Name: Mark Ferguson
First Non-League Match: My first taste of non-league football came in 2003 under the floodlights at Hillheads. Whitley Bay took on a Newcastle Reserves side which included a baby-faced Steven Taylor. It was a tough test for the Bay and Newcastle’s youngsters ran out 2-0 victors on the night.
Fave ex-player: Ian Chandler sticks out as my favourite ex-player because of his service on and off the pitch. He brought great joy to Whitley Bay fans both as a player and a manager and has played an integral part every one of their four FA Vase wins. It was his extra-time winner that brought the Vase to the Bay for the very first time. He then went on to make history by winning the Vase three years in a row as a manager, a tough act to follow.
Fave current player: Goals, goals, goals. That’s what my favourite current player brings to the party. When Gavin Cogdon of Spennymoor Town is in full flow, he is a defenders worst nightmare. He’s tireless, lightning fast and cool in front of goal. His customary handstand celebration is a bonus too. He even performed it at Wembley, right in front of the opposition fans as he led his team to a historic FA Vase win. Their reaction was priceless.
What makes non-league so special?: The pies, pints and sausage rolls! On a more serious note, non-league is so special because of the community spirit within the clubs and the people that make it possible to survive. For example, the volunteers – people that give up vast amounts of their time for nothing other than to keep their clubs alive. This wouldn’t be possible without the dedication of the fans either. Non-league football is the game we all love in its purist form. It can be ugly at times, but at others it can draw up the most romantic of stories.