Crowborough Athletic FC - The history as we understand it, from 1974 anyway!
Crowborough Athletic FC were formed in 1894 and played in various leagues around the area for many years. However, not much is known about how the club did in those by-gone days as the records seem to have disappeared during the course of time. The club did have some photo's which show that the Crows were successful in some of the seasons but these were only a snap shot in time and it's a shame more comprehensive records no longer seem to exist. The club also had a few "homes" it would seem during it's lifetime before settling at the Alderbrook Recreation Ground sometime in the early 1950's.
As for the club's recent history there are records which can be seen which shows the club being elected to the Sussex County Football League (SCFL), Division 2 for season 1974/75 having been playing in the Tunbridge Wells League and, it is believed, the Southern Counties Championship for quite a few seasons.
It is assumed that the request to join the SCFL was driven by ambition and the fact that the club was finding life too easy in the league they were playing in previously. The first season in the SCFL, Division 2 saw the club finish in fourth position, which is not bad in an inaugural season, with a record of played 22, won 9, drew 7 and lost 6, scoring 38, conceding 36 for a points total of 25. In those days, of course, you only got 2 points for a win and 1 point for a draw.
Some of the sides the club played in that first season were Burgess Hill Town, who won the division, Rye United who finished runners-up, Hastings & St. Leonards, who became Hastings Town later on and Peacehaven & Telscombe all of whom, apart from Rye United, are now playing in higher leagues.
During the next nine seasons the club held their own without pulling up any trees and were more middle to bottom in the division rather than going for promotion. In the 1976/77 season the club finished second from bottom but were saved from having to leave the league as it was expanded from 12 clubs to 15 for the 1977/78 season which also saw the club win it's first honour within the SCFL as it won the Division 2 Cup. For the seasons 1978/79 to 1980/81 Division 2 consisted of 14 teams and saw the club become SCFL Merit Table winners in 1979/80.
Football in Sussex was coming in to a bit of a boom time in the early 80's and Division 2 was expanded to 16 teams in 1981/82 and the club also became Youth Section winners in that season. Season 1982/83 saw the formation of SCFL, Division 3 which was going to be fortuitous for the club the following season, 1983/84, as the club finished second from bottom, for the second time, but on this occasion, the club was relegated. However, the season was not a complete waste of time as the club won the Youth Section, East and then won the overall championship by beating Burgess Hill Town 1-0 in a match played at Ringmer FC.
The club for the next two seasons, 1984/85 and 1985/86 did okay but it was season 1986/87 that saw the club start to rebuild itself. Perhaps the young players who won the Youth Section, East and the championship had gained their places in the senior squad by now but the club finished runners-up in Division 3 to Langney Sports, now Eastbourne Borough, to gain promotion back to Division 2 and the club also won the Sussex Intermediate Cup for the first time.
The club spent the next five seasons in Division 2 with mixed success when it came to league position, sometimes the club was in the top-half, other times, they were in the lower-half, which was the case in 1988/89 when they finished second from bottom but again avoided relegation as the division was expanded from 14 teams to 16 teams for the 1989/90 season. The club finished ninth in Division 2, out of 17 teams, in the 1991/92 season but little did anyone know that a higher finish would be achieved the following season.
There were two outstanding teams in Division 2 for the 1992/93 season, one was Crowborough Athletic and the other was Stamco, both finished more than 10 points ahead of the third place team and it was the Crows who finished as champions to gain promotion to Division 1 for the first time in its history with the SCFL. It was ironic that both teams last game of the season was at the Alderbrook and against each other, with Stamco only needing a draw to win the championship and the Crows needing a win to overtake their visitors. In an exciting encounter which could have gone either way, the Crows ran-out 3-2 winners to win the title and promotion.
The stay in Division 1 was to last three seasons as the club found it a struggle to survive in the top-flight for seasons 1993/94, 1994/95 until the club finished bottom of Division 1 in the 1995/96 season. It's interesting to note that the team who came up with the Crows in the 1992/93 season, Stamco, were to finish second in the top-flight three seasons in a row and eventually they left to join the Southern League for the 1996/97 season. Eventually though even their dream ended as the money ran out and the club unfortunately ceased to exist.
The club held their own back in Division 2 for the 1996/97 and 1997/98 seasons but the decline from the heady heights of Division 1 back to Division 3, which you could probably see was coming, was confirmed in season 1998/99 as the club finished next to bottom again and were relegated.
The 1999/00 season was rather a bizarre one for the Crows in many ways as they finished fourth in Division 3 and everyone thought that was that. However, promotion, relegation and a club leaving the SCFL meant that the Crows were promoted back to Division 2 after only one season. This despite only getting 58 points whereas Bosham, who were champions got 75 points and runners-up Wealden (now AFC Uckfield) got 68 points. Ansty Rangers by the way were third and got 66 points but either could not get promoted due to their ground condition or did not want to get promoted, something perhaps the Crows should have thought about once the following season started.
