After a difficult period of decline in the early ‘naughties’, Reigatians turned the corner and for the past decade have been on an upward curve once again. The past few seasons have been very successful. In the 2009/10 season the first team were languishing in 8th position in Division 2 South. Four successive promotions (three of them as champions) has seen them progress through Division 1 South, Intermediate South and Senior Division 3 South. Next season they will compete in Senior Division 2 with matches across the whole of London, just two promotions away from the top Premier Division.
A big recent influence has undoubtedly been the steady chairmanship of Tim Carr. He also took over running the first team in 2009 and steered the side to a promotion and a championship the following year, spurred on by serial player-of-the-year and league top scorer, skipper Paul Traies.
Marc Ashdown took the first team reins in 2012 with a pre-season win in the prestigious local charity Keith Hinkley Cup. Two promotions and championship wins followed. The first team will now be run by Harry Mullard for the 2014/15 season, with Traies continuing as on-field captain.
An influx of talented young players has helped bolster the ranks and all the sides are now competitive and pushing for honours. The third team won their Division 7 South last season under the expert guidance of joint managers Joel Davis and Nico Barclay. The pair won the league the previous season with the fourth team, but were denied by a spurious league ruling. Needless to say they are on the march.
But this historic club itself began many many years ago…..
1923 – 1950 – A Stuttering Start
The end of each of the two great wars of this century heralded a period when, not surprisingly, the nation as a whole became obsessed with leisure activities. Freed at last from the physical and emotional shackles of war, people began to play and to watch others play. The fierce, yet friendly, conflict of the sports field was gratefully seized upon by the public at large as a welcome contrast to the deathly conflict that had gone before. Attendancies at all sporting fixtures rocketed and participation in sport reached record levels.
It was against this background of national enthusiasm that the Old Reigatian Association Football Club was formed, back in 1923. The ‘association’ football being different to the ‘rugby’ football that some strange people still play. The name ‘soccer’ is a derivation of ‘association, which came about in the 1880’s when, in reply to being asked if he was coming to play ‘Rugger’, Charles Wexford-Brown replied “No, I’d rather play soccer”.
The Old Reigatian Association in general was enjoying something of a revival – in 1922 the ORA tie was prepared and woven and in 1923 over 150 attended the annual dinner.. A good number of ORA members played in local football and the idea of forming an Association Football Club probably spawned in several dressing room throughout the Borough as Old Reigatians in opposing teams got together over a few post-match jars.
Ideas and talks, however, are no substitute for action and this was provided by one enthusiastic member. E.C.Hallyer. In the early spring of 1923, together with H.S.E. Smith, W.R.J.Hodge and E.W. Farrington formed a provisional committee with Mike Meeten (the O.R.A. Chairman) as Chairman. They resolved that an Old Reigatian Association Football Club should be formed and that the first meeting of that club should take place 8th May 1923 at Reigate Grammar School. Although only 10 people attended this meeting (that’s more than we get for the A.G.M. now though!!!), the new Club was well received by O.R.A. members and twenty signed up to form the Club’s initial playing strength. The Club was entered for the 2nd Division of the Old Boys’ League for the 1923-1924 season with home games being played at The Ring at Earlswood. The Elm Shades (now the Earlswood Arms) provided changing facilities at a cost of 2/6d per match and 18 blue and green halved shirts were bought at 6/6d apiece and Old Reigatians Association Football Club was born.
The first season saw 12 wins, 3 draws and 10 losses, finishing 4th in the league with 27 points from 16 games. A year later, the same points tally saw the Club finish one position higher and 50 goals made them the top scorers in the league. Just think what they could have done with Paddy Kennedy in the team then!
A Second Team Added
For the 1925/26 season, the Club’s playing strength had increased to such an extent that a reserve team was entered in the 4th Divisionof the same Old Boys’ League. They played at ‘The Clears’ in Reigate, the property of Mr West, who let the team use it for £4/-/- per season (including nets, posts, line marking and use of the pavilion for changing) and just avoided finishing last. The 1st XI continued to play at The Ring, using the awful pitch (no change there, then) to their advantage and securing a 100% home record and the Division Two Championship into the bargain – not bad for just their third season.
