WEALDSTONE FOOTBALL CLUB
Wealdstone Football Club as we know it today was, it is generally agreed, founded at the beginning of the 1899/1900 season. The Club competed in Division 2 of the Willesden & District League and the following season (1900/01) finished sixth in Division 1. Success came the way of Wealdstone in the 1905/06 season, the Club becoming champions of the first division of the Willesden & District League. This success was short-lived, the club becoming defunct for a period and was then completely reformed for the 1908/09 season and took its place once more in the Willesden & District League (Division 1), finishing the season in fifth place and becoming champions of that league during the 1912/13 season.
The Club closed down for the duration of the First World War (1914-1918) and when football got underway again in 1919/20, Wealdstone entered the London League and the Middlesex Senior League. A new ground called Lower Mead, situated between Harrow and Wealdstone town centres was ready for the 1922/23 season, the Club having previously played at College Farm Ground, Locket Road, Wealdstone (1903-1910) and Belmont Road, Wealdstone either side of the First World War. At the time of moving to Lower Mead the Club joined the Spartan League, spending six seasons in that league before joining the Athenian League for the 1928/29 season.
Wealdstone’s biggest ever win was achieved during an FA Amateur Cup tie on 13th October 1923 against The 12th London Regiment (The Rangers), the final score being 22-0. Claude Mason scored seven of the goals to establish a new goal scoring record for a Wealdstone player in one game. Three years later Bob Tansley equalled this record when he hit seven against Hertford Town in a Spartan League match on Christmas Day 1926. By winning this game 16-2 Wealdstone established what is still their biggest winning margin in a league match.
The 1929/30 season saw the Middlesex Senior Challenge Cup and Middlesex Senior Charity Cup won for the first time. Altogether Wealdstone have won each trophy eleven times plus sharing the Charity Cup with Wembley on two other occasions. In June 1942 Wealdstone met RAF (Uxbridge) at Wembley Stadium in the final of the Middlesex Senior Red Cross Cup. Their opponents included nine professional Football League players but it was the Stones who won the cup, 5-2 after extra time.
In December 1944 Wealdstone suffered their heaviest defeat to date, going down 14-0 to Edgware Town in a London Senior Cup tie. In October 1946 the Club was involved in the first televised football match, the BBC showing part of their Athenian League match at Barnet. Wealdstone also took part in the first two “live” FA Cup ties ever to be seen by viewers when the whole of their victories over Edgware Town and Colchester United were televised by the BBC in November 1949. Later that month Wealdstone met a Football League side in the FA Cup for the first time when they were beaten 1-0 at Port Vale in the First Round Proper. In 1951/52 the Club won the Athenian League, the only time they were champions of that league since joining in 1928. In 1964 the Club left the Athenian League and joined the Isthmian League for the first time. Two years later they beat fellow Isthmian’s Hendon 3-1 in the FA Amateur Cup final at Wembley Stadium to bring the trophy to Lower Mead for the first and only time.
In 1971 Wealdstone left the ranks of amateur football and turned professional, joining the Southern League. Since then four major league championships have been won by the first team as well as five cup competitions, but against that they have also suffered three relegations. The first league championship won during this period was the Southern League (First Division South) in 1973/74, resulting in promotion to the Premier Division where they spent five seasons before becoming one of the founder members of what is now the Football Conference. During the 1977/78 season Wealdstone reached the Third Round Proper of the FA Cup for the only time to date. Two Football League clubs were beaten in the First and Second Rounds, Hereford United and Reading. In the Third Round Wealdstone lost 4-0 at Loftus Road against Queens Park Rangers who were in what was then the top division of English football, the old First Division. Later that season Wealdstone played in the Anglo-Italian Tournament. A 4-2 victory over Paganese was followed by a 1-0 defeat against Udinese, the eventual winners of the tournament, both these matches taking place at Lower Mead. The Club then visited Italy only to lose 1-0 at Reggiana and 2-0 at Arezzo.
