Thames Ironworks FC was the original name of West Ham United, so it holds a special place in most Hammers fans’ hearts. This article is not about them though, it’s about a new community centered club of the same name that was established in February 2017. What makes the club so unique though is what they stand for, instead of being a breakaway club like FC United or closer to home like an AFC West Ham, they are club run by the fans of West Ham. These aren’t some fans disgruntled about a particular owner or moving away from tradition, these are some everyday lads who want to give back to the community whilst playing a bit of football on the way. In order to get a better picture of Thames Ironworks Community FC and what it stands for, I interviewed the manager, Graham Thompson and the team captain, Ben Glander. They were both top lads who offered me a great insight into the club’s ideology and the hardships they have faced in starting up the club.
Where are you from?
Graham Thompson, (Manager) – I grew up in East Ham and Plaistow. East Ham lad.
Ben Glander (Captain) – My name is Ben, I was born in Lewisham originally before moving to Dartford which is where I currently live.
Give us a bit of background about yourself?
GT – I love my football. West Ham fan for all my sins so I could never be accused of being a glory hunter. Helped in starting up Westhamfantv and professional wife annoyer.
BG – I’ve always been into sports as I enjoy physical activity. I take pride in trying to keep myself in shape, I go to the gym three times a week and I enjoy playing video games.
Do you have any previous experience in football or management?
GT – I’ve been an assistant before but this is my first time in the hotseat. I was Scott Colliers assistant at Newham United. He now helps me with Thames Ironworks.
BG – I played football up until I was 17, I had Kent country trials at that age. Unfortunately I didn’t make the cut which is when I fell out of love with the game. Took up Refereeing and did my coaching badges. It was only until recently when I started to play football again.
Have you done any coaching badges/do you plan on doing any?
GT – I did do my Level 1 and 2 badges but that was over 15 years ago. I’d like to redo my Level 2 and see if I can push on from there.
Do you have any football related aspirations?
GT – I did want to play for West Ham, but I don’t think they need a 41 year old left back! I would like to get my Level 3 qualification and possibly move into non league football.
BG – Not as of recent, every person can dream and I obviously had a dream at a young age but there comes a time where you need to be realistic. Currently I just try to work hard and you never know what can happen in the future.
Where did you find out about the club?
GT – The idea was kicked around by Nicky Hawkins – who is the chairman – probably around February or March this year. Initially I was just going to be doing committee stuff, i.e. attending league meetings and that kind of thing. Things worked out nicely though.
BG – I have watched Westhamfantv for a while and followed them on Twitter. I saw the first trial advertised on Twitter I did not attend due to me not being interested in playing again. It was only 3 weeks later when they had a second trial I decided the night before I would attend and I’m glad I did.
What do you think of the club’s ideology and what it stands for?
GT – I think it’s great. A community club run by fans for fans. We really want this to become a true community club, eventually we hope to have junior sides, women sides and vets teams. Otherwise known as old man’s football.
BG – Obviously it’s a team that was founded by West Ham fans. That was the main attraction in me wanting to join. The club are trying to build a community and I am looking forward to the journey ahead.
Why were you made team captain?
BG – I feel like the reason I was made captain was that I made an early impression in pre-season with some solid performances. Trying to encourage the team, was the most talkative on the pitch and always trying to bring a good vibe to the team. Always attending training and working hard on and off the pitch was a major part.
Who are the ones to watch on your team?
GT – Wayne Gittens one of our centre backs, very cool and composed and a great organizer. Ben Glander the skipper is very solid in the centre of the pitch. Theo Towli is our playmaker and we have a potent strike force too.
BG – We have a couple of good technical players, Theo (Towli) has made a good start to the season regarding goals and assists. Reece (Lewis) has found his scoring boots but we have recently signed a player called Benji (Kamberi); tall and skillful, he is definitely someone to look out for.
What do you think the club can realistically achieve?
GT – I believe we can push for promotion in our first season. There are a couple of other good sides in our division and we are not too far off them.
BG – Judging by the first games of the season we have played some of the league’s better teams and have given them a run for their money. Unfortunately, we haven’t converted our chances into points, but I’m confident we can push for a promotion place this season.
What is your philosophy as a manager?
GT – I believe in playing football on the floor, as the great Brian Clough said ” If god had intended us to play in the air he would have given us wings.” I also want the lads to enjoy playing and have fun.
What difficulties faced you in starting up the club?
GT – Funding was an issue because the club was started in a very short space of time. So it was a bit of a rush to secure funding and also find a ground at short notice.
How hard was it to gather players / decide on the team?
GT – We held 2 trials and i believe we had 60-70 players turn up, so numbers were not a problem. The picking of the squad was a joint effort by the committee so everyone had some input. I think even we were surprised by the numbers.
BG – Gathering players to join the team was simple, everyone went through the trial process in which about 80 people turned up.
How did you get the funding to start the club?
GT – We were successful in an application to the Football Foundation for a grant. We also had a go fund me page which people donaed to and we will be forever grateful for that.
Which West Ham manager/player do you relate to the most?
GT – John Lyall is the greatest manager we have had in my humble opinion. I’d like to get my team playing like the West Ham of old.
BG – I would probably say Pedro Obiang. Good in the tackle, but also have a good range of passing and physical strength.
As you can see they are just a couple of normal West Ham fans who have gone through a lot of effort to get Thames Ironworks Community FC off the ground and to implement the ideas that appealed to them. Giving fans the chance to play out the closest thing to their dream in playing for a club related to West Ham. An example of the good relations between the clubs is when the club’s Umbro kits didn’t arrive in time for the start of the season, West Ham provided them with a kit. A unique and brilliant club which will no doubt lead to the creation of more fan based clubs. You can see Thames Ironworks Community FC in action at Newham United Training Ground.
Find out more about Thames Ironworks Community FC, its progression and match highlights on their YouTube channel. Follow @TIWCFC_Official on Twitter and Facebook to keep up to date with their latest fixtures and results.
Do you know of any other local community clubs who deserve to have their stories told? Let us know you think about the work Thames Ironworks Community FC are doing in the comments below!