Alexandra Park Football Club was born into the world of amateur football in 1898. One of the prime movers was Ernest Cawdron who, as a schoolboy ten years earlier, had founded Alexandra Park Cricket Club. Ernest gave a lifetime to public services in the district, retaining a close interest in the club until his death in 1957. So quickly did the club become established that an overseas fixture was organised during the first season and on December 26th, 1898 a 1-0 victory was achieved against Standard Athletic in Paris.
The club’s first home ground was known as ‘Brickfields’ and although changing facilities were situated at the Springfield Hotel, Bowes Park, the pitch was possibly on the site now known as Albert Road Recreation Ground and used today by AP’s lower teams. Fixtures were friendlies against local clubs including Crouch End Vampires, Winchmore Hill and Old Tollingtonians, as well as New Southgate, Muswell Hill, Lower Clapton and Finchley. The pioneering spirit expressed by the club in travelling abroad was continued when the first Easter tour visited Belgium in 1900. It was so successful that all three matches were won. In the last, against Ghent F.C., gendarmes were posted around the pitch to prevent demonstrations, as the recent Boer War had led to strong anti-British feeling in Belgium.
The first recorded triumph for the club, by then members of the London F.A. and the Middlesex F.A., came in 1904 when the 1st team won the Premier Division of the North London League. This success came after a ‘play-off’ against Clove F.C. (Old Grocers). The side was captained by Chas. Hollingsworth and included founder, Ernest Cawdron.
Original A.F.A. Members
The Amateur Football Alliance was formed in 1906, following a ‘split’ from the F.A. and A.P. duly became one of the original members. The club eventually moved to C**K Meadow, Palmers Green – a site now occupied by the bus garage. Middlesex representative honours came the way of Chas. Hollingsworth, S. Blackett and P. Anderson during this period, but by a cruel twist of fate the club’s next playing triumph – the North London League Championship again in 1914 – coincided with the start of the First World War. Consequently, this success could not be built upon and for seven years the club did not operate.
Post-war Joy and S.A.L. Baptism
W. H. Sydney-Smith featured prominently in the club’s resuscitation in 1921 and recovery was quick with a revitalised A.P. becoming the first ever winners of the A.F.A Minor Cup in 1923 when the ‘B’ XI beat Merton ‘B’ 8-0 at Enfield – following a drawn game!
This pioneering success was followed up the next year with the 1st XI winning the A.F.A. Junior Cup, also, coincidentally, against Merton at Enfield. The score this time was a mere 2-1! The following two seasons saw success breeding further success with only two defeats in the period between October 1923 and April 1925, including a sensational 6-1 victory in an A.F.A. Senior Cup tie over Eastbourne, who had been regular finalists in this competition since 1921. At around this time the championship of the Middlesex County Amateur League (undefeated) and the Middlesex A.F.A. Cup were added to the club’s trophy cabinet.
The 1st XI at this period was skippered by Len Baker and became, to quote the ‘Sunday Referee’, “…the most talked about amateur side.” Such prominence and success was reflected by A.P. players sharing 44 appearances in the A.F.A. representative side during the period. These honours went to R. Tricker, A. Clifford, S. Simmons, F. Hewitt, C. Joiner, A. Duncan and H. Barker.
Clearly, A.P. were in need of stronger league competition and this came when the club entered its first team in the Southern Amateur League for the 1925/26 season. The run of success continued with the 1st XI finishing second division runners-up in this maiden season – an achievement they duplicated in 1927/28 in an era when coming second did not mean automatic promotion.
Later, in 1929/30, F. Hewitt was to become A.P’s first S.A.L. representative player. In 1926/27 the 2nd XI also got among the honours by winning division 2 in their first S.A.L. season.
Just at the point when further successes might have been anticipated, the club found itself with no available ground in 1928.
Without the efforts of A.P. stalwarts George Tetley, Eric Anderton and Norman Sylvester, this might have proved disastrous. Fellow Southern Amateur League clubs also helped out by allowing all games that season to be played away. During the following year a ground at Folly Farm, New Barnet was used, but in 1930, again, no ground was available for the new season. As a consequence, A.P. tendered their resignation from the S.A.L., but this was not accepted. Again, all matches were played away and players paid individually for their opponents’ post-match teas. The uncertainties of the season, however, did not appear to affect the 3rd XI who finished as unbeaten champions of the Nemean League.
During the 1931/32 season the 2nd XI were able to use Folly Farm again, whilst the 1st XI played their home matches at another ground, called Ardsmead. The new pitches, however, brought no fortune to the club as the 1st XI were relegated to the 3rd Division of the S.A.L and the 2nd XI finished bottom of the 2nd Division.
