Ground Address: The Sports Ground, Maidstone Road, Chatham, Kent ME4 6EJ
To get a route to the ground type your postcode into the box below.
With Association Football having really taken off in the Medway Towns in the years following the Chatham-based Royal Engineers victory in the FA Cup Final of 1875, Chatham were formed in 1882 as Chatham United - when Rochester Invicta merged with the football team of the Royal Engineers Band with the intention of creating a side that was capable of entering the FA Cup, and holding their own with the best in the country. Harry Hobart and Corporal Bob Conquer's plan being to bring together all the best players in the Medway Towns in one representative team. They played their first match on 7th October that year, beating Harley Street FC 4-0. Owing to their strong Army connections, Chatham soon gained a regular home on "The Lines", where they were to remain until 1889 - the beginning of season 1889/90 seeing them move to "Alderman Winch's Enclosed Ground", or as it is now better known, the Maidstone Road Ground.
Having been formed with an eye to competing in the FA Cup, they went on to reach the last nine in 1884/85 - that year's competition having finished up with an odd number of clubs for some reason - and, more famously, the Quarter-Finals in 1888-89, defeating Nottingham Forest after two replays, only to lose to the Cup holders West Bromwich Albion. This game, which was played on "The Lines" where an admission fee could not be charged owing to Army regulations, was instrumental in the decision by the Football Association that all future matches in the competition must be played on fully enclosed grounds, where the visiting club would receive a share of the gate money.
In 1894 Chatham were founder members of both the Southern League and the original Kent League, becoming the first winners of the latter competition. They were also winners of the Kent FA Badge in the three seasons that it was contested, and the first winners of its successor, the Kent Senior Cup, in 1888/89. This game being, incidentally, the first time that they had played at Alderman Winch's ground - following which they approached him with the request to make it their home base. They also became the first club to win the Thames and Medway Combination, the direct predecessor of the present-day Kent League, in 1896/97.
Having been running with a squad of full-time professional players since 1898, Chatham were forced to resign from the Southern League during the 1900/01 season, owing to severe financial difficulties. But they soon rebuilt the club - playing as Chatham Amateurs for a brief spell at the beginning of 1901/02 - going on to win both the Kent League and Thames & Medway Combination in 1903/04 without losing a single match in either competition. They repeated the feat the following season, this time losing just three games, whilst also defeating Sittingbourne 3-1 in the Final of the Kent Senior Cup.
The First World War brought a temporary end to football in the Medway Towns, but Chatham were one of the first clubs locally to return to action in January 1919 - winning both the Kent Victory Cup and the Chatham Charity Cup (for the eighth time) in a shortened season. Instrumental in their success being former England International George Hilsdon, who had played for West Ham United and Chelsea before the war. They briefly rejoined the Southern League in 1920/21, after the formation of a Third Divison for the Football League had taken half its' members, but once again withdrew at the end of the season finding that the increased travel costs were a severe drain on finances with little return.
Chatham once again enjoyed some success in the FA Cup during the 1920s, reaching the Second Round Proper in 1926/27 before losing to Norwich City - who beat them again, this time in the First Round Proper in 1928/29. They also reached the First Round Proper in 1925/26 and 1927/28, losing to Sittingbourne and Kettering Town respectively.
A third spell in the Southern League, starting in 1927/28 almost finished the club. The original plan had been to develop the Maidstone Road Ground up to Football League standard - and to this end they arranged to purchase the entire park from its then owner. The local Council, however, fearful that it was Chatham's intention to sell off some of the land for building to finance their ambitious plans, made a compulsory purchase of what was one of the few remaining open spaces in the town, agreeing to rent back just the pitch itself to the club in future.
This was a serious blow for the club, as they were now paying the market rate for a pitch which they could not sub-let to other teams, whereas the previous owner had let them have the land for free - as a gesture of support - letting them keep all the income of hiring the rest of the land out to other football and cricket clubs. Chatham stuck it out in the Southern League for two seasons this time, but once again the increased expenses - coupled with dwindling attendances, and a income drastically reduced - saw the Chats slide back into the Kent League.
