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8th April 2020

This has to be one of the best of the rest (Part 2)

This has to be one of the best of the rest, Wickwar skipper Abbott acknowledges

JOHN Abbott reflected on a memorable campaign for the Wickwar Wanderers team he proudly captains and smiled: “It has to be one of the club’s best ever,” writes Simon Parkinson.

Under the stewardship of George Whatley and Rob Banister, the South Gloucestershire side finished up second in Stroud League Two’s shortened season while reaching the final of the GFA Intermediate North knock-out competition.

Whatley and Banister have since announced they are to exit the Wanderers hot seat after three successful years at the helm together culminating in this latest impressive 2019-20 chapter so sadly cut short due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Abbott acknowledged: “This latest curtailed season has been one of the best we’ve ever had as a club and we’ve been going since the early 1890s.

“The fantastic progress that has been shown by a side with an average age of 20 came to the fore early last month when we produced one of the best performances I’ve seen wearing a Wickwar shirt to beat Chesterton 3-1 at theirs in the county cup semis.

“Chesterton were strong and packed with players with higher-level experience. They had won every league game bar one drawn game coming into the match although we’d yet to play them in the league, strangely enough.

“They had a guy upfront (George Peare) pushing 30 goals for the season and as centre-half up against him that afternoon I was, of course, very happy to help shut the door on him.

“So considering where we were it’s been an amazing period of progression. The club really was in danger of folding three years ago and it’s credit to Rob and George that they stepped up to the plate when they did, backed by these excellent young lads of ours who have just got stronger and stronger together.”

Of Wickwar’s fledgling performers, Abbott enthused: “A lot of local clubs struggle with people not turning up for games and training, or letting you down at the last minute. But these lads are fully committed; they never let you down.

“There are very few of us elder statesmen in the side now. I’m the oldest at 30 and there’s a lad who was in my year at school, Dave Parslow, who I played alongside at Kingswood for a bit. We both made some County League appearances with their first team when they were in there while Dave’s scored loads of goals in the Stroud League.

“There’s also Jay Westwood, a central midfielder from the village who, at 28, helps out behind the scenes too, as do Lee Bindon and Conner Leahy who are both 25.

“Lee is one of the best keepers in the Stroud League and Conner is my central defensive partner. Both played in our under-18 team and have progressed to become key first team members on and off the pitch.”

The Wanderers captain continued: “The rest are all local lads, mainly from Wickwar, although a few are from surrounding towns and villages.

“One of them is Ellis Cox who, at only 20, is not only a talented central midfielder but has been helping out the current managers with the coaching side and attends committee meetings and sorts out the social media side. Ellis is just an all-round good clubman, the sort every grassroots set-up wants.”

Of the end of a successful era overseen by Whatley and Banister as co operators, Abbott is confident a new dawn can prove equally as bright under fresh leadership.

“Whoever takes it on can concentrate purely on running the team,” he insisted. “They can get as involved as much or little as they like. We have a strong committee with key responsibilities designated to individuals.

“A new manager will be taking over a strong side containing all the same players that have got us to where we are today. But of course it’s a chance for someone to put their own stamp on it and see where it takes us.”

Anyone interested in taking up the manager’s position with Wickwar Wanderers can contact captain John Abbott via the form here.

Original post can be found on Gloucestershire FA’s website here. Author credit: Simon Parkinson, Gloucestershire FA’s Sports Journalist.