Inspiration from the past…Football for the Future

Early roots

Hitchin Town can trace its roots back to 1865 when Hitchin FC was formed. The club took part in the first FA Cup in 1871-72, and reached the quarter finals of the competition, losing to eventual finalists Royal Engineers. That first Hitchin club, a struggling professional outfit, folded in 1911, debt-ridden and the victims of a fire at their ground.

Hitchin Town FC

It was not until 1928 that Hitchin Town FC was formed, and it was at this point that the nickname, “The Canaries”, was established. The club colours of yellow and at that time, blue, were also agreed upon. Prior to that, the old club played in white and magenta. Hitchin gained admission to the Spartan League and in the 1928-29 season, enjoyed a hugely successful campaign, winning the Herts Charity Shield and promotion to the Spartan League Division One.

The 1930s were halcyon days for Hitchin Town FC. Promotion to the Spartan Premier Division was won in 1931, but it was the cup successes that captured the imagination of the Hitchin public. Although there is little doubt that Hitchin won more games than at any time in their history, the standard of opposition has to be considered when determining whether the Canaries’ side of the period was the finest in the club’s history.

Nevertheless there is little doubt that this was a golden age for Hitchin Town. The club won the AFA Senior Cup in 1932, beating Derbyshire Amateurs in the final and in 1935, won the Spartan League Premier Division. The club entered the Athenian League in 1939, but after two league games and a Herts Charity Cup tie, all of which saw Hitchin score seven goals, Adolf Hitler intervened.

Post World War Two

Like many clubs, Hitchin struggled in the aftermath of World War Two. It was not until the mid-1950s that the Canaries recovered. In 1953-54, the runners-up spot in the Athenian League was secured and the club reached the last eight of the FA Amateur Cup, losing 10-1 to the mighty Crook Town.

Two years later, a record crowd of 7,878 watched Hitchin beat Wycombe Wanderers 1-0 in the competition, but the club failed to progress beyond the quarter-finals again. In 1958, Hitchin’s Peter Hammond became the club’s first England international. It was around this time that Hitchin appointed former Arsenal and England international Laurie Scott as manager, who brought a new approach to the club. Scott took Hitchin up a level in terms of preparation, training and tactics. The club enjoyed arguably its greatest period in the early 1960s. In 1958-59, the club met Football League opposition for the first time in the FA Cup, narrowly losing to Millwall after a replay. Two years later, Hitchin travelled to Crystal Palace and played in front of 21,000 people. At the same time, an assault on the Athenian League title and the FA Amateur Cup gathered momentum. But unfortunately Scott’s team, the victims of fixture congestion, ran out of steam in the league and fell at the penultimate stage in the Amateur Cup. Walthamstow Avenue beat Hitchin 1-0 at White City, thanks to a disputed penalty. In 1963, Hitchin reached the semi-finals again, but this time, went down 4-0 to Sutton United at Craven Cottage.

The Isthmian League

At the end of the 1962-63 season, the Canaries moved into the Isthmian League. This move was not an easy one for the club, and the early years were a constant struggle. Money was a problem, and there was a hint of scandal when club President Syd Stapleton revealed to the media that the club was paying its “amateur” players. It took some time before the clouds dispersed and during this period, the club said farewell to Laurie Scott.

It was not until Vince Burgess came on board that the club moved forward again. Burgess, a successful coach before he went to Hitchin, brought experienced players to the club who knew how to win. In 1968-69, Hitchin finished runners-up in the Isthmian League and a year later, won the London Senior Cup, beating St.Albans 4-2 in the final. Burgess declared that Hitchin had “arrived” by winning what was then a highly prestigious competition. Top Field was shocked a few months later when Burgess left the club.

The 70`s, 80`s and 90`s

The 1970s was a period characterised by some exciting cup-ties. The Canaries reached the FA Cup competition proper four times – in 1973-74, 1974-75, 1976-77 and 1978-79, although a giant-killing eluded them. By the end of the decade however, the club was in decline and the 1980s was a dismal decade in which finances were limited and the emphasis was on youth.

