Pennant Football Club was formed as a junior side in 1964, initially joining the South West Essex League. The league’s Premier Division title was won by Pennant in 1972-73. 2 seasons later the club joined the Metropolitan League, winning the league at the first attempt.
Pennant joined the London Spartan League in 1983, becoming a senior club. They finished 4th in the Senior in their first season, which was sufficient to gain promotion to the Premier Division. In 1988 neighbours Walthamstow Avenue were swallowed up by Redbridge Forest, so Pennant changed their name to Walthamstow Pennant in order to keep the footballing name of Walthamstow alive. The 1988-89 season saw the renamed club win the Spartan League Cup and the installation of floodlights installed at Wadham Lodge.
1990-91 saw Walthamstow Pennant win the Spartan League title by a single point from Barkingside with a 4-0 defeat of Thamesmead in their final game. A double was achieved through the defeat of Haringey Borough in the League Cup. However, promotion to the Isthmian League was denied due to inadequate ground facilities and the league’s rejection of a proposed groundshare at Leyton-Wingate.
In 1995-96 neighbours Leyton F.C. saw no future at their ground and moved to Wadham Lodge, incorporating Walthamstow Pennant. The club was renamed Leyton Pennant, and assumed Leyton’s place in the Isthmian League. By 1999-2000 the club was struggling on and off the pitch, resulting in a very poor run of form and relegation to the Isthmian League Second Division. 2000-01 saw great inconsistency in results, accompanied by one of the poorest disciplinary records in the whole of English football and the club were called before the FA to explain themselves.
The Ramis Years
Following a few indifferent seasons hovering near the division’s relegation zone, local businessman Harry Ramis took over as Chairman in February 2003, appointing his brother, ex professional footballer, Hakan Ramis-Heyrattin as manager and the team avoided relegation. An early decision by the new chairman and his board was to once again change the club’s name to Waltham Forest, reflecting the club’s location in the borough of Waltham Forest.
The team carried on their form at the beginning of the 2003-04 season winning their first three matches and sitting in the top 4 for much of the first three months of the season. However, the performance levels dipped soon after and the team could only manage to finish 16th.
The team were then moved across to the Southern League Eastern division for two seasons and finished 9th and 8th in consecutive seasons. 2005-06 also saw the club win the Essex Senior Cup, however, the biggest story of the season was an incredible run from the clubs Youth Team. They reached the last 16 of the FA Youth Cup, even managing to beat Premiership club West Bromwich Albion’s Youth Team on route, under the guidance of Dave Muir and Martin Fitch.
Times of Struggle
Despite the progress at the club, Chairman Harry Ramis made the decision at the end of the 05-06 season to step down as chairman. The decision may have been prompted by the fact that his brother Hakan Ramis-Heyrattin had decided to move on to manage Thurrock.
This left the club on the brink of extinction or at the very least facing a drop down to play in the Essex Senior League. However, long serving club secretary Andy Perkins managed to entice Terry Back to the club as Chairman in order to provide some finance. Dave Muir and Martin Fitch were promoted to manage the first team, and promoted a large chunk of the FA Youth Cup team with them. However, results were shambolic and after 4 heavy defeats in their first 4 games Terry Back acted and dismissed both Muir and Fitch.
They were replaced by Danny Honeyball as player-manager, a position that he’d held briefly at the club in 2003. Honeyball, along with assistant boss Victor Renner rebuilt the side quickly and after an outstanding run of form, finished 8th and just missed out on the end of season play-offs.
Despite the excellent performance the summer of 2007 was one of turmoil at the club. Victor Renner moved on to Potters Bar Town and took over half of the first team squad with him, and Reserve Team manager Dave Bricknell also departed. Darren Grieves joined as Danny’s player-assistant manager, but left after just 6 games. Worse was to follow when Terry Back resigned as Chairman on 31st October 2007.
Despite the loss of their chairman, Waltham Forest battled; however, financial constraints meant the club was on the verge of going out of business by December. The committee took vigorous steps and made off-the-pitch efforts to find a successor; those efforts came to fruition when boxing promoter Azumah Cofie agreed to take over on 23 November 2007. The good news was dampened by the resignation of manager Danny Honeyball, who announced he was leaving to take over at Arlesey Town, under the chairmanship of former Forest supremo Terry Back.
