THERE cannot be many, if any, teams in the seventh tier of English football with a fanbase in Japan.

Before too long, however, the six-a-side pitches of Tokyo and Osaka could be graced by players wearing the colours of Taunton Town.

That is if Ben Mabley, the Peacocks fan who began watching the team through a gap in the Hamilton Park fence in the mid-1990s, has his way.

Mabley, 37, grew up in Blackbrook but has been based in Osaka since graduating from University, where he studied Japanese.

Becoming a football commentator was his burning ambition and, after a spell working as a translator for Panasonic, his persistence and hard work earned him the opportunity to live his dream.

Mabley said: “I was writing columns for little or no money about the J League when a TV producer at J Sports, the Premier League rights holders, wanted to see if there were any British journalists working in Japanese football.

“He found me and that was the turning point – I was in the right place at the right time.

“I started doing Premier League analysis on their Tuesday review shows, as it was then, and I was thrown in at the deep end.

“I got more TV work through that and started commentating on live matches.”

Now, Mabley is a familiar face on screen – he commentates on up to three matches a week as well as co-hosting an English football review show on Mondays and a programme focusing on the European game.

Somerset County Gazette:

ON SCREEN: Ben Mabley (right) on weekly show Football Freaks on DAZN

This platform has allowed him to shine a light on his hometown club and showcase a different side of the English game to the top tier’s glitz and glamour.

“I’ve been abusing my position as much as I can get away with,” Mabley joked.

“Taunton Town is a case study that football in England is about more than just the Premier League.

“It is much more deeply rooted than that, to the point where a seventh tier club can attract 700 people through the gate who care so much about their community and their team.

“This is, in a way, a better example of how football matters in this country than a Premier League team.

“The Premier League is a global entity, a brilliant product, but Taunton Town shows Japanese fans just how deep the football culture is.

“It fascinates people and they are surprised by it.

“There are stories at this level of football you wouldn’t see in the Premier League or Champions League and they have their own appeal. Taunton Town is my vehicle to show that.”

Somerset County Gazette:

PEP TALK: Impromptu translation for Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola during a friendly against Yokohama F Marinos

Social media has also been a game-changer for Mabley – in terms of both keeping up with the latest from the Peacocks as well as promoting their cause.

“When I first moved to Osaka in 2005 it was pre-smartphones,” he said.

“I had a flip phone, which I used to check the Southern League website for the table and the County Gazette website for the reports.

“Social media has changed that, and Taunton Town are excellent on there.

“They are the only English club I have set up alerts for on my phone – I follow the games on trains, in taxis and in the TV studio.

“If I’m commentating on a Premier League game the first thing I do at half-time is see how Taunton are getting on.

“I have a reasonable Twitter following [55,000] and the club account now has thousands of Japanese followers.”

Viewers of Mabley’s shows in Japan have also been treated to highlights clips from notable recent Taunton matches, such as the run to the FA Cup first round in 2016/17 and the promotion which followed the following season.

“The last few years have been brilliant,” he said.

“I used to play Football Manager and edit it so that Taunton were playable - to see the team’s recent rise, the growing supporter base and sense of community has been fantastic.”

This community could soon be extended to parts of the Far East, with Mabley hoping to begin selling Peacocks merchandise in sports stores in Japan.

“You are allowed to be a Barcelona, Juventus or Gamba Osaka fan and support Taunton as well – there is no clash and it could almost be a badge of honour,” he said.

“I think the rarity value would attract people. If you play six-a-side, everyone will play in shirts from around the world – people would be intrigued if anyone turned up in a Taunton shirt.

“If Taunton Town can become the hipster’s choice in Japan, then brilliant!”

Selling shirts would not be the end goal for Mabley. The former Ruishton Primary and Heathfield Community School pupil is also hoping to attract Japanese sponsorship to the club in the future, as well as pitching a mini documentary series to go into greater depth about what makes clubs like Taunton tick.

For now, however, he is just delighted to be doing his bit to inform Japanese football fans about the place he is proud to call his home town.

“Going to University was the first time I left Taunton – and the first time I realised how much I liked it,” he said.

“I didn’t know I had a local identity until I left.

“There is great potential in this club and I hope it continues to grow. If I can contribute in any small way, I am delighted to do that.”