England legend Rachel Yankey has praised non-league side Wingate & Finchley after players from the Harlesden-based grassroots club she founded in 2007 visited the Harry Abrahams stadium on Saturday.
Yankey, the most capped England player in history, was one of four coaches from Gibbons Wreckers who accompanied a group of U15s players from the club to Wingate’s Ryman Premier match against Dulwich & Hamlet.
And the Arsenal Ladies star, who represented Brent at the London Youth Games as a youngster, praised Wingate for allowing the Gibbons players unprecedented access during the visit.
“Everyone has been lovely. We’ve been made to feel very welcome and I have a really positive impression of the club,” the Arsenal Ladies midfielder said. “They’ve invited all of us to come and watch the game free of charge and allowed the boys to speak to the players which I think has been wonderful.
“It’s been fantastic and at top-flight clubs that probably wouldn’t happen, but it’s been an education for all of us.
“Non-league football doesn’t get the same attention as football at a higher level but the standard here is good and both teams are getting the ball down and playing it.
“Some of our young players are now 15 and if they desire a career in football this is a good benchmark for them.”
Joint managers of the Gibbons U15s Andy Clifford and Rowena Quire also accompanied the boys during the visit and Clifford said the trip had given his players plenty of food for thought.
“We’re a community football club and it doesn’t matter where you are from we encourage kids just to come and play football,” he said.
“Our players have got really good attitudes and this is rewarding for them to come down here and witness a semi-professional game because it gives them a great opportunity to see the level of football.
“They’ve also had a chance to meet some of the players and ask them how they got into the semi-pro game.”
The trip was the brainchild of Brentford FC scout Manisha Tailor, who was recently given the Woman in Football accolade at the Asian Football Awards at Wembley Stadium.
Tailor, a former Barham Primary School deputy-head, also coaches the Gibbons Wreckers U9s and said partnerships between local clubs provide wide-ranging benefits to everyone involved.
"I organised this visit as part of the clubs work on community cohesion and felt the opportunity for the lads to visit a local club and talk to the players about future prospects would be extremely valuable.
“I’m also delighted that Wingate supporters had the opportunity to meet Rachel Yankey and the U15s players at Gibbons Wreckers, some of whom have been with the club since the age of 9.
Tailor added: “We hope to have the opportunity to visit more London clubs in the future.”