PENRITH FOOTBALL CLUB ~ A BRIEF HISTORY
PENRITH Football Club was founded in 1894 and first played in local leagues, before joining the Carlisle and District League, becoming league champions on quite a number of occasions.
Before the start of the season 1948-49 they joined the Northern League where they remained until 1982. During the period whilst in the Northern League they were league runners-up in 1962, and were twice beaten League Cup finalists.
In season 1980-81 they achieved their best performance in the FA Challenge Trophy when they reached the First Round proper, only to be beaten at Alvechurch. However, in the following season 1981-82 Penrith reached the First Round Proper of the FA Challenge Cup, beating Chester 1-0 at Penrith. The Blues lost 0-3 away to Billy Bremner’s Doncaster Rovers in the Second Round Proper. Penrith have reached the FA Challenge Cup First Round Proper twice since beating Chester, only to lose to Hull City and Burnley.
Season 1981-82 was their last in the Northern League, moving over to join the North West Counties League of which they were one of the founder members. In 1983-84 they were runners up in the First Division to Stalybridge Celtic. They then joined the newly formed Northern Premier League First Division.
The highlight of the 1994-95 season was winning the Tennants Floodlit Trophy when the Blues beat Atherton Collieries 2-1. In season 1996-97, before rejoining the Northern League, they again won a floodlit Trophy, beating Newcastle Town 1-0. Penrith have won the Cumberland Cup on sixteen occasions, in 2000-01 they beat Northbank 2-0 at Borough Park, Workington, to break a barren period in the competition which went back twenty-six years to 1975, when Gretna were beaten 3-1.
Since rejoining the Northern League in the 1997-98 season, their fortunes have fluctuated. After finishing a creditable sixth in the first season, they were relegated in the one following. Four seasons in the Second Division saw them finish in tenth, eighth, fourth and in 2002-03 were promoted to the First Division as Champions. In the 2000-01 season, in addition to the Cumberland Cup, they won their first honour in the Northern League after thirty-eight seasons of endeavour. South Shields were beaten 5-4 in the Craven Cup Final at Dean Street, Shildon, the game being decided by a golden goal in the first period of extra time.
The club has had many managers over the years, but the most famous by far was Alan Ashman, with whom the Blues enjoyed a successful spell in the 60s. He went on to manage Carlisle United, taking them from the 4th to the 2nd Division, before leaving to manage West Bromwich Albion, with whom he won the FA Cup in 1967-68. After a spell of management in Greece, Alan Ashman took up the reins at Brunton Park for a second time, taking Carlisle United into the First Division at the end of the 1973-74 season.
2006-07 saw Penrith pipped for the third promotion place on the last Saturday of the season, but in four days the following week, they demolished Darlington RA 5-1 in the Craven Cup final then went on to beat Carlisle City 1-0 to lift the Cumberland Cup for the fifteenth time. On the same night that the Blues were winning the Cumberland Cup, Penrith Rugby Union team were winning their equivalent county trophy, and this feat was recognised by Eden District Council with a civic reception for officials and players, when both clubs were presented with silver salvers to mark the occasion.
With the departure from Southend Road to a new stadium at Frenchfield, businessman Ges Ratcliffe became the owner and converted the club into a limited company, but has since handed the club back to its members. Ges also negotiated the reunion of the club with the breakaway Penrith United, and the club now has a bright future, running teams from under-8s through to the senior team, and beyond with the over-35s. Several ladies and girls teams are now involved as well, the senior ladies being particularly successful.
At the beginning of 2008-09, David Heslop resigned after six years in charge. Richard Prokas and James Tose took on the task of Joint Managers, and took the team to a creditable seventh place in the league. There were also finals in the Cumberland Cup and League Cup, losing 2-0 respectively to Workington Reds and Newcastle Benfield. The Cumberland Cup left a particularly bitter taste after the team were forced to play ten games in 21 days either side of the final ~ not exactly the best preparation.
The last game of the season 2009-2010 season saw Penrith lift the Cumberland Senior Cup with a fine 6-0 win over Gillford Park to give Richard and James the silverware their efforts deserved.
In season 2012-13, Brian Williams was persuaded to resurrect his managerial career after a break of some 30 years, but this was temporary and he handed the reins on to Matt Henney mid-season, along with Scott Redhead as assistant manager. The duo managed to turn the season round and Penrith finished in a very creditable 14th place, despite flirting with relegation for much of the season. An unbeaten run of 11 games came in the midst on playing 12 games in 24 days to finish the season. At the end of the season, Scott moved to Barrow as coach.
Season 2013-14 proved to be three seasons in one, with weather interuptions throughout the year. After hovering around the relegation area for a short while, results picked up and a comfortable 13th place was secured.