When Jamahl Jarrett’s fledgling career as a Millwall player was cut short by a torn tendon in 2010, he was determined that football would remain a daily part of his life. During that year, Jarrett joined forces with his friend David Marriott to re-establish Lambeth Tigers, a South London football team founded on Brixton’s Loughborough Estate.
The club, which was originally set-up by Christopher Butler in 1995, went into hiatus after Butler died of cancer in 2001. Over the past four years Lambeth Tigers has built up a solid reputation as the football academy for football academies. More than 70 of its school-aged players have gone on to join the youth sides of clubs such as Arsenal, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Fulham and Millwall.
This year the club, whose efforts have been championed by Crystal Palace star Jason Puncheon, celebrated two tournament wins in the London FA Youth Cup. Brixton Blog caught up with Jarrett (aged 26, pictured to the right) and Lambeth Tigers Development Leader Riccardo Smith, following their recent cup winning exploits. Here they discuss the club’s progress and its battle to keep things running on a shoestring budget.
“I got injured at 16 and it was a serious leg injury so I decided to do my coaching badges. I also wanted to mentor young players coming up in the area I grew up in”, said Jarrett (pictured to the right). “I grew up around the Loughborough and Angell Town Estates.
“I’ve seen it all, from drugs to gun crime. When there’s nothing for kids to do or hang onto, they will get attracted to people who portray themselves as a ‘family’, or offer to give them drugs. Some end up in gangs or on the brink of joining one.
“Sometimes it can be difficult for young players who have to deal with what goes on locally with gang crime and those kinds of things. “At Lambeth Tigers we advise them, mentor them and support them. Children who come to Lambeth Tigers know they have to be focused and performing at school in order to train and play. When we started out we only had one team. Today we have nine sides and 150 players.
“We’re all about nurturing children who might one day become professional football players. We don’t want them to reach Saturday league or football academy level and end up being released straightaway. In the last four and a half years we have had more than 70 players move into the academies of professional clubs in London and other parts of the country. We’re expanding every year and want to become a hub that develops professional players for the English game.”
While top flight football is awash with money thanks to a whopping £5.14bn Premier League TV deal, many grassroots clubs are struggling with funding and poor quality training facilities. Is money a major concern for Lambeth Tigers? “The biggest issue for us isn’t the money”, says Jarrett’s colleague Riccardo Smith (pictured below).
“It’s about having a dedicated facility like an 11-a-side 3G pitch that we can use for training. At the minute we are based in a park (Myatt’s Fields Park) with a six-a-side pitch that is open to anyone. We’ve tried to get funding from many different organisations and we’ve had no luck with that whatsoever.
“Our main focus is finding somewhere that we can call our own home.We rely on our small pool of contacts who believe in what we are trying to do to help keep things going.
“We have a few good contacts who run small businesses and want to give back to the community. Because Lambeth Tigers works with a lot of disadvantaged young people. They see us as a worthy project.”