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Club - Rugby Town FC

Rugby Town returned to the Northern Premier League Midland Division in 2023 after a six season absence.

Valley Sports' first competitive game was on 8th September 1956 in Division Three of the Rugby & District League when Dunchurch Lodge were beaten 7-0 at Thornfield.

At the end of the following season the club was promoted to Division Two and two years later, as runners up, to Division One - finishing as runners up in Division One in 1962/63 before a move was then made to the Coventry & North Warwickshire League.

Four seasons were spent in Division Two before promotion came to Division one for the 1967/68 season. That season saw a 12th place finish but, following three previous cup final losses, Valley Sports won their first silverware beating Wolvey Amateurs 2-1 to lift the Rugby Hospital Cup on 1st May 1968.

It became clear at this time that a Rugby Borough Council decision to redevelop Thornfield for Rugby's new swimming pool and sports centre, made in July 1966, would not include a football pitch in the plans.

At the same time mass withdrawals from the Coventry & North Warwickshire League at the end of the 1968/69 season forced the club to make plans as to what league they were to play in and to continue their search for exclusive use of a new ground if they were to continue the progress achieved over the previous 13 seasons at Thornfield.

An application to join the United Counties League was rejected, at the AGM, by the clubs but UCL Secretary, Ken Bacon, managed to get the decision reversed and the club were admitted to Division Three for the 1969/70 season and with no other ground available the club commenced its new era at council owned Hillmorton Recreation Ground with a 3-0 win against British Timken Duston on 3rd September 1969.

Partly derelict allotment land at Butlin Road was identified for a new ground and the persistence of the club officials persuaded the Rugby Borough Council to approve the granting of a 30 year lease at a meeting on 19 May 1970.

The first season in the United Counties League was a successful one with only five games lost, a fifth place finish and the Divisional Cup won as 16 games were played at Hillmorton that season.

The 1970/71 season saw the name changed to Valley Sports Rugby and entry into a groundshare agreement with the original Rugby Town football club who played in the Southern League at the time, for the use of Oakfield.

A third place finish in Division Three was followed in the 1971/72 season with a runners up place and promotion to Division 1 plus recognition by the Birmingham County FA of the club's senior status which meant entry into the FA Amateur Cup for 1973/74, it's very last season.

The demise of the original Rugby Town club in May 1973 meant that the barely ready Butlin Road ground had to be used the following season with the first competitive game there being on 6th October 1973 against Burton Park Wanderers which ended goal-less.

The clubhouse was opened on 19 September 1974 and the semi-final of the Birmingham Senior Amateur Cup was reached which prompted the West Midlands (Regional) League to invite the club into its Premier Division for the 1975/76 season.

The club name was changed to VS Rugby as the club progressed, but life in the higher league proved tough for some seasons alleviated only with wins in the FA Cup against Southern League sides Dunstable Town and Bedworth United.

In 1980/81 the first seated stand was opened on 4 September 1980, but a dire opening to the season saw manager Len Willett sacked and Jimmy Knox appointed manager, taking charge from caretaker manager Les Smith at Bilston on 31 January 1981.

It was a decision that was to transform the fortunes of the club for just over 11 years.

Jimmy had been a successful player and manager at Rugby Town, before a spell as top Non-League manager at AP Leamington.

His reputation enabled him to survive defeats in his first five matches and ten defeats in the first eleven.

The 1981/82 season was a much improved campaign finishing in a creditable 8th spot as Jimmy set about building a new team.

Then came 1982/83! On 30 April 1983 Jimmy Knox led VS Rugby to success at Wembley in the FA Vase Final beating fellow WM(R) League side Halesowen Town 1-0, amazingly just 27 months after then Chairman Mick Vousden had persuaded him to manage his home town club.

A Valley club which had itself reached such a pinnacle at the end of only its 27th season.

The opportunity to join the Southern Football League Midland Division 10 years after opening the Butlin Road ground was taken, however, it was dependant on the club being able to provide floodlights.

This was achieved in record time being used for the first time in an FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round Replay against Heybridge Swifts on 5 October 1983 with a 2-0 victory in front of 622 spectators.

After a gap of 10 years, Rugby again had a representative team at this level.

Under manager Knox, the club moved into the Premier Division after winning the 1986/87 Midland Division Championship, won the Southern League Cup and Birmingham Senior Cup, and had memorable FA Cup encounters with Northampton Town, Leyton Orient, Bristol Rovers and Bristol City taking all but Bristol City to a replay.

