Falling Stones make a splash

Non-League football
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The Independent Online
Wealdstone, the homeless fallen giants of the non-League game, made their debut in the FA Vase last weekend. It was not - at least before the game - an event to celebrate for the Middlesex club, for the Vase is the lesser of the two national non-League cups and taking part in it emphasises just how far the Stones have slid since they won the "double" of the Gola League (as the GM Vauxhall Conference was then known) and the FA Trophy in 1985.

The first qualifying round of the Vase may be small beer compared to a Trophy final, but Wealdstone's long-suffering fans were toasting their team after a 10-0 home win over East Ham. "Home" for the Stones is now Edgware Town's White Lion Ground, which is their third share deal - after Yeading and, before that, a financially disastrous spell at Watford - since leaving their old Lower Mead stadium.

Wealdstone have agreed to be Edgware's tenants for three years - but they hope their stay will be shorter. "We still want our own ground in our home borough of Harrow," Paul Rumens, the club chairman, said last night. "We have submitted a planning application to build on a site at the Ridgeway in West Harrow, but we expect it to be turned down so, together with the council, we are looking at other sites. We have funds set aside to go towards a multi-sports facility, for which we hope to qualify for National Lottery funding."

As well as a new home, Wealdstone are in a new league this season: they are now in the Third Division of the Icis (the new name of the Isthmian) League, to which they have moved from the Southern Division of the Beazer Homes League. "We had to start at the bottom level," Rumens explained, "but we had to do it to cut down on our travel and player expenses bills."

Back in the Isthmian for the first time since 1971, the Stones made a dramatic start by winning 9-1 at Cove two weeks before they went one better against East Ham.

There is a new manager, too - the experienced Gordon Bartlett, who has retained only three of last season's squad. "He has taken both Southall and Yeading to FA Vase finals and, although he doesn't think it's possible, we want him to make it third time lucky," Rumens said.

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