The stalwart of Stow

In praise of Walthamstow FC’s current longest-serving player, writes David O’Driscoll

Attacking midfielder Callum Ibe (credit: Alfie Dee)

Over the last season there have been a lot of changes at Walthamstow FC, with both managers and players coming and going, but one constant has remained: attacking midfielder Callum Ibe.

Ibe is the club’s current longest-serving player, having made over 100 appearances on the pitch and scored 40 goals during his four seasons with Stow. In my time watching him, I have always been impressed with his joie de vivre; he always wants the ball and is very quick, direct and looking to score. His versatility has also struck me. In the time I’ve been in the supporters stands, I’ve seen him play in defence, midfield and attack.

I’m not alone in my admiration. Ibe is a clear favourite among Walthamstow FC’s core fan group, “The Rabble”, who have created two chants in his honour. These are “Sweet Callum Ibe”, a play on Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline, and a chant about his short-lived transfer to Enfield FC. Ibe was one of a few Stow players to move to Enfield – who were, at the time, the biggest rivals for the Essex League title – but, after not settling in there, promptly rejoined his old club. To the tune of Amy Winehouse’s Rebab, fans now sing: “They tried to make Cal go to Enfield, he said ‘Stow! Stow! Stow!’”

It’s clear Enfield FC has not forgotten this slight. Rabble member Alex Perry recalls: “When we lost at Enfield away last year, they played Sweet Caroline on the tannoy to wind him up. So it was very sweet when Ibe got a last-minute winner against them in the return fixture.”

Perry adds: “Callum is very popular with the fans because he clearly gets Walthamstow.” Ibe is always first to celebrate with the fans and often leads the team over to shake their hands at the end of each game, showing the team’s appreciation for the support. On his hundredth appearance for the Stow, he was even given a special celebratory bottle by the Rabble.

Before Stow, Ibe played with several local Essex league teams but his best football to date has come this season at Wadham Lodge. Despite the step up from the Essex League to the Southern League, he has already performed extraordinarily, scoring six goals across 27 appearances so far.

New manager Nicky Ironton says he was impressed from the first minute, adding that Ibe is “an integral part of the team ethos”. “His attitude, honesty and desire to be part of the new team was hugely impressive,” he told me, “[Ibe] embraced the way I wanted to play, he seemed to have a new lease of life.

“He has been outstanding in every game he’s played and scored numerous goals, been Man of the Match on three occasions and been a massive part of our climb up the table.”

Everyone I spoke to felt Ibe had never played better than this season. It is clear that if Walthamstow are to challenge for a spot in the end-of-season playoffs, they need sweet Callum Ibe to be firing on all cylinders.

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