With Non-League Day approaching, a fan who travels 240 miles to games, the town mayor and club chairman talk up Gainsborough Trinity’s family atmosphere

Gainsborough Trinity v Boston United at the Northolme.
Gainsborough Trinity v Boston United at the Northolme.

The family atmosphere at Gainsborough Trinity is what keeps the club chairman, the town mayor and a superfan who travels 240 miles coming back for more.

Saturday is Non-League Day, a day to celebrate and promote all that is great about the semi-professional game.

Gainsborough Trinity ply their trade at the top end of the non-league spectrum, just two divisions below the bottom rung of the Football League.

The Blues, founded in 1873, were members of the Football League, until 1912.

In their 142-year history they’ve never been promoted and they’ve never been relegated.

While many turn their noses up at non-league, instead preferring to watch in enormous Premier League stadiums or from the comfort of the sofa, there are those who are absolutely besotted with the lower levels of football’s pyramid system.

Steve Summers is one of the latter - nothing else would explain his 240-mile round trips from his home in Hertfordshire, to the Martin and Co Arena for Trinity home games.

The 76-year-old has family ties to the town, and a 15-year love affair with the Blues.

“I live in Hitchin and travel on an early morning train to get to games,” he said.

“I was born and bred in Hitchin but all my family were from Gainsborough and I spent all my holidays there growing up.

“Many years ago, with my late wife’s encouragement I started coming to see Gainsborough play.”

A 2-0 win over Barrow in the 2000/01 season was Summers’ first experience of life on the Northolme.

With respect to the Blues, it’s not a well stocked trophy cabinet that has kept his interest.

Many wouldn’t travel a mile to watch non-league football, so why does he travel 240?

“It’s the camaraderie,” he said.

“Like minded people seem to be attracted to non-league, and I have a great day out.

“For quite a while I used to have breakfast in town on my own, and then gradually one or two joined me and now we have a breakfast club.

“After breakfast it’s into town to the Elm Cottage and then I finish up in the Club on the Park before the game.

“I remember that first game I went to, and when I got home I told my wife Barbara about the really warm welcome I got.

“It’s about friendship, it’s not just about the game.”

Some football clubs have to fight tooth and nail to ingratiate themselves with local politicians and figure heads.

Not so Gainsborough Trinity – town mayor Matt Boles is a long-time supporter.

“At non-league you feel more a part of the club, it’s a family,” he said.

“My parents took me to games at the start of the 90s and you know the players, the manager and the directors.

“I go to the odd Tottenham game and there’s no social interaction.”

Boles does his best to convince other local residents that there’s something worthwhile going on at the Martin and Co Arena.

“I try and spend as much time as I can promoting the club,” he said.

“It’s a massive asset to the town - on Saturday the pubs will have had an increase in income because of the match against Stockport.

“Football can bring the whole town together, and if we can get more people down there on a Saturday everyone will be a winner.”

That’s music to the ears of club chairman Richard Kane – a local businessman trying to grow Trinity off the pitch as much as on it.

“We’re trying to give it a family feel at the ground on matchdays, where parents can bring their kids to a safe environment and let them run off to our sweet shop.

“Where else can you bring the whole family, even a pushchair, and walk around the ground?

“Non league is accessible, you’re closer to the action at pitchside.

“And myself and my directors try to get around and talk to the fans at games - you don’t get that kind of interaction in the Football League.”

The reward, for Kane and his fellow directors, is a fanbase who back the club through thick and thin.

“There’s a lot of loyalty, the same old crew will turn up at home or away no matter if we’re winning or losing.”

Trinity’s next home game is on 24th October when Chorley visit.

On Saturday they will visit Droylsden in the FA Cup’s third round qualifying tie.