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Club History

Wells City Football Club was founded on May 27th 1890 when a meeting was held at the Star Hotel in Wells. Their first home was “Torfurlong” then named “Torfairlands”. Success was almost immediate with the club winning the first ever Somerset Senior league title a feat repeated the very next season. The 1892/93 season saw Wells City enter the first ever Bristol & District League which was the forbearer for today’s Toolstation Western League which they are founder members. It was recorded that a Wells player scored the first ever goal in the league on the opening day of the season to seal a 2-0 win against Mangotsfield, however this was to be their only win of the season coupled with only 4 drawn games all season the club finished bottom of the league, travelling was difficult in this era as six of the nine sides competing in the league came from Bristol as well as Cleve don and Trowbridge which meant long away journeys, road and rail links were not as they are today, teams would more often than not have to change at least once travelling by train to reach opponents grounds and early morning starts to away games were the norm. The 1893/94 season saw Wells City move to their present day ground at Rowdens Road in Wells, they also returned to compete in the Somerset senior league and became champions again for the third time in four years. The next season saw Wells City play in the inaugural Somerset Senior Cup final only to lose 4-0 to what would become their cup nemesis Radstock Town; however revenge was gained the very next season as the teams met again in the final with Wells City running out 2-0 winners.
The start of the twentieth century again saw Wells City clinch the Somerset Senior League in the 1902/03 season, they would continue to compete in the Somerset Senior League right up to the Great War of 1914-18 where so many young footballers from the area answered the call to arms and travelled to northern France and Belgium, many young footballers would never return. With the horrors of The Great War behind them Wells City rejoined the Senior League straight after the war. Around this time Wells City reserves were competing in the Weston & District League. The 1923/24 season saw the creation of the Mid Somerset Senior League, at this time the Somerset Senior League did not have the number of clubs it does today so it was common for teams not to have enough fixtures to fill a season, The Mid Somerset Senior league created more competitive games for clubs in the mid Somerset area. Wells City, Street, Glastonbury and Bridgwater competed in the first ever league with Wells City piping Street to the title by a single point. Indeed it was common place for a lot of clubs around this time to enter their first teams into both Western and senior leagues to allow clubs to have fuller fixture lists. The 1926/27 season saw Wells City beat local rivals Wells St Cuthberts on their way to winning the Somerset Charity Cup beating Street 3-1 in the final at Glastonbury. The next season saw Wells City make another Somerset Senior Cup final appearance only to lose 5-1 to familiar foes Radstock Town. The 1928/29 season saw Wells City and Radstock Town battling it out for the whole season to try and clinch the Somerset Senior League title in the end the title was shared and Wells City were duly invited to join the Western League. With there only being 18 games in Western League Division Two for the 1929/30 season Wells City embrace the trend of most clubs and competed in both Western and Senior league respectively, the clubs first season back in the Western League for over 30 years saw them finish a creditable third behind Trowbridge Town and Portland Utd respectively. It also saw yet another defeat in the Somerset Senior cup final losing by a solitary goal to Radstock Town. Around this time Wells City reserves were competing in the Cheddar Valley Saturday League.
The 1930’s saw an influx of teams into the Western League meaning the fixture list was a lot fuller than in past seasons, Wells first team would only enter the Western league in the 1930/31 season and like most clubs around the area that played in both competitions left the Somerset Senior League, this made the Senior League less competitive throughout the 1930’s. After two successive Somerset Senior cup final defeats Wells City finally got their hands on the Trophy beating Street 2:1 in the 1931 final. The season after history was made in the Somerset Senior cup final with Wells City and Radstock Town sharing the trophy, with the scores locked at 3:3 the match was abandoned due to adverse weather, this was and still is the only time the trophy has been shared. Players around this time included brothers Teddy and Arthur Hayne, Ernie Collins, Gilbert Dunn also players that represented the county like Jack Lunnon, Eddie Paul and George Grundy. The Hayne brothers would walk from Paulton to Farrington Gurney to catch the bus to Wells for matches while local garage Sampson & Jones would supply 2 cars for travel to away matches. The 1937/38 “Double “ season saw Wells City first team finish mid table in the Western League but clinch the Somerset Senior cup by hammering Clevedon in the final by a 5:1 scoreline. The reserves now competing in the Somerset Senior League clinched the league championship making the season one of the most successful in the clubs history. Players of the successful season included Reg Griffin, Ted Andow, Charlie Cribb, Basil Radford, Harold Carter, Alan Hurd and Captain Ron Marsh who until recently still watched Wells on occasions! However it would be a long time before Wells City would see their name on the trophy again.
