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Epsom & Ewell F.C. Club History 1918 – 2021
We were founded in March 1918 as Epsom Juniors Cricket Club and played throughout the summer. In the autumn, Epsom Juniors F.C. came into being and played a handful of games from what is now known as Alexandra Recreation Ground. Competitive football followed as we entered the Surrey Junior League in 1919, and became founder members of the Sutton & District League in 1920.
A change of name in July 1922 to Epsom Town F.C. heralded the start of a very successful era. By now resident at the Horton Hospital Sports Ground, we were unfortunate to lose 2-1 after extra time at Dorking F.C.’s Pixham Lane ground to Caterham Mental Hospital in a replay of the Surrey Junior Cup Final. However, we won three other trophies that season, the Leatherhead Hospital Shield, the Sutton Hospital Cup, and the Epsom Hospital Cup. In addition, we also won the Sutton & District League, and under the forward-thinking of their visionary Chairman Hugh Bradley, took the step into Intermediate Football, where we won the Southern Suburban League without losing a match. Senior football was granted as we were unanimously accepted into the Surrey Senior League for 1924/25, where we finished third.
In September 1925, the club relocated to the old Ewell F.C. ground at West Street, which was purchased through the generosity of our future President Robert Bradshaw. In 1925/26 the Championship of the Surrey Senior League was attained, and the following season, we defeated Egham 1-0 at Egham in the League Charity Cup to complete a League and Cup “double”. Election to the London League followed, and the title was claimed in the first attempt in 1927/28. Unfortunately, we were unable to repeat this, instead of finishing runners-up in 1931/32, 1932/33, 1934/35, 1936/37 and 1937/38. Cup Honours were limited, although in 1929 Redhill defeated us 3-2 in front of 4,600 at Guildford in our first Surrey Senior Cup Final, having seen off Wimbledon 4-1 in the semi-final!
The thirties were a very successful era, and we won the Surrey Charity (Senior) Shield in 1933 with an impressive 5-0 win over Woking at Kingfield. However, the proudest moment of our pre-war history was an appearance in the First Round Proper of the F.A.Cup in 1933/34. Woking (after a replay), Nunhead, Tooting & Mitcham, Beddington Corner, and Leytonstone were defeated, and a crowd of 9,485 at the Lea Bridge Speedway Stadium witnessed a 4-2 loss against the hosts Clapton Orient. At the end of that season, we changed our name to Epsom F.C.
In 1939 a newly formed team, Epsom Town (no connection to the earlier name) shared the ground with Epsom F.C. However, this arrangement was suspended when war was declared, and we folded for the duration. In the meantime, Club Chairman Charles Pettett threw in his lot with Epsom Town in an attempt to boost morale by keeping the football flag flying. It was successful, as that club competed continuously throughout the war years, winning the Surrey Combination in 1939/40, and reaching the Surrey Senior Cup Final in 1944, losing 3-1 to Tooting & Mitcham, at Sandy Lane. After the war, Epsom F.C. restarted, continuing in the London League and reclaimed West Street. Temporary homes were found for Epsom Town while they competed for a season in the newly created Corinthian League, but disbanded in 1946.
In 1949 we entered the Corinthian League ourselves, wherein in 1952 we reached the League Memorial Shield Final 1952, going down 2-1 to Champions Hounslow at Eastbourne after leading at half-time. Things improved further with the signing of the former English Amateur International Pat Lynch from Hendon, finishing third in 1952/53, while in 1954 we reached the Surrey Senior Cup Final for the second time in our history, losing unluckily 2-0 to Corinthian-Casuals in front of 6,159 at Selhurst Park. In 1955 we won the Surrey Senior Shield with a 1-0 win over Carshalton Athletic at West Street.
We appointed our first ever Manager, Kingstonian legend Doug Whitehead in 1955 and the Corinthian League double was almost achieved in 1956/57, but two losses in the final week, along with a 2-0 defeat in the Cup Final to Maidenhead United at Dorking ensured that we ended with neither, finishing fourth. However, in 1960, we finally raised the Shield with a 2-0 revenge win over Maidenhead at Vale Farm, home of Wembley F.C.
In 1960 we changed our name once again to Epsom & Ewell F.C. This was not because of any merger with Ewell & Stoneleigh as is often quoted, but was an attempt to increase support across the whole of the Borough. In 1963 the Corinthian League merged with the Athenian and Delphian Leagues, and we were placed in Division One of the new structure, but the sixties were full of poor results and we were relegated in 1965.
Despite a string of managers, most notably ex-Leyton Orient winger Jimmy Smith, and Tony Williams, now famous for his creation of the F.A. Yearbooks, our fortunes did not improve significantly and further relegations were avoided in the early seventies by the benefit of re-election. However in 1973, despite “improving” to finish second from bottom, the Athenian League ran out of patience and cut us loose. This was unfortunate timing as we had just cleared all of our debts, and in addition to a virtually new Committee, former Fulham player Pat O’Connell had taken over as Manager.
