Chasetown FC begin a new era in 2015-16 a year after celebrating their 60th anniversary season, with a new manager at the helm. The club was started in 1954 as Chase Terrace Old Scholars Youth Club, when Brian Baker – who is still involved with the club today – and schoolmaster Ray Derry formed a soccer section from the Chase Terrace Secondary Modern School.
The side played their first competitive games in the Cannock Youth League, remaining there until 1958-59 when they were accepted into the Lichfield and District League. An impressive debut season saw them finish third. During their three-year stay in the League, the Old Scholars were runners-up in the League and Challenge Cup competition.
1961-62 saw them enter the Staffs County League, while a reserve team stayed on in the former League. First-team success followed with the Lichfield and Rugeley Charity Cups, before the club were admitted to the West Midlands (Regional) League Division One and changed to their current title of Chasetown FC in 1972-73.
Larry Percival was the first manager of the renamed Chasetown FC and wrote his name permanently in the history of the club as the first manager ever to win a league title – a feat that was not repeated until 2005-06 when a side led by Charlie Blakemore won the Midland Alliance title. Under Percival, the newly club established themselves as one of the leading clubs in the division. In 11 seasons they won the title in 1977-78, finished second five times, third twice and fourth twice to earn a much-respected record.
After 6 years at the helm, Bill Murray took over as Chasetown manager, but despite the club’s on the field success, Chasetown were, however, prevented from promotion because they were playing on a park pitch at Burntwood Recreation Centre. A breakthrough came in 1983 when they re-homed with a move to the current ground, The Scholars Ground, which coincided with a move up into the West Midlands (Regional) League Premier Division. Manager Bryne Scorey was the man in charge as Chasetown made Church Street their permanent home.
The club took their time to adapt to life at the top, finishing in the lower reaches of the table in their first three seasons. Things changed though from 1986. Paul Darby arrived with assistant Mervyn Rowe, who took the helm when Darby joined Wolverhampton Wanderers as a physiotherapist. Rowe brought about an improvement in the playing squad, with mid-table finishes in the late 1980s followed by a trophy in 1989-90 when we lifted the League Cup with a 5-2 win over Halesowen Harriers in the Final.This catapulted Chasetown into a successful period during the early 1990s. The Scholars scooped a West Midlands League cup and Walsall Senior Cup double in 1990-91, with a second Walsall Senior Cup win in 1992-93 at Walsall’s Bescot Stadium.
Mervyn Rowe stepped down as manager at the start of the 1993-94 season part way through an astonishing run of 36 league games unbeaten – a complete calendar year without defeat. However, success progressively slid away and a succession of managers (Graham Smith, Benny Brown and Cliff Painter) could not recapture any of Rowe’s successes, resulting in three seasons in the bottom three or four of the newly formed Midland Football Alliance, of which Chasetown was a founder member.
Rowe returned to the helm in 1997-98 and remained as manager for four years, as Chasetown regained mid-table status with the likes of former Wolves striker Shaun Bradbury leading the way in the goal scoring stakes winning two MFA Golden Boot awards in three seasons. Rowe stepped aside again, but unsuccessful tenures with Kevin Foster and Paul Darby as manager (his second spell) saw the Scholars struggling again, until November 2002 when Michael Rowe, Mervyn’s son, took over as boss, with Charlie Blakemore as his assistant.
An excellent end to the 2002-03 season saw the club finish 9th, after languishing near to the relegation zone for most of the campaign. Rowe Jr left The Scholars Ground in February 2004 due to work commitments but, under Blakemore’s leadership, the Scholars improved again, finishing 6th, and in Blakemore’s first full season in charge of the first team, 2004-05, Chasetown lifted the Walsall Senior Cup for the third time beating Tividale 2-1 at Walsall FC and finished second to Rushall Olympic in the Midland Football Alliance.
That disappointment of missing out on promotion spurred Chasetown into an incredible season in 2005-06 when the club were first thrust into the national spotlight in November 2005 when the Staffordshire side upset all the odds by reaching the First Round of the FA Cup for the first time in their history, overcoming famous non-league side Blyth Spartans in front of a then record Chasetown attendance of 2,134.
The BBC were quick to bring this feat to a Sunday lunch-time audience of 3.2 million on “Match of the Day Live” as they broadcast the first round proper tie against Oldham Athletic. In front of 1,997 supporters, Chasetown took the lead through Nicky Harrison, only for the Latics to level the scores a few minutes later and send the game into a replay. Over 2,300 supporters followed Blakemore’s men up to Boundary Park – the highest away following at Oldham Athletic all season – but the romance was over as the home side won 4-0.
During that record breaking 2005-06 season, the Scholars notched a record eight consecutive victories in the league, went 22 games unbeaten in league and cup, and regularly smashed their record league attendance, topping 500 for the first time when Leamington came to the Scholars Ground in January 2006, then ending the season with 839 for the visit of Romulus in the game which clinched Chasetown the league title.
At the time of the FA Cup run, Chasetown lay in 14th place and 20 points adrift of league leaders Malvern Town, before beginning an astonishing run of victories – 12 wins out of 13 in December, January and February lifted Chasetown into the top 8 of the division while 5 more wins in March put the Scholars into 4th place, just one point behind the leaders.
