Gloucester City AFC play in the Western division of the Dr Martens League, which is the seventh division counting down from the FA Premiership. The club was formed in March 1883, but the first recorded match came on the 2nd January 1886 against Eastville [Bristol] Rovers and resulted in a 0-1 defeat for Gloucester. This was probably due to the fact that the game was refereed by a cricketer, no other than Gloucestershire's own legendary W.G.Grace! After an unsuccessful spell in the days equivalent of the Western League City became founder members of the Gloucester and District League.
In 1959 City's players were hypnotised by Henry Blythe to try to help them win
After the end of the First World War in 1918 most of the players who'd been with City joined Gloucester YMCA. By 1925 they had assumed the name of Gloucester City and become founder members of the Northern Senior League. In 1934-5 after winning both the Cup and League City turned professional, joined the Birmingham Combination and moved to a new stadium in Longlevens. They won the Tillotson cup for being the best club in the combination and then had former Chelsea & Wolves striker Reg Weaver blow away all records with his 78 goals in the 1937-8 season.
City's former home at Longlevens - houses now stand on it at "Manor Park"
Moving on, in 1939 the club played Southern League football for the very first time albeit in a restricted wartime competition as they took part in the West section. After the war City rejoined the Southern League and have been members ever since (a record only bettered by Chelmsford City). The competition was fierce and it was no surprise that it took until the 1955-6 season for Gloucester to taste success with their legendary 5-1 League Cup victory over Yeovil after losing the first leg 1-4. The attendance record was set at Longlevens in 1952 when Stan Myers scored both goals to beat a full strength Tottenham Hotspur side 2-1 in front of 10,500 spectators.
In 1964 the club moved grounds again, from Longlevens to the massive Horton Road stadium closer to the centre of Gloucester. It appears that they had a barren spell up until 1981-2 when a sixth place finish in the Midland division was enough to clinch a place in the reformed Premier. Also they were runners up in the League Cup, going down 1-2 to Wealdstone (who included future England captain Stuart Pearce). Despite Kim Casey scoring 40 goals the club were relegated back to the Midland division in 1984-5, where they stayed until Brian Godfrey was appointed manager in 1988. In the meantime the club moved grounds again, this time to Hempsted and Meadow Park. The Horton Road ground became a housing estate which now boasts the names of City legends; [Stan] Myers Road, [Dicky] Etheridge Place and [Ron] Coltman Close among others.
In 1988 Chairman Geoff Hester wanted to appoint a new manager and after an exhaustive search found his man, former Aston Villa and Wales striker Brian Godfrey. The new manager went about trying to assemble a squad capable of fighting their way out of the Midland Division. Lance Morrison, Steve Talboys, Wayne Noble, John Shaw, Nigel Green and Brian Hughes were among those who walked to the Championship but the most important signing came just before christmas when Chris Townsend joined us from Cheltenham Town. Towner went on to score 30 goals to leave his mark on the club, and also famously he left his stud marks on the Tamworth goalkeeper Dale Belford's chest! It was a very competitive league and although a look at the final table would suggest that we strolled to the title it was actually the penultimate game of the season at Kings Lynn that saw us crowned Champions.
City in action at Kings Lynn on the day that they won the Midland Division Championship
The next big achievement in the Godfrey years was the famous FA Cup run to Cardiff. Mangotsfield Utd (4-0), Barry Town (2-2, 2-0), Worcester City (4-2), Folkestone (1-0) and Dorchester Town (1-0) all came and went before we suffered heartbreak in the replay after being 2-0 up at Ninian Park with just five minutes to go.
Chris Townsend celebrates City's second in the 2-2 draw against Cardiff City at Ninian Park
In the winter of 1990 Gloucester saw it's worst snow for the first time in a long time, and when it thawed the River Severn overwhelmed all of the local flood plains. The knock on effect saw the Sudmeadow flood, causing incredibles scenes at Meadow Park as the pitch was submerged under four feet of water and the whole ground was out of comission for over a month. However, the first game back at Meadow Park saw us defeat Gosport Borough 9-0 (with Towner getting five) so maybe we should flood the pitch more often!
