As the footballing world prepares itself for the Premier League kick-off, this weekend, we thought we'd focus on a local contributor to much of its talent - past and present.
Wanstead Flats has possibly spawned more international footballers over the last four decades than any other public space in Britain, rivalled only by Hackney Marshes, as the listings in this article suggests.
At least 18 future internationals have graced the local turf, and although many of them could not be considered world beaters, the list is only a goalkeeper short of a team that could, collectively, have qualified in most international tournaments, world-wide, over the decades.
|Football on Wanstead Flats|
Senrab FC is a Sunday League football that plays on the Flats. It was founded in 1961 by Jimmy Tindall, later a youth development officer with West Ham. The selection criteria has been high from the outset; Tindall would only sign young players who had already played for their district, or county. In the early 1970's so many Senrab players signed for Chelsea that former player and current England assistant manager, Ray Lewington, nicknamed the club "Chelsea Juniors".
|England Assistant Manager,|
Ray Lewington, nicknamed
Senrab "Chelsea Juniors"
Given this remarkable track record, shockingly Senrab ran into financial difficulties a few years back, and one of its much maligned alumina, John Terry, donated an undisclosed sum to keep his junior club going, in 2011.
|Hero and villan, John Terry|
It is nothing short of scandalous that a team that nurtures so many players with huge potential - like Senrab - needs a begging bowl to provide the £10k or so per season required to ignite a quality supply chain of footballing talent at local level.
A week's wages for an average Premier League footballer could keep both Senrab and Clapton FC going for a couple of seasons. Yet both struggle for lack of almost any money at all.
The Wanstead Flats club takes its name from Senrab Street in Stepney, where the players trained, originally. The name, incidentally is Barnes, spelled backwards - the name of another, local Stepney street.
The illustrious roll of former internationals, in alphabetical order (rather than footballing ability!), includes:
Ade Akinbiyi - b 1974, striker. Career: 1993 - 2010, one full Nigerian cap. He made over 500 professional appearances with over a dozen clubs, scoring 136 goals, including Norwich (49 apps - 3 goals), Gillingham (63 - 28), Wolves (37 - 16), Leicester (58 - 11), Crystal Palace (24 - 3), Stoke (59 - 17) and Burnley (109 - 26). Remarkably, he clocked up £11.5m in transfer fees, mainly generated by current England Under 20 manager, Peter Taylor. Ade was much derided by many fans, who rather cruelly knew him as "Akinbadbuy".
|Bad boy, Lee Bowyer|
|Sol Campbell: much travelled and much taunted|
Alan Curbishley - b 1957 in Forest Gate, the younger brother of Who promoter, Bill Curbishley. He was a midfielder. Career: 1975 - 1993, one England under 21 cap. Over 450 appearances (36 goals) for: West Ham (85 - 5), Charlton (91 - 6), Birmingham (130 - 11), Villa (36 - 1) and Brighton (116 - 13). Later (1991 - 2008) a successful manager with Charlton and West Ham, against whom he won a Tribunal case for constructive dismissal, when he left the club in 2008. Now a TV pundit.
|Local boy, footballer, manager, pundit Alan Curbishley|
|St Bons old boy Jermain Defoe|
"One Size" Fitz Hall - b 1980, central defender. Career: 2000 - to date, no caps. 290 professional appearances, principally with Crystal Palace (75), Oldham (41), Wigan (25) and Queen's Park Rangers (85). Has just missed out on a return to the Premier League with latest club Watford, following their defeat to one of his former clubs, Crystal Palace, in the Championship play-offs, at Wembley.
Vince Hilaire - born 1959, midfielder. Career: 1972 - 1992, 9 under 21 caps. Over 500 appearances with half a dozen clubs, principally Crystal Palace (255) and Portsmouth (146). One of the country's first established black players in the higher echelons of football, who suffered racist taunts throughout his career. In contrast, affectionate chants of "There's a brown boy on the wing" to the tune of Boney M's "Brown girl in the ring", rang out from the terraces during his delightful tenure at Selhurst Park.
