“Welcome to How and why I became a Gladiator, the series were we talk to fans old and new and get their stories on what attracted them to MTFC. Today’s entry is from Dom Anderson (@DomAnderson_1) 28 from Derby”

Football is the single greatest uniting force in modern Britain. Up and down the country fans spend their time and money supporting their club, they travel hundreds and even thousands of miles a year to stadiums in the middle of nowhere and all for the risk of a boring 0-0 draw. Fans of two rival teams and stand arm in arm together when supporting their national team and two strangers in the same shirt can share a pint and reminisce about the great moments their club has gone through.

I became a supporter of Matlock Town this season. My journey as a football supporter has taken me on quite a few journeys over the years. As a child I was a Chelsea fan, I basically liked Dennis Wise and his brand of tough tackling and top banter. Then with the arrival of Roman Abramovich and his billions my love affair ended, I hated the idea that money was all that mattered in football. Then hilariously I started following the team that many of my family up in Manchester supported, the then deeply unfashionable Manchester City (you can see where this is going). I remember adoring the spirit of the club and being excited about the future that the young up and coming star Shaun Wright-Phillips was going to have.

Then it all went downhill for me again when the Abu Dhabi royal family purchased the club. I felt like history was repeating itself and that I was about to lose my club again. It’s weird because with both of these clubs becoming European Super clubs they saw an influx of fans and I had gone from being the only person I knew to support them to seeing people wearing the respected team colours every time I walked up the High Street in Derby.

From reading this so far I sound like someone who doesn’t want to support a successful club, well actually that’s not true. I want to support a successful team but I’m a traditionalist. I believe that leagues are won in the boardrooms, in the changing rooms and most importantly on the pitch. I don’t believe that they should be won from the office of an accountant.

So for the last few years I had found myself in a state of limbo. It’s hard for someone who loves football as much as I do to have no team. Well that all changed with one conversation with a group of mates. We decided that we wanted to support a local non-league team and the only option we saw as viable was Matlock Town.

From the very first time I tweeted about Matlock and the club replied I knew we were on to something special. I spent the summer keeping an eye on developments at the club, the signings, the friendlies and me being me I even tried to find out how much Pie and mushy peas is in the club café.

My first game supporting Matlock was away against Frickley Athletic, I started off badly I hadn’t realised that they also play in blue (despite being called the blues) so until my mates pointed out my error I spent my first 30 minutes watching my new club actually cheering for our opponents.

That said what a game to have as my first. The team going down to 1-0 so late was a blow but there is a spirit in this team that I’ve never seen before that means that as a fan this season you never truly feel they are beaten. A freekick from Micky Harcourt that I still think was hit so hard that the opposition goalkeeper still doesn’t quite know what happen, gave us hope. It was at that point that some Frickley fans started giving some stick to our number 14 who had come off the bench. ‘You’ve made no impact today’ shouted the fan in a thick Yorkshire accent. That seemed to light a spark in the player Joel Purkiss who minutes later headed in the winner. The joy we felt from seeing Joel run towards the chap who had given him the banter with his hands on his ears cannot be paralleled.

I left that game excited for the next, certain that I’d made the right choice. I had never seen such a plucky comeback and a team full of lads fighting for everything and giving their all for their team mates and their club.

The next game against Salford was a tough one, they had veteran ex-professional Danny Webber in midfield and a boardroom full of Manchester United Legends. We left thinking that our lads had given a good account of themselves. Again scoring late and again it was Purkiss off the bench. We didn’t win the game but seeing a Matlock home game and talking to fans who had been watching the team since way before I was born was fantastic. The attendance that night was 344 but once the Matlock faithful gets behind the team the noise is great.

Whitby Town was another performance where another substitute and solid defending made all the difference. Niall McManus this time from the bench with a great composed finish to beat the keeper. As an ex centre half (Sunday League legend) I was even more pleased to see a clean sheet.
This week’s clash at away Rushall Olympic was the best yet to watch. 2 nil up from two cracking goals from Joel and Niall and the drama of Rushall pulling level by the hour mark made for a lively last 30 minute. The spirit of the team as I mentioned before meant that we knew Matlock could get back in the lead and they did, with another substitute this time Nathan Forbes beating the keeper one on one to win us the game.

With 4 games played and 4 goals coming from substitutions it is no wonder that a few of us have started singing about Mark Hume or the ‘Matlock Mourinho’ as me and my mates call him.

It’s so far so good for the Gladiators but with a long way to go. We seem to have a team that refuses to stay beaten and with the spirit to play good football for the full 90 minutes. We also have a manager who seems to know the right moves to make at the right time and we also have the best fans in the league.

For anyone reading this from anywhere near Matlock who loves football and has never been to see the Gladiators, I recommend you get yourself down to the AutoWorld Arena. I challenge anyone to watch this team play and not feel a sense of excitement.

Non-league football is incredible but so many people haven’t experienced it yet. Football isn’t just that expensive hobby in the massive soulless stadium somewhere in an industrial estate, it isn’t just watching a team of millionaires and it isn’t even about the Arab and Russian billionaire that my support seems to attract. For me it’s also about small mismatched stadiums with passionate fans and players who are giving their all in the sport they love.

I’m proud to be a Matlock Town fan and I would invite anyone reading this to join us of if you’re too far away support your local non-league club.

P.S I can’t promise that my supporting Matlock will lead to foreign billionaires buying the club but I’ve got a track record…

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