We’re Going to the Palace!
While the club was going through this unsettling nomadic period, events were happening close to Alexandra Palace, which were to have a profoundly positive effect on the club’s future.
A football field close to the lake in Alexandra Park itself was levelled in 1928 by labour from an unemployment scheme and leased to local friends and rivals, Crouch End Vampires, who used the ground for just one season. They left because the pitch became waterlogged and additional drainage work was required. When this was finished, the Vampires did not return and Eric Anderton negotiated a lease for the club to use the Palace ground. Changing facilities were to be provided in the Palace itself.
So it was that in 1932, A.P. started what was to be a lengthy tenure and, at the same time commenced a long, happy relationship with the Alexandra Park Trustees. During the same season, Albert Road was secured for alternate weeks for the lower sides. League results improved slightly in a season when the S.A.L. 1st Division was won by Ipswich Town.
Railway Coach – then Roller Coaster Ride!
In 1933 the pavilion arrived in the form of an ex-railway coach and this was to serve very well until 1946.
The security of having a ground and a pavilion seemed to galvanise the members on the pitch during and before matches. Despite the work done prior to the club’s arrival the playing surface was often heavy and a severe handicap, despite untold physical exertions by members and the expenditure of several hundreds of pounds on drainage.
Playing standards, however, were more responsive and in 1933/34 the 1st XI won the S.A.L. 3rd division and reached the Middlesex A.F.A. final. The 2nd XI followed this up the following year by winning their S.A.L. 3rd division, having been runners-up the year before. Local support was on the increase around this time and six sides were fielded for the first time.
Representative honours came the way of H.J. McCarthy, who played for the A.F.A., while S.A.L. appearances were made by J. Sullivan, F. Dean and W. Morton.
Meanwhile, just 200 yards up the hill the world’s first television station at Alexandra Palace was being established, prior to the first transmissions in 1936. Pioneering work in the television field, however, failed to inspire A.P’s performances on the football field as the peaks of the early thirties were followed by a swift descent in playing fortunes.
Perhaps the sheer exertion of staging matches on such a poor pitch took its toll, because in following seasons the 1st XI were relegated and then in 1938 the side finished bottom of the S.A.L. 3rd division and failed to be re-elected to the league.
Exclusion from the Southern Amateur League – the most sought-after competition in A.F.A. soccer – was a severe setback and a lesson never to be forgotten. The strong spirit of members, however, which was and still continues to be a great asset, spurred another revival, and the 1st XI were runners-up in the Nemean League at the end of the 1938/39 season, with the 2nd and 3rd XIs each winning their sections in that league.
A Second World War now intervened, but the club spirit, represented particularly by Roy Anderton initially and then Ray Crabb and Vic Collingridge, carried the club through those dark years and the devotion of these three helped considerably in enabling two teams to be fielded throughout the war. Many wartime matches were in aid of charity and the figure of Vic Collingridge became a familiar one, standing at the gate with his collection box. In one notable game against Norsemen a record sum of £114 was raised for the British Red Cross.
Wartime continuity must surely have been a large factor in A.P’s flying start to the post-war years. The 1st XI won the Nemean League Championship in 1945/46 and on June 6th of that year the first two teams were re-elected to the S.A.L.
However, disaster had struck two days earlier when the club’s ‘railway’ pavilion was gutted by fire and all club records and equipment were destroyed. There can be no greater evidence of the members’ facility to triumph through adversity than the fact that a new pavilion was built and ready for opening on October 19th in the same year and a match against HMS Wizard.
Reginald Baker, one of the three Baker brothers, was spotted by Spurs while playing for A.P. during the late thirties. After wartime service he signed for them at the end of 1946. Vic and Doug Baker both featured in A.P. sides for many years, with Doug eventually hanging up his boots in the seventies after 33 years playing service for the club.
1947 saw the beginning of an A.P. tradition, which has continued to this day – the newsletter! Edited by Eddie Sheppard with assistance from George Warner, who took over as editor in 1949, its first twelve years of life were as a monthly, with general club news and results. Players continued to be notified of selection by card. This function was eventually taken over by the newsletter in 1958, when it became a weekly. Other A.P. worthies to have since worn the editor’s cap include Alan Venner and Daryl Marshall. Today’s editor, Richard Gibbs has been ‘going to press’ magnificently for eight years and even offers the newsletter on ‘e-mail’!