Jimmy Knox left Butlin Road in the summer of 1992 with the team 3rd in the Premier Division and the Birmingham Senior Cup again behind the bar. His departure led to a rapid decline in the clubs fortunes.

VS were relegated for the first time in their history, and then put into receivership in 1993.

A group of supporters rescued the club, buying back the VS Rugby name and with the club obtaining the keys to the ground only four days before the first game of the 1993/94 season, manager Ron Bradbury somehow assembled a team.

The makeshift team lost only two of their first 24 games and went on to gain automatic promotion behind newly formed Rushden & Diamonds.

That season also saw another FA Cup 1st Round game against Football League opposition when Brentford attracted 3,006 fans to Butlin Road.

In 1999 the club was again in danger but the remaining directors were joined by former player and local business man Brian Melvin who secured the club's future and started developments around the ground with a new 500 seater cantilever stand housing dressing rooms underneath was opened in 2003, a refurbished club house bar and an improved playing surface.

The club was renamed Rugby United and had put the club in a position to compete in the Southern League Premier Division following the reorganisation of Non-League football.

After five seasons another name change was made, this time to Rugby Town FC for the 2005/06 season whilst a grant from the Football Foudation was obtained to develop all-weather pitches at Butlin Road. The 3G rubber-crumb full sized pitch plus training pitch was opened in October 2006.

As the facilities continued to be improved a 1,300 capacity covered standing terrace along the whole Allotment End was opened in March 2007.

Further improvements include a new hospitality suite which was opened in November 2014 following the conversion of the original dressing rooms whilst a new public address system was completed in August 2015.

Winning the Midland Floodlit Cup, for the 3rd time, on the 12 May 1999 is the only one to have been won since the 1993/94 season, however, the last five seasons in the Southern League Central Division saw the club finish no lower than 6th and two consecutive runners up finishes in 2012/13 & 2013/14, when manager Dave Stringer, assembled a squad of talented players who were unlucky not to have secured a return back to the Southern League Premier Division.

They broke almost all the previous performance records when in 2012/13 they recorded the highest points tally of 96 and the highest goals for record of 103.

Despite finishing 11 points ahead of fourth placed Biggleswade Town and leading 1-0 in the play-off final they missed promotion when the visitors were awarded a controversial penalty which turned the game.

In the 2013/14 play-off semi-final the team were no match for 5th placed Slough Town at Butlin Road after again finished as runners-up. It was another season when 100 league goals were scored.

Individually David Kolodynski became the club's all time leading goalscorer at senior level passing Danny Conway.

A sixth place Central Division finish in 2014/15 proved a disappointment and on 1st May 2015 it was announced that Dave Stringer had left his manager's position by mutual consent.

For the 2015/16 season, Rugby were switched to the Northern Premier League for the first time after 32 years in the Southern League.

A poor start under rookie new manager, Gary Mills, saw him replaced in September by former Valley goalkeeper, Dale Belford whosteadied the team in his first four months in charge, followed by a surge towards the play-offs before finishing 9th in NPL Division One South. The team won three Fair Play Awards for their exemplary disciplinary record during the season including an FA Respect Award.

The 2016/17 season saw new manager James Jepson also leave the club shortly into his tenure with another former player, Gary Moran, taking charge in September.

His first managerial appointment ended with the team finishing 21st in the league and relegation to Step Five for the first time after 34 seasons.

The club were relegated into the Midland Football League Premier Division for the 2017/18 season but also saw the return of Stringer as manager, following two seasons in charge of Chasetown.

After a disappointing mid-table finish, Stringer was replaced by former Stratford Town manager Carl Adams and saw his side fall short of the top two as the club were moved into the United Counties League for the first time since 1975.

Two Covid-19 interrupted seasons followed between 2019-2021 as the club netted a third place season again before the same bronze-place finish came in the 2021/22 campaign as Valley reached the Fifth Round of the FA Vase before bowing out away to North Shields.

The club finally achieved promotion back to the Northern Premier League at the conclusion of the 2022/23 season after finishing runners-up to Coventry Sphinx in the UCL Premier Division South.

Thanks to having a superior points-per-game ratio than their equivalent competiitors across the country at Step 5, Rugby earned an automatic promotion instead of facing an interstep play-off.

