|Full name||Guildford City Football Club|
|Nickname(s)||The Sweeney, The City|
|Founded||originally in 1921 (as Guildford United); re-formed in 1996 (as A.F.C. Guildford)|
|Ground||Spectrum Football Ground, Guildford
Division One Central
Division One Central, 9th
Guildford City Football Club (formerly Guildford United and AFC Guildford) is a football club based in Guildford, Surrey, England. The club was originally established in 1921, folded in 1974 and were reformed in 1996. Guildford City currently play in the Southern League Division One Central.
1921 – Second World War
The first club in the town was amateur side Guildford, formed in 1877 and known as the “Pinks”. They played home matches at the Woodbridge Road Sports Ground. A successful start led to a number of people mooting a new professional club and by the end of 1920 Guildford United was formed. In May 1921 they were accepted into the Southern League, the equivalent of the Conference League today. At the same time land had been purchased in Joseph’s Road and “United” were able to kick-off the 1921-22 season with a home game against Reading Reserves. Playing in green and white the hosts won 2-0 with a crowd of over 5,000 spectators.
1927 saw the coming of Guildford as a Diocese and with it the building of a Cathedral. It was believed that Guildford would become a city so the Club changed its name and the “City” was born. At this time they also changed the colours to red and white stripes.
Although they had little early success in the League, the FA Cup bought a taste of glory in 1928-29 when, having battled through the qualifying rounds, they beat Queens Park Rangers 4-2 in the First Round Proper and in front of a crowd of nearly 8,000.
Despite excellent gates the Club was facing a financial crisis at the end of the season – this was to be a recurrent theme throughout the Club’s history. At the start of the 1936/37 season the Club made the massive decision to turn full-time professional, appointing Haydn Green as manager. That season they finished 4th but next season things got even better.
1937/38 saw victory over Reading in the FA Cup but in the League they won 22 of their 34 games to finish as Champions for the first time. That feat was nearly repeated the following year, with City finishing runners-up to Colchester United by one point, scoring 126 goals in the process. Indeed the League game at home to Colchester on Easter Monday saw City win 3-1 in front of the highest crowd ever for a League game at Joseph’s Road 9,443. Earlier that season City had attracted an even bigger crowd to Joseph’s Road for an FA Cup 1st Round Replay against local rivals Aldershot. 9,932 saw City lose a nail-biting game 4-3.
This successful period was brought to a premature conclusion by the outbreak of the Second World War.
Second World War – 1974
The ground had been used by the Army during the War and it wasn’t until 1946/47 that City re-entered the Southern League – this time as a part-time club. In 1950/51 the team reached the final of the Southern League Cup for the first time, losing to Merthyr Tydfil despite winning the first leg.
The 1951/52 season saw the longest trip ever undertaken by the City when they were drawn away to Gateshead in the 2nd Round of the FA Cup. An estimated 5,000 supporters made the overnight trip to the North East of England in December. A 15,000 crowd saw City dominate the game but lose 2-0. In debt again, City sold Jimmy Langley to Leeds for £2,000 – who eventually joined Fulham and earned three England international caps.
Archie Macaulay was brought in as player-manager in 1953 and he started building a side that would win the title in 1955/56. However, he left before the end of the season leaving Bill Thompson to take over and lead the side to the championship. In 1958/59 the League expanded and was regionalised. City were in the South Eastern zone and could only finish 15th out of 17.
For 1959 the League was revised again, this time to a Premier and First Division. City’s miserable time the year before meant they started in the lower division. Albert Tennant, who had been a coach at Chelsea, took charge and he led City to promotion. In the 1962/63 season they lifted the Southern League Cup for the first time, beating Nuneaton Borough 2-1 on aggregate over two legs.
Despite this success by the summer of 1965 it seemed that finance was again a major problem at the Club. A strict budget left the club short of players, resulting in a disappointing 16th place finish, although they did manage to reach the final of the Southern League Cup again. They went on better the next year, winning the Southern League Cup with a 2-1 aggregate success over Barnet.
