History and Origins by Mark Murphy
The "Kingstonian FC" name dates back to the late summer of 1919, when the two largest clubs in the town of Kingston - Kingston-on-Thames and Old Kingstonians - were merged after the Great War. However, the modern day Kingstonian Football Club can trace its roots back to 1885 and the formation of the Kingston & Surbiton YMCA Association Football Club in the autumn of that year. Rugby was the dominant football code in the town and the borough at this time, but the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) didn't believe that they were large enough to sustain a rugby club, so they formed a club to play what was then referred to as "Football under Association rules."
Their first fixture was on November 9th 1885 and the club played friendly matches against local sides during the next two years, with home games taking place at Spring Grove. However, the YMCA's attitude to the game hardened somewhat, believing the game to be increasingly violent and unsuitable for young Christian men. The decision was therefore taken to change the club name to "Saxons FC" for the 1887/88 season. One year later they moved to a new ground on Oil Mill Lane (sited on what is now Villiers Road) and in 1890, Honorary Secretary Mr. William G. Carn, generally regarded as the club's founder, successfully moved a motion at the club's Annual General Meeting to change the name to "one more identified with the town." Thus they took the field the following season as "Kingston Wanderers FC."
During this season the Wanderers also started to use the Fairfield Recreation Ground in the town centre as their base for home games. And in April 1891 they were invited for the first time to take part in the annual "Charity Festival of the Kingston Football Clubs" over the Easter weekend. This raised funds through the staging of one match under each code of football - association and rugby. The event was staged at the rugby club's Richmond Road ground, a venue which was to play a large part in Kingstonian FC's history.
A movement to amalgamate all the major clubs in the town under one banner met with success in 1893. With other Surrey towns such as Guildford and Reigate already having established clubs it was strongly felt that Kingston should be alongside them. Thus was "Kingston-on-Thames AFC" formed on September 13th 1893, affiliating to the Surrey Football Association and entering the Surrey Junior Cup, where their first competitive fixture saw them lose to Hampton Court & East Molesey that November.
Their earliest foray into the Surrey Senior Cup resulted in the club's heaviest defeat to date, 13-0 to Weybridge in 1894. So Kingston-on-Thames re-entered the Junior Cup and in 1896 joined the Kingston and District League, winning the league at the first attempt and losing the Junior Cup Final to Chertsey 2-1 in a replay. Progress continued to be slow but steady, with the club taking the opportunity to move to their first private, enclosed ground at Dinton Road, next to Kingston Barracks, in 1898. This season also saw them take a step up into the East and West Surrey League, with the "A" team fulfilling the Kingston & District League programme.
The turn of the century saw another move of ground to Lower Marsh Lane, followed, in 1902, by a move to the lower part of the rugby ground in Richmond Road, where the club established itself for the pre-Great War period. On-field success was still elusive, not helped by a decision to enter the London League as well as the East and West Surrey League in 1903, an ill-fated one-season experiment. But by 1905 results were beginning to show an improvement and the championship of the re-constructed West Surrey League was clinched in 1906, ahead of competition from clubs such as Walton, Guildford and Woking. They retained their title the following year and reached their first Surrey Senior Cup final, losing 3-1 to Clapham in front of a 4,000 crowd at Croydon.
However, just as Kingston-on-Thames were beginning to establish themselves in the amateur game in Surrey, a damaging split occurred, centred on a dispute over ground availability for the 1908/09 season. As a result, the Kingston-on-Thames treasurer, Douglas Judd, formed the "Old Kingstonians FC" who were to play their home games at Norbiton Sports Ground, the site of the current Kingsmeadow Stadium. Meanwhile, Kingston-on-Thames continued to play at Richmond Road, the home of Kingstonian FC from 1919 to 1988.
