The original inhabitants of Brisbane Road are now making a name for themselves in E17, writes Scott Lanza
Walthamstow FC is the latest name for a club that has had a far from straightforward history since its inception in 1868.
One of the longest-running football clubs in the country, Walthamstow FC’s history encompasses Leyton FC, one of the great names in amateur football that won a number of honours. Their pinnacle was perhaps being FA Amateur Cup winners for two consecutive seasons back in the 1920s.
Along the way, the club has reformed three times before merging to become Leyton Wingate; then when both clubs went their own separate ways Leyton merged with Pennant FC and was renamed Leyton Pennant. The club was subsequently known as Waltham Forest FC from 2003 until the end of last season.
As I met chairman Andy Perkins, I had to start by asking what was the thinking behind renaming the club Walthamstow FC. He said: “We have been outside of Leyton since 1995, playing at Wadham Lodge in Walthamstow, then a period in exile at Ilford’s Cricklefield Stadium, before returning to Wadham Lodge in 2013.
“We decided that to unite ourselves with the people of Walthamstow and be their community club meant taking a name that reflected where we are currently based.”
The rebuilding process started last season when previous chairman Turget Esengali sadly passed away. For a while it looked like the club was on the verge of disbanding, but the change of name has seen a massive overhaul. The club is now looking to open a youth academy and restart its ladies team to become a football club that offers opportunities for all ages to play football.
Current manager Ryan Maxwell has been instrumental in the club’s rebirth as he took over the reins last season, with the club embroiled in a relegation battle. The club’s Essex Senior League (ESL) status was only preserved after the club went unbeaten through the final five games of the season. Maxwell, having secured Walthamstow’s ESL status, has made a number of signings that have helped pitch the club at the top end of the table. The ESL title may still be out of reach, but it is something to build on for the future.
Meanwhile, the club has started to pick up a following from locals, many of whom have become disillusioned with the cost, not to mention the difficulty, in obtaining tickets for Premier League football. The fans have called themselves ‘The Rabble’ and they have started supporting the club, home and away, with vocal backing.
Club chairman Andy said: “There were forty of them at our last match and they are growing all the time.”
The fans will even have their own song to sing soon, as long-time fan Graham Larkbey, with his band The Lodgers, is recording a track that will be available to listen to from the club’s website.
Walthamstow FC are also keen to offer assistance to semi-pro players with mental health problems. “There is support for professional players but nothing for non-league players,” said Andy. “We want to raise awareness and offer support.”
A fundraising game with Clapton Community FC is in the pipeline to support this erstwhile project, with the GMB trade union also working with the club to bring it to fruition.
A game with Leyton Orient FC is also planned to celebrate Walthamstow’s 150th anniversary. While the O’s themselves were formed in 1881, it is Walthamstow and their forebears that have been around the longest, with Leyton FC having also been the original occupants of the stadium that Orient now call home.
As Walthamstow FC embark on the latest chapter of a fascinating local football story that has seen many reformations and rebrandings, hopefully the next few years will bring more success.
For more information about Walthamstow FC and to hear their new song: