A HISTORY OF VCD ATHLETIC FC

VCD Athletic FC is one of only a few clubs to have originated during the Great War when, in 1916 it was formed by workers employed at the Vickers armaments factory in Crayford. The Company originally played only inter-departmental games until it was decided that the best players from the various sections would be elected to represent the firm. The club have played at the firm's sports ground, Oakwood, in Old Road, Crayford, from the outset right up to the present time, except for eight seasons spent ground sharing whilst trying to get permission for the erection of floodlights.
In the early days, only friendly matches were played as there were no official competitions during the war years, and records show that a club called Vickers (Erith) joined the re-formed Kent League in 1919, changing their name to Vickers (Crayford) a year later. In their first season in the Kent League they visited Maidstone United on Boxing Day and played in front of a crowd of 13,500. The Vickers team that day contained seven Arsenal players who were finishing off their war service. Two years later, Vickers joined the Dartford & District League, followed by entry into the newly formed Kent Amateur League, Division One in 1923. Their first trophies came in 1927 when they won the Kent FA Junior Cup and the Kent Benevolent Cup.

It was a further 25 years before more silverware came their way, when they won the Kent Division One title in 1953. The Kent Amateur Cup was won in 1962 and in 1964 but the following season saw a spectacular slump and relegation, with a record of P24 W0 D2 L22, goals for 25, goals against 199.
Promotion was gained in 1969, but after a mediocre period during the 1970s, they were relegated in 1980 back to Division Two. A season later they were promoted back to Division One and in 1985 won the championship, gaining promotion to the restructured Premier Division. By now the Kent Amateur League had changed its name to the Kent County League and the club enjoyed further success when they won the Kent FA Intermediate Shield in 1988. In the same year the club was involved in the last ever match played at Maidstone United's London Road ground when they won the West Kent Challenge Cup.

In 1993, Martin Ford joined the club as manager and, in season 1995/1996 a unique cup treble was achieved with wins in the Kent Intermediate Shield, Kent County League Cup, and the Erith Hospitals Cup. Season 1996/1997 then saw the club win the Kent County Premier Division title for the first time in their history, and by a record 15 points. Senior status was awarded that same year and a successful application was made to join the Winstonlead Kent League where, in their first season in modern times, VCD Athletic finished in a creditable ninth place. The following season saw the club begin a ground-share with Thamesmead Town, finishing up in seventh place but also reaching the final of the Kent League Cup, where they lost 1-0 to Deal Town in a closely fought match. Deal at this time were assembling the side that was later to win the FA Vase at Wembley.
A season later the club went one better, beating Faversham Town 4-0 in the final to bring the club a first ever senior trophy, and the season after that the club made its third consecutive cup final appearance when they reached the final of the Kent Senior Trophy. However, they narrowly missed out on more silverware when they went down 10-9 on penalties to Whitstable Town. The club eventually spent five seasons as tenants of Thamesmead Town before Lordswood FC kindly took their place for two seasons. Then the club embarked on a one year term with near neighbours Greenwich Borough, and despite the handicap of having to ground-share, VCD were consistently one of the league's strongest members during their time in the league.

The club reached the final of the League Cup in 2002/2003, but on the day there was no celebration as VCD were comfortably beaten 2-0 by Cray Wanderers. The following season was a disappointment as far as the cups were concerned, but a creditable third place was achieved in the league. Further cup success followed however when, in season 2005/2006 the club reached the final of the Kent Senior Trophy for the second time. Having suffered a loss in the first final on penalties, there was a reversal of fortune this time when, after having drawn 1-1 with Tunbridge Wells at the end of extra time, the VCD players held their nerve to win the penalty shoot-out 3-1.
During 2005 the long awaited news the club wanted to hear finally arrived when planning permission for floodlights and the development of the Oakwood ground was granted by Bexley Council. This, together with a substantial grant from the Football Stadia Improvement Fund, part of the Football Foundation, enabled work to commence early in 2006. The pitch was levelled, rotated 90 degrees and re-laid. New perimeter paths were laid, along with perimeter fencing to enclose the pitch. Floodlights were erected in June 2006, at the same time that work on enhancing the changing rooms also began. The spectator stand was re-sited and extended, and further additions included a new raised hospitality area situated to overlook the pitch, and a new tea bar adjacent to the popular members bar.

At the end of the 2007 season Martin Ford resigned as manager, and the club are grateful for his vision and enthusiasm over the years that took VCD from being a Kent County League side to one that was always around the top of the table in the Kent League, and on his departure the club had just reached the last 16 of the prestigious FA Vase for the second consecutive season. Head coach Dean Frost took over as caretaker manager, and under his guidance the club obtained runners up spot in the league, narrowly missing out to Whitstable Town, and then the following season Paul Foley was appointed manager of the first team, with Dean Frost reverting to his former position of head coach. Under their stewardship the club finished runners up once more. A year later, the club finally won the Kent League Premier Division title together with the Kent Senior Trophy, culminating in the long awaited promotion to the Ryman Football League.

The first season was a success with an 8th place finish, but the club were left stunned when the Ryman League deemed ground issues warranted demotion, and despite an appeal to the Football Association, the decision was upheld and the club went back to the Kent League. Manager Paul Foley resigned to join Chatham Town, taking virtually the whole team with him, and the club appointed former reserve team manager Ricky Bennett his replacement. Under his leadership VCD achieved third place in his first season, and the season after the team was also challenging for honours and, but for a disappointing end to the campaign we certainly would have given Herne Bay a closer run to their title. Once again third place was attained but this time we had the added bonus of winning the Kent League Cup, beating Corinthian 2-0 in the final. We also lifted a second trophy with a 3-2 victory over league champions Herne Bay in the Kent League Challenge Shield which gave the club a pre-season boost.

Midway through season 2012/2013 Ricky Bennett left the club due to outside pressures, and in his place the club secured the services of Tony Russell, previously manager of Erith Town FC, who joined with his assistant Ray Powell. With most of the players leaving with the previous manager the club was in disarray, but a side was quickly formed by the new management, and a magnificent record breaking run of 17 victories and 2 draws in the last 19 league fixtures enabled the club to once more gain promotion to the Ryman Football League Division 1 North. Starting as favourites for relegation, the club had a stunning run, winning the first15 games and heading the table for all but a couple of weeks throughout the campaign, and on the last day of the season, sitting in 2nd place the Vickers defeated Romford FC 6-0 while leaders Witham Town could only draw their last game which saw us secure the title by a point, taking the club to the Premier Division, its highest ever level in the pyramid. The club struggled for a lot of the season, spending most of the time in the relegation places but winning the last 6 games saw us climb to safety, finally finishing in 18th position to maintain our place in the division.

Manager Tony Russell immediately resigned, joining Cray Wanderers FC in Division 1, taking his entire side with him but the club acted quickly to secure the services of Keith McMahon as new First Team Manager. Keith came with a wealth of experience having taken neighbours Thamesmead Town from the Kent League to the Ryman League Premier Division but, with no players at the club and only a few weeks to the start of the 2015/2016 season Keith was up against it from the beginning in trying to assemble a side to compete at the higher level. He worked tirelessly and brought in some excellent players, but despite some good performances we were unable to find the consistency needed in the Premier Division and were relegated back to Division 1 (North). Back on a square footing this pre-season we have seen a number of new signings arrive and we look to make our mark in the new campaign.

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