Club update -
15th January 2021
I hope everyone is well during this time and keeping safe.
At this current time the main club site is closed but activities are ongoing.
The academy students are continuing with their education online, Ashley & Cornelius are keeping in touch with the players, Ric is continuing to maintain the pitch and the Shak is open for take away.
Whilst the site is closed, CCTV is in operation and anyone found trespassing will be reported to the police.
You will be aware that the Isthmian League has issued a statement, that clubs will be surveyed by the FA on their views on whether the season 20/21 should be terminated and if not, what the alternative should be? To date we have not received the FA survey, but the club’s view is that we would want to see the season continue if possible, in some form, rather than have another season terminated.
We have also been meeting to discuss future activities that can take place once things begin to return to normal in the Spring / Summer (hopefully!) and it would be good to hear your ideas of what future activities and socials at the ground you would want to see so that we can bring everyone back together as well as generate some income for the club.
2020 in the words of Ed Parlett
We came. We saw. We went back indoors again.
That is how I would sum up 2020 in less than ten words. It has been a stop-start year, for reasons we are well aware of and are therefore best not elaborated on.
Neither of the league ‘seasons’ we have participated in during the last twelve months are likely to be completed; my suggestion to the Isthmian League of handing us the 2021 title, and drawing lots for the other positions is currently being considered by the hierarchy (I assume - I have yet to hear back from them…)
But, as with all calendar years, there have been highs and lows to keep us amused and annoyed in equal measure. And there is always the promise of better times ahead; perennially for the football fan, whatever he or she has endured in the past - it is what keeps us always coming back for more.
Quite when that will be, nobody knows; not at time of typing anyway. We can, though, console ourselves with memories of times past and experiences shared; and the year just elapsed has, as always, provided plenty of those.
We began with a trip to Northwood, scene of an utter capitulation on our last visit on the opening day of the previous campaign. There were ghosts to be exorcised here - fitting then that we did so at the ‘dead end’, the ramshackle terracing being overlooked by a cemetery. Hady Ghandour’s superb late goal enabled us to bag the points. Northwood’s facilities are somewhat basic, homely little arena though it is. There were no toilet facilities in the ground itself (save for little more than a bucket in a broom cupboard with no lock), so any need to relieve oneself meant leaving the ground to access the provisions in the bar area, adjacent to the stadium. Not wishing to miss any of the crucial action, most of the faithful had bladders the size of barrage balloons by the time Hady settled things, all except TPF Minister for Refreshment, Mitch, who sat on the fence instead (and sustained a sprained ankle for his troubles - all in the line of duty…)
One of the goals of the season was scored in the next outing, Dominic Morgan-Griffith’s terrific half-volley from the edge of the box was the pick of some fine goals in a 4-1 win at Chalfont St. Peter. The only downside was that there were so few travelling fans there to enjoy it. A midweek fixture at this remote village a day’s hike (uphill) from Gerrards Cross meant the majority of us missed out on this special strike but kudos to all who did witness it, the memory alone justifies the exertion...
One game in January did make TMU history, when the exotic burghers of FC Romania visited. Forty-five minutes in and the Terrors had really lived up to the nickname by rattling half-a-dozen goals past the shell-shocked visitors. This was the most we had ever racked up in the first half of any competitive fixture, and the record league victory of 9-0 (v. Clapton in 1975, should you ask) looked about to fall. In the event, there were no further additions to the scoresheet; although not for the want of trying - a special mention must be made of the visiting ‘keeper, Adrian Darabant. It seems odd to say of a custodian who has shipped so many, but he gave a fine display on the day, was their man-of-the-match, and but for him we would have easily got into double-figures...
A trip to bogey-club Staines (six defeats in seven matches since our last win over them in the 2003/04 season) ended with honours even at 1-1. The struggling hosts had taken an early lead, and looked set to repeat their shock triumph at Imperial Fields some two months prior. Thankfully a fine Jamarie Brissett equaliser restored parity, and but for some more man-of-the-match heroics from an opposing ‘keeper, we may have annexed all three points and broken the curse. Still, that beast was to be slain some time later and there was plenty more to unfold before then, on and off the pitch. Our revered website co-ordinator and committed vegetarian, Charlie Rowe, was hoodwinked by some dubious food signage and was halfway through his egg-burger before realising it was an egg on top of a beefburger rather than a meatless imitation…
The high-flying monks of Waltham Abbey paid us a visit to celebrate Candlemas, and left with their good run of form in tatters; only one defeat in six matches had taken them above us in the table but we redressed the balance with another fine display. The Irish Lot were on form that day, and left the visiting keeper a nervous wreck after careful perusal of his social media profile enabled them to hone in on his weakness which may have contributed to the three goals which went past him. It should have been four, when he mis-kicked a back-pass, and the ball trickled past him and over the line but the officials took pity and pretended they hadn’t seen the ‘goal’, enabling him to cling onto his last shred of dignity...
With the most unwanted visitor of all nearing our shores (from China via Italy and Spain), talk was already of potential ‘lockdowns’ as February evolved; but the weather decided it was going to have its traditional say on things as the month evolved and we lost several matches to the elements. Most unfortunate was the scheduled 29th February encounter with Bracknell Town; on this most unique of dates, we had only ever played twice in our history - and never at home. But an overnight deluge denied us all the chance to be part of a statistical anomaly for perhaps the only time, with the next Leap Day to fall on a Saturday not scheduled for another twenty-eight year.
One match that did survive in February, thanks to an artificial surface, was our trip to Ware in the middle of the month. The hardy Bog-Enders who braved the elements that day had to endure torrential downpours and slippery conditions, on what is probably the furthest ground from a train station in our division. It looked like we were going to be rewarded for our efforts with a memorable result when an excellent first-half performance saw us take the lead through returning fans favourite Sasa Illic, and have the opportunity to double that advantage from the penalty-spot. Sadly, Danny Basset’s effort was saved and, despite a thrilling second half that could have gone either way, we succumbed to a last minute winner from our hosts to rub salt into wounds that were already sodden...
Barking away on the following Saturday also provided the same outcome, a 2-1 defeat to a late goal, after taking the lead with Daniel Williams’ first for the club. An impressive travelling support, despite the District Line being out, must have accounted for about three-quarters of the near hundred-strong crowd. It was an impressive turnout for a dreadful afternoon, and marked a welcome travelling debut for some of the Irish Lot…
In early March, we travelled to Hanwell who sat above us in the table and were seemingly the only challengers to Ware’s title pretensions. Having ended our unbeaten start to the season with victory at Imperial Fields back in November, the Geordies must have fancied their chances of securing a double over us, particularly as our recent results had been shaky. In the event, we gave one of our most impressive performances for many a year and with new faces Williams, Dominic Odasanya, Kladji Cani and Ermis Mezini all giving impressive displays in a 5-2 victory, the run-in to the play-offs looked bright indeed.
But then - it happened, and suddenly everything was shrouded in darkness. After another weather postponement (midweek at South Park), the following Saturday dawned with an announcement from the Isthmian League that the season was being suspended. Despite games taking place at Dulwich, Fisher and Sutton United our league had made the commendable decision to put safety first - a stance justified a few days later when the whole country was put into ‘lockdown’.
With the country banished to their living rooms, it seemed churlish to debate as to when football would return, and the season was duly abandoned long before the scheduled finish date in April. As the days turned into weeks, and the weeks into months it seemed at times like we would never get to enjoy a day out in the fresh air, with friends, enjoying a game of football but eventually restrictions were eased (with hindsight, a little too early but that is a matter for debate elsewhere) and the club were able to start training again with a view to resuming matches in front of a crowd once more.
It should be pointed out that there is far more to a matchday than just turning up, watching a game, and departing for home again. There are a myriad of tasks that need to be undertaken on a regular basis to ensure games can go ahead on a Saturday (or midweek), including the cleaning and upkeep of the communal areas of the stadium. With new measures to be implemented to make us ‘COVID secure’, the army of volunteers and stewards who make the matchday experience what it is found the spotlight falling on them more than usual, and all are to be thanked and commended for their efforts which are much appreciated by those who benefit.
This little anecdote from Members Club vice-chair & secretary (and occasional matchday mascot), Phil Nightingale sums up some of the unexpected situations that can occur behind the scenes :
‘It’s not far as the crow flies.
When Ed asked me for a little update on the Imperial Fields Pigeons, I don’t think he expected the dark tale which is about to unfold………
Most fans know of the birds that live in the stands, they’re either aware of the match day fluttering or by having to pick their way through the debris that these flying rats leave behind. So, channelling the investigative journalism of my inner Philomena Cunk, donning my mask and adhering to Covid protocols I headed back to an empty ground.
I don’t really like pigeons but don’t wish them any real harm. The cost of installing anti-bird netting in the stand is prohibitive so it’s a regular session of scrape and sweep to keep the floors clear and I was rather surprised to see that, instead of the expected inch deep patches of guano, it wasn’t half as bad as I had expected. Yes, our feathered friends were still around but I had expected to wade, knee deep, through piles of muck. The question was, what had happened?
What would Sherlock do? Eliminate the obvious and, by default, whatever remains must be the cause. Mind you, as I was pondering I became aware of a pair of beady eyes watching my every move. I’ve removed dead pigeons from the stand before but presumed they had expired of boredom after overhearing one of Hackbridge Harry’s lengthy tales of the North Bank. Something was wrong.
Ok, eliminate. What has been missing recently? The tasty match-day morsels dropped by the Tooting faithful and a lack of warm stand lights to huddle by or was there something else? A sense of foreboding came over me when I recalled a conversation with Rick the Pitch…………
A short while ago, the bloody carcass of a headless pigeon was discovered on the back 3g pitch. Feathers and flesh were scattered around, not a pretty sight and not easy to scrape remains off a synthetic surface. Was some evil force at work?
A quick surf of the Internet revealed a possible suspect. I discovered several videos of crows sneaking up on unsuspecting pigeons from behind before unleashing a lethal attack which invariably results in a headless corpse. Looking across the pitch, I spotted a possible suspect which I will call Russell.
I think it’s a fair guess that Russell, not content with ripping turf out to search for grubs, also picks on pigeons. I could imagine him out on the astro with an avian chant of “Are you not entertained” as another unsuspecting bird is despatched.
Time will tell. Not sure when I’ll get back to the stadium but it will be interesting to see what has developed. I’m happy for Russell to keep the pigeon population under control but just wish he would leave the pitch alone. What’s the solution? Perhaps we need a bigger boat (or bird).
Do we know of any Eagles in the locality?’
And so it was, after ‘behind closed doors’ friendlies with Chessington & Hook, our flatmates Tooting Bec and Three Bridges, allowances were made for spectators to return to grounds ahead of our trip to near-neighbours Carshalton on September 5th. This entertaining 2-3 reverse on a warm late summer afternoon provided the perfect re-introduction to outdoor sport. A stunning winning goal from the host’s Dan Bennett who thumped in a long-range drive, curtailed an impressive comeback after we’d trailed 0-2 at the break. Leader of the Terrors Youth Brigade, Bog-End Ant, endured his own personal lockdown hell after the game. Having stayed behind to watch the England match in the bar, he’d ducked into the toilets when an unsuspecting member of the Carshalton backroom team, assuming the area to be empty, plunged Ant into darkness and locked the door. Thankfully, our quick-thinking hero summoned assistance from the TPF and the Head of the Escape Committee, Scotty, managed to extricate him, otherwise he may have still been there to this day!
We resumed competitive action with an FA Cup (penalty shootout) exit to fellow south Londoners Fisher, and made a slow start to the league season when perennial strugglers Hertford visited and took home the points.
Thankfully, as in previous recent seasons, our indifferent home form was balanced by impressive results on our travels. We opened our FA Trophy campaign with a long (made longer by the absence of a train station within a walkable distance) trip to Dunstable. Thankfully, those who did embark on the trek were rewarded with progress thanks to a late winner from youngster Kesna Clarke who stepped up from the U23s to spare us a penalty shoot-out. Given our recent history in such contests, this was a major plus...
Early in October, Waltham Abbey visited for a top-of-the-table clash, and made off with the points thanks to an early penalty. Given their goalkeeping travails earlier in the year, it was no surprise to see a different incumbent between the posts. They were taking no chances this time, employing a near 7ft tall man-mountain who looked like he’d be more at home in ‘Game of Thrones’. It was a disappointing display from us, despite some good end-to-end action in the first period, and a couple of decent chances not taken. Nevertheless, it was a decent exercise in publicity with the Non-League Paper affording us extra coverage and Sky Sports sending a camera crew to record a piece about the young players we’re developing in the Wandle Valley, headed of course by current West Ham striker Michail Antonio.
Later in the month we put the Staines hoodoo to bed in fine style on our second visit to that parish in the year. Promising youngster Troy Walters along with Jake Rose, Dan Williams and the returning Elijah Simpson netted the goals in an impressive 4-0 triumph…
The following week, we took our leave of the FA Trophy and (as it turned out) competitive football for the year with a day out by the seaside at Bognor Regis. The hosts boasted an impressive home record - three wins out of three at home, with eight scored and only one conceded; but we travelled south with an equally impressive away one - four wins out of four, and a 9-1 goals record. With the hosts going well in the division above, this was a solid test of our credentials. In the event we gave a very good account of ourselves in a cagey battle of wits and but for a missed penalty at the start of the second half, with the game still goalless, we might have prolonged our interest in the competition. As it happened, a pair of late goals did for us on the day and, as we made our long journey home further restrictions were being announced which effectively curtailed our competitive urges for the foreseeable future.
There will be no more outings for the time being as we head into another period of national lockdown. We thank all our fans for their continued support in difficult times, and trust that you will stay safe and keep well until we can meet once more on the banks of the Wandle.