When seeing major footballing stars we often think of the present instead of the past, but all footballers have had to start somewhere, whether it be their school team, Sunday league or football academy.
This is no exception for some of England’s well-known names, but perhaps it may come as surprise that two former England captains started their successful careers at the same academy.
East London club, Ridgeway Rovers located in Chingford, Waltham Forest was founded in 1979 have had great success since in bringing through some of the best talents around from the area.
Since 2011, the chairman of the club has been Ian Marshall, 53, from Waltham Forest.
Marshall had been involved in the club since 2006 but took chairman role “to save the club from folding”.
“The history is important for us because one of our earlier teams was run by Ted Beckham, from that team alone we had 4-5 players who made it to professional”.
Most notably from that team was 90s and 00s footballing superstar and ex-England captain David Beckham, whose father ran the team. Marshall added that having a player of his level at the club when we were founded “helped us earn pedigree”.
Since then, the club has had various professional players come through its ranks such as Dwight Gayle, Charlie Daniels, Jordan Archer with more recognisable names of Andros Townsend and current England captain Harry Kane.
Marshall highlighted that the club merely helped nurture the “hot bed of talent in the area”.
He also added that the club feels that it has played a part in English football history as “we’ve had two England captains play for us; it’s helped us be put on the map. Including Andros Townsend, all three players have helped England qualify to major tournaments”.
The club also featured in Harry Redknapp’s ITV programme ‘The Full English’ when his team of ex-pros played and lost to the Ridgeway Rovers under-14 side.
The chairman explained, “for those reasons we have got good notoriety. When people mention grassroots football in London, we are one of the benchmark clubs for producing great talent”.
Both ex-England captains do still get involved with the club from time-to-time, more so Harry Kane who is “very involved”.
The club was invited by Nike to give Harry Kane his World Cup golden boots at St.George’s Park and in return “Harry gave us a signed shirt and a signed golden boot, that’s something worth so much for us”.
— SoccerBible (@SoccerBible) September 8, 2018
As all grassroots clubs had to shut down due to the covid lockdowns, Ian Marshall spoke on the difficulty of it, “It’s been challenging for us, we’ve had to give parents back their money, but it won’t just be us, some clubs will be worse off”.
“It’s been tough on the kids, after the first lockdown 7-year-olds were getting muscle injuries, kids that age shouldn’t be getting those injuries, it’s because they’re not up to fitness”.
The chairman highlighted their hope to continue throughout summer, and by September “we really hope to complete a normal season”.
He also said another issue was the lack of social distancing at games, “so that’s something we’ve had to control and monitor”.
Adding his thanks to people involved in the club, “We owe so much to volunteers. Not many people get paid so it’s all about the commitment of people giving up their time”.
RIDGEWAY ROVERS SOCCER SCHOOL RETURNS THIS SATURDAY (5th DECEMBER) AT
PETER MAY SPORTS CENTRE
9AM – 10.15AM YEARS 1 TO YEAR 5
10.30AM – 11.45AM YEARS 6 TO YEAR 9
COME DOWN AND ENJOY A GREAT MORNINGS FOOTBALL.
DM for more details.
— Ridgeway Rovers FC (@Ridgeway_fc) December 1, 2020
With things hoping to go back to normality the club is hoping to be able to run things as they were before the pandemic and continue to scout and give kids the opportunity to learn and improve their footballing skills.
Finally, Ian Marshall spoke about his plans for the future, “we want to build and keep the Ridgeway name going and unravel another Beckham or Kane”.