St Albans City F.C.
|Full name||St. Albans City Football Club|
|Nickname(s)||The Saints, City|
|Capacity||5,007 (667 seated)|
|League||National League South|
|2015–16||National League South, 18th|
St Albans City Football Club (nicknamed The Saints) is a football club based in St Albans, Hertfordshire, England. It was founded in 1908 and plays its home matches at Clarence Park, about 800 yards from the city centre. The club is in the National League South (previously known as the Conference South). It was promoted from Conference South to the Conference Premier at the end of the 2005–06 season by beating Histon 2–0 in the Conference South play-off final at Stevenage Borough's ground, but was relegated back to Conference South after one season and subsequently suffered a further relegation in 2010–11, before returning to the sixth tier in 2013–14 after beating Chesham United FC 3–1 in the play-off final.
City's most famous match was on 22 November 1922 in a fourth round qualifying FA Cup match. Having been held by Dulwich Hamlet to a 1–1 draw at Clarence Park on 18 November, the replay drew a gate of 4,060. City's New Zealand-born goalkeeper W. Tennant did not appear, his place taken by Alf Fearn who was usually a half-back with the reserves. Dulwich put eight goals past him, the winning goal coming in near darkness at the end of extra time. What put the game in the record books was that City scored seven times, with all seven goals being scored by Wilfred Minter. His feat remains the highest tally by a player on the losing side of an FA Cup tie.
- 1 History
- 2 Famous affiliations
- 3 Current squad
- 4 Honours
- 5 Records
- 6 Former players
- 7 References
- 8 External links
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Founded in April 1908, the golden period in the history of St Albans City Football Club came during the 1920s.
In 1999, under manager Garry Hill, the Saints reached the last four of the FA Trophy but within two years were facing closure after being suspended by the Isthmian League for failing to maintain payments agreed by the previous board of directors to clear a six-figure debt. In February 2002, with the club having already made one visit to the High Court in London, a new buyer came forward and overnight the debt was cleared. Since that time the Saints have existed very successfully within their financial means although the rise into the Nationwide Conference has been far from smooth.
Despite finishing just three points clear of relegation from the Premier Division of the Isthmian League in 2003–04, the Saints secured a place in the Conference South on the back of remarkable 4–3 and 5–4 Play-off victories at Heybridge Swifts and Bedford Town respectively. Midway through the following campaign City were rooted to the foot of the table and facing an immediate return to the Isthmian League. Their fortunes changed with the appointment of the experienced Colin Lippiatt, assistant manager to Geoff Chapple during Woking's numerous successes during the 1980s, who moulded a struggling outfit into an attack-minded one that rose to the safety of 14th place. The 2005–06 Conference South season kicked off with two consecutive defeats before Lippiatt's side found their rhythm and ultimately pushed Weymouth for the championship right to the final week of the season. City, scorers of 14 goals more than the second highest scoring team in the Division, had to settle for second place but successfully claimed a place in the Conference by overcoming Histon in the Play-off final in front of 3,175 spectators at Stevenage.
The early days
Football had been played at the Saints' Clarence Park home for 14 years prior to the formation of the present day club. The original St Albans, which also played home matches at three other venues within the old Roman stronghold, met its demise in 1904 having come into existence back in 1881. After a four-year lapse a senior club bearing the name of the city rose again in 1908 and during its formative years competed in the Herts County and Spartan Leagues. A move to the Athenian League heralded the start of the Saints halcyon days as that championship was won twice in three years paving the way for election to the Isthmian League. St Albans City won the Isthmian at the first attempt and followed it with two further successes before the decade was out. City remained in the Isthmian League until 2003 but never again did the title return to Clarence Park.
When an extra Division was added in 1973 St Albans, along with Corinthian Casuals, had the dubious honour of being the first club to be relegated within the Isthmian League. When a second relegation followed 12 years later the club turned to its former player John Mitchell, whose semi-final goals took Fulham to the 1975 FA Cup final, to lead it to better days. Mitchell duly obliged with two promotions in three years. During a second spell in charge he took the Saints to the Premier Division runners up position in 1992–93 only to be denied promotion to the Conference at that time due to a 140-year-old oak tree standing within the terrace behind one of the goals. In 1998 the diseased tree was felled.
Along with the Saints five championship successes in eight years during the 1920s the club also enjoyed its greatest days in the Amateur Cup. Three times in that decade St Albans reached the semi-final but progress through to the final proved to be beyond them. The same fate befell the club in 1970 leaving them with the unwanted record of having made more semi-final appearances without going on to play in the final than any other club. City's unsuccessful semi-final FA Trophy appearance in 1999 suggests that, given time, a new record could be set in that competition.
