Stow FC under new management

David O’Driscoll interviews the new face behind his local team

Nicky Ironton (credit: Andrzej Perkins)

In football, as in life, the only constant is change. You find a team, get attached, pick a favourite player or two and even learn to appreciate the manager and then, in the blink of an eye, it’s a different beast entirely. This is what has happened for fans of Walthamstow FC.

After the club’s runaway success last season, they had a shaky start in the new Southern Central League and, to the surprise of many of the fans, have shed their former management duo – John Mackie and Terry Spillane – as “performances have not been at the level expected”. What’s more, at a recent game I attended, I spotted just one player from last season’s team on the pitch.

I caught up with the new man in charge, Nicky Ironton, to get his thoughts and learn more about him. Ironton had a lengthy playing career, starting as a professional at Queens Park Rangers, and boasts an extraordinary non-league managerial pedigree with success at a long list of clubs. He guided Welwyn Garden City to playoffs last season until they were informed at the last minute that their ground was not up to the required standard for promotion and, as a result, promptly resigned.

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He had numerous offers but wanted some time out of the game before accepting Walthamstow. “I was impressed by the club’s ambition and fan base,” he told me. “The fact that they get up to 500 per game is excellent at this level. I felt I could not turn down this opportunity.”

Describing his strategy, Ironton said: “I like my teams to play on the front foot, attacking football. I am not a fan of the long ball game.” He has coached at all levels, including youth football, and believes that a crucial aspect of his success is having the right team around him. It’s clear he knows what works, as he helped start the careers of some top ex-premier league players, including Dave Kitson and Craig Mackail-Smith.

Ironton believes it’s not too late for Stow to get into the playoffs this season, arguing that this is “where [the club] should be”. He acknowledges the challenge he faces and the massive turnover of players since he arrived and, as a result, is still searching for that missing ingredient. “I feel it’s not far away now,” he said. “This is a good team we are building here. We are just outside the playoff and it’s a long season.”

If there is anyone who knows how to get Walthamstow promoted, it must be Ironton, as one of the most experienced and managers in the non-league. Wherever he has gone, he has enjoyed success and knows the Southern Central League well. Fans can be confident that the club is in good hands.

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