Bideford A.F.C. is an English non-league football club from Bideford, Devon that plays in the Evo-Stik Southern League Division One South & West with rival clubs from the counties of Devon, Somerset, Dorset, Wiltshire, Hampshire, Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Oxfordshire.
The club was first formed in the late 1890’s and was then called “Bideford Town”. They were nicknamed "The Robins" due to their red shirts and remain so to this day. Since the first decade of the twentieth century, the club has predominantly played at the Sports Ground, Kingsley Road in Bideford. Until entering hibernation for the duration of World War Two it was a highly successful club, albeit one that played the majority of it's football in North Devon.
We do not have any pre World War Two records, but we do know in 1927 Cardiff City won the FA Cup and their captain was Fred Keenor who had 32 International caps, a number that was almost unheard of at that time. It was a big day for the club when Fred brought his cup winning team and the cup itself to Bideford.
Following it's reformation in the 1947/48 season, the club was reborn as “Bideford Association Football Club” and entered the Exeter and East Devon League with only two of the pre war team surviving - Gerald Brommell and Fred Shute. The team in 1947/48 was run by a committee which met at the Maltscoop Inn and they selected the team also. For the start of the 1948/49 season Fred Pincott was appointed manager and the club had a house in Chanters Avenue for him to live in but team selection was still in the hands of the committee. Bideford were runners up in the 1948/49 season, and applied to join then the Western League Division Two. This was declined and instead they were made to join Division Three. Bideford won the division without losing a game and two seasons later they won the second division and promotion to Division One. At this time the club did not have a club house but there was a Nissen Hut just inside the main gate and a wooden grandstand, which was replaced with the present one after the Bradford City fire disaster.
In 1964/65 Bideford reached the first round proper of the FA Cup, and drew away at Colchester United 3-3 and lost home in the replay 1-2, at which BBC cameras were present. Bideford won the Western League three times before joining the Southern League in 1972. The club spent three seasons in the Southern league before the extra expense involved and increased travelling took its toll, forcing them to drop down back to the Western League. During their time in the Southern League, the club set an all-time FA Cup record when in 1974–75 they played thirteen FA Cup games in a single season – as a result of playing numerous replays in qualifying rounds including needing five games to beat Falmouth Town and four more to beat Trowbridge Town in the next round. With the subsequent abandonment of second and further replays, this record is unlikely to ever be beaten again. Bideford were finally knocked out 0-2 by Bristol Rovers. In 1977/78 Bideford again reached the First Round proper travelling to Portsmouth where they lost 1-3. Finally they achieved the feat again in 1981/82 being knocked out by Barking 1-2.
Two more Western League titles followed in the early 1980s before a financial crisis hit the club. A re-formation took place in 1987 leading to the current set up, a company limited by guarantee under the revised company name Bideford AFC (1987) Ltd.
Under the chairmanship of Jim McElwee, and his successor Paul Mitchell, the club won four more Western League titles and also reached the FA Vase semi-finals where they lost to Winchester City. Despite winning the Western League four times under Manager Sean Joyce between 2000 to 2006, the club elected not to apply for promotion to the Southern League due to the amount of travelling and expense that would be involved in playing teams which, almost without exception, would be over 100 miles away.
However after winning the Western League again for the 10th time in the 2009/10 season and winning the Devon St Luke’s Bowl where they beat Exeter City 2–1 in the final, Bideford AFC accepted promotion to the Southern League in May 2010 joining Division One South & West. In only their second season in Division One (S&W) Bideford were crowned Champions by an impressive eleven point margin and gained promotion for the first time in the club's history to the Southern League Premier Division. 2013/14 saw Bideford finish in their highest ever league position of 8th in the Premier Division but after four years at that level they were relegated for the first time in their history back to Division One in 2015/16.
Several players from the club have progressed to Football League status, the most recent of them being Tony Dennis and Shaun Taylor. Three former internationals have played for the club at the end of their career, Welshman Leighton Phillips, as well as Dermot Curtis and Will Haynes from the Republic of Ireland.
Bideford have won the Western League ten times, as well as lifting silverware in the Devon St Luke's Bowl (5 times), Devon Professional Cup (8 times) and Western League Cup (4 times). They have also won the Western League Alan Young Cup (twice), Western League Subsidiary Cup and the Westward Ho! cup. In FA competitions, Bideford AFC’s record is quite impressive, reaching the First Round proper of the FA Cup on four occasions and reaching the Semi Final of the FA Vase in 2003/04. The 2009/10 FA Vase campaign saw Bideford reach the quarter final stage where they were knocked out by an impressive Lowestoft side.
Manager Sean Joyce is an ex-professional footballer, who spent his career playing for Doncaster Rovers, Exeter City and Torquay Utd. He has managed Bideford since 1998, bringing much success to the club during his time here.