The Citizens Loved Wheat

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Wednesday August 28th 2013 at ‘Herns Lane’, Welwyn Garden City.
South Midlands League Division One, KO 19:45pm.
Welwyn Garden City (all Claret/Sky trim) 2-2 Southall (all White/Blue trim), att 72.
Admission 6 pounds, prog included.

In 1920 the first inhabitant took up occupation of his house in the new town of Welwyn, or Welwyn Garden City to give its full name.

Founded by Sir Ebenezer Howard, the plan was combine the benefits of city and countryside, and to attract those out of the slum dwellings of London, many pulled down before the second world war, and many then destroyed by German bombs during it.
In 1948 it was ‘officially’ recognised as a new town under the New Towns act of 1946.
Welwyn was recently heavily featured on the TV programme ‘Who do you think you are’, profiling Una Stubbs, actress, who was the great-granddaughter of Ebenezer Howard.

Situated about twenty miles north of London, Welwyn Garden City was once well-known as the home of the breakfast cereal Shredded Wheat, formerly made by Nabisco. The disused Shredded Wheat factory with its large white silos is a landmark on rail routes between London and the north of England. The factory, designed by de Soissons and built-in 1924 by Peter Lind & Company, is a Grade II listed building. Cereal production moved to Staverton, Wiltshire in 2008 when the owner, Nestlé, decided that the factory required significant and prohibitive investment, due to the age of the building. Tesco had made a planning application for a store, leisure facilities and offices on the site but this was turned down.

No doubt trading on their new town image and the social changes at the time, Welwyn Garden City FC was founded in 1921 and called themselves ‘The Citizens’. It’s not entirely clear how many of the new town citizens were resident in 1921, but by 2013 it has about 43,000 residents. Certainly a big enough town to host a fairly successful non league football team one would think.

Actually their history has been rather modest, moving into their current Herns Lane ground in 1968, six years later they were South Midlands League champions. It appears they have won little since, and these days are playing at non league step six (nationally step10).

I rather liked the Herns Way ground. Arriving in good time, I had a little saunter around the venue before the kick off. It’s certainly a little rough around the edges and is not afraid to highlight its age of forty five! The paintwork on the pitchside barriers is faded and peeling and the whole ground has a comfortable ‘lived in’ feeling, my type of ground!

The previous midweek I’d seen Southall put in one of most impressive performance I’d seen by a NL Step6 level team for a few years. On the night they turned over early league leaders Sun Postal Sports 4-2. But it had been their pace, movement and general enthusiasm that had impressed me. A mostly ethnic eleven reflecting the populus of their locality, I found them a breath of fresh air. So, I was really looking forward to seeing them again.

I was lucky, I watched another high tempo end to end game, with plenty of skill on show. No 9 Caswell putting WGC one up on thirty-five, before Joseph Aqua equalised on forty-two.
Joshua Brown score a cracker for Southall on Seventy, before parity was restored on eight two from sub Perry Stellon.
In between WGC had upped the anti a little with their harassment of the young ref. Some of their language was definitely ‘NOT’ out of the respect handbook! It took numerous shouts from their touch-line team before the ref finally had some words with them.
For this reason I found myself supporting Southall, as they hadn’t really risen to the bait, and continued with their neat passing football.
To be fair WGC were a very tidy team themselves. And I believe these two will definitely be looking to win the D1 title this season.

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