1997 was a long time ago. A lot has happened in the world since that date. Yeovil Town have gone from football conference to football league championship, South Korea have participated in more World Cup semi-finals than England and Apple have taken over the world.
It was Saturday 3rd May 1997. The date the Stones put Northwood to the sword to begin their ascent back up the non-league footballing pyramid.
In those days, no Twitter, no Facebook, no social media whatsoever. Even text messages were in their infancy. Mobile phones were very much in their relative infancy too – if you owned one, it was still considered a luxury, but the world was changing. And very soon social media would change the face of football too.
So whilst relying on ‘Dave’ (we all knew one) to ring through the football scores at a rival game, Stones needed to do their business. And how. Braintree Town, an essex promotion rival for much of the season, had crept up on the tail and were heading into the final day showpiece knowing that if they could better Wealdstone’s result, they could nick the title. ‘Dave’ would have relayed that Braintree were walloping their opponents (they won 7-0 that day) – so it meant the Stones needed a win over a tricky Northwood outfit, unbeaten at home all season, to clinch the title. And win they did. What a day.
15 April 2014 the date that Wealdstone FC were finally crowned winners of the Ryman League. Here in one place is the remarkable run to the title, told through the power of YouTube.
WARNING: (Some) Videos contain outpouring of emotions and heavy use of expletives
Monday 31 March 2014 – Wealdstone 2-0 Billericay (moving to 85 points following this victory)
Video: Johnny Wright finishes a flowing move as Wealdstone extend their lead at the top of the Ryman League.
Young frontman Charlie Penny, newly released by Millwall, also played a notable role winning the penalty that Cronin converted to send the Stones on their way.
Thursday 3 April 2014 – East Thurrock 0-3 Wealdstone (88 points)
Video: Carl McCluskey, who had an indifferent season at the Stones, nods home Jey Siva’s perfectly weighted cross for Stones’ second goal of the night on the way to a crucial 3-0 victory.
Saturday 5 April 2014 – Met Police 2-1 Wealdstone (stuck on 88)
Wealdstone travelled in hope rather than expectation. Typical annoying football cliche. It was the Stones’ first stab at finishing the job. A freak set of results married with a Stones victory would seal the title. But the Stones couldn’t quite manage their part of the bargain.
Video: Cronin smashes home a pen to put the Stones 1-up but slack defending sees the Police rob Bartlett’s men and leave the Stones contingent waiting a little longer for the official coronation.
Tuesday 8 April 2014 – Wealdstone 0-0 Lowestoft (89 points)
The nemesis. Lowestoft Town. The team who Wealdstone can never beat. A point edged Wealdstone closer to the title and for Lowestoft, who sat outside the playoffs at the time, it was seen as a good result as they maintained their top five challenge. Both would be celebrating promotion come May.
Video: Wealdstone hit the bar, but the supporters waited a little longer for that.
Saturday 12 April 2014 – Grays 1-1 Wealdstone (90 points)
Playing their home games at the uninspiring surroundings of Aveley FC, Grays were the next side looking to delay the champions-elect party. A large travelling Stones army descended upon Essex once more for the game that was being billed as the this is it moment.
A cagey affair throughout, Grays took the lead mid-way through the second half and held the advantage going into the last five-minutes – Video: Wealdstone’s McGleish, a predator, smashed home Little’s cutback to send some supporters on the pitch believing that a point would be enough to finally wrap up the title. As it was, a late Bognor penalty against beyond-hope Wingate meant it was a rollover and Wealdstone could belatedly finish the job with a Tuesday night victory in Kent over moneybags Margate…
Tuesday 15 April 2014 – Margate 0-1 Wealdstone (93 points)
A party that I sadly missed. Wealdstone finally sealed the league championship with a 1-0 victory.
Video: Penny nets the crucial goal (courtesy of Wealdstone FC YouTube channel)
And the wild celebrations afterwards:
Saturday 19 April 2014 – Wealdstone 0-4 Kingstonian
The hangover. Part one. Jonathan North was harshly dismissed for an innocuous ‘punch’ – it can be debated until the cows come home but the fat lady had already sung, and the tuts around the ground reiterated the inevitable, 10-men and impending defeat. But it didn’t really matter. Although it did end any hopes of 100-points.
Video: a rare treat. Champions league music at The Vale for the guard of honour.
Monday 21 April 2014 – Billericay 4-2 Wealdstone
The hangover. Part two. A bank holiday horror. Another one I missed.
Saturday 26 April 2014 – Wealdstone 2-0 Canvey (96 points)
Video: Peter Dean, who else, nets Wealdstone’s 99th league goal of the season to ensure the champions sign off in the correct way – as winners. (courtesy of Wealdstone FC YouTube channel)