The new Salisbury FC
Salisbury FC is a phoenix club. The Whites played their first competitive game on Saturday, 8 August 2015 away to Brockenhurst in the Sydenhams Wessex Premier Division, followed by the first competitive game on home turf, hosting Whitchurch United 3 days later.
The new club began in December 2014 when Salisbury FC Ltd was incorporated and created by a consortium of five – David Phillips, Ian Ridley, Jeremy Harwood, Graeme Mundy, and Steve Claridge, the latter also having the role of Team Manager. After buying the remaining assets of predecessor club Salisbury City FC from the administrators, they started the huge task of creating a football club from scratch.
By early April 2015 a new lease had been obtained on the Raymond McEnhill Stadium which had been purpose-built in 1997 for the old club, enabling Salisbury FC to apply to the FA seeking a competitive league for the 2015/2016 season. However, the stadium had been locked and shuttered for a year, the grass on the pitch was 18 inches high, and much work was needed both on and off the pitch to bring it back into use. Supporters of the old club, desperate to see football back at the ground again, worked hard with other volunteers to get it all up and running in time for the first game 28 April 2015, when a friendly against AFC Totton was watched by 729 people and ended in a 2–2 draw.
In May 2015, the FA placed the new club in the Sydenhams Wessex League Premier Division. Steve Claridge then knew the level of competition the club would face, and the type of players he would need for the season ahead. Following some intense work in a very short time, in trial and friendly matches, he succeeded in putting a side together, finally having the nucleus of the squad just in time for those opening league games. For the loyal supporters and fans, 18 months of hurt and pain following the messy demise of Salisbury City was eased as they finally watched their new team line up for the first time.
Clubs representing the City in their various previous incarnations had had a proud and successful history over 67 years, and in the later years SCFC reached the first tier of Non League football, so expectations of the new club were high, but one point from the first two league games did not look too auspicious. Though the fans didn’t know it yet, a magical first season was underway.
There followed a brilliant run of 14 matches unbeaten in all competitions, then a magnificent mid-season run of 17 consecutive wins, again in all competitions, and a longest winning run in the league of 21 matches. This was quite an achievement for a club that had no players only 10 months earlier.
Not surprisingly, attendances throughout the season were good, averaging more than 700, and were higher than expected, matching previous attendances for Salisbury City FC. A league all-time record attendance of 1485 watched the local derby with Bemerton Heath Harlequins on 28 December 2015, and a stadium record of 3450 was recorded for the second leg of the FA Vase Semi-final against fellow phoenix club Hereford FC. Whites’ travelling supporters regularly numbered between 200 and 300, and sometimes more.
An extraordinary season saw a final goal tally of 199 in 59 games in all competitions, together with the remarkable total of 27 clean sheets. Salisbury made the quarter-finals of the Sydenhams Wessex League Cup, were runners-up in the Wiltshire Senior Cup, and after an excellent campaign in the FA Vase went out in the semi-finals, just missing out on a trip to Wembley that could have been that extra cherry on the icing on the cake in a superb inaugural season.
The Whites secured their place as Sydenhams Wessex League Premier Division Champions of 2015/2016, with 6 games in hand, and ended on 105 points and a goal difference of 97, earning automatic promotion to the BetVictor Southern League Division One South and West for the 2016/2017 season.
Past Salisbury Football Clubs
Salisbury FC may be a new club, but it follows in the footsteps of earlier Salisbury clubs going back to the 19th century, including an earlier Salisbury City, playing in the Southern League Second Division from 1906 to 1911. However, the most immediate predecessor club was formed in 1947 as Salisbury FC, later changing its name to Salisbury City FC in 1992.
Playing in the Western League, the original Salisbury FC won the Second Division title in their first season, with a record attendance of 8902 watching the Championship decider against Weymouth in April 1948 at their old Victoria Park ground.
In 1968 the Club entered the Southern League, finally achieving success in the 1985/1986 season when they finished as Southern Division runners-up to Cambridge City, on goal difference, after an unbeaten run of 15 games. They were runners-up again in 1993 but were refused promotion to the next level because of ground grading rules. That promotion however came 2 years later.
Following Salisbury City’s near demise in 2002, the club was saved by business consortium and was then led by Neville Beal, a former Salisbury player, with former Southampton FA Cup winner Nick Holmes installed as General Manager.
The 2005/2006 season saw SCFC become Southern League Premier Division Champions, with matches in hand, resulting in promotion to the Nationwide Conference South. They were just passing through it seems, and after another successful campaign gained a second successive promotion to the Blue Square Premier League, where they remained for the next three seasons.
Unfortunately in the 2009/2010 season the Club went into administration. Despite finishing mid-table they lost their place in the Conference because of an inability to fulfil financial criteria, and were placed in the Zamaretto Southern Premier league. A new Board, led by Chairman William Harrison-Allan, appointed experienced midfielder Darrell Clarke as Player/Manager.
The following season was again successful as promotion saw the side bounce straight back to the Blue Square Bet Conference South and they progressed to the top layer of the Conference a season later when, after a nailbiting series of exciting play-offs, they defeated Dover Athletic 3–2 to restore their previous status in the pyramid.
The first season back in the top flight saw the departure of manager Darrell Clarke to progress his managerial career at Bristol Rovers, and the youngest Manager in their history, Mikey Harris, was appointed, leading them to a respectable 12th place finish.
In the close season of 2014 disaster struck, when the SCFC Board sold their shares to two businessmen. The main 98% shareholder could not settle the Club’s debts and it was removed from the Conference for non-payment. Having no league to play in was a breach of the terms of the stadium lease and after a protracted legal tussle involving seemingly endless court appearances, the High Court ordered the winding up of the Club. The residual assets were bought by the new Salisbury FC Ltd and thus a new club was born.
Former Clubs’ Cup achievements
Away from league action, cup exploits over 67 years in existence included winning the Hampshire Senior Cup (twice), the Western League Cup, Southern League Challenge Cup, and the Salisbury Hospitals Cup (on 12 occasions), whilst they succeeded 15 times in the Wiltshire Premier Shield.
In the major FA competitions they had a fair degree of success, reaching the quarter-finals of the FA Trophy 3 times and the Semi-finals once, in 2009/2010, when they lost over two legs to Barrow the eventual winners.
In the FA Cup they habitually reached the First Round Proper, and on the eighth occasion they did that they sampled the Hillsborough Stadium, but lost out to Sheffield Wednesday 4-0. They reached the Second Round 3 times, memorably holding Nottingham Forest to a 1–1 draw at home, (featured on BBC Match of the Day), before going out 2-0 at Forest, which game was covered by Sky TV cameras. Salisbury City FC reached their highest stage in the competition in the 2011/2012 season when the reward for an exciting replay victory at Grimsby Town saw them take on high-flying Sheffield United at Bramall Lane in the Third Round where, despite a very good performance, they went down 3–1.