From Billericay to Piccadilly, from Leatherhead to Arsenal: Part Two

11 months ago By Ian Townsend

Former Dulwich Hamlet and Billericay Town midfielder Benson Kpaka, on life after Isthmian.

Back in September we featured former Leatherhead, Billericay Town, Kingstonian and Canvey Island player Lynvall Duncan, spotted playing for the Piccadilly Line football team. In a follow up piece, we now speak to his Piccadilly team mate, former Dulwich Hamlet and Billericay Town midfielder Benson Kpaka.

Spectators watching the London Underground Piccadilly Line football team take on the Arsenal Community side at the Emirates Stadium Hub in August couldn’t have failed to be impressed by the talent on show, as the Underground boys ran out 10-4 victors. That the Arsenal side couldn’t get a foothold in the match was down to some staunch defending, and the fact that every time the Piccadilly side got the ball they tended to score!

Four of those goals came from a player whom Bostik League fans of long standing might have recognised- former Billericay Town, Dulwich Hamlet and -very briefly- Tooting & Mitcham United midfielder Benson Kpaka. Because there’s nothing better than a trip down memory lane, we caught up with Benson recently to reminisce about his time in our league, to talk about his time in football, and to find out how he ended up going from Billericay to Piccadilly.

So, how did you become an Isthmian League footballer?

I started playing football in school, and then started taking it seriously when I was around eighteen years old. I started at Kingsbury, spent a little time at Aveley, and then went to Hayes and Yeading- who loaned me out to Staines Town, where I played for a short while under Steve Cordery. Then I spent two seasons at Dulwich Hamlet.

How did you enjoy your time at Hamlet?

It was great. Some of the best football I ever played, a bunch of great lads, really good footballers. We had one really good season and then it all went wrong the following year. Eventually I decided that I needed to move on, and ended up out in Essex, at Billericay Town under Craig Edwards. That was a great side, and some of the highlights of my career.

Tell us about your experiences at Billericay. It must have been rather different from the experience that their players have now!

Absolutely, we didn’t have the kind of resources that they have these days. Although that said, I played with some really good players.

I spent two seasons there, and in the first of them we won the 2010-11 Essex Senior Cup, beating Aveley at Thurrock FC. That’s still one of the highlights of my career. We had such a good team, and it was so important to the club- they hadn’t won the competition for thirty-five years, they’d lost the three previous finals they’d played in, and it was just great to lift the trophy. We’d needed extra time to beat Heybridge Swifts in the semi-final and we had to work hard in the final too, although going ahead in the first minute- an Adam Flanagan free kick- helped. Harrison Chatting got the second.

Playing alongside Micah Hyde was a great experience. He’d played more than 400 games as a professional at Watford, Burnley and Peterborough before he came to Billericay, and he had such class. I learned so much from just watching him and he was probably the best I ever played with- although I also got to play one pre-season match with Albert Adomah (now at Aston Villa) back at Harrow Borough some years earlier, and he was some player too!

The following season we were fighting for the Isthmian Premier Division title, and Hornchurch matched us week by week, it was a real battle. We would go on winning runs and think we’d made it, and then we’d lose and they’d be right back at us, we couldn’t relax, but we managed to win the title. Sadly for me, though, it all went wrong just before the end of the campaign and I was let go. I’m still sad about that, and a little annoyed with Craig Edwards. He told the papers that I’d demanded far more money, and that absolutely wasn’t the case. He rang me and told me that he had to let me go, and I don’t think I ever understood why. I played on after that, for Met Police and Godalming, but it wasn’t the same.

So your relationship with Craig didn’t end in a positive way?

It didn’t, and yet I would still probably class him as one of the best managers I ever played for. He set up the team very well, we always knew what was expected from us. But I can’t say I was impressed with him at the end.

So how did you end up working for London Underground?

It might sound strange, but I’d wanted to work for London Underground for years. I had friends working for the company, and they all had good things to say, told me that the company looked after its staff, so I often thought about applying and then eventually did it. The only problem, I suppose, was that shift work got in the way of my football- which is why I now only get to play for the Piccadilly Line football team. I actually watched them play before I took the job, and I was surprised by the quality- perhaps I shouldn’t have been, perhaps that was arrogance on my part, but the standard is really high. We’re confident of promotion this year.

As you know, I get to play alongside Lynvall Duncan, too. He played for Leatherhead, Billericay Town, Kingstonian, and Canvey Island amongst others, and it’s good to share our experiences. We both have fantastic memories of the Isthmian League!

Benson, Lynvall and his team mates at Piccadilly FC play at Market Road in Holloway on Thursday afternoons, with a 4PM kick off. If you’re ever in the vicinity, perhaps you should pop along and take a look at some of the football on show. You never know who you might see!

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Where next?

Shoreham FC Breach of League Rules
Player moves for Angels, Ashford- and 'astings! Tonbridge and the Nuts and Bolts strengthen, United add a new last line of defence- whilst McCollin leaves

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