The 2nd Round, or equivalent, of the FA Cup has been reached on five occasions but, to date, just one league scalp has been claimed when Brentford were defeated 5–3 in 1924. The most prestigious cup won by the Saints was the London Senior Cup in 1971 while ten other cups have been won a total of 49 times.
Wilfred Minter, with a staggering return of 356 goals in 362 games, is the Saints all-time top goalscorer and can be found in record books as the player to have scored the most goals for the losing side in a FA Cup tie. The Amateur England international struck seven times as City went down 8–7 to Dulwich Hamlet in a 4th Qualifying Round replay on 22 November 1922. Seventy-two years later Steve Clark became the second City player to hit a double hat trick in the FA Cup and his day ended more joyously as the Saints hammered Hillingdon Borough 11–1. Former Amateur England international Phil Wood has played more times, 900, for the club than any other player.
Down the years a number of players have progressed into the Football League from St Albans City, these include, Arthur Grimsdell, captain of the 1921 Tottenham Hotspur FA Cup winning side and full England international; Harold Miller another England international who spent 14 years with Chelsea; Dean Austin whose transfer to Spurs from Southend United earned St Albans over £90,000; Allan Cockram who played almost 100 games for Brentford and Iain Dowie.
Promotion to the Conference
On 7 May 2006, St Albans City beat Histon 2–0, in the 2005/2006 Conference South Play-off Final at Stevenage's Broadhall Way ground. Goals from Lee Clarke and Paul Hakim meant that St Albans was promoted to the Conference National for the first time.
Following the team's promotion, Clarence Park was redecorated and improved slightly, a noticeable difference being the acquisition of a new club sponsor, as well as new advertising boards. There were rumours at the time of the promotion that St Albans were possibly moving to a larger venue. However, nothing was confirmed or denied.
The Saints' first three games in the Conference were a mixed affair, with the team winning, drawing and losing their first three games respectively. After then St Albans had a bad run of games and were hovering around the relegation zone. Their hopes being restricted by being a part-time team whilst going up against full-time opponents. However, Colin Lippiatt remained positive about his team's chances. Having been knocked out in the FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round by Yeading, the team started concentrating on staying in the Conference for another season.
St Albans started the second half of the season just one place off the relegation zone. In terms of transfers, The Saints allowed defender Dave Theobald to return to the Conference North team Kettering Town, but have re-signed defender Djoumin Sangare on loan from Grays Athletic until the end of the season. Lippiatt also signed Chris Watters and Leon Archer from neighbours Boreham Wood for an undisclosed fee on two-year contracts.
In January 2007, director (and chief football writer for The Mail on Sunday) Ian Ridley left the club amid disagreement over policy. Ridley argued that the club needed to bring in older, more experienced players (citing Steve Claridge) to bolster the campaign to stay in the Conference; the remainder of the board wanted to maintain a strong reliance of "young, hungry" players. St Albans continued throughout the new year with a run of poor results. On 9 April 2007 (Easter Monday), a 1–1 draw with Tamworth guaranteed St Albans relegation from the Conference and the team finished bottom of the table. The Saints were the first team to be relegated from the Conference, but were later joined by Southport, Tamworth and Altrincham.
In addition to the Saints returning to the Conference South Colin Lippiatt resigned as manager at the end of the season. In a statement he stated that it was 'right and proper' for him to leave. He has now rejoined Conference side Woking (where he was once manager) as a director.
Back to the Conference South
After relegation to the Conference South, St Albans appointed inexperienced Ritchie Hanlon as their new manager, who had only retired through injury in January. He had a huge task to rebuild the squad; Nick Roddis had left the club after finding out that he would not be interviewed for the vacant manager position, Chris Watters rejoined his old club Boreham Wood for a nominal fee, only 5 months after joining the Saints. Goalkeeper Paul Bastock was released by 'mutual consent', later joining Rushden & Diamonds.
More players where to leave Clarence Park as Striker Leon Archer joined Braintree Town and Midfielder Tom Davis joined Lewes, after both made it clear that they did not want to play for St Albans. Dean Cracknell also left the club to join Hemel Hempstead. Hanlon however bolstered the squad with numerous new signings, Gary Burrell joined from Heybridge Swifts, Mark Beard joined from Stevenage Borough as player/assistant manager, Paul Bruce joined from Dagenham & Redbridge & So Solid Crew Rapper, Former AFC Wimbledon player Junior Harvey was recruited, another player from Dagenham & Redbridge was brought in, Nick Eyre, signed to replace Veteran Paul Bastock. This was backed up with two youth signings, Hector Mackie & Reis Noel, and finally Hanlon added Hassan Sulaiman & Paul Semakula to the ranks.
