IF there’s one thing people in Non-League football like it’s a good Budget chat.
I’m not talking about the red briefcase the Chancellor holds up outside Downing Street, but how much players are being paid. Or not being paid.
It’s very difficult to truly know who’s got what. The managers who have got a decent pot of cash to splurge certainly don’t like to tell you about it too much, even when it’s obvious.
And why wouldn’t you play it down? No point setting yourself up for a fall. Because often the whispers won’t be far away and you don’t want to give the opposition anymore ammo than they will already have.
(The caveat being Billericay, where owner Glenn Tamplin has been pretty open about their weekly spending).
Then the managers who haven’t got a lot will naturally want to tell everyone. ‘Look at how well we are doing and I’ve got no money!’ It’s to be expected.
I popped down to see Alan Dowson at Hampton & Richmond last week for a cuppa and a chat about all things at the Beveree and football in general.
Dowson’s side are unbeaten in 21 National League South games at the time of writing. The former Walton & Hersham and Kingstonian manager spoke about how much he loves winning and that the three points on a Saturday are what it’s all about. Whatever your spending power.
He said: “If you’re a manager, it doesn’t matter what your budget is, how much money you’ve got – and we all lie, we all pretend we’ve got the lowest budget. Managers will say to me and I’ll say to them – because I lie as well – that we’ve got the lowest budget. Because it looks good!
“We all like to say we work on a shoestring, these people are only on a certain amount of money. We’re all the bloody same, including me.
“But it doesn’t matter how much you’ve got, who you are, what your facilities are, you’ve got to go and win a game of football on a Saturday.”
While money should talk, we’ve all seen in football at every level that it isn’t a guaranteed path to success.
A few years ago Tunbridge Wells reached the FA Vase final at Wembley and managed to do it without paying their players. Guernsey don’t either, and they’ve had success.
Or how about Corinthian-Casuals in the Bostik South promotion race. Last year they missed out on promotion to Step 3 in the play-off final but are faring well this year.
The south-London club are a bastion to amateurism. I recently caught up with the manager James Bracken about how his remit is completely different from most managers in Non-League football.
“It has its pros, it has its cons,” Bracken told me. “In terms of pros I don’t have anybody playing for me who doesn’t want to. I know a lot of other players at other clubs who will openly say to me they don’t respect their manager or agree with what he says or like the way he manages them.
“But they pick up their money, it helps them with their mortgage, they’ve got kids to feed and it’s almost a job – lots of us have jobs we don’t particularly enjoy and you have to do certain things to pay your bills at the end of the month.
“For a lot of players football becomes that. With us it’s never that. Boys are here because they want to be here, they want to play football here and they want to win.
“You can get a lot more out of people with that kind of environment than the other.”
Updated 10:27 - 6 Feb 2018 by Steve Ringrose