Soap stars and burst bubbles

A review of Steven Penny’s Soap stars and burst bubbles – available to buy on Amazon for £10.99.

For fans of our Non League Journey interview series, Steven Penny’s Soap stars and burst bubbles book on the unforgettable 2002/03 season is a must buy.

That’s the campaign which saw Paul Marshall’s Harrogate Railway remarkably reach the FA Cup second round proper and ended with Dave Penney taking Doncaster Rovers back into the Football League. 

Penny tells the story of the season through match reports and interviews with key personnel (all written in 2002 or 2003). In Railway’s case, his reports grasp just how much of an unbelievable achievement it was at the time and still is. No NCEL club has achieved the same feat since.

Even one often-forgotten piece of FA Cup history has its own chapter. That’s Paul Jackson’s ten goals in Stocksbridge’s 17-1 smashing of Oldham Town which equalled an FA Cup record. The Steels could do with Jackson turning up next season for an FA Cup game given their recent record in the competition.

There’s plenty of names from the past mentioned. Pete Collier (Selby Town), Alan Radford (Brodsworth Miners Welfare), Graham Marchant (Garforth Town), Chris Hill (Guiseley), Nigel Danby (Harrogate Railway), Graham Botham (North Ferriby) are just a few old faces who appear in the line-ups.

Some of the interviews are almost poignant now. An interview with then-Pontefract Collieries secretary Frank Maclachlan, the Glasshoughton Welfare secretary who passed away a few months, sent a shiver down my spine.

As ever with Non League Football there’s always a comedy story and the West Riding County FA’s bizarre banning of Goole supporter Craig Ellyard (a national news story at the time) hits the mark on that front.

Even the names of the referee bring back memories. I laughed to myself after seeing one official whose name I haven’t heard in years. To some he was the Mike Dean of Non League Football, but in an affectionate way. 

If you’re a Non League diehard it is an Aladdin’s Cave.

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