Eastbourne United Association F.C.
|Full name||Eastbourne United Association Football Club|
|Ground||The Oval, Eastbourne|
|League||Southern Combination Premier Division|
|2015–16||Southern Combination Premier Division, 10th|
Eastbourne United Association Football Club is a football club based in Eastbourne, England. They were formed in 2003 after a merger between Eastbourne United and Shinewater Association. In 2009 they were the Sussex County League champions for the first time in 53 years, 18 years after leaving the Isthmian League. They are currently members of the Southern Combination Premier Division.
Eastbourne United AFC's roots can be traced back to 1894, when the club was founded as the 1st Sussex Royal Engineers FC. In this early period the club played nearby to where the Saffrons (home of Eastbourne Town) now stands, and at the South Lynn ground in Tutts Barn Road, the site of their ground at this time is now covered by the St. Thomas a Beckett RC Primary School. The club then changed ground again in 1901 when Eastbourne Council gave the club permission to use Gildredge Park. The club then changed its name in 1913 to 1st Home Counties Royal Engineers (Eastbourne) FC to reflect a merger between the RA Volunteers with the Territorial Army.
After the War the club continued to play at Gildredge park and in 1920 the club name was changed to Eastbourne Royal Engineers Old Comrades as the Volunteers disbanded due to the end of the war. During their first season as Eastbourne Royal Engineers Old Comrades the club got to the final of the East Sussex Cup beating the Royal Corps of Signals, the game however may be notable as the first ever outside broadcast of a sporting event in England as the Signals brought wireless equipment with them to send match reports back to their camp in Maresfield. The club joined the Sussex County League in 1921 and made a permanent move from Gildredge Park to their Lynchmere ground. In 1922 they changed their name again when ties with the Royal Engineers were broken and dropped the "Royal Engineers" part of the name, Eastbourne Old Comrades FC and started wearing the white and black stripes on their shirts. At the end of the 1927–28 season they broke away from the Sussex County League and joined the Spartan League, shortening their name to Eastbourne Comrades FC. They left the Sparten league at the end of the 1931–32 season and re-joined the Sussex County League in 1935. After the end of the Second World War they rejoined the Sussex County League for the 1946–47 season. During this period, the club experienced difficult times. They moved to their current home, The Oval, after losing their Lynchmere Ground to development and could only manage mediocre league results. In 1951 the name was changed for a sixth time to Eastbourne United.
Metropolitan and Athenian Leagues
The club’s fortunes changed with the new name and a new coach, George Smith, and between 1953 and 1956 they were twice County League champions, and runners-up once. That success saw them move into the Metropolitan & District League in 1956 (subsequently the Metropolitan League), and in 1964 United joined Division Two of the Athenian League, winning the championship in 1966–67.
Two seasons later, another promotion followed (as runners-up) and United were promoted to the Premier Division. After just one season though, they were relegated back to Division One. However, in 1973/74 the League was re-organised and the Premier Division scrapped.
In 1975 United were relegated to Division Two, and when the Athenian League was disbanded in 1977, joined Division Two of the Isthmian League, and subsequently Division Two (South) following reorganisation in 1984. When further changes to the Isthmian structure were made in 1991, United found themselves in the new Division Three and after one season, opted to rejoin the County League.
Sussex County League
Placed in Division Two of the County League they struggled initially and in 1996 came perilously close to dropping down into intermediate football after finishing bottom. They recovered however, and within two years had won promotion to Division One as runners-up to East Preston. In 2001–02 however, United were relegated once more.
The decision was made to amalgamate with fellow Division Two club Shinewater Association FC at the end of the 2002–03 season. A terrible playing surface at Shine’s ground in Shinewater Lane, and failure to gain permission to erect the floodlights necessary to advance any further, made it difficult to attract players of sufficient quality in a town where they were already at a premium. In addition, the ground was subject to constant vandalism.
Under the leadership of former Shinewater manager Dave Shearing, the new club won promotion back to Division One at the first attempt after finishing third behind champions Littlehampton Town, and runners-up Worthing United. That progression was maintained in 2004–05 with another excellent campaign and 5th place in the top flight of the County League. With constant rumours of disquiet off the pitch in the local media, Shearing resigned at the end of the 2005–06 season to take a break from football (he subsequently joined Bexhill United), with the Club in 14th position. He was succeeded by former Hailsham Town boss Brian Dennis.
Dennis brought success to Eastbourne United at the end of the 2008–09 season when they lifted the RUR cup for the first time since 1956 and also reached the top of the table, but the Sussex FA had spotted that Chichester City had fielded a banned player in their squad and were deducted points, the Sussex FA had talks whether to award points to sides who have played against a team fielding an ineligible player, which would mean Horsham YMCA would be promoted. However the Sussex FA declared that no points were to be given back and United were the Sussex County League champions, for the first time since 1956 giving Eastbourne United the double.
After the end of the 2009–10 season, the Eastbourne United AFC committee took the decision to focus all their efforts on the proposed redevelopment of The Oval, which meant the playing budget was cut and as a result the majority of the first team squad left. Brian Dennis left his role as manager in October 2010 and was replaced by then Reserve Team manager Paul Daubeney. Daubeney couldn't save United from relegation to Division Two however as the club was only able to muster 10 points from their 38 league games. The club remained in Division Two of the Sussex County League Until the 2013/14 Season, when under new manager Simon Rowland they were promoted as champions to Sussex County League Division one. During the 2013/14 promotion season, Rowland's men also had a long FA Vase run, ending only in defeat at the semi final stage, Losing 2-4 to Sholing FC.
