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Build Hollywood

Build Hollywood

Build Hollywood

Build Hollywood


Grassroots team Walthamstow FC have built a brotherhood for players and coaches alike.

Walthamstow FC have a special approach to the beautiful game, that has not only garnered regional and national recognition but also fostered a cohesive unit with genuine camaraderie. They champion continued development that has seen them rise to acclaim within football rankings but also within the communities they reside. The team have now become champions of Essex County after a compelling performance in the final match which saw them rise victorious from 160 teams.

Walthamstow FC has become a template for talented young players, attracting unrivalled coaching offering in a nurturing environment. Buildhollywood have partnered with the team in sponsorship, aiming to inspire further success.

Figurehead John Sullivan is an ardent coach with a legacy of both success and developing talent. His unwavering commitment and personal sacrifices have laid the foundation of an environment where kids flourish. Working alongside him are a team of Academy coaches at the height of their craft, including some from Premiership teams which brings professionalism to the team. The coaching team is now further complemented by the presence of Jérémie Aliadière, an ex-Arsenal player and member of the legendary 2004 Arsenal Invincibles team.

In our conversation with Sullivan, Aliadière, and a selection of the team’s players, we spoke candidly about their involvement with the team and its personal impact on their journeys. Particularly notable were the players’ accounts, offering insights into their footballing paths, from their initial steps in the sport to the deep bonds forged within the Walthamstow family. Their stories echo the ethos of unity, development and kinship that defines Walthamstow FC.



We spoke to team coach John Sullivan about the squad and his personal dedication to them.

Can we get a little bit of background about you and how you got involved in the team? 

I’ve been running football teams of one form or another for over 25 years, from the Newcastle university team to my old boy team which I ran for 15 years. I’ve been with the Walthamstow team for about six years. I started working with them when they were an under nines team – at that point they were only playing seven a side, then it was nine a side, and now 11 a side where we have a squad of twenty. We train twice a week and play in a league called EJA (Eastern Junior Alliance) which is the highest-level league for grass roots teams.

What sets this team apart from other in the age group?

It’s quite full on. We train two nights a week and we play on a Sunday, there’s also quite a lot of travel – it’s significant. The kids that play take it pretty seriously, and give up a lot time for it.

Do you find that the kids are motivated themselves or does that come from the team?

Yes, a bit of both. We play in a high-level league, a lot of our kids have played for academies, or been close to them. But they choose to play here – maybe that’s because they feel it’s less pressure or because it might be a nicer environment but it’s just as serious. Not anyone can play the way our team does, ability does ultimately determine being part of the team.

What would you say is the greatest achievement of the team so far?

We have done very well over the years, and we’ve always been sort of there or thereabouts in terms of leagues and cups. A year and a half ago now, we played in the National Cup, a team from every region in the country plays. It’s a tournament in Nottingham, and it was our first year there, at ACES Nationals, and we lost in the final. The very fact that we’re able to go to a National Tournament and compete is pretty amazing.

But then the thing for me, is that you get like twenty kids here each week, committed. And the coaches we have work in football full time, and they come here because there’s a good thing going on, because the kids are talented, but also keen to progress.  That’s probably the most pleasing aspect. The fact that Jeremie is here coaching for free because it’s worth it for him, well that is pretty amazing for me as well.

How did the kids react when you had him down here? Did they, did they get it?

Not all of them immediately knew who he was, some knew he played but until he showed up and you get a look at him getting involved you think blimey, he played all these games in all these countries and all these top clubs and then they’re like, wow. But, but then very quickly he becomes just another coach and its kind of nice because he is great with the kids and a fantastic guy and coach. There was an expectation he was going to be treated differently but that didn’t happen. He loves working closely with the strikers, giving a bit back.

How does being sponsored impact your day to day?

This team costs a hell of a lot of money to run every year. Kits, pitches, food, matches, travel it all comes to tens of thousands a year. So, there’s a shortfall between what the kids pay and what we need to cover, this means sponsorship becomes vital for us. It means we are able to subsidise some of the costs and help the kids. The team is so grateful for the sponsors we’ve had over the years.

We also got to know Jérémie Aliadiere on his thoughts about joining the team and reminiscing about his past professional career:

So you doing your coaching badges – what made you want to do them?

To be honest with you, because I’ve got quite a lot of spare time, so I just thought I’d give it a go and see if that’s for me really, because I’ve never thought that it was for me. You know, I’ve retired about six years ago now and I straight away, I never thought I had the personality for it. So I’ve been on it for six months now and I enjoy it. It’s nice to come with the boys here and get practising.