The Old Boys’ League was growing stronger and the following season it was increased to six divisions with OR’s being in Divisions 1A and 4. Great seasons from both sides saw them win their respected Division Championships, with the 1st XI only losing one game and the Reserves only two. To date, this achievement has not been matched within the Club. Indeed, the 1st XI had to wait 43 years for another championship.
Such great success was to be a death knell for the Club. The Grammar School has decided to make rugby the winter sport (heathens!), which meant that the pool of players for soccer dried up and the Club ceased to exist without a ball being kicked the following season. Even the minutes of the Committee meeting remained unfinished.
A New Start
As the saying goes, ‘You can’t keep a good man down’ and this proved to be the case for ORAFC. Players still played the wonderful game in other local sides and in 1937 a provisional committee was formed to get things underway again and on 2nd April 1937 a General Meeting, Chaired by once more by E.C. Hallyer, was held for which 18 players attended.
The new club was entered into the 3rd Division and friendlies were arranged for the Reserves. The location of home games proved once again to be a problem. This time, use of the St Matthews United pitch on Redhill Sports Ground was obtained at a cost of £5/-/-. per season.
This first season back saw the team take 28 points from 20 games, finishing 3rd. Although the team’s defence had a poor record (averaging three goals a game conceded), the forwards more than made up for this. One man in particular, Club Captain Les Peters, a strapping 18 year-old notched an incredibly 90 goals in this season and was picked to play in a Surrey County representative match. The following year he notched 50 goals despite being on duty for a lot of the season for Redhill Reserves – a season that saw OR’s obtain their first cup success.
We Won the Cup!
The competition was the Old Boys’ Minor Cup (just known as the LOB Cup nowadays) and OR’s faced the old enemy, Sinjuns on a windy day at the London University ground in Motspur Park. OR’s were 3-0 up at half-time through goals from Peters and Hemsley (2). Sinjuns got one back from the spot after the break, but Peters scored again to restore the three-goal cushion. However, Sinjuns were (and are) a determined side and laid siege to the Reigatian goal, pulling the score back to 4-3 with 8 minutes remaining, but OR’s held on for a fantastic victory.
Line-up: E.Reeves, A.G.Smith, F.W.Brown, J.Wallace, F.Goodenough, T.Back, D.A.Cook, B.Reeves, L.T.Peters, K.P.T.Daniels, D.W.G.Hemsley.
War Clouds Gather
The cup was due to be presented at the League Supper in November of that year 1939, but sadly, the outbreak of another terrible war was to dictate that this ceremony should never take place. One of the least noted (and least important) effects of the Second World War was to prevent ORAFC from actually receiving its first piece of silverware.
Third Time Lucky
Old Boys football restarted very soon after the War had finished and OR’s were involved from the start, thanks to the efforts of F.T.Lucas. The War did not diminish his enthusiasm for Old Reigatians and he entered the Club in Division South A of the Old Boys’ League. This was by no means an easy task to accomplish; having entered the Club in the League, they now had to find a ground, a football, a set of shirts and, above all, players.
They ended up at a monstrosity of a pitch on Wray Common with changing facilities consisting of the stables at one of the local houses, water for washing was scrounged from neighbours and frequently the horse trough had to double-up as a team bath! (Never moan about the awful showers at the Priory again!)
It was difficult to get a team together after the war. Of the 1939 cup winning side, only Wallace, Cook, Daniels and Hemsley were able to line up for the first post-war match. One of the biggest losses as far as the playing strength of the Club was concerned was that of Peters who had, sadly, lost his life in the conflict. Those first years after the war were a battle for survival. A grant of £10 from the O.R.A. helped to tide things over, but times were hard and this was reflected in the results on the pitch. A 12-1 defeat in their first fixture was followed by a string of losses and at one stage the Club offered to pull out of the League. The league, although understanding of the problems, would nor hear of OR’s withdrawing and bid them to ‘soldier on and good luck to them, too!”
Soldier on they did, braving appalling pitches, bad weather and unable to field a strong side. It is probably here that the never-say-die spirit that still pervades the Club originated. Things started to improve as the 1940’s were drawing to a close when the Club left Wray Common for Reigate Priory – a ground that the Club still uses to this day.
1950 – Looking Up
It was in 1950 that things started looking up for the Club. C.B.J. Hart started a 20 year run as Chairman of the Club taking over from E.C.Hallyer who had retired after serving in the role since 1925. F.T. Lucas became Vice-Chairman and a certain Claude Larkin became Secretary and they provided the Club with a strong and loyal leadership.
