Football: Fan's eye view: South Mimms or bust: No. 24 Moor Green

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The Independent Online
WHO are Moor Green? This is a question we are frequently asked, when we stop at a service station on yet another interminable away trip.

Once we have explained that we are members of the Beazer Homes (Southern) League, and are based on the south side of Birmingham, further questions are apt to follow. We delight in astounding the unsuspecting inquisitor by revealing the story of when 'the Moors' won the European Cup. Well we did, sort of.

It seems that before the war, European clubs were keen to play against the English, but our professional cousins were not overly keen on the idea, leaving the field open to the amateur clubs who were only to happy to deputise. West Auckland's exploits in Italy are well documented, courtesy of Dennis Waterman's film, but Moor Green were equally successful.

From the early 1930s until the mid- 70s, they played against many of the top European pro sides, but the pinnacle was reached in both 1933 and 1937, when The Moors won the Verviers Trophy, a knock-out competition involving professional teams from Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands, plus amateur sides from England. I think that qualifies as a European Cup.

One of the pleasures of supporting a non-League club, is being welcomed at refreshment stops. Our two coaches, one for the players, directors and older supporters, and the other for the younger supporters, are never turned away. South Mimms, just off the M25, is something of a Mecca for non-League teams, and rows of coaches can be seen around midday most Saturdays. There is much banter, all friendly, with information on the day's opponents readily exchanged.

Last season Moor Green finished ninth and we fans knew that one new defender would guarantee the championship. We told the chairman, the manager and the barmaids of our theory as we supped copiously of the sponsor's product.

The manager's response? He signed an experienced defender and at a stroke removed the excuse for a moan. The result? The team are now rock bottom, but at least we have another reason for a grumble.

Are there drawbacks to following non-League football? Well, yes, actually. Any person seen at the ground three times running will quickly be allocated a job to do. I began as a mere spectator, but as soon as word got around that I could add beyond 10, I was handed the club's books to do.

If this was not enough, over the next few years I helped behind the bar, ran the weekly bingo session with my wife, announced the team changes, and edited the match programme while my wife folded and stapled them. Nowadays, I just write the press reports for the local papers. And I only started going to get out of the shopping.

Even more remarkable than my story is that of Mr Smith. He bought a house adjoining the Moorlands and wandered in one Saturday to see what the noise was about. He enjoyed his visit and came again. He was soon involved in organising the supporters' club, and his efforts brought him to the notice of the board of directors, who invited him to become club secretary. Before he new what had hit him, he was elected club chairman, when, it is rumoured, all the other directors took one pace back.

Despite all the moans and groans, including pot-holed car parks, leaky stand roofs, midweek trips to outposts of the Empire (such as Dover), and arriving back in Birmingham at 2 am, having lost again, getting lost in towns where Saturday shoppers are unaware of the location of the local ground, and all the other privations associated with the non-League game, we love it.

We love it so much in fact, that it is rare, if not unheard of, to find many supporters returning to the League scene. Giving up non- League football really does mean going back to the shopping.

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