Book Review: The Very First Wealdstone FC: A History from 1883-1895 by Roger Slater

Have you ever watched BBC TV’s Who Do You Think You Are? For those that haven’t, it’s genealogy documentary series which in each episode traces the family tree of a celebrity. Now you might be thinking what this has got to do with a football book. Well, Roger Slater who has produced a number of books on Wealdstone (Ed: Surely he should go on BBC TV’s Mastermind, with the club as his specialist subject?!) has delved into the history of the club nicknamed The Stones, which was previously thought to have been formed at the start of the 1899/1900 season. Coming out of that research is The Very First Wealdstone FC: A History from 1883-1895, which makes the case for Wealdstone’s very own ‘family tree’ prior to the previously believed formation date.

Within the well-produced and informative 56 pages, readers learn about the teams that were forerunners of the present day clubs and indeed about football in the Harrow area from 1883. Slater’s Sherlock Holmes skills lead to the discovery of links to a factory team, Cogswell & Harrison, formed in 1887, with the club going through various transformations until in the summer of 1888, Wealdstone Juniors and Wealdstone Rovers amalgamated, taking on a number of players from Wealdstone Wanderers to form Wealdstone Albion, who took their place in the inaugural Willesden and District League in 1888/89. At the end of that season, a further adoption of Wealdstone Wanderers was completed, and the ‘Albion’ element was dropped from the name, the club henceforth playing as the Wealdstone FC we know today.

What will be apparent to readers is that in the early years of football, games were on the whole simply friendlies, before the emergence of the FA and County FA cups, with leagues the final piece in the competition jigsaw. Additionally, the growth and interest in football was such that clubs were able to put out reserves sides and in some cases 3rd XI’s.

This interesting journey is supplemented by an appendix which lists all the players from the early Harrow teams through to the Wealdstone FC side of 1888/89. Slater acknowledges that these records are incomplete is some cases and that certain assumptions have had to be made, reflecting the fact that in the early days of football, newspaper reports were limited and often days after the event, with inconsistent information sometimes provided by the papers as well as the fact that through the passage of time many club records have been lost or destroyed.

Given this background it is some achievement to produce what is an interesting addition to the history and lineage of Wealdstone FC and also of the social history and the game in that part of North West London.

(CAMS. May 2021. Paperback 56 pages)


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Book Review: And sometimes the dog was busy! Careering around the lower leagues by Fergus Moore and Roger Slater

In the 1989/90 season Fergus Moore was a promising young footballer who was awarded the Brentford FC YTS Player of the Year, boosting his dreams of one day becoming a professional in the game. However, just a year later and that path was taken away when he was released by the West London club. Rather than give up the game that he loved, Moore dropped into the world of non-league football.

Twenty-nine seasons on and he is still donning his boots in his capacity as Player Manager of Spartan South Midlands League Premier Division team, Edgware Town FC. For those unfamiliar with the football league structure in England, the Premier League is level 1, with Moore’s charges playing at level 9. And sometimes the dog was busy! details the career of defender Fergus Moore and the realities of that footballing gulf during his incredible career.

Given the number of years in the game Moore has played, the ‘Season by season’ page presented just after the ‘Foreword’ detailing the clubs he has turned out for down the years, is a useful aid for the reader. For the most part the book follows his career in chronological order, with some chapters interspersed offering reflections on his life in the game, such as the impact on his family. Overall the tone is very conversational so much so that you can almost hear the tales of Moore being relayed to co-writer Roger Slater over a pint in a football clubhouse.

What shines through the pages is Moore’s incredible desire for the game in which he expects nothing but 100% commitment from himself and those around him. And he is honest enough to detail that his passion has sometimes landed him in trouble both as a player and manager. The reader also gets to see that Moore has battled with the idea of whether he is still good enough to play as each new season dawned as he moved from his thirties into his forties, and now the same question as he makes the transition from being on the pitch to being pitch-side.

