Hendon Green & Gold 43 - Lubomir Guentchev

Greensnet Editor
Wed 19 Aug 2015, 09:53

Lubomir Guentchev was one of the reasons his father Bontcho played for Hendon. A few weeks after scoring for CSKA Sofia against Atletico Madrid in the 1998-99 UEFA Cup, Bontcho decided to return to Cricklewood, where his wife Sophia and sons Iavor and Lubo lived, as the boys were at a Premier League football club's academy. Lubo went to Ipswich Town to be part of their academy, and made three appearances out on loan at Lowestoft Town as a teenager. It didn't work out for him in Suffolk, or at FC Union in Berlin, so he returned to London, where he became a graphic design student.

The third Guentchev to make his debut (Iavor played in the last match of the previous season) Lubo's first Hendon game was as a substitute on the opening day of the 2007-08 season a goalless draw at Heybridge Swifts. A free-spirited footballer, the strict rigours of the Isthmian League meant he would often be used a substitute - indeed more than one-third of his career 166 appearances would be off the bench. But Lubo at full tilt was a joy to watch. A will-o-the-wisp midfielder, in days gone by he would have been an out-and-out winger, Lubo could beat defenders inside or outside, and he had a knack for spectacular goals.

Bontcho was back at Hendon as a player-coach, so most team-sheets contained at least one member of the Guentchev family during the 2007-08 season. The three never actually played a competitive match together, but it could not have been closer. In the Hendon vs Chelmsford City match on 12 April 2008 (Kezie Ibe was in the Clarets' line-up), Lubo started in the Greens' 2-1 victory, and Iavor replaced Ben Hudell for the final 15 minutes. As the game moved into stoppage time, Bontcho stood on the touchline waiting for the ball to go out of play. It didn't and the final whistle went before Bontcho made what would have been his only appearance of the season.

The following season must have been frustrating for Lubo because although he appeared in 31 League matches, he was a substitute 21 times and only 19 of his 44 appearances came as a starter. It was also Lubo's least prolific season in terms of goalscoring, netting just three times. It should have been four goals, however, because he should also have had the honour of scoring Hendon's last ever goal at Claremont Road. He applied the final touch to a Dave Diedhiou cross in the game against Wealdstone on 20 September 2008, but an errant assistant referee's flag - Lubo had been three or four yards behind the crosser when the ball was played across the six yard box - ruled out the goal. Hendon ended the 2008-09 campaign in the London Senior Cup final against Croydon Athletic at Kingsmeadow Stadium, and although he didn't get on during the 120 minutes, Lubo still picked up a winners medal after the Greens won 3–1 on penalties.

Fast forward 12 months and Lubo scored what was probably his finest Hendon goal in the season-ending 3-2 victory over AFC Hornchurch at Vale Farm. His lob from an acute angled sailed 15-20 feet over Darren Behcet;s head, bounced on the goalline and rose into the roof of the net. It was an outrageous piece of skill. And it wasn't the first time Lubo had picked on AFC Hornchurch because, in the reverse fixture at Bridge Avenue, he had scored a spectacular hat-trick in a pulsating 4-4 draw. The goal at Vale Farm was his ninth goal of the season, but he appeared in less than two-thirds of Hendon's matches and had a strike-rate better than one-in-four.

Lubo would have bettered his career best marks for Hendon if he had stayed for the whole of the 2010–11 season. Matching his career highs of 44 appearances and nine goals, Lowestoft Town signed him just before the transfer deadline in late March. Lubo's final Hendon game was away at Folkestone Invicta, when he replaced Diedhiou for the final 20-odd minutes. It should also be noted that he came on with Hendon trailing 1=0, but he and Darren Currie made a massive difference as the Greens rallied to win 2-1. It also says an awful lot for Lubo that, despite having already signed for the Trawlerboys, he still went down to Thamesmead when Hendon won a London Senior Cup tie later in the week tie to say goodbye to his former team-mates. Lubo spent just over a year in Suffolk before returning home to Bulgaria.

Joined Hendon: Summer 2007. Left Hendon: March 2011
Appearances: 166 (109 starts, 57 as substitute). Goals: 29
Winners medal won: London Senior Cup: 2008-09

The 44th entry in the series - Tony Jennings - was posted earlier in the summer as a tribute following his death.