“Well, I invited one guy down to play, and in his first game for us started doing star-jumps in front of the opposition goalie. The ref almost booked him, and then he walked into a defender and broke his nose. The St John ambulance people had to take him to hospital. His debut game for us lasted five minutes!”
Such are the perils of Hackney Revolution Football Club, started from scratch by London Underground engineer James Goff. He gathered a few like-minded friends together to start a team and entered Hackney Revolution FC into the London Weekend Football League. After finding himself a few players down, James began scouring the internet for players – sort of a free agent list for Sunday leagues.
“That’s where I got Tom Pritchard. I saw his advert on gumtree.com and invited him down. Lasted five minutes. Having said that, he came back and now plays regularly for us.”
Due to this ballistic method of recruitment, there is an international flavour to the playing staff at Hackney Revolution that distinguishes it from your average Sunday football team – players from Nigeria, France, Ireland and all over Britain, all people with day jobs, ranging from shoe designers and musicians to advertisers, gardeners and, as James says, “media types”.
“Obviously we’re serious,” continues James. “I mean, we play to win, but we’re also a team of professionals. There’s a lot of misrepresentation about Hackney. The media just writes about gun crime and stabbings, but there’s so much more and that’s what we represent.”
Training at Haggerston Park every week, James is the founder, manager and coach of Hackney Revolution. “We’ve just finished our first season, and it’s taken as long for everyone to get into the swing of things. When we first started, a lot of the boys were excited but hadn’t played for so many years. During the first few games you could just see people’s faces drop as they blew themselves out while getting beaten every week. Their body language basically said ‘I don’t remember it being this hard.’
“Keeping the team together was a challenge in itself in those early days – when it’s 10.30 on a freezing December morning, and you have to go and stand in a field in Ealing in nothing but shorts and a shirt…it ain’t really gonna happen.”
However, James insists that the Revolution will remain a serious long-term fixture now the first season is out of the way. At the same time as managing the team, he is working towards his Level Two FA coaching badge, transferring the training, skills and ideas from the coaching course to the team.
“The course gives me so much more knowledge and expertise on how to teach people to play the game. Properly managing a full football team is difficult, but when you see players like left midfield Alan Kerr react to your training methods and physically improve over a season, it’s personally really rewarding.
“The Revolution come from all over the world, but we all live and play in Hackney. I’m always on the lookout for new players from the borough as we’re applying to enter the official Sunday league soon – our plan is European domination within five years!”