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Balham FC players celebrate victory

Balham FC backing youth despite rocky start to the season

The homepage of the Balham FC website claims they are all about long-term player development, and trying to bring a little Barcelona to Balham.

Manager and director of football Greg Cruttwell has been true to his word.

Since the club entered open age football in 2011, Cruttwell has led the club to five promotions, taking Balham up to the ninth tier, playing some fine football in the process.

Most non-League clubs on Balham’s run would be on the prowl for a grizzled old pro with experience in the division, but Cruttwell explained that developing young talent will always take precedence.

He said: “Everything is about player progression. When you join Balham as an under-7 you have a real realistic chance to make it into our first-team.

“If you come and see our first-team play on Saturdays, in our squad probably 80-90% of them will have come through our age-group system. In other clubs at our level you’d be lucky to see 10%.”

ENDING THE STREAK: Balham’s poor run of form ended with a 3-1 win over Cobham at the weekend. Credit: Will Ross

Despite being an amateur club, as Balham are one of the few clubs in their division to not pay their players, they are certainly not amateurish, and since their formation, Balham have won a mind-boggling 450 trophies at all age levels.

Now playing in the Combined Counties League Premier Division South, Balham FC have made an inconsistent start to the season, going on a run of four league games without a win before beating Cobham 3-1 on Saturday.

Yet Cruttwell believes that Balham’s results have not reflected the quality of their performances.

He said: “We’ve dominated a lot of the games we’ve lost and played really good football. The other clubs have all been incredibly complimentary about us, about the style and quality of football that we play.

“However, the bottom line is, if you create 20 chances and don’t put the ball in the back of the net, whatever level you’re playing at you don’t win games.”

That doesn’t mean Balham are in the division just to make up the numbers, they are also a club of considerable ambition.

Nevertheless, inspired by the great Dutch coaches of the 1970s, Cruttwell insists that he only wants the club to climb the pyramid if they are playing in an attacking, free flowing manner.

He added: “Our next target is within five years to get into the National League, then after that within the next five years to get to the Football League.

“We want to keep climbing ultimately up into the Football League, playing a brand of football that is the kind of football that has come in vogue in this country but wasn’t ten years ago wasn’t.”

Balham face Fleet Town at the Mayfield Stadium on Saturday, after their game against Banstead Athletic was called off at half-time due to poor weather.

Featured image credit: Will Ross

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