BRIEF HISTORY OF HEDNESFORD TOWN FC - (LONGER VERSION CLICK HERE)
The Pitmen were formed in 1880 with the amalgamation of two teams, the Red & Whites (who were also known as West Hill) & Hill Top. The newly formed club played their games at The Tins, which was at the rear of The Anglesey Hotel in Hednesford & remained there until 1904 when they moved to The Cross Keys.

The Cross Keys was home to the Pitmen until the 1994/95 season when the club moved to the new purpose built Keys Park stadium which has a 6039 capacity & facilities to enable the club to raise funds by holding functions, conferences etc throughout the week.

Hednesford Town may have a long & proud history but it was not until January 1990 that the clubs fortunes turned for the better. The 1989/90 season had been a long hard struggle & at the beginning of the year the club were in a deep relegation battle & with gates below 300, relegation from The Beazer Homes (Southern League) Midland Division looked a distinct possibility. In an effort to avoid relegation the club appointed former goalkeeper John Baldwin as manager and he gradually began to turn the club around & relegation was avoided.

The following season the team finished third and then gained promotion to the Beazer Homes League Premier Division after finishing the 91/92 season as runners-up to Solihull Borough. The club also in the 91/92 season became the first English football team to play at The Welsh National Stadium losing 1-0 to Cardiff City in the final if the Welsh Cup Final.

In the first season in the Premier Division the Pitmen finished in a creditable fourth position & reached the Staffs Senior Cup Final losing to Stoke City over two legs. The 93/94 season saw the club reach a cup final for the third year running, this time it was The Birmingham Senior Cup Final where at The Bescot Stadium the club were beaten 3-0 by a full strength Walsall team. In the league the club dropped down to thirteenth place.

The following season the club were crowned Beazer Homes League Premier Division champions and in April 95 the team defeated Leek Town at Keys Park in front of 2776 supporters to clinch the title and promotion to the Conference.

In the clubs first season in the top flight of non-league football the Pitmen finished in third place behind champions Stevenage Borough and Woking.

The 1996/97 season will go down as the best in the clubs history as the Pitmen reached the first round of the FA Cup for the first time in 72 years eventually losing in the fourth round at Middlesbrough in front of 27500 supporters. In the first round proper fellow Conference side Southport were defeated setting up an away tie at Blackpool. A goal by Joe O’Connor three minutes from time gave the Pitmen their first ever victory against a Football League team.

In theThird Round York City were the visitors to Keys Park and a record crowd of 3169 went wild when a Keith Russell penalty was converted and a home draw against Middlesbrough was the reward. On police advice the game was switched to the Riverside Stadium and after taking the lead the Pitmen lost 3-2 in a thrilling game.

The following season saw the club finish in seventh position and further FA Cup success was enjoyed as in front of millions of Match of the Day viewers the Pitmen beat Hull City 2-0 at Boothferry Park but in the second round lost to Darlington.

In the 98/99 season the club reached the first round of the FA Cup for the third season running.The team beat Barnet 3-1 in the first round but lost by the same scoreline away at Cardiff City.

League success did not follow the cup runs and the 1999/2000 season saw the team drop to 17th position then after John Baldwin had stepped down during December 2000 the club were relegated for the first time in their history.

A number of managers were appointed to replace John Baldwin,they were Neil Pointon, Colin Lambert, Paul Raynor , Kenny Hibbitt and Ian Painter. The clubs first season back in the Southern League was a big disappointment and only a last day victory away at Newport (IOW) saved a consecutive relegation.

The team started the 2002/03 season with Ian Painter in charge but with the Pitmen hovering around the relegation zone Ian was replaced during February 2003 by Barry Powell who returned to the club after a spell at Stafford Rangers. Barry had previously been assistant manager with Kenny Hibbert.. Despite the clubs FA Trophy success in May 2004 when Canvey Island were defeated 3-2 at Villa Park Barry Powell was replaced by Chris Brindley. The club failed during the 2003/04 season to finish high enough in the league to move into the new conference set up which was the clubs ambition. but this was achieved the following season when the Pitmen came through the play offs against the odds to secure promotion to the Nationwide (Conference) North.

The Pitmens stay in the new Conference setup proved to be brief however. A disastrous 2005/2006 campaign saw the team finish bottom of the league table resulting in the departure of both Chris Brindley and his replacement and former assistant Steve Anthrobus. A lengthy series of interviews by the clubs newly formed Management Committee for the vacant position followed resulting in the appointment of former Nottingham Forest striker Phil Starbuck as the new Manager. An almost complete clearout of the playing staff followed with only three or four players surviving from the previous season as the club prepared for its first ever UniBond Northern Premier League campaign.

