Firstly, massive apologies to those (brave few) regular readers of this, I have had essays to get done and therefore the write ups have taken a back seat. I now intend to put my arse into gear and get four (yes four) up by the end of the week.
In this one, we go back a month to see how fan owned club number nine, Hendon FC, were getting on…
So, I found myself on a rather bleak day making the visit back into London, to Harrow Borough FC. Not to watch them of course but Hendon FC. Starting their existence in 1908 as Christchurch Hampstead, the club has gone through several name changes with Hendon FC being the name of choice since 1946.
The club has plied it’s trade in the Isthmian League (Ryman) ever since 1963 when it was first accepted into the league, although they have enjoyed exploits in the FA Cup with a 3rd Round tie against Newcastle in 1974 going to a replay being the greatest highlight in the post war era.
Long gone are the heady days of FA Cup runs though and in modern times the club is fighting for the right to live, having to groundshare with Harrow Borough and no concrete plans or hope of moving back to the area from where it takes its name.
I think that the story of Hendon may be the most depressing of all that I face this season, only improved by the heroic efforts of those involved in keeping it alive. The club previously played at Claremont Road until 2008 when 81 years of history was disposed of with the clubs eviction.
This season, the club after a poor start in the League had come back strongly so that by the time I went to see them they were nestled comfortably in mid-table, adrift from both the play-off spots but also the relegation zone. Today though was not about the league but the FA Trophy.
Having knocked out Cray Wanders in first round qualifying 4-1 they had the chance to advance in the FA Trophy but they would be up against Bideford, who were flying high in the Southern Premier which is the same Step in the football pyramid as Hendon. Having been dumped out of the FA Cup second qualifying round against Bishop’s Stortford 5-0, the FA Trophy represented the last change for prize money which can be crucial at this level of football.
So another visit to London beckoned and this time on a Sunday, I made my way to Harrow Borough FC via a petrol station to enquire if anyone knew where the ground was. Luckily for me, someone did know where it was and after a short walk I was outside Harrow Borough FC. The ground itself is tucked away in a residential area and so hidden you could walk right past and miss it.
I stepped into the bar at around 1:00pm to be greeted by a few nods and such. There was a group of elderly Hendon supporters who turned out to be mother and son, with the son taking care of his Mum in the wheelchair. It was a cosy enough space and more people trickled their way into the bar, some of them headed straight over to the telly to watch whichever match was on Sky Sports (I don’t care), others to catch up.
It was a very elderly crowd with weathered faces all keen to take refuge from what was an increasingly chilly day. I went up the bar to grab a pint of Murphy’s for what is in London the very cheap price of £3.15 or around that.
As I went back to my seat I was asked by a group of lads, slightly older than me I thought asked if they could take a seat. After talking, I discovered that they were in fact Norwegian blokes who were over in England and were keen to take in some football. They had been to Portsmouth vs. Exeter (two fan owned clubs) and had now found their way to be watching Hendon FC.
We ended up discussing football and how it’s run in Norway, with me enquiring about how clubs are run there and whether Rosenborg were fan owned. They said they weren’t and that there is a members control in most clubs in Norway but it was all good pub talk. They were more pre-occupied with finding out if their team was losing, as Steinar Sol (here) didn’t want his teams players (can’t remember which team) to get bonuses this season as they’d been “shit”.
With that done, I went upstairs to go and find Simon Lawrence, who is Chairman of Hendon FC and had been decent enough to agree to speak to me. After walking up the stairs I approached the board room and was greeted with a “No Jeans” sign. Unfortunately, I was once again dressed like a tramp but luckily enough the tea lady let me in and gave me… a cup of tea (hence the name).
After listening in on the officials whining about the FA, Simon appeared and we made our way into the secretaries room looking out onto the pitch. Simon himself is a fairly big guy with a few dots of grey hair on his head, probably due to the stress of running the club and today seemed quite nervous.
Anyway, cup of tea to one side and having shuffled some papers around, we were ready to begin.
So, first question, how did the club turn to fan ownership and what were the reasons behind that?
