“If the product on the field is good, there is fantastic potential in what we have and have built over thirty years. Even if sometimes it needs a kick in the right direction”.
Hi Roger before we discuss your football team, tell us a bit about yourself and what’s your involvement been with Wealdstone FC over the years?
What’s to say! A recently retired Building Services Consultant, now living in Teignmouth, if I have a business at all, its organising escorted trips to World War 1 Battlefields which is a passion. (The advert is in the Stones Programme).
My first Wealdstone game was on my birthday in 1966 – a friendly against Watford (we lost) though I didn’t become a regular until the early 80’s. Through the turmoil that saw us leave or home in 1991 and move to Vicarage road Watford (we owned a half share of the lease, but it would take a season to explain what happened there, and why a club with crowds in the 5-600 range ended up playing in a stadium with over 25000 capacity…). Suffice to say it cost a hell of a lot of money and when we finally extricated ourselves from the arrangement (93) we started on a path that saw us groundshare at four grounds losing our status, fans and money along the way, until we moved into Ruislip in 2008.
During that long spell, I took on the role of Club Secretary for about six years and was a Club Director for a similar (overlapping) period. The whole Board was fans and with a lot of help from those on the terraces we tried to keep the club afloat and put a team out every week. We truly were a fan’s owned club, and probably the first – certainly before those (Enfi*ld, AFC Wombles and FCUM) that think they started it all! It was simple really – the football at times was bloody awful, but outside of matchdays rarely did people complain, Board Fans and Friends alike just dug a bit deeper to see what we could do to make things better and put a few quid more in the kitty. Even now, though no longer solely reliant on fans to fund the team etc, those same fans (around 250 of us) own shares in the limited company – Wealdstone FC (2000) Limited.
Aside from the day to day stuff, I spent five years researching the Club History, which with another fan and Board Member, Pete Worby who looked after the Stats, we published in 2002 two years after we celebrated our Centenary. The reason for the delay? Well, we found about 13 years of pre-history of Wealdstone FC which has previously been forgotten (or at least not remembered!)…in truth it means that the club could have been founded as far back as 1887 with three or four further options leading up to 1898, but it most definitely was NOT founded in 1899, the (still) officially recorded date! (The History is out of print but the odd copy comes up now and then on Ebay – however Pete has written another covering the last 70 years which I’m sure is still available in the WFC Megastore online or in the ground…..see! still looking to raise a few quid….)
Getting the book-bug, I then wrote the Biography of Gordon Bartlett who managed the club for22 years through all the bad times – and brought us some success on the way – it wasn’t all tough times as we climbed from Isthmian Div III to National League South under his stewardship (Its called ‘Off The Bench’ and is currently still available on Amazon Kindle), and more recently And sometimes, the dog was busy! The biography of Fergus Moore – 26 years as a non-league player, now a player-manager and a former ‘Stone. (Also available online at all good book stores and Amazon, and also available in the Megastore!)
Now, I turn up, stand on the terraces and moan and groan and cheer with the rest.
How’s ‘the Stones’ form been recently and are you confident heading into the game against ‘the Gulls’?
I had a car once that I loved and cherished. It would run really well, then every so often, something would go tits up and for no apparent reason it would stutter and fart – sometimes it would recover in a second or two, on other occasions it wouldn’t recover until perhaps the next time I took it out. There was no apparent reason for it to go wrong, nor did I ever put my finger on exactly what the problem was.
Stones are the same, and for as long as I can remember always have been. On top of their game, we’ll beat anyone, but sometimes….
What were the expectations for the club heading into 18-19 and what have been the highlights of the season so far?
There was some instability last season, new management after so long, chopping and changing players and never really establishing a pattern of play that suited all. This season we in the main were looking for some stability, improvement on the field with new personnel and hopefully, a crack at the play-offs with a decent cup run. We still have two chances….
The highlights are the improvements overall – even in those games we’ve lost there have been bright spots, be that individual performances, goals or whatever. And away days. Wealdstone fans love an away trip….you’ll see that later in the season!
Which players should we look out for on Saturday and why?
Tough question. It’s a competent squad built on players that do their job in the main. The defensive unit is solid and experienced – Jon North in goal has been here since 2010, only losing his place through a serious injury a few years ago, the centre backs are a new partnership but compliment each other, and the full backs if they continue to develop could both go on to better things. Midfield and forwards when they gel can be a delight to watch…I suppose in reality, if they were all excellent all the time, they wouldn’t be at this level, but as I said above, on their day….
