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Boreham Wood FC President and founder remembers 65 years
Boreham Wood FC's president and founder spoke of the “fantastic” club to which he has given his life at its 65th anniversary celebrations.
After he was demobbed from the Royal Navy with an injury that ended his playing career, Bill O’Neill, 86, helped establish Boreham Wood FC in June 1948 by merging Boreham Rovers and Royal Retournez.
What began as the whim of a couple of 20 and 21-year-olds quickly became a very successful side, and the club moved from Eldon Avenue to its current home in Meadow Park in 1963.
Mr O’Neill said: “This anniversary year is a double celebration as we remember the club’s founding and its move to its current site 50 years ago.
“A tower block now stands on the site of the original goal in Eldon Avenue.”
Mr O’Neill has written extensively about the history of the club he helped to found, from its early days as a more social amateur club to today's semi-professional side.
“How do you cover 65 years of ups and downs, of relegations and promotions, of disaster and triumph? How do you sum up 65 years of life?”
The businessman was chairman of the club from 1968 until 1991 and also designed stadiums and football grounds.
He said: “When I started the club was nothing.
"During my 23 years as chairman I transformed it from a junior side to a senior side and spearheaded it through four different leagues into the first round of the FA Cup.”
Although he moved from Cowley Hill in Borehamwood 15 years ago to a seaside home in Southend, Mr O’Neill is still a regular visitor to Meadow Park.
He said: “I am always made welcome whenever I visit. They are always very friendly and kind there.”
He said the club was in very good hands under current chairman Danny Hunter.
He praised the “fantastic” facilities such as the new stands being built and the high quality of the pitch and players.
“They play an excellent game of football there. They understand how it always used to be played, it’s a better game and more honest than some of the larger teams.”
However he called on the people of Borehamwood to attend matches more regularly and show their appreciation of the club.
Mr O’Neill said: “I remember when it was the social hub of the town and something happened there every night.
“When there were 2,000 people in the town, 200 or 300 people would pack the stands.
“Now the population has increased hugely yet there are only a handful of diehard fans that come regularly. I wonder why more people don't come.”
Mr O’Neill, who was elected president 14 years ago, is now the last founder member left alive.
He is fiercely proud of the club he helped set up.
He added: "It will always be Boreham Wood with two words, and the colours will always be black and white.
“The grounds are full of ghosts for me, full of memories.
“Boreham Wood FC has always been my life, I have given so many years to it, and it has given so much to me.”
- Boreham Wood FC has signed a deal to host Arsenal's development squad this season
The new three-year contract strengthens Wood's relationship with the Premier League side as Arsenal Ladies also currently play at Meadow Park.
This is the first year that UEFA has organised a Champions Under 19s Youth league tournament and Arsenal U19s will play all their home matches at Meadow Park, kicking off with a game against Napoli on Wednesday.
The match, which kicks off at 7pm, is free to attend.