“The reasons were straightforward. The club was owned by a company called Arbiter group. Chairman called Ivor Arbiter; he came into club as sponsor. Club had Fender Guitars as its sponsor and that was one of Arbiters brands. When the previous owner Victor Green left the club, Ivor stepped in.”
“The club did very well from the mid 1990’s through to the early 2000’s, some good FA Cup runs, some great memories but in the mid 2000’s it became clear that the club was not financially sustainable and Ivor at every opportunity was reminding the supporters that, for there to be long term sustainability the club had to be viable without an injection of cash from a benevolent owner.”
“Eventually, the message was heard. Ivor’s health also started to deteriorate at that time and from what we understand the business also started to deteriorate so it was a bit of a perfect storm. A group of supporters decided that the way forward was to form a Supporter’s Trust. Our motto was plan for the best, prepare for the worst.”
“At that time, a deal was being hatched whereby the Chairman would retire from the business and retain ownership of the club. In retiring, he would take cash from the business for his own retirement but also to help secure the club by moving us from Claremont Road to Copthall Stadium which was a 12 lane athletics track stadium.”
Copthall Stadium is now the home of Saracens Rugby club and is clearly too big for Hendon.
“We had all watched Hendon play at places like Harlow, Croydon and the one thing we knew was that represented the death nail to the club because there’s no atmosphere in those kind of stadiums, when there’s only a couple of hundred people watching and that was our attendance at the time. There were no transport links either, we were very nervous about the move to Copthall.”
“Fast forward a little bit and Ivor sadly passed away , and fast forward a little bit further still and we’d set up a trust and the position we were in, in having no expenditure whatsoever as a trust but having the opportunity to raise some income. So we raised a fighting fund in the order of six figures.”
“We were then told by the then owner that there was no money left, the bank was not allowing them to spend any more money on the football club and the club was going to close.”
I am always amazed at how a small band of people can raise such a staggering amount of money. Stuart would continue to lay out the details of what was a very disheartening story and I could tell by his voice that it wasn’t one he particularly enjoyed reciting. He ploughed on regardless.
“We took the club on for a pound. No debt but no ground. The deal was we would take on the football club: The history, the memorabilia, the website, the kit but the main asset of the ground, would not be available to us.”
So here it is again I thought, another story of asset stripping and more vandalism of history. This is part of the reason why it has taken me a long time to finish this off. I am a very depressive person anyway and the story of Hendon FC is crushing on the soul.
I asked Simon if he could just confirm the inevitable.
(Me) The ownership of the club retained the only viable asset?
(Me) Is that an example of asset stripping? Or is it to clear the debt because it doesn’t… I mean you’ve laid it out very clearly that they have given you the club but they’ve taken the only asset and there doesn’t seem to be any recompense there?
Simon, who my sympathy for was growing by the minute tried, as he put it, to be “as even handed as possible.”
“Your analysis is not far off our own. There were a number of years when that company incurred costs net of playing operations. In the accounts of Hendon Football Club limited, there was a debt of around about four million pounds accumulated… We don’t know exactly how that was accumulated. We don’t believe that debt came about through purely football operations. We think there were other items that were attributed.”
Again, we have heard of crazy numbers of debts on this site before but four million pounds? That amount of debt on a Ryman League team? Something here just doesn’t add up. I asked Simon whether he felt that debts may have been ‘transferred’ onto the club by the ownership.
Simon was understandably cautious in his response.
“All I can say is, given the way the club was run at the time, given the quality of the squad we had, no-one in the higher echelons of the trust could figure out how such a significant debt had accumulated at Hendon FC Limited.”
I asked Simon whether the trust had any access to any financial documents or transparency when they took over.
The question seems, even to me, a bit rude and naïve. Here is Simon and the Trust, having managed to rescue their club by the skin of their teeth when they had been told that it was to be made extinct. Then here’s me, who had done nothing, demanding they could have done more. Luckily for me, Simon wasn’t taken aback and responded with frankness.
“Effectively it was the opportunity to secure the clubs existence by taking on the club for a pound but nothing else was available to us. I should backtrack slightly, when the deal was being hatched with the original chairman, there was an email sent stating that the plan was always, having gone their separate ways the club and the business (the business owning the lease on the ground) would then one day or another redevelop the ground for residential use.”
