubs, taking his three-walk tally to 89, but will also face the added challenge of transport connections, including two flights across the Irish Sea.

And, as ever, he wants company as he marches to a million, with walkers invited to join him across all four routes and help him reach his fundraising target. You can find out more via

Jeff’s 100-plus mile March for Men kicks off in Glasgow, at Hampden Park, home of the Scottish national team, and the nation’s oldest club, Queens Park, in the morning of 5 September and also heads to city giants Rangers FC and Celtic FC before visiting Hamilton Academical and finishing at Motherwell FC.

He will then board a plane to Belfast that evening with Day Two starting at Northern Ireland Football League Premier League club Crusaders before culminating at Windsor Park, home of Linfield as well as the Northern Ireland national team. The Belfast route also visits Cliftonville FC and Glentoran FC.

After flying back across the Irish Sea, Saturday 7 September, sees him in Wales where he will head from League Two Newport County to Premier League Cardiff City and finish at the Principality Stadium.

A train into England will follow that evening before the final amble across London on 8 September, from West Ham United’s London Stadium to Charlton Athletic, Millwall FC and Arsenal FC before finishing at Spurs.

Stelling’s September stroll is part of the third March for Men campaign, another opportunity for the public to raise funds to fight this killer disease.

Now in its third year, Prostate Cancer UK’s March for Men series has grown bigger with ten organised walks including returns to Bristol, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester and Nottingham and new walks in Belfast, Birmingham and Cardiff. The family-friendly ambles are held over circa 2km, 5km and 10km and supporters are also encouraged to organise their own walks.

Prostate Cancer UK Chief Executive Angela Culhane, who has walked more than 130 miles alongside Stelling across the 2016 and 2017 March for Men events, said: “We’re thrilled that Jeff’s amazing journey will continue this year and are incredibly excited he will be spearheading our drive to raise awareness and funds for vital research across the four nations.

By visiting Glasgow, Belfast, Cardiff and London and walking to some of the country’s iconic stadia alongside fans and people affected by prostate cancer, Jeff’s epic challenge will extend our footprint in football, and prove again the power that sport can have in breaking down barriers and shaping tangible change.

The fight against prostate cancer, a disease that kills one man every 45 minutes, is a purpose worth uniting for, and we want to continue making strides to combat this disease. That’s why we’re so grateful to Jeff for dusting off his walking boots and plotting another ‘unbelievable’ adventure. Our March for Men walking programme is bigger and better than ever this year with 10 city marches in June, Jeff’s amazing four-day adventure and supporters continuing to organise their own walks, and we are urging people to get involved.

We are constantly inspired by the incredible men, women and children who come out to support us, each with their own story and personal challenges to conquer. We will be proud to walk side by side with them and together we can add to the real momentum building in the fight against this disease. The vital next step is to fund more ground-breaking research and find the tools needed for a screening programme, in order to catch more prostate cancers early and save more lives.”

Many people are unaware that prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men. It’s a huge issue that cannot be ignored. One man will die from prostate cancer every 45 minutes in the UK. That’s over 11,500 men a year.

To sign up and join Jeff or to find out more information about the March for Men programme go to

Women in football journalism event

We are delighted to join the world in celebrating International Women’s Day by announcing that on the 9th April, the Football Writers’ Association and Snack Media will host an event dedicated to promoting and supporting female football writers and broadcasters.

The first FWA all-women panel will be populated by some of the most recognisable names within the football media world and are also fantastic role models for all aspiring writers and broadcasters – not just for women.

We believe that football is a game of opinions, and the greater the diversity of voices we hear in the sport the better our understanding of it will be.

This event, which seeks to encourage young women who aspire to a career in football media, will take place in Sway Bar, just off Covent Garden. Tickets are FREE but must be applied for through Eventbrite as places are limited.

The Football Writers’ Association Speakers’ Event last October featured Patrick Barclay, Paul McCarthy, John Cross, Raphael Honigstein and Joel Beya. That evening 80 young journalists attended and received advice on taking their first steps in the world of football media from some of the industry’s best-known figures.

