In the leafy South London suburbs, there’s a friendly club with a cracking ground and food to match. We popped along to Tooting & Mitcham United FC of the Isthmian Premier League, England’s seventh tier.
London’s suburbs are awash with non-league clubs in cosy places, a legacy of the city’s expansion to swallow up formerly outlying towns as it grew in the 20th century. Places like Bromley FC of the Vanarama National, the famous Dulwich Hamlet and others.
Way down south in leafy London travel Zone 3 by the banks to the River Wandle, a key Thames contributory, is the KNK Stadium, home of Tooting & Mitcham United FC. The club was formed in 1932 from the merger of Tooting FC (founded in 1887) and the younger Mitcham Wanderers, who’d been around since 1912. Famous former players include Manchester United keeper Alex Stepney, and legendary Crewe Alexandra manager, Dario Gradi.
At the time of writing (October 2017), the club was struggling in the Bostik Isthmian Premier League and taking on bottom club Worthing FC.
Despite having lived in South London for half my life, shockingly I had never been to the KNK Stadium before, despite invitations. First impressions were good; it’s a multi-sports facility that used to be the training ground for Chelsea, Crystal Palace and Brentford. It has a capacity of 3,500, with a main stand seating 600, two partially-covered concrete stands behind both goals and a narrow standing area opposite the main stand. The astroturf pitch behind one goal provided some half-time entertainment as a competitive lacrosse game was in session.
Worthing travel well, bringing a small but vocal set of fans. While Tooting – drop the second ‘t’ and the ‘g’ to pronounce it in the South London vernacular; “Too’in’” – fans were pretty animated, especially as their side got on top in the second half. It was a see-saw game which ended 4-3 and, for a basement match in the seventh tier, the quality of most of the seven goals was superb. Some great moves, some cracking distance strikes, some good saves too. For Non-League Day, it was a great advert.
A friend of mine who used to be a regular recommends the Caribbean food on offer, and for £10 I thoroughly enjoyed my first trip to the KNK Stadium.
How to get to Tooting & Mitcham United FC
The nearest station is either Mitcham Junction (overland) or the KNK Stadium is just five minutes’ walk from Mitcham tram stop on line 3, just ten minutes from Wimbledon.