So far it’s simple enough. Here’s where it gets slightly interesting or ambiguous from the email.
“The idea was that if the ground was redeveloped and if there was “enough”, if the profits were enough then part of that profit would be passed along to the football club.”
Unsurprisingly as Simon would inform me, “‘Enough’ wasn’t quantified in that email but the former owners agreed to pass on that obligation.” Simon’s voice didn’t exactly fill me with confidence that this obligation would be honoured anytime soon.
(Me) There’s no contractual basis for that (the obligation in the e-mail), that’s just pie in the sky?
“Correct. It’s not going to happen.”
What about Hendon FC’s old home of 81 years, Claremont Road?
“Initially my understanding was that the London borough of Barnet would buy the leasehold from the Arbiter group and the London Borough of Barnet would arrange for the land to be redeveloped. The Arbiter Group would receive a cash lump sum for the remaining leasehold.”
(Me) Everyone wins…
Everyone wins except us.
What can you say to that? At this point, I was completely drained. A council had got a nice deal to make itself a cosy earner along with property developers. Hendon FC was an inconvenience to be removed so that both parties could continue their brave new worlds of property speculation. It is everything that is wrong with this country and London in particular.
All that history, an institution spanning so many years was earmarked for extinction so that, well for what? I’d love to have someone explain to me how providing a couple more houses which no working class person could ever afford is worth the destruction of all that heritage is a good thing. How is that better?
Bluntly, the people involved in this should be ashamed of themselves and if they were Conservatives who passed this (who are supposed to, you know, be in favour of conserving stuff) then they are unworthy of the word and should just get another title of ‘money grabbing $*!#%.
I was however very pleased to hear that the two parties involved in this nice arrangement had not had it all their own way as Simon elaborated.
“The deal was then swapped around and is still in the process of being sold to a successor to the Arbiter group and then the successor company will develop the ground but that transaction has been beset by all sorts of problems from their point of view.”
“Restrictive covenants that needed to be overturned and were overturned by a combination of the former owner and the London Borough of Barnet. More recently in the public area were various squatters and travellers who’ve taken up residence.”
The old ground.
The club played the last ever fixture at Claremont on the 20th September 2008, it is now over five years since that day and still the old ground remains undeveloped. This article from ‘Barnet Today’ here gives but a snapshot of just how fraught this has been. Bids and counter bids, lack of information and awareness of the public tender, judicial reviews and appeals of those judicial reviews.
In fact as Simon has noted, the only thing that has changed is whereas once there stood a proud and well-kept football club, it has been left to become a ruin and very recently a group of Romanian immigrant’s new home as you can see here (and if you want some cheery photos here).
“So we found ourselves in the 2008-09 season of being evicted from our ground quite early on in the season in September. We had in place an agreement in principle with Wembley FC but because that wasn’t set in stone, the fixtures weren’t synchronised and that meant there were far too many clashes for it to be feasible. So we effectively played as nomads for the 2008-09 season. We played a few games at Wembley, here at Harrow Borough, at Northwood. Very kindly, we were invited to play at Staines Town, when every other local ground was in use.”
“We started our groundshare at Wembley in 2009-10 and we were there until now when we decided to set up residence here at Harrow Borough, this is the first of a three year agreement that we have.”
The fact that the club is still here, still in existence, is truly amazing. The amount of work that has to be put in to run a football club, let alone one in Hendon’s precarious position is as I said to Simon himself, the highest compliment I can give him.
Unfortunately, my questions meant the negatives just kept on coming. I asked how difficult it was to keep and attract a fanbase when not having a ground they could call their own.
“It is as close to being impossible as you can find. If we had more resources available to us we’d be able to do a bit more community outreach. We’ve tried a number of things but without a great deal of success. We’ve tried setting up youth football and we were able to run youth football teams for a couple of seasons in the recent past but none this season.”
Everywhere I have been, having youth teams or youth development was a vital part of ensuring not only potential players of the future but indeed potential fans to ensure a club can be handed to the next generation. It also allows a club to gain a profile in its local area that it’s about more than the 90 minutes, which can help in terms of access to grants and funding.
