Wingate's & Finchley's finest hour

By Danny Caro, May 12, 2011
Aron Sharpe

Aron Sharpe

Aron Sharpe has described Tuesday's London Senior Cup final success as his finest hour after Wingate & Finchley completed a historic treble.

Having won the Ryman League Cup in March, the Blues earned promotion to the Ryman League Premier for the first time after beating Brentwood Town in the playoff final on Saturday.

This was followed by a 3-1 victory over local rivals Hendon in the London Senior Cup on Tuesday night when Sam Sloma was one of the scorers.

Wingate chairman Sharpe said: "It's been a phenomenal end to a wonderful season that is the culmination of a few years of structure and stability.

"The set-up at the bottom end is very strong. Our youth set-up is excellent and the plan was always to get the club to a higher level. The short-term target was to maintain our position and win a cup."

Although the club's roots can be traced back to 1874, it was in 1946 that Wingate FC was formed as a Jewish football club, to combat antisemitism through sport. It merged with Finchley FC in 1991.

The club has come under severe criticism in some quarters in recent years after losing a stronghold of Jewish players. But it retains a strong identity in the boardroom and amongst supporters. Sharpe said: "When I came to the club I was fully aware of the requirements but it was hard to find Jewish boys able to play at this level. Most were not match-fit and they were unable to achieve the standard required for the club.

"I told the board to give me 10 years to find a Jewish boy able to play at this level. Sometimes you have to take a club backwards before you can take it forwards.

Sharpe, who is also joint-manager of the club's Under 18 team, said: "Success for me is making an average footballer into a very good player. You also have to be able to attract them to the club.

"Traditionally we have always been the number one club to produce the cream of the crop in terms of Jewish football. We've had Michael Stone and Adam Lee while Ben Winston remains heavily involved."

The chairman, 46, is in his fourth year with the club. He has also been impressed by Andy Zeller who acts as first-team coach and manager of the club's Under 18 team. "Andy is an outstanding coach," he said. "He has implemented a similar type of template to professional clubs."

He believes that an age old problem is holding some of the top talent back. "Unless boys go to university locally, it's very hard for them to commit. Most boys are still caught between wanting a good education and playing football at the highest level. The biggest problem is maintaining match fitness.

"It's a work in progress and we have to look at it each year."

Sharpe confirmed that Wingate will put out an Under 16 which will be 90 per cent Jewish against a Maccabi GB team in a friendly at Rowley Lane on June 12. He said: "The development is in the club at youth level. We have around 16 boys aged 15-18 who I believe are more than capable of playing Ryman League football in the next few years."

David Smouha and Liron Mannie recently signed Ryman League forms while Sharpe's son, Joel, has been invited for pre-season training.

Sharpe said: "The future is bright for the club in general and exciting times lie ahead."

Last updated: 12:45pm, May 27 2011