Thinking about Tel

Thinking about Tel

Few people could claim to have had such a big impact on a club in such a short space of time. Terry Back was club chairman from summer 2007 to November 2008 and the north Londonder, who passed away in 2012 will never be forgotten in E17.

As a player, Back had something of a nomadic career, playing for a multitude of clubs around south-east England, including Buntingford Town, where he would later play for the Veterans team. He also had spells at Wisbech Town as a player where he was something of a fans’ favourite, and would later return, albeit for less than 24 hours.

He was a typical ‘heart on his sleeve’, ‘would run through brick walls’ footballer, who always gave his all wherever he played, if not always the most gifted.

His first experience of football management came in the 2001-2 season, when he was part of the backroom team at Aylesbury United, helping them to promotion to the Isthmian League Premier Division, and the first round of the FA Cup, where they lost to Port vale.

Just a few days after the 2001-2 season ended, Back was appointed as Enfield manager. Enfield were of course, one of the biggest names in non-league football, but the sale of their Southbury Road ground in 1999 began a nomadic existence and a drop down as far as the Essex Senior League, as well as the creation of a breakaway club by the supporters, Enfield Town.

Tom Louziou had just about kept Enfield in the Isthmian Premier, but it proved to be a far harder job for Back. With Enfield playing games at Boreham Wood and strapped for cash, Back was unable to stave off relegation to Division One North.

He kept his job though, and built an Enfield team that featured a host of names which Waltham Forest fans would soon become familiar with. James Courtnage, Danny and Scott Honeyball, Joe Deeney, Matt Waldron, Jeff Hammond, George Fowler, Adrian Griffith and a whole host more would play for Forest during Back’s tenure.

But things went from bad to worse at Enfield. With chairman Tony Lazarou pulling the strings from behind the scenes, Back couldn’t do anything to stop the free-fall, and he left mid-way through the 2003-4 season. Enfield eventually finished rock bottom with just 22 points and having conceded 138 goals.

In September 2004, Back was appointed manager of Walton and Hersham, then in Division One of the Isthmian League. But Back only lasted four games before following the Chairman Nick Carr out of the club.

“I am absolutely devastated that I have had to leave,” said Back. “I felt we would definitely have gone up this year with the players we had on board.”

However, he refused to answer questions on the reasons behind his sudden departure, preferring to remain tight-lipped.

“I can’t go into the reasons too much,” he said. “I felt from my point of view that it was time to call it a day.”

Back was followed out the door at Stompond Lane eight members of Swans’ 17-strong first team squad, leaving the side seriously depleted.

Aside from a failed attempt at creating a new club in Aylesbury in early 2006, Back stayed out of senior football for a few years, instead concentrating on building his business empire.

It was a familiar story for our club in the summer of 2006. Previous Chairman Harry Ramis had resigned, having failed in his ambitions to elevate Waltham Forest to the Football Conference. During his three and a half years in charge, Forest never finished higher than eighth. So Forest were left without a chairman, without any financial backing, and looking down the barrel of resigning from the Isthmian League.

Word got around, favours were called in and phone calls were made, and eventually Terry met then-club secretary Andy Perkins at the Wadham Cafe on Wadham Road, a stone’s throw from the ground. Less than 24 hours later, the league registration fees were paid in full and Terry was elected as club chairman.

Back really had the gift of the gab, and could no doubt sell ice (and a whole lot more) to the eskimos, but with Waltham Forest about to go out of existence altogether, he probably never had an easier ‘sell’ in all his life.

Terry got to work straight away, using his contacts to bring money into the club, and prepare the club for the coming 2006-7 season. When not on the end of the phone, he could be found on the mower on the Wadham Lodge pitch, getting it in the best shape for many years.

It would have been easy for Terry to replace Forest manager Dave Muir before a ball had even been kicked; but to Terry’s credit, he gave Muir and his talented, but inexperienced team a pre-season with his full backing. Four games into the league season though, with 15 goals conceded and no points on the board, the club’s committee, together with Terry, decided to part ways with Muir and bring in Danny Honeyball for his second spell as manager, having previously been in charge during the 2002-3 season.

And this began one of the most enjoyable, positive seasons the club had enjoyed in almost a decade. Back and Honeyball rifled through their little black book of non-league contacts and assembled almost a whole new team in just a few days. The new-look Forest team had just one training session together, before travelling to Marlow in the FA Cup.

Aside from scrounging a whole new team together, and having trained only once, preparations were hardly ideal for that tie. Defender Ryan Oliva played a full 90 minutes despite having had an operation on his jaw the night before and player-manager Honeyball broke his wrist midway through the second half, and would have to sit out seven weeks.

Back was unperturbed though, and Forest put in a real blood and guts performance to win 2-0. It would take a few more weeks to get going in the league, and after going eight league games without a win, that first victory finally came with a 3-1 win away to Wivenhoe Town, with Ryan Hall, Danny Gabriel and Victor Renner scoring.

And that started a run of form wich propelled Forest up the table. A 2-1 win against front-runners Harlow Town at the Lodge was impressive, but the best result of all was probably holding eventual champions Hornchurch to a goalless draw, which Forest could have and should have won.

More than anything though, Back really ‘got’ what non-league football was about. And this was perhaps most evident during his time at Forest, during a trip to Wellingborough Town in a preliminary round replay of the 2007-8 FA Cup. After a 90 mile midweek trip, Forest were somewhat lethargic, struggling to get going against a team from the division below. When a loose ball went out of play between the two dugouts, Back turned to the Forest bench and said “watch this”. Within a couple of seconds, the Wellingborough manager was on the floor, not having expected Back – fully suited and booted – to have tackled him for the loose ball.

It didn’t take long for the benches to clear, and for 30 men to get their handbags out. Back returned to the Forest technical area in hysterics; the Wellingborough bench having played their part in his plan to perfection. It got the Forest players going too, as they finally started playing with a bit more bite and scored two second half goals to assure passage to the next round.

If there was one criticism of Back, it was that he didn’t hang around at any one club for very long. He left Waltham Forest in November 2007, just over a year after taking over. A new opportunity presented itself at Arlesey Town, where he was appointed Chairman, taking Danny Honeyball and most of the Forest team with him. The fate of the fixture calendar would have his first game for Arlesey would be against Forest; a game which ended 2-2, with Forest goalkeeper Jason Willis scoring form his own penalty area.

Back lasted at Arlesey until the end of the season, but left there for his local Wisbech Town, where he had hoped to become Chairman. Unfortunately he lost the deciding vote by 15 votes to 13, and left the club’s committee a day after joining. This really ended Back’s involvement in senior non-league football.

Back was always one to give players – especially youngsters – a chance in football and in life. Upon Back’s passing former Forest defender and Assistant Manager Matt Waldron said “We had some great times, we had some bad times. Thanks for giving me my first start in non league at 17, played under him at Stortford, Walton & Hersham, Enfield, Waltham Forest & Arlesey. Will be truly missed.”, while Aveley coach Victor Renner added: “May your soul rest in peace Terry Back thinking of your family and praying for them. Thanks for giving me my first job in Non-League football mate”. Back also gave this piece’s author his first job, working for Back’s Soccer in Schools football coaching company.

For Forest, Back’s departure began a downward spiral, ending in relegation to the Essex Senior League, from which the club has only recently recovered. But for 16 months, he brought smiles back to the faces of the supporters and the committee in E17, and for that, he will always have a place in our hearts.

Terry tragically passed away aged just 45 in 2012 after being involved in a road traffic accident, leaving behind eight children and two grandchildren.