HEANOR TOWN F.C.
A brief history of the 128-year-old Club
by STAN WILTON
Heanor Town Football Club owes its humble beginnings to long before their 1883 formation at the Rays Arms Hotel. Teams representing the town and playing under the name of ‘Heanor’ or ‘Heanor Town’ were recorded in 1878, but it was not until a public meeting was called in September 1883 that these fragmented issues were drawn together under one roof and the Club affiliated to the Derbyshire County FA.
They joined the Derbyshire League, but within a decade the Club had established itself as a top Midland League side, on one occasion finishing seventh when the top four were promoted to the Football League. And four times during this period reached the First Round Proper of the FA Cup (today’s equivalent would be the Third Round because the competition then had six Qualifying Rounds) losing to Aston Villa (away) 1-4, Nottingham Forest (away) 0-1, Bury (home) 0-3 and Southampton St. Mary’s (home) 0-1. In the latter game only a broken leg suffered by centre forward Sam Widdowson ensured that Heanor played with ten men for almost 80 minutes This after a 1-1 draw at Southampton. During this period such teams as Mansfield Town, Chesterfield, Lincoln City and Northampton Town were beaten in the Qualifying Competition.
Since then, the Lions have played in the Derbyshire League, Mid-Derbyshire League, Midland League (four times), Central Combination, Central Alliance, Notts Alliance, West Midlands (Regional) and Northern Counties East. In 1986 they joined the Central Midlands and are the only Club to have held continuous membership of the Supreme Division since its formation. Last season they added the new East Midlands Counties League to the list in which they have competed.
In 1958 Heanor entertained Fourth Division Carlisle United at The Town Ground in the FA Cup First Round losing 1-5 before 6,511 spectators. At the time they were members of the Central Alliance League Division One (North). But the strength of that league at the time can be judged by the fact that Ilkeston Town and Creswell Colliery were other clubs who also graced the FA Cup competition proper. And in 1963 The Lions were a Midland League side once again when they lost at the same stage away to Fourth Division Bradford Park Avenue containing one Kevin Hector and managed by Jimmy Scoular at Bradford in front of a crowd 5,799.
The club’s best Midland League finish was in 1966 when they were runners-up, and twelve months later they were one of only six Midland League clubs with the best record selected to become founder members of the Northern Premier League. However, the Heanor Committee at the time declined the opportunity because of the costs involved and their place was taken by Goole Town.
The Club have three times reached the Fourth Round Proper of the FA Vase. In 1989 they drew at this stage at home to Eastwood (Hanley) 1-1 but lost the replay by the odd goal of three. And the other two occasions also saw they lose by the same score to Rushden Town (Home) in 1990 and Arnold Town (away) in 2002. They have reached the Third Round Proper on two other occasions losing to Warrington Town and Eccleshill United both away.
Honours have decorated the Town Ground home at regular intervals, the last being the Central Midlands League Cup won in a thrilling 5-3 finale against Ollerton Town in 2006/2007.
In 2009 the Club appointed Joint Managers Craig Hopkins and Glenn Kirkwood, who had previously managed Matlock Town Reserves and where they had a short spell as Caretaker Managers 0f the first team.
The pair brought a new dimension to the Town Ground and with them arrived a number of new players, many of them from local football.
The Club finished seventh in their first Season and in Dan Williams had the league’s second highest goalscorer. He scored a third of the Lions 99 East Midlands Counties League goals. The irony of his success is that he actually joined the Club as a left back!
The last manager Heanor had from Matlock Town, Ken Lambert in 1962, led the club to their greatest post-war triumphs, and the indications are already in place that the latest acquisitions from Causeway Lane are creating an instant buzz of excitement with supporters. There is keen competition for places, a fantastic team spirit, and a desire to win about the team and there is every reason to believe that the foundations have been well and truly laid by Hopkins and Kirkwood for the start of another stirring era in the history of the 128-year-old Club.
When Hopkins and Kirkwood joined the Club in June 2009 they set themselves a target to win the East Midlands Counties League championship within three years. In their first season they finished seventh. Last season they finished third after leading the table and looking comfortable champions for much of the season. If their target is to be achieved this season looks like being explosive.
Nathan Benger was the club’s leading scorer last season with 30 goals and the Lions had four players in the League’s top scoring lists.
Brett Peel scooped the honours at the club’s Presentation Evening with both the Supporters and Players’ Player of the Year Awards, a fitting reward for a fine season from the defender.
The Club’s black & white colours also date back to their formation, although the shirts were striped until 1963.
Heanor Town won the East Midlands Counties League Fair Play Award for season 2010/2011.