What a bizarre season. For the second season in a row, our lives have been disrupted by Coronavirus and the leagues Wanderers' teams compete in are no different.
Here is a whistle-stop tour of what happened during the season.
There were 8 pre-season matches but with only one win - the 1sts drew with AFC Ewell before losing to Tolworth United and Wilberforce Wanderers. The only win was 4-1 over Tooting Bec A - but there would be other opportunities for them to make amends. The 2nds lost a 9-goal thriller against Clapham Rovers, two ridiculously mismatched games to Real Holmesdale and Tooting Bec, and a charity match against West Norwood.
Pre-season ended with the 1sts beating Oxted & District A and Inter Star, whilst the 2nds enjoyed a run out against Brixistane FC's under-18s team. We started the season with a somewhat surprising win for the 1sts at Peckham Town followed by three more points versus Chessington KC. The 2nds fielded a brand new line-up with 8 players making their league debut and earning a draw, following up a massive 8-2 friendly win over AMY Reserves, with Jordan Q spanking in a hat-trick. The Women's team, missing a coach and almost all of the players from the incredible campaign in the previous season, were hammered by LFA Athletico, one of the Clapham Women's Saturday Football League's 'in-house' teams, then by Ladies EEA.
However, the club were elated to find that we would be supported by shaving brand Harry's. Having clearly won their Football's Other Guys competition (just check out the engagements on Instagram!), we had to settle for a runners-up prize as we could not upgrade the changing rooms at Virgo Fidelis. The club were also recognised as a Kick It Out Equality Chartered Club for its commitment to fighting racism.
The Men's 1sts suffered their perennial first round exit in the London Junior Cup, facing Tooting Bec FC from Intermediate Division 1, and the Men's 2nds endured the same fate but with the added benefit of travelling several hours to the edge of Essex to play Blue Marlin of the Essex Alliance Football League, eight levels higher. A classic example of how desperately lower-level cups need to be regionalised or seeded! The worst part of the weekend was the devastating injury to Niall, meaning he would miss the rest of the season - we hope he can come back to the club in some capacity when he gets back from his shift entertaining on a cruise ship! In the league, the 1sts narrowly beat Tolworth United before demolishing NPL 8-0 with hat-tricks for Ryan and Ebenezer. The win put them top of the league for the first time. The 2nds were smashed 6-1 by Trinity, despite taking an early lead and lost to Inter Star, who had dropped down to JD6 from JD1. The harshest defeat was a late 1-0 loss to Old Rutlishians, despite dominating the game but that feeling was alleviated by a stunning win over undefeated league leaders Surrey Casuals.
The women endured a narrow defeat to Brazuka United before another demolition by experienced Goaldiggers FC - a rude awakening for new Women's Head Coach, Stuart Webb.
All play was suspended as Coronavirus cases increased across the country.
The world of football kit collectors was set ablaze by the reveal of the new Wanderers kit. Bearing the sponsor logos from Harry's and club ambassador, Florent Saulnier, as well as our charity partners CALM, the eye-catching 'Bassett's All Sorts' design proved to be in huge demand - at time of writing, over 100 shirts have been sold around the world!
On the pitch, the boys were doing decent business of their own... The 1sts beat title contenders Thames United and drew at Tooting Bec whilst the 2nds beat Waddon Wanderers before slumping to a ludicrous defeat to Panthers, aided in no small part by some questionable refereeing.
In the cup, the Women's 1sts faced another 'in house' team in LFA Sporting, who went to town against an under-staffed team. It was the first of two consecutive 9-0 defeats and would be the last time the women's team would take the field in the course of the season as the CWSFL decided to void the league as Lockdown #2 kicked in.
The club promoted Mental Health Week with a bumper giveaway and by promoting a series of videos by Flo Saulnier, who bravely opened up about his own battles with mental health problems.
The Surrey South Eastern Combination lost Life President and heartbeat behind the admin of the leagues, Gordon Worsfold, who had been unwell for some time. The club is forever grateful for the work he put in over the years, having worked with him for almost a decade.
Control the Virus
(well, one out of three is what we've come to expect...)
Come April and the starting pistol was fired again! We squeezed 14 matches into a month and it was comfortable the clubs most successful month of all time. The 1sts gained a major advantage in their title challenge by beating Selhurst twice in a double-header, another six points was picked up against Epsom & Ewell Colts (who would later fold), before a 4-1 win over old rivals Old Boys Clapham marked 11 consecutive games unbeaten in the league - a new club record - before a stunning last minute goal against OBC consigned Wanderers to their first loss of the season. Deflated, they could only draw against Peckham Town later in the month and those two matches would consign the 1sts to runners-up.
The 2nds had a roller-coaster month starting with six points against bottom of the table London Olympia, a defeat at league leaders Purley Old Boys before becoming the first team to beat them in the second game of the double-header, just as they had done to Surrey Casuals earlier in the season. Second bottom South London Elite were, somehow, only beaten 1-0 before they gained revenge in a complacent performance in the second game. The 2nds achieved some sense of justice by gaining revenge of their own against Old Ruts, who they had lost to earlier in the season.
Stuart Webb left the club to take up a role at Paddock Wood in the Kent league and Women's team players Lizzy Tomlin and Katrina Northern featured on the popular Selkent Podcast.
The club join the National Affinity Cup, to be run later in the year, between charitable football clubs. Wanderers will be in the South Coast and London group.
The Legends team pulled on the shirts again - suffered a shock 9-0 defeat to Earlsfield; shocking because it wasn't supposed to be a team full of twenty-somethings against our Vets! Another friendly for the Casuals team against Effra Academicals was disrupted by squad changes right up until after kick-off, which explains the 5-2 loss, which might have been closer with a little more luck and a lot more preparation.
The sharp end of the competitive season saw the 2nds pushing for 4th place but defeat to Surrey Casuals put paid to that. A superb win over Waddon Wanderers cemented 5th and a walkover win against Inter Star (who folded) and defeat to Trinity meant very little. A cheeky friendly against Athenians gave the team a run out in lieu of the Inter Star game and they ran out 6-2 winners. The season will perhaps be remembered best for a wealth of new, regular players creating a brilliant core to the team and being given chances in the 1sts too.
The 1sts kicked off the month with a nail-biting, last minute win over Thames United - Elliot's well-placed header will live long in the memory. Ryan hit his first hat-trick of the month in a 9-0 win over NPL Reserves, repeating the feat in a 4-1 win over Tolworth United, with a walkover win over Chessington KC sandwiched in-between. The final game of the season was against Tooting Bec, who had thwarted the team twice before - once in the London Junior Cup and again as the first team to avoid defeat back in December. A cagey affair failed to live up to the hype and the 1sts were a shadow of the team that had played with such verve and dynamism in the majority of matches previously and, chasing the crucial goal, could not prevent a breakaway goal to decide the tie and, in the process, the outcome of the league itself.
Despite the disappointment of that defeat, the team can look back with pride at a superb campaign. Had they been offered 2nd place at the start of the season, many would have gladly accepted - the club's goal remains to return to the FA Cup and collecting silverware on the way is a nice-to-have but not essential. That said, pending the final league constitution for 2021-22, we'll be aiming to win as much as possible all over again!