Where it all began....
Chadlington has a long history of playing sport - particularly football and cricket - dating back to around 1912. No one can uncover when the exact date that a football may have been kicked or the sound of leather despatched from a cricket bat into the near-by fields first happened, but it was a long time ago.
The first recorded photograph is of the cricket team in 1912 and this is where we have taken our date established from.
Chadlington Cricket Club in 1912 outside the old pavilion
In the 1920's the football team played in the Chipping Norton & District League and first won a trophy in the 1921-22 season by winning Division One. A photograph of the team with the trophy is hanging in our clubhouse and it is the first known in existence of Chadlington Football Club. By this time the side had chosen colours of blue and white stripes, the reasons for this have been lost to history.
Chadlington Football Club 1922 in their traditional blue and white shirts
In 1925-26 Chadlington brought home the Chipping Norton Engineers Cup for the first time, a feat that would not be repeated until over 50 years later.
Chipping Norton Engineers Cup 1926
In 1927-28 the Division One title was once again secured and for the following season, Chadlington played in the Witney & District League for the first time joining sides such as Charlbury, Leafield and Ascott-under-Wychwood.
Chipping Norton & District Division One 1927-28
By the 1930's Chadlington had reached the top division in the Witney & District but no further titles or cups were won.
During this period matches were played on the field closest to Chapel Road where the cricket outfield is now. A small timber pavilion stood down by the bottom gate before being rebuilt further up when a new field was added where it stands today.
In September 1939 War was declared and by Christmas of that year the league was suspended indefinitely with conscription being in place to the armed forces and many players working hard on the land.
Post war blues and whites!
Football returned to the village for the 1946-47 season with the Witney & District League re-emerging with two Divisions. Chadlington resumed their place in the top league.
In 1949 nearly the whole village turned out for this photo!
1949-50 silverware returned to Chadlington for the first time in 20 years when the team lifted the Fred Ford Memorial Cup for the very first time. The following season their first Senior Challenge cup followed.
The football team was strong throughout the 1950’s, winning for the first time the coveted Oxfordshire Football Association Junior Shield Competition.
In May 1957 Chadlington met North Leigh in an all Witney & District final at Marriots Close, Witney. The crowd was said to be large with supporters standing 4 deep in some parts. Barry Norton, an OFA Councillor later recalled "North Leigh taking an early two goal lead only to be pegged back to 2-2 with only a few minutes remaining. The match went to extra time and Chadlington were awarded a controversial penalty which Terry Cox scored to take the lead. Almost immediately North Leigh equalised to tie the score at 3-3 at the end of extra time". With penalty shoot outs not part of the game until the 1970's, no time in the season left for a replay and Chadlington declining extra extra time it was decided that the Shield would be shared for only the second and last time in the competitions history.
The following season in 1958 the team battled their way back to the Shield final yet again and this time won it outright. They remain the only team to have defended the title in the competitions 122 year history.
More cups followed thereafter with another Fred Ford Cup and the Senior Cup. In 1959 Chadlington's first Premier Division title was clinched while Charlbury finished second and lifted the Junior Shield. Throughout the decade the village would always battle hard against rivals North Leigh and Charlbury.
Chadlington FC's first colour photograph from 1958. B/row B Drinkwater, E Dix, T Bridges, B Souch, M Kitchen, D Cox. F/row M Didcock, D Cox, W Timms, P Frame, G Souch
The Oxfordshire Junior Shield Competition that had been in existence since 1896 would dominate the football season for decades after, with sons trying desperately to emulate their fathers' winning medals – or win one when the dad’s lost out. Some did and some did not.
The goldern years
In the 1980’s the village team was at its peak. For several years Chadlington Football Club would dominate County Competitions and the more local Witney & District FA leagues and cups. There were more local derbies with North Leigh and Charlbury of course.
As well as the on the field improvements the facilities were also being modernised. In the 1970's the changing rooms had been extended and showers were installed. By the early 1980's the club embarked on building a clubroom and bar facilities which would continually be improved over the decade.
