Now is the perfect time to look back and reflect on the season we've had, and also cast an eye to the season ahead.
This time last year, the former Whyteleafe FC was no more. Made homeless and forced to resign from its league, fans of football in Whyteleafe were faced with the daunting task of finding something else to occupy their time on Saturday afternoons and weekday evenings. The demise of the club left a void for many of us and the old adage, ‘you don't know what you've got ‘til it's gone’ never rang truer. Certainly, by the end of July, any faint hope that the club may find a way to continue playing had gone. That was, until a chance trip to Church Road by (then manager of Balham B) Kelly Waters. It was during his visit that the story of Whyteleafe FC's dissolution was told and an unexpected plan began to hatch.
Somewhat incredulously, Kelly managed to form AFC Whyteleafe, hold trials, arrange a few ‘behind closed doors’ friendlies, and secure the new club a place in the Surrey South Eastern Combination League (just four leagues lower than the former Whyteleafe FC had finished in), all within the space of a few weeks!
Local excitement began to build when the news was announced, and a (what was then) bumper crowd of 304 witnessed the first game in AFC Whyteleafe's history at Church Road. We managed to cling on to a hard fought 1-0 victory, with Daniel Adjei going into the record books as our first-ever goal scorer. A 6-2 defeat in the following game could not dampen the spirits of our fans: this season was never just about winning, it was about celebrating the return of something so dear to so many of us. However, the more games we started winning, the more we dared to dream of finishing higher in the league and even possibly of getting promoted. And, not only were we winning games, we were winning in style. Goals from the halfway line, goals from intricate team play and goals from stunning, individual moments of brilliance: we've seen them all!
A great testament
Somehow, with barely any pre-season preparation, we managed to finish second in what was a very strong league. This was great testament to the incredible work and effort by the players, coaches and management of the club. Our manager/owner's relentlessly hard work provided us with a successful application to enter the National League System, (essentially a two league advancement and now just two leagues behind the former Whyteleafe FC's position).
A community club, open to all
This season felt very different: this club feels very different. Why? Because now it feels like it's ‘our club’: a genuine, inclusive, community football club. Most encouraging of all is the many new faces we continue to see week after week, which has been reflected in our ever-increasing attendances, finishing with a huge crowd of 515 in our final home game of 2021-22.
Whyteleafe women and Whyteleafe youth
We've also seen the Whyteleafe Women FC team and the highly successful (and highly regarded) Whyteleafe FC youth teams join the AFC Whyteleafe family. The newly created (and eagerly anticipated) AFC Whyteleafe u23s team will now offer a pathway from the youth set-up to the men’s team. We've also appointed a director of football, the knowledgeable Adam Deadman. He has already managed to retain all of our ‘star players’ from last season, including player of the year Mars Marciniak (aka the Croydon Cruyff), as well as adding a number of very exciting new players who will become future fan favourites.
All of this has, quite incredibly, been achieved in less than 11 months! And more exciting times lay ahead, that’s for sure. If you've not experienced watching the ‘new Leafe’, then come down and catch a game: you just might love it!
Fantastic value season tickets are now available, offering access to 17 home league games and 11 u23 home league games! Email email@example.com to purchase.
If you'd like to be a part of the incredible AFC Whyteleafe story, we have some excellent sponsorship packages available. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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