Club Secretary Martin Giles concludes his review of the Walton Years with Chapter 46.......
A few weeks had passed since our Kent Senior Cup Final defeat at Gillingham and the club seemed to be settling into its sleepy close season mode when all of a sudden it happened!
I started receiving calls (I cannot recall who told me first) that Tony Walton had pulled out and Hythe Town Football Club had effectively ceased to exist. My first reaction was one of disbelief but when I heard talk of the involvement of the Official Receiver, I soon got the message. I was told that the ground and other sites would be sealed up and I soon realised that not only would any of us be denied access, but also any reliable information would not be given either.
It is perhaps worth noting here that apart from the odd rumours, nobody apart from Tony and his trusted staff had ever had any sight of papers or documents that would have given us warning of the size and scale of any financial problems. My job, and those of a few unofficial committee members, was to attend to day-to-day football matters and so none of us had any idea of what was owed and to whom. We were advised that the club had been "resigned" from the Southern League and that the resignation had apparently been accepted without any reference being made back to any other parties. We were truly "locked out " in all senses of the phrase.
I came into contact with a number of people who wanted to help and/or find out more although I see no point in mentioning their names now as it seems so long ago and some of them have passed on and in any case memories of such a difficult time are no longer reliable.
One (unnamed) person did stand out though when I was advised that a local guy who worked in the movie world was preparing to step in and rescue the club so that senior football could continue in Hythe. Currently this fellow was in the States but was soon available for a meeting in which he would detail his plans to any former committee members, or any other locals prepared to come in with him. The size of the problem was of no concern to him, and we all thought that this would be of great interest to the Receiver who he would be in touch with on his imminent return to the country.
I immediately contacted the league only to find that not only had our resignation been accepted, but they had also got in touch with Canterbury City, who were due to lose their place after finishing bottom of the table and told them that they would be reprieved. Even now after all these years this still seems to smack of indecent haste, and I cannot help thinking that such action was not entirely fair or reasonable. I was well aware that as a club we had given few problems to the game's administrators, that our ground was one of the best in the league, and one that other clubs enjoyed visiting. Not only that but we still had contact with a pretty decent squad of players who could be the foundation for a fourth Southern League campaign.
But it was now all too late and even now we found that getting any relevant information that might guide us was nigh on impossible. We did find out though that when Reachfields was handed over to the club by the Army authorities a covenant was made that stipulated that the land could only be used for sport and recreation and that in the event of bankruptcy ownership of the site would go to the local town council--soon to be absorbed into Shepway DC. We were then reminded of the time we signed Jeff Ross and Dave Arter for 25K when apparently a loan was taken out from the Brewery with the lower clubhouse named as security and of course this premises would also be lost to the club.
As our movie man drifted away from the scene in a disappointing mixture of missed messages and unreturned calls, a few of us defiantly got together and resolved that although the level of the game we had been in would be lowered, there would still be football at Reachfields as long as the local authority would permit us to take over the ground. Our reasoning was that otherwise the place would be a millstone around their necks which would deteriorate badly unless maintained.
We called a public meeting at the local Royal British Legion club and in front of an enthusiastic attendance Hythe United FC was launched with the new club being permitted tenancy to all of Reachfields Stadium, save the lower clubhouse.
It is at this point that the "Walton Years" can be finalised but my time with the big man was not quite done. I never did find out very much about the crash, but I had taken a phone call from Tony once he had heard about the public meeting. Basically, he tried to warn me off, but in the nicest possible way. He could see no way that either myself or any other local person would be able to afford the sort of budget needed to regain our status as an ambitious non-league club, and of course he was correct. What he could not quite understand though was that I had found the experience of the last three years to be very enjoyable for much of the time and would settle for a little less, and many others felt the same way. Tony in all honesty had come to realise that when he had embarked on his adventure, he had chosen the wrong place for his ambitions. Hythe had reacted well to start with but generally it is a quiet place with a public that springs to life for certain local events, but it was never going to be caught up in a fanciful drive towards the Football League or even two or three levels below that. We agreed to disagree though regarding the future of any newly formed club with me keeping my ultimate ambitions to myself and resolving to tell him "told you so" in a few years’ time.
Sometime later Tony came to see me and brought with him a number of photos and mementos from our times together which was a nice touch. Our only other contact was by the odd phone call to me for a bit of a catch up. After one of those I realised that he was aware of the early stages of this saga coming to light and I was able to reassure him that I had no intention of upsetting anyone, least of all himself, and just wanted to create a record of the exciting period when Hythe Town became a prominent name in non-league football.