The run of cup winning sides actually started in 1978/79 when the First Team lifted the Fred Ford Cup. This was added to with the Chipping Norton Engineers Cup, the Chipping Norton Charity Cup, the Crosby Cup and the Burford Sports Cup. Although all these cups are now not played for and almost forgotten, in their day the challenge of lifting them was a prized feat and added to the shear number of games the players would play in the season.
The glory kept on returning to Chadlington and in the 10 years from 78/79 until 88/89 the side picked up a staggering 28 cups of various shapes and sizes.
The highlights of these triumphs were winning the Oxfordshire Junior Shield in 1983 when they deposed Charlbury as both Shield holders and Witney & District Prem holders. In the final of the 1983 Junior Shield in May, Chadlington beat 5 time winners Ruscote Sports at Banbury Stadium. The Shield was once again clinched in 1985 when they beat 1984 finalists Ardley United at Oxford City to take the title back from North Leigh.
These achievements were topped though by the team winning their highest ranked trophy to that date with the Oxfordshire Charity Cup in 1981. Chadlington were at the time just the second ever Witney & District Side to have achieved this after Napier Rovers in 1971.
The team of 1981 with the Charity Cup and the Moreton Floodlit Cup. T Catling, P Collier, G Harding, K Sherbourne, A England, D Souch, A Powell, T Powell, G Bridges, G Duester, P Duester, K Cooper, P Catling, D Catling
The 1983 and 1985 Oxfordshire Junior Shield winning sides. 1983 - B/row A Powell, G Harding, T Catling, K Sherbourne, A England, P Souch, D Souch, P Catling, R Green. F/row A Powell, G Cooper, P Duester, D Souch, J Pearce. 1985 - B/row J Blake, J Pearce, K Sherbourne, T Catling, G Harding, T Powell, P Catling, G Cooper. F/row D Souch, A Perrie, P Duester, D Catling, D Souch, K Cooper
Once again and just as in the great teams of the 1920's and 1950's virtually all the players came from or were associated with the village, many were brothers and cousins. Something unthinkable now in modern times. It simply wasn't a Chadlington side without a Souch, a Catling and a Duester in it. The Catlings themselves can claim 5 brothers playing in sides from the 1970s until the 2000's.
The stand out players of golden era to popular opinion were the 'three Pauls', Paul Catling, Paul Duester and Paul Souch. All of them contest that the other ones were the better.
What is also forgotten by the history books is the number of runners up medals too, the side often came close to adding to the trophy tally but with the shear volume of games being played in the season they sometimes came up just short. An example of this can be found in 1981/82 when they lost the Premier Division title to their great rivals Charlbury on goal difference alone. However, the title was regained the following year of course! In 1989 the side also lost a Junior Shield Final 3-2 to Milcombe Sports at Banbury United.
The success continues
In the early 1990s a new team emerged from the side that had dominated the decade before. Some players moved on and some players retired (many before their time). However, they quickly got back to winning ways and again lifted the Junior Shield in 1993. Dennis Souch, Tony Powell and Graham Harding collected their third shield medals for the club with a 1-0 win over Hanborough played at Press Steel under player/manager Paul Souch and assistant manager, Paul Duester. The trophy was presented by Geoff Wilson who had played for Bloxham Athletic when the competition had first been shared in 1950.
That year the team also went on to win the Premier League, Fred Ford Cup and the impressive Shipston Hospital Cup in an unprecedented haul. The Reserves also won the Junior Challenge Cup despite being in Division Two at the time.
The 1993 side with four trophies. B/row P Duester, D Souch, K Drinkwater, G Harding, M Ward, P Smith, A Eley, K Eley, T Powell. F/row A Watson, L Didcock, S Matthews, P Souch, L Flashman, R Dore
Of course, much of the clubs history is defined by the triumphs of the First Team but throughout this period the Reserves continued to benefit. Historically playing in the lower leagues of the Witney & District the Reserves improved steadily and played much of their football in Division Two and even had a brief stint in Division One in the 1990/91 season and won the Jack Busby Cup in 1992.