Not long into October after a bad string of results, Richie Hanlon was sacked as St Albans manager. Former Hendon and AFC Wimbledon manager Dave Anderson was given the role, and has since taken City to one win at Bromley and a draw. He has wasted no time in adjusting the squad and has signed Jon Stevenson and Gary O'Connor amongst others. Anderson became another managerial casualty after the 4–0 New Year defeat to Cambridge City.
England U19 scout and former City boss Steve Castle was next put in the position, and he declared his ambition to bring former players of the Saints back to Clarence Park. This prompted rumours of returns for Matt Hann and Patrick Ada amongst others. On 8 January, Castle signed Dean Cracknell and Simon Martin, who are both former Saints.
Things began to look up for the team, with goalkeeper Paul Bastock, who was later voted Player of the Season by fans, rejoining from Rushden and Diamonds, helping City to long unbeaten run. Included in this run of results was the 2–0 victory over top of the league Lewes, thanks to Paul Hakim and a stunner from Lee Clarke, later voted goal of the season. Soon City were on the tail of Weston Super Mare for survival.
With a stunning 3–2 victory over playoff chasers Eastleigh Town F.C. secured their safety in the Conference South. Eastleigh brought many a fan to Clarence Park with drums and all, and they took the lead when former Saint Matt Hann went down in the box and Eastleigh converted the penalty. The Eastleigh fans went wild, and they maintained the lead and their singing voices until half time. In the second half city loanee Bradley Gray equalised with a shot from the edge of the area that squeezed inside the post, before Akanni-Sunday Wasiu put City ahead moments later. By now the City fans were going crazy, and the result seemed beyond doubt when Sunday completed his brace. Another former Saint, Steve Watts, scored a great effort but City survive in both the game and the lead.
Rumours of a new ground on Green Belt land continue to dog the chairmen, with fan opposition likely to prove increasingly hostile.
After retaining many of the previous season's squad, Steve Castle set promotion as a target for the team, after deciding to stay on himself. St Albans did not start brilliantly, failing to win in the first few games. However, the Saints recovered to begin a run of 7 wins to see them climb into the playoff positions. Paul Hakim scored many goals for City during this time, further rekindling his relationship with the fans. When the run ended, City went on a run of three games without winning, dropping to mid-table.
2009–10 season – Financial worries
In Summer 2009, it was announced that Gibson's building firm, William Verry, were to go into administration with debts mounting continuously. Gibson himself released a statement in regards to the club's future, stating that it was safe. In the month that followed Gibson released another statement regarding the club's finances Following this statement there were rumours of buy outs by a rival building firm who had taken on a number of William Verry's contracts. This apparently was unfounded. Another interested party was apparently Watford central defender Darren Ward.
The summer of 2010 went somewhat smoother for the Saints, as the financial worries that had plagued the team in 2009 had, thankfully, not returned, and Steve Castle was able to get on with assembling his squad for the new season, albeit with one of the smallest budgets in the league.
Pre-season friendlies were lined up with the likes of Watford and Leyton Orient, before the Saints kicked off their Conference South season with a trip to Thurrock in mid-August. In the week leading up to the game, City were boosted by the return of former Saints favourites Ben Martin and Hassan Sulaiman, who joined other key players Pete Smith, Paul Bastock and Drew Roberts in the new squad.
City opened their account for the season with a 2–2 draw with the Fleet, with goals from Roberts and the newly improved Inih Effiong setting them up with a two-goal lead, before being pegged back before full-time. Despite missing the chance to win, it was considered a good point away from home, against strong opposition.
With the signing of Adam Martin completed, meaning he joined Robbie and Ben on the club's list of 'Martins', the Saints continued their campaign with the visit of Basingstoke Town. A closely fought encounter ended 0–0, although the Saints had a good chance to scrape the game when Drew Roberts squared for Inih Effiong, only for the big striker to slip in the sodden conditions before firing wide.
The Saints' third match of the season was another home encounter – this time with the much-changed Braintree Town. City's veteran goalkeeper Paul Bastock was in sparkling form to twice deny Braintree from close range, as the Saints ground out another goalless draw. St. Albans' best chance of the game fell to winger Joe Richards, whose close range header was clawed out by the Irons stopper, thus leaving City with three points from three games, and extending their Conference South unbeaten run to four games, including last season's final day draw with Bath City.
On 4 February 2011, the F.A. fined St. Albans £7,500 and deducted 10 league points. The punishment was handed down to City chairman John Gibson and then vice-chairman Alasdair McMillin during a Regulatory Hearing at the Association's offices at Wembley, and was in relation to alleged illegal payments to players, described by the FA as financial irregularities, by the club during the 2008–09 season. St. Albans appealed, but the original decision was upheld.
St. Albans were relegated on 9 April 2011 after losing 4–0 to Ebbsfleet United, they will play in the Southern League Premier Division in season 2011/12
On 12 May 2011, it was announced that local businessmen Lawrence Levy and John Mcgowan had bought the club from previous chairman John Gibson for an undisclosed fee. They revealed that they will be looking for someone with plenty of football knowledge and experience to take over the position of chairman.
