In his amateur football column, Scott Lanza discovers a young club with a bulging trophy cabinet
In just over ten years Chingford Athletic FC has gone from being a group of friends deciding to form a team to a successful trophy-winning club.
Athletic was formed in 2007 and duly joined the Ilford & District League, starting in Division One. Promotion was achieved in 2009 and subsequently the Premier Division title was lifted in 2011, after which the club made its first foray into the Essex Olympian League. The club spent a mere two seasons in Division Three, finishing in the bottom half of the table during both campaigns. Chairman and manager Lee Bowers explained that the club had to spend four years out of the Olympian League to regroup: “The club was not in a great place, morale was low, so we went back to basics and returned to the Ilford & District League.”
That step back saw the team cement a reputation as a forward-thinking club. More silverware came in with a second Premier Division title being added to the trophy cabinet, before back-to-back Essex Alliance Premier Division titles in 2015 and 2016. County Cup success also came in 2015/16 when the club lifted the Essex Junior Cup, before the treble was landed at the end of that campaign with the Essex Alliance Fenton Cup – a prize retained a year later.
Bowers feels the reputation of the first team has now been established and the club is growing with a reserve and under-21s side planned for the 2018/19 season. The club also runs youth and veterans’ teams and achieved FA Charter status, an accreditation scheme for grassroots football, in 2016.
This past season the club made a successful return to the Essex Olympian League and were placed in Division Four. Bowers was hoping to be placed in Division Three rather than a division primarily made up of reserve teams, and having had a good pre-season campaign Athletic started with a 7-0 win before going on to lift the title with 52 points – ten more than their nearest rivals.
Bowers also led his team to another Essex Junior Cup Final but lost a cracker to Oracle Components, who went on to win a topsy-turvy game in extra time. That disappointment soon turned to joy as the Division Four title saw the club promoted up to Division Two.
Next season the club will be plying its trade at its highest-ever level and everything seems to be in place for Chingford Athletic to move forward. Sponsorship is now provided by the Essex House Bar and Lux Lighting, two Chingford-based businesses, and Bowers is targeting promotion into Division One for next season.
Bowers said the club was now urgently looking for a base in Chingford that allows them to continue playing at this level. “The club had to move out of the borough in order to make the step up in standard,” he explained. “We had to set up a ground share agreement with Buckhurst Hill to get us back into the Olympian League.”
Next season Chingford Athletic will be playing games at Buckhurst Hill and Tower Mead in Waltham Abbey, although the under-21s will be playing games in Chingford. The ultimate aim is to have a home in Chingford where the club can realise its ambitions.