Football team with history in their name raise £350 for mental health charity

Wanderers Men’s Team Pic: Wanderers

Wanderers Football Club in Upper Norwood, named after the first ever winners of the FA Cup, have raised £350 for men’s mental health charity CALM in their charity replica football shirt sale.

Club Secretary Mark Wilson told Eastlondonlines: “I think it’s really interesting to observe the change in society, how now mental health is becoming something that people are happier to talk about.

“I think it’s often been the case that men are assumed to be fine, and if everything looks fine then they are fine, when that’s definitely not true.

“When it comes to selling the shirts, well, we’ve always been into charity. We almost always had the charities we support on our shirts to give them more publicity.

Wanderers’ Shirt Pic: Wanderers

“I wanted to create as an option for people to buy something that we had, because doing so meant we could donate money to charity.”

CALM is a mental health charity that runs a free, confidential anonymous helpline and webchat originally targeted at young men, however, is now available to anybody of any age, gender or background.

The charity aims to prevent suicide by offering help and advice to those feeling like they have nowhere left to turn.

CALM said: “The fastest way to support us is by donating – £8 is enough to fund one potentially life-saving call. Donating to CALM is a simple way to take a stand against suicide.

“Our supporters have helped us to continue to be there for anyone who needs us, no matter what.” 

Club secretary Mark Wilson Pic: Mark Wilson

Wilson added: “I think mental health is a really important issue. I personally went through a very difficult mental health crisis during the lockdown. I was getting particularly introverted and frustrated and angry, to a point where I genuinely got so annoyed and upset that it actually almost felt like an out-of-body experience.

“I don’t think it showed in other walks of life like my job or my football. But I felt it internally and I realised I had to make a significant change.

“Something like CALM that approaches men’s mental health with thoughtful and clear intentions to alleviate some of the typical problems men face like loneliness, isolation, or anger, I think is really important.

“I think utilizing football and sport in general to do that is going to help get through to that difficult to reach group of people who wouldn’t usually reach out and talk about it.”

The club was first founded in 1859 as Forest Football Club in Leytonstone, changing its name to Wanderers in 1864. They were among the most dominant football teams of the early years of organised football, winning the FA Cup on five occasions, including the first ever FA Cup.

Wanderers Team 1863 Pic: Unknown

The team dissolved in 1887, until in 2009, it was reformed. Today, the club play on the football grounds of Virgo Fidelis School in Upper Norwood.

Wilson said: “When we finally managed to get ourselves a home ground, we had a great agreement in place with the school. We invested over £10,000 and countless hours of volunteer time to put in our netting and adult pitch and try and level out all the sort of humps and bubbles and hollows. We put in a junior pitch we’d got a kiosk to use as a kind of storage and retail outlet.

“Covid happened and in that time, the school was shut down and taken over. The new people said we could only play there on Sundays and only between January and March, which is essentially the same as saying ‘get out’ I think.

“To try and find a way back from there, to get us that proper home ground again, I think that’s my next major objective.”

CALM’s helpline and webchat services are available daily 5pm-midnight and can be found here.

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