THIS IS the third Romford Football Club, both their predecessors having competed at some point in the Southern League, and each time having been defunct for fourteen years before the name was revived.
All three versions have had their moments, although the present model has yet to emulate previous achievements on the national stage.
The original club was founded in 1876 and reached the last six of the F A Cup in 1880-81, then in 1884-85 visited a Blackburn Rovers side on their way to completing a hat-trick of F A Cup wins. The Club joined the Southern League in 1909 but failed to complete their fixtures in their first season, and after an internal dispute which saw a breakaway club formed and a change of name to Romford Town, folded during the First World War.
For a while there was no senior football at all in Romford, but the situation was addressed in 1929 when local figure Tom Macpherson, later to become M P for the area and subsequently Lord Macpherson, took charge of re-forming the Club after a public meeting at the Corn Exchange, which was so well attended that the crowd spilled on to the street outside, to the annoyance of the police. The meeting was advertised by a poster proclaiming a match between Romford and Aston Villa, revealed to be hypothetical in the small print. The new Club moved into the local Brooklands stadium, which was bought by the Club when it became a limited company in the mid-1930s, possibly the first Amateur club to do so. After two seasons in the London League, Romford joined the Athenian League in 1931, and between 1935 and 1938 won two championships and twice reached the semi-finals of the F A Amateur Cup.
After the Second World War the Club, who had acquired the nickname Boro after the Borough of Romford, was created in 1937, competed in the Isthmian League and finished third in each of their first two seasons. The highlight of this era was reaching the Final of the F A Amateur Cup in 1949, losing 1-0 to Bromley in front of 95 000 spectators in the first Final to be held at Wembley. However fortunes then plummeted and after finishing in the bottom three five times in a row, Romford took the bold move of turning professional and joining the Southern League in 1959
Promotion was achieved at the first attempt and, after a near miss in 1963-64 when Boro finished fifth after remaining unbeaten until the New Year, the enormous Championship shield came to Brooklands in 1967. Romford were perennial (and unsuccessful) applicants for membership of the Football League but, apart from third place in 1970-71, never looked like repeating their title success and eventually were relegated in 1975.
Boro’s failure to make it into the Football League had left huge debts, but only when the ground was sold did the extent of the Clubs problems come to light. 90% of the proceeds of the sale of Brooklands were eaten up in debt repayments and tax, leaving barely £60 000 to finance a new stadium, and the 1977-78 season was spent playing home matches at borrowed grounds - indeed the last match, at home to Folkestone & Shepway, was eventually played at Folkestone with Boro only able to field ten players including the manager. Romford Football Club closed down in 1978 and the site of the unfinished stadium in Oldchurch Park became Romford Ice Rink.
Appropriately, it was at the Ice Rink that the first meeting took place in February 1992 to gauge interest in reviving the Club. Over 150 people attended to hear the ideas of Dave Howie, and very soon the Club was formed, a ground-share arranged with Hornchurch and senior status granted from the Essex F A. To have achieved so much so soon owed much to what had gone before, and in view of the importance and significance of such a heritage to the success of the new club, it was inevitable that it would adopt the traditional blue and gold colours and Boro nickname, despite the local council having since become the London Borough of Havering.
The Club took their place in the Essex Senior League and with Lyndon Lynch at the helm, finished in ninth place. This was followed by fourth place in 1993-94 and third the season after. The highlight of this third season was the Clubs first entry into the F A Cup, when Boro made national headlines by beating Grays Athletic and Hayes, and almost took St Albans City to a replay before going down 1-0 at Clarence Park in a match that was featured on Grandstand.
The summer of 1995 was all change, as Dave Howie stepped down and Lyndon Lynch chose to move on. With an almost entirely new committee and considerably improved financial backing, Boro started again from scratch, moving in with Essex Senior League rivals Ford United and appointing as joint managers the local dream ticket of Donal McGovern and Alan Marson, a partnership with a quite phenomenal record at this level and higher. They brought several of the squad with whom they had won the previous seasons Isthmian League Division Three championship at Collier Row, and proceeded to win the Essex Senior League with a record total of 91 goals from just 28 games. This was accompanied by success in the League Cup, beating Southend Manor 2-0 in the Final at Burnham Ramblers F C, and another run to the Third Qualifying Round of the F A Cup, again losing at St Albans by 3-1 after leading at half-time.
There was another period of upheaval for Romford in 1996, as the agreement with Ford was terminated and Boro finished the season sharing with Collier Row at Sungate. A merger was arranged between the two clubs and the new club, known as Collier Row & Romford, took Rows place in Division Two of the Isthmian League. A run to the last sixteen of the F A Vase contributed to a fixture backlog that meant Boro fell so far behind that they had to play exactly half their league fixtures in March and April. However promotion was secured with three games to play and Boro overtook Leatherhead at the top of the table for the first time going into the final match, where a 3-0 win at home to Hungerford Town brought the championship to Sungate. Boro finished the League season unbeaten away from home, went 29 games without defeat and lost only twice.
