Chester FC History
So, where did it all start? Grab a cuppa and read all about the history of the Club…
Well, in 1885, Chester Football Club was originally founded as an amalgamation of Chester Rovers and Old King’s Scholars, and home games were initially played at Faulkner Street in the area of Hoole.
Chester FC played just friendly matches for the first five years before joining the Combination League in 1890, and five years later the Cheshire Senior Cup became their first trophy, followed by a move three years later in 1898 to The Old Showground, also in Hoole.
Just 12 months later however, the club were forced to disband when the ground was lost to a housing development.
The new century saw the club return though, and in 1901 the club were housed in Whipcord Lane, and that would turn into a successful venue for Chester FC, as they clinched the Combination League there in 1909 after finishing runners up for the preceding five seasons.
Chester also entered and won the Welsh Cup in 1908 after they defeated Connah’s Quay, a Cup they also went on to win in the 1930s & 40s.
In 1910, Chester were elected to the Lancashire Combination, and were founder members of the Cheshire County League once the First World War had ended, when they became founder members of the Cheshire County League.
1931 was a major year in the Club’s history, when new manager Charlie Hewitt – appointed just a year earlier, guided the Club in to the Football League for the very first time, in place of Nelson FC.
The 1930s saw Chester’s biggest ever FA Cup win (5-0 over Fulham in 1933 & 1935), and in 1936 recorded their record victory, a 12-0 win over York City, which still remains the Club’s biggest victory to date.
Chester won the Welsh Cup for the second time in 1933, beating Wrexham at Sealand Road, however World War Two then intervened with the Club’s progression.
Chester’s record attendance was set in 1952, when Sealand Road was packed to the rafters for an FA Cup tie against Chelsea, where the official attendance was quoted as 20,500.
By the time the lower divisions were merged in 1958, the Club had won another Welsh Cup, and the Club were placed into Division Four.
The 1960s saw the start of the successful post war period, with South African Peter Hauser oversaw quite possibly the most exciting season for Chester FC, where all five forwards managed to score over 20 goal, with 119 goals being scored in total, although amazingly that season Chester were never promoted.
The 1970s then saw arguably the most successful period in the Club’s history, when Chester FC made it to the League Cup Semi Finals, dumping out League Champions Leeds United at a packed Sealand Road, where over 19,000 crammed in to see the Blues win 3-0 in front of the BBC Sportsnight cameras in what is regarded as one of the biggest ever shocks in the history of the League Cup. They also disposed of Newcastle United en route to the Semi’s where they eventually lost 5-4 on aggregate to Aston Villa over two legs.
That season also saw manager Ken Roberts guide Chester FC to their first Football League promotion, with the Blues going up courtesy of goal average in one of the tightest ever ends to a season.
The late 1970s saw the Club have successful runs in the FA Cup, making the 5th Round on two occasions, under former Man City midfielder Alan Oakes, who also lifted the Debenhams Cup in 1977, beating Port Vale to win the Club’s first national trophy.
The 1980s started with a major transfer in the Chester FC’s history, when local boy Ian Rush was sold to Liverpool for £300,000 when Bob Paisley recognised how talented ‘Rushie’ was, and he would go on to have huge success at Anfield of course.
A big change took place in 1983, when the Club became known as Chester City, with the addition of ‘City’ lasting for a period of 27 years, and ‘City’ would experience a promotion just 3 years later, when the likes of Stuart Rimmer – who would go on to become the Club’s record breaking goalscorer – were guided by manager Harry McNally into the Third Division, in what was a successful time, that also saw Chester beat their local rivals Wrexham in two Cup competitions.
In 1990 though, the bad times for the Club really started, with the Sealand Road ground being sold without the Club having anywhere to play, but the Club brokered a last minute deal to play at Macclesfield Town’s Moss Rose ground for 2 years, and McNally would perform wonders to keep the Club in the 3rd Division.
Two years later, the Club would return to its home City though, and the Deva Stadium was opened up, with Chester winning the first League game there 3-0 against Burnley. However, the Club suffered a relegation in the first season back, but bounced back the folloiwng season under a new manager, Graham Barrow, one of the Club’s most popular figures.
Sadly though, Barrow was forced to quit the Club after problems with the owners at the time, and the Club slid straight back into Division Four.
Chester City’s problems worsened under the ownership of Mark Guterman, who put the Club into Administration in 1998, after manager Kevin Ratfcliffe had done his best to get the Blues promoted, but a Play Off defeat to Swansea ensured that the Club would fall back rather than go forward.
Just when fans thought it couldn’t get any worse, American Terry Smith then purchased the Club, and his erratic ownership saw the Blues lose their Football League place after 69 years, relegated on the final day of the season in 2000 after a 1-0 home defeat to Peterborough United.
Smith managed to stay around until the start of the 2001 season that saw the Blues struggling in the lower reaches of the Conference, and at this point Smith handed the reigns to Stephen Vaughan, who would become the man to eventually lead the Club into Liquidation in 2010.
It all started well enough though, with Chester City gaining promotion back to the Football League having won the Conference Championship in 2004, where the spectacular partnership of Daryl Clare & Darryn Stamp netted 50 goals.
Just when Chester fans thought it was safe to enjoy the Football League again though, manager Mark Wright walked out on the Club on the eve of the new season, and City just managed to avoid relegation that season to keep hold of their Football League place. But several years of chopping and changing Managers eventually led to the Club dropping back in to non-league football in 2009, when Darlington condemned Chester to relegation, and this time City would never get back to the League.
