Wadham Lodge Sports Ground
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Ground Number: 324
Saturday 24th May 2014
Wadham Lodge 3-0 Newbury Forest
Essex Olympian League
A HISTORY OF FOOTBALL AT WADHAM LODGE
Many teams have played at Wadham Lodge and for my first visit, I saw a team that shared its name with the ground. They were formed in 2008 in response to Waltham Forest's decision to leave the ground. Their first season was spent in the Essex Business Houses Football League where they finished 3rd. They moved to the Essex Olympian League, winning Division 3 and Division 2 in consecutive seasons. A couple of seasons were spent in Division 1 before the club were promoted to the Premier Division after finishing as runners-up to Bishops Stortford Swifts in 2013. A couple of seasons were spent in the Premier Division before they joined the Essex Senior League, the best finish coming in their debut season of 2015/16 when they finished 6th. Generally, they struggled though. A name change to Leyton Athletic in 2018 failed to improve matters and they lasted just one full season before folding in September 2019 - ironically after failing to secure a home ground. They progressed to the FA Vase 2nd Round in 2016 and the FA Cup Preliminary Round in 2018.
The current main tenant was formed in 1995 as a merger between Leyton (1868) and Walthamstow Pennant (1959) although confusingly, another Leyton FC played at a senior level from 1997 onwards. The club changed its name to Waltham Forest in 2003 before another name change to Walthamstow in 2018. Their early years were spent in the Isthmian League and their debut season of 1995/96 saw them finish 4th in the Isthmian D1 - at the time a step 3 league. The club suffered a relegation to step 4 in 2000 and despite a couple of 8th place finishes in 2007 and 2008, they suffered another relegation to step 5 - and the Essex Senior League - where they have played ever since. A third-place finish in 2019 had been their best finish in recent seasons. An excellent fanzine, 'If I hadn't seen such riches' was bought out, but the pandemic had bought a halt to this, as well as resulting in two cancelled seasons. The club reached the FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round on a few occasions as well as the 3rd Round of the FA Vase during the 2001/02 season. They spent a period away from Wadham Lodge following a dispute with the owner of the ground, sharing at Ilford between 2008 and 2013.
A number of other teams have played at Wadham Lodge. The fan-led club, Clapton CFC spent their early years playing at both Wadham Lodge's main pitch, plus the outside pitch which was given the nickname 'The Stray Dog'. It was a dispute with the original Clapton club's owner Vincent McBean that led to the new club being formed - and their forced exile from the original Spotted Dog ground led to the new name. It was a decent venue with a railed pitch and a stand but when they needed floodlights, they moved to the main ground. Ironically, the Wadham Lodge venue, was closer, by a whisker, to the centre of Clapton, than the original club's home in Forest Gate. With the new club now returning 'home' and the original Clapton FC now exiled at Southend Manor (ironically, a club that banned the Clapton FC fans that formed the new club due to their pyro displays). West Essex FC was formed in 1989 and played at Highams Park in East London. They moved to Barking FC in 2015 when the need for better facilities arose. They moved to Wadham Lodge in 2021 - they've been in the Essex Senior League since 2016 and had a best-ever finish of 7th in 2018. The club made unremarkable progress in the FA competitions, but I'll delve more into their FA Cup record below.
The ground is located in Walthamstow, a large town in East London or if you prefer, Essex. The population is just under 110,000. It is home to Europe's longest street market at two-thirds of a mile long. It is home to five railway stations - Walthamstow Central, Walthamstow Queens Road, Blackhorse Road, St James Street and Wood Street. Several bus routes pass through the area too. The most famous people from the area are boyband East 17 who take their name from the town's postcode. Other famous people from the town include politician and former Prime Minister Clement Atlee, footballer Fitz Hall and actress Daniella Westbrook. As well as football, there is also a cricket club in the town. There used to be a greyhound stadium in the area but this closed in 2008. It also hosted speedway and stock car racing and is now a housing estate.
MY FIRST VISIT
For what was to be my 132nd and final game of the season, I was not going to have much choice of where to go. I wanted somewhere with a stand that I could photograph, and my first thought was Whitwell in the Hertfordshire Senior League who I was informed had a stand. I had enjoyed watching Belstone in the same league last week and so it seemed like a good idea. But then I saw that Wadham Lodge were at home in the Essex Olympian League. I checked with the club that they were playing in the stadium that Waltham Forest plays in. They were very helpful via Twitter and so I decided to give that league a go, possibly doing something beforehand and making a bit of a day of it. I'd decided to go early on the day if the weather played ball and though the forecast for the weather was torrential rain all day, it was overcast and fairly dry when I woke. I initially intended to go to Bovingdon Market before the game as I had not been there for a while but had intended to leave about 11.30. After seeing there was quite a lot to do in nearby Walthamstow, I decided to leave an hour earlier and try and spend some time there pre-match. I got to Bovingdon just after 11 and it had completely changed from when I last went. There were some of the stalls that had been there for years, but happily, for me, it seems to have been taken over by fake clothes stalls. I got myself 2 branded genuine fake T-Shirts and a hoody for a tenner and it reminded me of years ago in Turkey when I used to bring back a load of stuff from my holiday. The T-Shirts were a bit thin, but the hoody was of lovely quality - thick and soft inside and I was dead pleased with it. I wasn't overly hungry but I saw a stall selling Caribbean food and fancied trying myself a jerk chicken dumpling. I was glad I did as it was absolutely delicious and something that I want more of. I also got myself some cherries for £1.