Wealdstone were relegated for the first time in the Club’s history in 1980/81 but the following season they won all five trophies on offer in the Southern League to return to the Conference at the first attempt. The 1984/85 season was to be the Club’s most successful when they became the first of only three clubs so far to achieve the non-league “double”, winning the Football Conference and FA Trophy in the same season. Colchester United (1992) and Wycombe Wanderers (1993) are the other two, now respectively playing in Division One and Division Two of the Football League. To complete a “treble”, Wealdstone also won the 1984/85 Middlesex Senior Challenge Cup beating Enfield in the final at Hendon FC. Since then the Club has been relegated on two further occasions, dropping from the Football Conference to the Southern League (Premier Division) in 1988 and down into the Southern League (Southern Division) in 1992.
Unfortunately at the end of the 1990/91 season the Club had to sell their Lower Mead home in order to stay in existence. The company handling the sale of Lower Mead went into liquidation and, after lengthy court proceedings, the Club received only a fraction of the sum Tesco’s had paid for the ground. An agreement was entered into with Watford FC to share the lease on their Vicarage Road ground and the 1991/92 season was to become the first of seventeen seasons ground sharing with another club. Their stay at Vicarage Road lasted for just two seasons before the Club decided to move out and for the 1993/94 & 1994/95 seasons Wealdstone ground shared at Yeading FC.
The 1995/96 season began a new era for the Club as they left the Southern League and re-joined the Isthmian League which they had last played in in 1971. They also changed grounds once again, moving in with Edgware Town FC who had agreed to share facilities at their White Lion Ground. Wealdstone had to start at the bottom of the Isthmian League (effectively demoting themselves two divisions) but in their first season they just failed to gain promotion finishing fourth in Division Three. The following season (1996/97) Wealdstone won the Division Three championship and in 1997/98 they made it two promotions in successive seasons when finishing third in Division Two. The Club should have been promoted for a third season running in 1998/99 after finishing third in Division One. However, a couple of ground improvements required at Edgware to obtain the necessary “A” grading for promotion to the Premier Division were not completed until six days after the April 1st deadline, resulting in the League denying Wealdstone their deserved promotion. The Club eventually gained promotion to the Premier Division at the end of the 2003/04 season after meeting Dulwich Hamlet in a promotion play-off encounter at their Champion Hill ground. With the scores level at 2-2 after extra time, a penalty shoot-out was needed; Wealdstone scoring five to their host’s four.
Back in the Ryman Premier Division for the 2004/05 season it proved to be the last of ten years ground sharing with Edgware Town. For the 2005/06 season Wealdstone started a three year agreement with Northwood FC to play first team matches at their Chestnut Avenue ground. Life in the Premier was challenging with the club flirting with relegation, the 2006/07 season saw the Club playing in the Southern League where it was more of the same. The Club was moved back into the Ryman Premier League for the 2007/08 and it was in January 2008 the Club had the opportunity to take over the Grosvenor Vale site, then the home of Ruislip Manor FC. A consortium of senior members of Wealdstone FC acquired a majority shareholding in Ruislip Manor Sports and Social Club, the sports club that owned the lease to the football stadium and associated facilities across the 12 acre site. A dedicated band of supporters worked extremely hard to bring the stadium up to the standard required by the Isthmian League so that, from the start of the 2008/09 season, Wealdstone once again had a ground and clubhouse they could call their own.
Successive seasons at The Vale have seen the Club proposer both on and off the field, the 2010/11 season saw the Club achieve a 4th place finish in the League, but they were then beaten in the play-offs 2-1 away to Lowestoft Town. They also reached the semi-final of the FA Trophy having accounted for a number of Conference National (Barrow, Dartford & Cambridge Utd) sides on their journey before bowing out over the 2 legged semi-final to Newport County, they also reached the final of the Middlesex Senior Cup before losing out to Hampton & Richmond Borough. The 2012/13 again saw the Club challenging for promotion and again missing out via the play-offs this time to Concord Rangers. However the 2013/14 saw the Stones finally achieve promotion when they won the Ryman Premier League sealing the Championship with a hard fought 1-0 away win at Margate on the 15th Apr 14 with the winning the goal coming courtesy of youngster Charlie Penny who had recently joined the Club on loan from Millwall.
