With the Non League coming to ubrupt last weekend due to the impact Coronavirus, this article will cover 5 of the the best strikes the Non League has seen over the 2019/20 season .
5. Dennon Lewis vs Farnborough . Wealdstone’s Dennon Lewis sweetly hit strike from the edge of the box against Farnborough comes in at 5th place on the list .
4. Gime Toure vs AFC Flyde. Hartlepool’s top forward Gime Toure treats the home faithful to a dazzling piece of skill and finish which took take home the 3 points against AFC Flyde.
3. Elliot Osbourne vs Eastleigh.Stockport County’s number 10 Osbourne hitting a wonderful half volley from the edge of the box to stun Ben Strevens’s Eastleigh side as made it 2-0 to Stockport County.
2. John Rooney vs Barnet. John Rooney’s goal is 2nd goal on this list as he follows in the footsteps of his older brother Wayne Rooney with a sensational outside the foot finish against Barnet .
1. Micheal Phillips vs Concord Rangers. Micheal Phillips breathtaking solo goal against Concord Rangers tops the list without a doubt . Phillips runs from his own area to take on numerous Rangers defenders and slot home cooly.
Those were the best of the strikes from the 2019/20 National League South season. If you think there should be a goal missing from the list or any honourable mentions feel free to comment.
To void or not to void? , that is question of many FA associates who now face heavy criticism from Non League clubs who have expressed their concern to not expunge all current results and standings of the 2019/20 season. All due to horror show Coronavirus has caused over the last couple of months .
The Football Association announced the decision to void all the National League and National League North and South, and women’s football below the Women’s Super League and Championship for this season on Thursday , all due to the recent Coronavirus outbreak .
Despite having voided those leagues below. The Premier League and EFL , the FA are said to be continuing to find a solution to fulfil the remaining fixtures in those leagues.
The Football Association spokesperson said this in a recent statement.
“The decision taken to end the 2019-20 season across Steps 3-7 of the National League System, the women’s football pyramid and the wider grassroots game was made by committee representatives for the respective leagues, and was supported by the FA Board and the FA Women’s Board.
“It will now go to the FA Council for ratification. We fully support the decision they came to during these challenging and unprecedented circumstances for English football.”
Clubs such as South Shields have expressed their anger towards the FA as they were “runaway” leaders in the Northern Premier Division as they were 12 points at the top of the table .
South Shields’s Chairman Geoff Thompson threatened he could take a legal action because of the decision to void the season , which currently is ratified by the FA Council.
64 clubs from below steps three and six of the non-League system including Worthing, Maldon & Tiptree and including South Shields teamed up with their counterparts from women’s non-League clubs .
The letter very heavily accused the FA of “ needless and inexplicable haste” and said this was “coupled with total lack of substantive dialogue or consultation with affected clubs”.
Clubs such as Jersey Bulls have also expressed their anger at the Football Association with their involvement in the letter , after they were top of the Combined Counties Division One League and despite having “won all of their 27 encounters this season” will not be given promotion.
All the 64 clubs had all agreed with the decision to stop play during the ongoing health crisis, but they were confused as to why results were voided in the lower leagues while the Premier League, EFL and others remain on hold with the hope of completing the season.
They also stated in the letter that “Most clubs in steps three to six have now completed 70-80 per cent of their league fixtures, and it is incomprehensible that these results should be delegitimised and expunged on the basis that the final quarter of the season cannot be fulfilled in the future,”.
The importance of fans and the future of football clubs financial situations were also discussed as the letter wrote “The decision also disregards the millions of pounds invested and countless hours expended collectively by clubs, and so has critical financial implications”
Following the horror outbreak of Coronavirus over the last couple months , The National League association have been forced to act upon the decision to cancel all remaining fixtures of Non League campaigns.
The impact that the coronavirus pandemic has had on these last months means that The National League, National League North and National League South divisions will be now be scrapped.
