A Brief History of Acle United Football Club
1900 - 2013
A lot of water has passed under Acle Bridge since the Club was founded. The early years since it’s foundation in 1900 were, because of travelling restrictions, spent playing local friendly matches, and local cup competitions.
It is, however on record that at the old Liberal Clubroom in 1913, with a Mr Frank Holmes as Chairman, a member proposed that “this Club be known as Acle United Football Club”. The proposition was evidently carried unanimously. Mr G B Smithdale was elected Hon. Secretary and the Club colours were to be black and white stripes, the same as Newcastle United’s colours – the Club wanted to emulate that fine First Division side. This is the year the Club was affiliated to the Football Association.
All went well until the summer of 1914, the bugles sounded on August 4th and the Club tucked away its football gear until 1919. Homage must be paid at this juncture to those lads who did not return, together with those maimed by the Hun. However the Club kept the torch burning, and so it was that Acle United applied for, and were admitted into, the Flegg and District Football League and proved itself champions.
Acle United thereupon sought admission to the Great Yarmouth and District League and with the help of the President Mr W J Burgess, were welcomed and admitted.
1923 dawned and few could have been optimistic enough to even dream of winning the Wiltshire Cup, but Acle did to the tune of 4 goals to 2 against Southtown United, on the Wellesley. Acle followed this up by winning the Acle Charity Cup two years running in front of crowds of 1250 upwards.
The team in these early years consisted of the following players:- Bernard Holmes, Billy Lubbock, Len Arnup, Billie White (the Human Eel), Jim Dalton, Tom Smithdale, Wilf Sutton, Vic Hodds, T Tunmore, Cecil Bland, Joe Hodds, Joe Starkings, Cyril Large, Harry Barker and David Church.
These glory years of the early 1920’s were concluded when the then Norwich City manager, Major Frank Buckley, invited Acle United to play the Rest of the Flegg League at Norwich City’s ground, “The Nest”. The honour was accepted and Acle United sailed forth to victory amid the sounds of gongs, klaxon hooters and drums – nothing has really changed.
The next two decades were uneventful due mainly to the repercussions of the First World War and an interruption by the Second World War, however Club Stalwarts like Freddie King, Derek Willgress, Stanley Cator, the Wells brothers, Bob Bland, Harry Kiddell, Billy Crispy, Ronnie Mingay, Ted Teager, Jack Brown, Bunter George, Leslie Ecclestone, Skio Laight, Frank High, and Gerald Goward kept the momentum going, and in the early 1950’s things again picked up with new faces emerging to put the club back in the limelight once more.
Under the Chairmanship of the late Billy Barker and keen support from the likes of Tom Clifford, Barny Cator, Harry Brady, Frank High and Jack Brown, the Club again took on good shape and moulded together two very good teams, the First Team and a strong Reserve Team, who both ground out minor honours throughout the fifties, which included a second Wiltshire Cup victory in 1955.
This hard work all culminated with the First Team winning the Norfolk Junior Cup, 3-1, for the first time against Fakenham Reserves, with a team consisting of:- Bobby Fenton, Bunny Clarke, Bill Green, Tubby Clarke, Jackie Wright, David Childs, Bryan Cator, Freddie Edwards, Peter Cator, Harry Etheridge and Johnny Goward.
The popularity and success of Acle United continued and in 1960 Acle United won the Norfolk Junior Cup again against Wymondham Town, 1-0 (Peter Cator), with the addition of only three players, namely Phillip Hollis, Billy Harpley and Colin Holmes.
This run of success continued into the following season as good players were now being attracted to Acle United. In fact the 1960/61 season was very successful with the introduction of new young players like Rodney Myhill, David Balls and Robbie Prime into the First Team, they won the Yarmouth Division One title for the first time, the Yarmouth League Cup, the Acle Charity Cup, and the Reserves were victorious in the Burgess Cup Final.
The Club by now was healthy in more ways than one and it was obviously ready to move on to pastures new and under the chairmanship of the late Jack Brown, the success continued on through the late 1960’s and 1970’s. with the Yarmouth League Division One title being won in the 1962/63 season again.
These triumphs were achieved under the managership of Derek Blake and Colin Willgress, plus another breed of young players which included: Club stalwart and Life member Freddie Colk, Chairman of the 80’s and player Colin Lake, Norman Christmas, Barry Gilbert, Mick Mundford, Gary Blake, Puddy Ward, Peter George, Martin Rogers, Garrie Willgress, Ian Lake, Mel Smith, David Cox and Ivan London.
In 1980 the new sports complex at Bridewell Lane was built and with it saw Acle United applying for, and gaining, entry into the Anglian Combination.
Under the Chairmanship of John Goward and then Colin Lake, entry into the Anglian Combination was refreshing and exciting. After a spell with Great Yarmouth Town, David Balls returned and was appointed Manager for the first three seasons, and success soon came the Club’s way, by winning the Division Four title in its first season, without losing a game.
Elevation to Division Two under new manager Colin Holmes soon followed, and then under yet another new manager, Clive Griffiths, progress into Division One and Senior football was quickly achieved in 1986/87.
This, however, was short lived and relegation through the divisions to Division Three soon took its toll. During this time good players left the Club and some five managers tried to resurrect the Club’s fortune without success.
Then in May 1994, under the Chairmanship of Freddie Colk, Jim Stimpson took on the job of First Team manager with Paul Woollaston as his right hand man at the helm of the Reserve side. Under the guidance of Barry Ward and Paul Girling, the ’A’ Team academy side was formed.
Between 1994 and 1999, the First Team and Reserves won a total of five League titles between them. The First Team were Division Three champions in the 1994-95 season and were promoted to the Premier Division after winning the 1996-97 Division One title. The Reserves won four consecutive Reserve Division One league titles between 1996 and 2000.
The start of the new millennium saw the First Team lift the Senior Knockout Cup, and consolidate their position, as one of the leading step seven sides in Norfolk. Having finished third in the Premier Division, three times and runners-up twice since 2003, the Club celebrated their centenary of affiliation to the Football Association, by becoming Sterry Cup and Mummery Cup champions in the 2012-2013 season under joint managers, Martyn Sinclair and Tony Ward. The Reserves meanwhile, are the highest placed Reserve side in the League structure.
A Ladies side was brought to the Club at the end of the first decade, and gained promotion from the Norfolk Womens and Girls Football League in 2010-2011, to the Eastern Region Womens Football League Division One North. The following year the Ladies reached the final of the Norfolk Womens Cup, losing to Norwich City Ladies.
The 2013-2014 season has seen a change at the helm, with former player and manager, Jim Stimpson, taking over as Chairman. New fund-raising initiatives have been introduced, 250 Club and monthly bingo, a revamped website, and increased media attention, through social networking sites and the press. On the playing front, the Senior section remains the same with three teams, and the Youth set-up is flourishing, with an Under 11 side and three Development sides at Under 9, 8 and 7.
Acknowledgement: Main Contributor Mr David Balls – A long and loyal servant to Acle United Football Club[/b]