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Football: Satisfaction in supporting the Stones

FAN'S EYE VIEW Wealdstone
THERE OUGHT to be a definition in a dictionary somewhere to identify a particular breed of sports fan. Perhaps, when describing non-League football, the word "supporter" could be replaced by something that does greater justice to the vast majority who would otherwise be categorised in this way.

They are, perhaps, a small band of people (the combined attendance for the Ryman League's four divisions on an average Saturday would scarcely fill the main stand at Old Trafford). But without such support their clubs could not exist.

The harsh reality is that there are very few Murdochs, Sugars and Walkers, and if it were not for these ardent followers of our non-League game players such as Les Ferdinand, Stuart Pearce or Vinnie Jones might well have remained hod carriers, electricians or the like.

Taking Stuart Pearce and Vince Jones as examples, at Wealdstone we are proud to say that they both joined their first professional clubs in transfers from us.

But times have changed for Wealdstone. At the end of the 1984-1985 season we were paying good wages to our players, a mixture of young hopefuls and ex-professionals, and became the first club to win the non- League Double - the Conference and the FA Trophy. Had we managed to win it a mere four years later our future would certainly have been different, as the title then won promotion to the Nationwide League.

The Stones were, however, losing money trying to maintain an ageing ground and their status as a top side. Deals were made transferring some of the better players to earn vital cash. However, after the ground was sold, the running of the club was placed in the hands of administrators, and what has become a seven-year exercise in ground-sharing began: first at Watford, then at Yeading and now at Edgware Town.

In that time, the only thing that has remained constant has been the involvement of the supporters. It is, however, much more than pounds 5 admission and 90 minutes once or twice a week. There are the lotteries, sponsored walks, match ball donors, kit sponsors and, more recently goal sponsors, each one contributing much more than a season's entrance fees. All this is being done in the hope that in our centenary year of 1999 we will see a new ground in the London borough of Harrow and one day, perhaps, we produce another Stuart Pearce or a Michael Owen.

Later this month an initial planning application will be heard regarding the development of our proposed new ground. Not a Stamford Bridge or a Highbury, just a small ground with facilities for 2,500 people, a clubhouse and a host of other sports facilities available to the local community.

If it successful then the fund-raising will begin in earnest and our centenary will present another opportunity to show the best side of the club and its supporters. I'm in the early stages of writing a book to celebrate the event, based entirely on the thoughts and memories of 1,000 of our former players and officials. I am actively seeking contributions and want to trace anyone who has been involved with the club at any time.

Through the internet (Wealdstone FC have five regularly updated sites for news, match reports and archive and picture galleries) I am trying to track down our more elusive ex-players. I have also set up an Internet site (http://www.roge.dircon.co.uk) which has all the details and includes instructions on how to contact me or the other Wealdstone FC sites. Alternatively, please write to Wealdstone FC at The White Lion Ground, High Street, Edgware.

From the internet site you'll also be able to find out a little more about non-League football and its supporters - but if you're at a loose end, this afternoon's fixtures include a round of the FA Vase. For a bonus, tomorrow Wealdstone entertain Croydon at home in the Ryman League First Division (kick-off 3pm).