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Workington Reds Football Club History

Founded: 1884 League: Blue Square Conference North
Nickname(s): The Reds League Position 2009-10: 4th
Stadium: Borough Park Manager: Darren Edmondson
Capacity 3,100 Chairman: Humphrey Dobie

The beginning and the football league Years

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Workington AFC were formed around 1884 by the people of Dronfield, a town south of Sheffield, although it’s now Derbyshire. In the early 1880s about 1,500 Dronnies (as the locals nicknamed them) relocated and came to live and work in workington with their employer Cammel the Steel makers. In January 1884 the team was first reported in one of the local papers under the name of Workington Dronfield. In 1885/86 The Cumberland Cup was staged for the first time and the clubs who entered were Workington, Carlisle, Arlecton, Distington and Wigton.

In March 1887 Workington beat Carlisle 8-0 (Cumberland cup), this match was played at Workington Cricket Field. In 1887/88 Workington appeared in the FA cup for the first time and were beaten 6 - 0 away to Bootle. 1890 saw Workington join the new Cumberland association league playing their games at the cricket ground; in 1893 they moved to The Ashfield ground.

In 1894/95 Workington entered the Cumberland senior league. In 1901/2 Workington joined the Lancashire League. The reds returned back to the Cumberland senior league in 1903/4, they also became a limited company and turned professional, and the players started getting paid. 1904/5 Workington joined the Lancashire combination league in division 2. 1909/10 the club moved to a new ground, Lonsdale Park. Reds played Man city at home in the FA cup and were beaten 2-1. Man city had offered to play the game in Manchester but Workington declined. The 1910/11 season found the club really struggling financially and in an effort to cut costs decided to move to the North eastern league. In July of 1911 things became serious and at a meeting of the shareholders, the board of directors decided to go into voluntary liquidation withdrawing from the North eastern league and also the next seasons FA cup. In 1911/14 a club under the name of Workington Central was formed and played for a few seasons until the outbreak of the First World War.

In 1921 meetings were held in Workington to form a new club and a committee was dually formed, soon Workington AFC as we know it was up and running and more than ready to get back in to action. The North Eastern league was in the process of electing new clubs due to some of their former clubs joining the newly formed football league division 3 Northern section. Workington along with Darlington reserves, Preston Colliery and Seaton Delaval were elected to the North Eastern league.

In 1936/37 Reds won the north eastern league challenge cup for the 2nd time, they also moved to their present ground Borough Park which was situated next to the old ground Lonsdale Park. In September 1939 all league fixtures were cancelled due to the outbreak of the Second World War, although Workington managed to play a season in the west Cumberland league in 1944.

After the war the Reds were desperate to join the football league and made several unsuccessful applications; finally in June 1951 the reds were elected to the football league division three north, replacing New Brighton. Their first game in the league was away to Halifax losing 3-1, The following Wednesday evening Workington Played their first home game against Chesterfield who they beat 3-1 with a crowd of over 10,000 packed into Borough Park. The Reds finished bottom in their first season in the third division north but the Reds continued in Division 3 north for the next six seasons with their highest position being 4th in the 56/57 season. In January 1954 Bill Shankly took over as new manager, having been in charge at Grimsby Town. It was common knowledge to all the locals that bill was an absolute football fanatic whose appetite for the game knew no limits, so it was a sad day for the area when Bill left to manage Huddersfield Town in December 1955 with Norman Low taking over from Shankly as manager of the club.

In the 1956/57 season Workington paid their highest transfer fee to Sunderland to get the services of Ken Chisholm and Ted Purdon. In June 1957 Joe Harvey the former Newcastle captain arrived from Barrow to manage the reds, He was to remain at Workington until 1962. The greatest game in Workingtons history took place at Borough Park on January 4th 1958 when they took on Manchester United in the 3rd round of the FA cup. This was a month before the tragic Munich air disaster. In the United line up that day were the likes of Bobby Charlton, Duncan Edwards, Harry Gregg, and Dennis Violet. Workington led 1-0 at half time with a goal from Colbridge, but went on to lose 3-1. It’s hard to imagine nowadays, how the reds record crowd of 21,000 managed to cram in to Borough Park that day. People talked about this game for years afterwards and still do to this day. That season finshed badly when Workington were relegated to the new 4th division of the football league.

In June 1962 Manager Joe Harvey decided to try his lot at Newcastle United and the managerial seat became vacant. July of that year saw the Reds first ever player manager with the arrival of Ken Furphy from Darlington. Under Furphy, The Reds and their fans were to enjoy a very successful period in their league history. 1963-64 was the best season in the history of Workington football club; they reached the quarter finals of the football league cup before losing 6-0 to West Ham united at Upton Park. The reds recorded their best ever home league attendance of 18,633 against local rivals Carlisle United. They finished third and were promoted to the third division, along with this they also achieved their highest number of points (59) and their 24 wins were the joint best for that season.

