Colliers Wood United

6 Nov

04 November 2011

Combined Counties Premier Division

Colliers Wood United 04  v  Guildford City 02 (att c 110)

Wibbandune Sports Ground, Colliers Wood

Team Talk. Combined Counties action under the Friday night lights of the Wibbandune Sports Ground on Guy Fawkes weekend. Nothing could be sweeter. I’m here thanks to Colliers Wood United’s decision to move their game with league leaders Guildford to boost attendances. Well, it worked for the SPL, why not the Combined Counties?

Colliers Woods United, or their earliest incarnation, Vandyke FC, were founded in 1874 by a group of tap-dancing, crime-solving doctors with a penchant for non-league football, chimney sweeping and mockney accents… that might not be strictly true.

Having ploughed away in the old local league structure, The Wood moved to the Surrey Intermediate League before moving briefly to the Surrey Seniors Division 1 in 1969 where they won the inaugural league title.

Despite their relatively lofty position in step 5, the Surrey Seniors title remains the Wood’s only league triumph having won promotion from the Combined Counties Division One in 2003 as runners-up.

The Wood have had some minor cup triumphs over the years, winning the 1992 Surrey FA Cup with a resounding 4-0 win over Woking and Horsell.

Like a lot of clubs further down the pyramid, there’s a lot of mucking-in to be done at Colliers Wood. Management duo, Mark Douglas and Tony Hurrell, also act as Club secretary and treasurer respectively. I’m sure managers of some of the more affluent clubs would love to do it, here it’s nothing to do with cooking the books to bring in players, it’s purely a sign of how much people are willing to put in to keep the club going. Admirable stuff.

From the Bridge

Can't see The Wood for the trees

The visitors today are the highly impressive Guildford City. The Guild are top of the Combined Counties Premier as they were this time last year and if results are anything to go by, they continue to look a cut above the rest. Last year, Chertsey Town, the only team who could stick near Guildford, were promoted owing to problems with City’s Guildford Spectrum Sports Ground. This year, they are hopeful that they can overcome this adversity and go marching into Step 4.

Park the bus. Colliers Wood’s Wibbandune Sports Ground is located on the Kingston bypass. Not the most glorious location for a sporting arena but convenient for those travelling by car in South West London. Travelling on public transport from South East London is decidedly less enjoyable. A train ride from Waterloo will get you to New Malden in 22 minutes, from there it’s 15 minutes on the 265 bus. Alternatively, you can get the 265 from Barnes but that may take some time. We’ve previously talked about football dogging but this is more your conventional dogging hotspot. Naturally, I’m grateful that South West London’s deviant population had, for this night anyway, decided to give the Wibbandune car park a miss.

Homefield advantage. Usually, this is where we stick a load of pictures of the ground. Unfortunately, due to a technical error (I forgot to charge the camera), there are minimal visuals to be seen here so you’ll have to make do with my slightly sketchy descriptions.

The Wibbandune is tidy wee ground that has been home to Colliers Wood for some 20 years. Previously, a cricket oval, there is definite evidence of the ground’s past. The Square is still identifiable, being the only flat bit of grass on the pitch and there is a graveyard of old crease rollers, but it’s the clubhouse – still referred to as The Pavilion – that is most definitely more suited to cricket than football.


Always a big fan of a chalkboard

The Pavilion features two covered terraces and appears to have been built by Barratt Homes with two seating areas (featuring a wrought-iron garden fence) either side of the clubhouse entrance. There was also another seating area, behind to dugout, although this looked somewhat underutilised:

Now here at the Pigeon Stands, we love a good discussion about seats and this season we’ve had some great finds. This one however, has to go down as the worst. I had to check it out and I can confirm that I had no sight of the pitch, let alone 22 guys chasing a ball and swearing at each other.

Luckily, it wasn’t all silly seating. The annex to The Pavilion, one of these pigeon stands on wheels, had been pimped up with some school gym benches and a (potentially illegally liberated) park bench. Whilst this stand was clearly where all the action (and more importantly, the ground-hopping massive)was, my eye was drawn to something even more suburban.

Pimped up Pigeon Stand

Having recently visited Raynes Park Vale, I was aware that this part of London liked a barbecue at the football, so imagine my surprise and delight to find a fully fledged, permanent brick BBQ pit overlooking the pitch. With the acrid smell of gunpower in the air (from both fireworks and my ancient substitute camera) I briefly thought there may be a possibility of a cheeky undercooked burger at half time. Sadly not.

Apart from The Pavilion, code name: My Nan’s House, the ground is relatively sparse with a seated stand opposite the clubhouse/pavilion and both ends are uncovered.