As I recall it our final conversation came when we were due to play a Vase tie (our first since reforming) and I invited him to Reachfields. Whether or not he thought that we were trying to lure him back, he politely declined, and I saw this as a missed opportunity as I knew that although not everyone was a fan of his, he may have been surprised at how many would want to shake his hand.
Writing these notes in November 2020 I had a couple of last thoughts, firstly that awful deflection up at Yeading in 1990. What might have happened if that ball had instead gone into the crowd rather than skewing into the net? Seeing all of those coaches lined up on Hythe Green and afterwards the victory parade down Hythe High Street would have been quite something--what a pity that neither happened.
Secondly, and very recently, at an FA Trophy game versus Ashford United I became aware that those "terrible two", Rossy and Arter were in the ground, together with Andy Allon and of course the now Ashford manager Tom Warrilow. No prizes for one name being on their lips in the bar after the match!! That is when I realised that I had to somehow tidy this story up and give it some sort of conclusion because although many have served the club since 1992, we have all done so in the place that Tony rebuilt, with all of its unusual quirks and features. Less obviously some of us also remember some of the fantastic players he brought in to entertain us.
Reachfields Stadium, a little forlorn in places, and quite grand in others, still stands to remind us of an amazing four-year period--the Walton Years.
Firstly, February's results
Version A (Lowest goal scorers) Burgess Hill Town - Richard Bollen
Version B (Club in 17th place) Haywards Heath Town - Bob Keen
Version C (Highest goal scorers) VCD Athletic - Hythe Town FC
(VCD Athletic were the only team not "bought" in version C)
Now the March results
Version A (Club in 4th place) Whyteleafe - Roy Fagg
Version B (Club in 7th place) Whitstable Tn - David Pugh-Jones
You are all £10 richer now. Congratulations
The re-roofing work mentioned previously has now been undertaken and those who like to frequent the terracing adjacent the main car park can now look forward to staying dry in the future.
Hythe Town Football Club announced today that Mark Jenner has been appointed Chairman of the club with immediate effect. Mark has served as a director for five years and prior to that has been chairman of Folkestone Invicta and Ashford Town over the last twenty years.
Paul Markland had decided to stand down as chairman having devoted many years to the role in order to pursue other interests but will remain at the club as Honorary President and keen supporter.
Commenting today Mark thanked Paul for his support and said that this was a very difficult time for all non-league football clubs as the Pandemic has meant only a handful of games have been played in the last year. Whilst certain Covid relief grants had been available standing costs still had to be met without any income and it was uncertain how many of the previous squad of players could be retained. However, plans were being made to start the new season in August and the whole board were optimistic that the club’s recent success on the pitch could be continued.
I found season 1991/92 to be a time of huge contrasts and a certain amount of frustration. As Football Secretary, answerable only to Tony himself and with just a few helpers on our unofficial committee, it was a bit lonely at times. A lot of the important stuff only reached me when it was a done deal, and this included new player registrations and player contract business and that really wasn't a problem since I still had a busy shop to run for up to 50 hours a week.
The only thing that was reaching me now though were the various rumours that the club was in some financial difficulty--oh, and that we were playing Fulham in a pre-season game. That last bit was good news of course but here I was standing out on the pitch in mid-June; nothing had been touched since that Halstead game in May and the whole place seemed like it had been abandoned. As I looked at the actual surface it was obvious that it needed a whole lot of TLC before a league side would risk playing on it and yet all I heard was silence.
Sure enough not only was the big match eventually called off, but we ended up playing no friendly matches before the new season, with just one game in the newly re-named Eastern Floodlight Trophy (ex-Knight FT) up at Ashford to help get us ready for another tilt at promotion.
But now came the contrast. No sooner had we kicked-off then we could not stop winning. We had established a link with Brighton FC and the useful Sean Edwards and Chris Lyons joined us, with the very useful David Coldwell following them. One league match down at Andover was so one-sided that we could not take it seriously as we went 5-0 up in 22 minutes before becoming a little bored and finishing with a 7-2 margin.
By mid-September and despite an FA Cup exit in a replay at Croydon Athletic after a 4-4 draw at home, we were top of the table seemingly without much effort. The results brought in a couple of decent attendances, but this was mostly due to them being local derbies with good away support. Was this the moment that the Chairman decided that little old Hythe was not really worthy of his ambitions? Who knows but he did speak to the press expressing his disappointment about our support? To be brutally honest many of the Hythe public deserved some of this criticism as very few of them seemed to appreciate the amount of money that had been spent on giving them a good facility and an attractive side.