The playing strength increased to 36 and a Reserve team was entered into the newly formed Division Three South, whilst the 1st XI had gained promotion to Division 1A. Perhaps the most important developments of all in the 50’s was the extensive modernisation to the changing rooms at Reigate Priory, which meant, to the delight of the players, the installation of hot showers!
1950 – 1983 – Strength to Strength
The 1950’s were a period of tremendous growth for the ORAFC. They began with just a single team and ended up with a 4th XI being entered for the first time. Throughout the decade, National Service made the team Secretary’s role an extremely difficult one, but that OR spirit meant that it always fulfilled its league and cup commitments. In 1953-54, three sides completed full league programmes, despite the fact that there were only around 40 members who were available to play on a regular basis. By the turn of the decade, however, the playing strength had risen to well over fifty and the Club was in a strong position.
This strength did not overly manifest itself on the pitch, although there were some memorable moments; the Reserves clinched promotion in the 52/53 season, the 1st XI reached the semi-final of the Surrey AFA Junior Cup and T.A. (Alf) Howe became the first Old Reigatian to be awarded a league badge after playing in three representative matches – a great individual feat.
Off the field, however, things really began to take off. The social side of the Club was developed with great enthusiasm with theatre trips, dances, concerts, tennis and table-tennis tournaments being regular features of the Club calendar. The annual dinner became firmly established as a major social occasion and was frequently attended by prominent speakers.
The prime movers behind this social development were J. Peters and Claude Larkin, two of the Club’s keenest workers and most loyal servants. Peters took the Social Sub-Committee by the scruff of the neck and injected a host of new ideas and a considerable degree of organisational skill. Larkin was the Club’s most regular representative at League meetings and in 1956 became the first Club member to be elected to the League Council and it was he who was largely responsible for the development of the Club’s annual dinner.
‘The Reigatian’ is born
In 1957 Larkin and Peters combined to produce the first issue of the Club’s news-sheet; The Reigatian. Edited by Larkin and produced by Peters, it was designed to stimulate interest and keep members informed of the Club and League news, a function that it still performs today.
A Fourth Team
The 4th XI had its first season of League football in the 1960/61 season and it very nearly proved to be its last. The problem, as always, was a lack of players and the Club was censured by the League twice for failing to turn out a side. The position had improved a little by 1962, when Roger Craddock became team secretary, a job that he held for three consecutive years.
In 1963/64 the number of players in the Club had actually decreased to a pool of just 50, from which four teams had to be selected and the Club was suffering again. One stab of light was provided by J.W.S. Connelly who, in 1962, became only the third Club member to be selected for a league representative team. The storm was weathered, however, and after the great social successes of the 50’s, there was some return on the field. Neil Farrar put the 1st XI into the final of the Surrey AFA Junior Cup, which they battled well in, but lost 3-2 to Carshalton with a last-gasp goal. A month later the 1’s were in another cup final, the East Surrey Charity Cup, but again were defeated, this time 5-2.
The Glory Days
Finally, the cup success came. It was two seasons later in the final of the Surrey AFA Junior Cup and the opponents were once again Carshalton Reserves. This time, however, the boot was on the other foot and Carshalton had to taste the bitter pill of defeat. The match was played at the Temple Bar ground in Kingswood. R. Pearson opened the scoring for OR’s after 10 minutes and D. Parsons soon added a second. The third and decisive goal was scored by F. Harrington – a schoolboy who had been plucked from 3rd team obscurity to play in this game. Carshalton scored a late consolation goal, but the cup belonged to Reigate at last and Roger Craddock became the first Club member to hold a trophy won by an Old Reigatian XI !!!
Two weeks later the seal was set on a marvellous season when the Reserves, captained by M. Showell, clinched the Division 3 South championship. It was the Club’s first league championship since 1926/27 and heralded a prolonged period on on-the-field success.
