February 16th 2003
A New Wembley is going up fast, ahead of schedule and costing a mere fraction of the £750million being ploughed into the other one being built on the Original site.’ This football treasure is 15 miles away in east London, where Leyton FC are recreating the Wembley experience for just £44,000.
The pioneering Ryman League minnows, formed in 1868, already claim to be London’s Oldest football club. Now they have more history on their side. For they are rebuilding their ground in Walthamstow with the ‘ amazing shopping list below:
Leyton chairman-manager Costas Sophocleous and treasurer Phil Foster are the men who have forked the money out of their own pockets to recreate the Wembley experience.
Costas said: “As one of the country’s oldest clubs we were invited to view the Wembley memorabilia with a chance to buy before the much-publicised auction and were delighted with what we saw. It was like going into Aladdin’s Cave. We are only a small team with an average crowd of about 150. “But we are just three .divisions away from the Football League and the best chance of getting there is through commercial enterprise.
“Phil and I run a construction company and are building a banqueting suite, cocktail bar and restaurant and club offices here for £1.3m”.
“Not only are we going to recreate the Wembley theme both at the ground and in the Entertainment Suite but we’ll do it at a snip”.
“We reckon banqueting furniture would have cost us£100,000”.
“We’re kitting ourselves out, at closer to £20,000, plus guests will be surrounded by all the Wembley history and tradition.” Phil added: “We await planning permission for anew stand behind a goal and that’s where the tip-up seats will go. We paid £5 each, plus £2 to remove them, compared with the £30 new seats would have cost us otherwise”.
“We paid £25 each for the banqueting chairs. We were quoted £200 each elsewhere. So we are quids in.” Sophocleous and Foster have.sunk £500,000 into their dream team since-rescuing them from possible oblivion in 1995 and today enterprising Leyton stand second in Ryman League Division Two.
Their only regret: they couldn’t shift the Twin Towers to East London. And the tunnel has gone to the Nou Camp in- Barcelona.
Costas said: “The distinctive red seats were out, too, because of their lead content and the goal posts are going into the Wembley museum but we’re very happy. Phil and I were regulars at Wembley and have many smashing memories, the best being Gazza’s wonder free-kick past David Seaman in the 1991 FA Cup semi-final when Tottenham beat Arsenal”.
”And now we are surrounded by all those memories.”