1967/68 saw a notable FA Cup run. Drawn away to Brentford the City were leading 2-1 when the match was abandoned during the second half because of snow. A second trip to Griffin Park ended with a 2-2 draw and meant a replay at Joseph’s Road in front of 7,500 fans who roared City to a famous 2-1 victory. Goalkeeper Peter Vasper was sold to Norwich City for £5000 and it was thought that this might ease the Club’s financial problems but they were worse than many had realised. The following season saw the end of Albert Tennant’s nine year reign and the Club was relegated.
In 1969/70 Joseph’s Road was sold to signal the beginning of the end for the Club. The following year they reached the second round of the FA Cup but the inevitable was only being delayed and although in 1972/73 the Club again reached the first round of the FA Cup (a visit to Watford ended with a 4-2 defeat), they could only finish 18th in the League. Crowds of 4,000 were needed to break even but barely a quarter of that was achieved at most games.
1973/74 saw a new board of directors in place with Bill Bellerby elected President (recently elected as Patron of the new club) and Club stalwart Darby Watts as player manager. Despite the best efforts of Mr Bellerby and the long standing Chairman of the Supporters’ Club John Daborn, it was soon announced that the Club was to merge with Dorking and play at Meadowbank. The final game at Joseph’s Road was played on 12 February 1974 when the City beat Folkestone 2-0 in front of 625 fans. After 53 years senior football at Joseph’s Road had come to an end.
Rebirth in 1996
In 1996 Bill Bellerby, then Mayor of Guildford, enquired as to whether Burpham FC would be prepared to move to the Spectrum Leisure Centre and represent Guildford. Spectrum provided a venue which had the potential for development into senior football and already had floodlighting.
AFC Guildford played in the Surrey Premier League, which eventually became Division One of the Combined Counties League. In 2003/04 AFC Guildford were crowned champions of Division One and gained their first ever major honour.
Promotion was obtained into the Combined Counties Premier Division, ground-sharing with Cranleigh FC while Spectrum was upgraded to an acceptable standard. In early November 2004, AFC Guildford returned to their home ground near to the town centre.
In 2005 the club changed its name to Guildford United, but quickly acquired the name of Guildford City. The once famous name had returned to senior football after an absence of over 30 years.
The club finished second bottom in 2006/07 yet the following season secured a runner-up finish in the Combined Counties Premier League under Scott Steele and Lloyd Wye.
Kevin Rayner, and his assistant Roly Martin, took charge in 2009. After escaping relegation and undergoing a season of improvement, 2011/12 saw the club's furthest progress in the FA Cup and Vase to date, but better was to come when the side clinched the Combined Counties Premier Division trophy. The success was bitter sweet however, as the club's promotion was controversially denied due to Spectrum failing a ground grading inspection.
Rayner's side cantered to the league title once again the following year and this time took their place in the Southern League Division One Central. On 8 May 2013, having guided City to a ninth place finish in the new club's inaugural Southern League season, Kevin Rayner departed the club to manage Chipstead.
Guildford City play their home games at The Spectrum, Parkway, Guildford, Surrey, GU1 1UP.
The question of where Guildford United would play their home games figured largely when discussions began about setting up a professional football club in Guildford in 1920. Guildford FC, 'The Pinks', played their matches at the Woodbridge Road Sports Ground and some suggested a groundshare agreement could be negotiated. Most, however, agreed the club should have a ground of its own.
Eventually an approach was made to Mr W. Triggs Turner who owned land in Guildford, and he made a very generous offer. Not only was he prepared to support the project, but he interested himself personally in the formation of the new club, and granted a loan to acquire the Joseph's Road ground. Mr Triggs Turner later set the seal on his generosity by wiping off the mortgage, and when the club came into being he was elected the first chairman of the directors.
