As Woodford Town FC prepare to return to the local area, assistant manager Neil Day explains the club’s strong community ethos and introduces a team that counts football legend Jimmy Greaves among its former players
Woodford Town FC are set to make an emotional return to the local area after a 26-year hiatus. Council planning for a revamped stadium on Ashton Playing Fields is pending, with the Woods looking to move into their new home sometime during the 2019/20 season.
The news has delighted and rejuvenated fans of the original club – founded in 1937 – which attracted a club record crowd of over 2,000 to their former Snakes Lane ground for an FA Cup first round tie with Leyton Orient in the 1985/86 season.
The club has been revived in recent years under chairman Tony Scott and a determined group of local businessmen, including current manager Dee Safer. Whilst our current crowds playing at our temporary Harlow Arena ground are a little more modest than our 1985 heyday, we are a club that embraces our history and local community despite the obstacles.
A supporters’ focus group has helped design and produce a ‘third kit’, inspired by former local resident Sylvia Pankhurst and her involvement in the suffragette movement.
While Woodford has a proud history, the current crop of young players are making waves in the Essex Senior League with a style of entertaining football that has seen attendances grow rapidly. Our raucous supporters are the envy of teams much higher up the football pyramid. Woodford’s faith in youth has also seen players move up the football ladder after spells with the club. Last year, midfielder Riley Scott secured a move to Ipswich, while Jayden Thompson-Brissett signed with Brentford after a string of impressive performances for Dee Safer’s side.
Whilst this season has seen skipper Jack Grosvenor depart on a well-publicised and lucrative move to local rivals Walthamstow FC, we are pleased that the core of last year’s side have decided to stay with us. This includes ex-Brescia Calcio playmaker and captain Andrea Mantovani, and ex-Colchester United youth player Ellis Routledge, who turned down a big-money move to the States to stay with the club.
We are keen to set up a ladies’ team, as well as several youth teams, as we look to firmly establish ourselves in the local community. The ladies’ team would wear the fan-designed ‘Deeds Not Words’ kit in a tribute to local heroine Sylvia Pankhurst, a positive gesture to a resident who made such an impact on social reform with her contribution to the suffragette movement.
While support for Woodford has steadily grown over the last three seasons, there is still plenty more to do. Our thriving WhatsApp focus group is growing daily as people see Woodford as the perfect antidote to the corporate and sanitised football served up higher up the leagues. Supporting Woodford is very much an experience that connects players and fans; the singing is literally non-stop, win or lose, and recently, a young fan was given a dream chance to come off the bench and play, even at the expense of the team claiming a prominent pre-season scalp.
Lloyd Duddridge, a local resident, fan and committee member who has played a major part in getting the club back where he believes we belong, said: “The club’s imminent return has clearly energised a lot of people with an interest in seeing senior football return to the local area… Long term, it should really energise the local community as a whole, as they will have a grade A sporting facility and an inclusive, community-based club they can support with pride.”
The future looks very bright for the club and we are looking for committee members and match day volunteers when we’re back in the local area. Or if you just simply fancy a loud sing-song in a diverse, inclusive environment, Woodford could well be the club of choice for you.