The Millwall Years
Sheen Lions started in 1986 when two local ladies, Sammy Mead and Kate Plantin, decided to hire a football coach for their 5 year old football-mad sons, and invited boys from their class to join. Training took place on Saturdays on Sheen Common with many local boys asking to join the training session and soon more football coaches got involved. In 1987 Sammy’s husband, Peter Mead, began his involvement on the board of Millwall Football Club, thus the name Sheen Lions and the lion emblem.
After a while the training moved to Shene International School on the astro-turf pitches and the club had accumulated about 150 boys aged 4 to 17. Some boys formed league teams, playing in the West Middlesex League and later in the Surrey Leagues. The teams became very successful and went on to win several County Cup finals and league trophies as well as many other football competitions. Sammy’s son, Billy Mead went on to become a professional player and even made it to the England FA youth team at U18.
Sheen became the home of one of the Millwall Schools of Excellence (training at Shene International School in Hertford Avenue) and several of the Sheen Lions Boys from this period went on to play Pro or Semi-pro football. The best known of these is perhaps Steven Reid (West Bromwich Albion) who also represented the Republic of Ireland at the World Cups.
With their sons having progressed through the club and moving on, Sammy and Kate retired from the club in 1998 whilst some of the Millwall coaches continued to run the Saturday morning sessions at Shene International School none, however, were prepared to get involved with Sunday league football. Stephen Street had started to take his 10 and 8-year-old sons to the Saturday training and noticing a lack of organised games for the boys, decided to do something about it. Stephen remembers, “Whilst the older boys who had joined under the tutelage of Sammy were well looked after by the Millwall coaches, those under the age of 11 or so were left to fend for themselves, with no particular team organisation and old hand-me-down kits that had seen better days. It was just a case of “pay and play” on Saturday not knowing if there was enough boys to scrape together a team.
The Street Era
Realising that the club was at a ‘watershed’, Stephen offered to take over the management of the U11s for the forthcoming 1998/99 season. He had already started his course for the FA Certificate of Coaching earlier in the year and decided to take his team back to Sheen Common and train them himself .With his wife Sarah taking over the administration side, a new link was formed with coaches from Wimbledon FC and soon many boys in the age groups below U11s, wanting a more organised environment, were training on Sheen Common. The Streets’ idea was to try and maintain a manageable number of boys regularly attending in each age group and to train as a squad with a dedicated coach all season. In order for the Sunday league football to succeed, managers from the parent rank had to be recruited for each team. This usually was (and still is) a “volunteer dad”. The managers would work alongside the coach on a Saturday so consistency could be carried through to the Sunday game.
With the number of teams growing the Streets decided to enter all the teams into one league to make it more manageable. The West Surrey Boys League (today named the Surrey Youth League) was chosen as it provided safe, well-organised, good quality football. With a solid coaching team in place, well-organised administration and competitive league football on Sundays, Sheen Lions FC had survived what no doubt would have been a decline into non-existence. The foundations had been laid for the club to continue to grow and progress, becoming the local byword for quality youth football and a well respected club within the Surrey Youth League.
Today the Club has grown to a size which requires use of several facilities around Sheen for training and games. From 2011 all 7-a-side, 9-a-side and 11-a-side teams play matches at Palewell Common where we make use of seven pitches on Sundays. Most 11-a-side teams now train on weekdays under floodlight at the Bank of England Sport Centre.
In the most recent years Sheen Lions FC has reached a number of important milestones. Most notably the club became aRegistered Charity and launched its comprehensive website in 2008. In 2009 the club achieved The FA’s Charter Standard Club accreditation. For the 2011/12 season the Club has 20 squads playing organised youth football in the Surrey Youth League. This in no small part due to Sarah Street’s herculean effort in taking Sheen Lions forward.