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Welwyn Garden City

Home of the "Citizens" - Established 1921

FC

Herns Way, Panshanger, Welwyn Garden City, Herts, AL7 1TA

History of Welwyn Garden City Football Club

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Founded in 1921, when the town itself was in its infancy (the first house was completed in December 1920), Welwyn Garden City FC began by playing friendlies before being admitted to the Mid-Hertfordshire League (Division 2) for the 1922/23 season.

 

The club then moved to the Bedfordshire & District County League for one season - 1926/27 - (finishing 9th of 11 teams) before joining the Spartan League for season 1927/28, where we stayed until the end of the 1934/35 season

 

Our first outing in the FA Amateur Cup, 1926/27, saw us lose to Wood Green after a replay in the 1st Qualifying Round.

 

The following season the Club gained our first honour, winning the Hertfordshire FA Charity Shield, beating Hoddesdon Town 5-2.

 

We also entered the FA Cup for the first time, losing 7-4 away to Hampstead Town in the 1st Qualifying Round having previously knocked out Hitchin Blue Cross and Ware in the previous rounds.

 

Following a very successful 1934/35 season, where the club achieved its highest ever league position of 3rd place in the Division 2 East (out of 14 teams), the club was forced to resign as it couldn’t find a suitable ground on which to play.

 

The Club needed an enclosed ground to enable it to collect gate money, without which it was unable to cover running costs. As a consequence the club was wound up in July 1935 with debts of over £20.

 

This situation lasted until May 1937 when the facilities of Shredded Wheat FC were made available, which included a donation to help establish a new Welwyn Garden City team. This enabled the club to re-join the Spartan League for the 1937/38 season.

 

In common with all leagues, the Spartan League was suspended in August 1939 due to the war, the Club only playing one league fixture. For the remainder of the 1939/40 season the Club competed in the East, North & Mid-Hertfordshire Combination and then the Hertfordshire & Bedfordshire Combination until at a meeting held in August 1940 the club decided, “to carry on with the club with the present committee”.

 

The next recorded action on the pitch is from the 1944/45 season with the Club competing in the Mid-Hertfordshire League. Things returned to normality for the 1945/46 season with the Club once again competing in the Spartan League, where we remained until joining the London League for the 1950/51 season.

 

Our brief stay in the London League lasted until 1955 during which time - the 1954/55 season - we enjoyed our best run in the FA Amateur Cup when we reached the 3rd Qualifying Round, losing 6-0 away to Enfield having previously beaten Hoddesdon Town, Stanstead and Bishops Stortford (this run was equalled in the 1956/57 season when we were beaten by Bishops Stortford after a replay).

 

The Club re-joined the Spartan League in 1955, where we stayed until 1959.

 

At this time the Club were managed by Harry Hibbs, the former England goalkeeper (25 caps), Harry being one of two ex-internationals to be in charge of The Citizens, the other being Alex Massie who was capped North of the border.

 

In 1956 we were elected Associate Members of the Football Association.

 

The next stop was county football with a move to the Hertfordshire County League in 1959. The Club moved to its present home, Herns Way, in 1968 and staged our first fixture at senior level, against Knebworth in the Aubrey Cup, on the 16th November that year.

 

In 1970 the club joined the Greater London League and the following season was a founder member of the Metropolitan London League, where we remained for two seasons before joining the South Midlands League for the 1973/74 season – winning the Premier Division championship at the first attempt.

 

Here we stayed for 24 seasons – our longest uninterrupted period in one league to date.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During this time, in the 1974/75 season, we reached the final of the League Challenge Trophy, only to be beaten by Barton Rovers 3-1 on aggregate. 1976/77 saw us lose our top-flight status and there began a five-year battle to reclaim it.

 

During these First Division years the Club was to finish no lower than 5th and in 1981/82 - the league- winning year - the Club scored over 100 league goals on the way to the title.

 

In that league-topping year we also reached the final of the League Challenge Trophy but once again had to settle for runners-up, this time losing 3-0 on aggregate to Stotfold.

 

1984/85 brought about cup success at last, when under the management of John Sneddon we beat Pirton 2-0 to lift the first ever Hertfordshire FA Senior Centenary Trophy.

 

At the end of the season John Sneddon decided to call it a day and he was replaced in the close season by ex-Sudbury Court boss, Ray Sullivan, whose first task was to rebuild the side.

 

Twelve months later the Club finished runners-up, missing out on the title with some erratic form in the closing games.

 

In 1986/87 and 1987/88 the Club lifted the Hertfordshire FA Charity Shield, making us only the sixth team to retain the Shield. The close of the 1986/87 season also saw floodlights installed at the Herns Way ground. This was celebrated by a match versus Tottenham Hotspur.

 

In 1988/89 the Club gained a top six league finish along with an appearance in two cup-finals, the League Challenge Trophy and the Hertfordshire FA Senior Centenary Trophy. However these were both lost in the space of five days.

