BRACKLEY TOWN – HISTORY
Brackley is a small but growing Northamptonshire market town of around 15000 inhabitants situated between Northampton, Milton Keynes and Oxford. The nearest point of reference for most people would be the Silverstone motor racing circuit and Formula One has a big presence in the town as base for the world champion Mercedes team.
THE EARLY YEARS
The first records of Brackley Town Football Club can be traced back to 1890 and around the turn of the century they were a prominent side in the South Northants / North Oxfordshire area. At one time the name of Tottenham Hotspur appeared on the fixture list, London being a short journey away on the newly opened Great Central Railway.
The Club then slipped into relative obscurity, competing mainly at a very junior level. Most of the time before the war was spent in the Oxfordshire League, games being played in Manor Road, before they transferred to the North Bucks League in the post-war years. Here they stayed until 1968 when they took what appeared to be a step down the ladder by joining the Banbury & District League. During this time they had moved their ground to the Buckingham Road with the changing facilities and headquarters situated in The Plough public house.
THE MOVE TO ST JAMES PARK
In 1974 they moved back to the North Bucks League and this coincided with a move to the current St James Park ground. A small clubhouse and changing rooms were built and within 3 years the major step up into the Hellenic League was made. They stayed in Division One until 1983, winning the Knock-Out Cup in their final season before moving into the United Counties League, winning the Division One title at the first attempt and gaining promotion into the Premier Division.
After finishing in the bottom half of the league for the first few seasons, they then experienced their most successful season ever in 1988/89 finishing as runners up and also reaching the final of the Northamptonshire Senior Cup. On the way to the final they had beaten Conference side Kettering Town under the newly erected floodlights.
After this success the side then broke up and there followed several years of real struggle around the foot of the table with even the very survival of the club in doubt. The 1992/93 season ended with the ignominious distinction of having the worst playing record of any senior side in the country. It was only the fact that others did not have the required facilities for promotion that they were spared relegation.
Drastic action was needed and accordingly the club was restructured and became a limited company. In 1994 they moved back across the pyramid into the Hellenic League and, after a mediocre first season, things improved dramatically during the 1995/96 campaign.
Phil Lines, who had been manager of the successful side in the late ‘eighties, took charge again and a runners-up position was achieved in his first season. 1996/97 saw them go one better and win the Premier Division title. Minor miracles were then performed in order to make the ground suitable for elevation into Southern League.
The nucleus of the title-winning side together with some astute signings saw the side finish a respectable 13th in the Midland Division at the first attempt. The job now was to consolidate and build on what had been achieved in such a short space of time. However, events then seemed to conspire against them during the close season with the resignation of Lines and the departure of almost all of the side he had assembled. A move to the Southern Section was not a success and joint managers Bob Rayner and Jon Blencowe found it impossible to field a side capable of competing at this level with the finances available to them.
LAST MINUTE SALVATION
With finances at full stretch, the club was forced into voluntary liquidation in February 1999. It was saved at the last minute as Mike Bosher and Ray Styles stepped in to buy the assets and ensure that the season was completed. The “new” club finished bottom of the Southern Section and were therefore demoted back into the Hellenic League.
Former player Terry Muckleberg was appointed Manager for the 1999/2000 season and he was succeeded by the experienced Peter Foley who took over during the 2000/2001 season and under his astute guidance the club finished in runners-up position. The 2001/02 season proved to be a bit of a damp squib with Foley leaving in mysterious circumstances and the reins were taken until the end of the campaign by coach Matty Haycocks who then left to take up a similar role at Hook Norton. Tim Fowler, the ex-Middle Barton manager was appointed during the close season and he guided the team to a top half finish in his first season and a place in the Floodlit Cup.
The 2003/04 season saw the return of Phil Lines as director of football to work alongside Tim. After an indifferent start the team worked their way up the table and in an exciting run in, lifted the championship shield on the last day of the season and with it promotion back to the Southern League.
