Supporting role: A Wingate & Finchley fan discusses his highlights and low points
In the latest of a series of features casting the spotlight on local football fans, Martin Stephens reveals his favourite player, his most memorable match and the worst moment he has experienced following Wingate & Finchley.
FIRST GAME: My first visit was actually as a Barnet supporter in 2008. It was a pre- season friendly that finished 1-1. I moved into the area, about half a mile from the ground, soon after and went to every home game. I finished the season doing the website, and helping with the kit on match days.
FURTHEST AWAY GAME: Lowestoft in 2011. It was a one o’clock kick-off on New Year’s Eve. My good friend and fellow supporter Matt drove there and back from Finchley – a six-hour round trip to see us lose 2-0.
FAVOURITE PLAYER: I’ve seen some great players over the years, including club legends Marc Weatherstone, and Ahmet Rifat, who is still at the club - but my personal favourite was David Laird. He was technically the most gifted player I’ve watched in non-league football and he scored the greatest Wingate & Finchley goal I’ve ever seen. He could have played with his eyes closed and still been the best player on the pitch,
FAVOURITE MANAGER: Dave Norman, who won a treble in 2010-11, including promotion to the Ryman League Premier Division. Later, he became director of football when another club legend, Danny Nielsen, took over as manager. I would have him back at the club in a heartbeat.
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MOST MEMORABLE MATCH: The play-off final against Brentwood in 2011. We went 2-0 up quite quickly but were pegged back to 2-2 by full time. In the final minute of extra time, Lewis Jones was one on one with the keeper and scored the winner. Watching the video of the goal now, I still think he’s going to hit it into the car park.
HIGHLIGHT: The whole of the 2010-11 season - I went to every game, home and away. We played probably the best football I’ve seen at the club and won two trophies as well as gaining promotion. Also our first ever game in the Ryman Premier, away to Hastings the following season - which we won 1-0 - will take some beating.
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WORST MEMORY: The play-off semi-final defeat at home to Enfield Town in 2009-10. We’d only lost once in 18 games leading up to it and were unbeaten against them in the league so we were fairly confident of a result. We went 3-0 down within half an hour, eventually clawing it back to 3-2, but it was too late.
COMEDY MOMENTS: We don’t have many supporters - in fact one of our flags says “More flags than fans” but it’s those supporters that make it all worthwhile. You can guarantee there will be something that makes you laugh every week - normally Rob Laney’s attempt at a shot.