Brierley Hill Alliance
I've started this article with this team, defunct since 1981, because they were the first team that I ever saw live.My memory of the match is extremely hazy - I was 3 or maybe 4 at the time - but I do remember that the occasion was Brierley Hill Alliance v Kidderminster Harriers, it was around 1968 or 1969, Kidderminster played in all red, Brierley Hill in all green (I think). The ground at Cottage Street is now a supermarket, but to a small boy like me it was huge and, from memory, almost entirely consisting of rusting corrugated iron sheets.
The club was formed in 1887 after two local sides, Brockmoor Harriers and Brockmoor Pickwicks, merged and apparently, the ground at which I remember seeing them play had been home to the team since 1888-89, which may explain the vast expanses of rusty ironwork. The spent the last 4 years of their existence playing at the Dell Stadium, a short distance from Brierley Hill town centre and, actually, much closer to their original base in Brockmoor.
The clubs' heyday was probably in the 1950's and early 60's when they were recognised as one of the strongest non-league sides in the region, won the Birmingham Senior Cup twice and progressed to the 2nd Round of the 1961-62 FA Cup, eventually going down 3-0 at Shrewsbury Town. During this period the club also made a piece of history when they were involved in the first FA Cup match to be played under floodlights, a 4-2 replay defeat at Kidderminster Harriers.
The demise of Northampton Spencer in 2016 was, personally, a sad occasion. I only visited the Kingsthorpe Mill ground once, but I found it to be a wonderful setting for non-league football and I immediately took a great liking to the club.
Formed in 1936 by former members of the Spencer School football team, they took the name Spencer School Old Boys, they joined the United Counties League in 1968 and immediately gained promotion to the Premier Division and moving into Kingsthorpe Mill in 1971. I think it is fair to say that the club never set the footballing world alight with just a single United Counties Premier League title (1991-92) to their name. Although they did finish as runners-up the following season as well as in the 1997-98 season. The never made it out of FA Cup qualifying but did achieve the Fourth Round of the FA Vase in 1987-88, playing eight games before falling 2-1 at Gresley Rovers.
Unfortunately, when long-time Chairman Graham Wrighting decided to call it a day, there was no-one to fill his shoes and the club folded at the end of the 2015-16 season. I am just glad that I managed to see one of their games before it was too late.
As a former West Bromwich Albion season ticket holder, Hayes FC is a name that I immediately associate with Cyrille Regis, one of The Baggies all time favourites. For it was the West London club that West Brom purchased the striker from in 1977. Probably the best £10,000 that the club ever spent. Of course, the club was later to sign Cyrille's nephew Jason Roberts, who also started his career at Hayes.The club was formed in then early part of the 20th Century as Bolwell Mission, changing to Hayes 20 years later in 1929 nut retaining the nickname The Missioners for their entire existence. Over the years the club achieved a fair amount of success in the non-league/amateur world, twice reaching the Second Round of the FA Cup, reaching the Quarter-Final of the FA Trophy and being beaten finalists in the 1930-31 FA Amateur Cup (the forerunner of the FA Vase).
After three seasons in the Conference South (now National League South) the club merged with another Conference South side, Yeading FC, to form Hayes & Yeading United, now playing in the Southern League Premier Division after being promoted from Step 4 in 2018-19.
I have included this club in the article purely because, until a few weeks ago, I had never heard the name before and it intrigued me enough to look into them origins of the club. The club was actually formed in 1898 as, as with a lot of early football teams, were a works team, in this case the works team of a company called Laurence, Scott and Electromotors based in Norwich. The company, which got itself off the ground by installing the lighting for the fledgling Colman's Mustard Carrow Works, soon built a new HQ, close to Colman's and was later to become Norwich City's home in Carrow Road. The new factory was called the Gothic Works, hence the name given to the football team. The team had some success in local football, winning the Norfolk & Suffolk League on seven occasions as well as taking the Norfolk Senior Cup three times. They joined the Eastern Counties League in 1963 but never lost their amateur status, which meant that they found it difficult to retain their better players. They almost went out of business at the end of the 1974-75 season but were saved by some local fund-raising. The stay of execution, however, was quite short-lived and at the end of the 1977-78 season the club withdrew from the Eastern Counties League with the intention of continuing lower down the pyramid in the Anglian Combination. This, due to some player restrictions placed on the club was not possible, and they had to drop even lower down, eventually folding after a few more season.The club's Heartsease Lane ground was adopted by Norwich United in 1985 before the Planters moved into the current Plantation Park home.
From humble beginnings to the fringe of the Football League. Bromsgrove Rovers almost had a Roy of the Rovers outcome before their untimely demise in 2010. The club was formed way back in 1885, playing local football in the Studley & District League. They steadily climbed up the pyramid over the next hundred years, finally making the dizzy heights of the Football Conference (National League) at the end of the 1991-92 season. What followed, in that remarkable year, was almost the greatest story ever told in non-league football. Rovers were one of the smallest teams, with one of the smallest budgets in the league but still managed to finish in second place. In truth they weren't as close to a Football League place as it may seem, trailing Champions Wycombe Wanderers by 15 points, but nevertheless it was a unbelievable achievement for the club. Sadly, that was as good as it got and four season later they finished second from bottom and were relegated back to the Southern League. The decline continued with two more relegation in three years, seeing the cub drop into the Midland Alliance. A brief resurgence, with promotion the following season and then again, to the Southern Premier in 2007-09, was swiftly followed by another drop into Step 4 and then, 2 years and a whole heap of financial problems later, the club were thrown out of the Southern League and wound up. A sad end to a club which almost achieved greatness.
On the plus side a new club, Bromsgrove Sporting, has grown out of the ashes of Rovers, inheriting the magnificent Victoria Ground and sporting Rovers' green as their change kit. Sporting have made their way up the league and, at the time of writing, are holding their own in Step 3, a league higher than Rovers were in when they folded. Hopefully, the current administration has learned from the harsh lesson suffered by Rovers.