Moore’s story is an honest account of himself and the demands of the non-league circuit and will be a real eye-opener for those readers unfamiliar with life below the top four divisions.

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Top Ten Football Books: Roger Slater

Roger Slater is a long-time fan, former secretary and board member of Wealdstone FC. As a writer he has been involved with three books for the club, History of Wealdstone FC, Off The Bench – A Quarter of a Century of Non-League Management and Behind the Season. In addition, Roger provides material for the Wealdstone match day programme, the 2nd Yellow and strangenbOUnce websites as well as various forums.  


1.   Left Foot Forward: A Year in the Life of a Journeyman Footballer and Left Foot in The Grave: A View from the Bottom of the Football League by Garry Nelson

Two for the price of one at the top of the list! I’ve always been a sucker for the underdog, and Garry probably had what most people would call an unspectacular career in the game. A ‘steady pro’ my dad would have said, but even over two volumes, a great read especially as it lacks the fake glitz and glamour of those ‘ten-a-penny’ superstar biographies.


2.   The Miracle Of Castel Di Sangro by Joe McGinniss

I loved the thought that this could – and did – actually happen. It’s a while since I’ve read this book, but a lot of the story is still fresh in my mind. I suppose as a non-league fan, there’s a part of me that wonders or is it hopes that something similar could happen over here. Castel rose from Serie C2 to Serie B. It doesn’t sound much as it’s only three levels in Italy, but it’s probably the nearest equivalent there will ever be to the original Southern League Wimbledon making their way to the Premiership….Come on Wealdstone, your turn next!


3.   Clown Prince of Soccer by Len Shackleton and Football Ambassador by Eddie Hapgood

Another two for the price of one here – these days, these two are probably best found at a book fair or a boot fair! I’ve got a historical bent (among others many may say) and having researched and written the History of Wealdstone FC, I really enjoyed reading about football between the wars. Perhaps because I could image what I was reading and even see the images in black and white, yet these two were characters and stars in their own right, though they still travelled to the game on the bus…..


4.   Brian Clough: Nobody Ever Says Thank You: The Biography by Jonathan Wilson

Was ‘Cloughie’ an enigma? He was certainly a feature of my formative years as a football fan and for that he got my respect and admiration. I can’t believe there are fans today that don’t know who he was, what he did, and perhaps even what he meant to so many….read this and find out!


5.   Big Fry: Barry Fry: The Autobiography by Barry Fry

I’m lucky enough to have met Barry on a number of occasions. No matter what you think of him, it’s probably accurate. If you wrote this book as a script for a TV programme it would be rejected, because all those things can’t happen to one man. The problem is, they did – and they still do.


6.   Where’s Your Caravan?: My Life on Football’s B-Roads by Chris Hargreaves

Who? They all said in unison, and frankly, that’s the point. For every Rooney, Terry, Owen or Beckham, there’s fifty Chris Hargreaves yet without them, there would be many a Saturday afternoon devoid of a reason to escape the house. Just another real pro playing his way round the lower leagues…..


7.   Trautmann: The Biography by Alan Rowlands

As a kid, I knew of Bert Trautmann and his broken neck in a Cup Final. I didn’t know that he was a German Prisoner of War that stayed, nor did I know anything else. This is one of those where the story makes you think and I suppose, makes the book.


8.   Who Ate All The Pies? The Life and Times of Mick Quinn by Micky Quinn and Oliver Harvey

An honest account from an honest pro and all the trials and tribulations that he encountered. I’ve met Mick through Horse Racing – he actually stood next to me as I cheered home a horse I had a share in, to third place on its first run at Southwell – frankly, he’s just a nice bloke!


9.   Stan Bowles: The Autobiography by Stan Bowles

In a former life I worked at QPR – I’d watched Rodney Marsh before he moved on and ‘Bowlesie’ was the next star in the number ten shirt. Strangely, a quiet man (he still is, as if you drink near Griffin Park you’ve probably not noticed him in the pub), this book brings back memories of when a player with that much skill and flair could really make a difference. And I was there one day when he came back from the bookies in an overcoat and his kit ten minutes before kick-off…..


