A Brief History of Thurrock Football Club by Norman Posner
The Thurrock Football Club was founded in April 1985 but until the start of season 2003-04 had played
under the name of Purfleet Football Club.
The first competitive game played by the Club was on 24 August 1985 against Canvey Island Reserves
in Division One of the Essex Senior League and resulted in a 3-0 win.
The Club’s ground then was part of the Thurrock Hotel and at first consisted of two pitches and dressing rooms in the main hotel building. Under this set-up the Club could only compete at Junior level and mid-way through the season the playing area was turned round to give one pitch and the building of dressing rooms started in order for the club to become a self-contained unit away from the main Hotel Complex.
At the end of its first season the Club finished third in the League and was granted Senior Status by the Essex County FA. The next season Purfleet were able to compete in the Senior Section of the Essex Senior League. Their first competitive match as a Senior Club was at home to Witham Town, which Witham won by 2 goals to 0. At the end of the season Purfleet had finished third in the League and were winners of the League Cup defeating Burnham Ramblers 2-0 in the Final.
Planning permission was obtained from the local council for the erection of floodlights and the building of a grandstand. The floodlights went up in January 1988 and the first game under them was an Essex Thames-side Trophy match against Pennant, which the visitors won by 2-1.
An application was made to join the Isthmian League (now the Ryman League) and by the rules of the ‘Pyramid’ would be conditional on the Club finishing in the top three. Purfleet not only won the League but also achieved the double retaining the League Cup by defeating Canvey Island 2-1. In their two seasons playing in the Essex Senior League Cup, Purfleet had the distinction of never having lost a game.
Election into the Isthmian League (then called the Vauxhall Opel League) was obtained at the League’s AGM in June 1988 and the Club’s new 300-seater stand was made ready for the start of the season. The first ever-Isthmian League game was in Division Two North on 20th August 1988 at Hornchurch and resulted in a 1-0 win.
At the end of the season Purfleet finished runners up to Harlow Town and were thus promoted to Division One. Life in Division One proved to be beyond the capabilities of the team, and after struggling for most of the year were relegated back to Division Two North.
Season 1990-91 saw the Club have its best run in the FA Vase when it reached the last 32 before going out by 2 goals to 1 at Harwich & Parkeston. Purfleet finished in 7th place in Division Two North and thus ensured a place in the new Division Two following the splitting up of the two Regional Divisions.
Season 1991-92 must go down as the finest in the club’s then short history, Champions of Division Two of the Diadora (Isthmian) League and winners of the Loctite Trophy. After losing 2-0 at Witham Town at the end of November, the next 26 League games resulted in 20 wins 4 draws and just 2 defeats. In the Loctite Trophy Final, played at Sutton United, Purfleet came from two goals down to defeat Egham Town 3-2.
Full terracing was installed at the Ship Lane end of the ground, which gave covered accommodation for 800 spectators. This has enabled the Club to obtain an “A” Grade Ground Grading. Since then further covered accommodation has been added at the M25 end of the ground. Season 1992-93 saw the Club finish 4th in Division One thereby just missing out on promotion. However it made up for it the following season by finishing as runners-up to Bishop’s Stortford and thus gain promotion to the Premier Division. In just nine seasons the Club had gone from junior level playing on a roped off pitch to the Premier Division of one of the country’s leading Non-league Competitions.
In its first season in the Premier Division the Club had to be content with 16th place scoring 76 goals, only four other clubs bettered this total. However 90 goals were conceded at the other end. In a hectic last eight days of the season the club played a Third Round, Semi-final and Final of the Essex Thames-side Trophy together with its last Diadora League fixture. In the fina1 against Chelmsford City at New Writtle Road a 2-0 success gained Purfleet the prestigious Thames-side Trophy.
The following season 1995-96 saw the Club again finish in 16th place in the now ICIS League. However it was in the two national cup competitions where the Club had its best success. It reached the Fourth Qualifying Round of the FA Cup going out at Rushden & Diamonds in a replay. Some revenge was gained as in the FA Trophy a First Round victory was obtained on the same ground. A trip to Macclesfield in the Second Round saw the Club go out 2-1 to the eventual winners.
After a somewhat poor start to the 1996-97 season the Club finished the season in eighth place in the League. However early exits were made from both the FA Cup and FA Trophy. The Club had it’s best run in the Essex Senior Cup before going out in the Semi-final to a strong Southend United side at Roots Hall. The trophy cupboard was not entirely bare as the Club won the Carlsberg Fair Play Award for the Premier Division.
Over the close-season further ground improvements were made with the installation of a new enlarged directors box and full terracing on the North side of the ground.
