Why I joined the Walthamstow rabbleDavid O'Driscoll on how Walthamstow FC won his heart
For modern football fans in our corner of London, devotion to the sport often comes at an extraordinary cost, in a very literal rather than emotional sense, thanks to the eye-popping price of match tickets. It’s a common complaint that professional football in this country is nowadays motivated more by profits than a commitment to the sport. As the late England manager Graham Taylor once said: “People think there must be a lot of thinking in this Premier League, there is none … I think a lot of this is based on greed.”
Dissatisfied with the lack of any real connection with fans at league level, I like - like many others - have turned to non-league football, which is how I came to support our own Walthamstow FC. What I found in Stow was a welcome and innovative club, determined to engage with the local community, who are also at the current moment shredding the Essex Senior League like it was so much wrapping paper.
Stow, formerly Pennant, are nine points ahead of their nearest rivals, despite having played fewer games, which is an unsurprising achievement for a team of fit and skilful players. In the games I have watched, they’ve played an aggressive game with two wingers, thanks to the competent joint-management of ex-Orient stalwart John Mackie and long-standing manager Terry Spillane, who has extensive knowledge of the non-league scene. While it may be the ninth tier of non-league, this means they are just eight promotions away from the premier league!
You don’t need big pockets to watch the Stow. In fact, as an NHS worker, I am the proud owner of a free season ticket, one of the many fine local initiatives by the club. This has also included recent free coach travel for supporters to a game in Essex and their efforts to drum up donations for a local food bank. Thanks to sponsorship from Walthamstow brewery Exale, the games always have an excellent range of beers available and, fingers crossed, in the future there will be an opportunity for a local company to provide a selection of food too. As an old punk, I also appreciated the quirky choice of half-time entertainment, which included classic bands from the late 70s.
I’m proud to join the ‘Waltham Rabble’, a group of fans of all ages that have a great bond with the players and truly get behind the team, who come over to celebrate with them at the end of the match. For this particularly disillusioned modern fan, watching the ‘Stow’ is an antidote to the often soulless modern game.
Find out more about the team at the Walthamstow FC website or follow fans on Twitter at @WalthamRabble