Marc Weatherstone: Leaving Wingate & Finchley is the hardest decision I’ve ever made
- Credit: Archant
It is rare for an outgoing player to ring a number of the club’s fans to explain the decision, but Wingate & Finchley is no ordinary club.
And, when captain Marc Weatherstone made the difficult decision last month to leave the Blues after nine years and 434 appearances to join Ryman League Premier Division rivals Dulwich Hamlet, he felt he owed the supporters a justification.
“I was invited to one of the fans’ weddings last month and I got to know them on a more personal level so, out of respect, I gave them a call,” the 28-year-old defender told Ham&High Sport. “It wasn’t everyone, but the ones I got close to – six or seven of them.
“I think that’s the good thing about Wingate. It’s a very close-knit group, with the fans, players and the club in general. There’s a closeness and you get to know the supporters – after the game, you have a drink with them in the bar.
“Honestly it’s the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make. I’ve never been at a club for nine years before. I was at West Ham when I was a youngster, from eight to 16, but that’s nowhere near as difficult as it is now, as an adult.
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“You do a lot for the club, and they’ve done a lot for me. I had to weigh up a lot of feelings, it took me two or three weeks to work out what I wanted to do. But after speaking to my old man and a few of the players at Wingate, and the chairman, I made my mind up.
“I’ve been very loyal to the club. You don’t get many loyal players in non-league football. I’ve done a lot for my club, I give 100 per cent to Wingate in every single game, every single year.
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“The whole club know that, they’ve all supported me and they’ve all given me their best wishes. They understand why I’ve left.
“When you give everything to a club, they know I’m leaving for the right reasons and I’ve told them I’ll hopefully be back one day.
“They’ve passed on their best wishes and most of them do believe that going from Wingate to Dulwich is a big move and a good move for me.”
Weatherstone is just 17 appearances short of Wingate’s record-holder Daniel Nielsen, but when Dulwich came calling – a club that contested the play-off final last season and had an average attendance of 1,343 during the campaign – he knew it was now or never.
“It’s just a new challenge,” he said. “Apart from Dagenham & Redbridge, it’s the only non-league club I’ve been involved in.
“It’s nice to have a new challenge, to understand another non-league club, and the deal was too good. It’s a big club, they’ve got promotion ambitions to get to the Conference South and a big fanbase, so it’s just about testing out new waters and checking out a new club.
“This is the last chance to join a different club. I believe Wingate are a big club but Dulwich is exciting, new – it’s the only club I would have gone to in my league, just because of their play-off and promotion ambitions.
“I’m not getting any younger. If I didn’t leave now it would be a case of staying at Wingate until I retire. But I’ll hopefully be rejoining them again in the future, if they’ll have me, to finish my career there – and the idea is to maybe get a management role, if the chairman sees fit. That would be nice.
“With the talent they’ve got, Wingate can achieve promotion, for sure. But I think it will be harder for them to go up because of the fanbase.
“It doesn’t help when you’ve got Tottenham and Arsenal around here. You can’t generate enough fans and you need the income to help you maybe buy or attract certain players to get you up a league. I do believe Dulwich has that little bit more as a club to get promotion.”
Your best moment at Wingate?
“Without a shadow of doubt, winning the Division One North play-off final [in 2011]. Lewis Jones scored in the 117th minute and me and Danny Nielsen just looked at each other, fell to our knees and hugged each other.”
“Getting relegated as the captain of the club [in 2014] – although luckily we got a reprieve!”
Best player you’ve played with?
“There have been a few over the last nine years but I’m going to be greedy and have two and say Ahmet Rifat and Jordan Fowler. Ahmet is my best friend in and outside of football. His ability is ridiculous, he’s someone I do look up to as a player and as a person – and Jordan has been at Arsenal, he’s just magic on the ball. You just can’t get it off him.”
Most memorable game?
“It’s quite a negative one but there was the one against Thurrock [in 2013] where we got five men sent off. On a more positive note, there was the game against Lowestoft Town at the end of that season. They were second at the time and we had to beat them to stay up. We won 3-2, with Ahmet getting the winner.”
Your best goal?
“The one against East Thurrock a couple of years back – a volley from the edge of the box into the top corner. I don’t score many and they’re usually with my head, so that was quite nice.”