In 1988, Hitchin Town suffered relegation from the Isthmian Premier for the first time. Near misses in the previous three seasons had hinted that a fall was coming, but it was still a major shock to the club. It took five years for Hitchin to get back to the Premier Divison, but in between, the club had suffered major financial hardship. It was Andy Melvin, the new owner-manager of Hitchin Town who led the club back to the Premier Division, winning the Isthmian First Division title in 1992-93. Melvin, a good man-manager, was also thrifty and built a team on very limited resources. In the club’s first season back, he took them to eighth place and in 1994-95, fifth position.

Andy Melvin will be remembered for his part in two exciting FA Cup runs, however. In 1994-95, the club became giant-killers for the first time, beating Hereford United 4-2 at Top Field in the FA Cup first round. The club had started its cup run in the First Qualifying Round and had been close to exiting on more than one occasion. A year later, the Canaries grabbed their biggest scalp, beating Bristol Rovers 2-1 in the first round, thanks to two early goals. It gave them a second round tie at Gillingham, which was lost 3-0. At this time the club gained more media attention than at any time in its history, but by 1998, relegation had come once more. However the club won promotion back to the Isthmian Premier Division at the first attempt, with a new and younger team.

The 21st Century and the Southern League

In an age when clubs seem to lurch from crisis to crisis financially, Hitchin’s recent history has been relatively stable. Andy Melvin stepped down in 2001, handing over to his assistant Robbie O’Keefe. Robbie was the mastermind of the club’s youth academy, and at times, O’Keefe promised to bring success back to Hitchin. In 2003, however, he left the club, and former Chelsea and England striker Kerry Dixon took over. At the end of the 2003-04 season, Hitchin left the Isthmian League after more than 40 years, and moved to the Southern League. At the halfway stage of the following season, Dixon, who was unable to commit himself fully to the job, was replaced by Darren Salton. Salton had to rebuild a team that had alarming weaknesses in every department. The last few months of the season were tough and Hitchin failed to win any of their last 11 games. But the following year was better and at the end of 2005-06, the Canaries won the Southern League Cup, beating Bromsgrove Rovers in the two-legged final.

In 2006-07, the Canaries started well and at the halfway point were among the title challengers. But a spectacular collapse, fuelled by player unrest, saw Hitchin fall down the table and into relegation trouble. Eventually, Hitchin finished 11th, perhaps a flattering position, but nevertheless one which secured Premier Division football in 2007-08. After a lack lustre start to 2007-08, Darren Salton was released by the club and former player Darran Hay was appointed as manager. Hay had to rebuild his team and it took time to turn things around, but a revitalised squad, with a strong team spirit, lifted Hitchin out of trouble.

After a poor start to the 2008-09 season, Darran Hay left Hitchin in January 2009. Colin Payne, the former Chertsey, Northwood and Boreham Wood manager was appointed in February 2009, but despite an improvement, the club was relegated at the end of the campaign. Payne rebuilt the Hitchin squad in the summer of 2009, with the aim of achieving promotion at the first attempt.

Hitchin enjoyed a successful 2009-10, winning 31 of 42 league games. A vibrant young side was moulded by Payne and his assistant Carl Williams and for long periods, the Canaries topped the Zamaretto Midlands Division. Hitchin lost just four games in the league but Bury Town topped the division by two points - despite Payne’s men amassing 100 points. As only one team was automatically promoted, Hitchin had to enter the play-offs for the second promotion place. Sadly, the young Canaries ran out of steam and lost the play-off semi-final to Slough, a team that finished 23 points behind Hitchin!