Prawn sandwiches. The clubhouse itself is very much your stock standard bar-cum-tea room. There was a more than ample trophy cabinet although it was disappointing to see it draped first in a Chelsea flag and then a Millwall scarf. There was also a secondary cabinet with a nice range of pennants from visiting sides.

A traditional range of Carling and Strongbow was available on tap but I was all about a mug of tea. In step 5 I’ve become accustomed to proper mugs, I wasn’t let down. I’d also go as far as saying it was one of the better brews I’ve had at the football. Food was plentiful; a pyramid of ham and cheese rolls, worthy of the non-league system itself, was a more than welcome sight and the £2.60 for a cuppa and roll was even more welcome.


The boardroom took on the form of a slightly squashed conservatory. Whilst the sandwiches and cakes looked of a fine quality, I can’t imagine a full meeting of home and visiting boards would be very comfortable. Yet another advantage of having some of the Wood’s execs in the dressing room during half time.

…and the game. Well well. I don’t think too many expected this. Colliers Wood won, and won well. Guildford, a side considered by many to be playing in a division lower than they should be really didn’t look like it. Without question they marshalled themselves better but the Wood front-six were totally dominant.

The Guild took the lead as Joel Hughes scored from an uncontested header as Colliers Wood struggled with the concept of man marking. Guildford hit the post a few minutes later and generally looked to have the beating of Wood’s pedestrian defence. Wood came close, force a great save from Antony Hall who undid the majority of his good work a few minutes later when Elvis Defreitas back-pass slipped comically under Hall and trickled into the net with little time left in the first half to recover.

Less then a minute after the restart the Wood were ahead thanks to an incisive breakaway from Ryan Hughes who crossed for Nathan Turner to finish neatly and put the Wood in the lead. The 3rd followed shortly after, once again Hall  tried to clear his lines only to have the ball slip under his foot for “Super” Mario Embalo to tap in for a well deserved – if not well worked – goal.

Guilford’s misery was complete when Embalo, noticeably the best player on the field was put clean though only to be bundled over by the unlucky Hall. The resulting penalty was despatched by Joe Mead with ease. City, who didn’t really look fired up, came back into the game with 10 minutes to go from yet another shambolic bit of marking. This time, sub Ben Camara was the benefactor of Wood’s poor marking.

In the end, Colliers Wood deserved their win although without the keeper’s errors, I got the feeling Guildford would probably have gone on and won the game. Still it keeps things lively at the top and by all accounts Colliers Wood were unfortunate not to have won their last few games. Perhaps their luck has finally changed.

Man of the match. I guess it should be men of the match. Mark Douglas and Tony Hurrell do a phenomenal job at the Wood and should be commended for their efforts. The administration of step 5 clubs is a tightrope few chose to walk and those who do perform admirably well. More impressive is Douglas and Hurrell actually find time to play decent football too.  To hear more from Douglas, listen to this podcast from the always excellent Two Footed Tackle.

However, it’s Hurrell who I am most interested by. The guy is a proper non-league legend. A former printer who fought for the unions in the Wapping Dispute, Tony was more of a cricketer than a footballer in his youth, never really gracing the upper echelons of the non-league game. Colliers Wood is his Manor and has been for years. He’s painted the lines, cut the grass, made the tea, washed the windows, sat in dugout, sat behind the dugout. You name it, Hurrell has done it and he now shares management responsibilities with Douglas.

What I particularly liked was his touchline manner, chatting to subs and fans alike, he was keen to analyse every facet of his team’s performance. From his vantage point ON the pitch, he was definitely best placed.

I’m sure the guy loves his footy but over and above that, he loves Colliers Wood United. He’s the ultimate one-club man, but in many ways (and I mean this with absolutely no negative connotations), they’re a one-man club. Celtic can keep their “We Are All Neil Lennon” falsities. At Colliers Wood United, they are all Tony Hurrell.

Post-match rubdown. Wood aren’t the most naturally gifted bunch of players I’ve seen but they’re not a bunch of hackers either, they play to their strengths and took full advantage of the opportunities presented to them. They are a progressive bunch on either side of the touchline and I took a real shine to their positive attitude. It’s something a lot of teams in both step 4 and 5 could learn from.

The decision to play on a Friday night was great and the majority of the hundred-strong crowd will have had a fine time. Personally/depressingly, I can think of few more enjoyable Friday nights I could have had. Although, I could probably think of some warmer ones.

The lack of accessibility is probably one of the biggest obstacles in Colliers Wood’s quest for higher attendances but a trip to Colliers Wood is really worth the effort of getting there.


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