A tribute to Boreham Wood FC President Bill O’Neill
By Peter Smith, Club Director

All of us at Boreham Wood were saddened to hear of the death last Wednesday of our much-loved Club President Bill O’Neill, at the grand old age of 96.

It is impossible to overstate the part Bill played in our history, and indeed he was one of the clubs’ founders back in 1948. Danny has transformed the club in the last 25 years and we have reached heights no one could ever have dreamt about back then, but he is the first to acknowledge none of that would have been possible without everything Bill did for the club over his lifetime.

It is difficult to know where to start when documenting everything Bill did but I guess the best place is to go back to the summer of 1948 when he led a meeting in the Church Hall of the All Saints Church in Shenley Road, when the two existing local clubs in the town amalgamated and Boreham Wood Football Club was formed. Bill even played in the very first trial match played on a pitch in Theobald Street that had been the Polish Army camp during the war which finished only a few short years beforehand.

Bill was instrumental in applying for our first proper home ground in Eldon Avenue, but although there are so many stories of those days (including Bill playing for and then managing the team) I feel we should move on to when we started playing at our current ground in Broughinge Road in August 1963.

Bill was again the main architect of the move here and it was then that his design skills and sheer hard work really came to the fore. Only followers of the club of a certain age (including me) can remember the club as it was then but we were all very proud of our facilities back in the day, which remember was over 60 years ago!

Bill had been on the Management Committee for many years and was the driving force behind the various building work that went on as we gradually started to build our new stadium. He was elected as Chairman of the club on 28 June 1968, a position he was to proudly hold until 6 December 1990.

With due respect to the many other people involved with the club for that long period when Bill was “in charge”, no one would dispute that he was the mastermind of everything that took place. I personally have many memories of him digging holes, laying foundations and building brick walls in the clubhouse, mowing and marking the pitch, and even finding time to work with our Team Managers of the day which, of course, included Danny’s father Micky.

I can remember many occasions driving back from away games with them both with happy smiles and laughter (we had won) or some extremely bad language (we had lost). Funnily enough, we all moaned about referees back in the day just as we do now, some things don’t change!

One of the great pleasures of my own lifetime connected with the club is that I was sitting alongside Bill at so many of the special occasions we have enjoyed in recent years – both our Play Off wins, including promotion to the National League, the first time we beat a Football League club in the FA Cup, and especially when we achieved the dream of playing on Wembley’s hallowed turf in the National League Play Off Final on 12 May 2018.

If I may I would like to add just a couple of sentences of a personal nature here as my late wife and I spent many happy evenings with Bill and his dear wife Thelma at their lovely home in Cowley Hill at their legendary dinner parties. Despite mock reluctance on his part Bill always did a turn on the piano at the insistence of his guests. Bill could not read a note of music but he was a brilliant pianist and could play any song you asked him to! So many happy memories.

It would be wrong, though, not to conclude with a further reference to his lifetime of service to the club. In summary, Bill was instrumental in forming the club, building the new ground here at Meadow Park, and setting us on the path to the glories achieved in the last 25 years.

Bill told me more than once that his proudest moment was when he was made Club President, a fitting tribute to honour his lifetime of service to the club and a role he held until his death.

On behalf of Danny and all here at Boreham Wood FC I would like to send our love and sincere condolences to Bill’s daughter Amanda, son Chris and all family members. The club will, of course, be well represented at Bill’s funeral, to honour his lifetime of love for our club.

He truly was the original “Mr Boreham Wood FC”.


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