Sport

Stadium renamed in honour of Enfield Town legend

The QE2 will carry the name ‘Dave Bryant Stadium’ until the end of the season after he stepped down from the board, writes Andrew Warshaw

The QE2 Stadium has been renamed in Dave Bryant's honour
The QE2 Stadium has been renamed in Dave Bryant’s honour

It’s not overstating the mark to suggest that without Dave Bryant, there would be no Enfield Town Football Club.

The club’s first-ever chairman couldn’t bear to see the Enfield name disappear from football and literally built the new club from scratch 23 years ago. Dave stepped down from the board last month, primarily for health reasons, after more than a generation of invaluable service.

As a tribute to his legendary status, the ground has been re-named Dave Bryant Stadium for the rest of the season. But things will never quite be the same without his commitment, passion and knowledge.

There was hardly a dry eye in the house at Town’s annual general meeting (AGM) last month when Dave, a lifelong Enfield fan largely responsible for creating the country’s first supporter-owned template, gave an emotional, heartfelt speech covering the highs and lows of his long tenure.

Also stepping down from the board was the hugely respected Les Gold, at the age of 83, after a long and loyal association with the club. Chairman Paul Reed paid special tribute to both Dave and Les whose names have become synonymous with the history of the club.

Looking back on the last 23 years, Dave told the Dispatch: “I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved and how far we’ve come. When we set out trying to bring the club back to life, we had no idea whether it would work out. We could still be playing in the Essex League today!

“I think most people, not least the football authorities, were genuinely surprised we were taking the risk, both to drop down four divisions but also because what we were doing had never been done before. But the old club showed no intention of playing in Enfield again at the time and thankfully it’s worked out better than we could have hoped.”

Indeed it has. The club is now an established step-three non-league outfit with a 99-year stadium lease from Enfield Council in the heart of the borough, crowds that sometimes exceed those that followed the great Enfield teams of the 1970s and 80s, a thriving 350-plus membership, and a fan-owned ethos that scores of others have copied.

Much of it is down to the tenacity and persistence of Dave and other key figures as they sought to overcome all manner of obstacles and hurdles. He explained: “We fought for two years to save the old Enfield with a massive campaign, but when that didn’t happen, we were determined to develop a new club within the borough.”

Dave used to live on the Willow Estate and walked to the old ground in Southbury Road, one of the iconic venues in the halcyon days of amateur football – until it was sold off for housing. “The soul had been ripped out of club,” he continued. “I found it very hard even to walk down Southbury Road when the stadium was no longer there. It was horrible.”

After forming a supporters’ trust the fans finally severed links with the old club, following a ballot, in 2001. While ground-sharing with Brimsdown Rovers in the early days of Enfield Town wasn’t ideal, at least it was within the boundaries of the borough, as Dave and others – including current vice-chairman Paul Millington, who Dave jokingly concedes has “on more than one occasion guided me away from a foolish decision” – worked hard to find a stadium to call their own.

Dave said: “The very first game at Brimsdown was literally played in a field, yet 350 people showed up. It vindicated what we set out to do. You can call it naïve but we never set out to make it a money-making enterprise.

“It took us some time to find our feet but think it’s fair to say that when we eventually moved into the stadium, it was only after ten years of hard campaigning and forming a relationship with the council. I’m a strong believer that collectively, you can achieve more than individually. It’s part of my psyche.

“Enfield was always my team, not my second team. I saw my first game in 1968 aged seven. It’s fantastic how far Town have come in such a short space of time. There are teams in our division that have been in existence for 100 years.

“I’m very proud of my role in keeping senior non-league football in Enfield and have so many wonderful memories. I read a few years ago that Enfield Town FC were one of the ten most influential clubs in the world in terms of the influence we had on football. That’s good enough for me.”


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