10.       The Bromley Boys: The True Story of Supporting the Worst Football Team in Britain by Dave Roberts

Anyone anywhere who supports a football team – except maybe the ‘plastics’ at the top five clubs – should read this, because whether in your recent memory or not, or even maybe in your future, this could be you and your club. It’s certainly been mine. I followed QPR in 1968, a season when we even cheered if we won a corner….


On the Subs bench:

Just outside the top ten, but right up there (although I’m biased as they all played for Wealdstone FC), Psycho: The Autobiography by Stuart Pearce, Vinnie: The Autobiography by Vinnie Jones, and There’s Only One Simon Garner: An Autobiography by Simon Garner – all worthy of a place in a slightly longer list. Off The Bench by Gordon Bartlett is a damn good read too!


Book Review: Behind the Season by Gordon Bartlett (Edited by Roger Slater and Tim Parks)

Back in February 2011, Off the Bench was published. That book was produced to celebrate 25 years of Non-League management by Gordon Bartlett. As part of the material for that particular publication, Bartlett kept a diary of the 2009/10 season. In December 2011 that diary was used as the basis for a new book, Behind the Season – A Scrapbook of Wealdstone FC 2009/10, with the aim of being a fundraiser for the club in support of Task Force 10 (an initiative to raise £10,000 towards the Wealdstone FC playing budget).

In terms of ‘look and feel’ the editors went for the concept of a scrapbook. This certainly works. The A4 size format with a cover showing various snapshots from the season is a great feature. Inside too, the scrapbook feel is continued and reflected in the layout which has a ‘rough-edge’ approach. Excellent colour pictures are mixed with black and white images along with a range of written material. Whilst the bulk of the material is provided by the diary entries of the Wealdstone manager, it is supplemented by match reports and snippets from local papers, The Non-League Paper and Wealdstone club programme and website. They all contribute to meeting the editors desired scrapbook feel.

The book is first and foremost aimed at supporters of The Stones and therefore the associated knowledge of the club in the seasons before and after 2009/10 would be an advantage. However, the format stands and is readable in its own right to a wider audience. For anyone wanting a view of Non-League football this is indeed ideal. The emotions and sentiments expressed in the diary are genuine and therefore irrespective of the club you support, as a football fan you can connect with this book.

In terms of the time-span the diary begins in mid-July 2009 and ends at the backend of April 2010; some ten months, reflecting how long a season actually is. It is a season that sees Bartlett reach 1000 games as a manager and one that is deeply affected by the severe winter that ultimately shapes The Stones destiny by the end of 2009/10. From that point of view the diary works as the story of just one season that can be viewed in its singularity. As with Off the Bench, the style and tone is straight-talking and honest – conversational and with no-little humour. The diary formats enables the  reader to experience the journey of the season, the highs and lows, the ups and downs and along the way get to know the characters within the playing and coaching staff and behind the scenes at the club.

Beyond that, the book raises and highlights a number of points and issues. What is evident from the diary is the dedication that is required at Non-League level. When reading the book it is incredible to think that Gordon Bartlett also has a career as a teacher and has a home life to fit in around his commitment to Wealdstone. His players too have full-time jobs and as such this affects player availability. Throw in injuries and the reality of getting a side out to play week-in, week-out, is suddenly not such a simple task. The constant struggle with the financial realities of football at this level is incredibly revealing. A tight budget has a significant impact on the club, which ranges from the players wages, to saving money in areas like training facilities, other posts at the club and away game travelling arrangements. This highlights the financial importance of an FA Cup run and possible money from sell-on clauses each and every season. It was also interesting to read of the ‘networking’ that exists. This not only extends to other Non-League clubs, where managers swap information on opponents and players, but also some within the professional ranks. In Wealdstone’s case, this manifests itself in a good working relationship with Watford FC.

