The club was formed well over 150 years ago in 1861, but the first recorded items referring to its existence were dated 1873 at a time when home fixtures were played on a pitch at Netherton Road – the area presently occupied by the Holy Family RC School and the Outwood Portland school. Playing in green and white striped shirts the team was a mixture of professional and amateur players, administered by a 15 strong committee.
In 1886 William Allen of the Worksop and Retford Brewery Company was the President and it was his influence which guided the club, especially through the Great War period. Games were played against teams from the Sheffield area, and with the formation of the Sheffield Association League it became clear that a new ground of a more central situation was a priority.
This was resolved in 1891 when the Lord of the Manor, by this time the Duke of Newcastle, decided to sell the Worksop Manor Estate to Mr John Robinson who later became Sir John of Daybrook and Home Brewery fame. William Allen and his committee intervened and obtained the lease on land in the centre of the town which was bounded by Hardy Street, Allen Street, King Street and the River Ryton.
Known as Bridge Meadow, the ground was enclosed by a wooden fence with the River Ryton as its northern boundary. Football matches were played on the eastern side, the western portion was reserved for cricket and there was also a quarter mile cycle track, which led to Whit Monday becoming Worksop's annual sport day.
In granting a lease to Worksop FC the Duke of Newcastle also gave the club £50 to assist in developing the ground. As a result, the pavilions which had been on Netherton Road were transferred onto the new site to the satisfaction of the committee and they considered the only ground to better it in Nottinghamshire was Trent Bridge itself. Worksop's playing strip was now black and white stripes, while the Queens Head and the old Cattle Market Hotel were used for changing.
The proximity of the River Ryton prompted fears of flooding, but this never happened until 1931, by which time the land between the River Ryton and the Chesterfield Canal had been acquired by William Josiah Moore of the Dragons Brewery, Bridge Street with the help of a sizeable mortgage. However, the ink had hardly dried on the conveyance when Mr Moore died at Carlton-in-Lindrick on 28th February 1891, leaving his widow and teenage son to cope with the mortgage repayments.
Worksop FC's president had built his house at Creswell Holme and his brewery was established on the banks of the Canal, so upon hearing that the Bridge Meadow lease was ending he agreed to purchase the freehold rights of the Moore’s land, exchanging the lease on the neighbouring Allen Street site and guaranteeing to build a wooden bridge that would give access to Central Avenue.
The Moore family continued to lease the old ground for grazing until the housing developers got to work by building the present pattern of streets. Mortgage payments on Central Avenue were taken over by Mr Allen, with a result that the Worksop FC finally had a permanent home, albeit as a tenant, as the owner was now President of Worksop Cricket and Sports Club. The same allocation of use was in operation and the first job for Worksop FC's committee was the building of dressing rooms, which they did in the north-east corner where the Tigers Club, later called the Riverside Pub, stood until 2007. The changing facilities were basic and included a very large communal bath.
Sheffield Association and Midland League football attracted the fans and success in the latter was frequent both before and after the Great War. The 1908 season in the Midland League saw the Club, affectionately known as the Donovans, after the Duke of Portland’s racehorse, drawn away against Chelsea in the FA Cup Sixth Round. Worksop lost, but he gates were closed with 70,184 fans inside the ground – the largest crowd ever to watch Worksop FC.
In 1911 the club celebrated its 50th birthday making the year of foundation 1861. Worksop's 1921-22 season was the most successful since the war and the team included Hodthorpe born goalkeeper, Jack Brown, who became the club’s first England international. Signed from Worksop Wesley in 1919, Brown served Worksop brilliantly until his transfer to Sheffield Wednesday in 1923, after which he played for the English League against the Scottish League at Leicester in March 1927. At Wembley on 2nd April 1927 Brown kept goal for the full England side in a victory against Scotland and a reporter in Athletic News said; "Brown kept a splendid goal and in my opinion is in Sam Hardy's class". In a brief eight year career he had progressed from junior football to international class and always wore a brown jersey.
The 1921 season is also remembered for national recognition and disaster, because Worksop became one of the famous FA Cup minnows by holding Tottenham Hotspur to a 0-0 draw at the Division One side's White Hart Lane ground. The directors held a hasty meeting, and very conscious of the remaining unpaid mortgage and other hefty debts they agreed to reply the match at White Hart Lane and Worksop lost 9-0. It was a decision which knocked the stuffing out of Worksop supporters for decades. All the supporters had expected the replay to take place at Central Avenue and they showed their disappointment by staying away from matches with a result that the clubs debts mounted.
A stand had been built on the Netherholme side of the ground but the roof blew off several times in storms, while the changing rooms became unusable and the teams prepared for matches at several town centre inns, including The King Edward VII, Kings Head and Marquis of Granby. Before and after the Second World War Worksop was run by a committee of the Cricket Club, chaired by George Raynes, but without the help of a most active supporters club could never have continued as a non-league professional club.
In the mid-1960s Worksop won the Midland League and became founder members of the Northern Premier League. Sadly after one season Worksop were relegated back to the Midland League. The arrival of Fred Horne as Chairman in the late 1970s gave a newly re-formed football club some stability again, culminating in re-entry into the Northern Premier League. The highlight of the seventies came when Worksop reached the FA Cup First Round and were drawn away to Barnsley on Saturday 25 November 1978. Although the Tigers lost by a 5-1 margin with the goal being scored by Kevin Woods, other famous names in that game included Alan Clarke (player manager), Peter Springett (goalkeeper), Graham Pugh, John Saunders (later to become Worksop's centre half) and Mick McCarthy the current manager of Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Mr Horne saw the need for permanent headquarters and modern changing rooms, and with three-quarters of the popular stand once again missing it was arranged for these facilities to be built on the halfway line, where it remained until the club left Central Avenue. The derelict changing rooms made way for a Tigers Club, floodlights were acquired for the playing area and a licence to sell drink was obtained, although with conditions typical of similar private clubs in the sporting arena.
