We are the championsWalthamstow FC chairman, manager and fan reflect on their road to victory
Walthamstow FC celebrated the end of a highly successful season on 23rd April, when they were formally crowned champions of the Essex Senior League. In the aftermath, I spoke to co-manager John Mackie, the club’s chairman Andy Perkins and a local fan to reflect on their path to victory.
John Mackie took on his role, sharing management responsibilities with Terry Spillane, at the start of the season, a decision he admits “was a risk” given the pair had never met, although luckily they “clicked” almost instantly. After pre-season training sessions, they decided to play a straightforward 4-4-2 formation, as "the players understood their role in that system", and he feels sticking to this formula was one of the keys to their success.
(credit: Andrzej Perkins)
“We were playing several teams with a higher standing than us and did very well, which gave us confidence going into the season” he said, “I knew after five games that we could win the league." The key game for Mackie was a hard-fought 1-0 win over league favourites Enfield, thanks to a last-minute goal. He added that he takes particular pride in the fact that Stow are such a community-oriented club, adding: "I love the rapport the team has with the fans. The fact we are getting crowds of 500-plus for this level is brilliant.”
At the start of the season, club chairman Andy Perkins was simply hoping the team would earn 40 points, enough to save them from relegation. It was only when they passed this threshold, he said, that he “could relax and start to enjoy the season”.
Like John, the club’s community feel is a vital aspect for him, which is why Stow FC will continue to offer free season tickets for NHS workers, teachers and social care staff next year, when most other organisations will have quietly resigned their offers for “Covid heroes”. Perkins is also keen to see more kids in the benches next season, hoping to inspire the kind of lifelong passion and loyalty that led him to chair the club. “I started watching this club as a kid,” he said, “This started my love affair." To this end, he has been delighted with the growing number of spectators, which he says has included many families.
(credit: Andrzej Perkins)
Alex Perry, a member of fan group the “Rabble”, paints a “warm and welcoming” portrait of the match day experience, adding: "On the terraces, the fans are good natured, sing funny songs from So Solid Crew to Barry Manilow (really!) and let off confetti cannons when we score.”
For him, a highlight of the season was not a particular game or goal but a food bank drive organised by the club in December of last year, which resulted in a huge pile of donations and £1,000 raised for Eat or Heat. Perry said: ”When we arrived an hour before kick-off, there was already a huge pile of donations from the players! At a time when society is increasingly divided, football is still something that can bring people together and strangers can bond over.”
All connected with the club are optimistic about the forward march of Walthamstow FC next season, when they are expected to play in the Isthmian League. Certainly, if the momentum and interest generated this season carry into the next, it could be another successful year.
Bring it on!
The print version of this article accidentally re-named Alex Perry. Sorry A