By Lewis Budd & Nozrul Ahmed
Grassroots football has made its long awaited return to London and a number of matches have been scheduled for the next few weeks as lockdown eases.
Previously, only teams in England’s top five football divisions have been allowed to continue amidst the pandemic, although new rules have now allowed clubs to play on.
Many amateur teams are continuing where teams in the country’s vast semi-professional and grassroots divisions left off in 2020, looking to finish their respective season into the summer.
Looking past the giants of the game, there is a rich heritage when it comes to the capital’s lesser-known football teams, with cult fan bases to be found amongst the lower divisions.
Here’s a roundup of East London Line’s favourite football teams, and the latest at the clubs ahead of the restart.
Wednesday, April 14: Kent United UTD vs Millwall Lionesses
Friday, April 16: Chelsea vs London City Lionesses
Saturday, April 24: Peckham Town vs Croydon FC
Sunday, April 25: Millwall Lionesses vs Billericay Reserves
Sunday, May 2: Liverpool vs London City Lionesses
Hackney Wick FC, Senrab FC, Stepney Wick FC & Tooting and Mitcham FC fixtures are currently suspended for the remainder of the 20/21 season.
London City Lionesses
Founded in 2019, London City Lionesses formed as a breakaway from their former club Millwall Lionesses, training and playing in Deptford. The team play in the Second Division of Women’s football and have continued to play throughout the pandemic.
London City Lionesses currently sit in 6th place, with 2 games to go until the season ends.
The relaxation of guidelines also means the return of grassroots women’s football at Millwall Lionesses!
Millwall Lionesses have been a long-serving club since 1973, and currently play in the Eastern Region Women’s League, the 5th tier of English Women’s football.
Upon the return, Millwall Lionesses opened up training for new players to join their first team on April 7, giving new players a chance to prove themselves in a team eager to grow.
Millwall ladies returned with a friendly against Hackney Lionesses over the weekend, however, the game was played behind closed doors.
Millwall Lionesses have games coming up at home to Upton Park Ladies (April 11), away to Kent Football United (April 14th) and at home to Billericay Reserves (April 25).
There is currently no return date set for competitive football for Millwall Lionesses.
Tooting and Mitcham FC
Tooting and Mitcham FC compete in the Isthmian Premiership, a league above their local rivals Croydon FC. The league recently announced to kick-off on the 14th of August 2021.
With the return of grassroots football, friendly fixtures between local clubs have been allowed to resume, allowing players to regain fitness and improve their ability. In the break waiting for the season to start, Tooting and Mitcham have opened up their 3G training pitches to be booked by the public.
Tooting and Mitcham have also got a history for producing exciting talent, with prolific England and West Ham striker Micheal Antonio on the books as a former player. Recently, Sam Folarin and Isaiah Jones left the club in December 2020 after being snatched up by Middlesborough in the Championship.
Croydon FC play in the Southern Counties East Football League, placed in Step 3 of the non-league pyramid.
Croydon FC are currently not playing league football, after the Southern Counties East League season of 2020/21 ratified the season to become null and void in February 2020.
However, Croydon FC are still in the running to compete for a trophy, with the return of the London Senior FA trophy. After beating Athletic Newham FC 4-3 in the first round in December 2020, Croydon FC face Peckham FC in the 2nd round of the London FA Trophy.
The cup-tie will take place at 3 pm on April 24th at The Menace Arena in Peckham, with supporters welcomed.
Stepney Football Club
Stepney FC are the most successful football team in Tower Hamlets. They have three teams – a senior side, a junior side, and a veterans side made up mostly of ex-Stepney FC players.
The senior team have already started to plan ahead to train and prepare for the start of a new season in the summer.
However, they are offering children under the age of 16 to come along for trials in order to get fit and active again following the national lockdown. The trials are due to take place the week commencing Monday, April 12. Children are encouraged to come along to Hailbury Centre, Tuesday at 6 pm.
Fironentina Turner, who play in the 7-a-side league in Hackney, Petchey Academy, will restart their season at the end of the month.
As restrictions loosen in England next week, the team will be able to recommence training and begin preparing to continue from where they left off before lockdown. Fironetina Turner are currently leading their table by one point ahead of Goonfellas FC who are their main rivals for the league title.
Senrab Football Club
Senrab FC, who train in Poplar in Tower Hamlets, have produced nearly 200 players who have gone on to play professional football, these include Ledley King and John Terry who have captained Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea respectively, as well as representing the England national team at senior level. Senrab have returned to full training on the 29th of March in their training ground at Bartlett Park in Poplar.
They have information available on their website for any parent interested in their child joining their club as trials are due to take place in the coming weeks as Senrab hunt for new footballing talents.
Hackney Wick Football Club
Hackney Wick are the only semi-professional football club in Hackney. Hackney Wick run many different football teams including levels as low as under-7’s team, under-10’s disabilities team, and women’s team at 5-a-said, 7-a-side and 11-a-side.
They are currently ground sharing with Witham Town in Essex to play their home games, and are raising funds to build a new stadium as they are the only semi-professional club without a home ground.
In the coming weeks, they are running trials for all levels, apart from senior level, and are encouraging people of all ages to come forward for training.