A long time ago in a town not so far away…
Hertford Town Football Club actually commenced its career as Port Vale Rovers, and brought the Herts Junior Cup to Hertford in 1901. A general demand for the club’s recognition as the Town Club resulted in the Association granting permission to change the name to Hertford F.C. and after amalgamation with Hertford United, Hertford Town eventually resulted. For several years the club used Hartham as the only ground available, although the junior clubs Horns and Blue Cross had private enclosures at Hertingfordbury Park and Mutton Close. There was great rivalry between all of the clubs, and in 1908 the Blue Cross amalgamated with the town, this being the official date of formation of Hertford Town F.C. as a senior club, and Hertingfordbury Park was used as the ground. This season the East Herts League was won for the first time, then the following season, the Horns Club, having lost their ground, joined the Town and helped to keep the East Herts League Cup in the Town for another season. The County League was also nearly won, the club missing out by one point.
Pre & Post War Years
The club continued to play most of its early football in the Herts County League before progressing into the Spartan League in 1921. Early success included reaching the Herts Senior Cup Final in 1933/34. In 1939, they gained promotion to the Premier Division of the Spartan League, but finished bottom when the league resumed fully in 1946/47, and were out of football completely in 1947/48, due to the unavailability of their ground. The club were admitted back into the Spartan League Division One (East) for the 1948/49 season and were champions the following season. In 1955/56 and also in 1956/57, the Blues were runners-up in the Premier Division.
A Time for Success
The club then had a successful period under manager Alec Massie. In a four-year stay in the Delphian League from 1959, they won the championship twice (196/61 and 1961/62) and were runners up twice. A hat trick of wins was only denied when the competition was abandoned due to a harsh winter in 1962/3. Despite the Blues being clear at the top of the table, they then lost in the Emergency Competition to Edmonton. Cup success during this period included being Herts Senior Cup finalists in 1962/3 and 63/4, and two East Anglian Cup Finals against Boston Utd in 1960/61 and 62/63, the second a 1-0 victory before a home crowd of 3000.
In 1963 the Delphian League became Division Two of the Athenian League, and in finishing fourth, the Blues gained promotion to Division One. In 1966/67 Hertford won the Herts Senior Cup for the first time, defeating Boreham Wood 5-4 in a two legged final. The following year, Hertford reached the final again, this time losing 1-0 to St Albans City at Watford. The club consistently challenged for promotion to the Premier Division, but missed out on several occasions. In 1972 the Blues then joined the Eastern Counties League. They finished third in the league and won the League Cup by defeating Great Yarmouth over two legs. During this period the Herts Charity Cup was won for the only time in the club’s history.
In 1973/74 the Isthmian League formed a second division (now Division One) and Hertford Town became one of the sixteen original members. The Blues finished third, narrowly missing out on promotion behind Dagenham and Slough Town. The Club’s best season in Division One after this came in 1982/83 finishing in 4th place. In 1977/78 they reached the Hitachi Cup Semi-final, defeating Enfield, Carshalton and Walthamstow Avenue before eventually losing to Dagenham in the second replay.They again reached the Herts Senior Cup Final in 1981/82 an 1983/84, losing both times to Watford.
Ups and Downs
In 1985 the club finished bottom of Division One, with subsequent relegation to Division Two (North), however fifth position in their first season in the lower division was achieved along with reaching the third round of the F.A. Vase. 1987/88 was disastrous with the Blues finishing bottom, a tense play-off with Petersfield Utd being won 3-1. The 1989/90 season was the club’s best for many years. A superb 2-1 victory over Barnet in the semi-final of the Herts Senior Cup put Hertford Town into the final against St Albans City. The match, played at Boreham Wood, was won 2-0 by the Blues to give them the County’s senior trophy for only the second time in the history of the club.
1990/91 saw the club finish in the bottom half of the division, and therefore in the following season they became founder members of the newly constituted Division Three. The Blues went on to finish 13th in their first season in this division, but enjoyed some cup success by reaching the F.A. Cup 3rd qualifying round. In 1993/4 the Blues lifted the Southern Combination Cup, defeating Potton Utd, and were finalists in the Roy Bailey Memorial Trophy, losing 1-0 to Cheshunt. They again reached the 3rd Qualifying round of the F.A. Cup in 1995/96 after beating Ware, Tufnell Park and Wealdstone.