The original Guildford City spent their entire existence at Joseph's Road, before it was sold for development in 1974. The ground had a capacity of around 10,000, the record attendance being 9,932 for an FA Cup replay against Aldershot in the 1938/39 season.
Initially Spectrum Leisure Centre was an extremely basic ground but following City's promotion to the CCL Premier League in 2003/04 it was upgraded to meet the requirements of the division – a covered stand with 135 seats, a new officials changing room and toilets for public use being built. City used Cranleigh's ground while these changes were being made.
Further improvements were made in 2011 and 2013 to meet requirements for Step 4 football, including extra seating, a covered terrace and hard standing around two further sides of the pitch. The record attendance was set on 8 September 2012 when the visit of Kingstonian in the FA Cup First Qualifying Round drew a crowd of 295 spectators. The club is keen to relocate from the ground however, and has pursued various options including groundsharing with Woking and joining community regeneration projects - none of which has yet come to fruition.
Note: Flags indicate national team as has been defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.
Notable former players
- Bill Adams
- Leslie Adlam
- Sid Bishop
- Jim Brown
- Johnny Byrne
- Sid Castle
- David Cliss
- Daniel Oswin
- Ray Drinkwater
- Terry Dyson
- Bert Goodman
- Jackie Graham
- Harry Haslam
- Paddy Hasty
- Billy Hodgson
- George Horsfall
- David Howells
- Matt Jarvis
- Tommy Jones
- Peter Kavanagh
- George Keith (footballer)
- Jim Langley
- Ken Nicholas
- Gary Peters
- James Phizacklea
- Charlie Rance
- William Robb
- Bill Thompson
- Cyril Toulose
- Southern League Premier Division
- Southern League Division One
- Champions 1970–71
- Combined Counties League Premier Division
- Champions, 2010–11, 2011–12
- Best FA Cup performance: Second Round proper 1928–29, 1937–38, 1951–52, 1965–66, 1967–68, 1971–72; Second Qualifying Round 2010-11
- Best FA Trophy performance: Second Round proper 1973–74
- Best FA Vase performance: Fourth Round proper, 2010–11
- Record Attendance: (FA Cup) 9,932 versus Aldershot on 3 December 1938; 295 versus Kingstonian on 8 September 2012; (League) 9,443 versus Colchester United on 12 April 1939; 239 versus Godalming Town on 1 April 2013
- Most Appearances: 632 (Darby Watts - 1961-74)
- Most goals in a season: 72 (Jock Thom)
- Most goals in a match: 7 (Jim Brown versus Exeter Reserves on 14 December 1938)
The club has strong connections to German football club Freiburger FC, with Freiburg im Breisgau being a sister city of Guildford, and publishes news and results of the later club on its website, just as Freiburg does for City. The club is also linked to Havnar Bóltfelag from the Faroe Islands.
The 2011/2012 season also brought success for Guildford City's under 18 youth team as it completed the league and cup double in the Surrey Youth League. Having struggled for success in previous seasons, a strengthened squad won the league title for the first time in its history, losing only one game.
Notes and references
- "Club history", Guildford City FC, 2012-09-19. Retrieved on 2012-09-19.
- "Results archive", Guildford City FC, 2012-09-19. Retrieved on 2012-09-19.
- Archer, Bruce. "Guildford City 0 - 3 Kingstonian", Guildford City FC, 2012-09-08. Retrieved on 2012-09-19.
- Dyke, Chris. "City move is on the cards", Surrey Advertiser, 2008-05-02. Retrieved on 2008-10-18.
- Dyke, Chris. " "Guildford City seek new home", Surrey Advertiser, 2010-02-12. Retrieved on 2010-06-15.
- Dyke, Chris. "No Slyfield move for Guildford City", Surrey Advertiser, 2011-09-21. Retrieved on 2011-10-26.
- Guildford City FFC website, accessed: 23 September 2011
- Partner clubs Guildford City F.C. website, accessed: 23 September 2011