A busy Easter weekend was beginning to take its toll on me and this led to the rarity of changing my matchday plans on the morning of a game. Unfortunately, Folkestone v Margate, a fierce Kent derby, lost out purely because of the travel time. In its stead was a long awaited opportunity to visit an interesting club just over the river in Rotherhithe.
I first noticed Fisher FC on Twitter when I saw a great photo of their ground in the shadow of Canary Wharf. I looked them up and found that not only did they have a striking home, but also a fascinating backstory. It was looking like I might not get to visit them until next season, but with wife and baby in tow I made the short trip through the Rotherhithe tunnel on another voyage of footballing discovery.
Competition: Southern Counties East League Division One (step six)
Refreshments: £1 (tea)
Star man: Rob Brown
Who are ya, Fisher FC?
Fisher FC, also known as the Fish (south London clubs and their fishy nicknames, eh?), were officially founded in 2009 but the club is the continuation of Fisher Athletic. Athletic were wound up in the same year after financial difficulties. The Fish were voted into the Kent League upon creation and it became the SCEFL a few years later. Fisher were in the Premier Division until relegation last season.
The original Fisher Athletic were founded in 1908 by the headmaster of the Dockhead School in Bermondsey and were named ‘The Fisher Club’ in memory of St John Fisher. The club played in local leagues until the 1960s when they briefly disbanded. They emerged again a few years later in Mitcham playing in the Kent Amateur League.
Athletic were elected into the Spartan League in the 1970s and were back-to-back champions in the early 1980s. They moved to their famous Surrey Docks Stadium, and their success soon saw them join the Southern League. By the end of the decade they were in the Football Conference. The 1990s saw a downturn in fortunes as they returned to the Southern League.
The early 2000s saw the club move in with Dulwich Hamlet while plans were proposed for a new ground. They won promotion to the Isthmian Premier in 2006 and won the play-offs a year later to enter the, still wet behind the ears, Conference South. Financial troubles got the better of the club and they were eventually wound up in 2009, leading to the formation of Fisher FC as a supporter owned club.
- The club ground shared with Dulwich Hamlet at Champion Hill between 2004 and 2016
- Fisher Athletic reached the FA Cup First Round twice, losing on both occasions to clubs from Bristol. City in 1984 and Rovers in 1988.
The Fish were sitting comfortably in third position prior to kick-off. They had a couple of games in hand over the teams below them but were 14 points off the top two promotion places. Their form throughout the season had been good, but they’d lost three of their last five games, although two of these were against the two sides above them.
Crockenhill’s season, however, has been a lot more of a struggle. They sat bottom of the table with only nine points from three wins all season. They’d conceded 142 goals in 30 games and this had included a 5-1 defeat at home to the Fish in January. Crockenhill is just south of Dartford, in case you were wondering, we certainly were.
The Fisher FC experience
Train: The St Paul’s Sports Ground is around a 10-15 minute walk from Rotherhithe or Canada Water Stations. Both Stations are on the London Overground network and Canada Water is also on the Jubilee Line.
Car: The ground is easy to reach via the Rotherhithe Tunnel or the A200. Just follow Salter Road either way round, and you’ll see the Fisher FC sign. There is no parking at the ground but you can park on Salter Road.
Fisher FC was my first taste of football below step five, so I was a little unsure of what to expect. The ground and the story behind the club are attractive propositions for a football tourist such as myself, but the excellent website also helps sell the club and its values. The overall experience at Fisher FC belies their standing in the English football pyramid. The programme picks up where the website leaves off and the production value feels more akin to a Football League club, with the bonus of non-league prices and a friendly welcome.
The crowd for this Easter Monday fixture was 112, just above Fisher’s season average. The attendance was boosted by a few adorned in pink and blue. The club offered discounts to fans of former landlords, and friendly local rivals, Dulwich Hamlet. The crowd was well spread around the ground which is one of several in London being used for the CONIFA World Cup in May and June.
St Paul’s offers a good selection of viewpoints. A good sized seating area runs down one side. The Fisher faithful, equipped with some striking banners, (clearly a flair for design is a prerequisite at this club) congregate at the Dockers End, which has a small covered terrace and spectacular views of Canary Wharf. The rest of the ground is uncovered standing, but we did find a bike shed where we planned to huddle should the morning’s heavy rain return.
Everything at Fisher FC feels clean and organised, and the final pieces of the matchday jigsaw are provided by the clubhouse and refreshments stand. A menu and price list can be found on the website and in the programme. A range of drinks and hot and cold snacks are provided at prices considerably lower than you’d find at the trendy markets up the road in Borough and Bermondsey.
The Fish sink Crockenhill with second half onslaught
The Fish put the visitors under pressure from the outset but Crockenhill belied their league position for much of the first half and defended resolutely. The visitors limited Fisher to a series of corners and a few attempts from distance. There was a noticeable sense of panic among some of the home side as they realised the bottom side in the league may not be as easy to crack as they had been in January.
Crockenhill continued to fight hard in the second half, a little too hard at points as some of the players clashed near the touchline. A rash foul just outside their own box led to the first goal. Rob Brown stepped up and drove the free kick past the wall and in off the post. Once the deadlock was broken Fisher found their cutting edge and were rampant. Haidorovic added the second after getting on the end of a well-judged cross, and Robinson drove in a third for his first goal for the club.
Ede added a fourth goal after getting on the end of a loose ball from a corner. I have to confess to being in the toilet for this goal, but I did catch the celebrations. There was still time for Fisher to add two more to their tally as firstly Jamie Brown drove in a superb fifth from a tight angle and then Haidarovic completed the scoring with an excellent volley. It took the Fish a while to wear down their opponents, but they were able to turn on the style with some excellent goals.
My first visit to the new look Fisher FC was a very enjoyable experience and the club looks to have built a good base to begin their ascent back up the non-league ladder. There is clearly lots of hard work going on behind the scenes which I’m sure will be rewarded on the field in the near future. Fisher’s fan-owned ethos will become increasingly attractive to local football fans as the club’s name begins to grow again. I’m even tempted to become a member myself.
Quick shout out for the SCEFL. I’ve now seen two SCEFL games and both were great, time to add a few more to the schedule.