Arsenal are not the only team from north London playing in Europe this week. Tottenham have the week off to prepare for their trip to Manchester City on Sunday, but their near-neighbours, Enfield Town, are in European action on Tuesday night.
The Isthmian Premier Division side, who play in the seventh tier of English football, have been invited to play in the Fenix Trophy, a UEFA-recognised competition for semi-professional and amateur clubs.
On Tuesday they host Danish side BK Skjold in their opening group match at their 2,500-seater ground, which is a stone’s throw from the Spurs training ground.
An acronym for the adjectives ‘friendly, European, non-professional, and innovative’, the Fenix Trophy brings together European clubs with “exceptional social, historical and cultural distinctiveness”.
Enfield claim to be the first fan-owned club in the country, and vice-chairman Paul Millington explains: “This is the third season of the competition. We were aware FC United of Manchester [the seventh-tier side formed in 2005 by Manchester United fans disillusioned by the Glazers’ takeover] took part in the first two editions. We have a close association with that club because, like us, they’re fan-owned.
“We’d been looking on with jealousy, to be honest. There was a phone call from the Italian organiser in July. He said he was in London, so one of our directors met with him and discussions started from there. We felt it was too good an opportunity to miss, competing in a European midweek competition and making new friends.”
Enfield manager Gavin MacPherson tells Standard Sport: “You get drawn into groups of three. We got drawn against teams from Copenhagen and Wales [Llantwit Major]. You play them home and away and top of the group goes into a semi-final stage, and that becomes a knockout competition.”
With so much division around the world, a competition like this brings clubs and people together
Enfield vice-chairman Paul Millington
Enfield have away trips to look forward to next year. Planning for both is already underway.
“Logistically, it’s quite difficult to organise”, says MacPherson, who admits he may need to “dip into the academy” to form a team for away games, given some players may not get time off from their day jobs.
“We’ve tried to do our homework as best we can,” MacPherson laughs. “When I say ‘scouting’, it’s more based around footage rather than actually sending people to watch. I’m not sure the chairman would allow me to fly to Denmark! The Denmark away fixture is going to take some planning and preparation, for sure, but I expect a good number of our fans to travel.”
Last year’s final took place in Milan’s San Siro, and Millington hopes Rome’s Stadio Olimpico will be chosen this time.
Ticket sales suggest Enfield will exceed their typical 600-strong crowd.
“At a time when there’s so much division around the world, a competition like this brings clubs and people together that would otherwise not meet,” says MacPherson. “We’ve not had the full experience yet, but I think we will probably look to continue our involvement in the future.”