The club have played at the Oval on Channel View Road since 1946. The area was originally known as the Gilbert Recreation Ground, which was owned by the local council, who invited Eastbourne Old Comrades to play there after their original home at Lynchmere was sold for development. The council at the time were developing it into a sports arena with an athletics track and a grass cycle track surrounding the grass pitch. Plans were made in 1951 to build a stand and a terrace, which was opened in September 1955 when Eastbourne United hosted a game against Queens Park Rangers.
Floodlights were first installed in 1958 and inaugurated with a match versus Eastbourne F.C. in front of a gate of 4,100. More floodlights were supplemented in 1966 when Eastbourne United were playing in the Athenian League; these were installed at a cost of £5,500 and were officially turned on 25 October 1967 with a friendly game with West Ham United. A third set of floodlights was officially opened on 18 February 1980 by former manager Ron Greenwood with another friendly game with Millwall.
The great storm in 1987 destroyed one of the covered terraces; this was not repaired as the council's insurance did not cover storm damage. The local athletics club left the site in 2003 to a new facility to the north of the town. Today the perimeter fencing now surrounds the pitch; this was bought from nearby Eastbourne Borough's ground at Priory Lane when they improved their facilities. The new fencing has allowed spectators to watch the game nearer to the pitch than they used to. The ground has had a £100,000 investment over the 2011–12 season, to bring it up to Sussex County League standards and is now equipped with new perimeter fencing, concrete walkways and a 113-seater stand. The new improved ground was officially opened with a friendly game against Brighton & Hove Albion on 25 July 2012.
- Sussex County League Division One:
- Champions (3): 1954–55, 1955–56, 2008–09
- Runners-up (3): 1922–23, 1926–27, 1953–54
- Sussex County League Division Two:
- Champions (1): 2013-14
- Runners-up (1): 1997–98
- Sussex County League Division Three:
- Runners-up (1): 1996–97†
- Athenian League Division One:
- Runners-up (1): 1968–69
- Athenian League Division Two:
- Champions (1): 1966–67
- East Sussex League:
- Champions (3): 1920–21, 1991–92†, 1996–97†
- Brighton League:
- Champions (1): 1932–33
- Sussex Senior Challenge Cup:
- Winners (6): 1959–60, 1962–63, 1963–64, 1965–66, 1966–67, 1968–69
- Runners-up (6): 1929–30, 1955–56, 1956–57, 1961–62, 1970–71, 1989–90
- The Sussex Royal Ulster Rifles Charity Cup:
- Winners (2): 1955–56, 2008–09
- Runners-up (1): 1954–55
- The John O'Hara League Challenge Cup:
- Winners (1): 1950–51
- Runners-up (1): 1951–52
- Sussex Intermediate Cup:
- Winners (3): 1965–66, 1968–69, 1995–96†
- Metropolitan League Cup:
- Winners (1): 1959–60
- Metropolitan League Amateur Cup :
- Winners (1): 1960–61
- Sussex County League Division Three Cup :
- Winners (1): 1995–96†
- Runners-up (1): 1996–97†
- East Sussex Cup :
- Winners (2): 1920–21, 1937–38
- Sussex Royal Engineers Challenge Shield :
- Winners (3): 1901–02, 1903–04, 1905–06
- Eastbourne Charity Cup :
- Winners (12): 1931–32, 1937–38, 1939–40, 1966–67, 1967–68, 1971–72, 1973–74, 1978–79, 1982–83, 1983–84, 1984–85, 1997–98†
- Newhaven Charity Cup :
- Winners (1): 1951–52
- Bognor Charity Cup :
- Winners (1): 1925–26
- Bexhill Charity Cup :
- Winners (1): 1920–21
- Hastings Charity Cup :
- Winners (2): 1927–28, 1931–32
- Baldwin Cup :
- Winners (1): 1950/51
- Borough Centeanery Cup :
- Winners (1): 1985–86
- Seaford Centenary Cup :
- Winners (1): 1991–92†
- College Cup :
- Winners (4): 1953–54, 1954–55, 1955–56, 1959–60
- Eastbourne Challenge Cup :
- Winners (8): 1964–65, 1991–92†, 1993–94†, 1994–95†, 1996–97†, 1997–98†, 2010–11, 2011–12
† Shinewater Association F.C. Honour
- Highest League Position: 4th in Isthmian League Division Two 1979–80
- F.A Cup best Performance: Fourth qualifying round 1966–67, 1978–79
- F.A. Vase best performance: Semi-final 2013–14
- Highest Attendance: 6,600 vs Eastbourne 7 May 1956
- Record Win: 15–0 vs Southdown Athletic 13 September 1933
- Record Appearances: 367 – Reg Pope 1953–1965
- Record Goal Scorer: 168 – Tom Barrow 1925–1938
- Most Goal in a season: 63 – John Pooley 1955–56
Notable former players
- Players that have played/managed in the football league or any foreign equivalent to this level (i.e. fully professional league).
- Players with full international caps.
- Jack Mansell
Notable former coaches
- Managers/Coaches that have played/managed in the football league or any foreign equivalent to this level (i.e. fully professional league).
- Managers/Coaches with full international caps.
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- "Club - History". Crawley Down Gatwick FC. Retrieved 26 October 2012.
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