In the 1964/65 season Reds once again reached the quarter finals of the football league cup with some truly amazing achievements, they beat Barrow 9-1 at home (this was a record for 19 years) and after holding Blackburn Rovers to a 0-0 draw at Borough Park, went to Ewood Park and beat Rovers 5-1.They continued their run by beating Norwich City 3-0 and then Chelsea came to Borough Park for a 2-2 draw. They lost the replay 2-0 at Stamford Bridge. Along with the Man United tie, the Chelsea game was also a real classic that people remembered and were to talk about for years to come. In November of 1964 manager Furphy resigned and took up the post at Watford, Keith Burkinshaw continued as makeshift player manager for a while and then George Aitkin took charge of the team. By April of 1965 Burkinshaw was controversially given a free transfer to Scunthorpe despite being wanted by a number of other clubs. In the season 1965/66 George Ainsley took over as manager and in August, 15 year old Tony Geidimintis became the youngest player to play a football league fixture for reds. Other memorable happenings included striker kit Napier being sold to Newcastle for £20,000 and Bobby Brown playing his last game and becoming reds longest serving player notching up a considerable 419 appearances.

In November 1966 manager George Ainsley left the club and was replaced by Bill Leivers, this managerial stint was only to last about 4 months and Leivers went to seek pastures new at Cambridge United.

In March 1967 reds long servant Bobby Brown was asked to take over the reigns. On may 13 1967 in appalling weather conditions reds where beaten 2-1 at home to Reading, in what was their first league attendance of under one thousand, with only 856 turning up at Borough Park, they got a mention on that evenings edition of match of the day, when it was stated there was probably more in the press box at old Trafford than was at Borough Park. That season saw reds being relegated to division four after finishing bottom of the league. By December of 1967 Bobby Brown stood down as manager and was replaced by Frank Upton who had been player manager at Worcester city. Although finishing 23rd in division four and having to seek re-election, the reds provided some memorable games in the FL cup by beating Oldham and rivals Carlisle United. In round 3 they took on Fulham at home, at the time Fulham where in the old first division (now premier league) and boasted some world class players including the likes of Allan Clarke, Les Barratt, Johnny Haynes and England world cup winner George Cohen. On a truly brilliantly atmospheric night Reds put up a superb display and shared a 2-2 draw in front of 11,357 fans. In the replay at Craven Cottage the Reds where beaten 6-2. In July of 1968 Frank Upton resigned by mutual consent.

In 1968/69 Brian Doyle was the new reds manager. In the league cup 3rd round workington played Burnley at home in front of a 9,664 crowd, Burnley won 1-0. This season saw the departure of two of workingtons most promising players, Brian Tinnion was sold to Wrexham and John Flynn went to Sheffield United.

In April of 1971 reds goalkeeper John Burridge was sold to Blackpool, then a couple of month’s later manager Brian Doyle resigned, and former player/coach George Aitkin arrived from Watford to become the new boss. The season 1971/72 saw reds finish 6th in the league with 51 points, they were only beaten 11 times. They conceded only 34 goals making this their best ever defensive record. 1972/73 saw Reds finish 13th with 46 points, they beat Preston at home 1-0 in the first round of the FL cup and gained another home tie to Sheffield United only to be beaten 1-0 infront of 7,188 at Borough Park which was their highest gate for that season.

The 1973/74 was a very dismal season in which they suffered their lowest league home attendance of only 693 when they played Exeter City, and at least 6 more games had less than a thousand. In the FL cup 1st round they held Carlisle to a 2-2 draw at Brunton Park, only to be beaten 1-0 in the replay at Borough Park watched by a crowd of 4,931. Finishing 23rd in the league, reds had to apply for re-election and along with Doncaster, Crewe and Stockport; they managed to keep their league status.

In 1974/75 Reds got off to a poor start losing 7 of their first 10 games. Manager Aitkin resigned and was replaced by caretaker boss Brian Wood for a short while. In November former Reading player Colin Meldrum took charge of the club, in April his contract was terminated and he was replaced by John Waugh as caretaker manager. Another dismal season saw the club finish again 23rd in the league with 35 points and once again having to apply for re-election. The reds were successfully re-elected to the league as were Swansea, Darlington, and Scunthorpe.

In June 1975 John McNamee was given the managers seat, but after poor results and controversial team selections he was sacked 6 months later. Alan Ashman was drafted in from neighbours Carlisle, but still Workington struggled and finished bottom of the league. Again For the fourth season running Workington had to apply for re-election, and once again given their league status back along with Stockport, Newport, and Southport.

Although starting the 1976/77 season fairly decently, it wasn’t long before reds began to struggle. In the 1st round of the FA cup they were thrashed 6-0 away to Bury, They were also knocked out of the FL cup 1st round to Stockport.

In February 1977 manager Ashman was sacked and Colin Meldrum once again took over, only to be relieved of his duties in May. From 46 games reds managed to win only 4 and loss 31, leaving them bottom of the league with 19 points. This time Workingtons 7th re election bid failed and they lost their football league membership and were relegated to the northern Premier League. They were replaced by a club from the southern league who would go on to win the FA Cup, Wimbledon FC. On The 14th of May 1977 reds played their last home game in the football league, a crowd of 1,085 saw them beaten 1-0 by Newport.

Proceed to Part Two

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