Thus Stones found themselves back in the ‘Conference’ structure (the newly-named Vanarama Conference South) for the first time since relegation from the GM Vauxhall Conference some 27 years earlier. And it was a tricky learning curve for the Ryman Premier League champions who had to wait until their 10th game before clocking up a first win, 1-0 at Whitehawk. Gordon Bartlett was busily strengthening his team and a run of eleven games unbeaten around the turn of the year saw the Stones pull away from the lower reaches of the table – and indeed climb into the top half briefly. Notable wins at Bath City (1-0), St Albans (3-1), Basingstoke (4-2), Farnborough (4-1) and on the last day at Maidenhead (4-1) saw Wealdstone finish a creditable 12th on limited resources.
The Stones’ second season back in the now re-named Vanarama National League South saw another slow start – just one win in seven in August – until results again gathered pace through an autumn that saw the team avoid defeat throughout September and October. A whole series of tricky FA Cup ties (including a final qualifying round win over Bognor Regis Town that featured two remarkable penalty saves from Stones keeper Jonathan North) were negotiated to set up a home First Round tie with League One side Colchester United, the club’s first appearance in the competition ‘proper’ for seven years and only the second since 1987. The BBC’s Football Focus crew descended on the Vale adding to a memorable day with the Stones holding the League side at 2-2 at the break, the second period saw the visitors score a further 4 goals without reply to run out 6-2 winners and an eventual meeting with Tottenham Hotspur in the 3rd Round.
The league campaign was hampered by a remarkable sequence of draws and the team finished 13th when a single extra goal in so many games would have ensured a place in the play-offs.
The summer of 2016 saw former Accrington Stanley Chairman Peter Marsden (who grew up in Harrow) take over as chairman with former St Albans City chairman Nick Archer joining him as vice-chair. Boss Gordon Bartlett had a summer overhaul of players with several established and experienced non-league names joining the playing squad. However, some teething problems in the first half of the season and a series of injuries and poor results dented progress. The club had good runs in the FA Cup and FA Trophy; they eventually lost to then National League Premier leaders Dagenham & Redbridge in the 4th Qualifying Round of the cup and saw off eventual National League South champions Maidenhead United and National League Premier side Southport in the Trophy before a surprising 4-1 defeat at the hands of Brackley Town at The Vale in the 3rd Round. The Brackley result proved to be a turning point as the Stones were defeated just twice in their final 22 games of the season taking them from 14th to narrowly missing the play-offs in 8th and also to the Middlesex Senior and Charity Cup finals.
A club record which still stands to this day is held by Charlie Townsend who played for Wealdstone during their amateur days. He is the only player ever to make 500 league & cup appearances in the first team, his final game for the Stones in 1971 being his 514th. Viv Evans holds the record for the most goals scored by a Wealdstone player during the amateur days, 216 between 1954 and 1969. Since the Club became semi-professional a new record has been set for the number of goals scored by one player during his time with Wealdstone. This was achieved by George Duck who scored a total of 251 between 1972 and 1979.
Several well-known names in non-league circles have managed the Club over the years, but the most successful have been Allen Batsford (1980-83), Brian Hall (1983-87 & 1990-92) and the present incumbent since 1995, Gordon Bartlett. There have been a number of players who have gone on to make the grade in the Football League, the two most famous being Stuart Pearce who joined Coventry City in 1983 and Vince (Vinny) Jones who joined Wimbledon three years later. Both players went on to represent England and Wales respectively in full Internationals.
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