April’s event is another chance for the Football Writers’ Association to continue its pledge to promote up and coming personalities within the sports media industry and broaden the voices speaking about football for the good of the sport.

Running Order:

Doors open: 18:00
Panel Starts: 18:30
Panel Ends: 19:45


Sway Bar
61-65 Great Queen St,

The event is part of a joint FWA/Snack Media initiative to attract a more diverse workforce to the sports media industry and will be followed by other campaigns, initiatives and recruitment drives in the coming months.

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Dan King’s fundraising run this Sunday

Dan King of The Sun is running the Cambridge Half Marathon this Sunday,  March 3 and, with Ian Ridley’s blessing, has set up a fundraising page for the @royalmarsden in memory of his friend and colleague Vikki Orvice who passed away three weeks ago.

Vikki was a patron for the hospital, whose staff were so helpful to her in her 12-year fight against cancer. Three of them attended Vikki’s funeral earlier this week.

It is a great cause, and if you would like to support Dan in his efforts, please visit

Vikki Orvice – a Celebration of her Life.

“If anyone comes to my funeral…”

She need not have worried. Vikki Orvice had written those words in the eulogy she had composed for herself, and was read out by her husband Ian Ridley at St Leonard’s Church Flamstead, on a beautiful, unseasonally sunny day in February.

“They came, Vikki, oh they came,” replied Ian later that day on Twitter.

Indeed we did. Hundreds turned up at the tiny church high on a hill in Hertfordshire, sitting and standing inside St Leonard’s and even filling the overflow marquee set up outside, with a live stream of the service.

And what a service it was. Vikki, determined not to let Ian have the last word, had helped plan her own funeral, but she would not have believed how beautifully this celebration of her life would play out.

The village of Flamstead played host for a day to the cream of British sportswriting, superstars of sport and the many, many friends and family who loved Vikki and owed her so much.

Paula Radcliffe, Jessica Ennis-Hill, Adam Gemili and Dina Asher-Smith were among the athletes who came to pay their final respects, as well as footballers Tony Adams and Alan Smith. A special guest, representing Vikki’s beloved Sheffield United, was the great Tony Currie, her ‘first love’ as Ian put it, and an inspirational figure.

Her colleagues from The Sun, past and present, turned out in force, and there were dozens of other friends from the world of journalism. The FWA, SJA, Women in Football, the British Athletics Writers’ Association were among those heavily represented, and we were all treated to a service that was emotional on so many levels – poignant, funny, sad, irreverent, moving and above all, inspirational.

Vikki set the tone with her own words, penned in the days before her death earlier this month, and with her distinctive voice coming through loud and clear. “The control freak in me would not let Ian have the last word,” she wrote, and you could picture her smile.

Ian then delivered his own eulogy, pitch perfect and wrought with emotion. Jacqui Oatley read a loving tribute from Seb Coe, who shared a love of Sheffield and sport with Vikki.

The Desire Gospel Singers performed “O Happy Day”, “I Say a Little Prayer”, and “Something Inside so Strong”, bringing the house down. It was inspirational stuff, and barely a dry eye in the house.

Ian signed off with the words “Goodbye, my Saturday girl,” and a final kiss.

The exit music was “The Way You Look Tonight”, played beautifully by Ian’s daughter Alex, and we all processed through the village to the cemetery where Vikki was laid to rest, with the sun shining, birds singing, and the first daffodils of spring starting to flower around us.

It had been 90 minutes from start to finish – Vikki would have loved that. She would have loved the outpouring of affection and anecdotes that followed over tea and sandwiches, in the village she called home.

Ian summed it up perfectly in a tweet later that night:

“Well, that was emotional. They came, Vikki. Oh, they came. Proud of you, as were the village, your family, friends, colleagues and the sporting good and the great.

“Goodnight my Saturday girl.”

FWA members honoured at SJA Awards night

FWA members Paul Hayward, Jonathan Liew, James Olley, Danny Taylor and John Richardson collected prizes for their outstanding work at the Sports Journalists’ Association’s annual awards night on Monday.

Hayward of the Telegraph won the Sports Writer of the Year award for the fifth time while last year’s winner, the Guardian’s Taylor, was named Football Writer of the Year for the fourth year running.

The Independent’s Liew, who sits on the FWA National Committee, was voted Sports Columnist of the Year, to follow up on his Young Journalist of the Year award in 2011. Olley of the Evening Standard missed out on the Regional Journalist of the Year award, which he had won in 2015 but then collected the Scoop of the Year trophy for his exclusive story that the FA were considering selling Wembley stadium.

Finally John Richardson was perhaps the most popular winner on the night when he was named Sports News Reporter of the Year for his brilliant work at the Sunday Mirror.

Mark Demuth, head of sport at ITV and another FWA member, also collected the award for ITV’s coverage of Royal Ascot, and the Doug Gardner Award for an outstanding contribution to sports journalism went to Barry Davies, the sports commentator.

The Daily Mail was voted Sports Newspaper of the Year, and the Mail online won the best website award.

More than 600 guests packed the Park Plaza Westminster for the ceremony, and a full list of winners can be found at the SJA website

Shearer leads North East FWA award-winners

Alan Shearer led a glittering line-up at the North East FWA’s annual awards dinner, as the former Newcastle and England captain collected the region’s Personality of the Year award, in association with the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation.

Shearer was one of many famous football faces at the Ramside Hall, Durham, for another great evening that was superbly organised as ever by Colin Young, secretary of the North East branch of the FWA.

Newcastle goalkeeper Martin Dubravka collected the Player of the Year award, while Sunderland’s manager Jack Ross picked up the Young Player of the Year award on behalf of the club’s former striker Josh Maja.

Beth Hepple of Durham was voted Womens’ Player of the Year, and presentations were made to Stockton Town, South Shields and Marske United in recognition of their successes in non-league football last season.

There were also special awards for two people who have worked closely with the FWA over the years. Adrian Bevington, former head of communications for Middlesbrough and England who is now Boro’s head of recruitment, was presented with the Bob Cass award for his outstanding contribution to North East football.

And Louise Wanless, who also worked at Boro before becoming head of communications at Sunderland, won the John Fotheringham Award.

Steve Harper spoke wittily about his good friend Shearer, who then gave an insight to his life as a player turned pundit, in a Q and A session with BBC’s Ian Dennis who conducted his Master of Ceremonies duties with superb professionalism.

Shearer has raised over £11m for charities since retiring, and said he gets more satisfaction from his charity work than any of his many achievements on the pitch. The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, for whom Shearer is a patron, was also represented.

Other former players included Gary Pallister, Kevin Ball, Jim Montgomerie, Craig Hignett, Martin Gray and John Hendrie. The FWA National Committee was represented by former Chairman Steve Bates, Gerry Cox and Paul McCarthy, and the evening was supported superbly by our sponsors William Hill.

“This is always a special night, bringing together the region’s football family and celebrating the best of the game,” said Colin Young, who paid special tribute to the Ramside Hall for hosting the event.

“The focus is often on the Player of the Year awards and we were proud to honour both Martin Dubravka and Beth Hepple.

“However, it’s also very important that we recognise the significant contributions made by dedicated individuals within the game and the wider community, and we were grateful to have the opportunity to do that last night.”


Vikki Orvice’s funeral – important notice

Information on Vikki Orvice’s funeral, Tuesday February 26th, 2pm,

St Leonard’s Church, Flamstead, Herts.

From her husband, Ian Ridley:

It was Vikki’s wish that her funeral be conducted in the parish church where we were married and which she loved dearly, St Leonard’s, in Flamstead, Herts, then buried in the village.

This has produced some logistical challenges as neither of us was expecting the outpouring of love and respect for her, and the number of people wanting to attend. The church holds about 150 people seated and another 125 standing.

As a result, seating is being allocated in the nave of the church in the first instance to family, close friends both in the village and beyond, and to representatives of the organisations and charities that she worked with and for. Other non-allocated seating, and standing in the church, will be on a first-come, first-served basis on the day. 