Things were to get progressively worse, and though on the surface the club was doing well - regularly finishing in the top five of Division One - behind the scenes all was not well and 1933/34 saw Chatham take voluntary relegation into Division Two of the Kent League, which they won in 1934/35 without accepting promotion, before opting to revert back to Amateur status. Having played in both Kent League Division Two and the Kent Amateur League Premier Division in 1938/39, they decided to opt for just the latter competion the following season - only to see all football once again suspended with the beginning of World War Two. They played just one game, beating London Paper Mills 2-0 on 26th August - and would not play again until 1946.
During the war years the ground was used by the Council as a Civil Defence Headquarters, and the resulting damage to both playing surface and facilities meant that Chatham were unable to resume playing in 1945/46. After a year's hard work on the ground, however, Chatham won the Premier Division of the Kent Amateur League in 1946/47, which was to be their last honour under that name - having previously dropped the 'United' in 1898. On 7th January 1947 they merged with Strood-based Shorts FC, the combined club taking the name Chatham Town at the request of the local Council, and Shorts' place in Division One of the Kent League for the following season.
The start of the 1947/48 season was particularly notable for the club's adoption of Shorts' old colours of White Shirts and Black Shorts, bringing to an end a period of over 50 years in which the Chats had worn Red and Blue Shirts - perhaps coincidentally these being the Regimental colours of the Royal Engineers. They went back to the old colours briefly during the 1950s, but eventually settled on Gold Shirts and Green Shorts - which remained the club colours until 1974 when they began wearing an all Red strip, eventually settling on the current Red and Black.
Chatham Town remained in the Kent League until it disbanded in 1959, having regularly finished near the bottom of the Division throughout the '50s as financial problems again dogged the club, whereupon they moved to the newly formed Aetolian League. During this latter period, under the managership of former Arsenal player Don Rossiter and then Ernie Morgan ex of Gillingham, they appeared in the Aetolian League Cup Final in each of the five seasons it was contested, though winning only once in 1962/63. The following year they finally captured the League Championship, as well as the joint Aetolian/London League Cup and then, when the Aetolian League formally merged with the London League, they moved to the Metropolitan League in 1964/65 - having lost out on a promised place back in the Southern League, to the better-supported Wimbledon.
Despite playing against strong Non-League opponents, as well as sides from Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United, they saw attendances in the Metropolitan League plummet from an average of 500 to barely 150 and this, combined with growing dissatisfaction at the way the League was being run, meant they lost no time in returning to the reformed Kent League in 1968. Up until their return to the Southern League in 1983, they had won the Kent League on four further occasions, completing the League and Cup "double" in both 1971/72 and 1977/78.
For a brief period during the seventies the club changed their name to Medway FC, again at the insistence of the local Council - following local government reorganisation - but happily reverted back to Chatham Town in 1979. In 1980 they achieved their biggest post-war success to date in winning the Eastern Professional Floodlight League, playing against some of the strongest Non League clubs of the day, including Maidstone United, and defeating Chelmsford City in the Final over two legs. A fitting revenge, perhaps, against the club who had them thrown out of the Final of the Metropolitan League Professional Cup in 1968, on a technicality, having been defeated 1-0 by Chatham in the Semi-Finals.
In 1983, after several attempts, Chatham finally returned to the Southern League for the fourth time, this time staying there until 1988, when having failed to gain re-election they were relegated back to the Kent League - once again in severe financial difficulties, with crowds often in double figures against many poorly supported clubs, as opposed to the much healthier attendances they had been enjoying in the Kent League against more local opposition.
After struggling during their first couple of seasons back in the Kent League, the real turnabout in the clubs' fortunes came with the appointment of popular former player John Adams - who had played in both Aetolian and Kent League winning sides for Chatham - as First Team manager. However, despite reaching the Third Qualifying Round of the FA Cup in 1993/94, taking the club to the Final of the Kent Senior Trophy in 1995/96 and finishing in the top three of the Kent League for three successive seasons, he was controversially dismissed by the club following a disastrous start to the 1996/97 season.
1997/98 was to prove one of the most difficult seasons in the club's history. Problems with a new drainage system meant that only a handful of games couild be played at Maidstone Road - which led to a brief return to their "spiritual home" on the Lines, courtesy of the Royal Engineers, as well as a brief groundshare with Gillingham at Priestfield Stadium for floodlit midweek matches. The club returned home for the 1998/99 season under new manager Carl Laraman, fortunes improving immediately before in January he left to take up a full-time coaching position at Charlton Athletic. His assistant, Steve Hearn, was appointed player-manager - and finally led the club to the coveted Kent League Championship, and promotion to the Dr. Martens League, in 2000/01.