Despite challenging near the top of the table for the majority of the 2006/2007 season, a slump in form saw the team eventually finish in 7th place, 4 points off the playoff places. Assistant Manager John Ramshaw left the club to take over at Lincoln United and the vastly experienced Jimmy Mullen was appointed in his place. Mullens tenure at Keys Park was to be short-lived as he was offered the managers job at Walsall FC and a disappointing season which saw the Pitmen finish 8th culminated in Phil Starbucks dismissal.

Season 08/09 saw the start of yet another new era, Dean Edwards being appointed as manager and overseeing yet another almost total clearout of players. The clubs fortunes failed to improve however as the team once again finished in eighth position and after a poor start to 09/10 culminating in a humiliating FA Cup defeat at home to Pegasus Juniors Edwards became the latest manager to exit Keys Park, His replacement, Simon Line lasted a mere 3 months before quitting to return to lower level football but the appointment of Bernard McNally saw a dramatic turnaround in fortunes as the Pitmen put together some title winning form, racing up the table to finish fourth. Despite a playoff semi final defeat at Chippenham, the form showed in the second half of the season gave supporters much optimism for the 10/11 campaign.

Season 2010/11 was to see the departure of Manager Bernard McNally after early exits once again from both the FA Cup and FA Trophy. His replacement was Rob Smith with assistant Larry Chambers triggering an impressive run of results that saw the Pitmen finish second in the table only to lose on penalties to salisbury City in the Play Off Final. Silverware was secured though in the shape of the Southern League Cup but the Trophy will not be defended as 2011/12 sees Hednesford moved back into the Northern Premier League.

 

  HISTORY OF HEDNESFORD TOWN FC -(FOR SHORTER VERSION CLICK HERE)

The Formative Years: 1880-1900:  The origins of Hednesford Town Football Club lay firmly in the rich coalmining fields which surrounded the Cannock Chase area. Deeper coalmining in Hednesford started in 1860 with the sinking of the Old Hednesford or Uxbridge Colliery. Hednesford, just a small hamlet at that time, was unable to provide the labour force necessary to work this new mine. An influx of hardened miners from the coal fields of North Staffordshire, The Black Country and Shropshire brought with them their love of football, which was already popular in those areas, especially the Black Country.

During the 1860-70's, with the Industrial Revolution in full swing, the coal fields expanded. It was with the sinking of deeper mine shafts at The Marquis Of Anglesey's Colliery in 1876, that urged the Colliery Manager, Colonel Robert Williamson, who was a keen follower of all sports, especially cricket and football, to impress upon the Marquis that adequate recreational facilities should be made available to the pits workers. The Marquis agreed and allowed the workers the use of unwanted land on and around Hednesford Hill's.

It is believed that Colonel Williamson, after watching the games of football played on these newly formed pitches, decided, with the help of two local doctors, Dr. Sykes and Dr. Holton, along with other dignitaries, to combine two of the best teams, Hednesford Red & Whites, with Hednesford Hill's, to form a new team. The year was 1880, the teams name, Hednesford Town.

A number of teams were already operating in and around Hednesford before the formation of Hednesford Town in 1880. Names like Hednesford Rovers, Hednesford Britannia, Hednesford Unity are all known to have existed, but as there were no organised league or cup competitions it is presumed that these teams played only 'friendlies'.

The newly formed Hednesford Town set up their new home at the back of The 

 Anglesey Hotel in the centre of the town, at a new ground known at the time as 'The Tins', because of the metal-sheeting surrounding it. Little is known of the first games played here, but these seem mainly to have been 'friendlies' against other local teams. It is recorded that a 6-a-side tournament was held at the Anglesey ground in April 1882 for clubs in the district. Also on record is that a 'Benefit Match For Hednesford Town' was played at 'The Tins' in March 1887, when Aston Villa, a year before they went on to become one of the founder members of the Football League, were the visitors.

Hednesford Town 1899

One early big game in the club's history took place in October 1890 when Hednesford entertained Small Heath (the original name of Birmingham City) in the English Cup (the forerunner to the F.A Cup). The 1897-98 season saw Hednesford beating Burslem Port Vale in the Staffordshire Cup Final in a game played at Stafford. At Hednesford railway station a brass band honoured the conquering hero's on their return.

Organised League Football still hadn't arrived for Hednesford Town until the late 1890's, but after years of trying they were finally admitted into the Walsall and District League. No records are known to exist on how they faired in this league, but one thing is certain, the club were slowly but surely rising in status.

