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Website last updated: 4 Mar, 2015 @ 23:00
A History of Sutton United FC
Sutton United Football Club was founded in 1947 by three young men recently demobbed from the RAF. Frank White, Ken Smith and Bill Walker had met before the start of World War II whilst with the Air Training Corps in Sutton and - after returning home at the end of the conflict - asked Squadron 495 to form an amateur football club which was agreed.
So Sutton United was born - using a small monetary gift from the ATC - with Frank as Chairman, Ken as Treasurer and Bill as Secretary. The name United was chosen as there was already a Sutton Town and an Athletic.
At this time rationing was still very much in force and everything - including food and consumer goods - was in extremely short supply and difficult to obtain. Green shirts became the team’s colours after they were given a blue goalkeeper’s jersey and some green shirts from the ATC, which they then made up into a complete kit.
The team started out playing in a field off Cows Lane, Wylde Green, using the trees to change under and a nearby stream to wash in. Frank’s wife Muriel usually washed all of the team’s kit after every game.
Sutton United played friendly games until the club joined the Birmingham AFA after being proposed by local rivals Parkfield.
After a couple of years, with the help of cash from subscriptions and popular social events, the club purchased a changing room – a wooden shed!
Eventually, the club had to move and a pitch was found on land belonging to James Booth in Penns Lane. There were changing rooms – an old railway truck – but still no running water. This was used for 2-3 years, until Sutton Town Council provided the club with a pitch at Rectory Park. By now Frank White was the only one of the original three founders left - but Sutton United had two teams and was growing stronger. When compared to the AFA’s established ‘giants’ like Wake Green and Sihill, the club were still minnows but, even then, there was the drive to go onwards and upwards and the move towards future success was steadily gaining momentum.
The Swinging Sixties saw more progress for the club. Games at Rectory Park had involved changing in a scout hut in nearby Broomie Close. But then the council built a very small and basic changing room block for the four pitches in the park. This had no showers or washing facilities - just one metal sink to be shared by everyone with only cold water! Sutton United A team was in Division 2, the B team in combined Division 3 and the C team, formed in 1964, played at Walmley. As a luxury, an old lady in the nearby maisonettes made the teams an urn of tea for the end of the club’s games!
In 1964, Annual Membership was 5 shillings (25p) and match subs 2s (10p). There was a steep rise in 1966 when Annual Membership actually doubled. The only kit supplied was the shirt that players kept and washed themselves. This resulted in teams having players in various shades of green, depending on how long they had been with the club. Socks and shorts had to be purchased by the individual player and teams invariably sported a mixture of various styles of green and white.
During the 1960s club members installed a single electric shower in the dressing rooms. This was part of an effort to secure promotion to Division 1 but the facilities were not considered good enough and the club was turned down. Following the demise of Sutton British Legion the club gained a lease on the pitches outside the changing rooms and managed to achieve promotion to Division 1.
The 1960 fixture list had many of today’s familiar names such as Wake Green, Silhill, Parkfield and Walsall Phoenix. But there were also the likes of Keep Bros, Gas Officials, Dudley Old Boys, Handsworth Wood Arsenal, Cradley Chain and Castings and Birmingham Telephone Area, all of whom are now long gone.
Perhaps one of the abiding memories of this period is the socialising after the game on Saturday. This often involved players catching a bus home (often unwashed and mud-covered), meeting their girlfriends or wives and rushing to the cinema to try and get in before it was full. When the film ended, players could often feel the mud cracking and falling to the floor as they stood up to leave – quite a change from the shower gel and sprays of today’s dressing rooms.
The 1970s was the decade of change for Sutton United. The teams had been strengthened by excellent players joining from rivals Sutton British Legion FC. But it was not until 1974 that the club finally achieved promotion to the Premier Division - having missed out previously because of inadequate facilities in Rectory Park.
The first major success came with the Senior Cup in 1974/75 when Sutton beat the mighty Old Wulfs 4-3 after extra time. The following season the club lost 4-2 in the Senior Cup final after a replay and extra time.
Minor and Holder Cup triumphs in 1978/79 were followed by the first of many Junior Cup successes in 1979/80. The second team were promoted to Division 2 in 1976/77 after winning Division 3 (scoring 105 goals in 24 games). In 1976, a fourth team was found to play in Division 6 and the first veterans’ team was formed to play friendly games. However, success eluded the Premier side and they finished runners-up in 1978/79 and 1979/80. This was to prove a prelude to the glorious success of the Eighties.
Due to inadequate facilities in Rectory Park, a determined effort was made to find a new ground. Letters to the Council, New Hall Estate and the MOD produced nothing but Sutton Rugby Club were looking to improve their facilities and move to Walmley Road.
Centre Set Cricket Club, the Rugby Club and Sutton United formed a consortium. The Rugby Club used Sutton United as a bargaining partner in negotiations, but an agreement was reached for them to sell United Hollyfield Road for £5,000. The Committee were initially unsure about going ahead with the deal, but made a brave decision and the sale was completed in 1977. This proved to be one of the most important decisions Sutton United ever made despite the dismal clubhouse and poor playing surfaces. Quick renovations to make it habitable resulted in a comfortable clubhouse and bar. The majority of this work was carried out by members and friends.
