Friday, April 29, 2011

Club focus -- Great Yarmouth Town


Tomorrow is Ely's last game and despite eulogising over the performance against Brantham a couple of weeks back I'm half thinking thank God for that! All of the Step 5 issues in this region have been settled and the players are looking knackered.

Anyway time to be positive for once. Tomorrow the Robins take on Great Yarmouth Town at home. I went to the reverse fixture earlier in the season and I have to say I really like the Bloaters' set-up. They have a ground with the oldest stand still in use in the World, friendly fans and officials who run the club professionally and one of the best programmes at this level. Actually, I might be over-stating Yarmouth's programme, as since I visited the Wellesley last September they had to cut costs on the programme and the regular editor has been out of the country for a couple of months. Let's hope he comes back and carries on the good work next season.

Yarmouth's Wellesley Road ground was opened on 6th August 1888 and the grandstand that I mentioned before was built in 1891. Great Yarmouth Town football club was formed in 1897. The side was made up of players from two of the succesful teams who had previously played at the Wellesley; Yarmouth Fearnoughts and Yarmouth RoyaL Artillery.

Yarmouth were founder members of the Norfolk and Suffolk League and won the championship in 1914, 1927 and 1928. In 1935 the Bloaters became founder members of the Eastern Counties League and are the only club who have been ever present in the league. A record that was shared with Lowestoft until they started on their upward trajectory when they were promoted in 2008-9. They have never won the Eastern Counties League, but they have won the League Cup three times, in 1938, 1975 and 1981. The second two of these victories coming under ex-Norwich, Newcastle and Sheffield United player and Yarmouth legend Bill Punton who took over as manager in 1968-9 and stayed at the helm for 25 years.

The most lucrative period for Yarmouth didn't come under the helmsmanship of Punton though, but in the post-war years when the Bloaters really excelled in the FA Cup. In 1947 they reached the second round before going out to Shrewsbury. They reached the same point in the competition in 1952 before again losing at home this time to Wrexham by 4 goals to 1. However, their greatest moment in the cup and arguably in the history of the club came in 1953 when a record crowd of 8,944 ( an attendance that beat the previous records set at the games against Shrewsbury and Wrexham) saw Yarmouth beat Crystal Palace in the first round of the FA Cup. The club didn't get past the second round though as they went out away to Barrow, who at the time were a league club.

After that period and the period that Punton was in charge Yarmouth hit the rocks a bit and nothing of much note happened as they bobbed between the 2 divisions of the Eastern Counties League. Things got from bad to worse and by 2008 the Bloaters were starring bankrupcy in the face. However, local businessman Stephen Brierly came in to save the club and Dale Gordon of Norwich, Rangers and West Hame fame was brought in as Director of Football. Since then the ship has been steadied and last season Yarmouth were promoted from the first division. This season they have finished in a respectable mid-table position.

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