 

A New Century & Further Progress: 1900-1920:  The early years of the new century saw an ambitious Hednesford Town looking to make further progress up the footballing ladder and in 1904 they made an important switch, moving to a new ground called The Cross Keys just across the town from their old ground. The first game played here saw over 900 spectators witness Hednesford beating local rivals Stafford Rangers 3-1.

With this move to a new ground and the increased interest from the local community, Hednesford sought to gain entry into a 'better league' and this was achieved in 1908, when they were elected into the Birmingham Combination League. The Cross Keys ground was upgraded to meet the higher standards in this league, turnstiles were fitted, and the pitch was widened to conform to The English Cup regulations, and everyone was in high spirits for the new season.

The first game in the Birmingham Combination attracted over 2,000 to The Cross Keys, with Hednesford running out 3-1 winners over Bournbrook. In this first season, with the higher standard of opposition, Hednesford managed to hold a respectable mid-table position and reached the fourth qualifying round of the English Cup, losing 2-1 to Wrexham at the Cross Keys.

Hednesford did the unthinkable in the following season (1909-10), carrying off the Birmingham Combination title, with 51 points from 30 games. The following year saw them slip to fourth in the league after a string of injuries hampered their season. Hednesford had by now established themselves as one of the best teams in the area and they were continually up amongst the challengers for the Birmingham Combination title , finishing as runners-up and third in the 1912-13, 1913-14 seasons respectively.

Arch rivals Stafford Rangers were the opponents who raised the most emotions during this period. In the 1912-13 season they had pipped Hednesford to the title and during that season they were the only team to take a point from The Cross Keys. A season later they became the first team to win at The Cross Keys for over two years, in a game watched by over 5,500.

With war clouds gathering, the Birmingham Combination continued throughout the 1914-15 season. One memorable game came as late as October 1914 when 300 Hednesford supporters travelled to nearby Walsall for an English Cup match that was lost 3-1 in front of a 2,000 gate.

With the outbreak of The First World War, and the terrible losses it inflicted, the Birmingham Combination was folded and Hednesford Town were forced to disband as many men were called up to fight on the front. During the 1915-19 period Hednesford Collieries kept the flag flying at The Cross Keys and competed in the Birmingham Works League, where they achieved success in winning the Ansells Shield and finishing runners-up in the Black and White Cup, and the Dewer Shield.

Interest in football had been maintained at The Cross Keys during The First World War by the Hednesford Collieries team, but with the coming of peace, a return to normality for some die-hards, could only be made complete by the return of Hednesford Town. Their prayers were answered when the club was re-formed and admitted into The Birmingham League which was considered to be much more prestigious than the Birmingham Combination, and which for many years contained the reserve teams of the top West Midland's sides, Aston Villa, West Bromwich Albion and Wolves. In fact Hednesford's first post war game in The Birmingham League was played against West Bromwich Albion reserves on 30th August 1919 when Hednesford ran out 5-1 winners.

Only one game was lost in the first twenty League and Cup played in a season that contained some memorable results including what was considered at the time, and perhaps still is, the most remarkable result ever achieved by Hednesford Town when they crushed Shrewsbury Town (who were at that time arguably the best team in the league) 8-0. Reports say that the scoreline could have been considerably higher, underlined two weeks later when Hednesford beat Walsall 4-3 in a F.A Cup tie, in front of a record attendance of 6,000 at The Cross Keys who paid in total £309 to watch the game.

There were more spectacular results later in the season when Hednesford suffered heavy defeats against Wrexham and Darlaston, both 6-0, counterbalanced by a 9-0 thrashing of Wolves Reserves and a 8-1 thumping of Willenhall Swifts. Only one home game was lost that season as the team finished fourth in the table.

 

Mixed Fortunes : 1920-1940: Hopes were high for the following season (1920-21) and two memorable results were recorded when Hednesford beat a strong Manchester United side in a friendly match, and just a week later Willenhall bit the dust 4-2 in an English Cup tie in which a 7,000 crowd again broke the Cross Keys record attendance.

Three months later Hednesford traveled to Southend for a F.A Cup tie on another big day in their history. Unbeaten in 22 successive League and Cup games they were full of confidence against a team seventh from bottom in Division Three. It was however not to be Hednesford's day. Home supporters and officials freely admitted that Hednesford had played the better football and the legendary Hednesford striker, 'Tosh' Griffiths, scored a brilliant goal to make the scores level at half time, but Southend ran out 3-1 winners after Hednesford fell behind to a hotly disputed penalty and a goal that looked to be suspiciously offside.

