Football: Fan's Eye View - Hendon: Old loyalties down Cricklewood way

YOU DON'T have to support a team to follow their fortunes. Despite supporting Luton - actually, it's probably because I support Luton - the arrival of the Sunday papers always finds me seeking out the results of a handful of other teams. Ajax, because my mother is Dutch; Alloa, because I love the name; but first and foremost, Hendon.

Why Hendon? Because I was born and raised in Hendon, got kicked out of two schools in Hendon (you'd have thought Canberra Infants would have tipped the wink to Hasmonean Prep) and, but for an attitude next to which Stan Collymore looks like Sir Cliff Richard, I might just have lasted beyond my 17th birthday and a handful of reserve team games at Hendon FC.

Technically Hendon do not actually play in Hendon, their Claremont Road ground occupying a windy comer of Clitterhouse Recreation Ground at the Brent Cross end of Cricklewood. With a post code of London NW2, the local estate agents try to pass it off as Golders Green. But whichever way you cut it, it is Cricklewood, and if I were chairman I'd not hesitate to change the club's name to Real Cricklewood, perhaps even Clitterhouse Hotspur.

Certainly Hendon need a change of one sort or another. For so long as I can recall, and I was with them 30 years ago, Hendon have resided nowhere other than the top division of the league known variously as Athenian, Isthmian, Icis, Diadora, Isthmian (again), Ryman and perhaps one or two other variants that I have clean forgotten to mention.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for consistency and to occupy a relegation- free zone for all those years is highly commendable. Trouble is it has been promotion-free too, and three or more decades at the same level, playing largely the same teams, is a bit bloody boring and shrieks of a severe hardening of ambition arteries.

With the pyramid system as it now exists you might have expected a concerted push or two towards the Conference, and thence upwards to the land of the big boys. The likes of Hayes, Kingstonian and Woking have it part of the way; Enfield and Sutton have yo-yoed like a mad yo-yoing thing between Isthmian and Conference leagues since I can't remember when; while Barnet, Wycombe and, most gloriously, Wimbledon have made it all the way.

So why not Hendon? Our history in semi-pro football is just as illustrious as the others, perhaps more so. Five times visitors to Wembley during my formative years for the FA Amateur Cup final, twice emerging triumphant. A dressing-room full of soon-to-be top-class players, among them the Luton- bound Peter Anderson, the England-bound Tony Currie, both Compton brothers (one of whom was sufficiently brassed off with Hendon to take up cricket) and, most recently, Joe Cole, now making waves for West Ham United and the England youth team.

We even have a banqueting suite that is the envy of all banqueting suites. And, remember, this is a corner of north-west London where wedding and barmitzvah parties proliferate in such abundance, causing such ructions between rival gangs of caterers, that it is a wonder Don King hasn't been called in to promote inter-firm catering fights.

Yet still we find ourselves up against Purfleet and Billericay instead of well... Peterborough and Brentford at the very least. Am I that bothered? Not really. After all, I don't actually support Hendon, I just follow them. But with Luton in a state of near terminal disarray - was there ever a club more wilfully bent on self-destruction? - and Hendon beginning to string a few results together, who knows? Things might change.

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