Unfortunately, our early form, for one reason or another, did not last, and by the New Year we had dropped down to 12th place and it was to be another failed attempt at promotion. With unrest growing and support falling Tony picked up on this and assured me that all would turn out fine and he would certainly not be walking away after all the time and money he had invested in the club.
We travelled down to Havant and another unsuccessful league game and things started to fall apart. After the match it was alleged that some of our players had been assaulted as they prepared to re-board the coach. A complaint was made to the FA, and a hearing was scheduled but amazingly nobody from Hythe turned up. I found this quite astounding and yet another sign that the whole structure of the club was falling apart.
Yet again though Wembley was on the horizon and our previous exploits meant that we were still one of the favourites to win the Vase, more so when we advanced to the 4th round proper. We were drawn against Evesham United and hoped for both a big win and a large crowd but got neither. I recall Tom Warrilow scoring a late "winning" goal only to have it chalked off for no apparent reason and then facing a long midweek haul for the replay. It was a cold and still evening when our lads came out for a warmup with the lights not yet switched on, but when they were the grass was no longer green but pure white and the referee quite correctly called it off. Travelling up for the second time we were worried about the amount of rainfall, but this time found the pitch was now bright green and clearly playable. However, the rainfall continued up to kick-off and then intensified alarmingly as we took the field. Even after only 20 minutes or so it was obvious to me that the match would not reach its conclusion and in comical scenes well captured by the press the game was called off and 720 folks got a soaking on their way home. The third match was duly played and was a bit of an anti-climax for us as we went down 2-0 after extra time. The home club had attracted a total of over 1300 for the second and third games and were jubilant afterwards --that is until they were handed our travel expenses for the three trips.
Although this latest Vase saga seemed to put a downer on the rest of the season, players had continued to be recruited and big striker Graham Matthews came in together with gifted midfielder Peter Jarvis. Later they were to be joined by keeper Joe Radford, Adrian Lemoine, Paul Collins and Del Deanus--all really good signings and brilliant news for all of us were it not for the gradual departure of many Reachfields favourites. To see the likes of Tom Warrilow, Dave Arter and Jeff Ross going out of the door for much-needed cash was bad enough, but they were later joined by Kevin Smart, Andy Allon and everybody’s favourite, Steve O'Brien.
Not surprisingly attendances plummeted to the point where two home league games were played in front of 75 and 78 so recalling those early Kent League games at the ground long before Tony's arrival.
The Kent Senior Cup semi-final at home to Ashford not only brought people back but also gave us a final at Gillingham's Priestfield Stadium to look forward to.
Although the player turnaround was a distraction, we still had a decent line-up with returning former favourite Sean Carey and the lightning Danny Whyman up front and the prospect of the now departed Coldwell and Andy Allon returning from loan to make up for others being ineligible for the final hurrah.
As we played out the remaining fixtures with little interest being shown by Joe Public, I was aware of a bit of a build-up with extra programmes being printed for the last league match against none other than Havant FC. It was all a little desperate to be trying to make something out of this after we had not even bothered to turn up for the hearing, but the league made certain that they would have an official there to help ensure there would be no trouble. In the event just 141 turned up and the league official happily watched a peaceful 3-3 draw without apparently noticing my choice of tannoy music which included "Saturday night's alright for fighting" and "Someone's gonna get their head kicked in tonight". Not for the first time in life was my wit wasted!!
The Kent Senior Cup Final was yet another example of how our support had deteriorated. We did take a full supporters coach for the short trip up to Medway, but they looked a little lost on Priestfields big open terrace. Sure, enough Coldwell and Allon made the match, Sean Carey scored the early opening goal, and we were set for what would have been a shock win until Bromley's late equaliser took us into extra time. Two more from the London team then sealed our fate, and we were left reflecting on the number of times this had happened in big matches.
Never mind though, we were by now an established Southern League club and there was always next season to look forward to--or so we thought.
Despite the fact that it now seems it is going to be some months before we can enjoy watching the Cannons take to the field once more, work is ongoing at Reachfields to improve the facilities and hopefully the experience of watching matches when they do resume. With the departure of the Gym facility the old clubhouse, incorporating the club shop, is being refurbished and redecorated by Alan (Groundsman) and Malcolm. A big thank you to them both.
