TILBURY FOOTBALL CLUB
|Formed in January 1900, they joined the Grays & District
League in 1901/2 and were immediately Champions, a feat they repeated in
each of the next 4 season. In 1903/4 Tilbury reached the Essex Junior Cup
Final but had to wait until 1908/9 before winning the competition by defeating
the County's oldest club, Saffron Walden Town, in the final.
However, with most local fans going a couple of miles down the road to watch professional, Southern League, football in the shape of the now defunct Grays Thurrock United, finances were perilous, when the Club also lost its home ground, at the end of 1911/12, the Committee suspended playing activities until a new ground and a sounder financial base could be established.
Returning to action in 1919/20, in the South Essex League, Tilbury were immediately successful, winning successive Championships and, in 1924/5, the Essex Junior Cup for the second time. 1925/6 saw Tilbury accept the Essex F.A.'s invitation to enter the Essex Senior Cup, and established two County records. First, they became the only Junior Club ever to reach Round 2, and then the first ever to defeat Senior opposition by beating Walthamstow Avenue 3-2. At the end of the season, Essex F.A. granted Tilbury their Senior Status.
Tilbury joined the Kent League in 1927, after several other applications had been rejected. They stayed for 4 seasons before the impracticalities of continually crossing the Thames forced them to leave. The start of the 1931/2 season saw the Club line up as members of the London League, where they remained until the outbreak of the 2nd World War in 1939. One season in the War-Time South Essex Combination was played, but then the ground was commandeered as an Anti-aircraft Gun site, and the Club disbanded for the duration.
Moving on to their present ground in 1946/7, Tilbury resumed in the London League. In 3 of the next 4 seasons Tilbury were runners-up, and reached consecutive Essex Senior Cup Finals in 1946 and 1947, going down to Leytonstone and Romford respectively. Both games, played at Ilford F.C. Ground, draw crowds in excess of 15,000. Also in 46/7, Tilbury reached the Quarter Finals of the F.A. Amateur Cup, losing away to the eventual winners Wimbledon.
In 1949.50, Tilbury fought through to the 1st round proper of the F.A. Cup. More than 28,000 fans saw a 0-4 defeat at Notts. County, who were skippered by the legendary Tommy Lawton. In the previous round, the 5,500 fans that turned up at St. Chad's Road for the replay with Gorleston still constitutes the official ground record.
In 1950/1 Tilbury joined the Corinthian League. Apart from a League Cup Final appearance in 1955/6, it was an unsuccessful 7 year stay before, in 1957/8, they rejoined the London League. They finished 3rd in that season, but in each of the next 4 were runaway Champions, and 3 times achieved the League/League Cup double.
However, during this spell pride of place went to their first ever Essex Senior Cup triumph in 1960/1 . Once again at the Ilford F.C. ground, Tilbury faced mighty Walthamstow Avenue. Prior to kick-off, they were forced to watch as Avenue paraded the F.A. Amateur Cup won at Wembley 3 weeks earlier. If this was meant to intimidate however, it failed. Tilbury went on to win 4 - 1 after extra time.
1962/3 saw Tilbury in the Delphian League, a season decimated by the Big Freeze of that winter. By the time 1963/4 started, this had become Division Two of the expanded Athenian League. Tilbury celebrated by winning the Championship and the Essex Senior Cup. having just missed promotion from Division One in 1967/8, they went one step better 12 months later by winning the Championship.
Tilbury spent 4 seasons in the Athenian Premier, improving their final position each time, eventually coming 3rd in 1972/3. The 1973/4 campaign saw Tilbury lining up as members of the new Isthmian league Division Two (now Division One). In 1974/5, Tilbury finished 3rd in this Division, just missing out on promotion, but were partially compensated by winning both Essex Senior and Mithras Cups.
12 months later, promotion was achieved. Tilbury won the Division One Championship with a then record 102 points, 4 clear of runners-up, Croydon, who were to remarkably complete their League games undefeated. They also retained both t he Essex Senior and Mithras Cups, the full Southend United side being comfortably thrashed 3-0 in the Final of the former, and Cheshunt beaten over two legs in the latter.
Tilbury recovered from a disastrous start to their Premier Division career, and finished in 5th place, still their highest Isthmian placing. Also in that 1976/7 season, they enjoyed two Anglo Italian Barrassi Cup meetings with U.S. Soresina, the trophy being won by the Italians on penalties, after two 1-1 draws, the 2nd leg in Italy also comprising extra time.
In 1977/8 Tilbury achieved their proudest moment to date when, after starting in the Extra Preliminary Round, they reached the 3rd round proper of the F.A. Cup, eventually going down 0-4 to a Stoke City side that included Howard Kendall, Garth Crooks, Denis Smith, Viv Busby and Alec Lindsay, in front of 16,000 plus fans, including almost 2,500 from Thurrock.
A last, to date, appearance in the Essex Senior Cup Final came in 1978/9 but 12 months alter the Club was relegated back to Division One amid a financial crisis so severe that it almost died. However, a new committee was formed and after several years of surviving on a day-to-day basis the late 1980's saw the club back on a sound footing.
Sadly though, this could not be achieved before further relegation, to Division Two North, in the 1986/7. Tilbury almost made an immediate climb back, but that was to prove a brief respite. At the end of the 1990/1 season they could not achieve the top half finish that would have kept them up, and so dropped into the new Division Three.
This time, Tilbury did bounce back immediately, finishing in 3rd position in Division Three in 1991/2. At the time of promotion, Tilbury were forced to face the realities of the Ground Grading Regulations, and the fact that St. Chad's Road had become run down and dilapidated arena. The club decided that all resources would have to be directed towards the necessary ground improvements, and gambled that they would be able to hang on in Division Two.
That gamble almost paid off. Tilbury hung on until 1997/8, and it was ironic that they should succumb to relegation just when the renovations were almost complete and the burden easing. After finishing 7th in Division Three in 1998/9, Tilbury appointed a former player, Tony Cross as Manager, hoping that the remarkable successes enjoyed by Cross at Intermediate and Essex Senior level could translate into Isthmian success.
That hope was to prove well founded. Cross led the side to promotion with a 3rd place finish, and also brought the Club's best ever run in the F.A. Vase. Excellent victories were achieved over Bury Town and Falmouth Town, before a disappointing 4th round defeat away to Cowes Sports.
Tilbury through also take great pride in their off-field progress. Having established themselves in a new and thriving clubhouse in November 1994, the spectacular transformation of St. Chad's Road into a modern, well equipped Stadium has given great pleasure, and brought widespread recognition.
A new 200 seater grandstand has been constructed on the far side of the ground, and this is flanked by two new covered terraces. New pitch and outer perimeter walls have been built, and 5 turnstiles entrances incorporated. New concrete standing areas have been laid on the near side of the ground and terracing built behind the Chadwell End Goal, part of which will eventually comprise a covered seating area.
The old grandstand is currently being refurbished and other plans to improve the ground and its facilities are in the pipeline.
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