Over the summer of 2011, Bexley Invicta FC’s committee decided that the club would not look to join in a league for the forthcoming Season. Player numbers were growing but there were not enough dedicated players for a squad that would be able to fulfil a programme of fixtures. So, for Bexley Invicta, the 2011/12 Season was to be a ‘season of friendlies and tournaments’ that would enable the club to build up player numbers and match experience at its own pace.
Even though Bexley Invicta would not be competing in a league, the club still held pre-Season training, with sessions taken by Derek Jackson, the club’s first coach. In September, the first training and match equipment was bought, and you can see some pics of the first training session, using that equipment here.
On the last weekend of August, the club headed to Leicester to take part in this popular tournament for LGBT-friendly clubs, hosted by the Leicester Wildecats. Bexley Invicta played some good football that day, but did not win many games. But the players had an enjoyable time and met many new people from around the country.
The first-ever game against a ‘mainstream’ club took place the following weekend, when Bexley Invicta took on Portrait FC, from Sidcup, in a friendly game at Flamingo Park. The result was 4-2 to Portrait. This was an encouraging result, as Brian Silk recalls: “Portrait were a team who had played together in leagues for a number of years. For our players, many of whom had only (re-)taken up football a few months before, to achieve a respectable scoreline was heartening. It told us that we could score goals against good teams and we had the potential to win.”
Bexley Invicta’s confidence took a backwards step with their next game, against Leftfooters FC, 25th September, played at Erith Stadium. ‘Footers comprehensively beat Bexley Invicta by seven goals to nil.
The club had little time to recover from that defeat before playing a team from Bexley Police Safer Transport team in a 7-aside game two days’ later. A 12-2 loss was the result.
It was on the back of these set-backs that Bexley Invicta travelled to the Black Country, the following weekend, 1st-2nd October 2011, to play Wolverhampton Harts, an LGBT-friendly club that had been formed a few months before Bexley Invicta’s formation, but were already playing in a league. With just a few players from other teams, Bexley Invicta lost 3-0. And in the return fixture four weeks later down in Bexley, the club lost by the same margin, but this time by four goals to one. You can see some pictures from the away trip here.
A 6-0 defeat at home to long-established LGBT-friendly club Brighton Bandits – past GFSN National League Winners – followed on November 20th.
December 2011 saw some light relief for the club, as Bexley Invicta took part in a ‘player auction’ for World Aids Year at the beginning of the month, down at Bar 286 in Lewisham. The event was hosted by Stephen Thompson, by now a well-established friend and supporter of the club, and you can see some photos here.
The weekend of the 3rd and 4th of December, saw the club return to Wolverhampton to take part in the 5-aside GFSN Winter Tournament 2011. These tournament are intended to be more informal and less serious that some of the other LGBT-friendly tournaments throughout the year, so players and supporters were able to relax and enjoy the weekend.
15 January 2012 saw Bexley Invicta FC reach its first birthday. The club celebrated down at Bar 286 and a video was released with pictorial highlights of the club’s first year in existence: https://youtu.be/T8ENcnqoBSg
After the series of defeats in the autumn of 2011, Bexley Invicta did not play a competitive 11-aside match for another 3 1/2 months. Instead the club concentrated on training and on recruitment (see this poster), and … on properly constituting the club.
For most of the first year of its existence, the club had been run by the committee, but it didn’t have a constitution and had not been formally formed. This was rectified by the club holding its Inaugural Meeting on 21 February 2012, at the Holiday Inn Express, London Dartford.
By unanimous decision of eight votes to nil, Bexley Invicta Football Club’s Constitution was agreed and the initial Members brought the club formally into being.
On 4th March 2012, Bexley invicta played its first match for a while, with a trip to Richmond to take on London Titans for the first time, in a friendly fixture. The result was a 6-1 loss against one of the most successful LGBT-friendly clubs in the country. Brian Silk remembers that some of the Titans players were encouraging to Bexley Invicta after the match: ‘We had one or two Titans players message us to say ‘well done’ and praise the many good performances amongst our players. This first positive contact with Titans was the beginning of a close friendship between our two clubs that has stood the test of time.”
The second weekend of March 2012 saw Bexley Invicta up in Leeds for the club’s inaugural appearance in the ‘Leeds Tournament’ – a well-established fixture in the UK’s LGBT 5-aside tournaments calendar. ‘Played 6, lost 6,’ but the players and supporters who travelled had a very good time, including enjoying the legendary social side of this tournament, as can be seen by these pictures.
The following weekend, 18th March 2012, saw Bexley invicta FC play their cup match, having entered the London Unity League Cup for the 2011/12 Season. The club’s opponents were London Falcons – who at this point were the only team Bexley Invicta had beaten, almost a year before – and the venue was Erith Stadium on a beautiful sunny day. In what was probably the club’s best performance yet, the Falcons edged the match 2-1. Current club captain, Liam Cooper, scored his first goal for the club, bringing us back into the match from 2-0 down at half time. Post -match, the Falcons tweeted ‘A big thank you for [your] hospitality today and a tough game.’ You can see some photos of the match here.
The club was in good spirits as it held a fundraising dinner at the end of March 2012. This was a smart sit-down affair, in the setting of the Holiday Inn, Bexley. The dinner received the support of all three local Members of Parliament, the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Bexley Council (and two Bexley Councillors attended) and Kent FA; and Gillingham, Millwall and Crystal Palace football clubs donated prizes. Returning to a theme that arose soon after the club got going, Brian Silk reflects, “The significance of the club was appreciated by local politicians, the local council, Kent FA and some of the most high-ranking local football clubs. They wanted to support a club that was making a difference. As James Brokenshire, MP for Bexley, said in his message to us that evening, ‘I support your work in helping to kick homophobia out of football.’”
A friendly match away to LGBT-friendly club, London Romans, on 15th April, saw Bexley Invicta suffer another defeat [score not recorded]. On 20th May, Bexley Invicta played their final match of the Season, hosting east London-based LGBT-friendly club, Pheonix FC. The result was a two goals to one defeat, in a performance described as ‘fantastic,’ by coach/manager Derek Jackson.
In the final weekend of May 2012, Bexley Invicta played in another country for the first time, when the club took part in the GFSN summer 5-aside tournament, which was held in Glasgow. The two games the team won were the first victories of any kind for a long time, so were a celebration in themselves. Yet another enjoyable trip and tournament for Bexley Invicta, who were by now becoming a regular presence at the usual LGBT football tournaments. You can see a few pictures here.
The narrow defeats to London Falcons and Pheonix FC, in the second half of the Season, were encouraging and showed the progression the club was making, football-wise. The club was also growing, players-wise, so that, by the spring of 2012, squads were now comprised of Bexley Invicta-only players, something that was unimaginable a year before.
Brian Silk reflects: “After our final match, I posted on our Facebook group that the Season had been an ‘amazing experience’ (for me). To think how far we’d come in just 16 months – from a precarious start of kickabouts and needing support from other clubs’ players, to a fully-fledged football club that now had everything and did everything that any football club does, was truly a dream-come-true for me. But I could also see that the club meant a lot to so many of its players and supporters, and it was their work and commitment that built a football club during this period.”
The club had completed a season of sorts, and was bigger and better than at the start. The only way was up. The club was now ready to join a competitive league and so, on 16 July 2012, Bexley Invicta FC was admitted into the London Unity League, a regional league for LGBT-friendly clubs, for the 2012/13 Season.
BY BRIAN SILK, FOUNDER AND CHAIRMAN 2011-2015