Meadow Park under four feet of water in February 1990, not a sight that we thought we'd ever see again
The 1990-91 was one of the most exciting that we've ever seen at Meadow Park. It all started when Hester stepped down and was replaced by Les Alderman, a Bath based businessman. Godfrey had held onto most of his squad from the previous season and added quality players to it, Jeff Sherwood (£15,000 from Yeovil), Lee Rogers, Derek Dawkins, Keith Knight (£7000 from Reading), Jason Eaton (£10,000 from Bristol City) and Steve Fergusson & Brendan Hackett (£25,000 from Worcester City) were just some of the players who bolstered the squad. Due to the previous seasons Cup exploits we had been made exempt until the fourth qualifying round, where we faced Farnborough Town away and got hammered 1-4. Little did we know then what an important part they would play in our season, as we fast forward on to the last day of the season at Bromsgrove.... On the previous Tuesday we'd needed to beat VS Rugby at home to go top of the pile but we could only manage a 2-2 draw, so it was all on the last day of the season at the Victoria Ground. Farnborough headed up to Atherstone needing to win, and went 0-1 down in the first half to the delight of the thousand or so travelling City fans. Just when our game looked as though it might end in stalemate, substitute John Freegard got his head to Jeff Sherwood's long free kick and minutes later we'd won. In the meantime the Hampshire side had scored, but it wasn't enough, we were on the pitch celebrating the Championship and promotion to the Conference. But all we'd heard were premature radio reports from Atherstone, Farnborough had actually scored a winner three minutes before the end of the game and they were promoted instead of us.
Jeff Meacham (3) and Steve Fergusson (8) celebrate with John Freegard (12) after he scores the late winner at Bromsgrove. Steve Millard, Steve Talboys, Gary Kemp, Lee Rogers and Chairman Les Alderman celebrate the Championship before the news that Farnborough had won sinks in
Into the next season, one that promised to start where the previous one had left off, and the bombshell hit us that Les Alderman had left the club. The Citizen ran one of it's big style tabloid articles on the club and it was big trouble at Meadow Park. The squad was ripped apart, Fergusson and Hackett went to Telford for peanuts, Lee Rogers and Jeff Sherwood went unpaid and took the club to the FA and forced a transfer embargo. Then Brian Godfrey was sacked, and replaced by his assistant Steve Millard. Ollie only lasted three months in what was a disasterous spell that saw him hardly keep the same starting eleven and basically have to start from scratch after Geoff Hancocks and Brian Hughes left the club in support of Godfrey. In February Brian was re-appointed to the hot seat and started to turn things around again, however we all knew that the title challenging days of Alderman were a long way off. The club survived the next few seasons under the guidance of Chairman George Irvine, but even the Roaduser boss knew that the Tigers couldn't continue this way.
Whilst challenging for the title can be fun, it's expensive and spending can get out of control. As it did here and it's testament to the efforts of Irvine and financial director Richard Ferkin that the club is still here today. Ahead of one crunch meeting with the taxman George had gathered up as many old keys as he could find so that when he attended it he could throw the bunch on the table and tell them, "Here you go, the clubs' yours". That kind of ballsy approached worked as the taxman shirked ownership and the clubs liabity was reduced from £375,000 to £25,000.
George had risen from the shadows, saved the club and then when the opportunity arose handed over the reigns to Keith Gardner. Whilst we might've enjoyed happenings on the pitch I can't imagine those that saved the club were too enamoured to see it put back into the perilous position where it had been!