Chatham enjoyed a successful start to their first season back at this level, but a poor run of results at the end of the season led to Steve Hearn's resignation - and the appointment of his assistant Peter Coupland as his successor. After a bad start to the 2003/04 season, Coupland was dismissed and Clive Walker appointed in his place. Again, things improved dramatically under Clive, and a season that had looked certain to end in relegation, ended instead with Chatham in a comfortable mid-table position.
The 2004/05 season saw the League's restructure, with Chatham frustrated at being placed in the newly formed Southern League Eastern Division while most of their neighbours had moved over to the Ryman League. The campaign got off to a promising start, with Chatham sitting as high as fourth in early October, however a poor run of results coupled with Clive Walker's decision to return to his old club Dover Athletic, saw the Chats slip to 16th. Things took a turn for the better towards the tail-end of the season - Steve Binks was appointed manager, and results on the field improved. Chatham finished the season in 11th place, and were Kent's highest placed club.
Binks was forced to step-down from the post for personal reasons at the end of the season, and 2006/07 saw his assistant Phil Miles - another popular former player - move up to take over as Manager for the club's first season in Division One South of the Ryman League, following yet another Pyramid reshuffle. After a promising start, however, results again went against the club for much of the season before a strong finish saw them comfortably avoid any threat of relegation.
2007/08 saw Miles starting his second full season in charge, having retained most of the squad that finished the previous campaign, along with a number of new signings who it was hoped would see the club competing for a place in the Play-Offs. Unfortunately, things did not go to plan - due in part to a rash of injuries and suspensions - and at the beginning of December Miles resigned from the post, stating that he could no longer devote the time necessary to the club owing to new job commitments. No hesitation was shown in reappointing Steve Binks to the role, and this - combined with the club's strong Youth section running from Under-11s through to Under-18s - will hopefully see Chatham Town in a much stronger position to compete for honours in Division One North in 2008/09.
FIRST TEAM HONOURS
Kent League Champions (10)...1894/95, 1903/04, 1904/05, 1924/25, 1926/271971/72, 1973/74, 1976/77, 1979/80, 2000/01
Kent League Runners-Up (7)...1902/03, 1923/24, 1925/26, 1970/71, 1974/75, 1980/81, 1994/95
Kent League - Division Two Champions (1)...1934/35
Kent League Cup Winners (2)...1971/72, 1976/77
Kent League Cup Runners-Up (3)...1969/70, 1973/74, 1979/80
Kent League 'Harry March Trophy' Winners (2)... 1974/75, 1977/78
Kent League Challenge Shield Winners (1)...2001/02
Kent Amateur League Champions (1)...1946/47
Aetolian League Champions (1)...1963/64
Aetolian League Runners-Up (1)...1962/63
Aetolian League Cup Winners (1)...1962/63
Aetolian League Cup Runners-Up (4)...1959/60, 1960/61, 1961/62, 1963/64
Aetolian/London League Cup Winners (1)...1963/64
Aetolian League Benevolent Cup Winners (1)...1963/64
Aetolian League 'Rowland Taylor Cup' Winners (1)...1964/65
Thames and Medway Combination Champions (5)...1896/97, 1903/04, 1904/05, 1919/20, 1923/24
Kent Badge Winners (3)...1885/86, 1886/87, 1887/88
Kent Senior Cup Winners (5)...1888/89, 1894/95, 1904/05, 1910/11, 1918/19
Kent Senior Cup Runners-Up (3)...1892/93, 1909/10, 1911/12
Kent Senior Trophy Runners-Up (2)...1995/96, 1999/2000
Kent Senior Shield Winners (1)...1919/20
Chatham & District Charity Cup Winners (10)...1891/92, 1894/95, 1898/99, 1902/03, 1904/05, 1910/11, 1913/14, 1918/19, 1920/21, 1926/27
Chatham & District Charity Cup Runners-Up (5)...1912/13, 1922/23, 1923/24, 1924/25, 1925/26
Eastern Professional Floodlight Cup Winners (1)...1980/81
UK Insulations Supplies Charity Cup (1)...1999/2000
FA Cup Quarter Finalists (1)...1888/89