Terry Hurlock - b 1958, central midfielder. Career: 1980 - 1995, 3 England B caps. Over 500 appearances for half a dozen professional clubs, principally Brentford (220) and Millwall (104). A combatative player, or in football parlance "a hard man", who while playing for Rangers, in Scotland, amassed a record number of disciplinary points in a single season. He was nick-named variously as "Gypo" (because, unusually for the time, he wore an ear ring), "Animal" and "Warlock". Tony Cascarino once said of him: "Some of us (Millwall) players playfully goaded Terry about what he was going to do to Vinnie Jones, in the upcoming fixture against Wimbledon. Without saying a word, he got up from the table and walked to the entrance to the pub and ripped the door off its hinges."
Muzzy Izzet - b 1974, midfielder. Career: 1993 - 2006, 8 Turkish caps. Played almost 300 games, mainly for Leicester City. Now runs a football academy with fellow former football pro Steve Walsh.
|Turkish international Muzzy Izzet|
|Cultured and crocked, Ledley King|
|Released West Ham junior, Paul Konchesky|
Ray Lewington - b 1956. Career: 1975 - 1990. No representative honours as a player, but currently England assistant manager. Over 400 career appearances, including Fulham (234) and Chelsea (85). He has been caretaker, assistant and manager and coach for Fulham, Crystal Palace, Brentford and Watford, since 1990, and is currently assistant to former Crystal Palace player, now England manager Roy Hodgson, in the national set up.
Darren Purse - b 1977, central defender. Career: 1994 - 2013, 2 under England 21 caps. Over 500 appearances with nine clubs, including Brighton (168), Cardiff (111), Sheffield Wednesday (61), Oxford (59) and Leyton Orient (55).
|Released West Ham youth player, Jlloyd Samuel|
Ray "Butch" Wilkins - b 1956, right side midfielder. Career: 86 England caps. Almost 600 league appearances with 11 clubs, including Chelsea (179), QPR (176), Manchester United (160), Milan (73), Rangers (70), Paris St Germain (13), Crystal Palace (1 - lasting 72 minutes!). Butch has subsequently had a number of manager, caretaker and assistant roles with: QPR, Fulham, Chelsea and Millwall. He was sacked from his last job in football by Chelsea in 2010, and has been a media commentator since and has subsequently faced a conviction for drink driving.
|Ray Wilkins: Manchester United,|
Chelsea, Paris St Germain, Rangers,
Milan, England - and Crystal Palace!
|Hitting row Z, Bobby Zamora|
|Long-serving manage and|
talent developer Dario Gradi
His remarkable talent-spotting record at Crewe rivals that of Senrab, itself, with the club having unearthed the talents of, among others, David Platt, Rob Jones, Geoff Thomas, Danny Murphy, Ashley Ward, Seth Johnson, Robbie Savage, Neil Lennon, Rob Hulse and Dean Ashton.
A final product of Senrab had an almost equally unremarkable playing career in football, but an impact equal to that of Gradi and Senrab itself. Tony Carr (b 1950) had a brief playing career with West Ham and Barnet in the early 1970s, but switched to youth development in 1973, which he has lead with distinction at West Ham ever since.
The club's reputation as being "the Academy" is in no small part down to Carr's guile; having Senrab on his doorstep would have been no hindrance, either! He is estimated to have generated over £80 million in transfer fees from the players he developed at West Ham.
No less than seven players, trained by Carr were in the 2010 England squad that went to the World Cup in 2010: Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole, Michael Carrick, Jermain Defoe, Glen Johnson and John Terry. He was appointed MBE in 2010.
For further information see the Wiki pages of each of the players listed (highlighted) or visit the Senrab website.
For enquiries about the club, contact club secretary Tony Carroll on 07531111906, or 0208 504 7079, e.mail firstname.lastname@example.org. The club is currently recruiting members for each of its teams, for the forthcoming season.