Mike Ford took over as manager in October 2004, guiding the team to the fringes of the play-off positions. Ford departed in February 2006 with the club again just outside the promotion frame. Phil Lines and his Assistant Andy Sinnott took over and guided the club to a third place finish culminating in the heartbreak of losing in the last few minutes of the play off final.
The 2006/07 season finally saw the team fulfil its potential. Leading the table from early December, the league was won at a canter. Lines then stepped aside and the club appointed the experienced Roger Ashby as they took the step into unknown territory at Step 3. A first season in the Southern League Premier Division brought a creditable eighth place finish and second appearance in the Northants Hillier Senior Cup final.
Ashby had been succeeded by former player David Oldfield in the November.Oldfield had top flight playing experience at Man City among others and at the end of the season moved on to a coaching role at Peterborough United with Phil Lines again taking up the reins for the start of a second Premier Division campaign.
An eleventh-placed finish in 2008/09 consolidated Premier Division status and the club’s growing ambitions and proceeds from a successful FA Cup run, reaching the first round proper for the first time, brought a new all-seater stand behind one goal to match the newly constructed covered terrace at the cricket ground end. The sparkling FA Cup run that ended at Eastwood Town was matched by a first appearance in the first round proper of the FA Trophy. Cup success was topped off by a third appearance in the Senior Cup Final. In April a new era was ushered in by the appointment from the playing staff of former Kettering Town and Rushden and Diamonds player, Aussie Jon Brady as Lines’ managerial successor.
THE BRADY BUNCH
The 2009/10 season saw the side in the top three for nearly the whole campaign and an eventual 5th-placed finish and defeat in the end of season play-off semi final, while 2010/11 ended in a 9th-placed finish but a first ever Senior Cup win which was followed by victory in the County Maunsell Cup, defeating Northampton Town in early July.
2011/12 saw arguably the most successful season in the club’s history culminating in winning the Southern League Premier Division and a second Senior Cup victory. The team lifted the Southern League shield at a jubilant St James Park after a 6-0 thrashing of St Albans City.
INTO THE CONFERENCE NORTH
The new season had seen the start of major ground improvements including new changing rooms, terracing, improved parking and the upgrading of the floodlights. The first season in the Football Conference began with a 4-1 at Altrincham to announce the arrival of Brackley Town at Step 2 and saw the side make it all the way to the play-off final losing by a single goal to FC Halifax Town at St James Park.
The 2013/14 season brought a 7th-placed finish and FA Cup success beating Division One Gillingham at St James Park in a 1st round replay on live TV. The addition of an artificial grass pitch was a further big boost to the club as it expanded its community programme.
The last two seasons have ended in fairy-tale escapes at the wrong of the table with last day wins. In April 2015 only three wins from three could save the Saints and, with two wins in the bag, a 1-0 home win over Hednesford on the final day of the season courtesy of Ryan Rowe’s stunning late strike saved the day against all odds.
Jon Brady’s time in charge ended in October 2015 with ex-Chelsea defender Frank Sinclair taking temporary charge before former Cobblers striker and Nuneaton and Wrexham manager Kevin Wilkin was appointed to the hot seat. Wilkin led an FA Cup charge to the first round, losing only in a replay at league side Newport County, but the team laboured at the wrong end of the table until only a last day combination of a Brackley win at home against Tamworth and results elsewhere going their way would be enough to maintain National League status.
For a second successive season the remarkable happened and Glenn Walker’s goal allied to Lowestoft’s inability to beat Gloucester City brought another heart-stopping afternoon that ultimately saw the Saints survive on goal difference only.
Last season was one to remember with an FA Cup run that saw the Saints beat Gillingham 4-3 in a televised tie and play Blackpool away. In the Trophy Brackley progressed to the quarter finals where they were narrowly beaten 1-0 by eventual winners York City.
The League saw us finish 1 point off the play-offs with a finish of seventh.
Rumour of moves into National League South proved unfounded and a sixth season in National League North beckons.