Again, the club has been unable to achieve this and Simon outlines why this has not been possible.
“It’s a combination of things, the person we asked to spearhead our youth set up was a very successful part of a very successful youth set up in previous years. The individual found it very difficult to attract youth team players, clearly there is a dilemma. We’re Hendon football club but we’re going to be playing our games somewhere other than Hendon.”
“By Claremont Road ground there’s playing fields of three or four pitches and our youth teams would automatically play there, that’s been difficult. The individual is working in a different paradigm. You know, from 10-15 years ago things have just changed fundamentally. Back then, kids would kill to play football, they would kill to play for their local club. I don’t think kids do kill to play football anymore.”
Simon then embarks on recounting the various changes from when he started watching Hendon FC to the situation now.
“I think over a period of time, prior to the trust taking over, I think the relationship between the local community and the football club was also damaged. When I first started watching Hendon in 1970, the clubhouse was almost in constant use with bingo nights etc., the bar was almost the focal point of the community.”
“Demographically, the community was very, very different. It was typically white, working class who like their pint at night and go and watch the local football club Saturday afternoon or Tuesday evening. The floodlights were like a clarion call that there was football and they’d flock over. As many inner city areas have changed there are now a lot of ethnic minorities, there is no cultural association with the local football club.”
There are two main things I will say about this. Firstly, if Simon’s trip down memory lane sounds like nostalgia… So what? There are many people who have seen areas and communities change and people have a right to a sense of loss and yes, sorrow at what has happened in their areas. There will be many people who feel that areas they live in or lived in are worse places now than they were 20 or 30 years ago.
Those who say that people should move with the times should be aware that most people didn’t sign up to this lovely little project that massively changed areas across Britain, especially London. No one asked for it to happen, so for those ‘progressives’ to come sniggering along about how wonderful all this change has been should really try, if it’s possible, to have some humility.
Secondly, I will concede that technology cannot really be controlled. I am not asking people to ban video games consoles to get kids playing sport outside on cold days again nor that football on T.V should be banned. However, demographics and specifically immigration which has led to this massive change can be controlled.
I am not going to go on a sermon about immigration in this piece. I certainly will have to get writing about it purely because of the effect it is having on London clubs and it’s something that if I didn’t look at this season would be cowardly. To completely sidestep it’s impact would make anything written about London fan owned clubs intellectually bankrupt, it cannot be ignored but I don’t want it to take away from Hendon FC who are the point of this blog.
Gone before it’s time…
Before we move off the subject another comparison with Enfield came up again, this one being the futility of the serious efforts by Hendon FC to engage the immigrant/ 2nd generation/ ‘diverse’ (whatever the progressive term is) community.
“You know, it’s a situation that was already quite tricky, has become impossible. We have tried hard in the past; we tried hard to engage with the local communities at Wembley and Sudbury when we were there. We tried earlier in the year to engage the Harrow community but again it’s the same kind of issues. We’ve door stepped, giving free tickets out and out of 2,000- 3,000 vouchers, 3 were returned.”
“You know, I’m just not convinced that there is anything more that we can do, given the resources we’ve got. We’re a small supporter base and even smaller volunteer base. We have one full time employee and all the rest have day jobs.”
It’s the same story as Enfield. It’s not as if the clubs haven’t tried here. Again, you could just say: Well maybe people don’t want to watch Ryman league football on a cold November day but why is it that I keep hearing this from London clubs on a regular basis?
The difference between Enfield and Hendon is of course that Enfield, despite not playing brilliantly, has the long term security that the Queen Elizabeth Stadium provides. This leads us onto a potential plan for Hendon.
I was desperately trying to find some positives, some straws I could cling to. I asked Simon, well pleaded really if we can see a future for Hendon FC. Short term it is survival but is there a plan to move back to Hendon? Is Hendon FC trying to speak to people? Is the local council actually involved, do they want to be involved?
Again, like waves over King Cnut, the bad news just kept on coming. Simon laid it out.
“Barnet Football Club, as I am sure you can imagine, as the Premier football club in the Borough. I think it speaks volumes that Barnet Football Club, the flagship sporting operation in the London Borough of Barnet is now playing it’s football in the London Borough of Harrow.”
