How long supported Penrith AFC? I saw my first Penrith AFC game as a teenager in the late 1980s and have been covering their matches for the town’s Cumberland and Westmorland Herald newspaper for around 15 years.
First match: I can’t remember my first, which will have been at their former Southend Road ground. But an early highlight was the 2-1 Tennants Floolit Trophy final win over Atherton Collieries in 1995 at Blackpool.
Fave ex-player? Anthony Wright (now with Workington Reds) and former Carlisle United midfielder Graham Anthony both brought great quality and experience to the team in their respective spells.
Fave current player? It’s very difficult to select a favourite player. Each contributes hugely as Penrith continue to punch well above their weight in the Northern League. I’ll choose Will Paul, who made his debut in 2001 and is still in the first team. He has played in almost every position during his time with the club and typifies the commitment and work rate which runs right through the squad.
What makes non-league so special? At a time when rising ticket prices, ever-escalating player salaries and foreign and detached ownership cause supporters to feel isolated from top level English football, there is a refreshing honesty and reality about non-league football.
At grassroots level, volunteers devote many hours during the week to ensuring that matches can actually take place; farmers, joiners and electricians take to the field and give 100 per cent., often after a long day at work; supporters mingle, swap stories and promise to meet up at the return fixture later in the season.
What makes Penrith so special? Former Penrith player, manager and chairman Billy Williams is also one of the groundsmen; ball boy John Cowing is aged in his 80s; team mascot Bradley Hodgson is known by almost every club official and player in the league; and you can win millions in the half-time draw (the prize is a Lotto ticket!). What’s not to like?