This is not to keep anyone away. All who want to pay their respects are welcome and I want to accommodate everyone. To that end, there will be a large overspill marquee in the church grounds and the funeral will be live-streamed in to it on big screens.

After the funeral, there will be a procession the few hundred yards to the cemetery for those who wish to join the short burial service, then refreshment in that marquee and the village hall where we can all meet and reminisce and share our memories of Vikki.

Please note that there is parking in the village dotted here and there, and there will be marshals to help ease traffic flow, but spaces are limited and people are asked to park considerately, following the instructions of the marshals. Car sharing would be an idea, if possible.

A better alternative may be a train from King’s Cross to the nearest railway station at Harpenden, which is about a 15-minute, £15/£20 taxi ride away. People might like to share cabs.

It will be marvellous to see all those people who knew, loved and admired Vikki, and I’m sure we will somehow manage to cope with the numbers on what I hope will be both funeral and celebration of her life.

She asked that there be no flowers, but if people do want to make a contribution, donations instead to the Royal Marsden Hospital.

Vikki also requested that people wear black or bright at the service. I will be wearing some of both.


Clive White funeral details

Clive White’s funeral service will be this coming Monday February 18th 10.00 at West Hertfordshire Crematorium, High Elms Lane, Gartson, Watford, Herts WD25 0JS.

Afterwards at Aldwickbury Park Golf Club, Piggottshill Lane, Harpenden, Herts, AL5 1AB

Clive’s family have requested no flowers, but donations to cancer research if possible.

Please feel free to wear any colour.  If you are thinking of going, please inform the funeral directors

The Vanarama Column – Wrexham AFC

The Vanarama column  – Wrexham, by Glenn Moore

Having four managers in a year is not usually associated with success, but Wrexham may prove an exception. The fan-owned club handed the reins to assistant manager Graham Barrow in December after Sam Ricketts, himself only appointed in May, moved to Shrewsbury Town. It seemed a sound choice as Barrow had enjoyed a successful spell as caretaker but it did not take long for the veteran to decide the altered dynamics associated with being No.1 were no longer to his liking.

He stepped down and in has come Bryan Hughes, a 42-year-old of much more limited managerial experience but with a long association to the club. A teenaged Hughes began his career at Wrexham in the mid-Nineties and was a key figure in the club’s 1997 FA Cup run. A busy midfielder he went on to have a decent career, twice winning promotion to the Premier League and playing more than 150 matches in the top flight for Birmingham City, Charlton Athletic and Hull City.

On Saturday his second spell at the Racecourse Ground began with a win over Dagenham & Redbridge that moved the Red Dragons into the top three of the Vanarama National League. More than 5,000 were present to welcome back Hughes and with the club moving within two points of the only automatic promotion slot the promotion dream is back on.

When Hughes played for Wrexham they were the best team in Wales. Indeed, they were as recently as 2001. That season, with Denis Smith in the dug-out, Darren Ferguson leading on the pitch, and a burst of goals from a non-League discovery called Lee Trundle, the Red Dragons finished 10th in what was Division Two and is now League One. Swansea were heading for the fourth tier after relegation, replaced by Cardiff City, promoted from the basement behind Brighton. Newport County were in the Southern League.

However, Wrexham went down in 2002 and while they briefly bounced back to the third tier they soon began a precipitous slide that involved two relegations in four years and a period in administration. They have now been in the Vanarama National League since 2008. They made three trips to the play-offs in the first five seasons plus an FA Trophy win in 2013, but have subsequently been mired in mid-table.

Meanwhile Cardiff are in the Premier League, Swansea, after enjoying seven seasons in the top flight, are in the Championship, and Newport, having climbed out of non-League, are established in League Two and making headlines in the FA Cup.

While football in South Wales has prospered it has been a bitter decade for North Wales, but there are signs of a revival. Average gates are, astonishingly, at their highest in more than 30 years and in March the national team returns to the Racecourse Ground for the first time since 2008.

Hughes, whose only previous managerial experience consists of a few months as joint-boss at Scarborough Athletic, is aware he has been given ‘a wonderful opportunity’. With the Vanarama National League title very much up for grabs it is one he hopes to seize.

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