With the spectre of War hanging over the country the 1938/39 season was an uneventful one with a mid table finish in the Western League. The following season with the onset of war in Europe the Western League was much reduced in numbers with just one division of 11 teams in which Wells City disappointingly finished third from bottom, Trowbridge would win the league and hold on to the trophy due to the suspension of the league during the war. After the second world war the 1945/46 Western league season started as it ended before hostilities throughout Europe began with a greatly reduced single league, however Wells did not rejoin until the season after, there was much restructuring throughout league football straight after the war and for the 1946/47 the Western League returned to two divisions and Wells City were invited to compete in division one of the Western League for the first time in their history with the reserves rejoining the Somerset Senior league. With clubs still finding their feet after the war many of the fixtures were not completed and the league finished incomplete, Wells City finished mid table in their first ever season in division one. The 1947/48 season was a defining season in many ways for the football club not so much on the playing side as another comfortable mid table berth was achieved in the Western League and another Somerset Senior cup final appearance gained only to lose by a single goal to Peasdown Miners Welfare who would go on to lift the cup 5 times over the next ten years, but off the pitch a huge change of thinking and direction was about to take place. On January 18th 1948 Mr A Coles owner of local business Clares Printing and chairman of the football club held a meeting, with Wells City being one of the oldest amateur football clubs in the country it was decided Wells City would turn professional, this decision did not go down well with some at the club and Wells Amateurs was formed who played their games at Portway Playing Fields. Turning professional led to ex Bristol City player Ernie Jones joining the club he was given a job by the chairman and took a wage from the football club. The following season saw another mid table finish as Ernie Jones started to assemble a team capable of winning the first division trophy. The 1949/50 season saw Wells City win the Western League division one title on goal difference just beating Poole Town to the trophy by one goal, the team made up of local and Bristol players and led by the inspirational captain Ernie Jones paraded the cup from the balcony of Wells town hall to the joyous supporters below, players in this championship winning side included local lads Reg Stacey, George Collins, Archie Cribb, Gordon Davey, Les Marsh, Eric Stokes and brothers Bob and Fred Dodkin and George and Jack Paul, the Bristol contingent were Brian Redwood, Bill Kew, Jimmy O’Connor, Fred Baverstock and brothers Reg and Ron Grant, Reg Watts was the goal keeper. Wells City reached the 2nd qualifying round of the F.A cup losing to Bideford after a replay. The 1950/51 season saw Wells nearly retain the championship eventually gaining the runners up spot finishing 5 points behind local rivals Glastonbury. The success of the last two years could not be matched as the next 3 seasons Wells City finished mid table indeed the 1954/55 season saw Wells City finish 3rd from bottom of the first division and just avoid relegation, however the highlight of the season was the F.A cup, the club reached the 4th qualifying round beating Bridgwater Town, Clandown and Radstock Town before going out to Newport I-O-W just one round before the first round proper! On the playing side the clubs fortunes were beginning to slide, the 1955/56 saw the club flirt with relegation all season eventually finishing 4th from bottom, the F.A cup did little to lift the gloom with a 5-1 defeat away at Weston Super Mare in the second qualifying round. the 1956/57 season saw the now ageing Ernie Jones struggle to inspire Wells and the club finished bottom of the league picking up just 12 points all season and were duly relegated to division 2 of the Western League. Wells City now back in the second division for the first time in 11 years could only achieve a mid table birth, however the 57/58 season saw the emergence of a certain Tim Grant who joined Wells City after his time spent in the armed forces, he would go on to be one of Wells City’s greatest players a livewire forward who scored over 200 goals for the club spanning a 10 year playing career for the club scoring 45 goals in one particular season! Financial problems were beginning to grip the club and the club finished the 58/59 season bottom of the second division winning just 5 