“Again, when we were evicted from Claremont Road I engaged with the then leader of the Council, as to what the council might be prepared to do in terms of helping to secure some kind of toe hold in the borough. I can probably dig out the email but I was told we would be able to hire a park pitch from them.”
You know, it speaks volumes. They had no interest in Hendon FC.
I didn’t know when I would do it in this post as twohundredpercent has little on Hendon football club but if you look a Barnet there is a wealth of information about how obstructive and contemptuous the local council has been of that Football club. You can see all the happy details here.
Barnet football club are no longer playing in Barnet and as Simon went onto explain when I asked if there was any chance of both clubs ganging up to get something done, he doesn’t see a return being likely for Barnet.
“It’s a very sensible suggestion, it’s something we’ve thought about but again I think there… I personally anticipate a number of issues with that. I’m not necessarily 100% convinced that Barnet Football Club is disappointed that it’s now playing it’s football outside the borough.”
It should be noted fairly on Barnet’s behalf that you can’t blame them either.
“The Hive is a fantastic facility. It’s an enviable facility. I suspect it’s the best facility in non-league football and it represents a significant opportunity for Barnet to consolidate and push on. I’m not sure that would be available to them if they continue to play at Underhill or sought to play there football somewhere else in the London Borough of Barnet.”
“I think there all sorts of political problems with the council bringing in a tenant. Simply because the Hive was originally earmarked to be Wealdstone’s ground. Wealdstone supporters would say they have that stolen from them. I think the reality is, is that Wealdstone were not able to consecrate the deal and Barnet did. So there’s a lot of tension between Wealdstone and Barnet.”
I don’t think it would be in Barnet’s interest to engage with Hendon football club.
So, is there any hope for Hendon FC? Simon makes an observation which I think will be true.
“Where I think Hendon Football Club will be very different as a fans owned club to others your visiting is that we’ve reached the conclusion that for Hendon Football Club to be successful, it can’t be fan owned.”
Now of course this blog is about fan ownership and extolling its virtues but one thing they lack is shed loads of money from a few individuals. Normally, this is mitigated by grant money and a healthy relationship with stakeholders like the local council who… Well, we know that’s unlikely.
It should be noted that this is not a knock on the model of fan ownership at all and again Hendon FC for all the negatives is still a success story. This club is supposed to be extinct now and it was supposed to be killed off several years ago.
It’s through the superhuman efforts of Simon and the hard-core that have kept the club alive off the pitch and fairly successful on it. If the club had been owned by the fans, whilst still in possession of the ground, I can be certain that they would have done a fantastic job of it. They would have that base to build but I am going to stop myself there. It’s no good daydreaming about what might’ve been and Simon himself is very much focused on creating some sort of future for Hendon FC.
He lays out the options. “I think what we need to find is a partner, which may be a new owner but a partner who would invest in the community. That’s the only sustainable basis. Someone who would say that Hendon Football club is not the be all and end all but that Hendon football club needs to become the focus of a community asset.”
“For Hendon to become a community asset then someone needs to have a bigger heart than probably we have and certainly deeper pockets than we have. Who is prepared to invest not in the traditional dream of Premier league football and Europe but the dream needs to be an asset that is available to the community. Inevitably, it needs to be an artificial pitch which can be used seven days a week to generate that income but also something out there for the community.”
So, if there are any super rich people who can actually afford to buy land in London unlike the rest of us mortals then there’s a football club that could do with a helping hand.
The finances are again something which hangs precariously as Simon explains.
“We’ve been very fortunate in the last 3 or 4 years that we’ve had very good cup runs. Two trips to the 4th Qualifying Round and two to the First Round Proper. And they bring their rewards, the FA Trophy… not so much.”
“This season, we were out of the FA Cup very early. We’re about to go and watch an FA Trophy match and an awful lot hinges on it.”
So how important was the game today?
“Very. It’s very, very important. Rightly or wrongly, most would say wrongly, we would say justifiably our playing budget depends this season on success in the FA Cup and the FA Trophy. It’s not a position that we take lightly but you’ve got to try and balance. We want to stay in this league for as long as we can and you have to balance off the risk of falling out of this division against the benefits of staying in this division. So we’ve taken a decision over the last two or three seasons that the budget is boosted by the promise or the potential of FA Cup or Trophy runs.”