The National League had released a statement on April 22nd stating that “National League clubs were asked to support an ordinary resolution on 9 April to end the playing season for all fixtures scheduled up to and including 25 April 2020.
Non League football clubs were asked to submit their response to the National League association in regards to whether they wanted the season cancelled or the season to be continued.
The National League stated in their recent statement “With almost 90 per cent of responses returned it is evident a clear majority of clubs are in favour, including a majority of clubs in each of the National League, National League North and National League South divisions.
“In the knowledge that the ordinary resolution has passed, the League’s Board has chosen to communicate the decision now and before the last few responses are received, which will not change the outcome, to enable clubs to make business decisions with greater clarity as soon as possible.
Some clubs still needed to cast their vote on whether the National League season should be cancelled or not but since 90% of clubs decided for the season to not be completed , no more votes were accepted as a result of the more than half of the clubs in the Non League voting to end the 2019/20 campaign.
The National League also stated that they would hold talks to very carefully discuss the outcomes and finishing positions of the 2019/20 season before releasing a final and last update on season in the coming weeks .
The National League board are yet to decide if clubs are given promoted or relegated. The National league board are known to be still in thoughts if fixtures could be played behind closed doors. Clubs such as Barrow are top of the National League table by 4 points and Wealdstone are top of the National League South by 3 points with a game in hand.
Wealdstone FC host South London outfit Dulwich Hamlet in a London Derby at The Vale on Matchday 34 of the National League South.
Coming off Matchday 33 , Dean Brennan’s Wealdstone managed to keep their race for title alive as they picked a point at Princes Park : The home of Dartford FC and stayed top of the National League South.
Dulwich Hamlet come into this clash against high flying Wealdstone having failed to win in their last 3 games. Losses to Welling United , Bath City and Tombridge Angels.
Their most recent loss to Tonbridge Angels insured Dulwich Hamlet stayed just above the relegation zone on goal difference – having not registered 3 points on their travels since December.
Team news for Wealdstone sees the ineligibility of midfielder Kavan Cotter as he completed a loan move to Isthmian Premier side : Wingate and Finchley FC. Wealdstone’s Connor Smith is also unavailable as he serves a 2 match ban for the red he received against Dorking Wanderers.
Players to watch out for in this clash are Ross Lafayette of Wealdstone and Danny Mills of Dulwich Hamlet. Lafayette comes into this clash with 12 goals and is Wealdstone’s top scorer. Danny Mills leads the line for Dulwich Hamlet as their marksman with 13 goals to his name .
The last meeting between the two sides saw Gavin Rose’s Dulwich side take all 3 points as Richard Orlu’s goal gave them a 1-0 victory back in August.
Wealdstone will be looking to break the curse at home to Dulwich. Who they’ve never managed to take maximum points off having lost one and drawn one at the only two meetings they’ve had at The Vale .
Wealdstone continued their dominance of the National League South with a hard fought 2-1 win Dulwich Hamlet at The Vale coming from behind.
Quick goals in quick succession from Wealdstone’s Michele Efete and Sanchez Watt cancelled out Jeff Monakana first half penalty and insured Dean Brennan’s Wealdstone side wrapped the 3 points .
A much throughly improved Dulwich Hamlet side will be kicking themselves as they managed to go toe to toe with the league leaders. Unfortunately for Gavin Rose’s side the Hamlets left The Vale with nothing to show for their efforts .
Wealdstone started the game very well as Dennon Lewis’s individual quick break forward was cut out by Dulwich’s Nathan Smith.
Dulwich Hamlet managed to ease their way to a big chance and in the 25th minute former Wealdstone player Jeffrey Monakana played through Danny Mills on goal but was denied by a great save from Wealdstone’s Aston Oxborough.
The game erupted into life 5 minutes later as Dulwich’s Lionel Ainsworth struck a beautiful shot from the edge of the box which smashed against the bar , the rebound was collected by Danny Mills who was then fouled in the box for a Dulwich penalty .
As a result of Oxborough foul in the box on Mills , Jeffrey Monakana stepped for penalty duty on the 32nd minute and managed to cooly slot it home giving Dulwich & Hamlet a shock lead at the league leaders.
The minutes before first half didn’t see much chances for both sides as long range strikes were the only troubles made for both sets of keepers of Wealdstone and Dulwich.
The first ended with Dulwich & Hamlet having a shock 1-0 lead but their star players Danny Mills and Christian Smith were removed from the side due to injuries they sustained in that half.
Wealdstone brought on fire power of their own as Sanchez Watt and Ryan Sellers were brought onto the fields to give Wealdstone a chance to turn this game around.
Both sides started the second half the same as they played throughout the first as Dulwich & Hamlet contained Wealdstone for much larger parts of the early second half .
Dulwich almost scored a 2nd on the 56th minute mark as Wealdstone were complacent in posssesion and Dulwich’s Barbosa orchestrated a quick counter attack playing a ball out-wide to Ainsworth who’s low cross found Quade Taylor but his low strike effort was saved by Wealdstone’s Oxborough.
Wealdstone made Dulwich & Hamlet pay for the chances they couldn’t convert in the early second half as Michele Efete header looped into the net from Ashley Charles’s resulting corner giving Wealdstone the equaliser on the 68th minute mark.
Wealdstone gained a much needed boost from that equaliser as only 120 seconds later , Dean Brennan’s tactical substitute Sanchez Watt pounced sharply from Danny Green’s cross with his header entering the bottom corner.
The home faithful went into eruption as they witnessed two quick goals in the space of 2 minutes and the game now completely turned around with less than half and hour to go .
The last 20 minutes of the game saw both sides push for another goal as Wealdstone’s goal scorer almost turned assister as his defence splitting through ball into Dennon Lewis was ruled out for offside. Dulwich thought they could’ve gained equalised very late on as Ainsworth went one on one with Oxborough but Oxborough saved easily from Ainsworth’s very weak effort.
A huge win for Wealdstone as they confirmed their 15th home win of the season and stay top of the National League South with 69 points. Dulwich & Hamlet unfortunately stay in the race for releagation as they look to bounce back after a bittersweet performance.
Dean Brennan’s post match interview on the Dulwich & Hamlet result is available to listen and watch below.
All stats and numbers covering the National League South which was voided as a result of the Football Association’s decision to close steps 3-6 in the Non League pyramid .
The National League South even though has ended abruptly , the stats still are available to be for the fans and people of the National League South .
The stats are witted down the best 3 clubs in each category from top goal scorers in the league to the clubs with the most goals home or away.
Goals will be continued in this segment but who scored the most goals on their travels ? Havant and Waterlooville are the team who top the table for most goals scored away from home with 36 goals. Coming in at second are the league leaders Wealdstone who have scored 30 goals on their travels . The third club to have scored the most goals away from home are Slough Town who scored 29 goals.
The teams to have seen the most goals conceded are Braintree Town, whose fans have seen them concede 67 goals . Hungerford Town conceded 64 goals and Oxford City conceded 60 goals.
The players who have found the net the most this season have all scored 15 goals or more. Jonah Ayunga tops the list with 17 goals in 34 games for Havant & Waterlooville . Elliot Romain comes in at second with 16 goals in 33 games for Eastbourne Borough and lastly comes in Darren McQueen who scored 16 goals in 34 games.
The top 3 clubs who’ve had the highest capacity of fans average were Dulwich Hamlet who had managed to average 2,200 fans per home game , Maidstone United had brought in 1,776 fans on average and Havant & Waterlooville managed an attendance of 1,390 fans.
The last segment continues with attendance and the clubs with the lowest average attendance . Hungerford Town top the list and managed to average 326 fans. Oxford City are next on the list who averaged 353 fans and Concord Rangers averaged 414 fans.
This pandemic will be without doubt, the biggest upheaval in peace time, sport, not just football, will face. Rarity and magnitude combine to create a situation as complicated and unprecedented as this; a spotlight should be shone on how our non-league football clubs are dealing with such an encounter. I cast the net and contacted a number of non-league clubs to explore the affects of the virus outbreak and was thankful to be met by Andy Wilkins (Media Officer for Southend Manor FC), Norman Posner (Secretary of Hornchurch FC), Anthony Mercer (Secretary of Tilbury FC) and Greg Lake (Chairman of Billericay Town FC).
Once the nation was resigned to the confines of their own homes the ensuing weeks were filled to brim with rumours, headline stories and breaking news of the damaging financial effects of COVID-19, with high profile Premier League clubs exercising (and in some cases reversing) the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, placing their staff on ‘furlough’ in a bid to dampen the severity of the coinage consequences. Transfer market budgets reduced, season ticket prices frozen, sponsorships terminated, the list is endless and quite frankly decimating; one can’t bear to think of just how alarming this must be for those in the lower echelons of the sport.
“It’s a disaster” is how Mercer damningly describes it. “Since everyone was told to close down the club has been shut, literally shut, not been opened since”. Posner explains that “we have no income coming in, no income at all. Our normal income is obviously gate receipts and functions held in our club house, and then on match days – use of the bar. None of that is happening, no income is coming in”. This is a situation synonymous with the landscape of non-league football and will ring true for all non-league clubs as they attempt to steady the same boat. This exact dynamic will duplicate up and down the country. In fact, Wilkins outlines to me just how terrifying this horror story really is: “COVID-19 has hurt us badly in the pocket financially with an anticipated £2500 plus lost in our own gate fees over the course of March and April’s home fixtures we were due to play. Coincidentally, we were due to host YouTube side Hashtag United on March 14th and that would’ve brought in about a predicted £1000 at least from sales in the bar, gate and programmes due to the monumental size of their fanbase. We also predicted our home games against Saffron Walden and Woodford Town to bring in at least £350 plus apiece if not more due to the size of their fanbases.” He adds that “we were also scheduled to host a few more league games involving our tenants Clapton with Hashtag set to come play them as well at our ground later on in March, that game potentially making us miss a good £300 plus. I predict the loss of finances from those Clapton games has resulted in a loss of about £1500. We were also due to host a few cup finals and charity matches so we’ve lost an added £250 to £500 there as well. So in total, I predict in general we’ve lost about near enough £5000 at least, due to the season being cancelled early”. The pains are exacerbated as Mercer points out “the season was going really well , so the worst thing for the club and for the players and supporters is that we weren’t able to finish the season, hopefully in the playoffs: where we would have had a play-off semi-final at the end of April and a play-off final in May. The idea was to try and get promotion, that’s affected the club, it’s a real dent, we were going really well”. Time and energy has been wasted, and Posner explains, investment too: “you invest, we’ve had an investment to do what we’ve done this season, whether you think that investment has been wasted, maybe it has because we haven’t got anywhere. We wanted to get promotion to the Conference, but we haven’t, and we won’t, so we go back”.
The replication and dismantling of clubs, in the same manner as Bury FC, is a daunting but nonetheless inescapable possibility that may well come to fruition for many non-league football clubs as a result of the pandemic. Mercer accepts that “if it goes on for a long period of time, clubs at this level may go out of existence”, which he believes is “demoralising really”. Wilkins states that “I don’t wish this on any clubs but I think we will see a lot of clubs realising after this pandemic that they can’t spend outside of their means anymore and what you say is your budget for the season will need to be reimbursed, whether it be via cup run money, gate money or sponsorship money”, adding that, “I can see a few clubs in non-league withdrawing from their current league to go in a lower division as there won’t be the budgetary problem in some of them, unlike if they were to stay in a certain league they’re in. But the complications will be crazy and monumental should any fold or even withdraw between now and the start of the new football season, once the constitutions are drawn up”. Times like this cry out for optimism and Norman put forward a more sanguine view in his reply to the same question, “to be honest, no I don’t. But, football will be different. I think clubs will survive, somehow, you do, you do survive. And I mean the word ‘survive’, I don’t think there will be any clubs at our level that will go bust, that will go out of business, no I don’t think so. Because the people that run the clubs want to keep the club going, if they can’t pay X pounds, they’ll have to pay X divided by two, and get that type of player, to keep that club going. I think most clubs would want to keep going, I don’t think they’ll just pack it in – that’s a personal opinion there”.
But it’s not just this season that’s affected, or indeed defected, but future plans and ambitions are seemingly being halted too, as Lake explains, “we are on record saying that we were going to replace our pitch with an artificial one next season and build a second artificial pitch on adjacent land. We have no idea if we can continue with that major investment. At the moment, we might still need the current pitch to finish the season. Will people even be allowed to do the work? Will there be a second period of isolation for everyone which impacts the start of the next season and the revenue to pay for those pitches? Would anyone invest a hefty sum of money in football or sport in general with the current uncertainty?”. Again, this cautiousness is parroted, as Mercer explains that “the club are going in the direction of building a new ground, we’re just waiting on planning permission from the local authority. The plan was for that to go the local authority in the summer, but unfortunately that will get delayed. The plan is to build a new ground and then houses and flats to be built on the current site, but if we get into any kind of recession, that will slow the process down”.
It’s clear how prevalent the sympathy pains between each club are, they stand in union showcasing the same scars, but one area in which there seems to be less of a consensus involves the decision to null and void the 2019/20 season. Posner believes that though “we would have definitely got a playoff place”, “I think the league made the correct decision to call it null and void”, as he adds “you’re going to upset some people whatever you do. I don’t see what else they could do”. Mercer believes that “I don’t think there was any other decision really, because the season has to finish by the first week of May and that’s never going to be, so it’s the same for everyone. We as a club, we spoke and we said that it’s out of our hands, if that’s what they decide then we go with it”. He explains that “unfortunately, the Premier League and the level we’re at, in a way in my opinion, it’s a different sport because money talks in the Premier League. If you can/going to null and void it, you should have started from the top and go straight to the bottom, but what’s happened is we’ve gone from our league up to the National League and the Football League and the Premier League are having their different way of dealing with it”. Whilst feeling the decision to null and void was fair, Mercer points out that “when there was talk about the season being null and void, I would have thought the FA, and it’s not the League’s issue, I thought the FA may have wanted to get a straw poll of what clubs wanted, but they left it to the Leagues. I thought we would have had more communication from the Football Association on it, but it wasn’t to be. I thought the FA may have asked for the views of the clubs, but they didn’t, they left it in the hands of the League, and we’ll support the League, we’ve supported the League in their decision”. Wilkins echoes this by categorically stating that, “I don’t support the decision by the FA at all and I feel somewhat like they’ve disregarded us at Steps 3-7 like nothing more but little squashes of air in fairness. I will feel very annoyed should the Premier League and even the EFL be allowed to finish their seasons given we weren’t exactly given a choice for us to say we’ll finish our season in June or July which I know many have wanted for a decision”.
What is for certain, is that for all football clubs in the non-league pyramid, this is an ever-changing and fluid state of disorder and turmoil; we can only hope that whenever the new normal surfaces, that there are as few casualties as possible.
Could Barrow AFC still become the 92nd team in the football league due to the hole left from Bury FC.
High flying Barrow AFC have been at the top of the National League for the majority of the season, and have been tipped favourites for promotion for months. With Bury FC tragically going into administration earlier this season due to ill-managed finance, it would seem logical for the beaming town of Barrow to fill the void. But the question on any avid football fans mind would be, is that fair on the group of teams who are hot on the pursuit of the league leaders.
Barrow have been away from the heights of league football for 48 years. This season has seen fan numbers rise, the loyal fans have started to believe and the community spirit of Barrow-in-Furness has never been stronger. Not only are the Cumbria based team top of the league, they have the most wins, the top goal scorer in the league and the best home record. It is clear they are the strongest team in the division by a fair distance.
Josh Granite, the well-respected captain of the bluebirds stated in an interview with local journalist Tom Murphy that he believes that the top two from the National League still deserve promotion. This would of course result in` Granite and the rest of his Barrow team mates getting promoted alongside fellow highflyers Harrogate Town. Granite then later went on to say that he feels that any truthful individual playing for a team who are deemed for relegation, ‘would know you got yourselves into that predicament.’ Granite is clearly suggesting that Stevenage Town deserve relegation after the woeful season they have had in League Two.
While national league staff are taking their time to decide on the circumstances, it seems incredibly cruel and somewhat illogical to any football loving person that Barrow AFC and their devoted fans are denied their long awaited 48-year return to the football league.
Hashtag United: possibly the most revolutionary and modern football club the sport has seen, typified perfectly by their name. Though they may not be as heralded, historical and humongous as the European heavyweights that dominate the game, they most definitely set precedent and serve as a metaphor for the technologically social climate we live in.
The club, initially set up as a group of friends playing a charity match to honour a childhood friend, was founded in 2016 by YouTube creator and personality: Spencer Owen. The next two years were spent playing friendlies and exhibition matches across seven countries against pro-football staff teams, fellow YouTube creators, sponsor/brand teams, non-league and Sunday-sides in an innovative league format devised by the founder himself. The team had points targets set for a group of games and if these targets were met, the team would be rewarded by ‘The Chairman’ and would progress to the next level. These games were filmed and uploaded to their YouTube channel, a channel which today has a following of close to half a million subscribers. In 2018, the club was granted a place amongst the football pyramid and entered the glorious world of ‘non-league football’ as they stepped into the National League System and joined the Eastern Senior League for the 2018/19 season; transitioning from exhibition team to a competitive club in the tenth tier of English football. In what was their first ever campaign as a non-league football team, under the stewardship of Jay Devereux, Hashtag won the league, winning twenty-six games from a possible thirty-six, drawing six and losing just four.
In their short existence, Hashtag have made considerable and quite simply astounding strides: their legitimacy as a football club was certified as former academy player Scott Pollock signed for League Two side Northampton Town where he made his competitive debut in the 2018/19 season, and the creation of their own Hashtag United E-sports team, in which three members of the club’s roster competed in the final 32 of the FIFA eWorld Cup, personifies the club as a genuine leader in truly valuing and appreciating the digital atmosphere that engulfs the modern era.
But it doesn’t stop there, on the 20th April 2020 the club announced their merger with one of Essex’s top women’s clubs, AFC Basildon, bringing Women’s football to the Tags. In light of Hashtag’s recent announcement declaring their evolution as a football entity, I felt it would only be right to profile two of their major components who will without doubt be key in their foray in to the women’s game: Manager Jason Stephens and striker Kelly Wealthall.
“It’s no genius formula here, it’s all about good timing”, is how Stephens described the merger. He explains how a mere twelve months ago when he joined AFC Basildon at the end of the season they had lost “pretty much every game” and had just been relegated from the third tier. AFC, who were at the time known as C&K Basildon, had some tough decisions to make; contemplating whether to merger with the suitors at the time: Aveley FC and Canvey Island, or stay with C&K. Stephens asked for time as he had faith in his own ability, telling them “trust me on the pitch, I’ll get it right”, allowing the club to “put a plan in place to make it a little bit more of an attractive product off the pitch”. So, twelve months later after beating Leyton Orient 2-0 in the last game of the season, the same question resurfaced: stick or twist? As fate would have it, “that following Saturday Spencer put out a post on Hashtag asking for female teams to contact him if they were interested in merging, could you believe it? The timing!” AFC had also been approached by Concord Rangers and Cheshunt Men’s who had offered “a very attractive package”, but a quick chain of events followed; Hashtag and Basildon gauging the other’s intentions, and despite one-hundred and thirteen other clubs contacting Owen, the only team to meet the founder was AFC Basildon: “very good timing, a bit of luck but at the same time, maybe just a little bit of foresight a year ago to believe in what you were doing”.
As they say, the rest is history. Or in Hashtag’s case, the rest is the future, a future which looks very exciting. Something special is brewing, Stephens told me that he has interviews lined up with the Guardian and even a group from Qatar, “we’ve got professional players offering support and wanting to get involved with the project”. “We’ve already got more followers on Hashtag than eight of the WSL (Women Super League) clubs, only Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City have more”. There’s clearly huge expectations, so much so that Hashtag are “providing a three-year starter package”, a less than fifty percent contribution needed to operate the club. But if anyone understand this weight, it’s Stephens, he knows “just how potent the Hashtag brand is globally” and understands that he’s not just representing the Hashtag brand, but women’s football itself.
For an adventure as daunting and as thrilling as this, Hashtag should count themselves considerably fortunate; the sheer amount of pedigree Stephens and Wealthall bring with them, is quite simply immense. They boast stunning CVs: Wealthall, whilst being just nineteen, having started out playing for her local Sunday League boys team, Wickford Town, has over a decade of experience in the game. She joined West Ham at the age of eight after impressing in the Under 10’s trials, progressing through the junior academies, eventually reaching the first team at the age of sixteen, finishing her last season with the club as the team’s top goal scorer. She then joined a football college, Barking Abbey, where she studied her A-Levels and BTECs whilst representing both Barking and England Colleges (ECFA), travelling Las Vegas, Memphis and Madrid. Upon completion of her studies and as a result of injury, she joined AFC Basildon where now, she spearheads the team into their first season as Hashtag United Women. So many different groups and sets of players she’s combined with: something that she categorically states as a crucial component to her success, “I definitely say it’s made me the player I am today”. Stephens, as he puts it, has “always been involved in football”. In the early 2000s he worked with Charlton Athletics’ Academy working on their community programmes, establishing one-hundred and fifty satellite centres throughout the South-East of England, he then moved to Brazil in 2005 teaching Brazilian children at Sao Paulo Academy English and futsal, before working in the United States as a Strength and Conditioning coach for the San Francisco 49ers and Portland Timbers. He also headed the Inter Milan Academy for the Under 17’s before starting his own street soccer business working with Manchester United and Qatar, until he was headhunted as Technical Director for the Cook Island’s Football Association. Vast experience and incredibly well-travelled, but the best thing about their glittering CVs? Their experiences in the game intertwine. Stephen coached Wealthall at West Ham Under 16’s and then also at Barking Abbey, before convincing her to join Basildon too.
It gets even better, experience is nothing without results, and luckily enough for Hashtag, Stephens and Wealthall back up their talk with a proven track record of success. During their time working together, the pair have won a combined eight trophies, with the Under 16’s at West Ham winning four sets of silverware only to move to Barking Abbey and repeat the exact same feat yet again. Maybe Wealthall is the cherry on top of the icing on the cake, she tells me her best ever performance was the National Final for Barking Abbey against huge rivals Oaklands where not only did she net a hat-trick and “get to keep the ball and got player of the match”, she bagged the winner with five minutes to go.
It would be an extreme disservice to these two fantastically talented characters to say that Hashtag United Women are in ‘good hands’; extremely experienced, potent in their performance and brilliantly bonded, but above all, they’re dazzlingly driven. Wealthall understands that maximising this opportunity “depends on how we use this to our advantage, getting all this behind us” as Stephens rounds off faultlessly stating, “we want to be a club that is sustainable in the community in fifty years time, because there’s too many women and girls clubs that appear and disappear in a short space of time so we want to be an integral part of that community lifespan over a period of time”.
Eastbourne Borough Manager Danny Bloor picks his dream 5 A-Side team from his years of watching football. Due to the recent global pandemic, I was not able to conduct the interview with Danny myself, so his son generously played the role as interviewer.