Why do I still call it The Rec? Because for us of an older vintage it will always be just that. It’s hardly a ‘stadium’ after all. At least, not in the context of the Proact where we visit this weekend. However, The Rec or EBB Stadium is still a wonderful. traditional football ground and yes, one that I am still proud of despite its antiquity.
In this post, you will see that our next visitors have a ground which is a mix of old and new (as you will see from the embedded images) and an interesting one that I look forward to visiting in January next year.
This game will be another tough test for the Shots as Dover are fine travellers AND have a proven dangerman up front. First up, let’s learn about the history of Dover Athletic FC as they are these days. Manager-wise, they have had household names Neville Southall and Peter Taylor in charge.
THE EARLY YEARS
The first football club in Dover played a few friendlies in the 1888-89 season – little is known about this club, however, as the Dover Express did not give much coverage to football. A second club was then formed in 1891. It was known as Dover Association Football Club, as there was already a Dover Football Club in existence – they are now known as the Rugby Club! Anyway, various clubs have existed since then, all of which have been forced out of business due to financial problems. The most recent Dover Football Club was formed in 1934 as an amateur outfit, and it was re-formed in 1947 as a semi-professional club. This club existed until 1983, when it was forced to close by an Inland Revenue demand for unpaid tax.
Gary Pugh was one of a very few players to have played for Dover F.C. and Dover Athletic
In 1946-47, the last season of the amateurs, the Dover side found itself rather out of its depth playing in the Kent League Division One. Despite the austerity of the immediate post-War years, it was decided to turn professional to try and compete on equal terms with the majority of clubs. Dover played in the Kent League until 1959, when the club was admitted to the Southern League. Playing in the First Division, we eventually won promotion in 1967. We then played in the Premier Division until relegation in 1978. Despite winning the First Division (South) title the following season, we were not promoted, and spent the next three seasons in the Southern Division. The last season of Dover F.C. was 1982-83, when we struggled in the Southern Division, with a very young and inexperienced side.
WHAT THE EFFIONG?
What we wouldn’t give for a proven goalscorer right now. When Dover score and particularly away from home, Inih Effiong is certain to be on the scoresheet. The Shots remit and one that DS must seriously look into is how Dover score these goals, which players are involved in the assistance and to work on strangling the supply to Effiong.
Dover Athletic FC were formed in 1983 after the dissolution of the town’s previous club, Dover F.C., whose place in the Southern League was taken by the new club. In the 1989–90 season Dover Athletic won the Southern League championship, but failed to gain promotion to the Football Conference as the club’s ground did not meet the required standard. Three seasons later the team won the title again and this time gained promotion to the Conference, where they spent nine seasons before being relegated at the end of the 2001–02 season. The club was transferred from the Southern League to the Isthmian League in 2004, competing in that league’s Premier Division for one season before mounting financial problems led the club to a further relegation. In the 2007–08 season, Dover won Division One South of the league, before winning the Premier Division in 2008–09 and thus gaining promotion to the Conference South. They spent five seasons in this division, reaching the play-offs three times, before defeating Ebbsfleet United in the 2013–14 play-off final to finally return to the Conference Premier after a twelve-year absence.
The team usually wear white shirts and are consequently nicknamed the Whites. They have played at the Crabble Athletic Ground since the club’s formation. The club’s best performance in the FA Cup was reaching the third round proper in both the 2010–11 and 2014–15 seasons, while the best performance registered in the FA Trophy, the national competition for higher-level non-league clubs, was a run to the semi-finals in the 1997–98 season.
In the 1987–88 season. The team started strongly in the Premier Division, finishing in sixth place at the first attempt, and then winning the championship in the 1989–90 season. The club was denied promotion to the Football Conference, however, as the Crabble Athletic Ground did not meet the standard required for that league. After finishing fourth and second in the subsequent two seasons, Dover won the title again in the 1992–93 season and this time were admitted to the Conference.
Although Dover finished in eighth place in their first season in the Conference, the following season saw the club struggling against relegation, and Kinnear was dismissed due to a combination of the team’s poor performances and his own personal problems. John Ryan was appointed as the club’s new manager, but his reign was a short one and he was dismissed when the club lost seven of its first eight matches in the 1995–96 season. The club then appointed former England international Peter Taylor as manager, but he was unable to steer the team away from the foot of the table, and Dover held onto their place in the Conference only because Northern Premier League runners-up Boston United failed to submit their application for promotion before the required deadline.
Bill Williams took over as manager in 1997 and led the club to the FA Trophy semi-finals in the 1997–98 season and a best league finish to date of sixth place in the 1999–2000 season. Williams left the club to take a senior position with Conference rivals Kingstonian in May 2001. By now the club was in severe financial difficulties, with a number of directors resigning and debts exceeding £100,000.