Most of the first team remained with the Kingston-on-Thames club, with Mr. Judd's side initially known as the "reserves." Kingston-on-Thames regained the West Surrey League title, with Old Kingstonians finishing third. But the balance of power gradually shifted. Old Ks won the West Surrey League in 1910 and the Surrey Senior Cup in 1911 and 1914, beating Woking & Metrogas in the respective finals, while Kingston-on-Thames invariably came off second best in matches between the two clubs. It is generally accepted, however, that the rivalry between them served to greatly improve the quality of football in the town.
The Great War put an end to Amateur Football for five years, but the summer of 1919 saw renewed efforts to get the game re-started in the town. Not surprisingly, old rivalries had been put into proper perspective by the hostilities and thanks to great work by officials of both previous clubs, a new, united "Kingstonian FC" took to the field at Southall FC on September 6th 1919 for their first game, in the Athenian League.
The new club soon faced major problems, however. The Richmond Road ground was owned by the Dysart family who, during the summer of 1920, decided to lease it to Leyland Motors FC, leaving Ks without a home. Once again officials were plunged into intensive negotiations which led eventually to a ground-sharing arrangement, Leyland Motors having priority in the event of fixture clashes. And as soon as Ks solved all those problems by purchasing enough land to have their own ground on the site in 1922, the team found themselves having to apply for re-election to the league after finishing bottom that year.
They successfully gained re-election which proved a major turning point in the club's fortunes. For the period between 1923 and the outbreak of World War Two was to be the most successful in the club's history until modern times. Inspired by the Rassell brothers and army forward Frank Macey, Ks won the Athenian League in 1924 and 1926, the latter occasion with a record number of points. During the next ten years, they were also finalists on six occasions in the increasingly prestigious Senior Cup competitions of the London and Surrey FAs, winning the latter in 1926, 1931 and 1932. And in 1929 Civil Service FC dropped out of the Isthmian League with Ks successfully applying to take their place, acquitting themselves well from the very first season in what was widely considered a stronger league. Macey, a regular England international, was captain and remains the second highest scorer in the club's history. And he was the wise veteran by the time of Kingstonian's greatest triumph of this era, the winning of the FA Amateur Cup in 1933.
They had lost narrowly to Dulwich Hamlet in the 1932 semi-final but exacted revenge in the following season, on the way a meeting with Stockton in the final at Dulwich's own Champion Hill ground on April 8th. The 1-1 draw saw the two teams travel to Darlington for the replay two weeks later, and with Stockton reduced to ten men by an early injury Ks clinched the cup with a convincing 4-1 win.
The Isthmian League title was won in both 1934 and 1937, with Scottish International Douglas Whitehead taking over the mantle of leading player from Macey who retired in 1936 after 13 years magnificent service. And the Surrey Senior Cup was won in 1935 and 1939, the latter being the second occasion that a Kingston club had won the County Cup immediately before the outbreak of war.
Competitive Amateur Football was suspended on September 3rd 1939 and the dressing rooms at Richmond Road were commandeered within two weeks for ARP purposes. Kingstonian's efforts at entering war-time leagues were therefore abortive and the first post-war season was one of struggle both on and off the field. Special appeals for funds had to be made to undertake renovations to the ground and, in particular, the dressing rooms. And the team, without virtually all their pre-war players, finished bottom of the league.
A return to something approaching pre-war standards was not long in coming however. Ks reached the London Senior Cup final in 1948, losing 2-0 at Brentford to a strong Barnet side. This period's players included pre-war star Bill Whittaker, a young Freddie Jones - later to be Ks secretary and then chairman for many years - and an even younger Ted Croker - later to be a distinguished Chief Executive of the Football Association and Ks club president for many years. And in 1949 Ks found themselves with a new star forward on their hands: Johnny Whing.
