Honestly, can’t really say where this idea REALLY started. Was it when we first had a run out as an XI as Full Time Devils, in the Fan League Cup? Could be. Was it maybe when we started having regular football competitions as Studio 68? Could be that, too. I guess. Was it when we were off our nut in Australia getting photos off the lads of the Stretford Paddock kits they just picked up? Probably that, too, yeh…

Trying to pin down the point where we decided to create a football team that plays XI a side is harder than I thought. Not saying who, but in August last year, I got a text off someone asking be interested in owning a football club.

Would you want to own a non league football club? Random I know but always thought eventually would like to give something back and be involved

text message – august 2019

Nice one. Now I’m awake at night wondering what that’d be like. As if I haven’t got enough going on. That was August. We had already been playing 5 a side tournaments, trying to find regular competition at Powerleague and now we, as in the fan channel have a kit! It’s a good one too. That badge was made to be on a shirt, it’s amazing. A combination of all those things swilling round my head and the deep depression that was setting in around early December that United were well shit I think sparked something. We had a few Patreon meet ups. We floated the idea around. Commenters were asking for it – so we did it. We committed to making a team.

Where are we gonna play? No idea.
What league are we going to be in? Dunno.

But let’s see if there’s enough people interested in, and good enough for, having a Saturday team. It’s got to be a Saturday team, too. It can’t be a Sunday League side. I’ll explain why… We’d made ‘real football’ content. Vlogged our 5-a-side tournaments, and the meet ups. Enjoyed it, doing those certainly added to the lure of making our own permanent side, as did visiting Spencer and Hashtag United in 2018.

But a Sunday League side goes, well it goes nowhere. It’s a one-and-done season. There’s no progression. You could win 150 games out of 150 – you’d win a league, and a cup or two – but that’d be it. Literally it. There’s a top league you cannot go past. There’s a level you cannot improve upon and ultimately ‘Sunday League’ as fine as a hobby, and right of passage as it is, has a certain feel to it that I just didn’t want to be, or to create with.

Saturday League, at least from a certain level (in the Manchester area) is a route from level 11 – Manchester League Premier Division – all the way to the English Premier League, THE Premier League. In truth, the pyramid has many many more levels to it than that and direct routes CAN be drawn right from level TWENTY through to the Premier League. Few places, if any, in the world have the depth of football that England can boast.

Saturday league also has the added bonus of being part of one of the greatest competitions the world has ever seen! Namely, the FA Cup. As mad as this sounds, with a lot of luck, and a few promotions, it is entirely possible to end up IN THE FA CUP. Seriously. The FA Cup runs from Level 1-10. As you know there’s different clubs introduced at different levels. If you’re a level 10 club, that means you start all the way back in <checks notes> July! There’s six rounds of qualifying prior to the ‘first round’. Few teams at this level make it to the first round proper, in fact last season, or rather this season, there were no level 10, no level 9 and only two level 8 sides made it to the first round proper, Maldon & Tiptree, who beat Leyton Orient, and Chichester City, who got a bye! So both teams made it to, and lost in the 2nd round.

So, because we’re going to make content about the birth of this football club, that story needs to be able to exist beyond a single season. It needs jeopardy. It needs a real target. Imagine we manage to take Paddock FC to the actual FA Cup – is that not INSANE?

Our targets are slightly more realistic than that. I’d like to get accepted into, and complete a full league season. Sorry, I know that’s way lamer. But it’s a grounding. There’s so much we’re going to learn, so much we’re going to fuck up, I’ll consider the successful completion of a league campaign with this team a huge milestone in the life of this football club, and we are going to build a football club. Exactly how we get to the end of the season and what we want things to look like on the other side will all be revealed in due course. But I can’t overstate the importance of us getting into he rhythm of playing games, submitting the right forms, at the right time, paying our bills, our registration fees and fielding a squad every week. It’s vital. We haven’t yet done that, so we have to prove that we are up to that challenge.

After that we can get giddy and start putting wild targets together. We’ll also hopefully know how good we are, because that’s something else we don’t know. What if we’re shit? What if we’re in a league that we just can’t handle! Brand new teams don’t generally enter the professional ranks – they’re placed by years of promotions as the squad is chiselled into competitiveness by people who know the level they are and the level they need to be. We have none of that intelligence. We have some players that have played at different levels, plenty way higher than where I expect us to go, but does that mean the team will be good? Hell no.

I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me. This will be a journey of education and self discovery as I work out how I can balance this new challenge with a young family, and with my commitments to the content I already make on YouTube. It will not be easy. It’s a lot of pressure. But I love this game (sorry Uncle Pat), and I think this journey will give me a deeper understanding of the game.

We’re building a backroom that’s honestly, a pisstake. We’ve got (or are approaching) 28 backroom staff members. TWENTY EIGHT. It’s gonna look like an NFL bench. There’s a performance advantage to what we’re building, undoubtedly, but we’re also wanting to be a showcase for what happens in football. What happens in an analysis session? We’ll show you. What happens with the data collected in the first half, at half time? We’ll show you. How do video clips guide training – yep – we’ll show you. We’ll show you exactly how we implement my playing style into this team. We’ll show you team talks. We’ll let you right in on the action.

This isn’t a fly on the wall documentary with big reactions and fights and arguments. This isn’t what I suspect a lot of the ‘YouTube’ teams will be doing. We’re going to be creating a channel that showcases the work that goes in, by dedicated individuals that are starting out on the bottom rung, as coaches, scouts, analysts, physios, sports scientists. We’ll find out exactly what they do and how they impact performance. This is going to be mega. I’m absolutely obsessed with making sure I am not the weak link in this – and even then – I very well might be. I’ve read more in the last 3 months of lockdown than I have in 3 years. I know EXACTLY how we’re going to play. My influences are as diverse as they are surprising. I’ve got some ideas that might not work at this level, but I’m going to try. This might fail, spectacularly. But, so what? I’m going to have a good time failing with some awesome people, if we do.

And if we’re successful? It’ll be a hell of a ride. Don’t miss it!


Stephen Howson

One thought on “A football club – what’s all this about, then?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *