Non League Daily

Interesting times at Waltham Forest

Waltham Forest are struggling to adjust to life in the Essex Senior league on the field, but, off the pitch, things are as different as they could be writes NLD blogger Charlie Ward

When Turgut Esendagli, took over as Chairman in 2013, he promised he would get the club back to our former home at Wadham Lodge, in Walthamstow - that was achieved in six months.

He also made promises about turning the club into a true community club, where the local football loving public would gravitate to watch and be involved in football at non-league level.

Since that time, we have set up two youth side's for last season, which has now been increased to four for the new season and the Veterans side, that was introduced last season, has now been joined by the setting up of a Ladies team for the forthcoming campaign.

We are proud of the fact that we have just been awarded the FA Full Charter status, which underlines the fact we have the necessary coaching and medical expertise within the club to obtain FA approval.

Our plans are to raise our status to Community level.

In order to do that, you have to have ten sides playing under the club banner - as we already have seven teams, we anticipate that should only take us a couple more years to achieve.

It is likely that the additional teams will include a reserve side - for the first time in over ten years.

The aim of the club is, obviously, to generate the facilities and atmosphere for the local young players. who have not been signed up by the full time professional clubs in our area and develop them into possible first team material, with a view to this being a stepping stone to getting them a place at a full time club.

It is a win, win situation for all concerned - the player has a home where he can develop his skills and get spotted by a Football League club, or above and we have home grown talent that we can use for our own side, before they move on to bigger and better things.

It would be a self serving project as, the more players who were developed, spotted and signed up by professional clubs, the more the young talent would come to us, because of our reputation for nurturing and moving on, young talent.

The by product of all of this, hopefully, would be the involvement of the parents of these players in our club and the income generation that would bring.

We are suffering from a chronic lack of support through the gate and the only way our club can survive is to become a community attraction.

We have learnt that, over the years, the locals are not interested in coming to see us play, so we need, desperately, to tap into those people who do love football and give them a reason to come to our club.

Eventually, we would like to go all the way to becoming a football academy and the centre of football excellence in the Borough of Waltham Forest.

I have watched my side for fifty years and even in the 1960's, we had some youth sides - that continued through the decades and we can point to probably, about a dozen or so players who have started with us, before moving into senior non-league football.

We have also seen the likes of Jon Goodman (Millwall/Wimbledon & Eire)/Tim Cole (Dagenham Redbridge)/Wesley Thomas (Birmingham City) and Bradley Johnson (Northampton Town/Leeds & Norwich), all learn their trade with us before progressing into the full time game.

Indeed, ten years ago, we had an under 18's side that progressed to the last 16 of the FA Youth Cup, the only remaining non-league side left in the competition, before being beaten by Brentford, away from home.

On route to that game we had despatched Dagenham Redbridge, Leyton Orient & West Bromwich Albion.

But, the youth sections of the past always seemed to fizzle out within a few years of their formation, either through lack of investment, lack of volunteers to run them, or just lack of the will to continue.

This time it seems different.

Turgut has shown in his short tenure as Chairman, that he is a "doer" - no big statements followed by inactivity.

He ahs gone about things aggressively and got the youth sections and the other sides, set up, in double quick time and got official authentication to back this up.

There does seem a genuine "will" to make this a success and if any incentive were needed, then you only have to look at the example of Boreham Wood,

For the level that they have achieved in he non-league pyramid, have very low basic crowds, but, the club is thriving, thanks mainly to their academy set up, which is the magnet for the locals, with excellent facilities and coaching to encourage the local young talent to pass through their doors.

But, we have a paradox at our club and that is the very person who is the hero on one level, is the villain on another.

Turgut Esendagli, is, as I have said, a superb Chairman (technical he no longer holds that role, but, is still the driving force at the club), but, he is a lousy manager and that's the problem.

He decided after taking over as Chairman that he wanted to be Director of Football and that caused the existing manager Wale Ojelabi, to resign and since then, at the start of the last season, he has been in charge of the team.

In that time, we have been relegated from the Ryman league into the Essex Senior League and finish a less than overwhelming, tenth place, half way up the table.

Whilst not expecting to run away with the title, especially, as Turgut had to totally revamp the team, we would nevertheless, have been expecting a place in the top five, for sure.

We had an inconsistent start, but, between October and last Christmas had gone on an unbeaten run that saw us in the top five for many weeks.

But, after an up and down January, caused in part by inactivity, just after Christmas, we failed to win a game until the last match of the season.

At one stage we were scoring goals for fun and it was question of "if you score three, we will score four" and often we did see those type of score lines, but, once the rot set in, the forward line stopped scoring so many goals and the defence continued to leak the same number.

How will we do next season - that is anybody's guess

Turgut hopes to keep all the better players (mainly strikers) and add to that with more experienced players to mount a definite promotion challenge and their is little doubt that our continuation in the Essex Senior League for many more seasons will harm our club.

But, I am not so sure it will be all that easy.

I look enviously at clubs who, even now are announcing they have signed players on contract for next season, we do not have that luxury

We are paying wages, but, in truth, hardly enough to entice players to stick with us, or come to us, if a club in the Ryman League is also interested in that player.

In truth, it will just be a question of who turns up for training in the closed season and the hope they will put pen to paper before the big kick off.

So as I watch from isolation in the West Midlands, I have mixed emotions - confident that we have the man to carry the club forward to much better things off the field, but, depressed that he is not the man to bring any tangible success on the field of play.

I hope I am proved right on the first statement and totally wrong on the second.

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