Keith Gardners 'Vision of the Future' for Meadow Park
With Gardner came razzamatazz as he did wonders for Gloucester City with his magical PR machine! Gardner sacked Godfrey again and appointed former Cheltenham and Trowbridge boss John Murphy as the club entered possibly the most exciting period in their history. Keith did more than his fair share of work in putting Gloucester City on the map, some would say he did too much! He made a deal with Carlsberg Tetley that enabled the City to buy the old Fieldings club and football pitches. To be fair he turned the whole 'Meadow Park' area into a footballing center, and he had a great idea to develop the ground into an all-seater stadium and add a leisure centre, ice rink and all weather pitch. His ambitions were matched on the field too, after seeing the club get by with local players, talent was brought in from further afield and the Tigers became a force to be reckoned with. Dave Porter only played a handful of games but will be remembered for the part he played in the 1-0 victory over hated rivals Cheltenham Town at Whaddon Road in 1994. However it soon became apparent that Murphy didn't have what it took to turn a good side into Champions and was sacked in March 1996. Former West Ham and Bristol City striker Leroy Rosenior took over and had to virtually rebuild the team from scratch after most of the players walked out in the wake of Murphy's dismissal.
Dale Watkins was signed from Rushden & Diamonds for the 1996-7 season, with Adie Mings from Bath and record signing David Holmes being persuaded back after the Murphy furore. This formed one of the most potent front lines in non-league football and it was no surprise to see the Tigers beat all comers. Despite having to play manager Leroy Rosenior in goal against Kingstonian in their first game in the FA Trophy, City managed to reach the semi final before being beaten by Dagenham & Redbridge. The cup run proved to be a thorn in the side for City as they had to play three games a week to claw back games in hand and eventually lost out to Cheltenham in the race for second spot (after Champions Gresley Rovers had been denied promotion due to their deathtrap of a ground).
Adie Mings shows his delight at the late, late equaliser against Dagenham & Redbridge
Since then as our hated rivals have gone from strength to strength, we've struggled to keep our heads above water (literally). The clubs weekly playing budget was to to below £1000 for the first time in my memory and it showed on the pitch. Considering that the club had seen just four different managers in the 1990's (Brian Godfrey, Steve Millard, John Murphy and Leroy Rosenior), the turn of the century saw another three come and go. First Brian Hughes tried his luck in a move that was very popular among the majority of the supporters. He didn't last as the playing budget was cut to a third of what was promised to him, this proved to be the catalyst that saw the club relegated. Then Tommy Callinan took over in a player/manager role, and didn't really do himself justice. He left at the end of the 2000/01 season. The third to try his hand, and present incumbent was Chris Burns. He was tempted back to Meadow Park from Forest Green and brought with him a largely untried bunch of young players to fit in with the very limited wage structure. It took the side a while to find it's feet, and they had some real setbacks too (namely the 1-7 home defeat at the hands of Bedworth Utd), but have begun to look the part.
The second flood : December 2000, and Meadow Park is under seven feet of floodwater
As the management bandwaggon rolled on, just before Christmas 2000 Meadow Park was struck another hammer blow when the Severn burst it's banks for the second time in a decade. This time the flood water did more damage than before because it reached just under seven feet high, and also managed to get inside the changing rooms ruining whatever stood in it's way. The club was unable to hold matches at the ground for more than six weeks as the envoironmental health inspector ruled that due to the filthy content of the water, Meadow Park wasn't fit for public population. The lack of revenue for the club almost saw it go under and it mean't that due to non-payment of players several walked out on the club. This was added to the whole Niblett and Wigg contract dispute that mean't that the club couldn't offer contracts to players.
However, in November 2001 ex-director Colin Gardner returned to the club to take over the Chairmanship. Working hand in hand with the Supporters Club, together they settled with Wigg & Niblett and lifted the contract restraints imposed by the FA. On the pitch things were looking up with new manager Chris Burns moulding his former City youth team into a force to be reckoned with. A mid table finish surprised many, especially those that had suggested that we'd finish in the bottom two.
If ever the feeling that the club was bouncing back, then the 2002/03 season proved it. Off the field, a deal was struck between the club and Eamonn McGurk, where the latter bought the ground and took on the majority of the clubs debts. Financially, the club actually made a trading profit for the first time and were within reach of wiping out all of the historical debts. To add to the upturn, on the field Burns' young team upset a lot of the more fancied challengers, brought on some of the younger players and reached the quarter finals of the FA Trophy. The run included memorable victories away at league leaders Merthyr Tydfil, then two fantastic wins at Conference sides Woking and Southport. Sadly, Aylesbury of the Ryman League proved to be too big of a challenge and we bowed out. In the league, a fifth placed finish was a remarkable achievement and a great stepping stone to launch a challenge for the future.