The start of the 1997-98 season saw the appointment of Colin McBride as manager, taking over from Gary Calder who had
been in charge since January 1991. McBride inherited just three players from the previous season’s squad and turned to
his former club, Essex Senior League side Concord Rangers for quite a number of his players. Purfleet finished in 10th place
in the League and were runners-up in the Essex Senior Cup to Dagenham & Redbridge, going down 2-1 in a very entertaining
at Ship Lane.
The following July West Ham United were once again the visitors for a pre-season friendly and an almost full First X1 attracted a new ground attendance record of 2,572. At the game the Club were very pleased to announce a major sponsorship with the local Lakeside Shopping Centre. The discussion and negotiations leading up to the sponsorship were featured on the BBC Television documentary ‘Lakesiders’.
Season 1998-99 saw the Club finish fourth in the League, just being piped for third spot by local rivals Dagenham & Redbridge on goal difference. The Semi-final of both the Essex Thames-side Trophy and Puma Cup were reached, but rather surprisingly home defeats were suffered in both competitions to teams from lower Divisions within the Ryman League.
The next season, after a poor start, the Club again finished in fourth spot in the League. The finals of the Essex
Senior Cup, Full Members Cup and Essex Thames-side Trophy were all reached. However 2-0 defeats were suffered
in both the Essex Senior Cup and Full Members Cup to Canvey Island and Croydon respectively. Unfortunately the Essex
Thames-side Trophy Final against Canvey Island was never played
While the Club, since it’s formation has been happy to be located within The Hotel, its aim has always been to have a
club house of its own. At the conclusion of season 1998-99 work began on the building of the ‘Purfleet Club House’,
which finally opened for the home game against Canvey Island on 3rd March 2001.
The following season the Club made a disastrous start to the League campaign and did not obtain its first win until
mid-November in its thirteenth game. However a very successful second half of the season saw the Club climb to a
respectable 11th place. For the second successive season the Club reached the final of the Full Members Cup but
had once again had to be content with being runners-up going down 3-1 to Gravesend & Northfleet at Stonebridge Road.
Season 2001-02 saw the Club finish in 5th place in the League and for the second time won the Umbro Fair Play Award
for the Premier Division.
The following season the Club made its best ever start to an Isthmian League Premier Division campaign not
suffering its first defeat until the tenth game and until the new year was always up with the leaders. However the Club
could not keep up its first half of the season form and had to finally settle for an 8th place finish.
At the end of the season the decision was made to change the name of the Club from Purfleet to Thurrock. The Club want to attract a wider audience and extra sponsorship and believe that by having a name that represents the whole borough will be of help. The change of name paid dividends as the Club gained its highest ever League placing, by finishing third and thus qualifying for the Nationwide Conference South following the Football Association’s restructuring of the Non-League game. For the first time in its history the Club reached the First Round Proper of the FA Cup when in front of live Sky Television cameras they held Second Division Luton Town to a 1-1 draw at Ship Lane. In the replay they gave a good account of themselves before going down 3-1. Another first for the Club was the winning of the Essex Senior Cup, defeating Aveley 3-1 at Roots Hall to take the converted trophy. Also into the Thurrock trophy cabinet went the Bryco (Isthmian League) Cup in which they defeated Dunstable Town in the Final 5-1.
The following season the Club finished third in the new Conference South and thus qualified for the Play-offs but were defeated by Eastbourne Borough in the Regional Semi-final. For the second consecutive season the club made it through to the First Round proper of the FA Cup and were once again chosen for live television. This time the BBC were at Ship Lane for Match of the Day Live when League One Oldham Athletic were the visitors. In an undistinguished game a single goal just after half-time saw Oldham to victory. The Essex Senior Cup was retained, when in the final a 1-0 victory was gained over Halstead Town. In the traditional Champions v League Cup winners the Club defeated Canvey Island 3-2 to take the Isthmian League Charity Shield.
The following season the Club finished in 10th place in Nationwide South. At the end of the season the Club parted company
with its long serving manager Colin McBride and appointed Hakan Hayrettin in his place.
Hayrettin had to find a completely new team as most of last season’s squad followed McBride to AFC Hornchurch. The club
struggled for most of the season and did not secure its Conference South status until the last day of the season when
a 3-0 win over Sutton United and results elsewhere going their way gave a final place of 18th
The following season started in much the same form picking up just 4 points out of a possible 24 but a stunning second half of the season saw the Fleet finish up just 6 points away from a Play Off spot.
2011/12 was a disappointing season for Thurrock and after a poor campaign the club was relegated from the Blue Square Bet Conference South to the Ryman Premier League. 2012/13 was another turbulent season for the club with numerous postponements due to the weather, 3 matches called off mid game and a final end of season position of 4th from bottom. The club were however relegated on a technicality after 3 points were deducted for fielding a sine die player at the start of the season meaning Thurrock slipped into the relegation zone. Despite FA and Ryman league hearing and appeals along with a contest through UK Arbitration, Thurrock lost their case and will start 2013/14 in Ryman League One North.