Ultimately, this is a book about the season as seem through the eyes of the manager. It is a genuine insight as Bartlett openly details his feelings, win, lose or draw. The frustrations, the pleasures are all there to read and the fact that despite his vast experience, it doesn’t get any easier.


To purchase a copy of Behind the Season click here.


To purchase a Kindle edition of Off the Bench click here.


Book Review: Off the Bench by Gordon Bartlett & Roger Slater

If you enter the name Gordon Bartlett into Wikipedia you get the following details:

“…Gordon Bartlett (born 3 December 1955 in London) is a former professional footballer who played as a forward…1973-75 Portsmouth FC. 2 appearances, 1 goal…In 1975, he played for the Denver Dynamos in the North American Soccer League (NASL)…His career was cut short by injury…He is currently manager of Wealdstone FC…”

Anyone coming across this brief information could be forgiven that there is no more to the story than that. Just another professional who never made the grade due to an injury and then took up management – nothing remarkable. Well the internet may be a fantastic tool in so many ways, but the story of Gordon Bartlett is not one that the World Wide Web has got right. Instead it is left to the written word of the book to tell the tale of this Non-League luminary.

Off the Bench – A Quarter of a Century of Non-League Management (by Gordon Bartlett & Roger Slater) is the recently published book which charts the career of the current Wealdstone “gaffer”. The book openers with a foreword which covers the unfortunate injury plagued career of Bartlett. In the 1974/75 season on 14 December he came on as a substitute and scored the second goal as Pompey ran out 2-0 winners against Bolton Wanderers. His only other appearance was later that month against Southampton on Boxing Day. However, he was released and went to Denver to play. Fate was against him, as injuries meant he never actually played for the Dynamos in the NASL. Bartlett returned to England to try and regain fitness, but an unsuccessful months trial at Brentford showed that his professional career was over. Despite the injuries he did return to playing for Non-League Hayes FC.

What changed the course of his path in football was studying for the FA Coaching Badges and his first management position as Hayes Youth team coach. When Hayes dispensed with their Youth team, Bartlett moved to Southall to take over their Youth set-up. What this lead to later in 1985/86 was his appointment as first team manager. It was an incredible first season, as the club reached the FA Vase Final at Wembley against Halesowen Town. What follows in the book is a year on year account of Gordon Barlett’s career in management, from that first season at Southall, the years at Hounslow FC (1986 to 1989), Yeading FC (1989 to 1995) and Wealdstone FC (1995 to 2010) – a total of 25 years in Non-League Management.

However, the chapters of those years aren’t merely a game-by-game analysis of a season. In terms of tone and style it is very conversational, with plenty of humour and sincere reflection of both the ups and downs at the various clubs. Events, players and games spark off memories and stories for Bartlett, with the warmth of his recounting of these events making for a very readable book. It is a straight talking and honest look at life on the Non-League circuit and provides a revealing insight into the realities of budgets, player transfers, club management and fans outside the top 92 clubs in England.

Over the 25 years Gordon Bartlett has experienced the full range of emotions in the game. From the highlights of winning the FA Vase, to the lows of battles against relegation. With the joy of discovering players who make the grade such as Les Ferdinand and Jermaine Beckford, there is the despair of players who simply don’t turn up and vanish, never to be seen again. There too is a 15 year management stint at Wealdstone, which is an incredible act of faith and loyalty by both Gordon Bartlett and the Club Board, which survived the ill-fated Prince Edward Playing Fields project.

For me this book will appeal across a range of people in the football world. It will be a fascinating read for players, officials and fans of the clubs Gordon Bartlett has been involved with, as it may throw light on why decisions and events occurred the way they did. Certainly for anyone who follows a Non-League football, it will be a point of comparison for how their particular club is run. Also, I believe it will make interesting reading for fans of the professional clubs, to see how the “other half” live and the financial reality and resource issues that clubs outside the Premier League and Football League have to deal with, week in week out, season after season.

A real insight into all aspects of Non-League Management by a “real” football legend.