On April 20th, 2006 Chasetown topped the league table for the first time in the season. Stourbridge overhauled them briefly, but the final day saw Chasetown in pole position and the locals came out in force to see Karl Edwards notch two goals and Chasetown lift the Midland Alliance trophy and gain promotion to the Southern League Division 1 Midlands. The BBC cameras were at the Scholars Ground again, featuring both goals in their FA Cup Final programme.
Season 2006-07 saw the club finish third in the Southern Midland Division One but suffered the heartbreak of losing out in the play-off semi-finals, losing 1-0 to local rivals Willenhall Town. 2007-08 saw Chasetown Football Club became even more firmly embedded in FA Cup folklore when they defeated Football League Division One side Port Vale in a Second Round Replay to become the lowest ranked side to ever make the Third Round of the World’s most famous domestic cup competition. Their reward was a home tie against Championship side Cardiff City who boasted multi-millionaire players like Robbie Fowler, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Trevor Sinclair amongst their highly rated squad.
In front of a record breaking home attendance of 2,420 the Scholars dared to take the dream one step further as they took the lead against Dave Jones’ Bluebirds side via a Kevin McNaughton own goal in the 17th minute. The class of a team six leagues and some 136 places higher than Chasetown did tell and a first half injury time equaliser from former Aston Villa man Peter Whittingham enabled Cardiff to regroup at the interval and further goals from 17 year old debutant Aaron Ramsey (his stepping stone to a great career at Arsenal) and Paul Parry finally ended Chasetown’s marathon ten game cup run.
When the cup was over, the Scholars lost several key playing personnel, including the influential Chris Slater and Kyle Perry who were quickly snapped up by Chasetown’s second round opponents Port Vale. “Charlie’s Angels” ended up 7th in the table, missing out on the play off places by a single point.
Season 2008-09 saw Chasetown amongst the front runners and a fourth place finish ensured that they would contest the play offs. In the semi-final the Scholars demolished third placed Atherstone Town at Sheepy Road 5-0 to take their place in the play off final. A record crowd of 3,111 at Nuneaton Town’s Liberty Way stadium witnessed a tight, tense game, but a solitary strike from Ben Foster ended the Scholars dream of promotion for another season at least.
The club again made history on Friday July 10th 2009 when they became the first team to play a competitive match at the Bluebirds’ new multi million pound home – the Cardiff City Stadium – in front of 5,270 spectators. Relocated to the Northern Premier League Division One South for 2009-10, Chasetown’s remarkable story finished on a high note as the club went on to become runners up and, after a 3-2 play off semi-final win over Sheffield FC, a 1-0 win versus Glapwell at the Scholars Ground in front of 1,265 spectators ensured Chasetown would be playing in Step 7 of the Football League Pyramid for the first time in their history.
For much of the 2010-11 season, Chasetown were in or around the play off positions, eventually finishing 10th in their inaugural season. Chasetown’s league campaign was distracted though by another incredible cup run. Despite being from the third tier of non-league football, Chasetown upset the odds time and time again in the FA Trophy.
After victories over Sheffield FC and Mickleover Sports, the Scholars disposed of Workington from the Conference North, Kettering Town and Grimsby Town from the Conference National and Eastleigh from the Conference South to set up a quarter-final with Conference National side Mansfield Town. A dramatic 89th minute own goal earned Blakemore’s side a replay at Field Mill, where skipper Richard Teesdale scored a second half equaliser, before the hosts went on to win 3-1, on their way to being losing FA Trophy finalists (just as Cardiff City had in the FA Cup in 2008).
2011-12 was the 40th season the club has been known as Chasetown FC, but unfortunately, was a historic season for all the wrong reasons, as they were relegated for the first time in their existence. Charlie Blakemore left the managerial role due to work commitments, and the appointment of Chris Brindley yielded 19 points from his first 8 games in charge.
However, a run of 13 league games without a win saw Chasetown slip towards the relegation zone, and despite a 4-0 win at Kendal with 4 matches remaining, 3 consecutive defeats left The Scholars needing victory on the last day of the season at Burscough. A 4-4 draw was not enough. 2012-13 started slowly and Chasetown found themselves in the bottom half of the table at Christmas.
In the second half of the season though, the Scholars went on an amazing run, culminating in them sneaking into the final play-off place. A victory at runners-up Coalville Town resulted in a play-off final at Stamford, which was one game too far for Chasetown as the Lincolnshire side were promoted at our expense.
Another slow start in 2013-14 ended with success though, with Craig Harris winning his first trophy as Chasetown boss. After a run of eleven consecutive defeats in competitive matches to our biggest rivals, Rushall Olympic, the Scholars upset the odds with an emphatic 4-1 win in the Bescot Final to win the Walsall Senior Cup for the fourth time in the club’s history.
2014-15 saw Craig Harris start the year in charge but after a disappointing first half of the season, with the club hovering just above the relegation zone, Harris was relieved of his duties with the former Tamworth FC manager Marcus Law appointed, giving him the sole aim of keeping Chasetown from getting relegated. In the end, with sides dropping out of the league, relegation would have been avoided anyway but renewed form saw an impressive run that took Chasetown to 13th in the league and another Walsall Senior Cup Final, narrowly beaten 4-3 by Walsall after extra-time.
The summer break saw Law return to his former club Kettering and a new manager was sought. Former Rugby Town boss Dave Stringer was appointed, thrust quickly into a friendly list of fixtures that had been arranged before his appointment. Two defeats in seven fixtures sees the Scholars start the season with renewed hope.
Chasetown History by Paul Mullins, Press Officer