 

In 1996/97 the Club looked to local man Malcolm Doctor, who the previous year had guided City’s arch-rivals Hatfield Town to second place in the South Midlands League. Everyone at the Club was optimistic about glory days returning to Herns Way. Two cup-finals were reached, the League Challenge Trophy and the Southern Combination Cup, but once again we missed out at the final stage.

 

1997/98 saw the formation of the Spartan South Midlands League, with the Club joining the Premier North Division, finishing high enough (6th) to qualify for the Premier Division the following season.

 

In 1998, following the departure of Malcolm Doctor, the Club forged a link with near neighbours Stevenage Borough FC and strengthened our squad with Boro’s EFCO youngsters along with the management pairing of Dave Bullock and Bill Bannister.

 

However despite reaching the 3rd Qualifying Round of the FA Cup for the first time, losing 4-2 to Ford United after a 2-2 draw at Herns Way (the furthest the Club has ever progressed in the competition to date), the season collapsed midway through and with the break-up of the squad a battle with relegation followed.

 

1999/2000 saw a rebuilding process with former Somersett Ambury V & E boss Dave Steadman being appointed and being given the task of leading the Citizens into the new millennium.

 

However the Club’s downward trend continued and at the end of the 2000/01 season the Club was relegated into the First Division, thus ending one of the longest unbroken spells in the Premier Division.

 

Guillermo Ganet was appointed in 2002 with the task of restoring the glory days back to the Club and following two seasons steered the club back to the Premier Division.

 

The Club’s first season back saw us finish in a very creditable third place. However, the end of the campaign saw the manager and most of the playing squad depart for Berkhamsted Town.

 

Howard Cowley was given his chance in 2005/06; he brought a wealth of experience from not only the Spartan South Midlands League but also all divisions of the Ryman league.

 

During his tenure the team achieved a 19 game unbeaten run in all competitions and also equalled our best ever FA Cup run when losing narrowly 2-1 away to the then Conference South leaders Histon in the 3rd Qualifying Round.

 

The club also exceeded its best ever run in the FA Vase by reaching the 5th Round only for an administrative error to deny them the chance to go even further.

 

Players Joe Devera, Nick Brindley and Harry Hunt were offered contracts with Barnet FC and the season’s top scorer, Bradley Woods-Garness went to Conference side Farnborough Town.

 

2006/07 saw the club achieve fourth spot in the league, becoming the only side to beat eventual League and Cup champions Edgware Town at their White Lion ground whilst doing the double over local rivals Hertford Town with two fine victories.

 

Following the departure of Howard Cowley, a quick succession of managers tried to revive the fortunes of the club. However this did nothing to ensure success; in fact it had the opposite effect with relegation back to the First Division at the end of the 2009/10 campaign.

 

2010/11 saw the Club’s poor form continue, against a background of severe financial struggle which at one time threatened the survival of the Club. This wasn’t helped by having three managers during the season, Phil Read, Rob Pattwell and Simon Braine. The latter, with the help of assistant manager Adam Fisher, helped to steer the club away from potentially ruinous relegation. Adam then moved on to Barton Rovers FC as their Assistant Manager.

 

2012/13 saw Manager Scott O'Donoghue working alongside Pablo Ardiles as the Assistant Manager for the first team and Mark Slater running the reserves. Scott left at the end of the season and was replaced by Adam Fisher, assisted by former Citizen Richard Teixiera.

 

In his first season in charge in 2013/14, Adam, assisted by his back-room team of Richard Teixiera, Chris Benton and Leon Weller, led the Citizens to a highly creditable fourth place, having challenged for promotion until the final run-in. This position also won the club automatic qualification for the FA Cup for the first time in six seasons for the 2014/15 campaign.

 

A feature of the season was 51 goals from striker Jason Caswell, a new club record, outstripping Terry Hayes' previous best of 47 from the late 1980s. Caswell was ably assisted by strike partner Joel Norris, who scored 33 goals as the side topped 100 goals for the season.

 

The 2014/15 season will go down as one of the most memorable in the Club’s history.

 

In the second season under Adam Fisher, the Manager and his team delivered on their promise of 'promotion in two seasons' when they took over, by guiding the Club to a South Midlands League Division 1 league and cup double - the first major double in the Club's history.

 

We won the division title by seven points, ahead of FC Broxbourne Borough – who were promoted alongside Welwyn Garden City – and took the Division 1 Cup for the first time - thanks to a 2-0 final victory over Crawley Green at Langford FC. Joel Norris surpassed his 33 goals of the previous season by scoring 41 in the campaign and was deservedly voted player of the season by both the management and his fellow players. Team Captain Daryl Smith took the accolade as top choice among the club's supporters.

 

Following extensive ground improvements in time for the 2016/17 season, the Club now looks to the future full of confidence.

 

Acknowledgements:-

 

Our thanks for historical information go to: the Football Club History Database (FCHD), nonleaguematters.co.uk, ourwelwyngardencity.org.uk, Hertfordshire County Council Library and Archive Service (for allowing access to back copies of the Welwyn Hatfield Times and its forerunners) and the Football Association Archive.

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