I've saved a good amount of cash mind, staying in, indeed having to self isolate due to health reasons and I'm hugely grateful to my employer (which hasn't always been the happiest areas of my life) for continuing to pay me and support me during this tricky period. The year of 2020 was meant to be the year I finally gave myself the kick up the backside I needed - find a new job, get onto the property ladder (even in a new area if needed, I favoured the North-East) and visit some new countries. But this has now all been kicked into the long grass by a worldwide crisis and it's a venture into the unknown for most. But nevertheless, enough waffle, here are the awards for my truncated season.
BEST WYCOMBE GAME: MILTON KEYNES (H) W3-2
Though they are not worthy of being called our rivals due to the way they formed, getting a result against this illegitimate mob is always good. Even better when we came from behind and got a last-minute winner in a drama-packed game.
WORST WYCOMBE PERFORMANCE: COVENTRY C (H) L1-4
A dreadful performance in the last game of the decade as we were totally outclassed by a Coventry side that had not won away all season. And there was kit envy on our part as their black and white away kit was dead smart.
BEST GROUNDHOP GAME: EPPING 3-3 HAMPTON
A real treat of a game at a fairly basic but historic venue as Epping came from two goals down to draw in an exciting game only to lose on penalties in an Anagram Trophy game.
WORST GROUNDHOP GAME: TRING C 0-0 AYLESBURY VALE
BEST GOAL: MICHAEL TUNNICLIFFE (GOLCAR UNITED)
On my penultimate day of football, I was at AVRO FC for Golcar United's North West Counties League game, the venue having been changed due to a waterlogged pitch at Golcar. It allowed me to see a game in the Manchester area before an overnight coach home and the opener was a real beauty. A free-kick was hammered against the defensive wall, only to fall at the feet of Michael Tunnicliffe who smashed the ball home via the underside of the crossbar from 25 yards for a brilliant strike.
BEST NEW GROUND: LOUGHBOROUGH FC
A hidden gem at step 8 of Non-League - the Leicestershire Senior Division 1 in this case. You'll have to go during the day as there are no lights and the track leading down to the ground is a real challenge for most cars, but once you get there, it's well worth it. Delightfully ramshackle and plenty of cover for wet weather.
BEST PUB: ORCHARD INN, BRISTOL
Sadly, my visit to the cider crazy city of Bristol was all too brief, but this pub was an absolute cracker with around 20 good ciders on offer. A lovely vibe too and the only pub that my journey involved a motorboat as I took a shortcut across the River Avon.
BEST WYCOMBE PUB: THE ROSE AND CROWN
Not a world-beater by any means, but I have been waiting for many years to find a semi-decent pub in the previously terrible area of High Wycombe. This was a chance find on the first day of the season when I visited to redeem a free pint off of a phone app. I finally found a pub that served decent cider in High Wycombe and at very fair prices too. I straight away made it my designated pre-match pub in Wycombe and as well as the good drink choice, a friendly King Charles Spaniel called Bruce and brilliant landlord and landlady (Chris and Kirsten) have made sure that I have visited on plenty of non-matchdays too.
BEST TAKEAWAY: MUCHACHOS, GLOUCESTER
I visited when I took fellow hopper Anwar to Tuffley Rovers. It had been a couple of years since we had last visited here due to lack of grounds around the area but it was excellent as ever, delivering great food at reasonable prices and with a sit-in option too.
BEST WYCOMBE TAKEAWAY: PERI PERI GRILL BOX
Just as with my pub of choice, I've been going to the same takeaway all season. I first discovered this place when in the area getting my car fixed a few years previously and it has been spot on every time. A wide range of tasty options and all at great prices and an ideal stopping place, halfway between town and the ground.
BEST CLUB SHOP: RETFORD UNITED
Club shops that sell old programmes are rare nowadays, so to find this was a real bonus as there must have been a couple of thousand at least on offer. I got two books for 50p each. Sadly, clubs don't see old programmes as profitable but what they don't realize is that people will make a special effort to visit a good shop and it might put a few on the gate.
BEST PROGRAMME: CLAY CROSS TOWN
It's hardly been a vintage season for programs, with demand falling thanks to a lot of information being available online, a lot of programmes are no more than a token effort to meet requirements. But the Clay Cross Town effort ranked well in the awards and was well presented with a decent amount of facts and articles. Impressive for a step 7 side.