The start of the 1980s saw all the good work at the club come to fruition as Sutton United landed its first Premier league title in the 1982/83 season. Two more Premier league titles were to follow along with four more league championships and fourteen cup wins establishing Sutton United as the club to beat. The clubhouse also saw rapid improvement with new electric showers for the changing rooms and new seating bays for the bar being installed. At one memorable AFA Dinner in the 1980s, a total of 63 club members attended and carried off almost half the trophies on offer. The corner had been turned with Sutton United now the strongest AFA club.
In 1989 Frank White stepped down as Chairman after 42 years of sterling service and Rob Mansell took the reins.
The Nineties was a quiet decade with regard to the championships although the first team finished runners-up on seven separate occasions - but it was a great cup-winning period; The trophy cabinet was kept busy as the club landed two Senior Cups, the Junior Cup, two Minor Cups, five Holder Cups, the Youth Cup and the Veterans Cup.
Sutton United were also the first AFA team to reach the finals of the Birmingham County Junior Cup - but unfortunately lost 3-1 to Triumph Athletic in the final.
Another momentous development for the club occurred in the mid-90s when Sutton United Juniors were founded. In the five years to the end of the decade rapid growth saw the Juniors fielding ten teams.
Off the field, money was raised to build a changing room extension, a garage and new showers. The club also managed to buy a 125-year lease for the Paddock.
In 1997 Rob Mansell stepped down as Chairman and Steve Hughes became the third individual to take on the demanding role.
The new century saw progress continue apace. The clubhouse benefited from a substantial renovation programme thanks to a massive fundraising effort while the pitches saw improved drainage and surfaces. The car park was resurfaced and a new patio built.
The club introduced a new policy for all teams to wear the same kit design - so that everyone from the Under 6s to the first team played in the same strip.
Following successful club tours in the 1990s to Dusseldorf the new century saw trips to Holland and Germany where new friends were made.
Success on the football field continued as the first team won the Premier league title in 2006/07 after a gap of 23 years and also landed the HS Shield.
The second team enjoyed a successful period winning four cups including the Bill Hill Cup three years in a row.
The third team won the Minor Cup three times, while the fourth and fifth teams won the Holder Cup four times in six years. The Youth team won the AFA Youth Cup twice. The club’s Junior teams also covered themselves in glory winning multiple league titles and cups.
In 2007 Sutton United and Sutton United Juniors became one, while Steve Hughes retired as chairman as Mike Long became the fourth man to hold the role.
Sutton United sadly lost their founder and Life President Frank White in 2008. John Potter, a long established and respected member, was given the honour of becoming our new Life President, as well as being bestowed the honour of becoming a Life Member. Another much respected and established club member Brian Dunn became a Life Member, having joined Sutton United in 1952.
In 2009 Sutton Girls Football Club, founded in 2002, merged with Sutton United. Their four teams in the Central Warwickshire League boosted the club’s total number of sides to 24 as membership pushed past 350. Full integration took place in 2010, with all girls’ teams wearing the green kit of Sutton United.
In the 2011-12 season five girls’ teams and 13 boys’ teams, plus five senior sides represented the club.
The energy and can-do attitude that has existed at Sutton United since day one was much in evidence in 2009 as the club decided to undertake a huge refurbishment of its facilities. More than £120,000 was raised to finance the development of the clubhouse and changing rooms. The work was undertaken during the summer of 2010 with everything completed before the start of the season. The new clubhouse was named in memory of Frank White and is a fitting facility for a modern amateur football club intent on further progress in the 21stcentury. The club was ready for the next big step forward which arrived only two years later.
After three successive Birmingham & District AFA premier division titles in 2009/10, 2010/11 and 2011/12 the club took the bold decision for the first team to move up in 2012/13 to the Midland Combination. The successful application meant not only in some instances an increase in the standard of play, but also more rigorous administrative and hospitality requirements.
Sutton United began the season well in both league and cup and throughout looked likely candidates for promotion. The progress in cup competitions and accumulation of postponements arising from the continual bad weather resulted in a heavy schedule of matches at the end of the season. United could not quite sustain sufficient momentum to end the season as champions but were promoted as runners-up – a tremendous achievement in their first season in the league. Furthermore the club claimed its first Midland Combination trophy with a 4-2 win over AFC Stratford in the final of the Challenge Vase.
Off the field, in February 2013 club President John Potter was presented with a lifetime achievement award at the annual Sutton Coldfield Sports Awards evening, sponsored by the Sutton Observer. This was thoroughly well deserved recognition for all John’s hard work since joining the club back in 1965.
After such an enjoyable and successful first season in the Midland Combination the club entered their reserve team in the Midland Combination reserve division two for 2013/14. Meanwhile the club maintained its lengthy association with the Birmingham & District AFA in which three sides continued to compete. This was regarded as an excellent opportunity to continue the development of the club's younger players.
For the 2014/15 season the Midland Combination merged with the Midland Football Alliance to form the Midland Football League. A third Sutton United team was now included, the new under 21 side competing in Under 21 Division North West.
The history of Sutton United is a story of commitment, endeavour, enterprise and above all hard work. New chapters will be written but these traditional values remain at the heart of a thriving club where members old and new continue to make a vital contribution to its future.