Tooting & Mitcham United come from the south west London Borough of Merton and were formed in 1932 following the merger of two prominent amateur clubs - Mitcham Wanderers and Tooting Town.
The merger had been in the pipeline for two years previously and eventually came to fruition when it was obvious that the area couldn't support two competitive clubs. The history of the old clubs are of great interest in themselves as they are intrinsically linked.
Mitcham Town were formed in 1887 as Tooting Graveney FC. They played home games at Figges Marsh, Lonesome, Gorringe Park and then The Ridgeway. During this period the club absorbed both Balham St John's FC and Tooting Bee FC, becoming Tooting FC in 1915. In 1919 they became Tooting Town and rented two pitches at Tyrell's Poultry Farm before they raised enough money to purchase a home ground of their own. This was achieved in 1922 as Town played in the London League when they moved into Sandy Lane.
Mitcham Wanderers were formed in 1912 and also played in the London League. They played home matches at Cranmer Green. They came close to purchasing a site at Park Place before settling at a ground on Streatham Road, which they bought.
On amalgamation the new club sometimes nicknamed the 'Half Halfs' but more commonly 'The Terrors' entered the London League and based themselves at Sandy Lane. In 1937 they moved to the Athenian League and won the first of several London Senior Cups and Surrey Senior Cups, as well as lifting the league title in 1950 and 1955.
In 1956 The Terrors joined the Isthmian League, winning the title two years later. In the 1958-59 season the club reached the third round of the FA Cup and were drawn at home to Nottingham Forest. They led two nil at half time before their illustrious visitors clawed a draw through an own goal and a controversial penalty. Forest won the replay 3-0 and went on to lift the cup later that year against Luton Town at Wembley. Tooting regained the Isthmian League title in 1960. The following season, a young Alex Stepney started his career at Sandy Lane before Millwall snapped him up on his way to Manchester United and legendary status.
They defeated Romford and then Leatherhead before being drawn away to Swindon Town. They salvaged a draw at The County Ground and then won the replay 2-1 with Dave Judeman starring. Bradford City ended their heroic run at Valley Parade in the fourth round.
Sadly the team did not win any further honours for a long period and were relegated for the first time in their history in 1989. In 1997 worse was to come as they were demoted to the third tier of the Isthmian League. 2001 bought some long overdue joy as they lifted the second division title and reached the last eight of the FA Vase before sucumbing to eventual winners Taunton Town.
Sandy Lane had gradually decayed as crowds dropped and a solution was sought. In 2002 the club moved top Imperial Fields, which was the former training ground of Crystal Palace. It was a spanking new stadium with a sports complex surrounding it.
After several seasons of coming close, The Terrors were promoted via the play offs in 2008 back into the top flight of the Isthmian League. However, financial and ownership problems as well as rumours of other clubs looking to buy Imperial Fields caused uncertainty at United. The team were relegated at the end of the 2011-12 season.
The 2012-13 season saw the club use three different team managers as they finished low down Division One South. Many supporters were angry and became disillusioned with affairs at Imperial Fields and set up their own team Tooting & Mitcham Wanderers to play in the Surrey South Eastern Combination.
Tooting & Mitcham United will play in the Isthmian League Division One South in the 2013-14 season.
I was entering the last few weeks of my college life in Borehamwood and I decided it was time for a day out visiting a few clubs. It was certainly a better option than the seemingly foreign language been spoken in the mathematics lectures.
I had been to several grounds and arrived at Tooting Broadway station and walked down to Sandy Lane. The gate was open and some players were assembled awaiting to travel to a match that evening.
The ground was most impressive but showing signs of age. The Main Stand seemed massive with a raised seating area that went nearly the full length of the pitch with a paddock in front. The rest of the ground had a decent sized open terracing all the way around it.
A match in the early 2000's
To my regret my memory is failing me and I cannot remember who the opponents were or the score, but I do remember plenty of other details. If anyone can help me from the description, please get in touch!
I caught the train to Tooting station and walked down past Figges Marsh to Sandy Lane. It was already dark. I arrived with time for a couple of beers in the clubhouse. Despite it not been the most celubrious of hostelrys, I really liked it. You could smell the liniment of the players through the wall and hear the referees bell go off to signal that kick off was approaching. The tannoy was also audible as it played the theme tune from 'The Big Match' on ITV.
The ground had not changed too much, apart from sections of terracing on the far side had been fenced off as they were deemed unsafe. The end blocks of seats in the Main Stand had also been removed to satisfy the ground graders that Sandy Lane now had covered terracing!
The highlight of the evening for me was being served some fine food from the refreshment kiosk at the Sandy Lane End and then seeing the man who served me being pressed into action on the pitch. A linesman was injured and could not continue. After a short delay the vendor can down the steps in full kit to take over duties. It made my evening!
I returned home by bus and train having enjoyed my night out and realising it was a last chance to see a game at the magnificent old venue.
Thursday 16th November 2006
I was having a day out groundhopping in South London and Surrey while preparing for my forthcoming trip to watch England play in The Ashes in Australia. I had just had a very nice visit to Carshalton Athletic where the kind gents had told me that I would be very impressed by Imperial Fields.
A couple of years earlier I had got as far as the entrance to the site, only to find a sign saying the game was postponed as the pitch was waterlogged. I tried with some other hoppers to find a way to get to another game to no avail, so I wanted to have a look at the ground.
I arrived by tram on a drizzly day with the gates were locked, but I got enough of a look through gaps in the fencing to see that my friends at Colston Avenue were spot on.
