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Epsom & Ewell Football Club
EEFC Team Photo - August 2005 Image courtesy of Epsom & Ewell Football Club
The Club was founded in March 1918 as Epsom Juniors Cricket Club and played throughout the summer. In the autumn, Epsom Juniors Football Club came into being and they played a handful of games on what is now known as the Alexandra Recreation Ground. Competitive football followed as the club entered the Surrey Junior League in 1919, and then became founder members of the Sutton and District League in 1920.
A change of name in July 1922 to Epsom Town Football Club heralded the start of a very successful era. By now resident at the Horton Hospital Sports Ground, they 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, they won three other trophies that season, the Leatherhead Hospital Shield, the Sutton Hospital Cup, and the Epsom Hospital Cup. In addition, the Club also won the Sutton and District League, and under the forward thinking of their Chairman, Hugh Bradley, they took the step forward into Intermediate Football, where they won the Southern Suburban League without losing a match. Senior football was granted the next season, as they were unanimously accepted into the Surrey Senior League for 1924/25, where they 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 the Club's future President Robert Bradshaw. In 1925/26 the Championship of the Surrey Senior League was attained, and the following season, they did the "double", defeating Egham 1-0 at Egham in the League Charity Cup. Election to the London League was next, and the title was claimed in the club's first season there in 1927/28. Unfortunately, they were unable to repeat this, although they would finish runners-up in 31/32, 32/33, 34/35, 36/37 and 37/38. Cup Honours were limited, although they lost 3-2 to Redhill in front of 4,600 at Guildford City in their first Surrey Senior Cup Final, having seen off Wimbledon 4-1 in the semi-final! The club also won the Surrey Charity (Senior) Shield in 1933 with an impressive 5-0 win over Woking at Kingfield.
Team Photo 1933 with SCS
However, the proudest moment of the club's pre-war history was an appearance in the First Round Proper of the F.A.Cup in 1933/34. They defeated Woking (after a replay), Nunhead, Tooting & Mitcham, Beddington Corner, and Leytonstone, 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 the club changed its name to Epsom F.C. while in 1936 the closure of their Reserve team enabled the newly formed Ewell and Stoneleigh F.C to spend two years there ground sharing while in the Surrey Senior League, and local works team, Venners Sports, were tenants in the final completed pre-war season.
In 1939 a newly formed team, Epsom Town (no connection to the earlier team) entered the Surrey Senior League, and shared the ground with Epsom F.C. However, this arrangement was suspended when war was declared, and the parent club folded for the duration. In the meantime, Club Chairman Charles Pettett threw in his lot with Epsom Town in an attempt to maintain morale in the town by keeping the football flag flying. It was successful, as the club competed 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. started up again, continuing in the London League and reclaimed their ground, leaving Epsom Town homeless. Temporary homes were found at Kings College, Lavender Avenue, Mitcham, and then at the Old Halleyburians Rugby Ground in Ruxley Lane, as they competed for a season in the newly created Corinthian League, but disbanded at the end of the 1945/46 season.
In 1949 Epsom F.C. departed the London League, and entered the Corinthian League themselves, but despite a 3-2 win over two time Champions Walton & Hersham in their first home match, they would not win away in the League for nearly three years. They did reach the Corinthian Memorial Shield Final in 1952, going down 2-1 to Champions Hounslow at Eastbourne after leading at half-time. Things continued to improve with the signing of the famous ex-amateur International Pat Lynch from Hendon. The club achieved their highest ever placing of third in 1952/53, and in 1954 reached the Surrey Senior Cup Final for the third time in their history, losing unluckily 2-0 to Corinthian Casuals in front of 6,159 at Selhurst Park, and in 1955 they won the Surrey Senior Shield with a 1-0 win over Carshalton Athletic at West Street.