In addition, the club's recent successful application to the football authorities for a grant to carry out essential maintenance work, which the club itself could not afford to do in these troubled times, should make the access to the stadium from Fort Road a much more pleasing experience than it used to be. The entire route to the car park area has had the potholes filled and been asphalted over during the last couple of days.
A further bit of good news for those who like to take shelter under the terrace roof between the turnstiles & the toilet block, is that in the future you will be able to do so AND stay dry! The grant application funds have allowed us to have that area re-roofed, with the work planned in the first half of March.
On the subject of the Club Shop, sales of old programmes have gone well in recent months and if anybody has any old programmes, especially Kent non-league & Hythe Town in particular, no matter how mundane they think they are, which they are considering disposing of, we will welcome them for the shop to raise some much-needed funds for the club. Thank you.
Despite there being no football played, there is still an official league table. As a consequence the January 31st Sweepstake winners are:-
Version A (Club one place above HTFC = Whitstable) John Dowsett
Version B ( Club in 1st position = Hastings Utd) Simon Elam
Version C (Club in 14th position = Chichester City) Paul Bates
You are all now £10 richer!
Thank you for your continued support.
Secretary Martin Giles carries on his series on “The Walton Year’s”
Those of you who have battled through the 43 chapters will have a fair idea of where I had reached, which was the Trowbridge FA Vase quarter-final saga of Spring 1991.
My original intentions were that the "Walton Years" would become a record and possibly a book, describing those four seasons when Hythe Town Football Club burst into the non-league football limelight. The project was half-abandoned (see chapter 35) when it became apparent that interest in the club had dwindled to the point where any book sales achieved would not justify publishing costs.
Much later though those chapters saw the light of day in our match programmes (and this was the reasoning behind the word "chapter" as each number represented one programme issue.) Encouraged by the response at that time I returned to the project and advanced up to chapter 43. Interest in the club was now starting to grow again as it seemed to me that achieving the level we were at in 1992 was no longer an impossible dream even if it was still some distance away.
There was a problem though. Up to that Trowbridge saga I had relied on my memory with the actual results acting as my prompt. When I had written about some games, some events, I had good recollections of what had gone on both on the pitch and behind the scenes. Suddenly now I was relying ever more on a list of results and they have now been covered in excellent fashion by our unofficial club statistician Alan Beecham who is largely responsible for our Club History on this very website. Alan has given the club something that, perhaps due to our previous amateur status, we have never had--a good solid record of our time at Reachfields. It is indeed a fascinating read and one that I heartily recommend to all supporters, old and new, many of whom have either forgotten, or never knew, how we came to be where we are today.
As for myself, it is perhaps now time to tidy things up rather than leaving them in mid-air. In doing so, and for the reasons already stated, I will just be using my memories so that will be nothing like the more complete version that appears on Alan's pages.
I will start off with the remainder of 90/91, continue with 91/92, and then finish with the sad events of the Summer of 1992 that came after the Kent Senior Cup appearance at Gillingham's Priestfield Stadium.
The final weeks of Tony Walton's penultimate season were duly played out without any realistic prospect of that longed-for promotion en-route to the Football League. There were still signs that our club was the real deal though when the Chairman filled a sponsorship gap, and the Southern League Cup became the Larchimage Windows Cup in the name of one of Tony's companies. This positive and ambitious move was made that much more significant when it became apparent that the cup might find its way to the Reachfields trophy cabinet in due course. We progressed by a narrow margin past the obstacle of Waterlooville in the quarter-final and on to a two-legged semi-final and a fourth and fifth meeting of the season against our friends from Trowbridge, this time winning at their place and drawing at ours.
This led us to a final, again over two legs, against non-league giants Chelmsford City who would be obvious favourites to win "our" trophy. Hythe gave a good account of themselves in both matches losing each by a one goal margin, but I found the away leg a little depressing. This was a prestigious final but there was very little support travelling from Hythe for this midweek fixture in front of a crowd of just under a thousand in total. True the second leg brought in around 600, but as we chased that single goal deficit the Reachfields faithful were largely shouted down by our enthusiastic friends from Essex which was disappointing as I could remember those days when our young supporters would have risen to such a challenge.
Still, we clutched at our cup straws to overcome a resolute Deal Town in the Kent Senior Trophy final at Ashford where a single Jeff Ross goal was the decider. The final had a bit of an odd feel to it as we had expected to have been entered into the Senior Cup as a now Southern League side and I never did find out if that was an error as the following year, without any change of league status we were duly promoted to the higher-level competition.
