The Wealdstone Raider

Ten years on, how the Wealdstone Raider changed club’s fortunes

It was the 10th of March 2013 when a viral clip of a Wealdstone FC fan, dubbed the Wealdstone Raider, gained online recognition as a meme.

Ten years on, the club has jumped two leagues from the Isthmian League to the Vanarama National League and gained extra attention from the Raider’s popularity.

The club’s head of media, Chris Woods, still hears plenty about the Raider to this day anytime he’s at the ground or when he talks about his job.

He said: “It was a bit of a whirlwind, and we still hear about it now.

“Whenever I say to anyone, ‘Oh I’m working for Wealdstone’, they’re all ‘Oh the Wealdstone Raider’.

“For other teams, he’s our mascot like how Wrexham have Ryan Reynolds and we’ve got the Wealdstone Raider.”

The birth of the Wealdstone Raider

The Raider, 57-year-old Gordon Hill, went from a normal fan to an internet sensation in the blink of an eye.

The infamous YouTube video captured Hill at a match between Wealdstone and Whitehawk, shouting over a fence at opposition fans.

The phrases “you want sum?”, “I’ll give it ya” and “you’ve got no fans” became immortalized with Hill’s accent.

Woods explained that the type of character in the video was not unlike both Hill in reality and the community in the area.

“I’ve met him a couple of times, he’s still a character,” Woods said.

“The video wasn’t out of character for him in real life as well, he’s cheeky.

“I always knew Wealdstone as the local club and it kind of epitomised our area.”

The 33-second clip posted on Dazman21’s channel has reached more than 22 million views to date.

The newfound attention went from being unwanted to being channeled for noble means as Hill created a single song, ‘Got No Fans’, based on his persona, to raise money for charity.

The Wealdstone Raider posing with fans. Credit: Wealdstone Football Club

The Stones’ reputation from then to now

Hill’s popularity naturally drew attention to Wealdstone as a whole, in a different light than what they experienced before.

Woods explained that the Stones’ reputation from other clubs was not the most favorable even if the perception he got from his own experience told otherwise.

He said: “At that time in that division, our fans had a reputation from other clubs, and they thought we were quite louty and things like that.”

Even with the extra eyes, Woods believed that the club’s rise was going to happen anyway, particular upon the move to Grosvenor Vale in 2008.

“The club’s really grown from strength to strength in that period, really engaged in the community they moved into now,” he stated.

“The crowds have really improved, we’re getting nearly 2000 every week when at the start it was around 200 fans, including the Raider.”

He did admit that the timing of the Wealdstone Raider’s incident was quite in tune with a turn of fortune, as the promotion to the then-Football Conference Southern division followed the year afterwards.

“It put the club on the map,” Woods said.

“We had that reputation then but it changed as we’ve gone up the leagues.

“Seeing it in this division now, we’ve got a really good reputation of an inclusive family club and a good place for all to come down.”

Fan and club: the connection remains today

The enhanced reputation and location was clear as Woods talked of a recent example involving Newcastle United fans during the lead-up to this year’s Carabao Cup Final.

The Wealdstone clubhouse, located near Wembley, was used as a spot for Newcastle fans to gather and enjoy prior to their side’s match against Manchester United.

Hill was at the clubhouse, doing meet and greets and chatting with the fans as they get to know the real man behind the meme.

Whenever at the clubhouse, Hill was always around to talk with away fans and maintain the family atmosphere of the club that Woods recognises it for.

“He’s still a good ambassador for the club,” he remarked.

Hill has been a part of a few marketing projects over the years, most recently premiering the club’s new away kit in the summer.

Even with the radical changes in his life, the ties between Hill and the club remain strong as he continues to make home and away games, cheering on the Stones when possible.

Woods said: “He’s still a massive Wealdstone fan first and foremost.”

Featured image credit: Wealdstone Football Club

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