Team Photo 1955 with Surrey Senior Shield
There was a massive influx of new players in 1955 after the club appointed their first ever manager, the Kingstonian legend Doug Whitehead. The Corinthian League double was almost achieved in 1956/57, but two losses in the final week, along with defeat in the Cup Final 2-0 to Maidenhead United at Dorking, ensured that the club got neither, finishing only fourth. However in 1960, they finally got their hands on the Shield with a 2-0 revenge win over Maidenhead United at Vale Farm, home of Wembley F.C.. This was the last season with the club for veteran Ernie Watkins, who had played for the club for fifteen seasons since the end of the war. He would go on to play for eight more years at Banstead Athletic before retiring in 1968 aged 47!
In 1960 the club changed its name once again to Epsom & Ewell F.C. This was not because of any merger with Ewell & Stoneleigh as is often quoted, because they had folded in 1938! It 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 the club were placed in Division One of the new structure, but the 1960s were full of poor results, and in 1965 they were relegated. Despite a string of managers, most notably ex-Leyton Orient winger Jimmy Simth, and Tony Williams, now famous for his creation of the F.A. Yearbooks, the club's 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 finally ran out of patience and cut them loose.
This was unfortunate timing as the club had just cleared its debts, and in addition to a virtually new Committee, former Fulham player Pat O'Connell took over the reins. The Surrey Senior League took the club in at the last minute, and the new squad, including young striker Tommy Tuite, won the League Cup and the following season the club achieved their second Surrey Senior League "double". However, season 1974/75 would always be remembered for reaching the Final of the inaugaral F.A.Challenge Vase, where 9,500 saw the Blues edged out 2-1 by Hoddesdon Town at Wembley Stadium. The Athenian League welcomed them back, and despite losing Trevor Lee and Phil Walker to Millwall in November 1975 promotion was achieved, and the next season the club reached the Athenian League Cup Final, losing 1-0 to a late goal at Chalfont St Peter.
Team Photo 1975 22nd May with SSL trophy
Season 1977/78 saw many clubs invited to join the expanding Isthmian League, and Epsom & Ewell were placed in the new Division Two. Their first match under floodlights followed against Met Police, and the Championship was clinched the following April with the Police as runners-up. In 1979/80 the club won the Southern Combination Cup 7-2 at Hampton, where the hosts were blitzed by five goals from Tuite. The following season a new clubhouse was opened, and at the fourth attempt, Epsom & Ewell won the Surrey Senior Cup, defeating Woking 2-1 at Sandy Lane, home of Tooting & Mitcham. The club just missed out on promotion to the Premier Division that season, but in 1983/84, the club clinched promotion as runners-up, although this time they were defeated in the Surrey Senior Cup Final, 4-0 by Sutton United at Imber Court.
With Adrian Hill as manager since 1982, the club survived comfortably in its first season at the new level, but Hill's departure to Croydon in 1985 started a decline. Much of the squad also left with Hill, and new manager Alan Webb had too much to do. The club was relegated, and following Webb's departure in 1986, player manager Ricky Kidd nearly but not quite saved the club from its second straight relegation. Adrian Hill replaced Ricky Kidd for a second spell at the helm in 1990, but the club were placed in the new Division Three in 1991 after league reorganisation.
In 1993 the club sold West Street and moved in as tenants of Banstead Athletic where they remain to this day, while searching for a new ground back in the Borough. A couple of attempts almost came to fruition, at Banstead Road, and at the old Boiler House site, but the decade was largely one of frustration, although the Final of the Associate Members Trophy was reached, where Bedford Town edged them out 2-0 at Hendon's Claremont Road ground.
In 2002 Adrian Hill took us back up to 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. Two seasons in Division Two followed before it was disbanded in the F.A. reorganisation, and 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.
The season brought significant playing success as a slow start was followed by a spectacular run of form, including a club record twelve straight League wins, which put us at the top of the table for over a month before a tough run in resulted in a final position of fifth. However, any disappointment there was tempered by the club's first silverware since 1981 when they defeated South Park 3-0 at Farnborough to win the Combined Counties League Cup for the first time since 1975. Lyndon also marked 300 games in charge of the club in early 2013.
On a sadder note, 2012/13 also marked twenty years and one thousand games since we left West Street. We continue at High Road for the 2013/14 season, but meanwhile, the search continues for a new ground back in the Borough.