Normally, in fact in virtually all other situations, I would be heavily critical of this and would go on for an age about how it’s the wrong ethos, unsustainable and all the rest of it. I really mean it and those things matter but sitting there with Simon, I couldn’t criticise or fault him. He had the look of a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders, trying to defy gravity and when he told me they want to stay in the league for as long as they can, I could feel the desperation in his voice.
Who was I to say anything about how to run this club? The man is truly amazing how he continues to battle for his club, surely they deserve the luck of the draw which throughout this story has eluded them.
I tried to find some way of concluding in a way which allowed for some hope to come forth. So I asked the dreaded ‘if’ question.
(Me) If someone from Barnet Council was here and they were sitting in this chair and they actually gave a toss, what would you say to them?
“I would say now, we have been an asset to the London Borough of Barnet for over 100 years and it’s now time that you recognised the history and the tradition and what we’ve brought to the table, to the extent that you sit down with us and help us to work out a survival plan that enables us to be that community club that we want to be.”
“Kids, Juniors, Under 21’s: they can play there earliest games of football on our 3G turf and we can make this club a credit to the London Borough of Barnet.”
It can be something the Borough is proud of.
“That’s what I would say to the London Borough of Barnet.”
So with that, we shook hands and I headed back to the bar, for a quick pint before kick-off. I have to say, having heard that story I wasn’t looking forward to the game. At other games I could enjoy it if the game wasn’t terrible and win, lose or draw it wasn’t the end of the world. Here, the result really mattered in a way that a game in the FA Trophy in November shouldn’t. This was about survival.
I stepped in and paid my £5 for the game and went to stand on the halfway line, right by the Norwegians who had come out. The game kicked off and Hendon were 90 minutes away from being in for a very tough season.
Within side the first ten minutes, things took a turn for the worse. After going up for what looked like a fairly innocuous challenge from Hendon’s Casey Maclaren, it led to his instant dismissal by the referee. There was contact but no reaction from any players and we all thought it would just be a free kick.
So, Hendon were going to be up against it. Only they weren’t. Despite being down to ten men Hendon were playing some very decent football and looked just as good as Lewes in terms of confidence on the ball and creative play. They were hitting the channels very well and if they had done at bit more on the set pieces they could’ve been heading in a goal to the good.
As it was they went in to half time at 0-0. Emerging for the second half, I wondered around the ground to go behind the Bideford goal and spotted Simon, whose face was considerably paler than it had been around an hour earlier. He was not enjoying the game at all.
It wasn’t to get any better as the extra man began to show for Bideford and they penned in Hendon, who were dropping deeper and deeper into their own half before Bideford seemed permanently camped outside their area.
It took some very smart saves from the Hendon goalkeeper and very solid defensive headers inside the box from central defenders Chris Seeby and James Fisher to keep it at nil nil. Gradually though, Bideford seemed to run out of ideas and looked increasingly toothless despite having a monopoly on possession.
It was to get better for Hendon when Rob Farkins of Bideford was sent off in the 70th minute for a challenge which looked like a mirror image of the challenge which reduced Hendon to 10 men, which is to say it in no way looked like a sending off.
The Bideford goalie turned to us, furious and said “We knew he was going to try and even it up.” Even up the referee did but Hendon didn’t go any more attacking. There was no taking advantage of the teams being even as Hendon still sat. Bideford in fact looked hungrier and spurred on to grab a winner.
That was until Hendon got the ball down (my view) the right flank, when the ball was whipped in perfectly and the first time that Hendon had committed players all game to get in the box, Dave Diedhiou arrived unmarked and rose to hammer a header into the Bideford net.
The goal in all it’s grainy and amateur glory can be seen here.
It’s safe to say that Simon was going mental, as all of us were. Now I’ve been to games at other fan owned clubs and celebrated goals. There are not my teams but I obviously want them to win but here it was different. On a cold Novembers day in Harrow I went nuts, hugging random strangers, Simon and generally being ecstatic.