In the mid-1980s Worksop managed a couple seventh place finishes in the Northern Premier League before two contrasting seasons brought the decade to a close. 1987/8 saw a best ever 6th place attained, but 1988/89 found the Tigers bottom and relegated to the newly formed Division One. To pile on the agony the club also lost the Central Avenue ground, sold to extend the Shoppers car park. The then Supporters Club, led by Mel Bradley, took over the ailing club and guided it through three difficult seasons, ground-sharing 20 miles away at Gainsborough Trinity. Tommy Spencer came for a second spell as manager and almost, but for the lack of its own ground, guided the club back into the Premier Division at his second attempt.
The club moved to its next home of Sandy Lane in 1992 which was a former sand quarry, landfill site, and Council recreation ground. Because of the site’s history nearly two years of ground work were necessary before the grandstand and clubhouse could be erected and the new pitch laid. The 1990s on the playing front were dominated by one Kenny Clark, top scorer of no less than six seasons, and latterly the arrival of a new management team, Paul Mitchell and Danny Hague, who in 1997/8 regained for the club the Premier Division place lost 10 years earlier.
The very first season back in the top flight brought a best ever runners-up place, while the first season of the new century saw a Quarter-final place in the FA Trophy Cup competition against Forest Green Rovers which the Tigers lost by a 2-1 margin, the goal-scorer being Gary Townsend.
The highlight of the 2002/03 season was Worksop's 2-1 away victory against Chester City in the FA Trophy competition who at the time were lying in second place in the Conference League. Worksop's scorers on that day were Gary Townsend and Gavin Smith with a late winner. In mid April 2003 Paul Mitchell and his assistant Peter Rinkcavage were dismissed after a successful six and a half year spell and the Board appointed new Manager, Steve Ludlam, with whom they put their trust to gain promotion to the Nationwide Conference North League. The Tigers completed the 2002/03 season after winning the Sheffield Senior Cup by a 2-1 margin against Doncaster Rovers at Hillsborough. The scorers were Mark Barnard and Ryan Ludlam, son of manager Steve, who scored a winning penalty just two minutes from time to secure the silverware.
After gaining entry to the Conference North league by virtue of a seventh place finish, financial difficulties off the field forced the club into a Creditors Voluntary Agreement. But despite a 10 point deduction the club just managed to stave off relegation down to the UniBond Premier League. Manager Steve Ludlam left the club and the former Barnsley and Celtic favourite Ronnie Glavin was installed in May 2004 along with his assistant Peter Price. The club reached the quarter finals of the FA Trophy in 2005/06, after victories over Conference opposition in Burton Albion and Accrington Stanley along the way. In September 2006 Ronnie Glavin left the club and caretaker boss Ian Bowling was installed as temporary manager, winning the Manager of the Month award for October 2006. Ex-Chairman Keith Ilett was given the position of Life President of the club after many years involvement. John Hepworth became chairman of the Club.
Unfortunately, after such a promising start to Ian Bowling's tenure, results faded and Worksop were relegated to the Premier Division of the UniBond League at the end of 2006/07. Peter Rinkcavage returned to Worksop in June 2007 (where he has been player, coach and assistant manager in the past) to take the club forward on the playing side. Together with his assistant manager Jason Maybury, Peter managed to achieve a complete turnaround on the field which culminated in an excellent ninth place finish in the league.
At the end of the 2007-08 season, Worksop Town was locked out of its Sandy Lane ground by the leaseholder, who later was to sell the ground to Parramore FC from Sheffield. 2008-09 was spent at Hucknall Town FC and after a difficult first half of the season whilst the club were reeling from losing the ground, manager Peter Rinkcavage turned the fortunes of the club around and results were much improved after the New Year, maintaining the club’s Premier League status.
2009-10 saw the Tigers play their home games at Ilkeston Town which became a turbulent season for the tigers. It started with promise and ended almost in disaster, players coming and going because of financial problems. John Hepworth [chairman] decided that he had done all he could do and handed the club over to Jason Clark.
2010-11 saw Jason at the helm and under his guidance we had a good season, playing at Retford United. He appointed Martin McIntosh as first team manager part way through the season and only just failed to get a playoff place.
2011-12 The Tigers were back in town after three years on the road, back at Sandy Lane, sharing with the new owners Parramore Sports and hoping to do well. A Sheffield Senior Cup victory over Frickley at Hillsborough augured well for the future.
2012-13 brought another new manager in Simon Clark looking to improve on recent performances, but after looking good for a play-off place the team faded away to finish 9th and he departed to be replaced by Mark Shaw for the 2015/15 season who performed miracles on a reduced budget getting the team into the promotion play off places by finishing fourth. A defeat at AFC Fylde saw the hopes fade but just a short time later news broke that club backer Jason Clark was leaving and that the Board had resigned from the Northern Premier League.
In 2014/15 the club dropped to Step 5 to play in Northern Counties East League Premier Division finishing as runners-up to Shaw Lane Aquaforce, their best position until 2018/19. Craig Denton was appointed manager for the 2018/19 and he led Worksop Town to the “double” as the Tigers won the NCEL Premier Division title and the NCEL League Cup finishing the season with 22 straight wins, 18 in the League and 4 in the NCEL Cup setting a new club record for consecutive wins.
Worksop look forward to the 2019/20 season with optimism as they return to the NPL playing in the South-East Division.
(C) Steve Jarvis