Footballers of all trades

‘Your local builder, electrician, carpenter or plumber could well be a non-league footballer’, explains Non-league football fan and talkSPORT presenter Tony Incenzo.

Next time you pop into Buildbase to pick up some building supplies, you may well recognise the person standing in front of you in the socially distanced queue at the sales counter.

It could be someone who scored a fantastic last minute winning goal in the match you watched in the Buildbase FA Trophy on the previous Saturday. Or the guy who made that dramatic penalty save when you were standing behind the goal at a Buildbase FA Vase tie.

The reason for this is because your local builder, electrician, carpenter or plumber could well be a non-league footballer. In fact, the full range of building professions are represented out on the pitch.

Many tradespeople prefer to have a day job and then supplement their income by playing semi-professional football. They are definitely better off financially as some full-time footballers at League 2 clubs, for example, only earn maybe £400-£500 a week.

However it takes a great deal of commitment to work all day long and then rush down to your local football club to take part in a match or a training session. Don’t forget these part-time footballers have family commitments too, so it is a real balancing act.

Tradesperson by day footballer by night

The funniest incident I have ever witnessed concerning a tradesman footballer happened a couple of years ago. I won’t name the club or the player involved to protect his modesty. And it does need to be protected!

I had driven to watch a match in the Hellenic League on a Tuesday night and my heavily pregnant wife decided to come along for an evening out. We arrived about fifteen minutes before the kick-off and found a space in the car park.

My wife said she would stay warm in the car whilst I bought a match programme and obtained the team line ups. All seemed good up until that point.

Just after I disappeared towards the main entrance, a van pulled up right next to our car. Out jumped a rather flustered-looking gentleman in his work overalls covered in paint.

He had obviously been delayed at a job and was in a frantic hurry to take part in the match. Not realising that there was anyone else in the car park, he decided to strip totally naked – yes TOTALLY NAKED – beside his van and then get changed into his football kit before jogging off over to the pitch.

At that point, I returned to the car and my wife was visibly blushing.

“I’ve just had a right eyeful! It was like a scene from the Full Monty!” she gasped.

Anyway, my wife and I both saw the funny side of things and we enjoyed the match that evening. In hindsight, my good lady probably relished events more than I did as she kept a keen eye on one particular player all evening!

Juggling act

But it just goes to show how some tradespeople have to juggle their hectic lifestyles so that they can play their part-time football.

In saying that, no one who attends a non-league football match starts thinking that a carpenter has just passed the ball to a builder. We just watch the game without giving the players’ occupations a second thought.

It’s a personal gripe that when a non-league team reaches the FA Cup First Round and the mainstream media suddenly get interested in the day jobs of our semi-pro footballers.

I have had some interesting and polite debates with my media colleagues about this. They argue at length that it adds mystique to their match reports if – for example – a builder scores the winning goal against a full-time Football League team in the FA Cup!

Getting your own back

Looking back, there was an occasion when I personally had a chance to put a spoke in this long-standing FA Cup reporting trend. In my much younger days, I was press officer for the now-defunct South London team Fisher Athletic.

When we pulled out a mouth-watering home draw against Bristol City in the FA Cup, my phone started ringing off the hook. There were scores of journalists wanting to know what our players did for a living.

I didn’t feel that this information was relevant. They were all footballers and they were about to play in the biggest match of their lives.

So I spoke to everyone in the squad and we decided to come up with a sneaky ploy. I made a list of the most ridiculous occupations I could think of and attributed these to each member of the Fisher team.

Our players thought it was really funny when I conveyed some seriously spurious information to the reporters who arrived for the epic cup tie. And those fake job titles made it into their Sunday newspaper match reports.

The “Professional Marmite Taster” centre-forward was unlucky not to equalise for Fisher whilst our goalkeeper – an “Ostrich Babysitter” by trade – made some flying saves. There were also references to the “Pole Dancer” at right-back, the “Astronaut” playing in midfield and the “Brain Surgeon” on the wing.

Now I am not suggesting that anyone reading this should copy my actions! But at least I had the satisfaction of making a personal stand against something I passionately disagree with.

Our non-league players deserve the utmost admiration for the unique way they combine their work life with their football. And once they cross that white line to run out on to the pitch, from then onwards for 90 minutes, they are no longer tradesmen. They are FOOTBALLERS.

Read more from Tony and his passion for Non-League football in our Groundhopper Diary

Click here to be in the know on how we’re supporting non-league football, or follow @BuildbaseUK on Twitter for the latest news and competitions. 

Tony Incenzo is a reporter for talkSPORT Radio and Sky TV. You can follow Tony on Twitter at @TonyIncenzo