Great Yarmouth Town Football Club was formed in 1897 with most of the players being drawn from two very successful local clubs, Yarmouth Fearnoughts and Yarmouth Royal Artillery, who between them had won the Norfolk Senior Cup for the previous four years.
The players' experience obviously told as the new Town club won this trophy in its very first year, defeating Lynn Town 4-3 in a replay after a 0-0 draw. Then, between 1902 and 1906, Yarmouth were to prove invincible in the same competition, again beating Lynn on each occasion! In total, Yarmouth have won the Senior Cup thirteen times and have been runners-up a further fifteen times.
Founder-members of the Norfolk & Suffolk League, Yarmouth won this championship in 1914, 1927 and 1928 before joining the newly formed Eastern Counties League in 1935; they have been ever-present members since, and are now the only club to hold this distinction following Lowestoft Town's elevation to the Ryman League.
After the Second World War, the Bloaters - now with semi-professional status - gained national recognition for their FA Cup exploits, reaching the second-round proper twice! The first-round proper was reached for the first time in 1947 when they lost at home to Shrewsbury Town in front of 4160 spectators. Then in 1952 a Wellesley crowd of 3889 witnessed a first-round proper 1-0 win over Guildford City, but a 1-4 home defeat to Wrexham in the second round (crowd 6963, a new record) dealt that season's exit; in 1953 the Bloaters' finest hour saw them defeat League side Crystal Palace 1-0 in the first-round proper in front of a still-record crowd of 8944! Second-round exit came at then-League club Barrow, 2-4.
Other cup exploits over the years include eight appearances in the first round proper of the old Amateur Cup, and one in the second round. In 1952 the East Anglian Cup was won for the only time, and - on what we night term the "domestic front' - the Eastern Counties League Cup has been won three times to date, in 1938, 1975 and 1981.
The late fifties saw a return to strictly amateur status but it was not long before a revival of fortunes saw paid players return and with them, finally, the ECL title in season 1968-69; however, this remains the sole occasion so far.
Ex-Norwich, Newcastle and Sheffield United winger Bill Punton then took the reigns for what proved to be a 21-year spell, making him the longest-serving manager of the club. This was also one of the club's most successful periods: although the league title proved elusive Punton led the Bloaters to two runners-up spots, four Senior Cup triumphs, the two League Cup wins of '75 and '81, and to within one goal of Wembley in the FA Vase in 1983. Then, as the first ECL club to get that far, Yarmouth lost on aggregate to eventual winners VS Rugby in the semi-final, despite a phenomenal goal by prolific striker Neil Hart - a Yarmouth legend - to set up a tense extra-time period in the second leg at the Wellesley in front of another, but now rare, 4000plus gate, the first since those heady days of the fifties.
It was in the last season of Punton's tenure that he introduced a young Paul Tong to his managerial team but 1990 was a year of change with both Punton and Tong moving on to Diss Town and long-serving club official Jack Pegg retiring.
The club experienced a dip in fortunes in the early nineties until Paul Chick and Donny Pye were appointed, but after two moderately successful seasons this pair also moved to Diss when Punton retired from management. Ironically, Tong then returned to the Wellesley as first team boss and stayed seven years, making him the second-longest serving manager after Punton. In this period the club revived its Youth U18 side and this has been, and continues to be, a successful breeding ground for new talent.
During this first managerial spell at Yarmouth for Tong, the club won the ECL Millennium Trophy, one year after being runner-up, and reached three consecutive Senior Cup finals though disappointingly losing all three. After Tong left for a second time, the club suffered relegation to the First Division in 2005 and a period of short-lived appointments concluded with appearance record-breaking goalkeeper Nick Banham who formed a unique partnership at the club with his wife Julia as Chairperson.
With the club then heading for financial meltdown in late 2008, an appeal for help in the local media resulted in local businessman Stephen Brierley coming to the rescue. When Banham resigned as first team manager, Yarmouth stalwart Kevin Cruickshank stepped up to the plate and was then joined by the returning Paul Tong, and the pair set about rebuilding the team side of affairs at the Wellesley.
After a difference of opinion, the pairing broke up and Tong remained as sole manager, taking the club back to the Premier Division as Ridgeons Division One 2009-2010 champions and achieve a first-ever promotion for the Bloaters. And happily, with relations now restored, Cruickshank returned to the Wellesley as Reserve team manager.
2010 also saw the club awarded Charter Club status by the FA, and expansion of the youth programme saw the club running U11, U14, and U16 sides in addition to the U18s; a Men's Sunday side and a first-ever Ladies team completed the Bloaters portfolio of teams for the 2010-2011 season.
A highlight of the past campaign and the clubs youth policy was the transfer of leading goal scorer Jake Reed to nPower League 2 side Dagenham and Redbridge, having risen through the ranks of youth team to the first team.
In 2011-12 the club hit severe financial problems, which was overcome by obtaining a new sponsor in the shape of DSL who have remained with us ever since.
This season sees the club with a new group of Officers in the shape of Stephen Brierley, Kevin Forbes, Len Beresford and Brian Smith all ably assisted by one of our strongest committees for some time. The club is running eight teams, namely; the First XI, Academy, U18, U15, U14,Two Girls u13 sides and a Veterans side.
Thurlow Nunn Eastern Counties League » First Division
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Last updated Thursday 30th October, 13:45