In 2008 a Slovenian man named Martin Strel swam the length of the Amazon from its source in Peru to its mouth on the Brazilian coast. It would seem to be a glamorous challenge, but the early part of his journey was spent paddling through shallow muddy waters in the Peruvian jungle. The FA Cup, just like the Amazon, begins in places many people would never associate with the famous competition. For me, it all started with my local club as I joined the Walthamstow FA Cup journey, and they joined hundreds from across non-league in kicking off the World’s most famous Cup competition.
“he thought the cure for [his sunburn pain] was more beer.”
Borut Strel from the Big River Man DVD about his father, Martin, who swam the Amazon.
Walthamstow FA Cup pedigree is much better than mine. They’ve entered the competition in three different centuries under their various guises. I’ve been to one game. A Third Round tie between Fulham and Swindon in 2010. This season, however, would mark the first ever entry of Walthamstow FC. The re-named club would take their first FA Cup steps against the picturesquely named, fellow step five club, Walsham-Le-Willows from the Eastern Counties League.
Competition: FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round
Dogs spotted: None
FA Cup pedigree
The Walthamstow FA Cup adventure might begin officially with this game, but the club has competed in the competition since the 19th century. In recent years, as Waltham Forest, they’ve reached the second qualifying round three times since 2011, eventually losing to Eastbourne Borough, Hampton & Richmond Borough and Folkstone Invicta. Last season they were knocked out in the first round after a replay with FC Romania who were then also in the Essex Senior League.
Walthamstow’s opponents, Walsham-Le-Willows have been knocked out at the Extra Preliminary round for the last six seasons. The Suffolk side’s best run has been three trips to the Preliminary Round in 2007, 2008 and 2011. They’ve also been knocked out by Essex Senior teams three times since 2012.
Both sides have made a positive early start to the season. Walthamstow have four points from a win against West Essex and a draw against Hoddesdon Town in their two games. Walsham-Le-Willows have only played once so far, a 2-0 league victory against Woodbridge Town.
The Walthamstow FA Cup dream
The first of 14 rounds of the competition began, coincidentally, on the same weekend as the Premier League. Millions feverishly welcomed the birth of a another season. I watched two teams that would likely bite your hand off for a place in the final round of the FA Cup in May contest the Premier League’s early kick-off and wondered if they’d given a second thought to the start of the World’s most famous cup. Probably not.
To their credit the BBC had made some effort to mark the occasion. They were showing an early kick-off of their own online. Walsham-Le-Willow’s fellow Eastern Counties League club Haverhill Rovers beat their cross-town rivals Haverhill Borough 2-0. The BBC also previewed the first round on their website earlier in the week. The article featured none other than Ryan Maxwell. His footballing existence has been somewhat nomadic since playing alongside John Terry at youth level.
Maxwell’s experience, however, has clearly helped his new-look side, who debuted their brand-new kit for the first time. Over the summer he’s brought together a group of exciting, attacking players. A year ago Walthamstow, then Waltham Forest, were crowdfunding to stay afloat now they are looking to push for promotion and hopefully embark on a good cup run.
The adventurous style on the pitch compliments the atmosphere off it. A mixture of regulars and curious locals arrived for the game. By the second half most had gravitated towards ‘the Rabble’ who provided the soundtrack behind whichever goal the home side were attacking. Just like the Premier League players on TV in front of millions a few hours before, the FA Cup might not be Walthamstow’s top priority. The excitement showed towards the beginning of the competition at Wadham Lodge, however, underlines how far the club has come in the last 12 months.
Stow steal the show and progress to next round
Walthamstow started the game well and looked threatening from the outset. Their attacking quartet of Appiah, Peagram, Owusu, and Josephs left their Suffolk opponents scratching their heads for much of the game. Stow soon made their advantage pay. Another quick attack found Josephs in space and he finished well with a little help from a deflection off a Walsham defender.
Walsham-Le-Willows looked more comfortable attacking as their defence struggled to cope with Walthamstow’s speed of play. They had a couple of openings but some solid defending and one or two well-timed fouls ensured Stow’s goal remained safe. The home side had a couple more chances but went into the break with a 1-0 lead.
Stow came out firing again in the second half and looked to have put the game to bed. Appiah flicked the ball into Peagram’s path and the striker pulled the ball back to his colleague who then supplied a second flick, this time into the bottom corner. It looked like the game was over until Ryan Clark let fly with an incredible shot into the top corner to get the visitors back in the game.
There were a couple of close moments and Harkin pulled off a great save to keep Stow ahead. Peagram settled the game soon after, however. The ball fell to him following a corner and he finished well to send his side into the next round. Walthamstow progress to an away tie against another ‘stow’ in the form of Bostik North Division side Felixstow & Walton.
Star player: Junior Appiah