A Brief History by Lloyd Brown as at August 2018
Tilbury Football Club can now prove that they were founded in 1889, thanks to the discovery of a copy of the very first ever Annual Report. The Docks were by far the Town's largest employer and it was mainly workers from the Port who were instrumental in setting up and running the Club, which quickly adopted the nickname of "The Dockers", which still stands today. Initially, they competed in the Gravesend League, but records for the early years are sparse after that initial season. We do know that a number of seasons saw little or no Football, as a succession of Home Grounds were used and then lost. Among these were the Green & Silley Weir Ltd. Ground, the "Daisy Field" and a Pitch in the grounds of Tilbury Fort.
Essex County have records of Tilbury competing in the Essex Junior Cup from 1895 onwards, but regular League competition did not arrive until 1900, when Tilbury returned to the Green & Silley Weir ground. In those early "junior" status days, Tilbury competed in the Grays & District League, leaving for a 3 season spell in the Romford & District League before returning. In those days, Leagues were local and of a small size, and many clubs entered 2 Leagues per season. From 1903, Tilbury also did this, entering the South Essex League where they stayed until achieving "senior" status in 1927. During this period, several League Championships were won, and the Essex Junior Cup Final was reached on 3 occasions, with the Cup being won twice.
"Senior" status was achieved in 1927, and the Club entered the Kent League, where they stayed for four seasons before, in 1931, moving into the London League. In the 1930's, Tilbury achieved two 4th places and one League Cup Final before World War Two broke out in September 1939. the 1939/40 season saw Tilbury as one of 10 clubs who formed the Wartime South Essex Combination, but at the end of that season saw their ground taken by the Army as a site for the Anti-Aircraft Guns brought in to protect the Docks, so were forced to disband for the duration. Resuming in 1946, back in the London League, Tilbury enjoyed their most successful spell. 3 times in 4 seasons they were Runners Up in the League, twice Finalists in the Essex Senior Cup, and Quarter Finalists in the F.A. Amateur Cup and reached the 1st Round Proper of the F.A. Cup, losing away to a Notts County side that contained 3 England Internationals, including legendary centre forward Tommy Lawton.
In 1950, Tilbury moved again, stepping up into the Corinthian League, where they remained until 1957. The successful team of the late 1940's gradually broke up, and the successes dried up as a result, although the League Cup Final was reached in 1956. The Corinthian years were not particularly enjoyable for the Club and, in 1957, they re-joined the London League. Ironically, at this time a new crop of outstanding local players came to the fore, and brought great success back to Tilbury. Third in the first season, they were Champions in each of the next 4, three times doubling up with the League Cup. In the last two seasons, they lost just one and none respectively in the League. In 1960/1, the Essex Senior Cup was won for the first time when, just a short time after winning the Amateur Cup, the mighty Walthamstow Avenue were beaten 4-1 (aet) in the Final.
This 20 year spell, from 1958 to 1978, were golden years for Tilbury, success being a permanent companion. In 1964 they became the first ever Champions of Athenian League Division Two and also won the Essex Senior Cup again. In 1969 they were Champions of Division One and, as in the in-between seasons, Cup competitions were also won. 4 seasons were spent in the Premier Division, improving their position each time, eventually finishing 3rd in 1973 and again winning the Essex Senior Cup before being elected into the newly expanded Isthmian League. In 1974, Tilbury finished 3rd in Division One, but became the first ever winners of the Isthmian League Cup. A year later, they were Champions, and again winners of the Essex Senior Cup. Their first season in the Premier Division saw them recover from an awful start to eventually finish in 5th position and, once again, win the Essex Senior Cup.
In truth, this was the start of a gradual decline for the Club, though in 1977/8 they made Thurrock Football History by becoming (still) the only club from the Borough to reach the 3rd Round of the F.A. Cup, eventually being beaten away at Stoke City and, a year later, reaching another Essex Senior Cup Final, this time narrowly losing to Harlow Town. Since then, Tilbury have mostly found things to be tough going. Relegation down through the Isthmian Leagues, briefly interspersed by a promotion, followed. Reorganisation sent them into the Southern League, from where they were immediately relegated to the Essex Senior League. Fortunately, just one season was spent there and, in 2006, Tilbury were back in isthmian ranks, where they have remained ever since.
In 2008/9, Tilbury won their first Trophies in 20 years, when they captured the Isthmian League Cup and the East Anglian Cup, Another fine season was enjoyed in 2011/12, when they reached the Promotion Play-Offs, only to be defeated by Needham Market in a thriller of a game. This success could not be maintained during the next few years, as they continually lost their better players to clubs higher up the Pyramid. It was in this period that the Club's Youth system proved its worth, as many young players were given their chance, and respectable League placings continued to be achieved. In 2015/16, under the guidance of Gary Henty and Danny Smith, good runs in both the Essex Senior Cup and F.A. Trophy were enjoyed, during which no fewer than 3 National League sides were defeated.
After finishing in 12th place in 2017, a bad run at the start of the 2017/18 season led to the resignations of Henty & Smith. The Committee turned to another former player, Joe Keith, to take over. He had made 56 appearances for the Club as a member of the 2009 League Cup winning side, and had since gained much experience as a number two with Canvey Island and East Thurrock United. He gradually brought some new faces to Tilbury and steadied the ship, with the Club enjoying an excellent finish to the season, and has continued his rebuilding during the 2018 summer. The new season now begins with a sense of Guarded Optimism at Tilbury, as they look to upset many of the clubs with much larger budgets.