Even though Hednesford picked up no honours in the 1920-21 season, it was believed by many to be their finest to date. Three points were taken from Walsall in two Easter games. The Good Friday game at The Cross Keys attracted a record attendance of 10,000, a figure which still stands to this day as being the highest ever seen at that ground. Much of Hednesford's success that season was tributed to strikers Griffiths and Whitfield who's attacking flair brought them 64 goals between them and to the fact that the side remained unchanged for long periods due to an absence of injuries.

Incredibly this remarkable pair of strikers increased their goal tallies in the following season (1921-22), with Whitfield getting 39 and 'Tosh' Griffiths netting 30 amongst Hednesford's 85 goal haul. Despite scoring freely the season as a whole proved to be a disappointing one for Hednesford. Right from the beginning Willenhall became the first team to win at Cross Keys for nearly eighteen months and only the second side to win there since the First World War. A 3-1 defeat at Darlaston ended any hopes of another F.A Cup run and a mid-season slump robbed the team of any hope of challenging for the Birmingham League title. The team was subjected to much more change than the previous season with many players in and out through injury and some of Hednesford's promising youngsters moving on to Football League clubs.

If the early 20's had seen a prosperous and successful Hednesford Town side then the remainder of the decade would prove to be much more turbulent for the club. 'Tosh' Griffiths had left the club in the 1922-23 season and the team slumped into the bottom half of the table. Hopes were raised for the following season when 'Tosh' returned and bagged 16 goals in the first 10 games. The Birmingham League title looked to be within Hednesford's reach when tragedy struck in a Birmingham Senior Cup game against Cannock Town, when 'Tosh' sustained a serious knee injury. He was never to play again. Hednesford's season fell apart and the teams title hopes faded.

The economic Depression in the mid 1920's saw mass unemployment, strikes and hardship for many people in the area and Hednesford Town Football Club suffered accordingly. The team had by now almost completely changed with many players understandably seeking better security. The club failed to win a single league game in the 1924-25 season until December 20th whereas the previous season had seen them sweeping all before them. The turn of the New Year saw successive heavy away defeats at Bilston 8-2, Burton Albion 15-0 (the clubs record defeat) and 9-2 at Worcester City. This dismal run of form combined with the economic climate saw ever decreasing attendance's at the Cross Keys. Gates were now being measured in just a few hundred rather than the few thousand that had packed the ground in previous seasons. The club were to finish bottom of the Birmingham League for two successive seasons.

The 1926-27 campaign saw some improvement. Hednesford scored 73 goals but no fewer than 103 were conceded in 34 league games, the club managing to finish third from bottom in the table. The rot had set in and Hednesford were to spend the rest of the decade fighting it out at the lower levels of the Birmingham League.

The 1927-28 season brought about a further slight improvement as the club finished in 13th place out of 18 teams, despite picking up only 3 points away from home all season. Again over 100 goals were conceeded with Stafford Rangers getting six of these in a Boxing Day win at the Cross Keys.

The end of the decade was most notable for Hednesford playing two Cup Finals in the space of a week. In the first of these they went down 2-1 to Stafford Rangers at Molineux in the final of the Staffordshire Senior Cup and then undismayed by this defeat they met Walsall and came away to win the Walsall Senior Cup.

With the arrival of the 30's Hednesford enjoyed mixed success. The 1929-30 season proved to be a rather indifferent one, the highlight being a 7-3 win at Hereford United as Hednesford again just managed to avoid the bottom two places.

A ground facelift greeted supporters at the start of the 1930-31 season with new drainage, pitch re-turf, a coat of paint on the stand and new railings around the pitch, but three successive defeats right at the start of the season took the shine off all the ground improvements. The season saw a useful F.A Cup run with wins over Bourneville, Bromsgrove and Brierley Hill before going out to Hereford United, but once again the Pitmen were to finish bottom of the league.

The indomitable heart of the club was again shown the following year when the 1932-33 season was to prove to be their best for almost a decade. Players such as Harry Nicholls, Norman Dunning, Les Rowe, Eddie Cameron, Jack Shelton, Teddy Groves and Sam Smith were all in top form and within weeks of the start of the season Oakendale were being hammered at the Cross Keys 11-0. No home game was lost from September onwards and a place higher than eleventh would have been achieved if the sides away form had been better.

By this time Harry Nicholls had emerged as possibly the finest left-half in the history of the club and he was joined in the 1933-34 season by Jackie Maund, the diminutive outside-right who's mazy runs, accurate crosses and powerful shooting were a feature of his home debut on Boxing Day 1933 when he got the final goal in a 6-1 trouncing of Stafford Rangers. This was probably the highlight of the season as again inconsistancy saw the Pitmen finish mid-table.