games all season, the club sent a letter to the Western League declaring their intention to revert to amateur status thus resigning from the league. The Western League AGM in July 1959 saw Wells City along with 4 other clubs intent on resignation from the league, a special motion was forwarded by Wells City to continue membership of division 2 while remaining an amateur club, the league accepted this proposal. The 59/60 season saw just 14 clubs compete in the second division which concerned member clubs, In November the league called a special meeting with a proposal to introduce a regional subsidiary competition to boost fixtures for the remainder of the season, four clubs including Wells City decided not to compete in the additional competition. Off the field the club continued to struggle financially like many clubs in the Western League, on the field the club finished a lowly 10th place. A special general meeting was called by the Western League for May 26th, originally the meeting was to announce next season’s constitution of two divisions, a top division of nineteen teams and the second division continuing with 14 teams, however the league had to consider the prospect of continuing with a single division as some of the second division clubs has threatened to resign from the league if membership of the second division was not increased. The league’s proposal was to continue with a single division for the 60/61 season; however a ballot was taken to see if the second division clubs wanted to continue with 14 clubs and the additional subsidiary competition. At this time status of a league was purely in the eye of the beholder, reduced travelling and running costs made Somerset senior League football very appealing for many clubs. The ballot was taken and 9 of the 14 second division clubs including Wells City voted against continuing their membership of the Western League. With the club crippled with debt and Captain Ernie Jones leaving the club a return to the Somerset Senior league was the only sensible option, Wells City and near neighbours Street would return to the Somerset Senior League. The 60/61 season saw 1st team affairs being managed by Tim Grant and Norman Emery, both continued to play for the 1st team, the clubs debt had to be addressed and a fundraising skittle game was held at the Mermaid inn which raised in the region of £200 to put the club back on an sound footing with then secretary Joe Angel selling lotto coupons, Harry Gerrish and Marcel Wills helping out with the clubs administration the clubs fortunes seemed to be on the up. Players throughout the sixties included Dick Golding, John Stone, Keith Parsons, Mike Cornish, Graham Morgan, Sandy Barrett, Bernard Veasey, Gordan Crib, Arthur Vernoum, Roy Padfield, Ally Banwell, Ivor Hockey, Richard Fricker, Terry Wolf, Brian Hares and Eric Loxton who’s son Steve is currently chairman of the club. The first team finished 6th in their first season back in the Senior League with a side made up of local players. The reserves who were now playing in the Mid-Somerset league finished in a mid table birth. The first half of the sixties saw the first team finish mid table, the 62/63 season saw player manager Tim Grant score 45 goals including a 5 goal haul against Clevedon Utd in the Senior Cup, the match ending 5 each! The reserves achieved runners up spot in the Mid-Somerset league, a feat repeated the following season. The 64/65 season saw Wells City win the Somerset Charity Cup beating Winscombe 5:2 in the final at Cheddar F.C, The 65/66 season saw minor honours again come to Wells as the club retained the Charity Cup beating local rivals Shepton Mallet 2:1 in a replay at Glastonbury F.C, league fortunes took a turn for the better with a creditable 3rd place finish behind champions Street and Welton Rovers reserves. The reserves moved to the Weston Super Mare Saturday league and finished in a creditable 5th place however major honours still eluded the club so far. The 66/67 season saw the reserves gain runners up spot in the league and win the Weston League KO cup against Alumin Utd. The late sixties saw the both teams finish mid table, but heralded the arrival of ex Carlisle Utd player Eddie Westmorland his influence would become crucial over the next 10 years or so along with such names as Roy Hillman, Brian Hooper, Glyn Morgan, Phillip Young, Kevin Thorner, Keith Beasley, Rob McCrudden, Tony Wolf, Mike Denscombe, Brian Keating, Roy Padfield and the young Phillip Watson. With the England national side winning the 1966 World cup grass roots football grew quickly in the mid to late sixties with more local football clubs forming, this lead to a nationwide restructuring of local league football. The