Lasting Memories

For anyone who failed to acquire the special-edition programme at last Saturday’s game against Merstham celebrating the 10th anniversary of our move to QEII, you can now read here the interviews conducted with five Enfield Town favourites.

Mark Kirby, skipper on the day we played Spurs in 2011, tells Andrew Warshaw what it meant to wear the captain’s arm band.

Of all the honours and accolades Mark Kirby (aka “Kirbs”)  picked up in his three stints with Enfield Town, there is one that will for ever stick in his mind.

Captaining us in the official opening of QE11 against Tottenham Hotspur is an occasion that has a special place in the heart of one of the club’s much-loved iconic figures.

The ground had fallen into disrepair until the local council and club joined forces in 2008 – and the rest is history.

“The build-up to the game was just like how I imagined a professional set-up would be,” Kirbs (pictured) recalls. “Photographers coming down to training, interviews with local newspapers – the overall hype of it was incredible.”

“Those games are ones that you always remember. I’ve been lucky enough to play in a few big ones. It may not have been a competitive game but it meant so much to so many. As the years have gone by, I’ve thought about it more and more. Like any midweek game, we’d all gone to work during the day. As soon as you arrived at the ground that evening, the atmosphere was intoxicating.”

Kirbs was also skipper at the unofficial opening of the ground a few days earlier when we beat  Harefield United 2-1 in the Middlesex Senior Cup.

“We didn’t really know how to treat the game,” Kirbs, who had joined us from Hendon in 2009,  recalls. “We all knew at the back of our minds that it wasn’t the grand opening.  The game against Spurs  was a real celebration of the hard work and the long hours everyone  put in making it possible. Everyone was buzzing. Having momentous games like that are few and far between when you are a player. You can go through your whole career and not have a moment like that.”

“We were not sure who Spurs were going to bring. Andros Townsend was in the starting line-up. I still have a photo of me and him which makes me look like I’ve just got the better of him.  Every now and then I send it to my mates to let them know I played against him!”

The much-travelled Kirbs, who is now at Chesham, said he kept coming back to Enfield Town because of its reputation as a family club.

“I tried to  give back to the fans what they meant to the players. From the very beginning I tried to have my own connection with them.

“Having so many volunteers does touch a chord with the players. It’s different from having a money man running affairs. The people who come to watch are effectively the owners. Obviously being captain, I relayed this message to all the players coming in. It’s not just a club where you come to pick up a match-day fee.”

He has no intention of ending his love affair with the club. Far from it. “When I’ve finished playing I’d love to come back again as part of a coaching setup once I’ve done my badges.  One day I’m going to manage Enfield Town. That’s my dream.”

Enfield legend Liam Hope shares his special memories with Andrew Warshaw

Few players have fonder memories of that special day 10 years ago when we moved into QEII than our record goalscorer, Liam Hope.

Chants of “Liam Hope, Hope, Hope” accompanied Liam throughout his Towners career and he will never forget scoring one of the two goals that beat a Spurs selection on that emotional afternoon in front of almost 1,000 fans.

“It was a fantastic occasion,” recalls Liam. “The move  was a long time coming. We had had the agreement to move in for some time and having trained there once or twice made it all the more exciting when it finally happened.”

“I remember at the time we were on a really good run in the league and there was a generally a nice feelgood factor around the place. Playing at Brimsdown just didn’t have the soul of QEII which instantly changed as did the number of fans turning up.

“There was a bit of concern about the athletics track but one of the best things they did was to put stands behind the goal which makes a huge difference. Having supporters behind the goal is much better if you  compare it to somewhere like Hornchurch.”

“From a personal standpoint I was actually working for Spurs at the time in their Foundation department so it was even more memorable. I remember the next day seeing my goal on Sky Sports News which was quite surreal.”

Liam, currently at Ware, took the opportunity to put the record straight over his goalscoring exploits during the seven seasons he was with us. The stats show he scored 108 goals but in fact he netted 10 more.

“It’s actually 118 because when I came back to the club I scored another 10. I’m immensely proud of the record. Probably it will be beaten at some point because the club has moved on to bigger and better things since I was there.”

Not surprisingly Enfield Town’s results are still the first Liam looks for. “I’ve said it before, I class myself as a supporter now. The fans were always really good to me.”

“I’m still good mates with a number of the players like Nathan McDonald and Lee Chappell. And of course I’ve huge respect for Andy and Mario.

“Everyone who plays for Enfield recognises very quickly what a special club it is. I’ve always said it’s a club with class. If you don’t recognise that, you soon do when you move away.”

Enfield Town’s life president Roger Reed, who was vice-chairman of the club at the time we moved into QEII, was instrumental in getting the 99-year tenancy deal over the line, writes Andrew Warshaw.

After a long Post Office career, Roger worked for the FA and part of his duties revolved around funding facility developments. “When we got the opportunity to move into the stadium, I was well-placed to know exactly how to present our case with the football authorities,” explained Roger, father of our current chairman Paul Reed.

