- 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 121885, with their first competitive match ending in a Welsh Cuploss to Crewe Britannia two months later.
After a few years of playing only friendly and occasional cup matches, Chester joined the
Combination Leaguein 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 Stadiumbecame 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 CombinationLeague and stayed there until after World War I, when they became founder members of the Cheshire County League. Charlie Hewittwas 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 291931 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 Cupfor the second time after beating growing rivals Wrexham at Sealand Roadin 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 Cuptriumph, 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.
Chester's fortunes began to take a turn for the better after the surprise appointment of South African
Peter Hauseras 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 1win 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 Robertshad 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 Unitedwere 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 Cupfifth 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 Vale4–3 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 Unitedfrom the FA Cupa 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 Roadhome and temporarily shared Macclesfield's Moss Roseground. 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 Stadiumin 1992in 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 Barrowand 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.
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 Ratcliffein 1998–99 and their appeared to be fresh hope when Terry Smithbecame 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 1999and 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 2000on goal difference after losing to Peterborough United.
The first season in the
Football Conferencesaw 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 Hillas manager was deeply unpopular with fans. Fortunately, the arrival of new chairman Stephen Vaughanin September 2001was 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 Clareand Darryn Stampthe goals flowed and they had a rock solid defence composing of players such as Scott Guyettand Danny Collins. Despite heavy pressure from Hereford United, Chester held their nerve to clinch the title and their return ticket to the Football Leaguewith a 1–0 victory over Scarborough. It was the club's first national league title.
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 Mathiasin caretaker charge for Chester's 1–1 draw at Notts County. By the end of August, Chester were bottom of the Football Leaguebut 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.
April 2005, Keith Curletook 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 Martinezand 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 Leaguematch at the helm ended in a goalless draw with Chesterfield the following month.
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