In 1997/98 the Blues finished runners up in Division Three under manager David Whitehead, but enjoyed only one season in Division Two before being relegated again – mainly due to financial difficulties. The Club were rescued from oblivion by new chairman Mike Schultz who promised Conference football inside five years. The 1999/2000 season saw the arrival as manager of ex England International Graham Roberts, who took charge in February 2000. He attracted a number of high class players, including current England non-league squad member Micky Engwell. Mike Schultz brought about the building of a much needed clubhouse before stepping down in August of the same year. Roberts left and Martin St Hilaire took over as player/manager. After only a few months “Saint” decided to stand down as manager, and former Ware manager Dave Edwards stepped into the breach.
2000 – 2010
The winter of 2000/2001 saw new Chairman David Thomas and his committee, players and the fans having to endure some amazingly wet weather, with the pitch being under more than two feet of water at the end of October, and from then until the end of January only one home league match was played. It was down to David and his small committee that the club survived this desperate period.
2001/2002 saw the Club in with a chance of promotion to the new Division 1, if a top six place could be achieved. Under new manager Andy Prutton, and with a very inexperienced squad, it appeared an unlikely ambition. New find Kevin Cooper rattled in 36 league goals however and with some excellent results being enjoyed, it was a disappointment that only 11th place was achieved. This turned out to be high enough, however. Because of ground grading problems for a number of higher placed clubs, Hertford just crept in as the last qualifier for the new Division 1 structure.
So the Blues looked forward to enjoying life in Division One North of the Ryman League in 2002/2003. November 2002 saw The Blues bottom of the league, and after a league cup defeat by neighbours Cheshunt, Andy Prutton resigned to be replaced by ex Ware manager Graham Norcott and his management team of Dave Dobson, Dave Edwards and Paul Wildman. They could achieve no improvement in the four months at the helm however, and mid March 2003 saw a change in Chairman when Ray Hill replaced David Thomas. Ray removed Graham Norcott and his team and recruited Brian Owen, an experienced coach who had until recently been at Crawley Town, until the end of the season. He immediately brought in Dave McEwen, a striker whose previous clubs include Tottenham Hotspur, and Jimmie Berry, from Harrow Borough. Curtis Johnson was another major signing. Despite raising everyone’s spirits and radically improving the overall standard of the team, Brian was unable to lift the Blues off bottom spot. Relegation to Division 2 was therefore a disappointing consequence of not being good enough at the higher level.
Season 2003/4 saw the Club have a real go at a quick return to Div 1, but despite leading the division for practically the whole season, a final third placing was not enough to gain promotion. Back again Kevin Cooper scored 34 goals to maintain his fine scoring record with the Blues, and captain Curtis Johnson scored 14 times from midfield/defence. A substantial increase in support gave us the Division’s highest average attendance record, and our support at away matches was tremendous.
Season 2004/5 was very much the same. Although manager Brian Owen called it a day in October, new man Dave Pentecost was an instant hit and won the Ryman 2 Manager of the Month for November. Once again Kevin Cooper was top scorer, with 36 goals this time, and picked up the Ryman Div 2 “Golden Boot”. Despite a very strong mid season, which saw the team set new club records for consecutive wins, and a highest league win of 9-0, form tailed off and only 4th place was achieved. Manager Dave Pentecost resigned, and season 2005/6 began with ex St Margaretsbury boss Kelvin Hart at the helm.
Plagued by mass defection of many of the previous season’s squad, and injury to key new players, Kelvin and management team colleagues Ray Greenall and Dave Steedman found it difficult to achieve any sort of success, apart from a fine showing in the “makeweight” Associate Members Trophy competition, in which a pair of fine wins against arch local rivals Ware was the highlight. Other cup competitions brought no success, apart from a good 1-0 victory at Southern League Premier side Cheshunt in the Herts Senior Cup. Under incessant pressure from several sources, chairman Bob Brown felt he had no choice but to relieve the new management of their duties after a 6-1 defeat at Witham Town at New Year. Reserve team boss Gary Conner accepted the opportunity to manage the first team for the rest of the season, and set the team a final target of 30 points. This was eventually achieved with a fine run in to the campaign which saw the side finish with a four match unbeaten run. Gary, with coach don Nicholson, built on Kelvin Hart’s success in the Associate Members Trophy by guiding the Blues to their first Cup Final in many a year. The Club resurrected its Reserve Team after a short break, and when Gary took over the first team, one of Kelvin Hart’s key signings, Lee Judges, took over. The reserves did very well in the Spartan South Midlands League Reserve Division One, and fully justified the decision to run a reserve side again.
