Team info

Ards FC History

In 1900 workers in a Newtownards factory formed a football team and they began playing games on a piece of land that now forms part of Newtownards Airport.

In the early years, the club played in lowly amateur leagues, unt...

Ards F.C.
Ards F.C.
Ards F.C.

About the team

In 1900 workers in a Newtownards factory formed a football team and they began playing games on a piece of land that now forms part of Newtownards Airport.

In the early years, the club played in lowly amateur leagues, until the outbreak of war in 1914. After the war the club began to develop rapidly and gained entry to the senior Irish League in 1923.

an early Ards team - 1908/09

In the same year Ards leased grounds at Castlereagh Park on Portaferry Road and Viscount Castlereagh opened these on 18th August that year. Ards’ first senior game was played in Carrickfergus on Saturday 25th August against Barn United and the side famously recorded a 2-1 win.

The following Saturday Ards played their first home game and beat visitors Newry Town 1-0. The first season finished with Ards second from bottom of a 10-team league.

a 1940s

Things steadily improved until 1926/27 when many locals believed this would be Ards’ year. A strong early run in the league saw the side eventually finish 5th, though there was to be greater success in the Irish Cup as the side beat Cliftonville in the final to secure the club's first major trophy. In that team was outside right Andy Bothwell, the legendary Northern Ireland international, who had brought great honour to the club when he represented his country.

The next ten years saw very inconsistent performances. Although reaching a few cup finals along the way, the side was struggling in the league and was forced to apply for re-election in 1935/36 after finishing bottom. The club was also suffering financially and but for a £3000 donation from local businessmen, the team might have folded. The outbreak of war in 1939 saw an end to senior football and for the next few years Ards played as an intermediate team, collecting two minor trophies along the way.

Once the war ended Ards set about trying to regain entry to the Irish League. Enough funds were eventually raised in time for the team to begin competing again in 1947. A year later Ards welcomed their first English visitors to Castlereagh Park, in the shape of Luton Town who were defeated 2-1 in a friendly match.

the Irish Cup winning side of 1951/52

Ards remained an average side with their final position fluctuating between second last and sixth over the next few seasons. They did produce a number of good players though and several of these including top scorer Norman Case were transferred to English clubs.

George Eastham

Ards again reached the Irish Cup final in 1952 and in front of a 15000 crowd at Windsor Park, Ards defeated the league champions Glentoran. That evening huge crowds filled the streets of Newtownards as the team paraded the trophy on board an open-top bus.

After that Ards made probably their best ever signing by appointing Englishman George Eastham as player-manger. He also brought along with him his son George who was to become one of the best players Ards ever had and was capped many times by England. In 1953 a player arrived from Glentoran by the name of Billy Humphries, a man who now forms part of legend at Ards FC. Ards were now improving under Eastham's management and finished third in the league in 1956/57.

the Castlereagh Park stadium in the 1950s

The following season and everything Ards had been dreaming of was realised. They fought a close league campaign with Lurgan side Glenavon, eventually taking the championship with a record of WON 16 DRAWN 4 LOST 2. The club's reserve side also won their own league trophy that season. As league champions Ards entered the following season's European Cup where they faced Stade de Reims of France, whose side included the World Cup's greatest ever scorer Juste Fontaine.

Fontaine scored all four goals in the first leg as Ards were beaten 4-1 at Windsor Park and the second leg in France ended 6-2 to the home team. In between those games Leeds United had paid for the services of Billy Humphries and he made his first transfer across the water. Eastham departed the club after seven years to manage Accrington Stanley in England though returned to the club in 1964 amid terrible playing fortunes for the side.

the solitary league winning side of 1957-58

action from an encounter with Glenavon in 1956

Ards were unearthing many new players around this time as they signed Billy Nixon from Shrewsbury while Ray Mowat, Billy McAvoy, Ronnie McAteer and Davy McCoy were emerging from the youth team. In 1966 Ards purchased Castlereagh Park outright for £1100. Secretary at this time was a man named Harry Cavan, who would go on to become one of the most powerful men in world football as Vice-President of FIFA from 1960-1990.

The side was gradually improving as the players mentioned above began to gel and in 1969 Ards won their third Irish Cup, defeating Distillery 4-1 after extra-time. Billy McAvoy scored all four Ards goals, one of only two men to achieve this feat. He went on to score 301 goals for Ards, a record that may well never be beaten. For that Ards earned a place in the European Cup Winners' Cup and a tie with AS Roma. Ards won all the praise for the first leg managing to keep the score to 0-0, though they lost the return game at the Olympic Stadium 3-1.


League Position