Past Legends - Francis Babalola
Player Legends 7 of 24

7. Past Legends - Francis Babalola

Francis Babalola

Babs reached 100 games on Bank Holiday Monday 30th August 2021 at home to Corinthian.
Pic: Brownie Sports Photography

At the end of the curtailed 2020/21 season Just four appearances away from the 100 club, Francis in many eyes has already gained legendary status for that last minute winner at Maidenhead in the FA Cup 2020 which put the Millers through to the first round proper for the first time. Then again it could also have been that 76th minute goal to give the Millers the vital lead in the final league game of the season 2018/19 at Canterbury City to clinch the SECEFL Premier Division title and with it secure promotion to the Isthmian League and Step 4 football.

Main Photo by Dave Cumberbatch which was featured on the front cover of the Non League Paper - That moment at Maidenhead.

THE 100 CLUB - Richard J Green talks to

Today we turn the spotlight on Millers’ wideman Francis Babalola – or “Babs” to you and me…..
To make over 100 appearances for a Club at any level is an achievement in itself, but in these days of social media exposure and offers/counter offers of a better deal, to achieve it over a four year period fractured by Covid interruptions is in itself worthy of praise.
Babs achieved the landmark earlier this season during our 1-0 victory over Corinthian on August Bank Holiday Monday.

“The ambition of the club and the group of players make it a great place to be” he told me. “We all get on really well in the changing room – manager Kevin Watson always says he doesn’t want any egos around the place and picks his players on that. I’m ambitious so don’t want to be around players who are just there for a jolly up - I like the pressure.”

“I’d had an injury curtailed season with Greenwich Borough in 2017/18 when Kevin – my former PE teacher at school - kept hounding me and eventually wore me down and told me about the plans for the club. I knew I wasn’t going to go back to Greenwich Borough, knew a few of the boys at Cray as well as living near the training ground, so thought I’d give it a try.”

Babs has since gone on to made 128 appearances for Valley netting 43 times at the time of writing, but feels these figures don’t do him justice.
“Those 124 games will include many where I’ve come off the bench so my goal ratio is probably a bit better than that. I probably should have scored a few more though. But that’s still not toooooo bad for a right back……”.

Proudly displayed in the Members Bar at Badgers is an iconic picture of Babs celebrating that memorable strike at Maidenhead United in last season’s FA Cup win.
“Although Wembley and promotion were unforgettable, the highlight for me has to be scoring that late winner at Maidenhead last season.” he recalls fondly. “When I was at Harrow Borough we played at Northampton Town in the 1st round of the FA Cup in 2016.
But if we can win the league this year – that would beat even that. We’ve had three years of training hard with no reward – having a season cancelled because of Covid when we were on a run of eight straight wins - so winning the league will be the cherry on the cake.”

When asked to add a few words about his acquisition, manager Watson said “In the current climate of non-league football, the milestone of a player making 100 appearances for a club seems a rarity.
I had tried to sign Babs on a few occasions prior to him agreeing to join Cray Valley. Having known him during his secondary education there was never any doubt that we were signing a grounded person with an infectiously positive character.
Whilst clearly a talented player upon signing, I feel that he has improved in many aspects as a player since joining the club. This is due in part to some high quality coaching from Tom and Jamesy, but also because he has always been willing to listen, work hard and learn.
Few players would be able to have demonstrated the versatility he has shown in a variety of positions whilst always executing with high standards. We cannot put a value on his contributions and the importance of some of his goals.
He has been and remains an integral part of the club although his playlist before games still needs some development!! “

It seems that final comment applies not exclusively to Babs so I’m told……….

Updated stats: May2022
Total Apps 137 Goals 43
Season 2021/22 Appearances 41 Goals 6
Season 2020/21 Appearances 13 Goals 3 (covid)
Season 2019/20 Appearances 36 Goals 10 (covid)
Season 2018/19 Appearances 47 Goals 24

Update: After a short period recovering from injury at the start of the season Babs joined Phoenix Sports in September 2022. We wish him well.

Babs, pictured by Richard Green, the morning after the famous Maidenhead FA Cup victory surveying himself on the front cover of the Non League Paper.