BEST FOOD: BRIGG TOWN
I don't often eat in the ground, for reasons you will see below. But Brigg was a real treat, some made pie, well-cooked chips, mushy peas and gravy, all for £4. Totally delicious and you'd struggle to find better in an outside establishment.
WORST FOOD: GREAT WAKERING ROVERS
I don't like nominating 'worst' awards as I want to keep this blog positive and encourage people to visit clubs. But this was poor. It was actually for a White Ensign game, the day after a Great Wakering game. As a result, fans were treated to a single choice - hot dogs comprising of a cheap sausage in a stale bun, clearly leftover from the previous days game. And they put butter in the bun too, revolting!
BEST CLUBHOUSE: AFC MANSFIELD
Nothing special on the drinks front, but a better range than most and nice cold drinks too. Spacious and had sports TV too and well priced.
BEST SOCIAL MEDIA / MOST READ BLOG: SARRATT
I don't do this blog for views, I do it to keep a record of my visits to look back on, however, I do like people to see it and hopefully visit a ground they like the look of. Also to meet new people. Sadly, after spending a fair bit of cash and time visiting clubs, few bother to take the few seconds to retweet (I'd say the ratio was about 10% at most) Sarratt were one of the smaller clubs that I visited, but they did retweet and as a result, it was my most read blog of the season with a (still small) 405 views. Decent considering the average of 150 - 200 though.
FRIENDLIEST CLUB: PEACEHAVEN & TELSCOMBE
Plenty of brilliant clubs on this front, so hard to pick a winner. But I plumped for Peacehaven & Telscombe who gifted me free entry after my original visit there was called off. This was despite it not being their fault as opponents Eastbourne United pulled out a few days before the game. They also made the effort to DM me on Twitter to keep me up to date to make sure I was kept in the loop. Top class.
SPECIAL OBITUARY: MISHI MORATH
There will be many better tributes elsewhere online, but Dulwich Hamlet fanatic and groundhopper in denial Mishi was a much-loved part of the non-league scene. Having met him on a number of occasions, I could vouch for the fact that he was a top bloke. Having survived a heart attack and foot infection earlier in 2019, the year had been an awful one for him. A second heart attack saw him not so lucky and he will be much missed by many.
C**T OF THE SEASON: PRESIDENT XI OF CHINA
Well, after the fiasco at Stowmarket, I didn't think that someone could get any lower, but the 'gentleman' who masquerades as the president of China absolutely trumped it by ending the season once and for all and causing the whole world misery. Not content with making his own people's lives a misery, allowing filthy hygiene standards at a local market and then being economical with the truth has meant that the whole world has suffered. Not deliberate of course and football is way down the pecking order with getting on for 400,000 dead at the time of writing, far more than there should have been over here thanks to own government's hopeless handling of the pandemic. This is not a slight against the good people of China who have provided the world with so many good things, but their government I don't have any time for.
But in runners-up spot, what is it with the Eastern Counties League and stupid referees. This is the second occasion a referee has opted to be the centre of attention rather than show common sense. The man concerned (name deleted given the bigger picture) called the game off eight minutes before kick-off with both teams happy to play. The groundsman was even willing to fix the problem if only the referee would delay kick-off at Stowmarket Town v Walsham-Le-Willows by 15 minutes but the man in the middle was not listening. This came after another referee, (name deleted again) called off a match at Felixstowe with a few hundred in attendance on a Friday night. By the time we'd got our money back and got back to our cars, the fog had cleared, by which time the referee was filling his face with free food in the hospitality tent! Late kickoffs are becoming a real problem with several late call-offs with zero consideration for the fans. It affects attendances no doubt, as I and other hoppers have reduced faith in games going ahead and so opt to stay in and save a wasted journey.
PLANS FOR NEXT SEASON:
Very much up in the air at the moment, what with the current situation. But I've not been aboard for a few years, so that is a must, especially with vouchers to use from my cancelled booking this season. Belgium & Holland was my original intention and that stands a high chance of figuring again. I also plan to do a lot more Friday nighters, with some long-distance ones involving an overnight stop and a game or two on Saturday.
Costs for this season are as yet unknown, what with me not knowing what is happening with my season ticket and also not yet having worked out all my car costs fully. However, I can reveal that I spent £207 on 'extras' - this includes programmes and more basic food and drink. It doesn't include when I have gone somewhere special to eat, nor does it include special ciders as I regard that as a separate hobby. For Wycombe games, if we win I add nothing to my costs if we draw, my football costs added are half of what I spent and if we lose my costs cop for the lot. My hobby, my rules.