The Surrey Senior League took us in at the last minute, and the new squad, including young striker Tommy Tuite, won the League Cup, and the following season, 1974/75 achieved a second Surrey Senior League “double”. However, the season would always be remembered for reaching the Final of the inaugural F.A. Vase, where 9,500 saw the Blues edged out 2-1 by Hoddesdon Town at Wembley Stadium. The Athenian League welcomed us back, and promotion was achieved in that first season. In 1976/77 we reached the Athenian League Cup Final, losing 1-0 at Chalfont St Peter.
By then, we knew that we had been invited to join the expanding Isthmian League for 1977/78, and were placed in the new Division Two. Our first match under floodlights took place against Met Police in August 1977, and the title was clinched the following April, securing a move to Division One. In 1979/80 we won the Southern Combination Cup 7-2 over Hampton on their pitch, where the opposition was blitzed by five goals from Tuite. The following season a new clubhouse opened at West Street, and we finally won the Surrey Senior Cup in 1981, defeating Woking 2-1 at Tooting & Mitcham, although we just missed out on promotion. O’Connell resigned in 1982, being replaced by Adrian Hill and in 1983/84 we clinched a spot in the Premier Division as runners-up, although this time we missed out in the Surrey Senior Cup, defeated 4-0 by Sutton United in the Final at Imber Court.
We survived comfortably in our first season at the Isthmian Premier, but Hill’s departure to Croydon in 1985 started a decline. Much of the squad left with Hill, and new Manager Alan Webb had too much to do. We were relegated in 1986, and also in 1987, by now under the Management of Ricky Kidd. Adrian Hill replaced Kidd for a second spell at the helm in 1990, but we were placed in the new Division Three in 1991 in league reorganisation following a finish one position below the required halfway mark.
In 1993 a large chapter in our history ended as we left West Street and moved in as tenants of Banstead Athletic. The decade was largely one of frustration, although we did reach the Final of the Associate Members Trophy in 1998, losing 2-0 to Bedford Town at Hendon’s old Claremont Road ground.
In 2002 Adrian Hill took us back up to the newly created Division 1 South, where we topped the table for a month, eventually finishing 9th, but Hill’s retirement at the end of the season led to relegation a year later and then in 2006 we were transferred into the Combined Counties League Premier Division. In October 2006 Lyndon Buckwell, a former player became our new Manager, and in his first full season (2007/08) we were back in the top ten. In 2008/09 we exceeded this achievement and finished in fourth place after heading the table for a few months. In 2009/10 the club recovered from a slow start to finish fifth and also reached the last 32 of the F.A.Vase for the first time in 21 years, bowing out 3-2 in Northamptonshire to Long Buckby. In April of 2010, we terminated our seventeen-year ground-sharing agreement with Banstead Athletic and spent two unspectacular seasons at Merstham F.C. before relocating to High Road, home of Chipstead F.C. for the 2012/13 season, where we would spend eight seasons.
The season brought significant playing success as a slow start was followed by a spectacular run of form, including a club record of 12 straight league wins, which put us at the top of the table for over a month, before a tricky run-in resulted in a final position of fifth. However, any disappointment there was tempered by the club’s first silverware since 1981 when we defeated South Park 3-0 at Farnborough to win the Combined Counties League Cup. On a sadder note, 2012/13 also marked one thousand games since we left West Street.
We carried our form into 2013/14 and led the league with eight straight wins, but couldn’t hold on and had to settle for third place, our highest league finish since 1984, but the following September Lyndon Buckwell departed and Glyn Mandeville and new Assistant Matt Smith steered the club to seventh place and improved this to fourth in 2015/16.
In the summer of 2016, our club visited France and played a friendly against our twin town Chantilly, which was where the England team had been based before their Euro 2016 campaign. The players were able to meet Roy Hodgson and Gary Neville and performed admirably as ambassadors for our town.
In 2016/17 we started the season with an incredible 9-2 win at newly-promoted Bedfont & despite trailing 2-0 at halftime and went on to repeat our fourth-place finish in the League. In addition, we reached the League Cup Final but were defeated 4-1 by Westfield at Windsor FC.
However, in the summer of 2017, we suffered a large player exodus with a substantial number joining local rivals Sutton Common Rovers. Glyn was unable to replace them with enough players of real quality and three-quarters of the season were spent at the foot of the table. His resignation in January 2018 led to the club promoting our Coach Neil Grant into the Manager’s role and although he managed to get us off the foot of the table, relegation was always likely and was confirmed in mid-April; not a great way to celebrate our Centenary!
The attempts at bouncing straight back did not start particularly well and Grant departed in October. He was replaced by Simon Funnell, who stepped up from his Assistant role and took us to the Division One League Cup Final at Meadowbank. Unfortunately, the new season of 2019/20 started poorly and Funnell resigned at Christmas. His Assistant Sam Morgan was appointed to the role and with his new Assistant Tim Moffatt, they oversaw an undefeated league run that took us up to the abandonment of the season.
The 2020/21 season commenced with another ground move, this time to Leatherhead’s Fetcham Grove ground, although another seasonal curtailment left us in seventh place and we remained at Step Six, being transferred to the Southern Combination for the new season.
Meanwhile, the search continues for a new ground back in the Borough…..