Somerset Senior league added a combination league which was made up of mainly reserve sides, the combination league was introduced at the start of the 70/71 season, Wells City reserves joined this league and finished 5th place. The 1st team now under the guidance Tim Grant and Eddie Westmorland also gained 5th place in their league. The 72/73 season saw Wells gain runners up spot behind Paulton Rovers in the senior league. The 73/74 season saw the reserves finish runners up to Odd Down reserves in the combination league, players in this team included Pat Byrne, Mike Magrath, Dave Collins, Ray Pritchard and Tony Fisher all who were more than capable of stepping into the first team when needed. With Joe Angell now as treasurer and Dick Golding as secretary the club was settled off the pitch as well as on it. Some of the first team players of this era were Mike Windsor, Wyn Reece, Philip Curtis, Tony Roe, Dave Burden and Tony Berry. The mid seventies saw Philip Curtis and Eric Loxton take the helm but performances started to decline, the old guard started to move out, ex Welton, Frome and Radstock and finally Wells City player Phillip Curtis retired from football. Dick Golding and Joe Angel as secretary and treasurer of the club both who had kept Wells stable for so long also retired. Steve Tibbs took over first team matters but could not stop the team to being relegated to the first division of the Somerset Senior league at the end of the 77/78 season, he kept faith with what was a young team which included the likes of Cliff Hopkins, Jimmy McCoughlin, Tony Wright, Paul Vincent, Dave Loxton, Russell Gilchrist, Kevin Hoskins, Jeff Mitchell and brothers Lance and Cameron Truckle. His loyalty paid off and promotion back to the premier division was gained at the end of the 79/80 season. By the early eighties Wells City were struggling both on and off the field, Eric Loxton bravely took on the role of manager again, along with Mike Cornish, Ray Pritchard, Dave House and Les Phipps tried to steer the club through a difficult financial and playing period indeed the club owes its very existence to Ray Pritchard. Relegation back to the first division happened at the end of 81/82 season. The reserves were fairing no better than the first team the 83/84 season saw the 2nd XI relegated from the Somerset Senior league division 2. The mid eighties saw Phillip Watson return from Australia, he was asked to take on running the first team, his enthusiasm and hard work started to lift the first team out of the doldrums. However the reserves had to seek re-election to the league after finishing bottom of the third division at the end of the 85/86 season, luckily they were successful with their re election and retained their league status. In 1988 by the time Phillip Watson returned to Australia the club was riding high in the first division, Mike Burr took control halfway through the 87/88 season and steered them to a fourth place finish, it was enough to gain them promotion back to the premier division of the Senior league. During the latter half of the eighties the reserves continued to struggle near the bottom of division three. The euphoria of the previous season was short lived as the first team struggled at the higher level the 88/89 season saw Wells City finish third from bottom and were relegated. Two more seasons were spent in the first division before promotion was achieved at the end of the 90/91 season. The yo-yo effect continued as the next season the first team finished bottom of the league and were relegated back to the first division, also the 91/92 season saw the reserves seek re-election to the league due to finishing bottom of division three. Third place was achieved by the 1st XI at the end of the 93/94 season which was enough to see Wells back in the top the top flight of senior football. The next season saw the reserves gain runners up spot in division three of the senior league and gain promotion. Fortunes seemed to look up in the mid nineties as the first team saw another 3rd place finish in space of 3 years. However the next two seasons saw relegation for both teams with the first team being relegated at the end of 97/98 and the reserves the season after, but the first team got promotion back to the premier division of the senior league for the start of the 99/00 season. The next two seasons saw Wells City start to establish themselves in the premier division and banish the yo-yo tag that had dogged the team for the previous 15 years, The 00/01 season saw Kenton Palmer take over mid season from ex Bristol Rovers player Paul Randall and gain a mid table finish, the reserves gained promotion back to division two thanks to a third place finish in division