Both ends had steep raised terracing with small cantilever covers over the central section. The far touchline had just a couple of steps and a fence behind it, but offered scope for development behind it if it was ever needed. The near side had The Hub development, which contained the changing rooms, offices for the club and sports complex, a fitness centre and a clubhouse and cafe. In front of this stood the Main Stand with a lounge at the rear. It only filled the central part of the side with flat standing either side, once again offering scope for extensions.
I went on my way and after another tram ride I walked to the home of Croydon Athletic to complete my day.
Tooting & Mitcham United 0 Cray Wanderers 4 (Wednesday 28th September 2011) Isthmian League Premier Division (att: 283)
I decided it was time to see a game at Imperial Fields and with The Terrors moving home matches to Wednesday evenings to try and attract floating fans, I took the opportunity on a balmy late summers evening.
I had other reasons to make an effort. A cricketing mate of mine Mark Turner was a regular and I had promised to get to a match for a beer with him over the previous two summers, and Steve Adamson a good pal and football writer and historian back in Scarborough had given me a scrapbook full of old Tooting reports. I had originally intended to take it with me, but I forgot it in the rush for the train after an unintentional siesta!
I went by tube to Waterloo and then a communter train to Wimbledon before changing to tram to Mitcham. On alighting a local directed me to the ground without prompting. My Scarborough Athletic shirt must have given the gamne away that I was looking to go to the match. Ten minutes later I was entering the clubhouse at the back of The Hub as most fans were draining off their beers.
I was overjoyed to see handpumps and beer from one of my favourite breweries Hogs Back being served. I ended up having two pints before kick off while I chatted to a friendly local who only visited occasionally. His mates son was appearing for the evenings visitors, while he was a Tottenham fan. It turned out that we were both going to White Hart Lane the following evening for the Europa League clash with Shamrock Rovers.
I went inside and had a bit of a walk around the excellent ground before joining some voiciferous home fans behind the goal including Mark. We had a good catch up as I chatted to some knowledgeable, friendly and frustrated home fans. Money was tight and the playing budget had affected the standard of the team. They tried hard enough, but the way they ball watched in defence as Cray went two up before the break was quite alarming.
We went back to the bar at half time, where an older fan Dave spotted my Boro shirt and instructed me to join him and his pals at his table. He had earlier sold me my golden goal ticket.
He had gone to the famous Trophy clash in 1976 at Scarborough. He regailed me about the long drive and staying on the seafront in a place where the Rangers club chairman ran and kept them up all night drinking. Could that have been The Lancaster? I remember Tooting brought a good following in the crowd of over 4,000 that day.
My new pal said Scarborough was the coldest place he’d ever been to (good job they never played Mossley!) and he had to go to the ground the day after the game to see if they’d won the raffle. They ended up going on the wrong slip road and headed up the A1 towards Scotland for ten miles.
We reminisced about the game. Dave remembered the two Dunn’s playing for us and Jeff Barmby’s winner, which is one of my happiest ever memories of the old place, as his free kick nearly ripped out the net in the top corner at the Edghill End. Dave also supports Spurs and he only discovered a couple of years ago that Jeff is Nicky Barmby’s dad, so he now felt better about the defeat. Tooting hit the post and bar and had some giants in their team. They reached the FA Cup third round that year. The game was really tight until Bionic’s moment of genius.
Dave went to watch us in the final that year against Stafford and the following year against Dagenham. We obviously created a good impression!
I told the lads that as we drank the Athletic Ground was probably still being demolished, which was met with genuine sadness by real football fans.I mentioned just how impressed I was with Imperial Fields. It was also being used by Chelsea Ladies and the rumour was that AFC Wimbledon may have been the club looking to move there?
Despite this, everyone to a man in the bar would have swapped it for their old delapidated but traditional old home at Sandy Lane. As silly as it sounds, they missed the old homely clubhouse under the old stand and now have a sparkling high roofed breezeblock building with plasma TVs, real ale and a few souvenirs on the wall. It was sterile though. It did affect their match day experience.
I appreciate that these were blokes around my age and older, but it did focus my mind to the fact that Boro would have to work hard to make their proposed new home at Weaponness as fans friendly as possible. There were differences of course. Tooting moved from one stadium to another and never had any time in exile. Imperial Fields was probably a bit too big for them.
It turned out that I had missed out on the golden goal by two minutes, but Dave had won! There were just two tickets left at kick off. A Wanderers fan was given the choice and he picked the wrong one. Dave's pals made sure the cash was spent wisely over the bar!
I went for a pie from the stall at the back of the stand run by the supporters. The bigger outlet near the entrances appeared to be franchise run. I returned to my pals behind the goal. Tooting's defence continued to drive their fans mad as Cray's forwards romped through to add another couple of goals.
On full time I jogged back to the tram stop in time to catch the service back to Wimbledon.
I had an absolute top evening out with some proper fans following a dodgy team. I thoroughly recommend it to anyone in South London looking for a game. Be sure to wear your Boro shirt in the clubhouse and you’ll get a warm welcome!
I was invited back, so I may just have to return and take the scapbook with me and enjoy a longer drink.In the 1975-76 season, United had two great cup runs under the managership of Roy Dwight who coincidentally broke his leg playing for Luton in the 1959 FA Cup Final. They reached the later stages of the FA Trophy before going down one nil at Scarborough, but they had earlier enjoyed their greatest FA Cup run.