Amid the crisis the entire board of directors resigned, forcing the club’s Supporters’ Trust to take over the running of the club and manager Gary Bellamy was sacked after just six months in the job. Former Everton goalkeeper Neville Southall took over but was dismissed just three months later, with Clive Walker taking over in March 2002 with the club rooted to the foot of the table. The club finished the season bottom of the Conference and was relegated back to the Southern League Premier Division. The club’s ongoing financial problems led to it entering a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA), a process by which insolvent companies offset their debts against future profits, due to debts that were now estimated at £400,000.
In Dover’s first season back in the Southern League Premier Division the Whites finished in third place, albeit 17 points adrift of Tamworth, who claimed the one promotion place available that season. A poor start to the following season saw Walker replaced by Richard Langley. Dover finished the season in 19th place, before being switched to the Isthmian League Premier Division in the summer of 2004 following a re-organisation of the English football league system.
The new season started with six successive defeats, which saw Langley sacked, and the financial problems continued, with the club coming within two months of being closed down. Dover were relegated to the Isthmian League Division One at the end of the season but were saved from possible extinction in January 2005 when former director Jim Parmenter returned to head up a consortium that took over the club. Parmenter quickly sacked manager Steve Browne and convinced Clive Walker to return to the club to replace him, and also arranged for the club’s outstanding CVA debts to be cleared, putting the club on a firm financial footing for the first time in many years.
Dover Athletic narrowly missed out on an immediate return to the Premier Division in the 2005–06 season, reaching the play-offs for promotion but losing out to Tonbridge Angels. The following season Dover again reached the play-offs but lost in the semi-final to Hastings United, after which Walker did not have his contract renewed and was replaced by former Gillingham manager Andy Hessenthaler. In his first season in charge he led the club to the Division One South championship and promotion to the Isthmian League Premier Division.
The following season Dover won a second consecutive championship and thus gained promotion to Conference South. In the 2009–10 season, Dover reached the play-offs for promotion to the Conference National, but lost at the semi-final stage to Woking. The following season the club reached the third round of the FA Cup for the first time after wins over Kent rivals Gillingham in the first round and another League Two club, Aldershot Town, in the second round.
In the 2012–13 season the club again reached the play-offs, but this time lost in the final to Salisbury City. The following season the team reached the second round of the FA Cup, losing 1–0 to Milton Keynes Dons. A 4–1 aggregate victory over Sutton United in the semi-final set up a match with fellow Kent team Ebbsfleet United in the final. On 10 May 2014, Dover beat Ebbsfleet 1–0 at Stonebridge Road with a goal from Nathan Elder enough to seal the club’s return to the top flight of non-league football for the first time since 2002. In the 2014–15 season Dover went on another FA Cup run, beating Morecambe 1–0 in the first round, then Cheltenham Town 1–0 in the second round to reach the third round proper for only the second time ever but lost 4–0 at home to Premier League side Crystal Palace. The following season the team qualified for the play-offs for promotion to League Two.
In the club’s early days Athletic struggled to attract crowds of over 150, but by the time the club reached the Conference, crowds at Crabble were averaging around 1,000. After the club’s relegation to the Isthmian League Division One South, the average attendance fell to just over 800 but when the club returned to the Premier Division for the 2008–09 season, the average attendance at Crabble was 1,293, the highest in the division. The highest home attendance in the club’s history was 5,645 for the match against Crystal Palace in the third round of the FA Cup on 4 January 2015. Although Athletic’s improved monetary position means that the Supporters’ Trust is no longer required to financially support the club, it remains active as a fundraising organisation.
Dover Athletic’s highest finish in the English football league system was in the 2015–16 season, in which the team finished in fifth place in the Football Conference, the highest level of non-league football and the fifth level overall. The Whites have made 13 appearances in the final qualifying round of the FA Cup, but have only progressed to the first round proper three times. In the 2010–11 season, Dover reached the third round for the first time, defeating Football League Two teams Gillingham and Aldershot Town in the first two rounds before losing to Huddersfield Town of Football League One. In the 1997–98 season the Whites reached the semi-finals of the FA Trophy but missed out on an appearance at Wembley, losing to Cheltenham Town. The largest number of points the team has accrued is 104 in the 2008-09 season, and the highest total number of goals scored in a season is 89, scored in 40 matches in the 1985–86 season. The team’s biggest ever win was an 8–0 defeat of East Preston in September 2009 and the heaviest defeat was a 7–1 loss to Poole Town in April 1984.
The holder of the record for most appearances for Dover Athletic is Jason Bartlett, who played in 539 matches, and the all-time top goalscorer is Lennie Lee, with 160 goals. The club’s record signing is Dave Leworthy, who joined the club from Farnborough Town in 1993 for £50,000, which at the time was the highest transfer fee ever paid between non-league clubs. The highest confirmed fee received by the club was also £50,000, paid by Brentford in 1997 for Ricky Reina.
Thanks to Groundhopping with Ryan blog for images on this one including this!
Guess the price? He didn’t say but I’m one of those hacked off with the rancid catering at these grounds and the cost. Take note Torquay, charging £2 for a half-time Bovril.
Still ten days to go before this game but already I’m excited at the prospect of seeing our second home win of the season! Come on you Shots!