2014 is over and a very illustrious year it was in Wealdstone FC’s modern history. A first league title in 17-years and promotion to tier six of English football nested alongside the rise of the infamous Wealdstone Raider, Gordon Hill, who began the year as a little known recluse, shying away from the limelight generated in the wake of his 2013 Whitehawk moment, but ended it in the UK pop charts with “No fans” which pushed the X-factor winner’s single right to the wire in the race for Christmas number 1 before finally charting at no.5.
Here @StonesGoals recalls the first five-months of the Conference South season…
Following a last minute Eastbourne equaliser in the opening game of the season (9 Aug), and after @StonesGoals broadcasting debut ended in a 2-2 draw at Stortford (12 Aug), the Stones travelled to Hampshire hoping it would be third time lucky against Gosport. Although the game ended 0-0 controversy was not lost as two goals were disallowed, one for either side, in what was a very entertaining stalemate at Privett Park.
Match-day four saw the heavily fancied relegation favourites Farnborough visit The Vale (23 Aug) and this time victory was expected. It was, however, to be another fruitless afternoon as Farnborough’s Northern Ireland U21 international, Matt Ball, who ended the year a Stones player, scored with two sublime strikes. As a hail storm took hold, McGleish fired one back late on for the Stones but it was nothing more than a consolation and the Stones trudged off with no wins from four.
An impressive 0-0 draw on August bank holiday Monday away to heavily fancied Ebbsfleet, a professional outfit, followed Farnborough before another one of the league’s most fancied teams, Bromley, visited The Vale – dishing out the season’s biggest hammering in the process (0-4).
What was seen as a very winnable set of fixtures followed in September; Hayes and Yeading (6 Sept) ended in a 1-2 away defeat; then-bottom Bath City (home, 9 Sept) ended in the same scoreline; before a 2-4 defeat away at old nemesis Concord Rangers (13 Sept) left the Stones languishing in the bottom-two with no wins from nine games. The latter of those games, Concord, had fans flocking to the forum berating the selection of personnel from Bartlett and questioning his ability to maintain the club’s status as a Conference South outfit.
“So called fans are already after Gordon’s blood. Suggest people look at his non league management before shouting for his head.
The situation isn’t irreversible.
Its a time for calm heads. No one wants to contemplate a return to the Ryman and I’m sure we will see things happen shortly.”
Palmer the Charmer, Sat 13 Sept 2014
Meanwhile, former-Stone Lee Chappell was relishing the prospect of facing a beleaguered Stones side…
At the tenth time of asking, Wealdstone won beating Whitehawk 1-0 (16 Sept), the now-departed Luke Pigden hit the only goal of the game in the 41st minute – the Stones remained bottom of the table but suddenly new optimism was circling The Vale.
“What a result against a Whitehawk squad full of expensive ex pros. Just the shot in the arm the team and whole club needed. I wonder whether Chappell and the rest of the St Albans mob will be quite so bullish about coming to “smash” us after that?”
BornundertheElmslie, Tue 16 Sept 2014
With optimism came despair… a 0-3 home defeat to St. Albans (20 Sept) just days after such an impressive away win had me questioning the worth of @StonesGoals as yet again it was more focus on the opposition and little to show from the continually wilting Stones front line. Meanwhile the first real signs of discontent were surfacing on the supporters’ forum with a minority of fans calling for Gordon Bartlett’s head.
“is this possibly the end of the long winding road for the management?”
dulwichyiddo, Sun 21 Sept 2014
Much of the abuse was aimed in the direction of the club’s summer signings with many labelled as not good enough. Attacker Tom Collins had already been bombed off, despite possessing an excellent pedigree and expected to shine in a Stones shirt, whilst Jack Mills, who started so promisingly, followed him out the exit door.
The board wasn’t immune to criticism either, as the Stones lack of goal scoring prowess also bore a degree of anger.
