Some heroes don't wear capes and I was suppose that's a good thing where Andrew is concerned as it would make it a lot harder for him to get around the pitch!
In all seriousness, Mr. Wheaton or Mr. Selk as he's branded online is a true pioneer of the game. Establishing a reputable podcast within grassroots and giving teams the recognition they deserve no matter what their size is or their location.
For that alone, I have to applaud his efforts and the one's closest to him and it would be selfish of me to not share his journey with the rest of your reading his story.
OVER TO YOU ANDREW....
Tell us your earliest memory of being involved in grassroots football?
My grassroots football journey started as a 10 year old. I played as a centre back for my primary school Rockcliffe Manor in Plumstead, South East London.
Sadly at 11 I started having knee problems, and dislocated my knee cap (the first of many dislocations on both knees) which killed my confidence and meant I was never able to play regularly. I managed to play up until I was 16 at secondary school for St Paul's in Abbey Wood, but injuries meant I never really played youth football. After my final dislocation at 19 years of age and 2nd knee operation I stopped playing football completely under doctors orders.
I would watch my brothers play on a Sunday. My brothers played for Samuel Montagu in Kidbrooke. Both played academy football for Tottenham and Crystal Palace respectively.
My brother David played in the same Sunday side as pros Kieran Richardson, Peter Sweeney and Tony Craig. Conference level stalwarts Ryan Hayes and Mark Ricketts were also in the side.
This experience of the excitement of the games really brought on my passion for grassroots football.
I loved playing the game. I was a steady player. My best memory was scoring a Paul Scholes-esque volley direct from a corner!
What lead to you becoming a referee?
After running a reasonably successful Sunday league side New Abbey FC for 4 years, the team folded. We played in the London and Kent Border League and WESFA, and won several league titles and cups. But all good things must come to an end.
I wanted to stay in football, but the stress and strain of running a side didn't appeal to me again, so I decided to give refereeing a try. In November 2010 I did the course, And thats where my refereeing journey began.
The main bulk of my refereeing has been in the Kent County League, the OBDSFL and WESFA.
I am a Level 5 referee, which is Senior County level. I've completely approximately 350 games. Have been appointed to 10 Cup finals and referee regularly in top divisions.
Tell us about some of your stand out games? (good and bad)
My favourite games are not necessarily the highest level games but will probably be title rivals playing each other.
Welling Town v Sydenham sports in KCL Div 2 stands out. End-to-end game involving two title rivals. The pitch was fantastic, I had my two friends as assistants on the day and it was raining! This always makes the atmosphere better in my book.
I've been lucky to referee many great games!
I'm one of the lucky referees to never have suffered physical abuse.
I wouldn't disrespect the teams and mention the bad ones!
What stage are you at in terms of level but experience also?
As mentioned earlier. I'm a Level 5 referee. That means I'm two levels up from entry.
Experience wise, I've seen most things so am pretty calm and relaxed about refereeing.
I look forward to all games still but after 350-ish games I now look forward to refereeing games with something riding on the result, or with a bit of needle in previous encounters as it keeps me switched on throughout and challenges me.
How did the SELK podcast begin?
The podcast began in February 2019.
I suffer with depression and anxiety as a result of PTSD brought on my the loss of my brother David in 2005. David was stabbed to death by a group of thugs high on drugs. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I self prescribed with alcohol, drugs and women for 5 years. Sadly this only masked the underlying issue and it really came to a head in 2018 when I was so crippled by my mental health I couldn't get out of bed for almost a month.
I had 3 kids and a wife by this time and decided I needed to channel with energy away from negativity to positive.
The podcast idea originally was going to be aimed towards professional football, but quickly turned to grassroots as I felt it deserved coverage. Only Rootz TV was doing it at the time, by video. So I saw a space to start an audio podcast talking about the football I was involved in, WESFA and the OBDSFL.
After some advice from Andrew Dalhouse (Lambeth All Stars, formerly Vista) and Jon White (Hatcham Beckenham Manor) I went for it.
The first show was released in early March 2019. (LINK BELOW)
Best moments or most popular podcast?
The best moments from the podcast is a tough one.
Every single show offers the chance for people to big up their team. So its tough to single out individual interviews as the best. They all offer something.
Hearing the way Kenningwell United run their club was inspiring!
Season 18/19 - OBDSFL/WESFA - Episode 9 - Kenningwell, Leader Trophy and Win Jones Bowl Finalists by SELK Grassroots - Podcast Network on #SoundCloud
Having the SE Dons on the podcast was fantastic at a time just before they started to hit the heady heights (Listen to Season 18/19 - OBDSFL/WESFA - Episode 5 - FC Royals/SE Dons by SELK Grassroots - Podcast Network on #SoundCloud
Lots of teams like Sporting Club Thamesmead, Barnehurst, Peckham Rye, Greenwich Mariners and The Peoples stick in the mind as great guests. Every team that has taken the time to come onto the podcast and have a chat has been excellent.
The series I recorded (Big Interview - 50 podcasts in 50 days) at the beginning of the lockdown remains the work I am most proud of so far.
Talking about results and reviewing future games is fantastic. But something about 50/50 really struck a chord with people and every interview was amazing. I received so many messages of thanks and how the series became a daily ritual for seemingly hundreds of people. At a time when there was so much worry and anxiety for many. The 50/50 series had a huge positive effect. So that will always be my favourite part of our work.
We also have a team of 20 people working to contribute to our various shows. People who give up their time to record and submit review/preview shows on behalf of the leagues they belong to. They really make SELK what it is. We are nothing without the guys who help produce the 5 podcasts on average that we put out each week.
What do you make of rise of grassroots YouTube teams and contributors?
The rise of grassroots football and YouTube teams is fantastic.
After being in a trough for a decade, we now see the potential is being realised.
Teams take a lot of care to present themselves properly on social media and on the pitch by way of kits and professional photography etc.
Whilst the growth is fantastic I hope the infrastructure can support it. Because our local facilities will be the only thing to stop it.
In terms of YouTube. I'm all for it. SE Dons, Peckham Rye, Under the Radar and The Peoples FC are all very individual and fantastic products in my local leagues. All excellent.
My worry is that there are too many copycat versions out there and the marketplace becomes saturated with the same videos essentially and many teams won't be able to retain an audience. Individuality is the name of the game. Teams shouldn't get hung up on followers and numbers. Just create and individual product that is interesting to watch and puts grassroots in a good light.
What's left for you to achieve in life/grassroots football?
In terms of ambitions going forward, I think I have ticked all the boxes in refereeing except a Referee of the Year award! Competition is tough for that one, but that is my aim this season and beyond! My own knees might beat me before I get there! But I'll keep trying.
The podcast has gone beyond any expectations I had already. 50k listens, 22 leagues covered, charity team, 5 podcasts a week and a team of contributors all supporting the coverage. It's blown my mind.
Of course we continue to try and grow the coverage by inviting more contributors from further and further afield to take part and give their corner of the world its coverage.
We are limited by time on the growth, I still have to work a 9-5 and cannot see the podcast ever being my "job" so we look to grow things organically by encouraging people who want to help share their grassroots story with our listeners, to do so.
Make sure you check out Andrew's SELK podcast on all of his socials: