Vanarama Column Feb 28 – Boreham Wood

by Glenn Moore

Meadow Park, Borehamwood, may not be the first stadium that springs to mind as a Champions League venue hosting international footballers, including world and Olympic champions. But that is because most of the above have been stars of women’s football, with Arsenal Women playing the majority of their home games at the 4,000 capacity stadium on the outskirts of London.

Now, though, it is the men who are aiming to put Meadow Park on the map. Arsenal’s hosts, Boreham Wood FC (the Hertfordshire town was originally spelled with two words, and the club has done so since formation in 1948) are beginning to dream of playing in the Football League.

Boreham Wood attract the lowest gates in the Vanarama National League averaging around 700. This reflects a relative lack of footballing heritage, strong local competition from established London league clubs, and the 32,000 population of Borehamwood. Yet crowds have more than doubled in the last three years and could be set for another boost. The club lie fifth in the Vanarama National League after taking 13 points from the last 15. The play-offs beckon. Having won their past two promotions through that route Boreham Wood can approach such a scenario with confidence, improbable though it would have seemed only a decade ago.

This is The Wood’s third season at the elite non-League level having not played above the Isthmian (now Bostik) League until 2010. Former Arsenal player Wayne Allinson steered them into the National League but quit early in the first season at the top after a poor start convinced chairman Danny Hunter the club needed to go full-time. This did not fit with the work commitments of Allinson who now manages Vanarama National League South promotion contenders St Albans City.

Assistant manager Luke Garrard, three weeks into his 30s, stepped up. Though Garrard had only recently retired as a player for Boreham Wood he had eight years’ coaching experience at the club’s academy. The relegation struggle went to the final day, but The Wood stayed up. Last season they rose to seventh before finishing 11th. The upward mobility has continued this season, fired by the goals of Portuguese Bruno Andrade, a former QPR academy graduate.

For Hunter, who has a background in the film industry (the world-famous Elstree studios are nearby), it is a family club, literally. His father Mickey managed it and there are several other relatives involved with Hunters filling a variety of roles from groundsman to academy manager.  Danny Hunter himself has been chairman since 1999 and the club would not be in its current positon without his regular investment.

The club recently agreed a 10-year extension to their hosting agreement with Arsenal. The women’s game may be much better known by 2028, but Boreham Wood hope if the crowds are finally filling Meadow Park their men’s team will be the draw.

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