Adie Harris is congratulated after his goal put City 2-0 up in the FA Trophy win at Woking
The following season was very important for City as the top eight in the league would be "promoted" to the newly reformed Southern League Premier Division, although in essence it effectively meant that a finish there would mean avoiding relegation to the Hellenic League level. There was no need to worry though as Burns led his team to a commendable second place finish with top scorer Andy Hoskins netting a massive thirty-seven goals, with the team in total scoring more than a hundred times through the season. The Tigers could've even pipped season long leaders Redditch United to the title as they took the race to the final day but a final day defeat at home to Ilkeston Town whilst the Birmingham side won at Cirencester saw the Reds finish as Champions.
The first campaign back in the Premier wasn't the most memorable with City finishing fifteenth in the league and getting knocked out of all four cup competitons at the first hurdle, with the 2-3 defeat at Street in the FA Cup being the most humbling. The team only managed to score more than three goals in a game on two occasions (4-1 v's Banbury & 6-1 v's Rugby) as last seasons top scorer Andy Hoskins traded places with Daryl Addis from Cinderford Town. Dave Wilkinson's twelve strikes were enough to see him finish with the golden boot.
2005/06 couldn't have started any more spectacularly for City keeper Matt Bath as his fifth minute drop kick bounced once over Kings Lynn's John Higgs and into the back of the net to make him the first Southern League goalscorer of the season. It was downhill from there though as again City were dumped out of the FA Cup by lesser oppostion, this time away at Christchurch FC after we were lucky to draw 0-0 in the original tie. The FA Trophy, League Cup and County Cup all saw first round exits but the turning point came when Chris Burns stepped down after the home game against Salisbury City on January 2nd 2006 and he was surprisingly replaced by Merthyr Tydfil manager Tim Harris who quit the Martyrs to take over his "Dream Job". This gave the fans new hope and they got behind the new boss to emphatically beat any fear of relegation and finish in thirteenth place.
Chris Burns & Keith Knight - The end of an era
Harris' first full season in charge turned out to be one that was all about team building and learning from mistakes. For once an FA Cup run looked like a possibilty whilst 2-0 up at Conference South side Eastleigh but two goals in a minute plus a late winner put paid to those hopes. The FA Trophy showed promise too with wins against Tiverton and Margate but an emphatic home defeat against Eastbourne Borough dashed those hopes. The league was a different story though as the Tigers' tenth place finish was their highest since 1998/99 although mixed results saw victories against strong teams Maidenhead on the opening day and Kings Lynn away whilst we went from early October to mid-February without a home league win. Winger Alex Sykes was the clubs fourteen goal top scorer, more often than not with spectacular strikes finding the back of the net.
The following year, Harris had made his mark and started to add players that could take City up to the next level. In came much sought after goalkeeper Kevin Sawyer, Clevedon Town striker Jack Pitcher and ex-loanee and crowd favourite Michael Whittington as well as midfielder Matt Rose. The squad enjoyed a weekend of team bonding courtesy of the British Army at Beachley Barracks and everything was looking great for the new campaign. What could possibly go wrong?!!
What could go wrong? This!
On Sunday July 22nd 2007, with the local area suffering from unseasonal flooding the River Severn finally breached it's banks. As the evening closed in the pitch was flooded but by the following morning the water had almost reached the crossbar. With no insurance the clubs home was deemed unrepairable and a ground share was hastily arranged with Forest Green Rovers.
So after years of glorious under-achievement the club broke it's hoodoo when around five hundred supporters followed them to Farnborough's Cherrywood Road to witness a breathtaking one-nil victory thanks to a first half strike by Matt Rose.
Page last updated : 13th November 2021
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