Dot com minnows seeing stars cherry-picked

Battersea Ironsides GSA, an amateur side signed off the internet, are losing talented players to the Premier League just a year after being formed.

Plying their trade in the amateur leagues of the Southern Counties Division One, the Wandsworth-based outfit have already lost one player to the Premier League, one to the Championship, a player to League Two and one to non-league, just a year after recruiting them straight off a barely-known internet website. Effectively 14 divisions below the cash-rich top-flight, Battersea’s staggering progress has been aided by their affiliation with grass-roots football website, UK Football Finder. Manager Maddy Ewemade signed no fewer than 12 players from the website, which aims at helping amateur clubs and players find players and clubs alike, as well as securing a lucrative shirt sponsorship deal from the website.

“We’ve achieved a lot so far and a great deal of thanks must go to UK Football Finder for helping us find players and for the sponsorship," he said.

"If anything, we are now becoming victims of our own success, and we’re losing players because of the new opportunities that are coming their way.” The Ironsides, all under-25, shot to the top of the league following a succession of five-goal victories last November, but their success has come at a cost.

Captain Hawell Awotwe joined Conference South strugglers Fisher Athletic and went straight into their first-team, goalkeeper Sam Freeman fled for trials at QPR, striking sensation Jean Pedro de Silva left for Brazilian third division side Olaria, and midfield star Abdul Isaak, just 15, joined Bolton Wanderers’ youth academy. And others have followed suit, one player trialing with Manchester City, one with Yeovil, and highly-rated midfielder Lee Nakamota receiving attention from QPR and Bristol City. “I’ve been impressed with the team since day one,” said website creator Darren Irving. “They are a talented team with some brilliant players, but they are still a new team in a tough division.

“A lot of the young guys brought in from the site are very ambitious," added Ewemade.

"They are looking to push themselves towards semi-professional, maybe even professional football. We’ve had some top players here already. De Silva is a top player who is easily capable of playing in League Two and Isaak can go right to the top if he gets the right coaching.” Having enjoyed a successful run to the semi-finals of the league cup, Battersea now find themselves embroiled in a relegation battle.

And with new quality hard to come by, Ewemade will be hoping that he can cast his web wide again as his side bids for a brighter future. “We’re fighting for our lives but we’ve got a determined bunch of lads here and I am confident we will be successful in years to come,” he said.