History of Chester City F.C.

History of Chester City F.C.

Chester F.C. were founded in 1885 as an amalgamation of Chester Rovers and Old King's Scholars and initially played their home games at Faulkner Street.cite web|url=http://www.chester-city.co.uk/archive.asp |title= Chester City - a brief history |publisher=chestercity.co.uk |accessdate=2007-09-15 |date=2007-09-15 ] Chester's first-known game was a friendly defeat against Earlestown on September 12 1885, with their first competitive match ending in a Welsh Cup loss to Crewe Britannia two months later.

After a few years of playing only friendly and occasional cup matches, Chester joined the Combination League in 1890. In 1898 the club moved to The Old Showground, but were forced to leave a year later when the ground was destroyed to make way for housing, leaving temporarily disbanded. In 1901, however, they moved to Whipcord Lane, again their stay was only brief, as they moved out in 1906. Their new stadium on Sealand Road, called simply The Stadium became their first long-term home and provided them with their first league success, as they won the Combination League in 1909. In 1910, Chester moved to the Lancashire Combination League and stayed there until after World War I, when they became founder members of the Cheshire County League. Charlie Hewitt was appointed manager in 1930, and in 1931 he guided Chester City to the Football League, in place of Nelson F.C..

Into the league

After a summer of excitement, Chester played their first Football League match against Wigan Borough in Division Three North on August 29 1931 at Sealand Road. Chester won 4–0 but the result was to be declared void after Borough resigned mid-season from the league. Therefore the first Chester Football League result to stand was a 1–1 draw at neighbours Wrexham four days later. Chester quickly adapted to the League and finished an impressive third, with the remainder of the 1930s seeing the club challenge for a place in the second tier. Their highest placing was in 1935–36, when they were finished runners-up to Chesterfield (in an era of just one promotion spot).

The period also saw Chester win the Welsh Cup for the second time after beating growing rivals Wrexham at Sealand Road in May 1933 and successive Football League Division Three North Cup wins. Unfortunately, the side was to be split up by the outbreak of the Second World War. Although the 1946–47 brought a third place finish and another Welsh Cup triumph, grim times lay ahead. No top half placings would be achieved until the lower divisions were merged in 1958, when Chester were placed in Division Four. They would still have to wait another six years until they finished above halfway in a league table.

Moving up

Chester's fortunes began to take a turn for the better after the surprise appointment of South African Peter Hauser as manager in 1963. He was to provide an entertaining period for the club, as they challenged for promotion from Division Four. The most memorable campaign was 1964–65, when all five forwards managed 20 goals (a unique achievement) as Chester managed 119 in Football League games alone. However, the club missed the promotion boat, and the following season saw them slip from a near-certain elevation after failing to recover from the broken legs suffered by full-backs Bryn Jones and Ray Jones in the January 1 win over Aldershot.

Apart from missing out on promotion by just a point in 1970–71 the next few years were largely disappointing. Chester kicked off the 1974–75 season as the only Football League team to have never won promotion — they finally broke their duck by finishing fourth in Division Four and pipping Lincoln City to promotion by the narrowest of goal averages. Ken Roberts had the honour of being the first Chester manager to win promotion in the Football League, although much credit went to inspirational coach Brian Green.

That season was perhaps more remembered though for Chester's incredible run to the League Cup semi-finals. After beating Walsall, Blackpool and Bobby Charlton's Preston North End, Chester hosted Football League champions Leeds United in round four. On an incredible night, two goals from John James and one from Trevor Storton gave Chester a 3–0 win that is regarded as one of the greatest shocks in the competition's history. The magic continued in the next round, when Newcastle United were defeated in a home replay to set up a semi–final tie with Aston Villa. Chester once again performed admirably but suffered heartache, as Brian Little's late goal in the second leg at Villa Park sealed a 5–4 win for eventual cup winners Villa.

The success continues

Chester began to consolidate their position in the Third Division and enjoyed runs to the FA Cup fifth round in both 1976–77 and 1979–80 under Alan Oakes. They achieved their best position since the lower divisions were re-organised in the late 1950s by finishing fifth in 1978, missing out on promotion (in the pre play-off era) by just two points. Chester were also one of just two sides to win the short-lived Debenhams Cup, a competition competed for by the two sides from outside the top two divisions to go furtherest in the FA Cup. They beat Port Vale 4–3 on aggregate in 1977 to win their first English national trophy. Chester also continued their giantkilling exploits by knocking First Division Coventry City out of the League Cup in 1978–79 and Second Division leaders Newcastle United from the FA Cup a year later.