“Howard, Please sign a rugged 6’4 Mobile forward,that will score 20 goals a season, thats if you want to hoof it up as we have been doing, Howard please sign a PLAYMAKER that can orchestrate the water carriers in the midfield, Howard, please sign a minder for the afore mentioned players, O’Nien apart,do this and as Gloria Gaynor once said, We will survive. No negativity here, I know even against teams like St Albans their budget far exceeds ours, but, as we all know the players that cost the money are the goalscorers and the playmakers. SORT IT.”
stevo999, Sun 21 Sept 2014
Bartlett responded to suggestions that Wealdstone’s budget was inferior to other teams in the league by stating in the Kilburn Times:
“My phone is red hot at the moment.
“We are currently under budget and we had some investment last week but we will not rush into anything.
“It is not a case that we can’t do anything, if the right player becomes available we will look to do something. But as I’ve always done, it will only be done if I feel it is the best decision for the club.”
Gordon Bartlett, 24 Sept 2014, Kilburn Times
The club was seemingly in turmoil and with a home FA Cup tie against Concord now being given extra significance, Wealdstone knew that nothing but victory would do.
The first ‘trump’ card came on 26 Sept, stevo999s wishes were answered in the form of a big front-man; journeyman Enoch Showumni arrived.
Needless to say, Stones drew the FA Cup tie 1-1 with old enemy Concord Rangers (27 Sept) – a 96th minute equaliser at the end of the allotted five-add minutes added time did nothing to ease supporter concern that the side was mentally weak and incapable of seeing out a game. The Stones goal came courtesy of summer signing Joe Turner who, after a slow start, was beginning to find his feet at The Vale.
On 30 September, Wealdstone lost the replay, 2-0, with O’Nien sent off early for handball on the goal line; the resulting penalty was converted to effectively end the tie. Showunmni, who started the game before later being replaced, would not play competitively for the Stones again.
Wealdstone finished September bottom of the Conference South table, out of the FA Cup, and ultimately engulfed in a crisis. The 2 October ‘Meet the manager’ evening saw Bartlett assure fans of survival; those not convinced by his remarks would soon have their minds changed over the months that followed as Wealdstone were about to embark on a superb end of year run.
Pacy winger Shaun Lucien signed from borough rivals, Harrow, and Dan Brown, previously at league rivals Maidenhead also signed to add steel to the midfield. The former had an instant impact, terrorising the Weston-Super-Mare defence as the Stones picked up their second league victory of the season with a hugely vital 2-1 away win (4 Oct). McGleish and Hamblin netting for the Stones.
“Now that was better
Shaun Lucien was a big difference at last someone who can run at people and lay a pass too
Everyone did well today so well done to all
Oh Weston Super Mare do your fans ever make any noise ? what a sad quiet bunch of people
Oh and Mr Weston Super Mare Tannoy man you forgot to play music after our two goals, well if you did it was very quiet.
I think without us The Weston Super Mare Library may have been more noisy than the football ground today
Wealdstone Fans ahh it was like Cambridge Away revisited awesome in that stand second half.”
russpa, Sat 4 Oct 2014
The Weston victory was followed up by a visit from table-toppers Havant & Waterlooville to The Vale (6 Oct). Despite leading twice, the Stones were pegged back and had to settle for a 2-2 draw but the positivity was beginning to be felt amongst the terraces as four points in three days saw the Stones leapfrog Staines Town to climb off the bottom of the table. Former-Stone Scott Donnelly, now a Havant player, scored the Hawk’s equaliser and was the subject of much abuse from the home support who felt he shouldn’t have been on the pitch following a two-footed lunge midway through the second half.
An early FA Cup exit ensured no further league activity until 18 October when a last-minute winner for Basingstoke Town condemned the blues to a 0-1 home reverse.
With much of the forum continuing to lambast the lack of goals, Lewis Putman’s whereabouts was questioned. The striker who dual-signed with Hanwell Town during pre-season was expected to star in the Ryman last term before serious injury put him out for the majority of the season. Having last turned out for the blues in the previous campaign in a 3-0 victory against East Thurrock, there was much speculation as to whether he could be the answer this time round. Such murmurings came and went with many writing him off and instead it was another name from the past that was beginning to pass between lips. By the end of October, the @pressoffwfc Twitter account tweeted that Richard Jolly, who retired over a season ago, was back in training with Wealdstone and contemplating coming out of retirement.
