Youngsters of Essex Road Giants are growing in stature
- Credit: Archant
No money, no kit and virtually no supporters – the outlook didn’t seem all that promising for newly-formed Essex Road Giants barely a year ago.
The Canonbury club still aren’t flush with cash by any means, but they can now claim a sponsored kit, a growing fanbase and – most importantly – two teams at the top of their form.
The Giants were set up by two young men from the Marquess Estate, Ryan Hassan and Lewis Yeboah, to provide an opportunity for keen young players in the surrounding area.
After a difficult debut season in the Camden & Islington Youth League, the club are now fielding an Under-13 and Under-14 boys’ team – both of whom have won all their matches to date.
“Football was my dream, it was everything when I was younger,” Hassan told the Gazette. “But if I couldn’t make it I wanted to help develop kids so they could learn how to make it and I find that very rewarding.
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“Kids round here wouldn’t have a chance to make it – their parents don’t have enough money to take them up to St John’s Wood or somewhere like that, where they charge about £300 a term.
“I had to go up to Holloway when I was younger because there was no team here. Now the boys can just walk over the road [to the Dovercourt pitch where they train] rather than having to get buses.
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“Their parents know us, from the estate where we grew up, so they can trust us with their children. This is a local green area, so we don’t pay for it and we don’t charge them for the training.”
Seeing a number of boys playing football around the estate, Hassan and Yeboah printed some flyers inviting them to come for a trial and formed a team to play at Under-13 level at Market Road.
However, the Giants’ progress proved to be less than straightforward – they needed a welfare officer, a role that league official Ricky Palmer agreed to fill on a temporary basis, and a properly numbered kit.
“We went onto a website to find a cheap kit, but we didn’t even know the boys’ sizes when we got it and we ended up with extra-small size shorts for them,” Hassan recalled.
“So we had to buy them all new shorts and take a loss – but it was worth it to see how many boys we got off the estate and the feedback we got from parents, asking if their boys could join the team.
“We didn’t do so well in the league, finishing seventh, but we felt we ought to put on a nice presentation for the boys at the end of the season.
“Rose Bowl Youth Centre have helped us a lot – they gave us their club to use. Our mums made food, we bought the trophies and invited all the parents to come down.
“I think they were all really interested after that and decided they were going to support us. When we were losing all the time we only had two parents coming along to matches – now they all come and we’ve got a proper fanbase.”
And it looks as if the Giants are now moving firmly in the right direction this season – they have a kit sponsor, Amber Construction and Islington Council are due to consider a funding proposal that would allow the team use of the William Tyndale Primary School Astroturf pitches for weekday training.
On the field, the Giants’ Under-13s – managed by Hassan – have won all four of their league games, while Yeboah’s Under-14s also hold a 100 per cent record with five wins from five.
The club’s management duo are hoping to expand to a third age group next season and also plan to establish a girls’ team in the near future.
“Every year we’re planning to add one more team,” added Hassan, who spent a year on the books at Dagenham & Redbridge and now works as a PE teacher in Tower Hamlets.
“We’re going to take it step by step. Hopefully we’ll lose some of the boys to academies as well, so they’ll have progressed and we’ll always need to be expanding.
“This area can very easily push young people the wrong way. If they didn’t have football, I know for a fact that some of these boys would be out on the streets, hanging around older boys they look up to and throwing fireworks around or robbing people.
“Instead of that, they now have different role models and they want to be in football, or be a coach. That’s the path we’re trying to show them, that if you’ve got a talent you can pursue it and make a living from something you love doing.”
Anyone who would like to get involved with Essex Road Giants, or help the club financially, should contact Nicky Ludgate on 07961 006 964 or email firstname.lastname@example.org