It’s been a while since Wealdstone had a player the fans could “hang their hat on.” Someone who generates the sort of excitement that reverberates around the terraces. Direct running, the beating of an opponent, the ability to create a chance out of nothing and, of course, pace, raw pace…
Wealdstone have been blessed with a few over the years. Could Abobaker Eisa be the latest game changer? @StonesGoals makes a case…
Main photo courtesy of Steve Foster, Acqueous Sun Photography
Having plied his trade in the eight tier of English football last season, Eisa, 21, made the move across West London this summer swapping Uxbridge Town for Wealdstone. He impressed in pre-season, netting against Bedfont (twice), Watford, Reading (twice), and Hitchin Town. In a summer of uncertainty, Eisa was the bright spark.
Such is the expectation at Wealdstone nowadays, the left-sided attacker has had to quickly correct any misconceptions with the much maligned fans forum writing him off before he had even pulled on a blue shirt. “Shopping at Aldi again need to upgrade the supermarket we go to” remarked one, “Bringing players in from a lower level again. It’s getting boring at Wealdstone” said another.
Bartlett may be a memory, but will Eisa prove to be his last parting gift?
Despite a promising summer, Eisa has had an inconsistent start to the season but came off the bench to lift the crowd last weekend producing a moment of magic to out pace his opponent and slip the ball between the legs of the onrushing Whitehawk keeper. The celebration matched the run as Eisa slid to his knees in front of The Bulla and became the first Stones player to score a home winner against them ‘Awks in the process…
“The false 9?”
“Eisa, inconsistent, but has talent, is able to go past players with relative ease” said The Guvnor, whilst others demand the winger is given a chance up top as the impotent forward line continues to prove a hot topic of conversation. And in an age where “The false 9” is a thing, there could be opportunity for Eisa to develop his game further in an unconventional deep-lying centre forward’s position.
He possesses the attributes that “The false 9” terminology is defined by: “similar to those of a deep-lying striker; dribbling ability to take advantage of space between the lines, good short passing ability to link up with the midfield and vision to play through teammates making runs from deep to goal.”
False 9s score goals, too. And if the winger needs any advice about notching frequently, he could always ask his brother. At 23, his older sibling, Mohammed Eisa has adjusted quickly to life in the Football League with six strikes from his opening 12 games for Cheltenham Town. A new three-year deal quickly followed in recognition of his start and a remarkable rise for a player who like his younger brother was playing non-league football at the turn of the year.
The early signs are there to suggest that if ‘Abs‘ can find consistency to match his talent he has the ability and physical attributes to follow his brother into the professional game. The stats, above, don’t paint the full picture, with Eisa also picking up two man of the match awards and with his direct involvement in five league goals, three of those were crucial and contributed to an additional five points for the side.
In the meantime, the winger must continue to provide genuine excitement in the weeks to come – something that has been missing at Wealdstone in recent seasons. And if he can, it might go someway to appeasing the demanding home support.
Watch Eisa tear it up below. Then read about five others who excited the fans…
Five others who excited the fans
Rocky Baptiste is the unlikely known answer to a quiz riddle that asks “who has scored against Arsenal at Highbury and Swansea at The Liberty but played just three times in the football league?”
Rocky will be fondly remembered by Stones fans for his exploits at the back end of the last millennium. Either brilliant or dire, he had the ability to turn a game with a moment of magic.
Allegedly once described by someone at Wealdstone as by far the thickest and most disinterested footballer he’d ever dealt with, Baptiste netted 30 times over two seasons, a tally that included 12 in the 1998/99 season as Wealdstone won 17 of their final 19 league games to finish 3rd.
Baptiste had a good career post Wealdstone too, briefly finding his way into the Football League with Luton Town after impressing with Hayes in the Conference.
Much later, in the twilight of his career he enjoyed an Indian summer at Havant, scoring twice against Swansea, first at the Liberty to force a replay and then at home in a shock 4-2 victory to set up a tie with Liverpool at Anfield.
He would later distance himself a little from his previous ties when he appeared at rivals Harrow Borough – but found further infamy by missing an open goal after taking the ball past the opposition defence and goalkeeper.
Much like his enigmatic career non-league football’s cult hero is not short of inaccuracies on his Wikipedia page either. The page lists him as 39! His actual age is closer to 44 or 45.