I knew how much the game mattered, really mattered, to Hendon FC and its survival and I was just, well I felt Simon deserved it for all the work he had put in to keep this club going, to get the rub of the green. It wasn’t over yet though and with ten minutes on the clock we expected a barrage from Bideford.
However, it never came and in fact Hendon were for the first time in the match dominated the game by winning corners, free kicks and going close a couple of times to making it 2-0. In the end, Bideford had nothing left and when that final whistle blew Simon, for the first time on that Sunday, had a smile on his face.
Hendon had done it and as we walked through to the exit by the players, Simon was (along with everyone else of course) elated. The manager and the players got a deserved chorus of approval in what was becoming a very cold November evening and Hendon were through to the next round.
I offered to get Simon a well-earned pint but he had to dash so I retired to the nice warm lounge and stayed to be the last person there along with my new mates from Norway who even got me a pint. (What? I’m a cheap date.)
We headed back on the tube and a couple of hours later I was back in Guildford, very pleased that I had made the trip and allowed myself to have a little hope or Hendon when I had spent all day feeling incredibly down about their future.
They had won in their second round qualifying FA Trophy match and had won £3,250 in prize money. Add that to last rounds £2,700 and they had made roughly £6,000 plus half of whatever they got from ticket money, which wouldn’t be huge.
Since I have been there (and it was a while ago now) they were able to beat Oxford City, who play a step above them in the pyramid, 2-1 and earn themselves another £4,000. In the 1st round proper, where you can draw a big team like Wrexham or Cambridge they could count themselves very fortunate to be drawn at home (again) against Whitstable Town FC.
Whitstable were won of the lowest ranked teams left in the competition and this represented the best chance to go through. However, so often in football we know that who should win on paper and who wins on the field isn’t the same. Hendon lost 2-1 conceding two goals in the space of five minutes.
Again, there is no point in looking at what if’s now. It will be hugely disappointing to everyone at the club they have missed out. They made £10,000 in prize money from the FA Trophy this season and I have no idea if that’s enough. I really hope it is.
I’m not sure really how I sum all this up really. It is I am sure going to be the most, I don’t want to say negative but toughest story of a fan owned club this season without a doubt. Everywhere else the council is on board and everything seems to be in place for a surge but here Hendon FC is fighting for the right to live.
I know what I want to happen. I want Barnet Council to actually do something to help this football club, or at the very least the three Councillors of Hendon to actually, as I said earlier, give a toss. I want some super millionaire (the only time I will want this) to ring Simon and say “Would you like a 3G pitch in Hendon? Here you go then.” Or, I would like a good chunk of the money that will be made from the development of Hendon’s old home to go to the club.
However, I think all of the above options are as unlikely as the other. I felt crushed for Simon when I spoke to him. What could I say to him? Sorry? The club doesn’t need any sympathy, although perhaps some sense of acknowledgement and shame from those involved in bringing the club to the wall wouldn’t go amiss.
There are many who will say: “So what? How many people were there when you watched them? A couple hundred, then let it die.” Well that’s a viewpoint which many at the council probably approve of but it’s just such a cold and heartless position to hold.
In 1955, at the FA Amateur Cup final at Wembley, 100,000 people went to watch Hendon play against Bishops Auckland. 100,000. I know that they would all vote for Hendon to be given a chance of surviving but history and heritage doesn’t get a vote.
I also know, that every single one of those 100,000 people would turn in their graves if they knew what Barnet Council and others had done to Hendon FC and what’s perhaps more important, is they would applaud Simon Lawrence for carrying the torch for Hendon FC into the 21st Century… for however long he can.
You can follow hopefully more happy football ramblings on twitter @eddyman00
The logo of the club was taken from the Bishops Stortford FC club website here.
The second picture of Claremont Road was taken from the creative commons page on Wikipedia here.
The first and third pictures of Claremont Road were taken from Hendon FC images page here but the layout may slow down your PC.
I couldn’t find a place to put it in the article but here is evidence that Hendon FC gave to Parliament about how football is run and it’s worth a read.
Hendon FC Images
The FA Trophy
Barnet – Today: Council Agrees Sale
Daily Mail Article
Two Hundred Percent