The following season saw a double promotion with both the 3’s and 4’s stepping up a division (Mick Cooke and Peter Carr being the respective captains). In the 1969/70 season, the 1st XI became Division 1 south champions for the first time, losing only once in the process – a great achievement. The successful captain was D. Fenton and the team’s main offensive weapon was Dave Billing, who with 51 goals, was the top scorer in the entire Old Boys’ League. The Reserves also managed some glory, becoming runners-up in the Charlwood Cup. The successes kept coming and in amongst this and thanks to the efforts of members like Pete Carr, peter Millican and Bob Emery that in 1969, to maintain its links with the school, a Minors XI was formed.
At the end of the 70’s, and after much debate and discussion, the Club (together with the rest of the Old Boys’ League) went ‘open’ and allowed non old school boys to help the Club prosper through increased potential for new players.
1984 and that green juggernaut
The increased potential for new players was quickly realised and in 1984 the Club was able to field a 5th XI for the first time and confidence was high. Success arrived in no uncertain fashion on 1st and 2nd May 1987. The Club, which had only won three cup trophies in its previous 64 year history, suddenly found itself with two trophies to put into its (unbuilt) trophy cabinet in its (unbuilt Club House) at its (unbuilt) ground. The pots in question were the Dorking Junior Charity Cup (the 1st XI, captained by Dave Setters, beating arch-rivals Old Dorkinians) followed by the Reserves, captained by Dave Smith, beating Brockham to win the Charlwood Cup. Coupled with this was the fact that the 3’s and 4’s both won promotion in the same season. As Mr Setters said;
“The green juggernaut is on the move!”
The following season saw the arrival of a 6th XI and Roger Craddock’s 30th consecutive season with the Club. At the celebratory ‘bash’ Uncle Roger admitted to being almost 39 years old. The juggernaut was going up and down gears and there was mixed fortunes on the pitch, but picked towards the end of the decade.
If the second half of the 80’s had proved to be a glorious success, then the first half of the 90’s were even better and, in addition to the many awards received for on-the-pitch successes, OR’s also won the Fred Atkins Sportsmanship Trophy in 1984, 198 and then in 1990. This proved that there was then, or will never be, a ‘win at all costs’ mentality to the Club. Details of the successes can be found at the Virtual Trophy Cabinet, for there were many. Amongst these, though, was a Charlwood Cup final between the 3’s and 4’s – see theVirtual Trophy Cabinetfor the result.
The Club now boasts 7 league sides – the 7th team entering league competition in 1996/97 as well as an 8th side that, at the moment plays friendly fixtures whenever player availability allows. The 8th team is vital to help attract young players from the school and elsewhere as well as being a proving ground for players returning from injury. With Nick Barclay running the 7’s and his wife, Mercedes Barclay, running the 8’s, this ensures that players are passed up through the teams and that everyone gets the chances they deserve.
A new millennium and new hopes
The 1999/2000 season started with the 1st XI, under the captaincy of Mark Dickins, (who had taken the Club to its highest ever league standing), losing the Keith Hinkley Cup semi-final and then, rather bizarrely, going on to lose in the final. This was a indication for just what a topsy-turvey season it was going to be. The 5’s were relegated and the 6’s finished bottom before the Reserves, captained by Keith Pearson, won the Oxted Cup and the 3’s, captained by Mick Timmons, won the Charlwood Cup against a very unsporting and ungracious South Park. The Club was also amongst the first within the OBFL to set up its own web site, which was created and run by Mark Eagleton.
The social side is beginning to kick-off again as well after a quiet couple of years towards the end of the century. This is largely due to the change of hospitality venue to The Market in Reigate High Street, where OR’s have exclusive use of the top bar from 3-7pm. There is now room for all 8 teams to fit in – the Nutley was becoming slightly cramped – and the food is terrific, amongst the best in the league. Players were staying later and later on Saturdays after the game (a shock for all the night-clubbers who entered the bar in all their finery when it was opened to the general public at 7pm). Players also brought their wives and children and a quiz evening, featuring both general knowledge questions as well as those about the Club itself, was held on 1st April 2000, won by Tim Carr.
Most recent successes include Oxted & District and Charlwood Cup successes and a League Championship for the 7th XI under the guidance of Nick Barclay.
The Club is much more than 90 minutes on a Saturday. There is a tremendous spirit that exists in the Club; a spirit that makes the Club a delight to play for – win, lose or draw. The Club is well organised with a hard-working and conscienscious committee and has many skilled and committed players.
And so the green juggernaut continues on its way. It may not be fast, but it gets there and it’s bloody hard to knock off the road.