Whing, a native of the north-east, was Ks top scorer for nine of his thirteen full seasons at the club. His total of 295 goals is still a club record by some distance and it is likely to remain so. His achievements were all the more remarkable as they came during a period of limited success for Ks. The Surrey Senior Cup was won in 1952 but Ks were a mid-table side in the Isthmian League for much of the decade. The highlights were provided by the FA Amateur Cup. In February 1955, Bishop Auckland attracted 8,960 people to Richmond Road - still the club's official record attendance. Unfortunately they also inflicted Ks heaviest ever home defeat, 12-3 with all Ks goals coming in the last six minutes. And the following season saw Ks advance to the semi-final for the first time since their 1933 success, only to meet up with Bishop Auckland again, losing 5-1 at Newcastle United in front of 27,000 people.
1959/60, however, saw Ks go one better, this time winning their semi-final at Newcastle, 2-1 against Crook Town to clinch their first ever appearance at Wembley. Almost inevitably, it was Johnny Whing who scored Ks goal after 38 minutes and they hung on to that lead in the face of considerable pressure from their Athenian League opponents Hendon before two goals in the last three minutes saw the cup deservedly go to North London.
Whing finished his Ks career in 1962, turning out on three occasions that year to help nurture a young prospect called John McCormack, who was soon emulating all of his "master's" goalscoring feats as Ks built their most successful side since the 1930s. With other players such as goalkeeper Brian Wakefield, South African inside-forward Norman Field and a host of other amateur internationals, Ks were a leading light in Amateur Football throughout the first half of the sixties. They came very close to clinching their third Isthmian League title in 1963, only to be cruelly pipped at the post by great rivals Wimbledon, who defeated Ks home & away in the season's last two games to win the title by two points. Ks also reached the FA Amateur Cup semi-finals for the third time in eight years in 1964, losing to Enfield in a replay. Consolation was gained through a number of Surrey and London Senior Cup successes, with the double being done in 1963. But although the Surrey Cup was won again in 1967, Ks entered a long period of decline after McCormack's Ks career was cut off in its prime by a broken leg suffered in 1965.
Amateur Football itself was in decline in the face of competition from an increasing number of semi-professional clubs (including Wimbledon, who turned pro after their 1963 Isthmian League and FA Amateur Cup double) and by the end of the 60s Ks were playing in front of hundreds of spectators where thousands once watched. As a result, the 70s were not good years for the club. A number of managers were appointed in various bids to return to the glory days. Ks finally turned professional in 1975 but they only once finished in the top half of the Isthmian League during the decade. And, in 1979, they were finally relegated to Division One, winning only three home games throughout the season.
After six mediocre years at this lower level, including a further flirt with relegation in 1984, Ks regained their Premier Division status in controversial circumstances in 1985, their centenary year. At the season's end they had lost out on promotion to Leatherhead on goal difference. But a week later, the league deducted three points from Leatherhead for fielding an ineligible player, giving Ks the second promotion spot behind runaway leaders Farnborough Town.
Apart from title challenges in 1990 and 1991, and an FA Trophy quarter-final appearance in 1990, Ks were largely mid-table material for the following dozen years. They won their first trophy for 20 years in 1987 when they regained the London Senior Cup, but that competition had lost much of its status in the intervening period. So the major activity was the move from the famous old Richmond Road ground in 1988 to the club's current home, via a short ground-sharing spell at Hampton FC while the new facilities were being built.
These years were punctuated by relative FA Cup success. Ks reached the first round proper in 1992 for the first time since 1933, and they repeated the feat four times in the next six seasons. Third division Brighton were beaten 2-1 in 1994 and first division Peterborough were held 1-1 at Kingsmeadow in 1992. Ks lost the replay 9-1 but gained national publicity when the FA ordered the game to be replayed after keeper Adrian Blake was knocked semiconscious by a 50p coin thrown from the stand with the score at 3-0. Ks lost the behind closed doors rematch by the only goal.
But the 1990s resembled the 1970s, as Ks replaced manager after manager in another bid to return to the glory days. However, the board of directors finally found their man in 1997 in the shape of the successful and popular Woking manager Geoff Chapple. In his first year, Ks won their third Isthmian League title, as well as their first County Cup success for 31 years. In his second year Ks not only consolidated themselves in the Nationwide Conference, but also won at Wembley for the first time, beating Forest Green Rovers 1-0 to clinch the FA Trophy. Then, in his third year, Ks finished a remarkable, if slightly flattering, fifth in the Conference, on the back of the best away record in the division. They even lead the table, and the non-league world, for six weeks before Christmas. But even more remarkably, they retained the FA Trophy with their second consecutive Wembley win, a 3-2 win over Kettering in a classic final.
