People of non-league: Coventry Sphinx

By Mia Lazaro 7 Apr 2023

On Non-League Day, Mia Lazaro met the people who make up the heart of the United Counties League Premier Division South side

Related Articles
Literacy levels on the rise thanks to Everton and PL Inspires
One million hours of PL Kicks celebrated at regional tournament
'Premier League Supports' to highlight help wider football receives

On Non-League Day, 25 March, 2023, the Premier League Trophy and former Premier League striker Dion Dublin went to Coventry Sphinx, a non-league club playing in the United Counties League Premier Division South, Step 5 or the ninth tier of the English football pyramid. 

Coventry Sphinx have been one of over a thousand clubs who have received direct funding from the Premier League Stadium Fund. Thanks to Premier League funding, they have had new floodlights installed that allows them to train at night, which is helping their quest for promotion.

They took on Histon in the United Counties League Premier Division South, winning 2-1 on the day in front of a sell-out crowd, adding a vital three points to their promotion bid. Here are the stories of those who make up the lifeblood of the beautiful game further down the pyramid, such as at clubs like Coventry Sphinx.

Dannie Cahill (chairman)

Dannie Cahill, Coventry Sphinx

"My three sons have played here before and now my grandson has started to play for Coventry Sphinx. This club means a lot to me - I have been involved for over 25 years - but also to the people I work alongside. They give up a lot of their time for the benefit of others and we respect them highly.

"Today's Non-League Day event is an accolade to them. They deserve it and this is something that we will always remember, including our children as well.

"The beauty about this club and organisation is that we can get kids off the streets, get involved in a team sport and be able to merge people from different countries and cultures whilst also creating an environment where everyone is comfortable. Football has brought them together and hopefully they grow to be better players and better people."

The Barnes' (parents of a Histon FC player)

The Barnes, Coventry Sphinx

"Supporting our children and our son means the world to us when it comes to football and especially while watching him play for Histon FC. Our son plays as a centre-forward and we enjoy being beside him. He's done well today and scored a goal for his club and we are very proud.

"These games are great for the whole family to come down, and us being around means a lot to the players, too. People should know that non-league football isn't something to look down on. It is just as competitive as other leagues. We are all fighting for our teams to win, we all want them to grow, so this is just as important. Everyone's got to start somewhere and football is a place for all."

John and Lina Mellor (fans)

John and Lina Mellor, Coventry Sphinx

"We started by coming to watch one game on a random morning around three years ago. Ever since, we grew closer and have been home and away with the club. We love that it is local.

"We love our players and they have been absolutely brilliant. They are so incredible, friendly and they treat fans like family members, something we especially like. We have a real connection. It creates genuine intimacy."

Dianne Harridence (catering assistant)

Dianne Harridence, Coventry Sphinx

"The thing I enjoy the most about my volunteering work is getting out there and meeting new people. My daughter runs the food cabin by the stadium. I like to help her most Saturdays.

"It's such fun and it makes me happy I'm doing my part by helping the club. Another fun part is getting to know the fans and customers. Our sweets, burgers and hot dogs are great and I recommend everyone to try our local cabin food! It's definitely one of the main attractions."

Louis Guest (vice-captain)

Louis Guest, Coventry Sphinx

"My dad's a big football fan and encouraged to me to get involved, so he brought me down to play when I was about 5 or 6. I played through all the junior sections at Coventry Sphinx and now I'm here today.

"When I started with the club's first team, we were bottom but now we’re in a better place and are finally going places.

"The club is extremely family-orientated. It's a close community, and we get people together both on and off the pitch. We need our people to come through the door to keep the club alive. We rely on these people and the voluntary work behind the scenes and we repay this with performances on the pitch.

"This is my hometown club and it holds a special place in my heart."

Shaun Thomas (first-team manager)

Shaun Thomas, Coventry Sphinx

"For me, non-league football is about the camaraderie, togetherness, the community and everything that goes on behind the actual stuff that goes on during matchdays.

"We operate under the same pressures as the Premier League as we are ultimately at our matches to try and win games of football, with a close bond and a smile on our faces at the same time.

"Over the last two-and-a-half seasons, we were able to put ourselves in a really strong position and hopefully at the end of the season we can do something special for pushing the team into the highest league standing it has been in.

"We've had great days and there have been some truly amazing days up here, such as beating Coventry City at home last year."

CJ (programme seller)

CJ, Coventry Sphinx

"My day usually starts by getting to the stadium around half one, but I always try to lend a hand as much as possible by getting to matches quite early.

"With a lot of non-league clubs, and Coventry Sphinx in particular, a lot of us just want to help out. We’ll pay our entry at the gate, buy a burger and a programme, but we'll focus on trying to help the club out as much as possible.

"We help because what they do with the community is something that motivates us. I do my part by selling the matchday programmes. You've always got to back to your local club."

Reid, Harvey, Jake, Harry (l-r; fans)

Reid, Harvey, Jake, Harry, Coventry Sphinx

"We think our local club is great. They are fun to watch. The standard of football is also good, so it's interesting watching the matches. We hope they will keep winning because they deserve it as a club. We once watched a game where they scored seven goals. That was so cool to see what these players can do.

"We think people need to give non-league football a chance because, at the end of the day, everyone deserves support, and who doesn't love a game of football?"

Neil Buswell (turnstile operator)

Neil Buswell, Coventry Sphinx

"I enjoy meeting different people from different clubs in the Midlands area. We play a lot in the UCL Premier Division South and the teams we play are more often than not from Northamptonshire, Leicestershire, and other surrounding areas. So meeting and talking to the fans and family members who walk through the gates is interesting, getting to know where they come from and how far they have travelled.

"We've only been in this division for two seasons, so a lot of the people that come are new faces visiting Coventry Sphinx for the first time!"

Faye Keeling (captain's partner)

Faye Keeling, Coventry Sphinx

"As a woman and a partner to the captain, there are not many women and girls that come to male non-league football matches. There needs to be more. Us girls need to get involved, but with the women's league growing, there's a lot more interest coming through, which I enjoy seeing.

"I also enjoy supporting my partner at his matches. We have recently just had a little girl, so these football matches push him forward to succeed for both me and our daughter."

Chris Nee (super fan)

Chris Nee, Coventry Sphinx

"Although it's not my local club, Coventry Sphinx's growth over the 77 years means a lot, especially as it's a club I've been drifting towards over the years. I have been coming here for 10 years and as a person who grew up outside of Coventry, it's pleasing to see how the community is represented in this club and vice versa.

"It means everything to me and I hope we can move up the league, and grow our supporter base, especially for such a brilliant team. They deserve to be seen by as many people as possible. Coventry Sphinx is a historical club with huge memories that have been achieved and I want to tell these stories."

Also in this series

Part 1: 'Premier League Supports' to highlight help wider football receives
Part 2: How we helped Peacehaven
Part 3: Literacy levels on the rise thanks to Everton and PL Inspires
Part 4: City fans turn Manchester blue to support club's community work
Part 5: One million hours of PL Kicks celebrated at regional tournament
Part 6: 'Arsenal made me a better coach and a better dad'

Latest Videos

More Videos