Success for the Reserves too in 1992. B/row S Young, S Davies, A Eley, C Goodgame, M Hanson, R Barnfield, I Barnfield, R Hinchcliffe. F/row S Taylor, C Pascoe, R Tyack, R Catling, J Ducker, D Hinchcliffe
In 1996 Chadlington again attempted to lift the Junior Shield in the competitions centenary year. This was their 7th final and would have been their 6th victory but they were beaten in the final on penalties by Spartan Rangers at Witney Town. Tied legs proved Chads undoing having already had a long season getting through to 3 finals.
The 1996 Shield Final programme with a candid assessment of the players on show!
Shield defeat though was avenged by success in the Senior Challenge Cup and the Oxfordshire Charity Cup. In winning the counties highest ranked trophy for a club at their level (the Charity Cup), Chadlington remain only one of eight Witney & District Clubs to do so and only one of three to win it twice along with Enstone and North Leigh.
Charity Cup success again at Carterton FC in 1996. B/row J Fitzgerald, S Catling, D Shadbolt, I Willoughby, S Souch, N Fudge, S Matthews, P Duester. F/row J Pearce, P Souch, S Peedell, N Shadbolt, L Didcock, R Wyatt, D Souch
At the end of that season and having won so much over the last 5 years, many players moved on. For the rest of the decade, Chadlington tried to re-build with a younger generation including many from their youth side between 1994 & 1996.
In the 1997-98 season the task was just too hard and relegation from the Premier Division was confirmed for the first time in 25 years.
It was an end of an era. Over the previous 20 years the trophy count was remarkable and with the departure of North Leigh into higher leagues the club had become the most successful current Witney & District Side of all time. It is an achievement that is likely never to be replicated and remains a daunting legacy for all future players and managers to live up to.
Ups and downs
Chadlington spent just two seasons in Division One of the Witney & District finishing runners up in the 1999-00 season and gaining promotion back to the Premier Division. A new side had emerged with young players mainly from Chipping Norton and in the 2001-02 they lifted the Fred Ford cup at Witney Town for the 7th time in their history. The trophy drout had lasted just 6 years.
Pride restored in 2002 before leaving the Witney & District. B/row B Mulhearn, J Guy, R McCabe, A Shadbolt,A Robson, G Slatter, M Corbett, A Akers, G Smith, K Mulhearn. F/row S Jones, S Peedell, M Jeffrey, A Tinkham, M Plumbridge.
In the summer of 2002, the club decided at a players meeting to make the momentous decision to enter the Oxfordshire Senior League, winning the league and securing promotion from Division One in their first year under the management of Steve 'Mega' Jones. With this promotion the status of the club moved to be defined as ‘Senior’, a great achievement for a village of less than 1000 people.
The team also battled through to the Oxfordshire Intermediate Cup Final but were beaten by Thame United Reserves and Oxford City.
(Team: G Smith, A Akers, K Mulhearn, R McCabe, A Robson, A Tinkham, C Forde, W Beauchamp, M Corbett, A Shadbolt, J Guy, M Jeffrey, S Peedle, G Slatter).
For the next 7 years the side remained in the Premier Division and continued to attract new players from outside the area in the search for silverware. New sponsors were found and the club even produced home match programmes for the first time.
The whole squad together in all new tracksuits for the 2007/08 season
In the 2007/08 season now under the management of Robbie Wyatt and Nigel Cleevely , the team narrowly lost out on the Premier league title by 2 points having lost just twice in the league all year. This would have been a huge achievement for an ex Witney & District Side, a feat that has only ever been achieved by Eynsham Association.