There was further cause for celebration in 1946/47 when ‘Merry’ Merryman’s outstanding 3rd XI won the A.F.A. Minor Cup, winning 7-0 against Old Richmondonians at Brentham, and the 2nd XI secured the S.A.L. Reserve Section Division 2 ’N’ Championship.
The next season (1947/48) was even more memorable with a hat trick of successes. The 2nd’s continued to wreak havoc among opposition defences, winning the top Reserve Section. During the season the side scored 164 goals in 36 games, with W.F.Scott scoring 61.
The 1st XI won Division 2 of the then Northern Section and the 3rd XI triumphed in the Nemean League Minor Section Division 1. To cap this, the club was honoured to entertain the Indian Olympic team as part of their preparations for the 1948 London Olympic Games. During a hot July evening on a dry, bumpy Palace pitch and in front of a huge crowd, A.P. lost 8-2 to their visitors, who nearly all played barefooted.
The 3rd XI took the honours again in 1948/49, by becoming inaugural winners of the new S.A.L. Minor Section, dropping only 3 points and remaining undefeated in the process.
Membership was rising also and, for the first time since the war, a 5th team was formed. To help the club put on the resulting extra matches, a pitch at Cuffley, Herts was obtained, initially on a three-year lease. Earlier in the season the club reached its fiftieth year with standards and membership in a healthy position and nearly 300 people attended the 50th Anniversary Dinner at Alexandra Palace in March 1949.
The following seasons were ones of consolidation and a gradual improvement of playing standards in the higher elevens. The 3rd XI achieved the Division 1 runners-up spot in 1949/50 and repeated this feat the following year.
Off the field, the pavilion was extended by the labour of members alone and in 1951 another determined ground improvement campaign was started which made such strides that by the summer of 1953, £750 of a £1,000 target had been raised by all manner of fund-raising schemes. New drains were installed under a plan to which Alexandra Park Trustees contributed and slow, but encouraging improvement in drainage resulted.
On the pitch performances were encouraging. Despite narrowly holding onto 1st division status in the early fifties, the 1st team was gradually becoming a formidable side. The 3rd XI having been relegated the year before, finished in the runners-up position in 1952/53. The 2nd XI experienced relegation too, in 1952/53, but they were to bounce straight back the following year.
Jack Drake had the honour of being chosen to play for the A.F.A. representative side against the famous Pegasus team and in 1953 an Easter tradition was revived with a tour to Belgium (at a cost of £9 10s each!).
The 1st XI started the 1953/54 season with a blend of promising younger recruits and an experienced nucleus. Top of the table at Christmas, the team went into an exciting run in the A.F.A. Senior Cup, culminating in defeat only after extra time of a semi-final replay.
Refreshed by another sojourn in Ostend, Park were not to be denied in the league and duly clinched the club’s only 1st team S.A.L. Division 1 Championship to date in what was probably their best-ever season.
Meanwhile Tommy Evans led the 2nd XI back to Division 2 as Division 3 Champions. The 2nds continued in magnificent form the following season by racing through unbeaten to win the 2nd Division.
After five seasons as 1st XI captain, Jack Drake handed over on a high note to George Warner for the 1954/55 campaign. This time the team reserved their most devastating form for the A.F.A. Senior Cup. They swept to the final with scores of 4-1 (Ilminster Town), 5-1 (Catford Wanderers), 6-1 (Norsemen) and 3-1 (after a semi-final replay against Barclays Bank) The team was at its best in beating Polytechnic 4-1 at Wealdstone in the final, with club founder Ernie Cawdron watching.
During this period Jack Drake, John Houston and Doug Baker all received representative honours; Ron Aris produced many stylish wing half displays and Les Anderson along with twins, Bev and Brian Edwards, Snr. were beginning long and distinguished playing careers with A.P.
The 3rd XI also had cup success in 1954/55 in reaching the A.F.A. Minor Cup semi-final, with Bill Evans, in his late forties, topping the club’s goalscorers for the second season running.
‘Lit-up’ in Belgium
In 1955/56 another Easter tour to Belgium included the club’s first-ever floodlit match against Belgian first division club A.S.O., Ostend. The senior sides generally had sound records that season and the next, assisted by Bill Bryce’s prolific goalscoring. But in 1957/58 warning signs were there for the 1st team and despite a keen fight to the last match they succumbed to relegation after ten seasons in the top company. The seconds, however, were runners-up in the top division – their best performance since 1948.
George Warner achieved a personal milestone during 1957, when he captained the S.A.L. representative side against Oxford University – one of many representative honours he received during the fifties.
