Sport Walthamstow

From O to Stow

David O’Driscoll speaks to one half of the manager team behind Stow FC

The team celebrate during a January match against Enfield (credit: Andrzej Perkins)
The team celebrate during a January match against Enfield (credit: Andrzej Perkins)

The onward march of Walthamstow FC continues at a pace, with the team beating Ilford 3-0 in their mid-February fixture. The masterminds behind this success on the pitch are two joint managers, John Mackie and Terry Spillane, and while two managers is an unusual arrangement for a football club, it is also one that is clearly working.

I caught up with John Mackie after he finished work at his greengrocers in Highbury to reflect on his playing career and move into management. John has a strong connection with the East London area; as a boy, he trained with West Ham before being let go at 15. After that, he mainly played against his mates at the Hackney marshes until he was spotted and moved into non-league football, eventually being noticed once more by ex-Newcastle manager Alan Pardew and returning to the professional game.

Stow FC co-manager John Mackie (credit: Andrzej Perkins)

John’s primary connection with this area is through Leyton Orient, a team he made over 100 appearances with and captained to their first automatic promotion in 36 years. The seeds of his route into coaching, he says, began here, after Orient manager Martin Ling began prodding him to take on a more leadership role. “If we were not playing well, the manager would encourage me to talk to the lads at half time to point out where they were going wrong,” he recalls. John looks back warmly on his time at Orient, just as many O’s fans have fond memories of him.

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After retiring from playing himself, John became an assistant manager at several non-league clubs while he completed all his coaching badges but was always looking for the right opportunity to be the main man. Stow FC approached him at the beginning of this season to work with Terry Spillane, well-known for managing several non-league Essex clubs, Despite never having met before, John says the two of them “just clicked”, which is for the best seeing as their job sees them “speak every day, going over details of games and planning for the next one”.

John is relishing his time at Stow and says he particularly enjoys the coaching side of the game, trying to improve his players. The team trains twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and so far he’s been impressed by their finesse and group cohesion, although he notes that it “clearly helps that we are winning”. Though the team suffered a recent blip in form, with two draws and a loss, this has not proved a significant setback and John is still confident about the rest of the season. As he points out: “All the targets we set ourselves at the beginning, we are still on course for”.

For many players at his level, who have aspirations of playing higher, it seems to me that John is an ideal manager. In addition to his playing experience and good communication skills, he is palpably excited by the buzz generated by the team’s current success.

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