“It wasn’t just me. I worked in partnership with Keith Wortley who was a structural engineer and knew the language of the builders and contractors. We had to compete with other bidding groups to be the anchor tenant. The stadium was derelict, even though it was a listed building, and had to be totally revamped. But we were dying on our feet having to play at Brimsdown.

“I’d put together a brochure which demonstrated what we would do to develop the sport in the borough and I’d like to think we’ve more than delivered on that.”

The first game in the new stadium was actually against Harefield United in the Middlesex Senior Cup rather than Tottenham Hotspur but Roger recalled: “We didn’t want to make too much of it as we didn’t want too many people there since we didn’t know how the ground would work.

“The one that really sticks in my mind was the official opening against a Spurs selection when we had the best part of 1,000 people there. It was a wonderful atmosphere and we won 2-1. The legacy now is that we have established ourselves as one of the leading non-league teams at step three [of non-league football] and we have a permanent home for the next 89 years.”

Andrew Warshaw talks to former manager Steve Newing about arguably the most memorable season in the club’s history.

You could argue that without Steve Newing and his management team a decade ago, we might never have got to where we are now at Step Three level.

Back in May, 2012, a few months after we had moved into QE11, we capped a hugely successful campaign under Steve’s tenure by gaining promotion to the Ryman Premier Division – where we have remained ever since in whatever guise.

The Towners were forced into the play-offs after Leiston finished a point above us to be crowned Division One North champions but two victories in the space of four days saw Newing’s men over the finish line.

Penalty shootout success over Grays Athletic in the semifinals was followed by a 1-0 win over Needham Market in the final, propelling the club to its highest level since we were formed 11 years previously.

It was the highlight of Steve’s time with us and he looks back on it fondly.

“We’d got to the playoff final two seasons previously against all the odds. Although we lost 3-1 to Concord Rangers, we should have had a penalty and might well have got through. The reason I’m mentioning this is that in all honesty the club wasn’t really ready to go up at that point. We were still at Brimsdown and we’d have struggled.”

Two years later, it was all so very different.

“I think it was meant to be that we would get promoted the year we moved to QE.  That’s what I will always remember.  The first seven home games had to be at Cheshunt but once we got to QE it was such a great feeling. And of course we had home advantage for the playoffs having finished second.”

“There are obviously restrictions in terms of certain parts of the building  being listed  but it was such a special time – moving to somewhere we could call home.”

Steve’s only regret is that Del Deanus, who worked with him at Edgware Town and who was joint manager when both first came to Enfield, was not there to see the club’s big day, his life having been tragically cut short by motor neurone disease. “Del was an integral part of forming the backbone of the club and would have been so proud,” says Steve.

He, too, is proud of what he achieved in his four and half seasons with us and the legacy he left behind. “The first season was all about overhauling the squad and putting the building blocks in place. By the time we moved into the QE, we were a force to be reckoned with.”

Steve, a season ticket holder at Boreham Wood, still has a soft spot for the Towners especially kit man Neil Butterfield.

“I’ve got a lot a friends at the club and would love to see Enfield go up. It would be very fitting 10 years on. I want to make a special mention for Neil who did a hell of a lot for us in the changing room in the year we got promoted. He made our job so much easier.”

There aren’t too many former players who can attest to having been a fans favourite at both the old Enfield FC and at Enfield Town. Bryan Hammatt is certainly of them having played both at Southbury Road and at QEII, playing into his 40s before hanging up his boots.

Bryan would have liked nothing more than to be here today for our special club day, sharing memories of his time with us and the friends he made as a Town legend .

Altogether Bryan made 198 competitive appearances for Town, scoring 57 goals in the process including four hattricks. He also played for 11 other clubs in an illustrious career under no fewer than 13 different managers.

Bryan made his Town debut on Aug 13, 2005, left three years later and returned for a second spell in Feb 2011 – nine months before we moved into QE11 – finally leaving in Oct, 2013.

Few families have such an affinity with the club as the Hammatts, Bryan’s father Peter having been club coach under Jim Chandler whilst Bryan’s mother, sister and brother in law were all huge Towners fans.

Bryan still rates getting promoted with Enfield Town as one of the biggest achievements of his career and explained why he couldn’t resist returning to the club for a second spell at an age when most players had long moved on.

“Steve Newing who had been a friend of mine for many years,” Bryan explained. “I’d always been really fit and lucky with injuries. Steve needed an experienced older head and it was like coming home.”

There was even a short period when he and his dad were joint caretaker managers just after Steve Newing left the club.

Management was never really an ambition but Bryan will always be remembered for his seven years in a Towners shirt, not finishing up until the age of 41. “Special club, special place, special people,” he said. “I hope everyone has a wonderful day on Saturday.”

Andrew Warshaw