Three Crises - 1963-77
In 1963, after eighty-two years' existence, the club faced a severe problem. The school announced that it would no longer guarantee pitches to the Club. Within a month, Mann Crossman, from whom we had rented a pitch for five years, gave us notice to quit because of their own plans for expansion.
After searching the whole area we managed to lease eight acres of swampland from the then Wanstead and Woodford Council. They had tried to develop the area themselves but had failed. They clearly thought we were mad and let us have the first two years of a fourteen year lease rent free. They gave no guarantee that we would be able to use the ground for any recreation other than a crude form of sub aquatics.
The enthusiasm with which the members set about clearing three acres or so of gorse and scrub stays vividly in the mind. Coming from their City jobs and assorted professions through the Summer of 1963, they transformed themselves into what looked like a gang of extras on location for "How the West was Won".
Within months an approach road had been built and a pavilion completed. These were virtually built at cost by a relative of Jeff Bird. No praise can be too high for the services rendered at that time by Jeff and by Wally Ridgway and John Lockhart who so ably raised the money.
The pavilion was designed in what might be called the neo-Saxon style if there was one. Strongly utilitarian and built to keep out vandals, it had changing accommodation for seventy, or fifty if you wanted to go home in your own clothes. It also had an adequate social room, bar, plunge-bath and showers, ladies' and gents' lavatories and a cabin cruiser sized kitchen. But it was one of the greatest bargains of all time at £3, 250. It was the scene of many extremely happy days.
Using that pavilion the Club expanded from three teams in 1963 to six in 1972. During that time it survived a crisis of a quite horrendous nature. In 1968 we were served notice by North Thames Gas Board that their North Sea gas pipe would have to come through our ground. This would necessitate the temporary blockage of our drainage ditches and the digging of a canal straight across the first eleven pitch. But not to worry, the job would be completed, repairs and all, in three weeks. Twenty months later it was finished and so, very nearly, was the Club.
The problem was that having dug the six yards wide canal, the Board discovered that the pipe they had intended laying wasn't the same size as the pipe to which it was to be joined. Worse still, they had run out of piping of the correct size and there was a fifteen months waiting list for fresh supplies. Their representative actually explained to your correspondent, who was negotiating on behalf of the Club, that the Board's dilemma was, should they dig up all the pipe back to the North Sea and install the smaller pipe of which there was plentiful supply or wait until the correct gauge became available? The Club's legal adviser, Roy Dixon, replied laconically that he wouldn't want the Club to be held responsible for any of the Board's officials being lost at sea, so we waited.
Meanwhile, with the drainage ditches blocked, the rain couldn't get away. Gradually the water level rose and at one stage we were unable to play on any of the three pitches for nineteen weeks. During this period one member suggested at a special meeting that we might help improve the balance of trade by growing our own rice.
Eventually the crisis passed and the resulting compensation was so generous as to be a contributory factor in some of the Board's officials being arraigned on corruption charges. Certainly it was enough to give us a springboard to go ahead with a campaign to raise £12,500 to enlarge the pavilion and car park. But 1972/73 was a bad time to raise funds as Britain lurched into its biggest economic crisis since the last one. We have our enlarged pavilion with a new bar and social room big enough to accommodate two hundred revellers but we are still in debt to the tune of £2,400.
The members do all their own preparatory work, marking pitches and maintaining the drainage and ground without any help whatsoever from the Council. We have survived more than one hundred burglaries and are coping with the present inflation by increasing our fund raising activities. A recent analysis by Keith Massingham, F.C.A.(O.M.) revealed that it costs us £38 each week to put on three matches.
Four weeks ago, the Redbridge Council dropped a new bombshell by raising our rent from £75 p.a. to £2,500 p.a. for the next seven years of the lease . This is approximately a 3 ,200% increase and does not seem to be within the price code, however whimsical that apparatus may be. At the time of writing we are conducting, against all my own inclinations, civilised negotiations with the Council. If they press their demands to the point of eviction, all hell will break loose.
Our members have to buy their own shirts (~£5 each.) Subscriptions are £1 .50 for school leavers and £7 for over 21 s. Every member is, expected to make some contribution to the running of the Club. We field seven teams in the Southern Olympian League and our famed Veterans XI plays about eight games each season. In the last twenty five years the 1st XI have never fmished below sixth in the Premier Division.
For some reason the Football Club has been slow to attract publicity. Our pavilion is in Roding Lane (North), Woodford and there will always be a warm welcome for any old Monovian who wants to call in on Saturday afternoons for a drink and a chat. Some of the people you might meet there include: Over 40 - Don King, Wally Ridgway, Doug Insole, Frank Collins, Alan Bateman, John Smiles, John Barron, Geoff Hewitson, Alan Johnstone, Derek Steward, Malcolm Horder; Over 35 - Mark Baker, Derek Southgate, Bany Gymer, Alan Grant, Keith Vohmann, Alan Eagle ; Over 30 - Jimmy Eaton, Keith Massingharn, Brian Hammond, Roy Dixon, Roger Giles, John Maxwell, Richard Danzey, Mark Wastell; Over 25 - Roy Chiswell, Rob Anderson, Mark Oram, Roger Smith, Ian Berriman, Chris Smith, Andy Wilkes, Al. Carter, Martin Dowsett, Geoff Savill, John Savifi; Over 20 - Neil Weaver, Peter Bowler, John Pitman, Ian Cox, Mark Buck, Dave Myers, John Basinger, Nigel Stothart, Clive Nagle, John Taylor, Ken Redbourne, Calvin Bobin, Peter Beaton, Chris Conquest, Duncan Payling, Steve Milton, Peter Barrett, Billy Holt, Geoff Lane and Glen Finch.
The Football Club has always been renowned for its ability to overcome adversity. In the Minutes of a Committee Meeting dated about October 1940, Ted Williams noted that in spite of persistent heavy bombing, the members voted unanimously to go ahead with the Social and Dance at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel. I am proud to preside over a club which today overcomes swampland, inflation, noncompetent bureaucrats and rapacious landlords with the sort of spirit typified in that meeting of thirty-seven years ago.
I commend the Football Club with its projected new partner, an O.Ms. Volley Ball Club during the summer season to all school leavers. If you want further details about playing or non-playing membership, please telephone Michael Oram (531-4371).
D.A. Steward (1946-51)