Apex Arvensdale F.C.

A great day for Apex Arvensdale Under-11sThis was Apex Arvensdale, my Waltham Forest Sunday League team, seen here after winning the Sudbury Court F.C. Under-11 Five-A-Side tournament in 1999.

During my 5 years as a goalkeeper at the club, we achieved great success in league and cup competitions.

We won S.E. England’s largest 5-asides when we were 10 years old, competed in the world’s largest five-a-side tournament at age 11 and won an Under-15s tournament at Arsenal's Highbury Stadium when we were just 12 years old. That year we also won the Waltham Forest U-13 League and Cup double and were winners and runners-up in many other tournaments.

The guy in the top-left of the picture is our coach Carl Dixon. Carl is a great guy, whose experience in football management and scouting, combined with his strict no-nonsense teaching methods earned him huge respect from everyone in the league as well as a bulging trophy cabinet. Carl found time to coach my team and also give local 8- and 9-year-olds their first tastes of football at the after-school club. He did this while pursuing a career as a players' agent and professional scout, working first for Chelsea F.C. and later for Fulham F.C.

Taking a rest break during the world's largest ever 5-asides
This photo, entitled "Boys of Summer", was featured as a half-page spread in "The Guardian" newspaper in summer 1999, when I was goalkeeper for the Apex Arvensdale team that went on to become Waltham Forest league and cup double winners.

I can be seen lazing in the foreground in the orange jersey, along with fellow team-mates Luke (right) and fellow goalkeeper Tony (blue jersey).

This amazing event took place on the world-famous Hackney Marshes, football's grassroots home in East London where players such as David Beckham started their football careers.

More than 2,000 teams competed on 200 pitches, including a West Ham team featuring England international Rio Ferdinand.

Lloyd Doyley playing for Watford
Carl’s experience, expertise and love of helping and working with children led him to change tack and train to become a teacher, leading to his gaining a Bachelor of Education degree. Following this great achievement, Carl became a teacher at Rushmore Primary School in Hackney, where he quickly progressed to school management level and soon after to Deputy Head Teacher.

Carl had coached Apex Arvensdale squads previous to the one I played in. One team in particular, that of goalkeeper Craig Beaton and right-back Lloyd Doyley (pictured here) also achieved significant success, winning many league and cup titles during their time. While in charge of their team, Carl was also working as a scout for Watford F.C. to whose academy he recommended Lloyd at age 11. Lloyd is now getting regular first team play at Watford, and played a big part in last season’s campaign, helping them to gain promotion into the Barclays Premiership. Carl also coached Gifton Noel-Williams as a youth footballer. Gifton also contracted with Watford and was their top goalscorer in 1998-99, but he suffered a terrible injury that threatened to finish his football career. Not long afterwards he developed severe arthritis, which kept him off injured for a very long time. Showing incredible strength of character, Gifton fought his way back to play for Stoke City and Burnley in the Football League Championship. He subsequently played professional football both in Spain and in the United States.

Carl and I have remained close friends over the years. While I was living in the UK we often went to Stamford Bridge together to watch Chelsea F.C. play league and cup matches and we meet up whenever I return to my home country.