In other news, Stones captured the signature of Matt Ball from Farnborough – the transfer was reported as carrying an undisclosed fee which would make history as Bartlett’s first ‘paid for’ signing.
The month concluded with a 6-0 stuffing of Hampton in the Middlesex Senior Cup, on-loan Stevenage striker Connor Calcutt scored twice and looked like the man capable of finally solving the striking conundrums. Unfortunately, the star’s loan-spell would be short-lived as a serious leg injury in November’s victory over Chelmsford City saw the hitman return to his parent club.
The first week of November was disappointing. A last-minute Maidenhead equaliser cancelled out Lucien’s opener and Stones had to settle for a point (1 Nov) before a disappointing 2-1 defeat away to Borehamwood (8 Nov). Despite leading for much of the game, Wealdstone conceded two late goals against Wood; many felt that the scoreline was a fair reflection of the home side’s dominance with yet more inspired form from Stones keeper Jonathan North. The stopper had yet another impressive year making a series of outstanding saves.
The following week (14 Nov) saw the announcement from Trinity Mirror that the Harrow Observer was to close after 159 years’ service. The paper, created by an estate agent in 1855, had long since served as an important outlet for Stones supporters through the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. The advent of the digitally driven age, incorporating social media, coupled with the borough’s ever-changing landscape, spelt the beginning of the end for the printed title – it lives on in sorts via digital form having officially ended on 18 December.
Stones were to snatch their third league win of the season on 17 November with a 2-0 victory at Chelmsford. Elliot Godfrey and the continually impressive Shaun Lucien with the goals. Apparently Godfrey’s strike was a screamer but regrettably @StonesGoals were not on site to capture the moment. The win signalled the first time in the league this season that the Stones had won by a scoreline of two goals or more.
At the fourth time of asking, Wealdstone would finally beat Concord Rangers this term courtesy of a Scott McGleish winner (22 Nov). The game was notable for a couple of firsts: the first home league victory of the season and the first time the Stones had strung together a run of two consecutive victories in the Conference South as they began to slowly steer away from the bottom two.
A 1-1 draw away to St. Albans (29 Nov) in the FA Trophy represented a huge improvement on the earlier 3-0 thrashing the same opponent had handed out just a couple of months earlier.
The month began with the Stones handing out a 3-0 hammering of St. Albans City in the FA Trophy replay (2 Dec) avenging the earlier reverse against the The Saints. Notably, the game saw the return of Richard Jolly and it was Jolls himself who set up the third goal shortly after stepping off the bench.
A third Conference South victory in a row was recorded on 6 December against nine-man Staines Town – the Swans were, by now, in perilous trouble of their own adrift by some distance at the bottom of the table. The end of the month saw club and manager, Marcus Gayle, part company as the club lay 21st and nine-points from safety.
A goal by captain Wes Parker saw the Stones march past Hayes and Yeading, 1-0, in the first round of the FA Trophy (13 Dec) to set up a home tie in round two against league compatriots Bath City. Ironically just days before the round two opponents were announced the Stones travelled to Bath on 20 December and came away with a last-minute winner of their own with Joe Turner striking in the 90th minute to send the travelling faithful home delirious and recording a fourth consecutive league victory in the process.
The Raider’s chart tilt saw the star rub shoulders with a variety of more seasoned celebs whilst press rumours gathered pace that Gordon might be about to appear in Celebrity Big Brother come the New Year – we continue to keep our fingers crossed that he tells some irritating American Z-lister that they have No Fanssch. In the end, musically at least, Gordon charted at a very respectable number five in the race for Christmas number one. A series of night club appearances, interviews on TalkSport, BT Sport and even an appearance at Ally Pally for the seasonal PDC World Darts Championship all played their part in establishing the Raider as a household name #NoFans. It’s also worth pointing out all his single proceeds went to charity – top man.
On the field the year concluded with a 1-1 draw at home to Sutton United on Boxing Day – Matt Ball scored a 90th minute equaliser to ensure Wealdstone remain unbeaten on Boxing Day since 2003.
That was swiftly followed up by a 1-1 draw away to title-favourites Bromley with Richard Jolly netting for the first time since his return from retirement.
Wealdstone finished the year in 14th place with 26 points from 22 games.