With McGovern and Marson moving on, former reserve team manager Les Whitton was promoted to become first team manager in the summer of 1997. The Club reverted to its original title and the following season the name of Romford appeared in the Fourth Qualifying Round of the F A Cup for the first time since 1975-76. Boro also reached the quarter-finals of the League Cup and won the East Anglian Cup, recovering from 2-0 down to beat Aveley 3-2 at Sungate in the Final. Boro finished seventh in Division One, top scorers with 92 goals.
The tail end of the season had been largely overshadowed by concern over the Clubs future, and the eventual defeat of a takeover bid resulted in the departure of several Club personnel and the entire first team management, leaving a committee almost entirely hand-picked from the terraces, while Dave Howie returned after three years away. Reserve team manager Steve Wheeler took over the first team and managed to keep the side in the top half of the table on a reduced budget, but at the end of January chairman John Goodwin left to take over at Bishops Stortford, taking Wheeler and several players with him.
First team coach Amin Levitt was immediately appointed manager, and plenty of fresh blood was quickly recruited with reserve and youth team players also being promoted. The response was magnificent and the team remained unbeaten in the league for several weeks, however just when things were settling down again another bombshell came when the Sungate ground was closed by the League, due to the deterioration of the pitch and other facilities. Romford’s last six home games had to be played at other grounds, including Chesham and Hendon, and even had to play three nights running in the final week of the season as Boro finished a creditable tenth. Some consolation was found in the reserve and youth sides, the latter making Romford the only non-League club to reach the Third Round proper of the F A Youth Cup. The Club also won the Umbro Fair Play Award for Division One.
Following a number of delays, Sungate B grading was finally re-instated on the opening day of the 1999-2000 season. The return to Sungate had a profound effect on the team as they won ten of their next thirteen games and reached the Fourth Qualifying Round of the F A Cup, a 6-0 win over Congleton Town earning Non-League Team of the Week honours in The Sun. However the Club soon found itself fighting relegation and Sungate went through another period of closure while urgent electrical work was carried out, requiring another three games to be played elsewhere. The relegation threat was finally put to rest with three matches remaining, and Boro were more than happy with a final position of nineteenth.
Still the summer was not without its problems as the clubhouse suffered major fire damage, and complications arising from that and the subsequent delay to the completion of other rebuilding works prevented any matches from taking place at Sungate for a long time. The constant uncertainty finally took its toll and Amin Levitt resigned in October to be replaced by John Bennett, but after a brief revival came a further shock in December as Boro were suspended by the Ryman League with no return to Sungate in sight - Bennett left and Romford were left with no option but to release the entire first team squad.
The Club were finally able to return to Sungate in mid-January, and former reserve team manager Paul Withey was appointed to the first team. Early results were encouraging as the side posted three wins in four games, but as the fixture backlog increased with the continued wet weather the task of keeping the Club in Division One proved to be beyond everybody, with Boro having to play eighteen games in the final 33 days of the season.
Sadly, despite an injection of fresh blood the poor run of form continued into the 2001-02 season and Withey was replaced as manager by Paul Joynes at the end of August. Although performances improved considerably, Boro still finished the season well adrift at the bottom of Division Two. Meanwhile several issues at Sungate were never satisfactorily resolved and the Club moved out mid-season, once again playing out the season on borrowed grounds and reluctantly forwarding its resignation from the Ryman League.
A return to familiar territory in the Essex Senior League and back at Rush Green Road saw a strong recovery after the struggles of recent years, and Boro stayed on the edge of the leading pack all season, finishing fifth with a late-season run of form breaking several Club records.
Paul Joynes took up an offer to return to the Ryman League with Tilbury and popular former Boro player Mark Reed stepped in to replace him, emulating the previous season’s fifth-place finish after leading the table for two months, reaching the semi-final of the Essex Thames-side Trophy and adding the Gordon Brasted Memorial Trophy. In season 2006-07 Mark Reed lead us to our best season since rejoining the Essex Senior League as we finished runner-up to Brentwood Town, Boro were also runners up to the same team in the League Cup when we lost on penalties. Then during the 2007-08 season Mark Reed stepped down for personal reasons and the then reserve team manager, Paul Martin was promoted to the job with Mark Lord as his assistant. Romford moved up the table to finish in 5th place. The following season Romford had to leave Rush Green when Fords sold the ground to West Ham United. A ground share agreement was drawn up with Aveley FC and Romford were able to carry on. In Paul’s first full season in charge Romford took the Essex Senior League by storm, winning the title with 71 points and losing just one game, and with it promotion to the Ryman League Division 1 North.
With consolidation and avoiding the drop straight back to the Essex Senior a priority Boro got off to a good start, winning two of their opening four games. Then a lean spell came along when they found points hard to come by. Some changes to the playing staff saw a revival in fortunes and the team rose to finish in 13th place with 15 wins under their belt. Kurt Smith finished top goal scorer with 15 goals. So a satisfactory first season for Paul Martin and his squad.
The start of the 2010-11 season saw Romford get off to a flying start in the league and also added good runs in both national cup competitions. They stayed in the first five positions up until the freeze during that year’s cold snap. When the grounds thawed out it seemed lady luck had departed for pastures new. Despite the odd good performance Romford slowly dropped down the table to finish 12th. A one place improvement on the previous season.