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Great Harwood Town F.C. History
Great Harwood Town Football Club began life as Great Harwood Wellington Football Club back in the mid sixties when a group of friends started a team at their local pub. The club enjoyed tremendous success and dominated the Blackburn Combination, being Lancashire Combination Champions 1968/69, Lancashire F.A. Floodlit Cup Winners 1968/69, West Lancashire League Champions 1968/69, Richardson Cup Winners 1968/69, West Lancashire Cup Winners 1968/69. Great Harwood Football Club of the Northern Premier League fell upon hard times and sadly folded in 1978. This gave the “Wellie” as the team were known, the opportunity to progress further by moving 50 yards from Lyndon House Field to the Showground. Membership of the Lancashire combination immediately followed and, in doing so, kept senior non-league football alive in the town. Changing the name to Gt. Harwood Town Football Club and becoming founder members of the NWCFL the club plodded on until the end of the 1987/88 season when they nearly went out of the league. The club then went through a radical change and success was to follow. The first success came in the 1989/90 season when they won the Lamot Pils trophy with a 2-1 victory over Bacup Borough. The following season was one that dreams are made of. The club became champions of the NCWL second division by a record margin, losing only two games in the campaign. In addition the club, having eliminated the previous season’s finalists Bridlington Town in an extra-preliminary round, reached the quarterfinals of the FA Vase. In the final of the ATS Lancashire Trophy the club were beaten by Marine. The 1990/91 season was again outstanding , and the club went one step further in the ATS Trophy defeating Southport 3-2 in a superb game at Burnden Park , Bolton . At Springfield Park , Wigan , the club defeated Bamber Bridge to lift the Tennants Floodlit Trophy. The League provided its own excitement with the club, being at the top of the League for most of the season, were pipped at the post by Ashton Utd. who finished tremendously to deny a second Championship in consecutive seasons. Promotion to the HFS League was still a possibility. Due to various reasons and a lot of hard work with ground improvements, the club was finally elected back into the NPL after an absence of 13 years, and more recently in the 1994/95 season the club reached the final of the Division 1 Cup, only to be defeated by ‘giant-killers’ Blythe Spartans in a two legged final. 1995/6, 96/7 and 97/8 were tough seasons in the Unibond Division One when the club finished 19th, 10th and 14th respectively. In 98/99 G.H.T.F.C. achieved their best run in the F.A. Cup getting to the 4th. qualifying round, but unfortunately were relegated on the last match of the season away at Congleton drawing 2-2, having missed an 89th minute penalty.
Season 99/00 was a disappointing return to N.W.C.F.L. when G.H.T.F.C. finished 16th. The unfortunate decline continued with lowly finishes between 2000 and 2002 resulting in last place and relegation to Division 2 for the 2003/04 season.The appointment of current manager John Hughes for his first spell as manager reversed the decline with top ten finishes in both 2002/03 and 2003/04 resulting in promotion back to Division 1 for the 2004/05 season.
The manager’s decision to try his luck at neighbours Chorley resulted in the club spending the season fighting a rear guard relegation battle which was not helped by a 4 point deduction being made due to a breach of league rules.
In January 2005 the club was thrown into turmoil when an arson attack destroyed most of the club’s facilities making it impossible to continue playing at the Showground. Thankfully, local clubs Colne, Darwen and Accrington Stanley stepped in to offer the use of their grounds, enabling the club to complete the season. Hughes rejoined the club in March 2005 and brought an immediate change in form. Unfortunately however, despite an heroic attempt to avoid relegation from being 11 points adrift in late March, the club were relegated after their failure to win the last match of the season. The four point deduction being the crucial difference between survival and relegation.
With the formation of F.C.United and their subsequent admission to the NWCL 2 nd Division, relegation did in fact turn out to be a blessing in disguise.
Season 2005/06 began steadily and the Robins also enjoyed a fine F.A. Cup run but things then turned sour. The club embarked upon a record-breaking losing streak of seven games, before several new signings helped to stop the rot. With the number of promotion places not known, Harwood took the field for the final league game against Eccleshall still in contention for promotion. Sadly it wasn’t to be but that was of little consequence two months later when the club resigned from the NWCFL leaving the supporters wondering if the Robins would ever take to the field again.
Great Harwood F.C. was the fore-runner of Great Harwood Town and played in the Northern Premier League during the 1970’s. They competed with the best clubs in the country, Wigan Athletic, Altrincham and Scarborough to name but three. Many famous players arrived at the Showground after their Football League careers ended and for a few years the club provided the most attractive opposition in the land. Some of the older supporters will remember Welsh legend Roy Vernon, Blackburn Rovers’ goalkeeper Bob Jones, England maestro Bryan Douglas and ex-England captain Ronnie Clayton, who all appeared in the same star-studded team. For a while gates rose to over 2,000 but as they dropped off during the decade, the Chairman, Derrick Keighley became frustrated with the dwindling support and high wage bill, and eventually quit, spelling the end for the club.
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