When Waltham Forest announced they had appointed Kem Kemal as their manager he was followed by a high profile list of names writes Charlie Ward.
They included former Barnet man Lee Flynn and there was genuine optimism that the club would make a sustained effort to get promoted from the Essex Senior League, back into the Ryman League Division One North.
When the club embarked on a winning run of ten successive games, in all competitions, a club record, everyone at the club was looking forward to becoming the realistic challengers to favourites Barking.
But, in a horrendous spell in October and November, the team sustained a whole catalogue of injuries, which saw at one time a list of sixteen players unavailable at one time.
Results suffered and gradually, the team slipped down the table and by the start of December, were in eleventh position and effectively, well out of contention for the title and promotion.
It was hardly surprise that, just before Christmas, the management team resigned and it was expected that quite a few players would leave with them.
What was devastating was that about twenty players left the club all in one go.
So in January 2017, the club appointed reserve team manager, Elijus Jetkevicius to take charge and in his first game he was forced to field mainly the core the reserves and unsurprisingly, the side went down 5-0, to a Sporting Bengal side who had recently hit some good form
In the next few games Forest recruited the much respected Quayum Shakoor, to assist Eijus – his experience in the lower end of non-league football has proved invaluable, as has, his involvement with Leatherhead FC.
The club brought in about six players on dual registration with the “Tanners” and some of those players have featured regularly in games.
After a three match losing sequence, the side won their first game under new management against Hullbridge 1-0
After a few more defeats, the team then went four games unbeaten, mostly against sides in the bottom positions and things took a downturn with three straight defeats against Ilford and then Takely, twice.
But, as the team selection has settled down, performances have started to improve and the team are now on a five game unbeaten run, including two cup victories in the Gordon Brasted Trophy, both on penalty shoot outs and are now in the final against Takeley
The players, who have an average age is in the low 20s have shown nerves of steel, as they firstly accounted for Wadham Lodge 5-4 on penalties and then against Eton Manor 6-5, not missing one of their penalties in the second game.
On both occasions they had the added pressure of having to go second, thus meaning they were always playing “catch up”
The side have also managed to amass the club’s best points total in it’s three years in the ESL and will be hoping to also hang on to it’s highest ever League placing.
The enthusiasm and ability to improve, has transformed the outlook for the season and whatever the outcome in the final at the home of Burnham Ramblers on Easter Monday, Forest supporters have certainly had a season to remember.
Article: Charlie Ward