For the club another milestone occurred in 1957 for which there must have been mixed feelings. The Cuffley ground was relinquished. The inadequate facilities and the deterioration of the pitch laid a heavy burden on the players in the lower teams, whose spirit and loyalty were a great credit in the circumstances. Facilities at the Palace pavilion, however, were improved as another extension was built.
On the coaching side, former Spurs player Bill Houston and Sam Webber retired after long and valuable service and Don Gallacher succeeded them. He instituted weekly training and a youth section, which were considered good investments for the future. A valuable voice on the selection committee at this time was Arthur Whitehead, pre and post-war player, who for many years served as club treasurer.
The Club’s first 60 years were celebrated on April 25th 1959 with a dinner/dance at Alexandra Palace attended by 237. With masterly timing, the 1st XI won promotion back to Division 1 on the same day!
Swinging Sixties? Not Really
The sixties brought little success to the club on the field, despite a steady increase in membership. Jack Shepherd had personal success in being selected for the A.F.A. representative side, but the 1st XI, having already been promoted back up to the 1st Division, were relegated again in 1960/61. They did, though, have the distinction of reaching the last 32 of the London Senior Cup for the first and only time that year, losing 4-1 to Kingsbury Town in the next round. During the following season the 2nd XI performed superbly to finish runners up in division 1, but this was to be the club’s last league success for a few years.
On April 23rd, 1961 a charity match was played at the Palace ground in aid of Harringay Boys’ Club. Tommy Steele, Alex Forbes and Alec Stock were among the players. A familiar figure at the club at this time was John Nunan, who ran the bar for many years.
1962/63 was notable for the big freeze. Arctic conditions wreaked havoc with football fixtures throughout the country. A.P. was no exception and the club did not play a single game between December 22nd and March 2nd, which effectively ruined the season.
The following season was a mixed one on the field, but remarkable for cup heroics. Whilst the 2nd and 3rd teams were relegated, the 4th XI reached the semi-final of the A.F.A. Novets Cup, losing 2-1 to Norsemen and the 2nd XI rescued their season at the end with a magnificent performance in the A.F.A. Junior Cup Final. Captained by John Bruscini, the side lost 4-1 after extra time to Corinthian Casuals at Lensbury, forty years after the 2nd XI’s previous appearance in this final. The club’s ‘winner’ in the last minute of normal time by John Berry was denied by the referee’s whistle for time.
Jersey became the venue for a number of wonderful tours between the early 60s and the early 70s. Match results were mixed, but off the pitch the tours were an outstanding success. Perhaps these two outcomes were linked in some way?
A Different Shade
In 1966 the club’s colours were changed from white shirts and black shorts to tangerine shirts and black shorts. The new colours made their debut in a 1st XI friendly at the Palace ground against Southgate Olympic, won 5-2 by A.P.
The club’s senior team then contained many players who had passed through the youth section, which was flourishing through the hard work of pre-war A.P. player Arthur Tucker and club chairman, Tom Byford. One of those players, Maurice Scripps, after a long and successful playing career, was still turning out for the club in 1997. Another product of the youth section from the latter part of the decade was another set of Edwards twins. John and Trevor began their playing careers then and were still lacing their boots in the 1997/98 season. Both have also worked hard off the field for the club in a variety of ways.
The change of colours, though, did not herald better league performances. After a young 1st XI, captained by Dave Clarke, failed to sustain what looked like a promising challenge for promotion back into the top flight in 1966/67, two years later they were relegated to Division 3 for the first time since the war.
1969 was notable for a happier occasion – a friendly against Grasshoppers of Zurich – who fielded a side containing many players with senior experience. A thoroughly enjoyable game ended in a 5-4 victory to our visitors. Duncan Sear, one of a number of excellent goalkeepers fielded by A.P. during the era represented both the S.A.L. and the A.F.A.
The seventies proved to be a decade of change – for good and ill!
Although the youth section was sadly discontinued in 1970, not to be revived again till the nineties, the 6th XI had success in winning Division 2 of their section. The club were also granted Albert Road every week, which helped enormously with the problem of staging home matches with six teams in the league.
Among the many functions of the club, the tea bar must rate as one of the most important. A.P. has been so well served in this area for many years that tribute must be paid to so many people, mainly players’ wives and girlfriends, who have not only voluntarily prepared and served the food with a joyful flourish, but have contributed to the club in a variety of ways. For example, who could forget Eileen Hall’s all-singing, all-dancing cabaret artistes from the 60s and 70s!
