For those who didn't see Dream. On., the eight part series which followed the fortunes of struggling Wembley FC, currently part of the Combined Counties League, which is in Level 9 of the English Football League system, you missed the growth of a struggling club blossoming into...a not quite struggling as much club. The series included appearances from Terry Venables who became the club's adviser and sometimes manager, working with FA approved coaches, as well as some appearances from previous high level Footballer's such as David Seaman, Ray Parlour, Martin Keown, Brian McBride, Claudio Caniggia and more. All of which helped coach the team, and some also pulled on the red of Wembley FC for an appearance in the FA Cup Preliminary round, but couldn't progress past Uxbridge after getting battered 5-0 in the replay after drawing the first game 2-2.
The show, sponsored and organiser by Budweiser, brought the club money, television exposure via ESPN, a stadium refurbishment, a brand new club house, new kit, a new team bus and a higher level of coaching for both on and off the pitch for the amateur side. But now it's back down to earth for 'The Lions'. The camera crews are gone, Venables and the ex-international players have moved on back to their normal lives, and now so do the remaining players. With the exposure many of the players got thanks to television and internet broadcasts of some of the team's league and cup games, many of them have moved onto pastures new and hope to make a real career out of Football. Only three mainstays of Wembley FC remain, while a new manager hopes to take the club towards the higher echelons of Football.
The new manager is Ben Warren, who hails from Oxford. After dabbling in some coaching for Blue Square North team Oxford City, and also managing the Oxford City Nomads for a short while, the offer from Wembley surfaced, and Warren made the move to London without a second thought. Long-time player/manager Ian Bates who has played over 800 times for his beloved Lions, struggled initially to accept moving back to a player only role, but after some heart to heart talks with new manager Warren and club chairman Steve Edwards, the proud Londoner agreed, stating that regardless of the role he has at the club, he'll die a Lion.
Wembley veteran Ian Bates
Joining Bates as the only remaining players that appeared in the documentary series are 'chunky' Goalkeeper Lee Pearce, and the impressive 21 year old Striker, Daryl Atkins. Pearce was a large (in more ways than one) focus in the documentary, after some vigorous workouts with an assigned personal trainer, Pearce impressed in goal, showing that if not for his fitness and weight issues, he may well have gone on to be a successful higher league 'keeper. But at 31 years of age, Pearce will likely see out his career at Wembley. Moving to Atkins, it was a surprise to see the youngster pledge to stay at Wembley despite seeing many of his now former teammates moving on to different teams, and being arguably the team's best player last season, easily being top scorer for the Lions. While his technical ability is sometimes questioned, his prowess in front of goal can't be, and neither can his work rate. What role he'll find for himself on what will be a very new look side remains to be seen.
What the future holds for Wembley FC remains to be seen, but much work is ahead for new boss Ben Warren to build a brand new team and get them gelling before the season opener on August 11th 2012, away to Dorking.
Destined for a bright future, Striker Daryl Atkins