Chapple had built much of his reputation on FA Cup success. And he guided Ks to the second round in 1998 before his side broke all club records by reaching the fourth round in 2001, winning at league clubs Brentford & Southend on the way. They were one kick of the ball away from the 5th round, only for second division Bristol City to equalise with that kick & win the Kingsmeadow replay 1-0 with an 87th minute goal. Ks league form was in sharp contrast, however. And they were relegated back to the Isthmian League, having won only three home league games, just as in 1979.
Chapple left by "mutual consent" in early May 2001. And he was replaced by former Dover manager & Esher-born Bill Williams two days later. But excessive spending, both on the team & on ground re-development designed to bring Kingsmeadow up to Football League status, had left the club unable to pay its bills. And when, in October 2001, the Inland Revenue threatened to wind-up the club within seven days if it couldn't pay its tax bill of £179,000, Ks went into administration.
While the search went on for a buyer for the club, coach Steve Sedgley took over from Williams as manager & maintained Ks Ryman League Premier Division status on the pitch. But off-field problems continued to dictate Ks situation and the continuing uncertainty led to Sedgley's resignation in December 2002.
The club immediately promoted Harris, a former K's striker, to manager and appointed former Woking man Scott Steele as player/coach. The club had ups and downs over this period but only failed to make the new Conference South following a single goal defeat to Lewes in a Ryman League playoff final.
Following a poor start to season 2004/05 Harris decided to call it a day after just four games. Scott Steele was promoted to manager but, despite encouraging good football from his side, was unable to prevent what became an inevitable relegation to Division One. However, good news arrived off the field when local businessman Jimmy Cochrane bought the football club, giving the club a positive outlook for the first time in several years. Steele's resignation followed towards the end of the season when former assistant manger Ian McDonald was brought in along with Stuart McIntyre as his coach with a view to resurrecting the club's fortunes.
The 2005/06 season saw K's move up the table only to miss out on playoffs on the final day of the season, though silverware was achieved following a 1-0 win over AFC Wimbledon in the Surrey Senior Cup Final. McDonald was almost immediately succeeded by McIntyre as manager, whilst the club was jointly bought by Mark Anderson and Malcolm Winwright.
Stuart McIntyre's time as manager was unfortunately short-lived and unsuccessful, and midway through the 2006/07 season he was replaced as manager by former Walton and Hersham manager Alan Dowson. Dowson and his team immediately transformed the club, and achieved a semblance of stability. There was plenty of expectation for the 2007/08 season, though inconsistency led to the K's missing the play-offs once again on the final day of the season.
The 2008/09 season was successful from start to finish. A run to the Third Qualifying Round of the FA Cup was highlighted by a 4-0 home win over Conference South team Braintree Town, all four goals scored by midfielder Dean Lodge. This performance led to the K's player winning the Performance of the Round award from the FA. But it was in the Ryman League Division One South that the biggest success came, as a very strong start and a storming finish led to Kingstonian winning the division by seven points ahead of Cray Wanderers.
After an absence of four years, the club almost passed straight up through the Ryman Premier Division, recovering from a difficult start to reach the end of the season playoffs. It was Boreham Wood, however, who won the controversial final match. Heartache followed in the following 2010/11 season when a final day collapse at Margate cost another attempt at the playoffs. The following two seasons saw mid-table finishes in the league accompanied by successive London Senior Cup final appearances, before a return to the playoffs in the 2013/14 season, after the club finished runners-up in the league. A semi final defeat against AFC Hornchurch however denied the chance of promotion, in what turned out to be Alan Dowson’s last game in charge.