Mr Cofie acted and appointed Louis Affor,who brought in former west ham striker Mike Small as his deputy. However, results were not forthcoming. Louis Affor, departed after 14 games without a win, Kevin Durrant who had left rivals Ilford took temporary charge until Ged Searon was finally appointed towards the end of the season. In a nail biting finish to the end of season, Searson guided the club to safety with a 3–0 victory at Enfield town. Searson’s reign as forest boss was cut short due to work commitments and relocation, following as unsuccessful start to following Season he informed the club he was to move out of London. Tony Ievoli was brought in to take charge; however his reign was ended when the Chairman left because the new chairman appointed a new management team. Off the field things were even more complicated. It was eventually announced on 14 March 2008 that the club would leave their home of 12 years, Wadham Lodge, at the end of the season. However, an increase in the rent saw the club move out early, playing their final home game at the Lodge on 24 March 2008, a 1–0 home defeat to Ilford, which put the Stags back in the relegation mire, however they secured survival in the penultimate game at Enfield Town.
For the start of the 2008-09 season, Waltham Forest F.C. moved in as tenants of Ilford, and now play their home games at Cricklefield Stadium.
After successful negotiations, Azumah Cofie handed the reins to local businessman and friend Mr. Isaac Johnson, who immediately appointed Olawale Ojelabi as player-manager. This led to a superb run of form from January to March, which dragged the club out of the relegation places and again Forest survived the drop.
Ojelabi continued as manager until the start of the 2009-10 season, but was sacked shortly before the start of the campaign. This allowed for then Assistant Manager Bert Hoyte and Physiotherapist Kevin Head to take over as joint managers. Despite a solid start to the season, their appointment was only temporary, and Phil Miles was soon brought in as manager, having previously been in charge of Chatham Town, Greenwich Borough and Erith Town of the Kent League.
Phil Miles did not last the rest of the 2009-10 season, and was replaced in March 2010 by Tony Mercer. Mercer continued as first team manager for the start of the 2010-11 season, but following only winning one game in 20, Mercer was replaced by Olawale Ojelabi, who took over the first team for a second time.
Forest finished in the relegation positions, but a late run of good form meant enough points were chalked up to earn a reprieve and stay in the Isthmian League.
Despite poor results off the pitch, the club did receive some good news at the start of the 2010-11 season – that they would be returning to their home, Wadham Lodge. Extensive work was been carried out on Wadham Lodge, but ultimately, then-chairman Isaac Johnson and Matchday Centres, who ran Wadham Lodge, could not come to an agreement. This meant Forest would play at Cricklefield for a fourth season, at least.
Forest started the 2011-12 season in blistering form. Aided by the goals of Jeff Hammond, Manu Dagher and Josh Bonnett, Forest reached a high point of second in the table, while also enjoying an FA Cup run which saw them dispatch Southern League Premier Division side Hitchin Town.
However, financial difficulties meant Issac Johnson was unable to keep the squad together for the remainder of the season and Forest’s play-off push petered out, with Wale Ojelabi’s side eventually finishing safely in mid-table.
Forest were to enter the final year of their lease agreement with Ilford, and would play the 2012-13 at Cricklefield again. It was a bit of a nothing season for Forest, as they never really challenged for a play-off place, while they were not involved in a relegation scrap either.
The management duo of Wale Ojelabi and Colin Walton performed miracles for Forest, fielding a side week-in, week-out, on a non-existent budget. Highlights of the 2012-13 season included another excellent FA Cup run, beating Southern League Premier Division side 5-2, before eventually losing narrowly to Hampton & Richmond. There was also an 8-0 win over Bowers & Pitsea in the Essex Senior Cup to enjoy.
Towards the end of the 2012-13 season, Turgut Esendagli was brought in as Chairman, replacing the absent Johnson, and immediately set about trying to secure the club’s return to Wadham Lodge. This was successfully achieved weeks before the start of the 2013-14 season, ending the club’s five-year absence from its home borough.
While there was good news off the pitch, the 2013-14 season did not go to plan for Forest. Footballing differences saw Wale Ojelabi step down before the start of the season, while Colin Walton soon followed. Turgut Esendagli took over the running of the first team, but time finally caught up on Forest, as a poor season will most likely see them relegated to the Essex Senior League.