And then there was always the Knight Trophy--our Knight Trophy--to compensate for our lack of league success. We were still unbeaten since entering the competition the previous season and were clearly up for a long midweek quarter-final trip to Harwich --so much so that our coach arrived well before ANYONE from the home club. To have hung around in the car park would have been a bit of a bore so off we all went to the nearest pub for a game of Killer on the darts board with our players restricted to "one beer only" by the Chairman.
That extra team spirit saw us happily through both that tie and the semi-final up at Harlow, duly setting up a home final against Halstead the following week which was to be the final game of the season.
Just over 400 attended but this time there was a real atmosphere in the ground where two goals from Andy Allon helped us towards a 3-1 lead before Halstead got into the game with two late goals to take us into extra time. No matter. Andy completed his hat trick and there were grand scenes on the pitch as players and supporters defiantly celebrated another unbeaten season in the competition. The final winner though was the Reachfields bar despite the late finish, as Halstead showed little interest in setting off for home and we later found that they had much enjoyed our ground and the atmosphere generated by the fans.
So, another "minor" game that I make no apology for placing above more important matches in that season. We were truly a cup team!!
You can read the previous chapters by clicking here.
Chapter 45 to come
The Directors of Hythe Town Football Club would like to offer their most sincere gratitude to all the members of the Patrons Group, who have contributed money to the football club during these troubled times and continue to do so as the uncertainty we are having to live with, both in our own lives and as a club, shows little sign of abating for a while yet.
Your collective generosity has enabled us to keep the club in a reasonable financial state, as we all await the day when we can welcome the Cannons back onto the pitch at Reachfields and elsewhere.
Thank you to you all.
We have been advised that all fixtures are now postponed up to and including Saturday March 6th. We understand that there is a general feeling that the season should be terminated and declared null and void.
However it is intended to take the views of all clubs at Levels 3 and 4 (Hythe Town are Level 4) and the results of this survey will be considered by the F.A.Council before a final decision is made.
Although the "null and void" option seems to be the most likely outcome there are other possibilities that might be considered so please stay in touch with this website.
Royston Town 2 Hythe Town 0
Buildbase FA Trophy 3rd Qualifying Round
Saturday 31st October 2020
Hythe Town, minus four first team regulars, put up a good show but were unable to overcome Step Three opposition as the went down 2-0 at Royston Town in the Buildbase FA Trophy 3rd Qualifying Round on pitch very damp from the early Saturday afternoon rain.
Hythe gave a first start of the season to Jarred Trespaderne and had Liam Smith and James Rogers in the centre of defence as both Dean Beckwith and Tom Wynter were out. Also missing were Alex Flisher and Charlie Webster. It was the Cannons who started the game the brighter as after only two minutes Nick Dembele forced Royston keeper Ron Yates to tip the ball over the bar from a rasping shot. Royston had their first effort three minutes later as Josh Williams attempted to lob the ball over Hythe keeper Nathan Harvey, but it was not high enough to cause a problem.
Despite chances coming at each end, The Cannons were having the majority of the play as Alex Brown launched a shot just over the bar and then at the other end Isaac Galliford drove a low shot which was smothered by Harvey. The deadlock was broken against the run of play as Brandon Adams was brought down in the penalty area and the referee pointed straight at the spot. Adams got up and sent Harvey the wrong way to give the hosts a 24th minute lead. This seemed to revitalise Royston who took control of the game and had a couple of attempts and then increased their lead a minute before half-time as Williams crossed into Adams who headed home his second.
The second half started in a similar pattern as Adams hit a shot against the cross bar and then Hythe man of the match, Harvey denied Williams three times in quick succession with good saves. A period of Hythe pressure followed as they sought to get back in the game, but they were unable the make the break through as the home defence stayed firm. It was Royston who came closest as Spyros Mentis forced another Harvey in the dying minutes.
The Cannons adventure in the FA Trophy is over for another year and now they can concentrate on league action. It looks likely that due to the government announcement after the game that due to the new lockdown there will a month’s break from football although we await confirmation from the FA. More details will follow on the website.
Team: Nathan Harvey, Kaka Dembele, Nathan Gordon, Alex Brown, James Rogers, Liam Smith, Jarred Trespaderne (Kane Phillip 54 mins}, Darren Oldaker, Tom Walmsley, Frannie Collin, Nick Dembele (Bradley Ihionvien 71 mins)
Scorers: Royston Town - Brandon Adam 24 mins (pen) & 44 mins