How is it standing on the other side of the pitch? 

It’s completely different, different stuff. When you play you just listen to instruction, you do what you feel that you can and bring that onto the pitch. As a manager, you’ve got to read everything, every position. You can’t get involved. You can’t play. So it’s completely different for me. It’s like I’m starting from square one again, I’ve been involved in playing football for years, but this is completely different. You know you can have played at the top level. It doesn’t mean you’re going to be a good coach, so that’s what I’m learning.

What parts of your professional career do you implement into your training work? 

To be honest I’ve got that philosophy of attacking as I was a forward. So, I love to see my players just want to go and score goals, overlapping on wide areas and having strikers in the box wanting to score goals. I’m more focused on attacking at the moment, but I’m sure with more experience I will get more balance in my team.

Why did you choose to help train with this team?

Because my best friend is good friends with John, and I’ve known Josh (another coach of the team) as he’s a coach at Arsenal for under 15s, and my boy’s there as well, so I’ve seen Josh around many times. That’s how it came about. John was more than happy for me to come and help and be involved.

That’s how we kind of started back in August now I’ve enjoyed it every time I’m here, I really have fun and practice, get more confident with my coaching and get involved playing with the boys as well a bit, which is great fun.

What was it like being part of the Invincibles?

Unreal. you know, absolutely unreal.  I must say at the time, I don’t think I enjoyed it as much as I should have done. And I wish I could go back just for that, just to enjoy, you know, enjoy the after season, that summer when we had a lot of going on, like bus parade and lifting the trophy and all that kind of stuff.

I just felt at the time I didn’t really embrace it as much as I should have done. And it’s now that I realized 20 years on how special it was to be part of that team, and how it might never be done again. It’s history and to be part of it is unreal, and an amazing pride feeling.

The squad themselves were keen to give their thoughts on the team, also highlighting the impact that John has made on them personally:

What position do you play?

Lewis: Well my dad played football for most of his life. So I’ve just followed in his footsteps, been a goalkeeper since then and it’s like a family thing.

Jenson: Midfield, centre mid. I just like to get the ball.

Anoush: Centre back or left back. I started off as more of an attacking player, and then people on my team weren’t willing to put in the work to get back and stuff, and I was the person who did that, so I eventually became centre back.

David: I play centre back. I’ve moved from centre mid back to centre back because I find it better because I have better control of my team. And I find it’s easier to scan the pitch to be able to like position everyone else. I’m also captain. I think from last season I’ve improved a lot, regarding my maturity and developing composure. So I think that’s what’s helped me become a captain – and I’m also very talkative.

What got you started with this team? 

Jenson: The coaching staff’s really good. The training facilities are amazing. The coaches are just really good and you can get along with them really well as well.

Lewis: I used to play for another team and then obviously I came to be a trained by John for about a year and then their goalkeeper left so John asked me to sign so I did and I haven’t looked back since.

David: Well, Walthamstow were one of my biggest rivals when I was playing for another team. Once I saw how they were moving the ball and how good the football style was, I decided to join and it’s really helped me as a footballer.

What got you into football? 

Anoush: Well, there was someone who lived on my road, and they just gave me a football kit, and from then I just started playing.

David: I think it was when I was seven years old, I was watching my friends play football and I just fell in love with the sport. From there, the passion just kept growing and growing.

What does football mean to you?

David: Football is not just the sports. I find it’s like my lifestyle, because it’s not only keeping me fit, but it’s also helping me with my communication. In general, I find it really fun.

Anoush: It just brings everyone together. It’s like a universal thing. There’s no one who hates it -no one, everyone has it in their life in some way.

Lewis: I love it, we’re all supportive of each other. Get our arm around each other when needed.  Sometimes, some people make mistakes, but we all get up behind them and help them – and then, when they have absolutely blinders of a game, everyone thinks they’re heroes.

What does being part of Walthamstow FC mean to you?

Anoush: The community and how professional everything is because we’ve been playing with each other for so long. We’re really good friends now and everything. It’s more than a team and we all get to know each other. There’s quite a few new players, but they settle in really quickly. It becomes one sort of like big family.

Lewis: Our group is quite tight, we have great team bonding so playing’s nice, training’s lovely. Whenever we get off and get around after games and training, it’s amazing. So it’s more of, like, a community than just the football.

Jenson: Being a group, being together.

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