Football in Bamber Bridge can be traced back as far as the late 1800’s. However, the present club was established in the summer of 1974 when the old Bamber Bridge club amalgamated with neighbouring outfit Walton-Le-Dale. The new club played at the King George’s Playing Field and the early years were marked with a high degree of success on the local football scene.
The first sixteen seasons was spent in the Preston & District League Premier Division and many honours were gained. The first season, 1974-75, proved a somewhat modest one with a 12th place finish in the league. However, an improved showing the following term saw the fledgling club finish 5th in the table and they won their first piece of silverware, when lifting the Lytham Medal competition. Modest though this first honour may have been, it was to be the first of many successes to come the clubs way throughout the years that followed. The Premier Division championship was won for the first time in the 1980-81 season and was the first of four title successes. This honour was also achieved in 1985-86, 1986-87 and for the last time in 1989-90. The club also finished as Premier Division runners-up three times in 1978-79, 1982-83 and 1984-85.
During those sixteen seasons spent in the Preston & District League ‘Brig’ also enjoyed success in the League Cup competition, the Guildhall Cup. They emerged winners of the tournament on four occasions; firstly in 1978-79 and again in 1980-81, when they achieved the ‘league and cup double’ for the first time. They won the Guildhall Cup for the third time in 1984-85 and again in 1989-90, when winning the ‘league and cup double’ for the second time. The club were also Finalists in 1977-78, 1979-80 and 1987-88. Along the way, the club finished as finalists in the Premier Division Ward Shield in 1983-84.
In those early years Bamber Bridge won the prestigious Lancashire FA Amateur Shield in 1981-82 and were finalists in 1980-81 and 1989-90.
Throughout this period, the club committee had dreamt and worked towards establishing a football ground of their own and in 1983 a piece of derelict land was purchased with the help of South Ribble and Sports Council’s. It took four years of dedicated work and considerable expense to change this overgrown land into a football pitch, which was named Irongate after the local area. It was indeed a proud moment to see the team play on the club’s own ground after having played on a park pitch for so long. The first game at Irongate was played in August 1987 and since then continual development and improvements have taken place at the ground to enable the club to enjoy a place within the National Leagues System.
Sustained success in the Preston & District League prompted the club to seek progression and at the beginning of the 1990-91 campaign the club joined the North West Counties League. In their first season, in what was in those days, the first rung of the National Leagues System, ’Brig’ finished in a creditable 4th spot in the Second Division. Twelve months later and the club won its first honour in the semi-professional game when taking the North West Counties League Second Division championship and with it promotion to the top flight. The 1992-93 campaign proved to be a storming success with a runners-up spot in the First Division which was to see the club promoted for the second season running with a place in the First Division of the Northern Premier League. That memorable season the club reached the Semi-Final of the FA Vase, only one step away from the famous Wembley Stadium. Then just to top things off, ‘Brig’ were finalists in the North West Counties League Floodlit Trophy. The clubs three year stay in the NWCL had been a rollercoaster ride.
During this period floodlights were installed at the Irongate ground and further ground improvements were made to facilitate promotion to the Northern Premier League. In their first season in the NPL, the club finished in a creditable 13th place in the First Division and were finalists in the First Division Cup. In the following term, 1994-95, the club won promotion for the fourth time in its history, after finishing runners-up in the First Division. Also that term, Brig captured the Northern Premier League Challenge Cup when overcoming those famous cup fighters, Bishop Auckland, by 2-1 at Bolton Wanderers old ground, Burnden Park, before lifting the Lancashire FA Challenge Trophy, with a 2-1 victory over favourites Morecambe at Deepdale.
Against all the odds in 1995-96, their first season in the Premier Division, the club won the Northern Premier League title beating off late challenges from Hyde United and Boston United, the final outcome depending on the results on the last day of the season - a history making season for the club. ‘Brig’ reached the Lancashire FA Challenge Trophy Final for the second time on the trot, but this time finished as runners-up, losing 0-1 against Morecambe; the Final once more being played at Deepdale.
Bamber Bridge entertained the Czech Republic International team in a friendly game prior to the Czech’s opening game against Germany in the European International Championship Finals in 1996. The successful Czech side had used Irongate for some of their preparations for the tournament in which they eventually finished as finalists.
In 1999-00 the club enjoyed an excellent run in the FA Cup, reaching the Second Round Proper for the first time in their history before bowing out by a narrow 0-1 margin at Football League Second Division side Cambridge United, the result decided on a disputed penalty. The club made it to the Lancashire FA Challenge Trophy Final for the third time that season but once again finished as runners-up after going down heavily by 0-5 against Marine in the Final at Chorley’s Victory Park.
After enjoying seven years in the Premier Division, the 2001-02 season proved a disaster with the club finishing bottom of the pile, and despite a last minute reprieve via the play-offs failing to materialise, the club experienced relegation for the first time in its history. Restructuring of the National League System at the start of the 2004-05 season saw the club regain Premier Division status after two years in the lower section.
Time spent back in the higher grade though lasted only twelve months and the club once again experienced the bitter pill of relegation at the end of the 2004-05 season, after finishing second from the bottom of the table. The season however, was not a complete disaster and despite the loss of Premier Division status, the Northern Premier League, League President’s Cup was lifted with a 3-2 aggregate win over Witton Albion.
Further restructuring of the National League System in season 2007-08 saw the club placed in the First Division North of the Northern Premier League. ’Brig’ reached the play-offs in the first season of the new regionalised set-up; losing out by 2-3 to United of Manchester in the Semi-Final at Gigg Lane, Bury. ‘Brig’ once again reached the Lancashire FA Challenge Trophy Final for the fourth time in 2010-11 but lost out by 0-1 against AFC Fylde in the Final at Bolton Wanderers Reebok Stadium.
The Evo-Stik League Northern Premier » First Division North
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