History by Landmarks

  • Early 1950s sees beginnings of a club in Rugby called Glebe Rangers 1955 sees a change of name to New Bilton Juniors who played friendlies
  • Another change in 1956 sees a sees a newly named Valley Sports play in their first competitive match in the Rugby and District League at Thornfield, which became their home ground for the first 13 seasons
  • 1959 Sky & Navy Blue striped shirts and socks with Sky Blue shorts were introduced
  • 1969/1970 Development of Rugby's Sports Centre & Swimming Baths saw the club play it's home games at Hillmorton Recreation Ground for one season as the club enter the United Counties League
  • From 1969 to 1973 Valley Sports played their home games at Southern League side Rugby Town's Oakfield ground 1971 and another change to a geographically more acceptable Valley Sports Rugby
  • In 1973 the former Rugby Town club lose Oakfield and disband after 15 seasons in the Southern League
  • In 1973, the club move to their present ground Butlin Road. Used for the first time by the Valley on 6 October 1973 with the clubhouse opened on 19 September 1974
  • 1975/1976 season sees club invited to play in the West Midlands (Regional) League Premier Division and club name abreviated to VS Rugby
  • The first stand opposite the clubhouse was erected in 1980
  • In 1981, Jimmy Knox is appointed as first team manager
  • VS Rugby win the FA Vase after defeating Halesowen Town in the final in 1983 in front of over 6,000 Rugby fans
  • 1983 also sees VS Rugby promoted to the Southern League for the first time
  • VS Rugby reach the FA Cup First Round in 1984 forcing Northampton Town to a replay at Butlin Road before bowing out Record attendance of 3,961 against Northampton in FA Cup tie in 1984
  • Jimmy Knox leads Valley to the Southern League Midland Division title in 1987
  • The club are Birmingham Senior Cup winners in 1989 & again in 1992 Southern League Cup winners in 1990
  • After 11 years Jimmy Knox leaves Butlin Road in the summer of 1992 with the team 3rd in the Southern League Premier Division
  • VS Rugby reach Second Round of FA Cup but defeated by Marlow in replay with Tottenham Hotspur waiting in the third round in 92/93
  • VS suffer first ever relegation from the Southern League Premier Division in 1993 Club put into liquidation in 1993, but club saved by dedicated supporters
  • Ron Bradbury guides Rugby to another Southern League Midland Division promotion back into the Premier in 1994
  • Brentford are the visitors to Butlin Road in 1993/94 in the FA Cup First Round
  • Relegation ensues back to the Southern League Midland Division in 1996
  • In 1999, the club is again in danger of becoming extinct, but debts are wiped when Brian Melvin becomes Chairman
  • Extension to clubhouse is constructed as the building is completely refurbished
  • A change of name arrives in 2000 as Rugby United
  • In 2002, 500-seater cantilever stand is erected next to the clubhouse and it is officially opened in 2003 Rugby are promoted to the Southern League Premier Division after a non-league restructuring
  • A new name comes into place in 2005 as the main senior and junior clubs in the town come together under the one name of Rugby Town
  • The two clubs, junior and senior, are awarded £1.5m by the Football Foundation to construct brand new facilities at Kilsby Lane and Butlin Road Club construct new 3G rubber-crumb training facility at Butlin Road which is completed in October 2006 - also used for community use.
  • New 1,300 capacity covered standing terrace is erected along whole Allotment End side of the ground in March 2007.
  • In 2009-10, Valley are relegated from the Southern League Premier after a seven year stay
  • 2012-13 under Dave Stringer, Runners-up in Southern League Division One Central to Burnham - Play Off Final Defeat to Biggleswade Town.
  • 2013-14 under Dave Stringer, Runners-up in Southern League Division One Central to Dunstable Town. Play-off Semi Final defeat to Slough Town.
  • In November 2014 new Hospitality Suite to accommodate up to 100 people opened where the original dressing rooms used to be housed
  • Moved to Northern Premier League in 2015/16 for first time in club's history after 32 year spell in Southern League
  • 2016/17 sees the club relegated from NPL to Midland Football League (Step 5) after a poor season
  • In 2018/19 the club were moved to the United Counties League
  • In 2022/23 the club were promoted to the Northern Premier League Midland Division after finishing runners-up to Coventry Sphinx in the UCL Premier South

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