On 10 June 2011, manager Steve Castle was released after many weeks of speculation. His successor was announced on 18 June to be former Harrow Borough manager David Howell who has recently taken Harrow to the play-offs in the Isthmian League Premier Division.
Now playing in the Southern League Premier Division for the first time in their history and at their lowest level for 20+ years, the saints weren't considered one of the favourites for the division although a late surge in late Jan and Feb took the club to the brink of the play-offs, however only 1 win in the final 5 games meant St Albans finished 8th.
David Howell started the season with a much improved budget and St Albans were among one of the favourites for the division signing players like Barry Hayles, despite starting the season well, a slump in October and November which also saw early exits in the FA Cup and FA Trophy saw David Howell sacked and youth team coaches James Gray and Graham Golds take over, initially as a caretaker management team, however the performances improved with some better football and they were given the job full-time. However several players left over the Christmas period and the owners introduced a controversial decision to up the admission prices mid-season. St Albans finished 11th
The 2013–2014 season was a major success with pre-season signings of the calibre of John Frendo who was the league's top scorer the previous season.  After an indifferent start that saw St Albans lose 4 games up to the end of September, it was the arrival of Rambir Marwa in midfield that saw a change in fortunes. St Albans made the FA Cup 1st Round for the 1st time since 2002 losing 8–1 at home to Mansfield Town in front of 3000+ supporters and they also made the FA Trophy 2nd Round losing to eventual winners Cambridge United. A new record of away wins without defeat was also set (16). St Albans finished the season 4th and won the play-offs defeating Chesham United 3–1 in the final in front of 2900 fans.
St Albans returned to the Conference South and finished 13th. A strong finish in the last few weeks of the season resulted in joint managers, Jimmy Gray and Graham Golds, receiving the league's manager of the month award.
Chief sports writer for the Daily Mail Ian Ridley was on the board before leaving over disagreements involving transfer policies and a lack of ambition at the club. In 2011, he was appointed chairman of the club. In 2012 He left his role after he disagreed with a decision to raise admission prices mid-season
Note: Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.
|Assistant Manager||Harry Wheeler|
|Goalkeeper Coach||Rhys Tom|
- Isthmian League Premier Division
- Isthmian League Division One
- Champions 1985–86
- Conference South
- Runners-up 2005–06
|Record||Date and time||Competition||Home or Away||Opponent||Score|
|Biggest win||19 October 1912 at 15:00||Spartan League||Home||Aylesbury United||14–0|
|Biggest defeat||9 November 1946 at 15:00||Isthmian League||Home||Wimbledon||0–11|
|Most goals in one match||22 November 1922 at 15:00||FA Cup / 4th QF (replay)||Away||Dulwich Hamlet||7–8|
|Biggest home win||19 October 1912 at 15:00||Spartan League||Home||Aylesbury United||14–0|
|Biggest home defeat||9 November 1946 at 15:00||Isthmian League||Home||Wimbledon||0–11|
|Biggest away win||24 November 1970 at 15:00||Mithras Cup 2nd Rd (2nd Leg)||Away||Ruislip Manor||10–0|
|Biggest away win||17 April 1920 at 15:00||Spartan League||Away||Tufnell Spartans||11–1|
|Biggest away defeat||4 November 2008 at 19:45||Herts Charity Cup||Away||Hemel Hempstead Town||0–10|
|Record||Date and time||Competition||Home or Away||Opponent||Attendance|
|Biggest attendance in home match||27 February 1926 at 15:00||Amateur Cup / 4th Rd||Home||Ferryhill Athletic||9757|
|Biggest attendance in away match||25 February 1950 at 15:00||Amateur Cup / 4th Rd||Away||Wycombe Wanderers||14926|
|Smallest attendance in home match||1 November 1999 at 19:45||Herts Senior Cup / 2nd Rd||Home||Hoddesdon Town||41|
|Smallest attendance in away match||4 November 1997 at 19:45||League Cup / 2nd Rd||Away||Clapton||84|
1. Players that have played/managed in the Football League or any foreign equivalent to this level (i.e. fully professional league).
2. Players with full international caps.
3. Players that hold a club record or have captained the club.
- Dean Austin
- Laurence Batty
- Andy Driscoll
- Warren Gravette
- Matthew Howard
- Craig Mackail-Smith
- Billy Stagg
- Dean Williams
- The St.Albans Observer-reliance of "young, hungry" players
- Statement From John Gibson-Wednesday, 29 April 2009
- Statement From John Gibson-Wednesday, 15 July 2009
- TheFA.com – St Albans City fined and deducted points