Ask most supporters who the greatest ever Wealdstone player was and a large majority will name Alan Cordice.
Joined Wealdstone as a right winger after an unsuccessful spell at Football League side Norwich City. Noted for his electric pace he would fly past opponents but initially his delivery was reported to be poor.
It wasn’t until Allen Batsford arrived that he converted the pacy, exciting yet ultimately ineffective winger into a centre forward. It was here that he became devastating netting 38 times as Wealdstone won the 1981/82 Southern League title.
He would later star for Wealdstone in the Gola League (Conference National) before injury curtailed his career and he was forced into retirement aged just 30. Having played a significant role during the 1980s, he was recognised by the England semi-professional side, winning nine caps – a personal achievement that only added to his legend and cemented his status as not only a Wealdstone star, but a genuine non-league one too.
Glen Little was something of a surprise signing. A former Premier League star who’s rise to the top of the English game reached it’s height just five years earlier when he played a UEFA Cup game against AC Milan – Kaka et al.
Nevertheless, despite being the slowest of the five featured here, the 37-year-old possessed genuine quality and had the guile, intelligence and flair to bamboozle even the meanest of defences. Heralded as a genuine showman best remembered for his time in Wealdstone blue by his worldy goal at title rivals Dulwich.
He only stayed one season but such was his class that his cameo appearances and calming authority were enough to bring about genuine excitement whenever he was on the ball. There has even been suggestion that his class off the field and influence in the dressing room was the catalyst behind the Ryman Premier title side; regardless, he did enough to cement his name amongst Wealdstone legend.
Tony Lynch was a left winger capable of destroying teams on his own. Described as a mercurial talent by those who saw him, quick footed, direct and possessing a ferocious shot he was a powerful player capable of scoring from distance. And when Tony Jennings took charge of Wealdstone midway through the 1987/88 season, Lynch was one of a plethora of new signings that the manager hoped might keep the Stones in the Conference.
Despite some eye catching displays, Lynch and Wealdstone were relegated but he would spend the next two full seasons at Lower Mead. With the club seeking an immediate return to the top of the non league game, Lynch finished his first full campaign in blue as the club’s top scorer whilst the side stuttered to an 11th place finish. By his second full term, Lynch struggled for consistency and goals and Tony Jennings, who signed him from Maidstone, resigned. By the start of his third season, ‘Lynchy’ had fallen out of favour with new boss Alan Gane and shortly into the campaign, requested a transfer.
Barnet would pay a sizeable £15,000 in 1990 in a season where Wealdstone would amass almost £30,000 in received transfer fees (John Margerrison, £4,000 to St Albans City and later Paul Gbogidi, £10,000, Kingstonian) as the scale of Wealdstone’s criminal mismanagement off the field was beginning to unravel ahead of the impending sale of Lower Mead.
Lynch meanwhile would never quite hit the heights that his talent merited but did play a part in Barnet’s promotion to the Football League in the early 90s. He retired at the end of the 1996/97 season playing for Kettering Town aged 31.
Britt Assombalonga, the only one of these five still playing today, will be remembered fondly at Wealdstone for his involvement in the club’s remarkable run to the FA Trophy semi final. Indeed it was in that competition where the striker made his debut as a substitute at Banbury.
The 19-year-old nearly made an immediate impact when his shot crashed back off the bar but few would have predicted the meteoric rise that was to follow. As the weeks rolled by the Watford loanee developed into a goal scoring machine and with eye catching performances came an ear catching song as the terraces adorned the young star with frequent renditions of “I love you baby”… inevitably though, fairy stories often come to an end and after 11 goals in 13 games for the Stones, he returned to Watford (sadly before the conclusion of that epic Trophy run).
His own career has gone from strength to strength since, and after further loan deals, Watford decided, reluctantly, his future lay away from Vicarage Road. Peterbrough paid a reported £1.5 million, then Forest paid £5.5 million and in July of this year Middlesbrough paid £15 million – which is a Championship record fee for a player moving from one Championship club to another.
StonesGoals notes that the five that excited the fans might not be the five that others would pick – it’s subjective. There are plenty of other notable omissions (Brian Jones, Tom Pett, George Duck, Hugh Lindsay, Jermaine Beckford etc etc) worthy of inclusion.