Jimmy can leave Hornchurch with head held high after huge contribution on and off the pitch
PUBLISHED: 15:00 27 November 2018
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George Sessions has followed Urchins’ journey under Jimmy McFarlane for over six years and paid tribute to the legendary manager
Tonight will mark the end of an era for Hornchurch when Chipstead visit in the third round of the Velocity Trophy. You have to go all the way back to the 2005/06 season for Urchins to play a game and not have Jimmy McFarlane associated with the club.
Yet this evening, when Colin McBride walks out with the team at Bridge Avenue, for the first time in 12 years McFarlane will not be involved.
The Bostik Premier outfit announced on Sunday morning, via a statement from chairman Alex Sharpe, they had “reluctantly accepted the resignation” of the longest-serving boss in the club’s history.
Sharpe poignantly said: “It is very difficult to put into words how much respect and love we at the club have for Jim.”
It is extremely hard to fully highlight McFarlane’s legacy at Hornchurch, but I wanted to try and give it a go.
The start of his affiliation with the club began in the summer of 2006 when McBride took over as Urchins manager and made his good friend and Purfleet legend player-assistant.
McFarlane played 107 times between August 2006 and April 2009 before he hung up his boots, but only after a typical show of the fight and bravery which characterised the man.
He suffered a broken leg on the opening day of the 2007/08 campaign, but managed to get back fit by December of the same year and this type of spirit would come to the fore again around a decade later.
After retiring from playing in April 2009, McFarlane focused on being just assistant boss to McBride before he took over the reins in September.
The reason why was because more debt came to light regarding Hornchurch FC, the club which liquidated in 2005 when backers Carthium Ltd. were declared bankrupt and was subsequently replaced by phoenix club AFC Hornchurch.
McBride stepped down to concentrate on clearing the debt and McFarlane was handed the job, which was his first in management.
While no actual figure was put out, it is understood the debt Hornchurch and chairman McBride and others had to sort out was around six-figures – an enormous amount for a non-league side and especially given it was none of the current regimes doing.
In May 2016, Urchins were able to proudly announce they were finally debt free and this is one of the many achievements which McFarlane should be recognised for.
Typically at the time, he said: “The directors are the driving force behind it, but the supporters as well have played a part and everyone involved deserves praise. The easy thing would have been for the club to wind up and go down to the Essex Senior League.
“We did it the hard way and I know more than most what people behind the scenes have done for this club.”
McFarlane continued: “The people that have turned up at 6 o’clock on a Sunday morning and done buffets to raise funds, they have got this club debt free.
“We have so many volunteers and people like Terry Fisher, the groundsman, and I could talk about him for hours. All of them deserve huge credit.”
If Jimmy reads this I know I will embarrass him with this sentence, but he is an enormous factor behind why AFC Hornchurch are debt free too.
McBride plus the likes of Tony Bowditch, Ken Hunt and many more played a huge role in clearing the debt, but so did McFarlane.
After being in the dugout on a Saturday, he would be back at the club in the early hours of Sunday morning to help prepare the buffets and set up stalls and play his part in all the fundraisers even though he would never make it public.
The AFC Hornchurch Supporters Association have put on loads of events and you could always guarantee McFarlane would be there.
Despite everything he achieved on the pitch at the club, the work he did off it is one of the key reasons why he will never be forgotten by the Urchins faithful.
While we talk about his effort and commitment to Hornchurch away from the pitch, he also did a great job on it.
Every season was exciting in one way or another for the fans and Urchins reached the final of the Essex Senior Cup twice and claimed victory in 2013.
A memorable promotion to the Conference South was achieved in the 2011/12 campaign and although relegation followed the next term, Hornchurch supporters enjoyed their time back in the second tier of non-league football with an average attendance of 305.
Urchins reached the Ryman Premier play-offs the next season, but missed out on another promotion and went down in 2014/15 after a challenging start with their Bridge Avenue home not in use due to new floodlights being installed.
Hornchurch had to play their first seven league games away and then had to use Aveley’s Mill Farm for a match before finally returning home.
McFarlane would refuse to use their tricky first month as an excuse for relegation and yet still guided the club to the semi-finals of the Essex Senior Cup in the same campaign.
Now back in the North division, he got the team into the play-offs on two occasions before in the 2017/18 term, they finally returned to the Premier again.
Hornchurch won the title with 32 wins out of 46 in the Bostik North and 103 points with a goal difference of +62.
It was a stunning campaign and all the more impressive given the adversity McFarlane and those around him had to face.
Back in February of this year the Urchins legend suffered a stroke and yet less than two months after, he was back on his feet and present in the stand to watch the team clinch promotion on April 14 with a 6-1 win at Witham Town.
The scenes of the players running over to McFarlane at full time will live long in the memory of everyone associated with the club.
Unbelievably the boss was back to work that summer and planning for Hornchurch to more than hold their own in the Bostik Premier.
Even though he leaves the club in 17th position in the table, they are three points above the bottom three and with several games in hand.
McFarlane is 502 and out, but he can walk away from the club with his head held high with Hornchurch in a massively better state compared to 2006!
A decent judge of a manager and person is the respect they have from ex-players and rival bosses and the outpouring since Jim’s resignation says it all. He’s a legend in every sense of the word.