Season Report 2021-22

Season 2021/22 Report

After two interrupted years due to the pandemic we entered pre-season full of hope for what lay ahead. It ended with three successes and one defeat in cups, a couple of runners up in leagues, and the disappointment of relegation for the 1’s.

At the top end of the club, we were hit by an unexpected lack of availability with players being slow to commit to regular weekend football and in some cases discovering that working from home in other parts of the country during lock-down had brought about a different way of living moving forward and weekend football was the casualty. This badly impacted the 1st XI who lost half of their cup final team from 20/21 and with injuries to one or two and it took weeks of rebuilding before results began to improve. Their season fell into three sections, with a poor start, lacking goals and points, followed by a middle section as things improved with some better performances and points on the board. Just when it looked like we had turned the corner we disastrously lost at home to Old Parks on a wet, windy and cold day when a postponement would have been a better call…..but the pitch was fine when we committed to it late morning. That defeat seemed to trigger the start of a poor final third when games were lost from winning positions and crucial games failed to bring out the performance needed. It ended with a final day 1-2 defeat at Norsemen despite leading 1-0 and being the better side in the first half. Reaching the final of the SAL Senior Cup was commendable and going down 0-1 wasn’t a disgrace especially as it was against a fine West Wickham side who won the Div 1 championship.

The 3’s once again did well under captain George Fuller. Also affected by poor availability in a couple of away games they lost ground in the league, only to bounce back in the last third of the season to finish runners up by a point, two draws in a double header v Nottsborough at the end of April costing them the title. But they had a brilliant cup win in the SAL Intermediate Cup, a trophy that has only ever been won by Reserve sides. Having endured a tough run to the final they took on an excellent West Wickham reserves, who finished runners up in Div 1, and came from behind to win 4-2. An excellent season for the 3’s who justifiably were awarded the Team of the Season Shield!

The 6’s had a very entertaining season under Jamie Hutber, using many players throughout including our Columbian contingent! Hearing Spanish being spoken during a match confused many opponents! They were around the top of their division all season long and just missed out on the title by a point despite beating the winners (Old Owens 5’s) twice in a double header for their last 2 games. But, like the 3s, it was the SAL Senior Novets Cup that brought them much deserved success with a 1-0 final win against Owens 5s.

The Vets section is enjoying a renaissance. A new team joined us in its entirety and were well led by Paul Waller throughout. It culminated in an excellent AFA Over 40’s vets Cup win……a little bizarrely maybe, playing against West London Rams Vets, a team of ex pros and semi pros led by ex Chelsea player Jody Morris. We were 3-0 up and then 3-3 on the stroke of full time and then ‘lost’ it 3-4 in extra time. However, post match investigations revealed that the opposition has fielded a number of ineligible players so the match result was annulled and awarded to us!!

Not only that, our Vets B team has re-grouped with a lot of good work from Jim Webb and Dave Chapman and with a long list of friendly games for Sunday mornings they have enjoyed their football and did their very best to support the bar in the time honoured way!

The Celebration of 100 years of Football at Winchmore Hill

2020 was the year to celebrate our centenary but two years of COVID induced postponements meant Friday 13th May 2022 will go down in our history as a wonderful night when 250 people in a marquee next to the clubhouse celebrated until the small hours. It was testament to the many hours of planning by the centenary committee over many months. Nothing was left out in the planning and it resulted in a wonderful success. Our thanks go to all those on the committee and to the many helpers who did their bit on the night, especially Clare in the kitchen and her marvelous team and of course to all those who ran the two bars and made sure everyone could get a drink……or three!

No dinner is complete without speakers and we were lucky to have Richard Blanchflower, a true friend of the club from our local rivals, Norsemen, and our guest speaker Paul Barber, the Chief Executive and Deputy Chairman of Brighton & Hove Albion FC assisted by Paul Hawksbee from TalkSport radio. Also of course the one and only Bob Leeds from the AFA, SAL and Old Finchleians. Bob’s amusing delivery and entertaining club ‘song’ was well received but he went on to run the auction of several items so successfully that our income ended up exceeding our expense – not just a great night but a financial surplus as well.

The Future

Our football in the modern era presents many challenges. The lack of playing commitment week in and week out has created a much bigger playing list for the club to manage but far too many are unable to commit to being available regularly. Coupled with a reluctance from some to travel any distance for away games it makes selection consistency nigh on impossible. That said we continue to run seven sides on Saturdays when so many clubs have reduced their team numbers.

After 23 years of managing the 1st XI Andy Russell has stepped down and will concentrate on his work with our young footballers in the youth section. A big thank you goes to Andy for all the good times over these years and for the four AFA Senior cup wins and a league championship along with various other cup wins. It has been a remarkable period in the life of our club and many characters (and several big egos) have enjoyed their football over this time. Andy was presented with a fitting momento at the dinner by Kieran Pearce the 1st XI captain recording the successes he has enjoyed with us.

We now move forward into a new period for the club, with a new manager/coach Leigh Wooldridge in place for the 1s, and with the immediate aim of recovering our Div 1 status. We will still be running seven teams on Saturdays in the SAL and all will compete in AFA and SAL cup competitions. The Vets A will have one team in the SAL Vets league on Sunday mornings and they will compete in their respective cup comps. In addition to the friendlies played by Vets B they will be entering at least one cup competition.

The Thanks

No report is complete without thanking the many people who make it possible to play our football. The very capable football committee continues their excellent work and a special mention for Jim Webb who has taken over from Keith Rentell in running our Duty Officer Rota so successfully.

Jim would like a few more volunteers to help out with the rota a couple of times during the season – a few hours of your time on a Saturday afternoon for something which goes such a long way in helping the smooth operation of match day football and the security of the dressing rooms whilst games are being played.

Hopefully our difficult times are behind us and we can look forward to a return to ‘normality’ in our football and a resurgence of support from young footballers wanting to play 11-a-side football on a Saturday afternoon followed by a couple of beers in the bar afterwards.

R S Gyles