The club were obviously, perhaps with hindsight now, not ready for Division 2 in the 2000/01 season and this was confirmed when the Crows finished second from bottom, not for the first time, and were duly relegated back to Division 3 yet again with a grand total of 25 points, a full 12 points behind the next club.
The season 2001/02 brought some success to the club as the Division 3 cup was won and a decent season in Division 3 saw the team finish in fourth position, which at one time looked like it could have been better, but a run of poor results towards the end of the season saw any promotion hopes fade.
The next season, 2002/03, saw the Crows finish third in Division 3, 2 points behind the second place team but, again, there was some success as the club won the Youth Section Cup, the mascot that day was a 7 year-old junior member of the club by the name of Nick Collick who became the first team goalkeeper in season 2013/14. At this time little did anyone realise that the club was about to enter the most successful period in its history with the SCFL and establish itself as a major club within the league.
Season 2003/04 was one of the most successful it has ever had as promotion back to Division 2 was secured rather easily as they finished 11 points ahead of second placed St. Francis Rangers and the Division 3 Cup was won again for the second time in three seasons. There was even more silverware as the Youth Section, North was won and then they became overall Youth Section Champions by beating Chichester City United Youth in the final at Ringmer. Therefore, the club found themselves back in Division 2 and this time it was hoped it would be longer than one season.
In fact the club were only in Division 2 for the 2004/05 season but it was not because of relegation, but because of promotion, therefore, the club had gone straight through from Division 3 to Division 1 in two seasons. The Crows won the title quite easily by finishing 8 points in front of nearest rivals Wick who were beaten 2-0 at the Alderbrook and the Crows earned a 2-2 draw away to them.
The next three seasons, from 2005/06 to 2007/08 were very successful for the Crows as a high finish was achieved in Division 1 in the 2005/06 season and this was repeated again in the 2006/07 season. A trophy was also added to the collection in this season as the club won the SCFL League Cup. The highlight of the Crows membership of the SCFL though came in the 2007/08 season as the Division 1 title was won for the first and only time so far in the clubs history which meant it could apply to join the Ryman Isthmian League, which it duly did.
The 2008/09 season is the only season the club has spent outside of the SCFL since it joined back in 1974/75 however the club had some success within the SCFL during the 2008/09 season as the Youth Section, East title was won.
The stay in the Ryman Isthmian League, South Division, was short lived and not a particularly happy one as the club were relegated after just one season so it was back to the SCFL Division 1 for the 2009/10 season and it's where the Crows have remained ever since.
The club have also moved on off the pitch as well due to investment in the facilities at the Alderbrook, which now houses the ground the club plays in and which is called the Crowborough Community Stadium. The pitch is in the same place, however, this has had new drainage put in over the last 10 years and is far better than it was because any rain would get a game called off before the drainage was put in. The rest of the facilities are unrecognisable, gone are the old dressing rooms and the rope walk-way which used to protect the players from traffic and fans alike as they entered and exited the pitch and in their place is now a fully enclosed ground with excellent dressing rooms, kitchen, bar and tea area, two new stands and even the old stand has been modernised and now houses seating for over 100 people. All this work was completed in October 2007 and makes the Crows ground one of the best in the SCFL.
After the end of the 2013/14 season, in which the club finished 6th in the league and reached the John O'Hara League Challenge Cup Final, losing 1-0 to league champions, EastvPreston FC, the FA League Committee decided to carry out a lateral move within the Step 5 level and this saw the club move from the Sussex County Football League and join the Southern Counties East League. Another club, Lingfield FC, were also moved to the SCEL, as were Croydon FC from the Combined Counties League. Therefore, the 2014/15 season started off with the club in a new league and a new era dawning.
Season 2014/15 proved to be a journey of ups and downs and both the club, and players, learnt about playing in the Southern Counties East Football League, which is more demanding than the league we had come from.
However, everyone adapted very well and a mid-table 10th place was achieved come the end of the season, it's were the club hoped and expected to finish in their first season in the league, so it was handshakes all round.
The club wanted to build on the 2014/15 season as they embarked on the 2015/16 campaign, a similar finish as the previous season would've not been a disaster and as the season kicked off, there were new clubs to play in the shape of Hollands & Blair and AFC Croydon Athletic, which the fans could to look forward to.
In the end the club exceeded their expectations and finished the 2015/16 season in 7th place, a very credible performance when you consider that due to some long-term injuries, suspensions and absenteeism, the squad was very thin and quite a few young players from the reserve side were bloodied in the final three months of the campaign.
Now we look forward to the 2016/17 with a stronger squad than last season, plenty of experience and talent and the competition for places in the starting eleven will be very fierce indeed. With the players brought in, added to the ability already here, the club will be looking to improve again and finish higher than 7th place.
Everyone associated with the Crows will hope that a good season is before them with plenty of attacking flair and some resolute defending, if they can achieve that, then who knows where they'll end up.