I got back to my car at 11.40 and put 'Waltham Forest' into my SatNav, expecting to get to the ground they share with Wadham Lodge. The POI file that I had downloaded off the non-league forum had served me well, guiding me well most of the time and a lot more accurate than just a postcode or road name as it directed me spot on to the car park. At least most of the time I did. There were some times where the file was out of date or it got its knickers in a twist and I ended up in the middle of some housing estate. But my main concern when putting the ground in, was that for some reason there was 40 minutes delay on the M25, so I had to add on extra miles and go cross country. I thought it was a bit odd that I saw no signs for Walthamstow when I came off the big A road, but I persisted through the built-up traffic. I was most dismayed when I pulled up outside the home of Ilford FC which isn't the most inspiring venue at the best of times, let alone when you are aiming for somewhere else altogether. I got there at 1.10 and had to reprogram my Sat Nav with the street address for the ground. So I had to make the 7.2-mile journey back over to Walthamstow, arriving there at 1.40. My original plan was to walk into town and go to the Rose and Crown pub which was supposed to be half decent. But with less than an hour to kick-off and it being 20 minutes walk each way, I had no realistic chance of going, having a pint and making it back, especially when I wanted food too. Luckily there was a row of shops and also a pub a few minutes walk from the ground. I went to a pub called the Dog and Duck and the choice wasn't great so I just got a pint of Strongbow while I checked Facebook on my phone. I then went to the fried Chicken Place next door and had a mediocre but filling chicken fillet and chips for the wallet-friendly price of £1.80. As I had drunk all my Irn Bru while sitting in traffic, I stopped at a shop on the way back to the ground to get a few cans for the match. It was an East European shop and so I got a few Latvian ciders to take back to the car and to have with the Champions League Final later. I got back to the ground bang on kick-off as the players were in the tunnel, but needed to nip out to go to the toilet before I took my seat for the game. I got back in and the game was already underway, but I didn't miss any action. As they were playing, I walked around and got some pictures of the ground.
I couldn't find much information about Wadham Lodge FC but I do know that they were in 9th place in the league, with their opponents just above them in 7th. Newbury Forest FC was founded in 2003 as a Sunday League team and in the words of themselves 'lost almost every game'. But things improved, the club was expanded with other teams and they eventually made the switch to Saturday football in 2008 joining the Romford and District League, They won that at the first attempt and gained promotion to the Essex and Suffolk Border League and were placed in its second tier. They won that at the first attempt too. After doing well in the Premier Division they transferred to the Essex Olympian League and are currently hoping to gain promotion to the Essex Senior League in the future, though this is dependent on them finding a home of their own or a suitable venue to share at. The game wasn't up to much and the most interesting thing of note was the weather which was clear and sunny one minute, then torrential rain, thunder and lightning the next. It was your typical end of season game with chances at a premium. The opening goal came on 35 minutes when a good cross was put into the box and Newbury Forest's big number 5 deflected it into the net. It was pretty equal in terms of play, but Wadham's number 7 who reminded me of Danny Welbeck had been causing the visitors a few problems. It was a bit more lively second half, with the home side, playing in white, looking the better side. Newbury had their chances though and they had the ball in the net on 58 minutes but it was ruled out for offside. They had also previously hit the post. The lead was doubled for the home side moments later as the experienced number 14 powerfully shot in from inside the area. The game was sewn up later on when the number 2 taped in from inside the area to make it 3-0. It hadn't been awful, neither had it been a cracker.
I think on balance that the Hertfordshire League game that I saw last week was a better quality league than the Essex Olympian League, but it's hardly a scientific or fair experiment with just the single game in each. After the game, I went home, getting home at 5.30. I had a nice curry for dinner, doing the usual in the evening as well as watching the Champions League Final. It also marked the end of my season which started in Kent on the 29th of June last year. Over £2500 and 14000 miles later, I had seen 420 goals as well as meeting some amazing people and seeing some nice places. It had cost a fair wedge, about 20% of my income, but all in all it had been worth it. Roll on next season, which hopefully will start on 28th June.
MY SECOND VISIT
I'm a huge fan of the FA Cup and was hoping to see a game in every round, The EFL fixture computer stymied me somewhat, putting out a Wycombe home fixture on each round date for the umpteenth season in a row. It would have to be a Friday night game if I was to get my 'fix' and thankfully a number of clubs obliged. West Essex FC was the most attractive of these. It would mean a revisit to a ground that I'd not been to since 2014 and also a nice train trip. The research was a tad confusing, like their near-neighbours Dagenham and Redbridge, the history of the original tenants of Wadham Lodge had a complicated history of mergers and breakaway clubs. I started my research the previous Saturday evening with a couple of pints muddying the waters even more.
I did my research with regards to pubs and food in the week, finding that there was plenty of choice. The standout drinking place was the Trap taproom, which appeared to have a decent selection of ciders. My modus operandi had very much changed since my first visit and I wish I'd gone more on the train back then. The day of the game came and it was a busy and tiring one at work. I was pleased to finish at 3 and was parked up in Amersham by 3.30. Ten minutes later I was at the station and meeting Colin. It wasn't the best start with a cancelled train due to staff shortages, so we had to wait until 4.10 for the next one. Luckily, my pre-match plans were still doable, even if time would be tighter. There were more delays but we eventually got to Walthamstow at 5.45. It was a 15 minute walk to the Trap Taproom, an excellent real cider place. I had pints of Luke's Vintage Draught (a new one) and Turners Perry. Both were excellent and helped alleviate stress caused by the delays and Colin's excessive flatulence. We left at 6.35 and I picked up an excellent Jerk Wrap and seasoned fries from Indie Roots on the way. We were at the ground by 7.15 and I paid £7 entry, £1 for a programme and £2 for a pen.
It was 19 miles from St Panteleimon's base at North Greenford to tonight's game. West Essex were in their fifth FA Cup campaign but they'd not enjoyed a great deal of success. They'd got to the Preliminary Round three times - losing 4-1 at Potters Bar in 2017, 3-0 at Heybridge Swifts in 2018 and 5-1 at New Salamis in 2020. The New Salamis game was their record loss whilst their record win was 6-3 against Crawley Green Sports in the previous round. That game was their only 'home' game out of seven ties - though they were drawn at home to Whitton United, the game was played at Redbridge FC, owing to their usual ground at Barking FC being unavailable. St Panteleimon were making their debut in the competition and had yet to complete a season following their promotion from the Middlesex County League two years ago. They appeared to have Greek origins. St Panteleimon started brightly but it was West Essex that took the lead after 3 minutes. The visitors failed to clear their lines and Demetris Frangeskides poked the ball home from close range. It was 1-1 ten minutes later, a square ball from the right was converted to square things up. On 22 minutes, West Essex were back in front, an excellent 25-yard free-kick scored by Callum Bloss. The visitors had a good period of pressure but it remained 2-1 at the break. Ten minutes into the second half, it was 3-1 thanks to Moyo Ajibade getting away from the defence and sidestepping the keeper. He somersaulted for a celebration but the game wasn't over just yet. St Panteleimon pulled back on the hour, a free-kick was put in from the left and ended up in the back of the net, maybe via a slight deflection. The game was sewn up on 82 minutes when Bloss completed his brace to make it 4-2.
The game ended on a sour note for Ajibade as he received a second yellow for delaying play or something he said to the referee. It was a silly and needless one and a shame as he'd had a really good game. It was soon time to leave but we stopped briefly as Colin hadn't eaten. I also got a drink but we were back at the station by 10.20. The Victoria Line ran as scheduled and we were at St Pancras by 10.40. That was where it went tits up. The Metropolitan Line was still screwed from earlier and we missed our Chiltern Line train by five minutes after walking to Marylebone. It was a disgrace of a service for a capital city, with us having to wait until 11.57 for our train. It was inconvenient more than anything but London has hardly been selling itself well lately with numerous stabbings. There were a ton of unfortunate homeless people that the government continue to fail and the first 20 minutes on our train were accompanied by a group having a big row like an episode of Eastenders. Even then, the train was delayed by 5 minutes which meant it was past midnight by the time we got going. The journey took an age seemingly, but we were back at Amersham by 12.40. After dropping Colin off, I was back home by 1.10. It had been a right faff, but was it worth it, for a revisit. Of course it was, it was the FA Cup and I'd had a brilliant evening. I had a couple of pints, watching Corrie and typing my blog before going to bed around 3 am.
WADHAM LODGE was a good ground for Ryman League level and surely will be one of the best in the Essex Senior League and indeed the Essex Olympian League next season. With both goals having decent-sized covered terracing and the main stand holding around 300 it is just the far side that is open. None of the facilities were open today as it is mainly Waltham Forest's ground.
A brief update to my ground description my second visit. As with many grounds, I enjoyed it far more the second time around. It had been smartened up a bit and was probably good enough for step 2, if not step 3. Parking and transport links are sufficient. The only things that are a bit of a letdown are the food and drink with only basic facilities at the ground. There's more mediocrity near the ground or if you walk the 20 minutes into Walthamstow, there are an enormous range of places, with more Caribbean places than I've seen before in one place. I'd recommend Indie Roots and the Trap taproom although do your research and find something that will suit your tastes.