Following Eileen (a difficult act in itself), a number of people have taken on the difficult role of co-ordinating tea bar matters including Barbara Drabwell, Jan McKiernan, Anne and Derek Smith. The club is grateful to each and every one of them.
Amalgamation and a Change of Address
1971/72 was a season which combined hope and sadness. The hope was for the future, following amalgamation with Alexandra Park Cricket Club. This was a move that provided a constitutional link to a relationship which had existed in spirit for many years. Economically, the merger was to the benefit of both clubs and the football club would gain a second pitch as well as a better playing surface.
The sadness was at leaving a place that had been home for nearly forty years. The Palace ground, for all its drawbacks – the ‘impossible’ pitch, too wet or too hard (sometimes on the same day) and the patched-up, leaking pavilion – was entrenched in the hearts of members. Who could forget the atmosphere of the old place and the wonderful times had there? But there was a limit to the ground’s potential for expansion and the advantages of the move were incontrovertible. A special farewell game was played ‘at the top’ between a club XI and the S.A.L. Vintage All-Stars, who won 3-0, with future S.A.L. Chairman, Bill Stapleton scoring all three. The final game should have been the 1st XI versus Carshalton on May 6th, but, true to its character, the pitch had the last laugh and was unfit having dried out and become very rutty!
Just as in the years following the move to the Palace in the thirties, the club’s playing performances appeared to have been given a boost by having a new home and in 1972/73 the 1st XI achieved promotion to Division 2, losing only one league match in the process.
Skippered by Alan Higgs, and including the experience of Maurice Scripps, John Stanners, Bryan King, Clive Sutcliffe, Keith Minton and Colin Munday, along with the youth of Darryl Marshall, John and Trevor Edwards as well as that of the captain himself, this was the nucleus of the side for the next few years. Success came also to the 3rd XI as they were promoted to Division 2.
Several celebrations were held in 1974 to mark the club’s 75th Anniversary. On April 20th there was a special match between the 1st XI and the S.A.L. representative side, which ended in a 2-2 draw. On the following day the first Bev Edwards Memorial Trophy was held in the form of a 6-a-side tournament, entered by six local S.A.L. clubs, Bev’s Sunday club, Albion Rovers and A.P. Finally, an anniversary dinner/dance was held at Alexandra Palace on October 18th.
For much of the season, the 1st XI looked like being promoted back to the top division, but a late dip in form saw them pipped at the post. Unfortunately, the promise showed by the team did not come to fruition in the following season. Despite being unbeaten until Christmas, the side fell away badly in the New Year. In the end, recovery from relegation was only achieved after a final six match unbeaten run, climaxing with a dramatic 1-0 away win at Civil Service in the last game of the 1974/75 season, when victory was essential for survival.
Not for the first time in the club’s history, just when everything seemed to be going so well, a major setback occurred which severely tested the spirit of the club. Fire struck again. It happened on November 11th 1975 and destroyed the beautiful Victorian pavilion, only recently extended and refurbished. Many valuable photographs and records of both football and cricket clubs were lost forever. Games continued at the ground using hired mobiles for changing. Teas and drinks were provided at a local hostelry, managed, appropriately, by A.P. footballer and cricketer, Brian Roberts.
These were troubled times for the first team and a very poor run of form left them comfortably relegated. For the following season A.P. Trustees allowed the club use of the bar area of the disused roller-skating rink in the Palace for teas and drinks. Changing facilities were provided by Campsbourne School, opposite the ground. An appeal fund towards a new pavilion had been launched and was doing remarkably well. This was in contrast to the 1st XI’s fortunes. With a much-changed line-up, including many younger players, the team got off to a terrible start and by Christmas was trailing the rest of the league by a distance. Despite an excellent second half to the season, the ground was too much to make up and for the second time in its history the club was to apply for re-election – this time successfully.
On the positive side, the 1st XI had finished this 1976/77 season in far better shape than exactly a year earlier and the 2nd XI topped Division 3 as well as earning a semi-final place in the A.F.A. Junior Cup. The 5th XI also had reason to celebrate, by gaining promotion to Division 2.
On August 21st, 1977, the spacious new pavilion, designed by long-time A.P. player and administrator Ron Scott, was officially opened and the football section approached the 1977/78 season with some confidence. The 1st team, though, had to be content with a mid-table position. Honours came the following year to the 4th XI whose very good season earned them promotion to Division 2.
Membership was flourishing as the seventies drew to a close and seven teams were put out occasionally, along with long-serving club chairman Cliff Hall’s Veteran’s XI, which had been steadily accumulating a formidable fixture list. During the seventies Alan Higgs, Bryan King, Colin Munday and Clive Sutcliffe all had spells as 1st XI skipper and Roger Badger regularly performed heroically in goal.