three. The 01/02 season was a defining season in many ways on and off the field, Kenton Palmer scoured the county to assemble a team that was capable of winning the league, Wells City were in contention for the title for most of the season but a dip in form right at the end of the season saw the team finish third but a Senior cup final at Paulton Rovers F.C against Watchet Town F.C awaited, this was Wells City’s first appearance in the final since 1948 and a chance to win the trophy for the first time since 1938. The city embraced the clubs final appearance with then president Jim Hardy owner of the City Arms pub in Wells hosting a pre match breakfast for the players, indeed Jim Hardy and Monty Boyce can be credited for putting the foundations in place for where the club is today. Over 500 supporters from Wells Descended on Paulton on May bank holiday Monday with great expectation, the signs were positive when James Dash kept up his scoring record of a goal in every round, his goal looked to have won the final but Watchet equalized late on to take the game into extra time, Wells striker John Prior left the field injured, then Watchet scored in extra time, Wells pushed forward for an equalizer only to be caught on the break by a third goal from Watchet. The final may have been lost but both on and off the field the common conclusion was that maybe the club was ready make a push for a place in the western league in the near future. Kenton Palmer stood down as manager before the start of 02/03 season; his successor was Aarron Wickham as Wells continued to adopt the “boot room” recruitment policy. However the momentum of the previous 18 months did not carry on, Wells struggled for results in the league and Aarron’s tenure was a relatively short one, Dave Loxton took charge for the rest of the season, Wells Just managed to avoid relegation. The 03/04 proved no better than the previous season, Dave Loxton left the club mid season. Ex Street player Wayne Bradshaw took control of first team matters assisted by James Dash and Tim Westmacott, the season was a disappointment as again Wells finished near the foot of the table, the reserves fared better they gained promotion to the second division. The 04/05 season saw an improvement in fortunes in the league, Wells City were lying just below the pace setters in the league and in two cup quarter finals, however Wayne Bradshaw left the club in January, his successor was reserve team manager Julian Coppell, the momentum did not continue and Wells finished a disappointing 9th in the league after the season had promised so much. Wells Appointed ex Churchill F.C manager Mark Leaney to take charge of first team affairs at the start of the 05/06 season, he brought a sense of discipline and professionalism to the football club his first season in charge saw the first team finish 5th place but the nucleus of a team capable of challenging for the County league title was beginning to take shape. The 06/07 season saw the reserves being managed by James Dash and Tim Rice, now playing in the County League division 2 west, they were in contention for promotion all through the season only to lose the penultimate game of the season away at local rivals Street F.C which cost Wells City the runners up spot and promotion. However the first team had progressed to the Somerset Senior cup final, the clubs first appearance in five years. Another 5th place in the league was achieved and league champions Burnham Utd stood between Wells City winning the cup for the first time since 1938, A large following from Wells made the journey to Weston Super Mare F.C for the final, Chris Sheard opened the scoring for Wells City, only for Burnham to draw level, however in the second half Olly Edwards put Wells back in front and Wells City won the cup 2:1. The 07/08 season saw Wells City improve greatly in the league and push a very strong Nailsea Utd side for the league title, Nailsea would win the league by 10 points but Wells took the runners up spot and it was enough to see the club promoted to the Western League after a gap of nearly 50 years. As Wells City prepared for their first season back in the Western League James Dash was promoted to assistant manager of the first team, the club was busy preparing for their biggest game in nearly 50 years, an opening game at home to Oldland Abbotonians when the club was hit by a bombshell, manager Mark Leaney resigned less than 24 hours before kick off, the club relied on senior players such as Aaron Wickham, Sam Andrews, Barry Maynard and Mike Charlton to assist assistant manager James Dash through the difficult few weeks as the club sought a new manager, the Dunkirk team spirit saw the club achieve their