In May 2009, the Club was then placed into Administration for the second time, resulting in a 10 point deduction, which was increased to 25 points when the Conference imposed their own penalty against the Club.
The Vaughan Family then controversially reclaimed the Club from Administration in July 2009, but the football authorities were not impressed by this, and the FA revoked the Club’s licence to play football on the eve of the new season, however, an agreement was put in place for Chester City to pay their football creditors in the near future and the Club were finally allowed to start the season.
Controversy would not stay away from the Club, and not one, but two managers would lose their jobs in the space of 3 months, as first Mick Wadsworth, and then the popular Jim Harvey would make way for what was the final straw for most fans – the appointment of Morell Maison.
Maison became the final manager of Chester City FC, and was in charge for the Club’s final game, a 2-1 home defeat to Ebbsfleet United, where a meagre 400+ fans turned up, with most boycotting the vaughan era at the club.
By now, it was obvious that Chester City were heading out of business, with Chester players refusing to board the team bus as no wages had been received saw the cancellation of the away match at Forest Green, this was the final straw for the Conference this time, and just 3 days later the Club were suspended from the League.
Chester were summoned to the Football Conference on the 18th February, and it was recommended that the Club be expelled from their competition, however on the same night as a public meeting of Chester fans in the City of Chester, the other Clubs in the Conference gave City a 14 day stay of execution, at the end of which Chester City were expelled from the League having failed to defend itself at the Conference HQ.
Just twelve days later though, the final nail was driven into the Chester City coffin when the Judge at the High Court wound the club up after a tax bill went unpaid, and Chester City were no more, but that would not be the end of the story.
Supporters group City Fans United had already begun preparations to form a phoenix club for the following season and from the ashes of the old club Chester Football Club was officially reborn on Thursday 21st May 2010 and now look’s forward to starting life in the Evo-stik Division 1 North, step four of the National League System.
The new club received another welcome boost when Cheshire West and Chester Council granted the lease of the Deva Stadium, Chester City’s former ground, to the supporter owned club.
Neil Young was appointed the club’s first manager with former Tranmere Rovers, Nottingham Forest and Grimsby Town player Gary Jones as his assistant. Young has acted quickly to assemble a competitive squad of players as the new club looks forward to progressing back up the non-league pyramid.
Saturday 10th July saw the reborn Club’s first friendly match, which ended in a 2-0 defeat at Colwyn Bay, but fans were just pleased to see the Blues back, and almost four times as many supporters made the trip up the North Wales coast than those who attended the final Chester City game in February 2010.
Chester FC played their very first competitive game since reformation on Tuesday 24th August 2010, which resulted in a 1-1 draw at Warrington Town. Rob Hopley became the first goalscorer for Chester FC.
In their first home match on Wednesday 8th September 2010, Chester FC defeated Trafford FC 6-0 which included a hat trick for Michael Wilde, who would go on to win the League’s Golden Boot award. Bradley Barnes scored twice, whilst George Horan scored the other goal.
The same night also saw the Deva Stadium renamed as The Exacta Stadium thanks to a five year sponsorship deal with the local firm.
Chester then went on to clinch the Northern Premier League Division One North (Evo-Stik First Div North) in April 2011 on goal difference but on 97 points, on an amazing last day that saw Chester lose at Garforth, and Skelmersdale win 7-2 at home, but Chester won the League by a margin of 2 goals, resulting in the reformed Club’s first silverware.
That success was followed up with a second successive Championship in 2012, when a 1-1 home draw with Northwich Victoria ensured Chester claimed the Northern Premier League (Evo-Stik Premier League), and went on to win it with a total of 100 points, and 102 goals scored.
Unbelievably, the success continued, with a third straight Championship win, when Chester clinched the Football Conference North (Blue Square North) in 2013, the 1-0 win over Boston United ensuring that Chester had broken the 100 points and 100 goals barrier for the second season running.
Chester took their place in the Football Conference Premier League for season 2013/14 just three years after Chester City lost their place in the same League but sadly it was final day heartbreak for the Blues as they were relegated in the same season on goal difference, and are now in the Conference North once again. But the season did not end there, as due to Hereford United being expelled from the league, Chester were given a reprieve and started the 2014/15 season in the Football Conference’s elite known as the Vanarama Conference.
After the reprieve from relegation the club, under the management of Steve Burr, finished in 12th place in the renamed National League in 2014/15 and enjoyed a run to the second round of the FA Cup where they lost in a replay to Barnsley.
2015/16 was another tricky season for the Blues and despite a good start in the league a prolonged spell of poor form saw manager Steve Burr depart and his assistant Jon McCarthy step into the hot-seat for the final four games of the season. Three wins in the last three games ensured National League survival for another season.
2016/17 saw the club enjoy a fantastic unbeaten run from September to Boxing Day but the club couldn’t match the first half of the season which saw them as high as seventh but a poor run of form towards the end of the season meant the club finished in 19th place. A piece of good news at the end of the season came in the form of the club selling academy product Sam Hughes to 2015/16 champions Leicester City for an undisclosed fee. In 2018 the club were relegated to the National League North – where they brought in Joint Managers Anthony Johnson and Bernard Morley who had seen Salford City lift the title just months earlier.
The story continues…