Chester FC History, Fans, and Leagues
Chester FC History and Highlights.
In its modern-day form, Chester FC is a relatively young club, having only been formed in 2010. However, while this might be the case on paper, its history tells the story of a club whose history has now touched three centuries, two world wars, and one city.
Founded in 1885 and based at Faulkner Street in the Hoole area of Chester, the original Chester FC was the result of the Chester Rovers and the Old King’s Scholars uniting together under one banner. After spending its early years competing in friendly matches, it joined the Combination League in 1890, where it would spend the next eight years and win its first senior trophy — the Cheshire Senior Cup.
Unfortunately, this period was brought to an unexpected end when, after relocating to the Old Showground in Hoole, it was forced to disband when its new ground was sold to new housing development.
Early 20th Century
But, as it would do more than once throughout its history, Chester’s community managed to revive the club and, in 1901, Chester FC was brought back to life when a new home was found on Whipcord Lane.
With a new home and a fresh start in the Combination League, Chester FC began to build itself into a serious competitor and, in 1904, the reborn club managed to finish the season as the league’s runner-up. This was a feat the club would go on to achieve for the next four seasons, with its streak only being broken in 1909 when it finished on top, winning the Combination League for that season. During this period, the club also claimed its first Welsh Cup victory when it defeated Connah’s Quay in 1908.
By this stage, the club had outgrown its home at the Old Showground, which saw it relocate to the celebrated Sealand Road Stadium. This would go on to become Cheshire Football Club’s longest-lasting home, with the club remaining there until 1990.
Following its victory in the Combination League, the Lancashire Combination league elected Chester FC to join. However, its time here only lasted a few short years, with the outbreak of World War I bringing about the second major halt to the club’s play.
At the end of the war, the club community once again came together, and Cheshire Football Club became founding members of the newly-formed Cheshire County League. Here they remained until 1930 and would win league champion in 1922, 1926, and 1927.
By 1930, the club was growing restless and appointed Charlie Hewitt as manager, who conducted a campaign to bring the club up to league status — a campaign that paid off the following year when the Football League elected to replace Nelson with Chester FC.
From here the club only went from strength to strength and, for the entirety of the 1930s, it didn’t finish outside of the top ten in its division. During this decade, it also won its second Welsh Cup, defeating Wrexham in front of its home crowd at Sealand Road in 1933, and defeated Fulham 5-0 in 1936 to win the FA Cup.
Unfortunately, as the 1930s came to an end, World War II broke out, putting an end to this chapter in Chester FC’s history. However, by 1946 the club was, once again, making its comeback, and it managed to take out its third Welsh Cup and finish the 1946-47 season in third place.
But despite the promising start to its post-war comeback, the years that followed proved tough for the club. The club languished for well over a decade in the lower ranks of its division,
No top half placings would be achieved until the lower divisions were merged in 1958, when Chester was placed in Division Four. They would still have to wait another six years until they finished above halfway in a league table until the appointment of Peter Hauser as manager in 1963 started to turn things around.
However, despite the improvement, the preceding years would prove relatively quiet, despite a few notable performances. In particular, the club narrowly missed out on a second FA cup when it was defeated by Manchester United 2-1. This was also the period of the so-called “Famous Five” forward line who, over the course of the 1964/65 season, each scored at least 20 goals to help set Chester’s record of 119 goals in a season.
Eventually, under the leadership of Ken Roberts, Chester Football Club was promoted from Division Four in 1974/75. Here they managed to reach the League Cup Semi-Final against Aston Villa, where they were narrowly defeated 5-4.
The ensuing years saw Chester continue to solidify its position as a competitor in its division, helped in no small part by star striker Ian Rush, who became the club’s highest priced transfer when he moved to Liverpool for £300,000 in 1979.
Following the loss of Rush, Chester FC soon found itself at the bottom of the competition and was relegated in 1982. This was followed by a name change to Chester City the following year.
However, Chester’s time at the bottom wasn’t to last. By 1986, the club was again promoted to Third Division under the leadership of Harry McNally. Several key signings also helped here, with Chester signing players like Milton Graham, John Kelly, and Stuart Rimmer.
Unfortunately, the clubs long-term home at Sealand Road Stadium would come to an end in 1990 when it was sold to new owners, who announced their intentions to turn it into a supermarket. Controversially, after evicting Chester on relatively short notice, the stadium stood dormant for three years until it was finally demolished in 1993.
This came to the frustration of Chester fans who, for the next two years, had to travel to Macclesfield to watch games. However, by 1992, Chester City was back in town when Deva Stadium opened in August.
The move to Deva unfortunately coincided with a relegation, which the club managed to come back from in 1994 under the leadership of Graham Barrow. But this was just the beginning of a pattern that would last for years to come, with a further five-year relegation coming in 1995. The end of the 1990s also saw the beginning of Chester City’s demise as financial problems started to get the better of the club.
With the club placed into administration during the 1998/99 season, American businessman Terry Smith controversially purchased the club and appointed himself as manager. This preceded the club’s eventual relegation to Conference in 2000, despite the late appointment of Ian Atkins as manager.
The following season, Chester once again faced relegation as poor results threatened to send it down to Unibond League. Fortunately, results began to improve when Stephen Vaughan purchased the club from Smith in October 2001.
Over the following years, Chester City would continue its revival and secured its place back in League after dominating the 2003/04 season, where it only lost four out of 42 games. However, despite its building momentum, the club was to meet with further struggles once it was back in League.
After several years of changing managers, the loss of several senior players, and the constant threat of relegation, Chester City was finally placed into administration in the summer of 2009, thus spelling the end of an era.
But the Chester story wasn’t over, and just as they had done following both world wars, Chester’s community rallied together to bring the club back to life. With the initiative of the support group City Fans United, the beloved football club was reborn in May of 2010, this time under its old name, Chester FC.
Starting afresh, Chester came back in eighth-tier Evo-Stik Division One North — a long way from its League glory days. But this only fueled the determination of the players and staff, seeing the team win the league title by a margin of two goals in its first season back.
This set off a series of champion-winning seasons for Chester FC, first with the Evo-Stik Premier in 2011-12, then the Blue Square North title in 2012-13. It also took out the Cheshire Senior Cup that season, making for a remarkable comeback story.
Now promoted back up to Conference Premier, Chester FC started facing stiffer competition, and it narrowly avoided relegation in the 2013-14 season. However, in the following seasons, Chester was able to prove its worth, and it remained here through to the 2017-18 season, when financial problems would again haunt the club.
Of course, the always reliable Chester supporters were there to keep the club alive. After Chester FC revealed that it needed to raise £50,000 just to stay afloat in the short term, supporters rallied to raise funds, with a particularly generous £1,000,000 donation from donor Stuart Murphy ensuring the club would continue for years to come.
Unfortunately, the support came too late to repair the poor 2017-18 performance, and the club found itself back in National League North (formerly Conference North) for the 2018-19 season.
This saw Chester FC once again consolidate itself as a seriously competitive club. Indeed, had it not been for an unfortunate series of injuries and fixture circumstances, it may well have finished the season on top. A similar fate would also meet the club in 2019-20, and it finished the shortened season in the sixth position.
With Covid-19 ending the 2020-19 season short and canceling the 2020-21 season altogether, Chester FC wouldn’t compete again until 2021-22, where it finished in 16th position on the National League North table after winning its final home game of the season against Bradford 4-0.
Now, as it looks to the future, Chester FC has high hopes of building on its solid foundations and history of success. With the support of its fan community and the dedication of its players and staff, who knows what the future holds — perhaps another rise through the divisions? Only the future can tell.