Isledon Wolves celebrate 10 years of success in junior football
- Credit: Archant
A decade strewn with silverware is not an achievement to be overlooked – but there are other means of gauging success at Isledon Wolves.
The Islington junior club have just celebrated the 10th anniversary of their formation, accumulating championships and cups in every age group during that period – a minimum of two per season.
Last year’s Under-15 crop have been stand-out performers – they collected titles in both the Camden & Islington League and the Harrow Youth League and have pre-season friendlies lined up against academy sides from three Football League clubs.
However, there are more enduring accomplishments in Wolves’ history – primarily the fact that they continue to attract and retain players and prepare some for football at a higher level.
Millwall and former Republic of Ireland Under-21 striker Aiden O’Brien is a graduate of the Islington club, while there are more recent Wolves representatives on the books at West Ham, Brentford, Fulham and Barnet.
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“The Under-15s really cleaned up last season,” said club secretary and treasurer Pip Clothier. “We have some seriously talented kids at that age and we are able to offer them a shop window which they may or may not exploit.
“You want your best players to do well and that’s a really big incentive for others at the club. But it’s also a case of managing expectations.
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“Quite a few of our players have been poached by semi-professional outfits as well – that is a compliment, but also a distraction. It’s annoying for the coaches to lose their very best players, but that’s the way it is.
“It’s been 10 years of achieving what we want to achieve – which is keeping around 70-80 kids playing football who might not otherwise have the opportunity to do so.
“That is the main and only significant measure of success. Our ethos is for them to get out there every week, to be happy and progress to the best of their ability and transfer that into being a positive role model.”
The club were born from the amalgamation of Highbury Wolves and Isledon United and initially established links with Arsenal, with former Gunners hero Charlie George becoming their first patron.
They won two trophies in their first season – one in the Regent’s Park League and one in the Harrow Youth League, where they have picked up at least one title in every subsequent year.
But Wolves have focused mainly on the Camden & Islington League at Market Road, where Clothier’s predecessor Ricky Palmer helped to spearhead the overhaul of the playing facilities a year ago.
“There was a lot of input from Ricky,” added Clothier. “It makes an enormous difference. When you see so many kids playing at Market Road there’s a fantastic buzz about the place.
“The facilities are really terrific these days – they’ve gone from muddy and worn-out Astroturf or even grass pitches to an Astro which is used by Arsenal’s academy, the quality is that good.
“That’s a fantastic opportunity for kids who I suspect don’t get that much organised sport – and they also get a lot more coaching and exercise from Isledon Wolves than from their local school.”
The club coaches, who are all qualified, get little in the way of downtime – Wolves will be sending teams to pre-season tournaments at Edmonton, Cuffley and Barnet over the coming weeks.
The Under-15s, meanwhile, are hosting Oxford United’s academy side in an exhibition game at Market Road on Saturday July 16 (kick-off 12pm), sandwiched by trips to Chesterfield and Luton Town.
Wolves – who hope to announce a new sponsor in the coming weeks – are also holding trials for new players aged eight to 12 at Market Road on July 9 and 23 (12pm-2pm).
“The parents are the absolute backbone of the club – without them and the coaches we wouldn’t have a club,” said Clothier. “The coaches all do it for nothing, except for out of pocket expenses.
“They’re working and they have families, but they put in three or four sessions a week sometimes and they do it for the love of the game. I think they get one month off a year.
“Our coaches can spot natural ability and help players grow – so people shouldn’t be shy about turning up for trials even if they haven’t contacted us. It’s a good opportunity to try out the Market Road pitches as well.
“You might not be doing so well at school but you might be a star on the football pitch, which feeds back into your self-confidence and you can do better at school as well.
“We’re a good club but we always want more players, so there are always opportunities and we’re very excited about the future. It’s great that the club has lasted for 10 years and we very much hope it lasts a lot longer.”