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Disillusioned with the corporate ownership, mega-bucks culture, and overpaid prima donnas, of the Premiership, Steve Leach embarked on a journey to rediscover the soul of professional football. His journey, over the 2012/13 season, took him to twenty-four different Football Conference towns and fixtures, visiting venues as diverse as the Impact Arena in Alfreton, Stonebridge Road in Ebbsfleet, and Luton’s Kenilworth Road.
Encountering dancing bears at Nuneaton, demented screamers at Barrow, and ‘badger pasties’ at rural Forest Green – Steve unearthed the stories behind the places and people – it was a journey that showed just how football and communities intertwine, and mean something.
As the season progressed Steve relished how unfancied teams of part-timers, such as Braintree Town and Dartford, could defeat higher status opponents, and watched ‘big name’ clubs such as Luton Town and Lincoln City struggle to make an impact. Throughout all this, his anguish grew at the prospect of his beloved Stockport County getting relegated.
Conference Season is a warm and discerning celebration of the diversity of towns and clubs which feature in the Conference, and of the supporters who turn up week-after-week to cheer their teams on.
Chapter 1 – Submarines, Screamers and Savage Dogs. Barrow vs AFC Telford United; Saturday 11th August 2012
Chapter 2 – Little Hyde versus Big Luton. Hyde United vs Luton Town; Friday 17th August 2012
Chapter 3 – Sandgrounders and Speechless Managers. Southport vs Gateshead; Tuesday 4th October 2012
Chapter 4 – Dancing Bears and Famous Authors. Nuneaton Town vs Macclesfield Town; Saturday 15th September 2012 League Table – 21st September 2012
Chapter 5 – Perplexing Statues and Scissor Kicks. Gateshead vs Macclesfield Town; Tuesday October 8th 2012
Chapter 6 – Touchline Banter and Banished Managers. Macclesfield Town vs Newport County; Saturday 13th October 2012 League Table – 26th October 2012
Chapter 7 – Programmes, Punctuation, and Prejudgements. Alfreton Town vs AFC Telford United; Saturday October 27th 2012
Chapter 8 – Dragons, Tasteless Pies, and Goals of the Season. Wrexham vs Gateshead; Saturday 17th November 2012 League Table – 26th December 2012
Chapter 9 – Sporting Cities and Dodgy Lodgings. Newport County vs Wrexham; Friday 4th January 2013
Chapter 10 – Brummie Accents and ‘Massive Games’. Tamworth vs Braintree Town; Saturday 5th January 2013
Chapter 11 – Benign Bulls and Helpful Stewards. Hereford United vs Alfreton Town; Saturday 12th January 2013
Chapter 12 – Carpets, Stranded Seals, and Succulent Pies. Kidderminster Harriers vs AFC Telford United; Tuesday 29th January 2013
Chapter 13 – Nostalgia, New Managers, and Mary Portas. Stockport County vs Nuneaton Town; Saturday February 2nd 2013
Chapter 14 – The Wooden Man and Peppa Pig. Dartford vs Luton Town; Tuesday 12th February 2013
Chapter 15 – Cathedrals, Imps, and Free Tickets. Lincoln City vs Barrow; Saturday 23rd February 2013
Chapter 16 – Braintree, Bocking, and the Future of the World. Braintree Town vs Luton Town; Tuesday 26th February 2013 League Table – 26th February 2013
Chapter 17 – Cardinals, Robots, and a Post-Match Fracas. Woking vs Mansfield Town; Tuesday 6th March 2013
Chapter 18 – Management by Website; the Club with 27,000 Owners. Ebbsfleet United vs Southport; Saturday March 16th 2013
Chapter 19 – Yarnbombing and the Birthplace of Soccer. Cambridge United vs Ebbsfleet United; Tuesday March 19th 2013
Chapter 20 – Accommodating Publicans and Phantom Bus Stations. Mansfield Town vs Nuneaton Town; Tuesday 26th March 2013 League Table – 26th March 2013
Chapter 21 – It’s not the Despair I can’t handle, it’s the Hope. AFC Telford United vs Nuneaton Town; Saturday March 30th 2013
Chapter 22 – Badger Pasties and Taiji Wuxigong. Forest Green Rovers vs Southport; Saturday 13th April 2013
Chapter 23 – What do you think of it so far…? Luton Town vs Newport County; Tuesday April 16th 2013
Chapter 24 – Sing when we’re fishing… Grimsby Town vs Newport County; Saturday 20th April 2013 League Table – 21st April 2013
Steve Leach is Emeritus Professor of Local Government at De Montfort University, Leicester. He has published (singly or jointly) twelve books about local politics and local government, including ‘Managing in a Political World’ (Palgrave/Macmillan, 2010.), ‘Local Political Leadership’ (Policy Press, 2000; with David Wilson.), and ‘Botched Business; the Damaging Process of Local Government Reorganisation 2006-2008’ (Douglas McLean, 2008; with Michael Chisholm.). Conference Season stems from a lifelong interest in professional football at all levels, and an enthusiasm for visiting and commenting on the kind of medium-sized towns in which most of the clubs in the Football Conference are based.
Steve is also the author of Tangerines and Pies
Author: Steve Leach
Published: 29 January 2014 | ISBN: 978-1-909125-54-4 | 308 pages (print) | Kindle and iBooks