A few days after the end of the season, Payne left the club to join Hemel Hempstead. In his place, Carl Williams was appointed as manager. He had a tremendous first season in charge and for much of the 2010-11 campaign, Hitchin looked certainties for the title. But a mid-season drop in form gave local rivals Arlesey the chance to take top place. On the final day of the season, the two clubs met at Top Field for the title decider. Arlesey won 1-0 in front of over 1,500 people, but the occasion was marred by the ungentlemanly behaviour of Hitchin's opponents. Williams and his team cast that disappointment aside to beat Slough and Daventry in the play-offs to claim the second promotion spot. In their first season back in the Premier, Hitchin enjoyed some bright moments, notably beating eventual champions Brackley and promotion chasing AFC Totton and Cambridge City. Once again, the goals of John Frendo lit up the campaign and attendances at Top Field were among the best in the division. The final placing of 14th was considered satisfactory and the club went into 2012-13 looking to improve on that showing.

Carl Williams’ second season in charge started brightly but despite the massive goals contribution of John Frendo (who won the non-league football “Golden Boot” the previous season with 44 goals), it proved a difficult season overall. However, despite a couple of months where confidence had ebbed away and relegation looked a distinct possibility. Previous manager Colin Payne returned to assist the Management team, and the Canaries managed to pull through with three or four astute loan signings bolstering both confidence and results. They finished a creditable thirteenth, but despite this Carl decided it was time to take a break from the managerial role and focus on his young family.

Mark Burke was appointed manager in the summer of 2013 and Carl’s side almost entirely moved on. Despite this Burke and his assistant Adam Parker recruited some new young talent and finished in a creditable 13th position, same as the previous season.

Season 2014-15 saw the addition of Jonny McNamara from Arlesey and Charlie Horlock on loan from Wycombe Wanderers, and the experienced Brett Donnelly returning to the club for a second spell from Biggleswade Town. With a solid backline including Alasan Ann and Dan Webb and the huge promise of youngsters such as Sam Barker, Matt Lench and Lewis Rolfe being realised, the flowing football produced reaped dividends and Hitchin finished in ninth position, their best-ever in the Southern League.

The 2015-16 season proved to be even better. The season started with the prestigious game against a full-strength Premier League Norwich City side, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the formation of the first Hitchin football team. Despite the ten goal defeat, and defeat on the first day of the season to the newly promoted Stratford Town at home, Mark Burke’s young side (average age 24) picked up, went from strength to strength, defied all expectations and finished in third place in the League, showing a marked improvement on the previous season and qualifying for  the Play-Offs. Here they took a 2-0 lead in the semi-final against the eventual winners Hungerford Town, but eventually ran out of steam and succumbed to a 3-2 defeat.

Again despite this tremendous disappointment, this young team showed great strength of character and picked itself up again to beat National League Boreham Wood to win the Hertfordshire Senior Cup for the first time in 19 years.

The Canaries start the 2016-17 with great hope. There have been two or three changes to the squad, but spirit and belief is sky high. Can they go one better? 

Major Honours

1931-32 AFA Senior Cup winners
1934-35 Spartan League Champions
1953-54 Athenian League Runners-up
1960-61 FA Amateur Cup Semi-finalists
1962-63 FA Amateur Cup Semi-finalists
1968-69 Isthmian League Runners-up
1969-70 London Senior Cup Winners
1972-73 East Anglian Cup Winners
1992-93 Isthmian League Division One Winners
1994-95 FA Cup giant-killers (beat Hereford 4-2 after replay in R1)
1995-96 FA Cup giant-killers (beat Bristol Rovers 2-1 in R1)
1998-99 Isthmian League Division One runners-up
2005-06 Southern League Cup Winners
2010-11 Promoted to the Southern League Premier Division

First Team Results Record

The following links contain the results for the relevent league / competition.

