Since I made my first tentative forays into the world of non-league, with a visit to Hampton & Richmond Borough vs Ebbsfleet United in March 2017, this website has given me a much needed chance to meet interesting people, explore my love for the game and pretend to the wife that I’m doing something constructive. A 1-1 on that fateful spring day might not sound like the best advert for the non-league game, but I was hooked. I owe Chris Hurst at Hampton a big thankyou for suggesting that I start a blog, and the list of people I need to thank has only grown since.
Over the last four and a half years, the clubs, leagues and people that I have interacted with have been remarkably welcoming, and it’s taken me from a guy who just pitched up with a camera to an accredited photographer, with a role at a fantastic club (up the Beavers!) and a few other bit part roles at Football League academies. I’ve been lucky enough to shoot and write about matches at Wembley, the Valley, Craven Cottage and other historic grounds, and even to cover my beloved Plymouth Argyle a few times. While this website has been running I’ve witnessed and written about cup finals, Play Off clinching victories, relegation heartache and title winning games and it’s been incredible.
This last season has been a strange one. COVID-interrupted for many, it has seen me rack up 70 matches, and I’ve loved every minutes of covering games for Hampton & Richmond Borough and Fulham U18s. COVID has resulted in some horrible lows this season, none more so than seeing the heartache that season cancellations have caused to amazing people at brilliant clubs. There have also been some real highs though, such as watching Sutton United seal an historic promotion to EFL2, following Fulham U18s every minute of the way to their Premier League South title, and the brilliant feeling driving home from Hungerford on a Tuesday night when you really felt like the Beavers could achieve something special this season.
However, the highest of all highs came less than 24 hours after I’d wrapped up shooting Hanworth Villa vs Long Eaton United in the FA Vase, when my son arrived in the world. I’ve muddled along and managed to cover a few more matches since, but the reality is there just isn’t the time. This website is a labour of love for me, and I am constantly astonished that 125,000 of you have deemed it worthy of your time over the years – but the hours and hours of research, prep and writing time just aren’t feasible any more (unless the little man learns how to dress, clean and feed himself in record time…).
As such, it’s with a heavy heart that I’ve decided to knock The Grass Roots Tourist on the head, at least for the 2021/22 season. Hopefully when life is more conducive to these pursuits I’ll be able to pick it back up, but in the meantime, I’ll still be covering Hampton matches, along with my responsibilities at Fulham, and when time allows I’ll be pitching along (negative camera, but with kid) to some of the particularly special clubs from along the way.
Thanks for all your reads, ideas, comments and most importantly for being a part of the wonderful community that is nonleague football.
Ah Thom, th
An awesome journey Thom, I’ve enjoyed every blog and been really chuffed to be assistant scribe on the odd occasion. Looking forward to seeing what’s ahead now. Onward and upward, exciting times ahead.👏👍
I discovered The Grass Roots Tourist a couple of years ago after you posted a link on a Middlesbrough forum about an U18 game you had covered and have enjoyed reading the many posts since. Your photographs are fantastic and really capture lower league football, which obviously receives much less coverage than the higher leagues but is often so much more interesting.
Hopefully some day in the future you’ll return to the blog but regardless, rhanks for your efforts and good luck in the future.
Hi Alex – that’s really nice of you to say. It’s great to hear from people who have enjoyed it. I have to say, I’ve really enjoyed seeing the likes of Djed Spence and Isaiah Jones getting first team minutes after having first seen them in the U18s a few years ago!