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Derbyshire comedian charts the highs and lows of a High Peak football team

Matthew Corrigan

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Carl JonesNew Mills Chalkers Snooker ClubNew Mills AFC

Preparing for a forthcoming performance at New Mills' Chalkers Snooker Club, stand-up comedian Carl Jones did what he always does when visiting a new town and looked up the recent history of the local football team. Little did he realise it would be the start of an intriguing journey, an unpredictable rollercoaster ride with the team just christened the worst in England.

It was August 2016. New Mills AFC, nicknamed The Millers, were still dusting themselves down following relegation from the eighth tier of the English league. Morale among both club and fans was low. They had failed to win a single game in the previous season, and were awarded their unfortunate accolade by some of the more unkind elements of the national sports media. Their plight touched Carl, who by his own admission has always felt drawn to the underdog. An idea began to take shape.

Reasoning that the team's unprecedented run of bad luck must eventually end, he contacted them about the possibility of documenting the struggle as they fought their way back from ignominy. At first, the club was understandably suspicious. Carl is a comedian; the potential for further humiliation was painfully obvious. Fortunately, his love for the game shone through. He was able to persuade them that he wasn't out to take an easy shot. Given access to the players, staff and volunteers essential to the running of any sports team, he became a regular fixture at the Church Lane ground throughout the 2016/7 season. 

Things started badly. Twenty minutes after kick-off in their first home game, New Mills were trailing by two goals to nil. Despair set in amongst the fans; 'here we go again' was the general consensus. In Carl's words, he had 'never known misery like it'. Out on the pitch, though, something was happening. The Millers dug deep, first catching, then overhauling the opposition. To the delight of everyone involved with the club, they won the match 4-3.

It was the perfect overture for a season of ups and downs. Carl watched as New Mills fought a valiant campaign both on and off the pitch. It's all too easy for fans of the bigger clubs to forget about the everyday problems that beset the lower-leagues. Victims of the atrocious winter, The Millers suffered several postponements. While this might cause a Manchester United concern over fixtures, for a small club there are very real financial pressures. Survival, for those at the bottom of the pile, is far from guaranteed. Thankfully, the management at New Mills AFC were able to turn the mean-spirited label to their advantage. A Samsung commercial featuring Harry Redknapp mentioned New Mills and several of the team's players, and outside scenes for the Craig Cash sitcom 'Rovers' were filmed at the Church Lane ground (the film crew erected a new clubhouse before deliberately making it appear dilapidated, completely missing the irony).

Despite hailing from Chesterfield, Carl followed in his father's footsteps to become a fan of Tottenham Hotspur. His own son carries on the family tradition, but at just nine years old he has missed the lean, hard years – a parallel which will no doubt be recognised by Manchester City fans of a certain age. 

An established comedy writer, Carl has appeared across the BBC and runs a popular football blog. He has written a book about his time with New Mills AFC, a light-hearted 'time capsule of that season'. He believes it will have broad appeal, enjoyed both by football fans and those not interested in the game, and is currently looking for backers to publish it via the Unbound crowdfunding website. 

His website is https://carljonescomedy.co.uk/ and details of the book, 'Winless: My Year With Football's Ultimate Underdogs', can be found here: https://unbound.com/books/winless/

Samsung ad: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oNaMTHUAoi4