Spartan League Results 1928-1939

Athenian League Results 1945-1963

Isthmian League Results 1963-1988

Isthmian League Results 1988-2004

Southern League Results 2004-2017

FA Cup Results 1928-29 - 2015-16

FA Trophy Results 1974-75 - 2016-17

FA Amateur Cup Results 1928-29 - 1973-74

AFA Senior Cup Results 1928-29 - 1936-37

London Senior Cup Results 1968-69 - 1983-84

East Anglian Cup Results 1958-59 - 1997-98

Herts Senior Cup Results 1928-29 - 2015-16

Herts Charity Cup Results 1928-29 - 2015-16

League Cup Results 1975-76 - 2015-16

Full Members Cup Results 1990-2001

Hitchin 100 Cup Results 1961-1972

Other Hitchin Cup Results 1928-2014

League Record 1928-29 2015-16

SeasonLeaguePWDLFAPtsPos
1928-29Spartan24193211142412
1929-30Spartan261511010344314
1930-31Spartan26193410336412
1931-32Spartan2413395646294
1932-33Spartan26115107457288
1933-34Spartan26124105246285
1934-35Spartan2618266533381
1935-36Spartan26105116059256
1936-37Spartan2614486644324
1937-38Spartan2614487136325
1938-39Spartan2615569339353
1945-46Athenian261011561682110
1946-47Athenian26115106463376
1947-48Athenian261041243612411
1948-49Athenian2697104446257
1949-50Athenian2612594450296
1950-51Athenian30661847751815
1951-52Athenian305124361111116
1952-53Athenian26841437562011
1953-54Athenian2616375832352
1954-55Athenian26691144602112
1955-56Athenian28741747741815
1956-57Athenian281051367732510
1957-58Athenian30126125265309
1958-59Athenian30881437522414
1959-60Athenian301161355572810
1960-61Athenian3015698152365
1961-62Athenian30154118571346
1962-63Athenian30163117461345
Totals 504187872309761127470 
1963-64Isthmian3814420671003214
1964-65Isthmian381391661663911
1965-66Isthmian386824571182018
1966-67Isthmian38862439892219
1967-68Isthmian381491561733712
1968-69Isthmian38231056741562
1969-70Isthmian38191097140487
1970-71Isthmian381291746603312
1971-72Isthmian4017101368664410
1972-73Isthmian421591852643916
1973-74Isthmian4215101768735513
1974-75Isthmian4215101757715512
1975-76Isthmian4213111845575016
1976-77Isthmian42196176066639
1977-78Isthmian42209137066695
1978-79Isthmian4212111959714715
1979-80Isthmian4213151455695412
1980-81Isthmian4214101864625213
1981-82Isthmian4212111956774718
1982-83Isthmian421192249774220
1983-84Isthmian421615115857636
1984-85Isthmian4210151755704520
1985-86Isthmian4211141753694717
1986-87Isthmian421352456694420
1987-88Isthmian421082446793821
1988-89Isthmian 140211186033744
1989-90Isthmian 142221376030794
1990-91Isthmian 142219127850725
1991-92Isthmian 1401710135545618
1992-93Isthmian 14025786729821
1993-94Isthmian42217148156708
1994-95Isthmian421812126759665
1995-96Isthmian4210102241744018
1996-97Isthmian421572067735216
1997-98Isthmian428151945623921
1998-99Isthmian 142251077538852
1999-00Isthmian4213111859725016
2000-01Isthmian421531658534810
2001-02Isthmian4215101771805211
2002-03Isthmian4615131869675814
2003-04Isthmian461382555894720
Totals 1690619399664244826602116 
2004-05Southern421392055774818
2005-06Southern4213121759765114
2006-07Southern421691755685711
2007-08Southern4212111946614518
2008-09Southern4210102257794020
2009-10Southern 142317491361002
2010-11Southern 142269710744872
2011-12
Southern
42
13
12
17
54
57
51
14
2012-13
Southern
42
15
7
20
62
68
52
13
2013-14
Southern44
16
11
17
63
52
59
13
2014-15
Southern
44
20
10
14
78
63
70
9
2015-16
Southern
46
24
12
10
78
50
84
3
2016-17Southern
46
24
14
8
79
45
86
4

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