John Terry and Senrab old boys vow to save club

19 April 2011 11:06
The youth football club where a host of Premier League stars including John Terry, Ledley King and Bobby Zamora started their careers are facing a funding crisis that could force them to fold.

Senrab celebrate their 50th birthday this year but are now fighting to stay afloat. The club are suffering a hike in the cost of hiring pitches at a time when council grants have been cut.

Senrab stars: John Terry (back row, second left), Ledley King (back, third right), Jlloyd Samuel (back right), Bobby Zamora (front, second left)

Senrab alumniJlloyd Samuel (Bolton)

John Terry (Chelsea)

Ledley King (Tottenham)

Paul Konchesky (Liverpool)

Sol Campbell (Newcastle)

Bobby Zamora (Fulham)

Muzzy Izzet (retired)

Lee Bowyer (Birmingham)

Jermain Defoe (Tottenham)

Ade Akinbiyi (retired)

Leon Knight (Coleraine)

Alan Curbishley (former West Ham and Charlton manager)

Dario Gradi (Crewe manager)

Ray Wilkins (former Chelsea No 2)

Tony Carr (West Ham academy director)

The financial situation is so critical that unless help is received soon Senrab will go under, ending the steady stream of talent - including an incredible nine England internationals - to have emerged from the club over the last half-century.

Jermain Defoe and Sol Campbell played with the east London outfit, as did Lee Bowyer and Paul Konchesky. Former Chelsea assistant manager Ray Wilkins, capped 84 times, began there in the 1960s.

Club secretary Tony Carroll, who has been involved for nearly 20 years, said: 'We can't sustain the current situation much longer. We're robbing Peter to pay Paul all of the time.'

Carroll, 55, and his wife Sharon, 55, who is the club's treasurer, have repeatedly dipped into their own pockets when needed.

But the strain is becoming too much and the couple will end their long association with Senrab next year, casting a huge doubt over the club's future.

Told of the club's plight, however, former players are responding, with England captain Terry leading the pledges of support.

Terrytold Sportsmail: 'Senrab was the club where my football at grassroots started. We had a great team which produced some excellent players, not just at my age group.

Plea: Former Senrab stars Terry (left) and King (right) have spoken out

Future star: Jermain Defoe's Senrab registration card

THE MEANINGSenrab is Barnes - a street in Poplar, east London, where the club originated - spelt backwards.

Teams have largely trained at nearby Langdon Park and played on Wanstead Flats.

'I'm sure if all of the players pulled together to help save the club where it all started for us, we could give the youth of today the opportunities we all had.'

Two years ago, Senrab had 23 teams in competition - with about 300 children from the ages of six to 18 - but the cost became an enormous struggle after the local council cut the club's biennial funding from ?2,500 to ?800 and the price of renting training pitches increased three-fold.

The young footballers provide a ?50 annual subscription fee but this only goes part way towards the sum required to run the operation.

Last season the Under 18s and Under 17s were axed to trim costs and, more recently, the Under 13s A side, which once had King, Terry, Zamora, Konchesky and Jlloyd Samuel in the same side, was disbanded after losing many of the boys to professional clubs'academies.

Club secretary: Tony Carroll has ploughed his own money into saving the club

Carroll, who was the manager of the Under 13s A and is a plumber by trade, added: 'Senrab just about keeps its head above water but only because we put our own money in. Years ago I put my mortgage in to help.'

Tottenham defender King said: 'The thought of the club folding is a worrying one. I owe Senrab a lot and it would be a shame if this important part of the community was no longer there.

'It would be a great idea if as many of us 'old boys' as possible came together to help the club out. I would be willing to lend my support if needed.'

Senrab star: Bobby Zamora (left) played alongside Terry and King at the club

Liverpool defender Konchesky said: 'It would be gutting if Senrab did collapse. I started there as a kid and I've got great memories. We used to play at Wanstead Flats and they had cows on there. You'd have to play on pitches with cow pats on them! If the lads can help we will.'

Birmingham midfielder Bowyer said: 'I'm saddened to hear of Senrab's plight - it is sad when any grassroots football club has financial difficulty. The club is close to my heart.'

With a shrinking number of teams and a bank balance near tipping point, help is needed quickly if the club - a goldmine for talent - is to remain open for business.

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Source: Daily_Mail