2008. B/row R McCabe, A Akers, W Beachamp, - , J Eley, - , A Holder. F/row G Wilson, S Gilbert, A Tinkham, J Wyatt, M Fitzgerald, W Tompkins, J Wyatt
With the disappointment of going so close and the effort it had taken this would be their best finish. From then on, the effort of sustaining Senior level football became ever harder in a time when the best players acted more like mercenaries that loyal club men.
However, the following season in May 2009 the football team put their league struggles behind them and went on a great cup run to win the Oxfordshire Senior League Presidents Cup in front of a large crowd at Kidlington. This was the clubs highest ranking competition in its history and was achieved with many local players who had been with the club throughout the Senior League years.
2009 Presidents Cup lifted by Captain Wayne Beauchamp and Tom Speers B/row T Speers, A Helby, A Holder, C Forde, M Corbett, J Eley, A Shadbolt, J Cleevely, B Mulhearn. F/row R Wyatt, S Chapman, M Fitzgerald, W Beachamp, D Cleevely, G Wilson, A Tinkham
It seemed as though this was as good as it was going to get and the cup victory was a sign for many players to move on knowing that they had achieved something in the Senior League era. The following season the side struggled and relegation back to Division One came quickly, they won just twice with the Reserves also not fairing much better in Division Three.
At the start of the 2010/11 season, things got worse when it soon became clear that there was not enough players to run the Reserve Team. Something that had not happened since shortly after WW2! If regrouping with just one side was the answer for stability, it didn't work and that season the side finished second from bottom having again just won two games all season.
Surely this was the low point? No, it would get worse, for in the summer of 2011 just weeks before the start of the new season it was clear that there would not be enough players for even one side to enter the league. After 90 years of continuous football (leaving aside a world war) Chadlington could be left without a football team.....
With the club stood on a precipice their position seemed hopeless. Their saving would come from a merger with Chad Park FC of the Witney & District League who were too struggling for players. Could the two sides combine to rescue the club?
On September 17th 2011 without having played any friendlies and with only a couple of training sessions Chadlington faced Riverside in Division One with a combination of 9 Chad Park players and 5 remaining Chadlington players in the squad. The new side was headed by a management team of Barry Mulhearn and Greg Kemp. The prospect of the club having no side was averted and the season was completed with double the points from the season before.
Chadlington v Riverside. Sept 2011. Senior League Division 1. B/row M McWilliams, W Beachamp, J O'Brien, S Hunt, G Slatter, M Shepherd, M Duester, D Souch. F/row C Salmon, S Bennett, G Kemp, M Plumbridge, J Vaughan, M North.
The low point had been reached and climbed out of. There was renewed optimism that a new future could be forged and a more sustainable football club built.
Back to the future
In September 2012 Chadlington FC returned to the Witney & District after a 10 year absence. The players had voted to leave the Senior League and the prospect of once again playing more local football sent an air of optimism shooting around the club. This was boosted by the return of a Reserve Team under the management of Chris Kemp.
Oxford Mail feature on Chadlington
This was Chadlington Sports Clubs centenary year and the new start seemed fitting. Along with that the club had received a grant to renovate the changing rooms which was long overdue.
Even the Prime Minister joined in with the new optimism
In their first season back in the Witney & District the club achieved promotion to the Premier League and lifted the Junior Challenge Cup for the third time in the clubs history. Despite relegation the following season back to Division One, the club has achieved a level of sustainability and continuity that has seen it re-build. Since 2012 the club has worked hard with its emerging junior football set up to bring players through into the adult teams with a careful balance between youth and experience.
Cup success again in the Witney & District. B/row M Shepherd, D Cleevely, G Slatter, M Plumbridge,J Betts, D Murphy, J O'Brien, S Hunt, F/row M Duester, J Catling, K Mulhearn, C Salmon, G Kemp, J Godfrey, C Jefferies
With facilities continually being improved and young players encouraged to play and thrive, perhaps this is the start of something great once more....
Written by Greg Kemp 2018