Season 2006-2007 saw the Blues moved to the Spartan South Midlands League, Premier Divison, after 34 consecutive seasons in the Isthmian League under its various guises. Chairman Bob Brown stepped down, to be replaced by London businessman Mark Bohm. Manager Gary Conner resigned early in the season, with his side top of the league, and former skipper Dave Greenwood was appointed in his place. The Blues found the SSMFL much to their liking, finishing third and scoring 122 goals in the process, with Ryan Redford accounting for 40 of them, and Kevin Cooper 37. The Reserves, managed by former Hoddesdon Town boss Billy O’Driscoll, went one better than the First Team, finishing an impressive 2nd in Reserve Division One and also winning the Reserve Section of the South Midlands Floodlit Cup.
Season 2007-8 began with yet another new chairman, this time Mick Clarke. With almost all of last season’s successful squad retained, the Club hoped to build on their excellent showing with a bid for promotion in its 100th season. A disappointing 4th place was the outcome, however, although Billy O’Driscoll’s Reserves achieved a magnificent league title and South Midlands Floodlight Cup double. The Club celebrated its 100th season with a Centenery Dinner in May, but Chairman Mick Clarke resigned at the end of the season.
The club began the 2008-09 season with no chairman, though manager Dave Greenwood successfully retained a large part of the squad from the previous season. The Club was rocked, however, by the resignation firstly of acting chairman, Bob Brown, and secondly by that of Greenwood in September for personal reasons. Following the resignations of Brown and Greenwood, a number of other players and officials also departed. Following a period of uncertainty when the club was run by a small number of remaining individuals and assistant Dave Steedman took control of the team, stability began to return. Mick Clarke returned to the club for his second spell as chairman, and appointed Pablo Ardiles as manager with former reserves’ boss Billy O’Driscoll as his assistant. New signings were also made to fill the vacancies left by departing players and a number of former players returned to the club. Important additions were also made to the coaching staff, namely the experienced Martin Paine, who made training sessions just that little bit more interesting! Given the Autumn uncertainties, 10th place in the league at the end of the season was a creditable finish.
The club went into the 2009-10 season with Pablo Ardiles as manager, but with a new assistant; Scott O’Donoghue. Martin Paine remained as chief coach and O’Donoghue also started the season as manager of the newly resurrected reserves side, which joined the Capital League, with Glen Maybury as his assistant. Chairman Mick Clarke left the club for the second time in less than two years in October 2009, the club has been run by the committee since then. Ardiles also resigned as manager and Scott O’Donoghue took over in the hot seat. Once again several players also departed and Scott’s remit was to keep the club in the Premier Division, which he managed admirably.
After the previous jittery season the committee planned to form a solid foundation for the club to build on with financial stability, achieved through the Blues Lotto, advertising/sponsorship and hard work! The season started well for the Blues with wins in the Herts Charity Shield against London Lions and a superb 4-0 win at Takeley in the FA Cup with Matt McArdle scoring a hat-trick (his second goal was also goal of the season). The FA Cup run came to an end at the hands of Ryman Division 1 North side Maldon & Tiptree, beating the Blues 4-2 but the travelling support still enjoyed the day.
Two new faces in the team gave the Blues great hope, James Peagram and Reece Dobson, both on loan from Harlow Town and lightning fast. September was a glorious month with 5 wins, 1 draw and 1 loss. This included wins in the FA Vase, firstly beating Mauritius Sports 3-0 at home and winning 1-0 away to Ascot United, Peagram finishing the month with 9 goals in 10 games.
The winds of change started to blow in October, firstly being knocked out of the FA Vase 4-3aet at Aylesbury United then the Challenge Trophy and Premier Division Cup. After their good run of form the duo of Peagram and Dobson were recalled by Harlow Town, and the Blues faltered in the league seeing them drop from 7th to 17th by January. An excellent 2-1 win in the Herts Senior Cup against Blue Square South team Borehamwood saw the Blues regain some composure and get back to winning ways although consistency was their biggest enemy.
Despite being knocked out of every cup competition the Blues played hard in the league to the final game of the season. The month of April was one of the highlights of the year, 6 wins, 1 draw and 1 loss earning Scott O’Donoghue the accolade of SSML team of the month. The most notable win was against newly crowned champions, Chalfont St Peter who were winning 3-1 with 10 minutes to go and lost 4-3 at a raucous Hertingfordbury Park.
The Blues superb form saw them finish 9th in the league. Knowing how well the side can play has filled supporters with confidence for the coming season where the introduction of a new under-18’s team will help the club become even stronger.