first win of the season with a gritty 1:0 away win at Odd Down. Ex Bridgwater and Weston player Tim Moxey was appointed at the start of September In their first season in the Western league there was some noticeable victories, a 7:1 home win against Elmore and probably the best performance of the season at Longwell Green when a 3:1 victory against the eventual league runners up was achieved The club finished a creditable 10th place in their first season back in the Western League. The 2009/10 season was the most successful in the clubs history. A good opening day win against Oldlands Abbotonians was the catalyst for a truly memorable season Wells City went top of the league in mid September and remained there until the end of the season. Promotion was achieved at local rivals Shepton Mallet when a 4 nil victory ensured premier division football for the following season, 3 days later the title was secured when a 3 nil victory in the reverse fixture against Shepton Mallet. Good victories against Radstock Town, Taunton Town and Street saw Wells City progress to the semi finals of the Somerset Premier cup in their debut season in the competition, A large crowd at the Athletic ground saw Wells take on Southern League Bridgwater Town with the visitors running out 2 nil winners. The F.A vase saw Wells progress to the second round proper with victories over Minehead and Wessex league Verwood Town. The 2010/11 season saw Wells City complete in the premier division of the Western League for the first time in over 50 years, a creditable top half finish was achieved with noticeable 3-0 home and 5-0 away victories over league champions Larkhall Athletic the latter result earning the club the Sunday Independent “TEAM OF THE DAY” award. Ground improvements saw a new perimeter fence around the pitch and new dug outs installed, the ground improvements saw Wells City FC host the Les Phillips cup final, a large crowd of 410 watched Ilfracombe beat Cadbury Heath in the final. The 2011/12 season saw an eventful cup runs in both FA cup and vase, victories over Welton and Bristol Manor Farm in the FA vase saw Wells progress but an extra time goal by Gary Higdon put an end to the FA vase cup run at first division pace setters Melksham Town. The FA cup was somewhat more eventful, a solid 3-0 victory at Hengrove saw Wells City drawn away to southern league Bishops Cleeve, in a tight game a goal late in the game by blue’s striker Steve Murray gave Wells a memorable victory, the draw for the next round saw Wells travel to Southern league premier division side Chippenham town, a sizeable Wells support descended on Hardenhuish park to see Wells put up a spirited rear guard action only to finally overpowered 3-0 but not disgraced against a very strong side. It seemed the cup run was over for another season, however it came to light that Chippenham had fielded an illegible player in the tie and were expelled from the competition, this saw Wells City drawn at home to Conference south side Woking, a crowd of over 400 descended on the Athletic ground to see what was the biggest game in over 50 years at the club, Woking took an early 2 goal lead in the game and dominated throughout running out comfortable 7-0 winners but it was a day to remember for Wells. The winter months were hard for Wells as the club was rocked by the departures of Nathan Truckle and prolific striker Steve Murray to neighbours Street, the second half of the season saw indifferent results with manager Tim Moxey announcing he would be stepping down at end of season due to a job opportunity abroad, mid march saw Tim step down early to help behind the scenes at the club until the end of the season and club stalwart James Dash take over team affairs until the end of the season. Although relegation was never a threat a disappointing bottom half of the table finish was achieved.
The 2012/13 season saw new manager Ray Johnston given the unenviable task of rebuilding a side with half the side leaving the club during close season, 3 straight defeats in the clubs first three league games did not bode well for the future but a 6-0 win at much fancied Bitton and a 4-0 home win against Barnstable gave raised optimism however early exits from both cups and a succession of injuries to key players especially goalkeepers with the club using no less than six different goalies throughout the season saw the club win only 7 league games and after 3 season in the premier division the club was relegated back to the first division. Ray Johnston left the club by mutual consent and the club have appointed Wells City player Sam Andrews as manager for the coming season.

STEVE VOWLES. June 2013

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