With the expansion of our League (and the alterations which the FA have made to the pyramid) we have a number of clubs who are entirely new to us, haven’t been part of our setup for rather a long time, or are returning to us after some time away. We decided that the best way to introduce- or to reintroduce- them to Bostik League supporters was through the eyes of one of their own.
Here's Stephen Irving, on all things Northwood and the life-giving properties of beer!
How long have you been a supporter of Northwood?
I started going to Northwood for the 1996/97 season, so this will be my 23rd season.
Tell us how you became a fan? What attracted you to the club initially?
I live in Northwood, now a little more than a quarter mile from the ground. It wasn't always like that, it used to be nearly half a mile before I moved to Northwood High Street!
I moved south from Scotland in the autumn of 1989, and settled in Chislehurst SE London for a while. After a couple of years I got a hankering for some regular football again; I'd been a regular at my home town club Threave Rovers while growing up and football was just part of the Saturday ritual to me. I discovered Bromley in the early spring of the 91/92 season, and followed them for the rest of my time in SE London. Moving to Northwood in the Autumn of 1993 I still supported Bromley for a good while, and as an Isthmian Premier club at the time their away games were all over London so what I lost in travelling diametrically across London for home games I made up for in many away games that were just round the corner from me. In the summer of 1995, however, I realised the travelling to supporting Bromley was becoming onerous, so I decide to cut ties and follow their results from afar.
For that year I did a bit of ground-hopping. This I found wholly unfulfilling, watching games based on "oh, I've never been there", having no vested interest in the clubs in front of me, and not being able to have an ale because I was driving. I almost missed the 2nd half of the 95/96 season because I was completely disillusioned. It was this that drove me to find something regular closer to home.
I knew Northwood had an Isthmian League club, they had recently hosted Bromley's local rivals Dulwich Hamlet in an FA Cup tie (losing 4-1). I missed all of pre-season 96/97, (overtime at work) except the last game in which the Woods battered a Div Two Berkhampstead. I recognised many of the Northwood players as former Harrow Borough players from my Bromley days, and was surprised by the accessibility to players and staff after the game which was unheard of at Premier level.
And what is it about the club that has kept you there since?
That first season was Stef Emmanuel's only full season in charge, he lead us to promotion from Div.3 and a Quarter-final appearance in the FA Vase. This success attracted, what at the time was, the "poison chalice" job at Chesham Utd who had been going through 2/3 managers a year since winning the the Isthmian Premier in 93/94. This brought in Tony Choules who is arguably The Woods most successful manager in the modern era. Tony built on the success of Stef's promotion from Div.3 and improved year on year until promotion to the Isthmian Premier in 2003/04.
What does a typical home match-day look like for you?
Nothing special really. I'll have a quiet Saturday morning, sausage sandwiches & coffee for brunch, before making my way down to the ground for about 1.45pm. I'll go talk to our secretary, pick up the float for the turnstiles before going out and opening up for 2.15pm. From kick off I'll keep one eye on the gate and one eye on the game before closing the turnstile about 3.35pm, returning all takings to the clubhouse and joining my friends in the ground for the second half. After the final whistle it'll be a few bottles of real ale in our newly refurbished bar and reflect on what we'd witnessed out on the field.
Is there a moment in the history of your club that supporters always talk about? What would it be- and why is it important to you all?
96/97 FA Vase 5th round Durham City vs Northwood.
This really was a David vs Goliath clash, and The Woods were David. Durham City were riding high in the in the top flight of the Northern League, the level in the pyramid above Northwood who were still Isthmian Three at the time. We all travelled up on the train from Kings Cross, leaving at 9:30am, getting into Durham about 12:30pm. Our hosts sent their coach down to the station to transport us to the ground where had laid on a lovely lunch for us.
The game itself was a bit of anti-climax for us, a bitter cold wind whipping in off the North Sea made playing conditions difficult and the quality of the Durham City side showed why they were hot hot favourites to go through. They battered us, for long long periods we couldn't get out of our own box, never mind own half. But the Woods defence stood resolute. Somehow we did get out of own half, well three times actually, twice to score and once to miss a penalty. The home fans were dumbfounded, "how did this side, from a London suburb we've never heard of, in their own views a level below us, manage to come here and win?" Well to say the train trip home was a happy one is a massive understatement. I think we commandeered the whole carriage to ourselves, people I still hardly knew became firm friends that day, friendships that still exist.
For the benefit of those who haven’t visited before, describe your ground.
You enter the ground from the turnstiles in the north west corner of the ground, immediately to the right of the turnstiles is the refreshment hut & toilets, beyond that is our 350 seater stand (well it is when the local vandals haven't desecrated the place).
Immediately in front of you after leaving the turnstiles is the covered clubhouse end "terrace;" this runs the entire width of the pitch behind the near goal to the tunnel entrance in the NE corner of the ground. Following round from here there is a 30yard length of covered terracing towards the dug-outs. This is where things get "interesting" as you go behind the dug-outs the surround outside the pitch perimeter rises to about 7ft above pitch level by the SE corner flag. The hard standing behind the Graveyard End goal slopes back down to pitch level by the SW corner flag with plain standing along the fence to the edge of the stand.
If an away fan was travelling to your ground for the first time, how would you recommend they got there? Tell us about parking and public transport.
Visiting the ground you will find there is more than ample parking by the clubhouse, in our car park, street parking on Chestnut Avenue by the allotments, or in dry weather across the cricket field in Highland Road. Coach parking is accommodated in Chestnut Avenue on the downhill side of the road from the access road. Never try to bring a coach down to the clubhouse:
1) you won't get it turned round
2) you'll never get it out onto Chestnut Avenue after the game.
We had a huge laugh at one club who ignored this advice. Eventually they had to get some of our neighbours out of bed to move their cars in order to get the coach out. That did not go down well.
Public transport in London is fantastic, except when your tube-line isn't running at the weekend. The closest stations to Northwood FC are the METROPOLITAN Line (the Maroon one) stations of Northwood, and Northwood Hills. The N.Hills station is the easier to walk in the drier months, there is a footpath to the left of the Namaste Lounge (former Northwood Hills pub). This leads out onto Highland Road where you turn left, follow HR downhill, round to the left, back up the hill and right into Northwood Park. The FC is visible across the cricket field. Note this route should NOT be followed after even moderate periods of rain. In the winter months the cricket field becomes bog-like.
Best alternatives are, From N.Hills get the 282 from the stop across the road outside Nails & Co to "Northwood Iron Bridge" Turn right off the bus then turn left into Chestnut Avenue. From Northwood Station, get 282/H11 from the stop outside Lloyds/TSB Bank to "Hallowell Road" turn right off the bus, turn left at the end of the road, use Zebra Crossing, turn right into Chestnut Avenue. The H11 bus can be used direct from Harrow town centre or Pinner station too, just get off at "Northwood Iron Bridge".
And please note, The Bar is only accessible from outside the ground. The number of people I get through the gate then ask where they can get a beer is phenomenal!
Are there any local sights or amenities you’d recommend they visit? Tourist attractions, pubs etc?
Unfortunately Northwood is set in the middle of Suburbia where nothing ever happens, nothing happens at all. Weatherspoons in Northwood (closed in 2008) and Northwood Hills (closed 2015) helped wipe out the pub trade in the local area before deserting themselves. Elton John was born in Pinner Hill Road, what was the Northwood Hills pub is where legend has it he first "tinkled the ivories." Food wise there is a plethora of Chinese/Indian/Thai/Pizza/fried chicken/kebab places to either sit-in or grab a take-away.
Finally, pie, burger or pint? What would you recommend, and why?
Personally I go for a pint every time. As legend has it beer has all the basic building blocks to sustain life.
Image: Northwood manager Dean Barker and the Mayor of Hillingdon at the recent opening of the new clubhouse