Have you got the right gaffer in charge and what sort of tactics does he employ?
I wasn’t particularly a Bobby Wilkinson fan at first, but this season, with ‘his’ team, results don’t lie – we’re 4th going into this game – so at the very least he deserves and has earned respect. If he can tinker and change where he needs to (and within the budget) and we continue to progress, yes, he has to be the right man. It’s a results business after all.
Who owns/runs the club and what are their plans for the future of Wealdstone FC?
We have a relatively new Chairman and Vice Chairman, a couple of new Directors and a change in attitude. The intention, I believe, is to improve and develop the ground and the club, and to progress on the field. If we make the play-offs, its because we want to win them. One constant (even when we didn’t have a pot to pee in) was ambition. Now, we are in a better position financially that we have been for years, but its not a bottomless pocket or series of pockets. We still have to develop and bring in money from outside.
There are still members of the former Board involved on the new board and in the club as a whole – people who have been through the hard times and also want the best for the club going forward – they, like the fans, have a place in the future of the club. If the product on the field is good, there is fantastic potential in what we have and have built over thirty years. Even if sometimes it needs a kick in the right direction.
Tell us some interesting facts about Wealdstone FC?
OK, the bits you probably know – Stuart Pearce played 241 times for Wealdstone from 16-21 before we sold him onto superstardom. Vinnie Jones played around 75 times at the start of his career (he was working as a groundsman where Wealdstone trained one pre-season, and asked if he could join in….). Both are full International Captains (England and Wales respectively) I can’t think of another non-league club that has that in their history?
Wealdstone were the first club to do the non-league double, winning the Conference (now the National League) and the FA Trophy in the same season (1984-85), sadly in the days before automatic promotion to the Football League. (Yes, Torquay did apply for re-election that season…..).
Wealdstone played at Wembley three times in separate competition finals and have won all 3: Middlesex Red Cross Cup Final 1942, FA Amateur Cup 1966, FA Trophy 1985. In October 1946, the BBC decided to show a live Amateur Football match. The first match selected was Wealdstone v Barnet on October 19th (Barnet won 3-2). The coverage stopped however 20 minutes from the end due to bad light and rain (though the match continued).
Wealdstone also had an FA Cup match televised live in 1949 when they visited Edgware Town in the FA Cup 3rd Qual. (Wealdstone won 1-0) and the BBC followed up by showing Wealdstone’s next tie live – against Colchester United on November 12th (another Wealdstone win, 1-0).
Wealdstone have never lost to Torquay United, the clubs having only met once, in a friendly in 1976, Stones winning 3-1 at home. Wealdstone’s Dennis Byatt rivals Pat Kruse for the fastest own goal in a game….
What’s Grosvenor Vale like, how’s the atmosphere at home games and what sort of attendances do you get?
Quaint old style ground, various bits and bobs originally in situ supplemented by new covered ends and a stand. It’s a work in progress – and there is some to do – but jeez, you should have seen it when we moved in!
Atmosphere can be pretty intense especially for night games, and Stones fans shall we say ‘have been known to express themselves’ at a game… Attendance wise, we’ve hit just over 1000 three times this season – on Saturday depending on how many you bring, I’d think somewhere in the 800 area.
Can you recommend some pubs for the travelling Yellow Army to grab pre-game refreshments?
The Clubhouse is welcoming as long as Billy Big Bollox is left at home, and the Wetherspoons pub by Ruislip Manor Station is popular with home and away fans alike. For the Craft ale fans, there are a couple of places nearby, but they are small and generally well supported locally!
What are your thoughts on TUFC entering the league (if any!) and give us a match prediction for Saturday?
If you were too good for this league over the last couple of years, you wouldn’t be in it. Potentially, you should be top three at least, but this is football and at this level there are players who are good enough to take anyone apart on their day – too many off days, and you’ll be punished.
As for Saturday? I think there will be a goal in it either way, but I’ll go 2-1 Wealdstone.
PS any room on the coach? Could save me a drive up….. Haha, that’s brilliant Roger and I’m sure the accommodating TUFC Travel Club could fit you in, thanks for the interview. Dom
*Below is a link for Roger’s latest book “And sometimes the dog was busy”