Throughout the club’s existence, annual dinners have been held at a variety of venues, including the Palace itself and Selborne Hall. From the mid-seventies the dinners have been prepared by Dennis Allen, originally an A.P. player. In 1976 and 1977, they were held at Kings College in London, where Dennis was in charge of catering. Since then he has done the remarkable job of producing the dinners at our own clubhouse – a service he also provides for the cricket section. Apart from the obvious financial benefits, having club dinners ‘at home’ has been an experience appreciated by members and guests alike.
If success and failure go hand in hand, then A.P. managed to juxtapose the two in a novel way during the eighties. Judged purely on football performances, the club had a miserable decade. On no fewer than three occasions the 1st XI finished in the bottom two places in Division 3 which, of course, meant three separate applications for re-election to the S.A.L. Yet, this was a period when membership was booming, and post-match hospitality and sociability in general was flourishing in true A.P. style.
The Easter tour tradition was revived when Shay Buckley led a successful party to Cardiff in 1987. This was the precursor of future tours to Blackpool, Plymouth, Isle of Wight and Belgium. But for many of those whose main playing days were spent at the spartan old Palace ground (‘at the top’), the most astonishing and satisfying event of the decade was when the club had the privilege of hosting an A.F.A. representative match.
So often, when a club’s 1st XI is not having success, the lower sides also struggle. This was not entirely true for A.P. at this time. The decade started brightly for the 3rd XI who won Division 3 in 1980/81. Next year, the 4th XI earned promotion to Division 2. Significantly, the skipper in both campaigns was Dave Rhodes, which illustrates the importance of good captaincy.
Further success came the club’s way in 1981/82 with the 5th XI winning the Division 3 championship. That season, however, ended on a low note for the 3rd XI, relegated after only one season at the higher level. By 1984/85, the good work done by the promoted 4th and 5th XIs was undone as both found themselves back in Division 3. This pattern repeated itself three more times as the 3rd XI gained promotion in 1985/86, only to be relegated in 1987/88. The 4th XI won division 3 in 1987/88, but dropped back again the following year and the 6th XI’s promotion year in 1986/87 was followed by demotion in 1988/89. This left the club at the end of the decade with all six league teams in Division 3 of their respective sections.
On the representative front the club made a breakthrough in 1987 when Brian Edwards, Jnr. was selected to represent the newly formed S.A.L ‘B’ side. Brian was a regular member of this side for the next ten years and had the honour of skippering it on one occasion.
During the eighties, Mick Basing, Ray Gerlach, Dave Bassett, Bob Akid, John Morris and Brian Edwards, Jnr. all held the office of 1st XI captain.
The club was also fortunate to benefit from the wise counsel and guidance of John Bruscini, servant of the club in so many capacities, who was chairman throughout the period.
The A.F.A. representative fixture against Cambridge University at the Racecourse Ground in 1985 was a double honour for the club, since it also heralded Jack Drake’s two-year tenure as President of the A.F.A. The success of this wonderful occasion was undoubtedly a tribute to the ability of the club’s administration to stage a high-profile sporting event and it undoubtedly paved the way for future invitations to host prestigious fixtures.
If there was a football lesson to be learned from the eighties, however, it was that isolated team successes could not sustain the club at a higher level. It required several sides to achieve promotion simultaneously to maintain progress. This was the target the club had set for itself by the time the decade had come to a close. New club chairman, Paul McKiernan was to pick up the baton and prove a major factor in achieving this target.
There were three further events of significance at the end of the eighties. One was the change of club colours from tangerine to amber in the 1989/90 season.
Another was the visit of Videoton from Hungary, during the same season, for a veteran’s friendly match. Videoton were a top Hungarian club – their first team had recently played in the European Cup-Winners’ Cup – and a former Hungarian international turned out for them at the Racecourse Ground. The visitors just got the better of A.P. in a high-scoring match and a delightful social evening followed.
The third event was the acquisition of Bush Hill Park, Enfield, as a venue mainly for lower team matches. This arrangement continued until two years ago when, for reasons of proximity to the clubhouse, these fixtures returned to Albert Road.
A Wonderful Season
Like the proverbial wait for a London bus, years of patient hoping for success came to glorious fruition when several triumphs came along at once. 1990/91 will always be regarded as a vintage season for A.P. with not only a 3rd division championship for the 1st XI, led by Brian Edwards, Jnr., but promotion also for the 2nd XI, 4th XI and 6th XI.