The period also saw the emergence of the club's most famous player and record sale, Ian Rush, from the club's youth set-up.

The yo-yo period

After Rush departed in 1980, the goals dried up for Chester and they were back in the basement by 1982. Two years later they finished bottom of the entire Football League but were comfortably re-elected. By this point the club was known as Chester City, having added the suffix in 1983.

Thanks to the signing of Stuart Rimmer, and astute management of Harry McNally, Chester returned to the Third Division in 1986. Three years later they narrowly missed out on a play-off spot as McNally worked miracles on a limited budget, but further bad times lay ahead. In 1990, Chester were moved out of their Sealand Road home and temporarily shared Macclesfield's Moss Rose ground. Despite regularly attracting tiny crowds, Chester defied the odds to avoid relegation from Division Three in both 1990–91 and 1991–92. They returned to the city, the new brand new Deva Stadium, which is now known as the Saunders Honda Stadium in 1992 in the re-named Division Two after restructuring.

Chester suffered a landslide relegation in their first season back in Chester, before winning promotion straight back as Division Three runners-up. Unfortunately, the shock resignation of manager Graham Barrow and the departure of several key players in the close-season of 1994 left Chester with a threadbare squad, and they were comfortably relegated back to Division Three in 1995. They would stay there for five years.

The Saunders Honda Stadium is notable for crossing the England-Wales border: while the pitch is in Wales, the main stand and offices are in England.

Return ticket

Amid crippling financial problems under owner Mark Guterman, Chester entered administration in October 1998. Despite their off-field problems, Chester comfortably avoided relegation from the Third Division under Kevin Ratcliffe in 1998–99 and their appeared to be fresh hope when Terry Smith became new owner in July 1999. Unfortunately, American Smith (whose background lay in American football) was to oversee a disastrous period for the club. He became manager after Ratcliffe resigned in August 1999 and managed just four league wins in as many months in charge. Despite improved showings under new boss Ian Atkins, Chester lost their 69-year long Football League status on May 6 2000 on goal difference after losing to Peterborough United.

The first season in the Football Conference saw Chester finish 8th and enjoy various cup runs, but the campaign was overshadowed by continuing problems under Smith. By the summer of 2001, Chester were in grave danger of going out of business and the appointment of his friend Gordon Hill as manager was deeply unpopular with fans. Fortunately, the arrival of new chairman Stephen Vaughan in September 2001 was to herald a new period in the club' history.

Revived by Vaughan, new manager Mark Wright and assistant manager Ted McMinn, Chester avoided relegation in 2002 and qualified for the Conference play-offs a year later. Unfortunately they missed out on promotion by losing a penalty shoot out to Doncaster Rovers.

They began the 2003–04 season as favourites to win the Football Conference. Thanks to the prolific striking duo of Daryl Clare and Darryn Stamp the goals flowed and they had a rock solid defence composing of players such as Scott Guyett and Danny Collins. Despite heavy pressure from Hereford United, Chester held their nerve to clinch the title and their return ticket to the Football League with a 1–0 victory over Scarborough. It was the club's first national league title.

Difficult return

Chester were tipped to win a second successive promotion in 2004–05, but their season was to be a bitter disappointment. Mark Wright resigned the day before the season started, with Ray Mathias in caretaker charge for Chester's 1–1 draw at Notts County. By the end of August, Chester were bottom of the Football League but their fortunes improved under new manager, Ian Rush. Although Rush helped steer City to safety, the bland style of football played in his seven months in charge was not largely appreciated by fans and results became worse as the season wore on.

In April 2005, Keith Curle took over and delighted Chester fans with some entertaining and successful football. Unfortunately, a dreadful run between December 2005 and March 2006 saw Chester fall from fourth to bottom in Football League Two. Mark Wright surprisingly returned to the club and a run of five successive wins late in the season secured another campaign in the Football League. The 2006–07 season was largely forgettable, as Chester (following the loss of key players Roberto Martinez and Jon Walters) slumped into a lower mid-table position in front of dwindling crowds. Wright was sacked on April 29 2007, being replaced by Scotsman Bobby Williamson.

Williamson's first game in charge ended with Chester winning a friendly 5–3 at AFC Telford United on July 17 2007. His first Football League match at the helm ended in a goalless draw with Chesterfield the following month.


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