By the time the 1934-35 season came along, long expensive journeys to places like Rhyl and Bangor were beginning to play havoc with club's finances and almost inevitably the club was forced to let go of some of its most valued players, Harry Nicholls going to Sheffield Wednesday, Jackie Maund to Aston Villa and Jack Shelton to Wolves and a mid table finish was all the club could manage after the heart of the team was ripped apart.

A slight improvement in 1935-36 saw Hednesford produce some reasonable results with the team not only finishing 9th but also going on to win the Birmingham Senior Cup with a fine 2-1 win over Burton Albion in the final.

Once again trouble was only just around the corner and it was a sign of the times when Cannock Town were forced to pull out of the Birmingham League mid-way through the 1936-37 season. Any extra spectators Hednesford may have gained from the demise of their local rivals didn't improve the clubs dwindling finances and not for the first time, or the last, Hednesford players were voluntarily foregoing their wages. The season also had its comical side when in January 1937 a game against Cradley Heath had to be abandoned when the referee was unable to find the penalty spot in the mud. A final finishing place of 16th out of 19 teams in the 1936-37 season was disheartening for all at the club, but much worse was to come the following season.

During the close season of 1937 a Hednesford Town benefit fund was set up to try to help the financial situation at the club which had reached a critical state, but by the time the 1937-38 campaign had started poor results and gates were just adding to the clubs volatile financial situation, which was deteriorating week by week. The one reasonable gate which attracted just over a thousand supporters was lost 3-1 to Darlaston in a Birmingham Senior Cup game on New Years Day 1938 and after three more successive defeats in January, the club had reached melting point and they just didn't have enough money to make the journey to Oswestry for a league fixture at the end of that month. £20 was needed to fund the trip and despite a generous offer from Oswestry to fund part of the cost the rest of the amount was unable to be found. After 58 years The Pitmen had reached rock bottom and on February 24th 1938, with the club in no position to honour its remaining fixtures, Hednesford Town F.C had no option but to hand in a letter of resignation to Birmingham League officials and the club was formally disbanded.

Though Hednesford Town Football Club might have come to an end, football  lived on in Hednesford with the formation of a new club, Hednesford FC, for the 1938/39 season. Mr. A. E. Beddow presented new jerseys and shorts to the club and football  again commenced at the Cross Keys with Hednesford FC beating Hereford 5-0 in their first game. Not surprisingly results were inconsistent and there were some lively games such as the one at Stourbridge when Alex Talbot helped Hednesford to a 7-4 victory.

 War clouds were rapidly gathering and although The Birmingham League kept going for another season, Hednesford had survived its worst ever football crisis and was ready to face whatever Hitler had to throw at them.

 

 The War Years : Just like the famous Windmill Theatre, Hednesford can make the proud boast that even global conflict did not force them to close. Indeed football was played at the Cross Keys almost without a break during both the 1914-18 and 1939-45 hostilities, in fact, particularly during the Second World War, there were games at the ‘Keys’ that remain indelibly in the memories of those who saw them.

 Local newspapers were very limited in the amount of coverage that they could give to football during the war years but some details were preserved for posterity. For the first two seasons during the Second World War hostilities the Birmingham League competition continued in a revised form with several former Hednesford players returning from Football League clubs to turn out for their old club. This included the likes of Arthur Buttery, Jackie Maund and Bob Finch.

During the 1939/40 season an RAF team came to the Cross Keys for a friendly and The Pitmen clocked up an amazing 17-0 victory. There were also two notable cup performances during that season, the first was when Hednesford shared the Wednesbury Charity Cup with Darlaston after a thrilling 2-2 draw. The Pitmen also beat West Bromwich Albion in the Semi-final of the Worcestershire Senior Cup before losing 6-3 to Worcester City in the Final after taking the game into extra time.

The 1940/41 season again saw a revision of the league with just ten teams competing. This included three teams from RAF Cosford, three Football League teams, Birmingham, Aston Villa and West Bromwich Albion. The remaining clubs were Worcester City, Revo Electric, Wellington (Telford United) and Hednesford. That season Hednesford got off to a flying start beating Aston Villa 7-1 and ended up winning the championship with 25 points from 16 games. A further highlight that season was beating Birmingham 12-1 in the League Cup.

The following season, the last in which the wartime Birmingham League was organised, Hednesford did not fare as well, however, they did reach the Final of the Keyes Cup but lost to Aston Villa 5-0 at Villa Park.

From this point up until the end of the war Hednesford’s involvement with football mainly consisted of ‘one off’ Charity games and cup competitions. Many of the Charity games were organised by one of Hednesford’s legendary players, Bob Finch………(to be continued).