Club History

In 1891 the original Ashford United was formed when the South Eastern Rangers amalgamated with Kentish Express FC.

Initially their home ground was at the back of the Victoria Hotel. About 700 people yielding gate receipts of £5 were present for United’s first match on 19 September 1891, a defeat by the Highland Light Infantry 1–5.

The club were founder members of the Kent Premier League in 1894–95 with a reserve side playing in Kent League 2. The club relocated to an enclosed ground with a timber built stand at Godinton Road where the 1899 KCFA Cup Final was staged. Team colours at the time were black and white striped shirts.

The team appeared in the Kent Cup Final for two successive years, 1902 and 1903 but were unsuccessful on both occasions: losing a replay 1–4 to Sittingbourne (a last minute penalty equaliser against Ashford causing the replay) and to Maidstone respectively.

In 1907 owing to a lack of support at their Godinton Road ground (which being beyond the railway bridge was a fair distance from the town and their previous base in the Newtown area), the club suffering from heavy debts was unable to fulfill its fixtures and ceased playing mid-season.

Shortly afterwards however a new club was formed, playing as the Ashford Railway Works. The club’s home ground was relocated back to Newtown on land believed to have been provided rent-free by the South Eastern & Chatham Railway. Playing in the Eastern Section of the Kent League and wearing red and green quartered colours, the team enjoyed considerable success winning the League in four successive seasons, 1912, 1913, 1914 & 1920 (the latter after the break caused by the Great War).
It was around this time that the club acquired its nickname of the ‘Nuts and Bolts’ as many of the members were drawn from the ranks of skilled engineers in the railway.
The club became more commonly known as ‘Ashford’ upon the post-war resumption of the Kent League competition. However once more fate took a hand and in 1928 the club folded leaving the Town with no senior club.

The decision to found Ashford Town was taken at a meeting in April 1930 chaired by Sir Charles Iggledon, who was the editor of the Kentish Express. Ashford Town were elected to the Kent League, and played their first match on August 30 of the same year at the railway works ground with Canterbury Waverley the visitors. The result was a 4–2 victory.

The following year, the club moved to Essella Park. It was the sale of this ground in the mid 1980’s that enabled the purchase and development of the present ground at The Homelands, named after the farm that originally occupied the site, 4 miles south of the town centre and with easy access to the M20 Motorway.

Despite being Champions of the Kent League in the 1948-49 season, it was cup football that was to provide the greatest success. Town reached the first round proper of the FA Cup as a Kent League side in 1959-59, losing 1-0 to Crystal Palace in front of a ground record crowd of 6,525. In the 1960’s, Town reached the first round of the FA Cup on 4 occasions, falling to league opposition each time. Further honours arrived with success in the Kent Senior Cup in 1959 and 1963.

In 1972-73, Town reached the semi finals of the FA Trophy, losing to Scarborough by a penalty goal. The following year they finished third in the League when Alan Morton set the club scoring record of 46 goals from 69 games, a record which still stands today and will be extremely difficult to beat.

The club earned promotion to the Premier Division of the Southern League in the 1986-87 season, at a time when the new ground at The Homelands was being constructed. The final game played at Essella Park was a draw with Dorchester, which ensured that both teams were promoted.

The next season saw ground sharing at Folkestone whilst the new Homelands ground was being constructed. Sadly, the first season at The Homelands ended in disappointment when the club was relegated.

During the 1990’s, manager Neil Cugley produced an entertaining and successful side which gained promotion back to the Premier Division in 1995-96 and, as a highlight, drew a first round FA Cup match with Fulham captained by Micky Adams. A capacity crowd of 3,300 packed into The Homelands and Sky TV showed highlights of the game. The result was a creditable 2-2 draw, with a replay at Craven Cottage. Again they impressed their league host and took the game into extra time, eventually losing 5-3.

The following year, Ashford defeated Dagenham & Redbridge in the first round and then drew Watford away in the second round, losing 5-0. The season ended poorly with a finishing position of 18th, with the club only saved from relegation by the resignation of Sudbury from the league.

Several managers then came and went, with varying degrees of success until Don Crosbie and Tony Betteridge took over as owners. Their first appointment as manager was Clive Walker, who was replaced during the season by Steve Lovell.

Following a major falling out at Boardroom level, the club’s future was in the balance in the 2009-10 season. This resulted in several players departing, and manager Steve Lovell was just able to put together a side to keep the club from relegation. This valiant effort was to be in vain, since the Boardroom conflict had reached the courts with Tony Betteridge forcing the winding up of Ashford Town FC. Tony Betteridge succeeded in purchasing the club assets from the Administrator despite enormous protests from Chairman Don Crosbie who managed to receive assurances in the court for Football at the highest possible level to be maintained at least till the legal battle was settled through the courts. Under the new name of Ashford United, the club continued with a Board comprising of local football enthusiasts.

In 2013, Following the lengthy legal battle, Tony Betteridge conceded and formally announced that he would no longer be involved with the Club, handing ownership over to ATFC Supporters & Members Club Ltd on the 1st November 2013.To streamline, the company then became Ashford United FC Ltd who own all freehold that is The Homelands which includes Homelands Stadium and Ashford United Football Club.

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