Derby Midland Station on a Saturday morning and indeed a Saturday afternoon is a place of drama, panicking and rushing. People enter the station to catch their next train into Birmingham or to Nottingham or Cardiff, for a night out or a big Premier League football game to get to with your mates.
For me, I was there for a different reason, Lichfield City.
On this specific Saturday it’s an away day against 12th place side Walsall Wood, away days for me personally are specifically exciting. Lichfield’s ground is fantastic, the development around the club is brilliant but experiencing new grounds, you can’t beat it.
My 11:38 am Train to Shenstone, which is a small village in Staffordshire, not too far from the Trade Tyre Stadium itself was a quiet one. I arrived at the Shenstone station scheduled to interview City’s top goalscorer Jack Edwards at 1 pm, the pre-interview nerves were rife.
Once the uber arrived at my stop at the BBG Stadium at around 12:50 pm, one of the things I’ve learnt about non-league football is how important google maps is to your journey because the BBG stadium is no Wembley, it’s not obvious to find from a distance. I eventually find the stadium and wait.
Then a gang of cars pull up, out steps influential manager Ivor Green and first-team coach Wayne Chapman in the same car, like they are on the touchline they are locked at the hip.
Following from the coaches are Jack Edwards, Luke Childs and the returning Jamie Elkes after his horrific injury a few weeks prior, arrives and is straight into the starting eleven.
Jack to his word is ready for the interview, I set up my tripod and the interview is underway until it’s stopped after 57 seconds due to loud music played in the Lichfield City dressing room next door. The culprit of the loud music is unknown as I am writing this.
The interview is finished, Jack speaks well about the season so far and how important today’s game is. I then set out onto the touchline chatting to Liam Heath the vice-chairman of Lichfield City talking about writing ideas and both of our upbringings and the Welsh connection which runs through both of us.
Penalty expert Dan Lomas then appears and Liam Heath grabs him and says he’d be willing to be interviewed. So just like that, my second interview of the day is arranged. This time the windy day at Walsall Wood causes the disruption but it’s another great speaker in Lomas, who gives me some great lines.
With 13 out of his 19 goals coming from the penalty spot this season, I was keen to ask him about his technique when it comes to a spot-kick.
“I used to have a routine, but I don’t anymore,” he tells me. “I used to always go the same way but with Brooksy (BrooksyTV on Twitter) filming them and uploading them on to social media, I have to be careful now.
“I had it last week, a Racing Club Warwick goalkeeper told me before my penalty that he knew where I was going because he had seen the videos.” As the interview wrapped up and Lomas was keen to heap praise onto the manager and indeed the coach Wayne Chapman, I headed back inside to the clubhouse.
As kick-off approached I went to take my seat in the only stand in the ground which have rather steep steps but the view from my seat was exceptional. The magic of non-league football is on display for the next 90 minutes with poor pitch conditions, a great atmosphere from the home fans and a windy day really made it a memorable occasion regardless of the quality of the game.
The game itself was anything but memorable with the poor pitch and wind playing a big part, with the ball for the majority of the game being up in the air through goal kicks and long throw-ins.
The game ended 0-0 and the highlights package courtesy of Brooksy really highlighted how poor the game was, with a 22-second video of the highlights of the game being a clip of the final whistle being blown, apart from the game itself it was a memorable day.
As the game ends, I make my way to the Walsall clubhouse which is a lovely establishment with a real sense of a family atmosphere and a positive friendly vibe. The players and managers make their way to the clubhouse, Wayne Chapman approaches and talks to me about the game and who he thought was the man of the match.
17-year-old Lewi Burnside who started his first game for Lichfield City limped into the clubhouse with a tired look on his face. Chapman jokes that I’ll interview him right that second (I didn’t) the look on his face told me all I needed to know about the prospect of that actually happening especially after a tough game like that.
The overwhelming sense of brotherhood with the Lichfield players was there for all to see, to them, this is a shared hobby a sense of family and pride, something that the players and managers have highlighted to me consistently since I started. No matter what happens, the fans will be proud of their achievements, to be favourites to finish bottom and to be where they are, 3rd in the league and three-quarter finals of cup competitions, it’s magical.
As mentioned, Tuesday night’s clash for Lichfield City will be a cup game, the Staffordshire Senior Cup quarter-final against Leek Town. Leek Town FC, a Northern Premier League Division One West side who are flying at the moment, with six wins on the bounce coming into this, not to mention the fact they are one division above City. This will be the toughest of asks for Ivor and his men.
Nevertheless, no matter what happens it will be a great occasion for the players and the hope for everyone is to reach the semi-finals it will be a tough ask for City, but stranger things have happened. The belief and togetherness in the squad will count for something on Tuesday night.
By Shaun Webbley