MANY know my work as a result of my long-standing interest in non league football.

It’s two decades and counting for the record. Almost to the day.

After covering patches on two local papers I produced 140 popular podcasts on the topic.

And all while gaining a large and loyal following in the wonderful world of Twitter.

But enough with the CV – if you know me, you know.

What prompted this long-overdue revisit is some huge news for a club that’s special to me.

Circa 2003-2006, I followed Mark Stimson’s Grays the length and breadth of the country.

I saw them win the FA Trophy twice and send a number of players into the pro game.

Much of the joy, thrills and spills came in the caldron of The Rec, the club’s home ground.

It was the heartbeat of a working class community, literally surrounded by their homes.

It was the embodiment of the ferocious passion at the foundations of English football.

Grays left their home of 101 years 13 years ago – and have been ‘homeless’ since.

The reasons for their extended, nomadic existence are way too many to list here.

But a happy homecoming of sorts is now in the offing after a development this week.

The club won planning permission to move into an empty stadium in their borough.

It’s off Ship Lane (near Lakeside Shopping Centre) and is the former home of Thurrock FC.

It’s not in Grays but less than five miles away from their old stomping ground in Bridge Road.

For the avoidance of doubt, there is loads of acrimonious red tape still to navigate.

But it is uncomplicatedly good news.

And as a Brucie Bonus, club legend Stimson returned as Grays manager this summer.

Stimmo – a guy I used to speak to more than Mrs C at one point – left the club 17 years ago.

So it must all feel a bit ‘written in the stars’ for Blues fans.

You know, this tale is just one of countless others I could write about many non league clubs.

Stick a pin anywhere in a map of Essex and I could tell you all about their local side.

Most of east London too, for that matter.

My day job means my knowledge of the professional game is none-too-shabby either.

The reason I make that point is I like to think I see the whole thing, English football that is.

And I’ll leave you with this conclusion.

If you are the type who looks down on the non league game, you’ve badly missed the point.

Because quite apart from its integral position in the pyramid, it is all the fun of the fair.

Chock-full of drama and emotion in an arena where players still know your name.

That’s your name.

It’s the last remaining bastion of the game everyone (whose opinion mattered) loved.

So if you’re at a loose end this summer, maybe drop in that ground you always drive past.

And if it lets you swerve another Lakeside trawl with the missus… happy days.