A BRIEF HISTORY OF HERNE BAY FOOTBALL CLUB
It could be argued that Herne Bay FC had their most successful season in their 125th year. Having been runners up two years running in the Kent League they secured the League Championship with games to spare and had a superb run in the FA Vase becoming only the second Kent League club to reach the semi-final stage where they went out to Northern League side West Auckland Town over the two legs by the odd goal in seven (4-3.) Herne Bay was formed in 1886 and began life in the East Kent League, then having a short period in the Kent League before winning the East Kent League in four successive years between 1902 and 1906 returning to the Kent League as a result.
1953 saw the move to Winch’s Field. Over 1,000 spectators saw their first match at their new home; a 2 - 2 draw against Tunbridge Wells Reserves in Kent League Division 2. Within two years they lifted the Division 2 title, winning promotion to Division 1. In the 1957/58 season, the club won The Kent Amateur Cup beating Bromley 2 - 0 in the final. The following season saw the Kent League fold and a move to the Aetolian League followed. The 1964/65 season saw another move to Division 2 of the Athenian League, where they enjoyed several successful seasons followed by promotion to Division 1 on winning Division 2 in 1970/71. A good run in the FA Cup saw the Bay reach the 4th qualifying rounds, where they lost to the then ‘mighty’ Margate in front of a record home attendance of 2,303.
At the start of the 1974/75 campaign, the Club returned to the Kent League, and in the 1978/79 season they had good runs in the Cup competitions; defeating Welling United in the Kent Senior Trophy and losing to Sheppey United in the Kent League Cup. The nineties saw the Club become the most successful and consistent side in the Kent League, winning four Kent League titles. The 1996/97 season was without equal in the history of the Kent League. Within the space of four weeks, the Club won the Kent Senior Trophy, The Kent League Division 1 Cup and The Kent League Championship. A unique treble!
A complete change of management and playing staff took place after the 1997-98 season, with manager Tommy Sampson leaving the Club to take over the reins at Deal Town taking the majority of the established first-team players with him. That Deal Town side became the first Kent League club to win the FA Vase at Wembley in the last ever Vase Final staged at the old stadium in May 2000. The team had a fantastic 2000/01 season finishing runners-up in the Premier Division, scored 93 goals in the league. Nick Denly (father of England cricketer Joe Denly) received an unprecedented three manager of the month awards in his first full season at the helm.
However, the 2001/02 season proved to be one of great disappointment. Exiting all cup competitions at the first round stage and finishing a poor 7th position in the league, despite being one of the few teams to defeat league and cup double winners, Maidstone. A major grant was awarded to provide new perimeter fencing and refurbishment of the changing facilities and these works were complete prior to the start of the 2003/04 season when the club celebrated 50 years at Winch’s Field. Former Gillingham and Maidstone player, Jason Lillis took over the reins for the 2004/05 season which proved to be very successful as Bay finished runners up in both the League and League Cup, losing out to Ramsgate in both competitions.
Both the 2005/06 and 2006/07 seasons proved to be very disappointing and with several senior players, and Jason, leaving the Club during the 2007/08 season, the Club built on the success of Herne Bay Youth with the introduction of a number of very good young players into the first-team squad. This proved very beneficial and these players formed the basis of the first-team squad for this 2008/09 season. Along with some very influential experienced players introduced by the new manager, Barry Morgan, the Club had high hopes for a successful 2008/09 campaign. Unfortunately, a run of five defeats in six matches in October severely dented any promotion prospects. Despite a twelve match winning sequence Bay fell just short at the end of the campaign and a defeat in the final match saw them finish in 6th position in the League. The majority of the young squad were retained for the 2009/10 season and with new sponsors, there was a renewed optimism within the Club.
With the appointment of Simon Halsey as Manager, Herne Bay FC pushed on to finish runners up in the Kent League Premier Division two seasons running, the second of those going down to the last few minutes of the last match where a goal at Tunbridge Wells gave Hythe Town the title. But, in season 2011/12 Herne Bay swept all before them, narrowly missing out on a Wembley appearance in the FA Vase and capturing the Kent League Premier Division title and promotion to the Ryman League.
The 2013/14 season saw another new start for the Bay with Sam Denly (son of former manager Nick Denly) taking up the managerial reigns following a disappointing first season in the Ryman League where immediate relegation back to Step 5 was narrowly avoided. Achieved highest ever finish and points total in the 2014/15 campaign in Herne Bay ‘s third season at this level. The 2015/16 season Bay faired even better, sitting in the play-off position for most of the season and with a number of poor results in March Bay finally finished 8th, surpassing their highest finish in the Isthmian league achieved in the previous season. Retaining all the players for the 2016/17 season Bay expected to achieve a better position, but a number of poor results in the early part of the season set the tone for the rest of the campaign. Bay hovered around relegation zone until late January. The player's budget was cut and immediately there was an improvement in results. A ten-match unbeaten run saw Bay climb away from the relegation zone with an eventual finish in 17th place. Sam Denly resigned at the end of the season and all of the players left the club. New managers, professional players, John Embery and Jermaine Darlington, were appointed and they have built a totally new side comprising, a large number of very talented young players, along with some experienced older players.
This was the second time in the last 17 years that a totally new side had been formed and to blood these youngsters into what always proves to be a very competitive level of football. the club was delighted with a mid-table finish in 12th place.
For the 208/19, a couple of players moved on but with new signings, Matt Fry, James White, Nick Reeves and Connor Pring Embery is looking for a higher finish this season, maybe with a shot at reaching the play-offs. Unfortunately, things didn’t go according to plan, with the club fighting against relegation for most of the season. Only a very good run in the latter part saw the club move out of the relegation zone; eventually finishing 15th. Embery and Darlington quit on 30th March. Anthony Deer and Alan Birchard took over with six fixtures still to play. Rumours were rife about the clubs’ future with social media claiming the club were going to fold. Despite these issues a consortium led by the new chairman, Stuart Fitchie, took over the running of the club, bringing in Ben Smith and his backroom staff to manage the team. Ben and his team took Canterbury City to the semi-final of the FA Vase in the previous season but he was dismissed from his position as soon as the season was over.
A number of former Herne Bay favourites have now returned to the Bay and along with some new existing additions, the club is looking forward to a more successful 2019/20 season.