Submitted by: Andrej Perkins
Football is a simple game, played by 22 people on a grass field, with a leather ball. It is perhaps surprising then that football in the borough of Waltham Forest has a far more complicated and convoluted history.
The borough’s oldest club, Waltham Forest F.C. can trace their history back to 1868, giving them a claim to be the second oldest club in Greater London. The original club, Leyton, disbanded and reformed several times before becoming one of the powerhouses of non-league football. They won the FA Amateur Cup – the Football Association’s premier cup competition for non-league sides on three occasions, and were runners-up twice.
The 1951-52 final was played at Wembley in front of over 100,000 people, with an estimated 50,000 more locked out.
In 1975, the club merged with Wingate FC, to become Leyton Wingate, but reverted to Leyton FC in 1992 as the ‘Wingate’ side of the club linked up with Finchley, to become Wingate & Finchley.
In 1995, spiralling ground maintenance costs saw the club leave their ground at the Hare & Hounds in Lea Bridge Road, this time merging with Walthamstow Pennant, becoming Leyton Pennant.
In 2003, now playing at their current home, Wadham Lodge in Walthamstow, the club changed their name to Waltham Forest FC.
Forest enjoyed a purple patch between 2003 and 2007, when they won the Essex Senior Cup, and made it to the fourth round of the FA Youth Cup, dispatching local rivals Leyton Orient and Premier League side West Bromwich Albion on the way. However, five years away from the borough of Waltham Forest saw dwindling crowds and eventual relegation to the Essex Senior League.
Forest refuse to lie down and die though, thanks largely to the dedication of a handful of volunteer committee members – particularly club stalwarts Tony and June Brazier, who met as teenagers on the terraces at Leyton in the late 60s. Forest are a real grassroots club, a far cry from the prawn sandwich brigade or even the relatively dizzy heights of Leyton Orient in League One.
The feel-good factor has come back to Forest recently, with community ties being established, a team playing exciting, attacking football and a move back to Wadham Lodge and the borough of Waltham Forest secured.
Latest fixtures can be seen on the club’s website: www.walthamforest-fc.co.uk. Admission £8 for adults, under 16s free.