This left the club with four out of six teams up in the 2nd division and a fine platform for further improvement. The icing on the season’s cake, though, was the club’s first cup triumph for 36 years. On that never-to-be-forgotten Saturday afternoon (April 6th) at the Crouch End Vampires ground, Clive Bucknall captained the 6th XI to a glorious 2-1 victory over Old Bromleians in the A.F.A. Intermediate Novets Cup Final. Presentation night that year was a sight for sore eyes with trophies and medals seemingly everywhere!
Another day to remember occurred just a fortnight before the 6th XI triumph. On Saturday, March 23rd, the club had the honour of hosting the A.F.A. Minor Cup Final, between Southgate Olympic and Wake Green. A vintage season, indeed.
A Third Fire!
In 1991/92 the 5th XI joined our other division 2 sides by winning Division 3, but, incredibly, for the third time in the club’s history fire struck and on February 9th 1992, the pavilion, built in 1976, was burnt to the ground.
Again, the tragedy occurred when the club was enjoying success, and yet again it heralded a superb rearguard action as the members made speedy arrangements for fulfilling the home fixtures. Changing took place in the club’s equipment containers, whilst bar, tea and alternative changing facilities were offered at North Middlesex Cricket Club. This arrangement was a lifeline grabbed with enthusiasm as members successfully set about the task of re-creating the A.P. spirit in a loaned clubhouse. Occupancy at North Middlesex continued for another season, while a new fortress-like pavilion was being built for the football and cricket sections on the site of the old one.
During that season of forced exile the 3rd XI completed a full set as they joined all the other league teams in Division 2 of their respective sections. Whilst the hoped-for promotions to 1st division status did not occur during the following season (1993/94), Rob Paterson had the honour of becoming the club’s second representative in the S.A.L. ‘B’ side.
The fine new clubhouse, built very much with security in mind, was ready for the 1994/95 season and it heralded another new era in the club’s history. A match against the S.A.L. team, which was won 2-1 by A.P, marked the occasion. The 5th XI, skippered by Nigel Bagley, capped a superb season by becoming the first A.P. side to gain promotion to the top division for over 20 years – a first division side to grace a first division clubhouse!
When the death of Jack Drake occurred in November 1995, the club and A.F.A. football in general lost one of its most hard-working and inspirational servants. Jack had held just about every A.P. and S.A.L. post possible, during more than 50 years of service to the club and had been President of the A.F.A. from 1985 till 1987 as well as Chairman of the A.F.A. Council since 1987.
From a club playing perspective it was disappointing but, perhaps, not surprising that the 5th XI found it hard going, having played as the club’s only division 1 side in 1995/96. Although the 5th XI was relegated at the end of the season, the 4th XI, led by Bradley Shepherd, had a marvellous promotion campaign, earning their own place in division 1.
Individual honours have arrived in recent years with amazing regularity, with Brian Edwards, Jnr., Terry Luther, John Wotton, Anthony Walsh, Mick Sanger, Rob Patterson and Jamie Hussey all making representative appearances for the S.A.L. ‘A’ team. The list of those who represented the S.A.L. ‘B’ side is even longer. It includes Steve Foley, Brian Edwards, Jnr., Rob Patterson, Adrian Smith, John Wotton, Paul O’Toole, Dean Green, Craig Chamberlain and, most recently, Joe Howard. Michael Sanger became the first A.P. player since the nineteen-sixties to appear in the A.F.A. representative side, for whom he played three times in 1994/95. The list of recent first team skippers includes Brian Edwards, Jnr. (who led the side into the 90s), Rob Paterson, John Wotton and Doug Rice.
Cup Final Venue
The 1995/96 season was crowned when the club was awarded the privilege of staging the inaugural S.A.L. 3rd XI Cup Final, between Crouch End Vampires and Winchmore Hill, the trophy for which A.P. donated the trophy in memory of Jack Drake.
The honour of staging the final was repeated the following year when Crouch End Vampires returned to play Norsemen in the final. To complete a marvellous hat trick, in March of this year the club staged the A.F.A. Minor Cup Final, contested by Midland Bank and Silhill. Appropriately, this honour came 75 years after A.P. won the very first A.F.A. Minor Cup in the days when it was a 2nd XI competition. These days, of course, it is the 4th XI cup.
Today and the Future
The story of Alexandra Park Football Club has been a chronicle of alternating depths and heights. Never a wealthy club, A.P. has always had to work hard to fulfil its function as a football club. Lack of pitches, poor playing surfaces, spartan facilities and an inordinately high number of major setbacks in the past have given the club a tough, hardworking edge. Today, however, the facilities bear comparison with some of the best in the league and members are determined to make the most of them.
At the end of the last decade the short-term aim was to get all the sides into the 2nd divisions. Now, the target is to have them all in the 1st divisions. Youth football has recently been re-established at the club. The fruits of this are already evident with young players beginning to filter up to the senior sides, a process that can only be helped by the welcome addition of a club 7th XI in the S.A.L. for the 1998/99 season. For the future of A.P. this is a trend to be encouraged.
Faithful to the Cause
One of the club’s traditional strengths has been continuity of membership. So many members have remained with the club for very long periods as players and administrators. George Warner, of course, apart from holding most club administrative posts, including bar manager, over many years, also served a long period on the S.A.L. committee and is now a Vice President of the S.A.L.
Former chairman, John Bruscini is another who has held a variety of posts in the club over many years and a further ex-chairman, Paul McKiernan, is currently serving on the S.A.L. committee, as well the as managing the league representative side.
A wonderful example of typical A.P. longevity is Charlie Vinnecombe – an A.P. player for many years who took up refereeing when his playing days finished in the nineteen-sixties and has served A.F.A. football superbly in this capacity ever since. As if this were not enough, he has also found time to be the club’s Match Secretary for over 35 years! The hard-working current club chairman, Brian Edwards, Jnr., is still enjoying a long and successful playing career, as are Mick Beard, Colin Benbow, Bryan King, John Morris, Stuart Rock, Mick Scripps and Mark Smith, whilst former players Alan Drake and Nigel Grimes, management committee chairman and secretary respectively, have for years laboured for love at the club in a variety of important posts and tasks.
After a lifetime of playing and administration at A.P., Cliff Hall still oversees the veterans, assisted in recent years by Mick Nolan and Maurice Scripps. Dusty Miller, A.P. player from the fifties through to the eighties, has since spent years on A.P. administration and is a familiar sight at the club on match days, as is former player and Club President, Chris Wilson. Don Manley, another A.P. Saturday night regular, took up A.F.A. refereeing after a lengthy playing career, whilst Brian Edwards, Snr. and fellow long-playing stalwart, Derek Mead rarely miss a first team match. Others, like Stan Scruse, a pre-war A.P. player, Tony Glass, Reg Crowe, Eddie Curren, Ron Truss, John Clift, Derek Smith, Mick Hanson, Les Foot and Stan Drabwell, despite having hung up their boots long ago, still support the club in its many social activities. The list of such members is long and growing.
Membership in the club today is prospering at a time when many other pastimes are in direct competition with football. Our earnest wish is for playing standards to rise still further and also for the vital element of sociability and hospitality, which has been a feature of A.P. life for a century, to be maintained for years to come. 2098 here we come!
Bryan King – June, 1998*
Many members past and present are mentioned in this brief history of the club. The Centenary Committee, however, extends its apologies to the large number of other individuals who have made a variety of worthy contributions to the club over the years and whose names do not appear. To the committee’s regret, it has been impossible with the space available in this booklet to do justice to them all. Acknowledgements Paul McKiernan, a central figure in the club’s recent history, has been a valuable editorial assistant. This history leans heavily on research done by George Warner. The club should be eternally grateful to George for his ‘red book’ – a chronological list of significant events in A.P. history. This priceless book has been a great aid to George in the past when he has written articles about the club. He has faithfully updated it annually and placed it at our disposal for the compilation of this booklet.
Thanks are due to John Bruscini whose encyclopaedic knowledge of post-war club matters has been invaluable in questions of historical accuracy. Stan Drabwell, former player and long-serving administrator, provided old newsletters, fixture cards and photographs which, apart from their value to this history, made fascinating reading in their own right. S.A.L. Secretary John Miller’s help in providing dates and information pertaining to the club from S.A.L. records for the period 1925-1957, has been essential in filling in several gaps in our knowledge. Thanks must also go to all members of the Centenary Committee for their vigilant proof-reading and assistance with editorial content. Finally, and very importantly, the printing was done by Brian Edwards, Snr. who, not for the first time, has volunteered his time, knowledge and printing facilities in service of the club.
Members of the A.P.F.C. Centenary Committee:-Brian Edwards, Jnr. (Chairman), Nigel Grimes (Secretary), Mark Addison, Brian Edwards, Snr., Trevor Edwards, Bryan King, Paul McKiernan, Martin Pitcher and George Warner.