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Corby's History

This site contains various articles about the history of Corby Town Football Club beginning with a brief general history by David Tilley:
Against all the odds Corby Town Football Club head towards the millennium as members of the Dr. Martens League. And after years of struggling at the wrong end of the table there is currently an air of optimism around the Rockingham Triangle ground. It is an optimism reminiscent of that present when the club first came into being during the summer of 1948.
    Since 1935 the former rural village of Corby in Northamptonshire had been represented in the United Counties League by steelworks side Stewarts & Lloyds - hence the club's nickname of the Steelmen. But by the end of the 1947/1948 season it was decided that the new town of Corby had grown sufficiently enough to support an independent football club and Corby Town was born.
    Local JP William Mongomery was elected chairman - a position he had previously held with S&L - and former Millwall, Dundee and England player Reg Smith was appointed player/manager.
    Corby Town Football Club played its first game against Wellingborough Town at Occupation Road - home until 1985 - on Saturday, August 21, 1948 and began with an impressive 5-1 victory in front of a crowd of 2,300. Reg Smith departed just a month into that first season for family reasons, however and results were generally disappointing until senior player Wally Akers was given the manager's job in the summer of 1950.
    The United Counties League championship was then won in style in both 1950/1951 and 1951/1952 by a side skippered from centre half by the imposing Scot Jimmy Strathie and with ace goalscorer Ernie Middlemiss setting a club goalscoring record of 135 in 136 games which was to last for more than forty years until being broken by David Hofbauer.
    Those successes prompted a step up the Midland League in 1952 and in their first season Corby were pipped to the championship by Nottingham Forest Reserves in a last game decider. The Steelmen spent the next five seasons in the Midland League and although they were never able to match that initial success they did have their moments.
    In 1954/1955 they reached the First Round Proper of the FA Cup for the first time losing 0-2 at home to Watford before a crowd of 6,763. The following season two products of the club's youth system - Andy McCabe and Len Chalmers - were transferred to Chesterfield and Leicester City respectively for fees totalling almost two thousand pounds. And in 1956/1957 Corby won their home league encounter Gainsborough Trinity (who turned up without a recognised goalkeeper) by a club record score of 14-0!
    The year of 1958 was a momentous one for the club. In February floodlit football came to Corby when an All Star XI took on the Steelmen in the inaugural game under lights and in March it was announced that the club was leaving the Midland League in favour of the Southern League. In May it was revealed that former Manchester United, Derby County, Leicester City and England inside forward Johnny Morris was taking over as player/manager.
    During his three years in charge Morris brought a nimber of well known ex-leage player - including his former Manchester United and England colleague Henry Cockburn - to Occupation Road. But this policy almost bankrupt the club and at the end of 1960/1961 he was informed that he was not having his contract renewed for financial reasons.
    Morris was succeeded by ex-Corby player Tommy Hadden and under his clever management and astute chairmanship of Fred Deely things improved both on and off the pitch. Promotion to the Premier Division was narrowly missed in 1963/1964 - when the capture of the Merit Cup as the Southern League's highest scoring team was some consolation - but the following year they did achieve promotion to the top flight. During this period the club made several applications for Football League membership and in 1966 actually picked up one vote!
    In 1963/1964 Corby were knocked out ot the FA Cup in the First Round Proper by Bristol City and the following season they were defeated at the same stage by Hartlepool United. In 1965/1966 the Steelmen overcame that hurdle at home to fellow non-leaguers Burton Albion and in the Second Round faced Luton Town at Occupation Road. Hopes of an upset appeared to have been dashed when Luton earned a 2-2 draw with a late disputed penalty but on the most glorious night in a club's history a goal by local boy Maurice Goodall gave Corby victory over the Hatters at Kenilworth Road in the replay. In the Third Round a trip to Plymouth Argyle resulted in a 0-6 thrashing and in general the club's fortunes have been on a downward spiral ever since.
    Corby were relegated from the Premier Division in 1968 and remained in various forms of Division One until earning a place in the new-look Premier Division in 1982. The Steelmen were relegated again in 1990 - by which time they had moved to a new home at the multi-purpose Rockingham Triangle sports complex - but bounced back after just one season as Midland Division runners up and Merit Cup winners.
    In 1992/1993 under the management of Elwyn Roberts and with an experienced side which included Steve Collins, Gerry McElhinney, Bryn Gunn and skipper Dougie Keast they finished third in the Premier Division but just two seasons later following a cash crisis which had threatened the club's very existence they were relegated and ever since have struggled just to stay in the Southern League.
    It appeared that the battle had been lost at the end of 1997/1998 but Corby were handed a late reprieve and switched to the Southern Division for the first time.
    The new management duo of Pete Dowsing and Lee Adam had assembled a young squad of talented players led by returning skipper Dougie Keast. After a tentative start last season the Steelmen gave warning of their intentions by inflicting a first defeat of the season on high flying Margate, thrashing Newport (IOW) 5-1 and then beating the previous seasons runners up Chelmsford City. Another good run of results followed at the turn of the year and hopes are high that Corby Town Football Club can continue their improvement in the 1999/2000 season.

This week, I add an article about how the steelman logo and nickname came about. It is taken from the book titled "40 Years On":
On the face of it: 'The Steelmen' may seem a rather obvious nickname for a football team, not to mention a town, which owed its very existence to the steel industry. But it took Corby's senior club over ten years to reach that obvious conclusion.
    Back in 1935 the town's newspaper correspondent 'Bessemer' had suggested that the newly-formed Stewarts and Lloyds (Corby) Football Club should adopt 'The Steelbacks' nickname also carried then by the 2nd Battalion Northamptonshire Regiment. The name stuck and might still have been used today by Corby Town but for two events in 1946.
    On the opening day of the 1946-47 season the Saturday night 'Pink-Un' launched a competition to find a suitable caricature to represent Stewarts and Lloyds in its pages alongside Kettering's 'Friar', Wellingborough's 'Doughboy', Rushden's 'Russian' etc.
    A prize of £5/5s was offered to budding artists and among over 400 entries received were 194 knights in shining armour, 120 Walt Disney Plutos (Corby's part in the manufacture of steel for the famous wartime 'Pipeline Under the Ocean' was still fresh in people's minds), 58 double-joined steel figures kitted out in football shorts, claymores, Tam O'Shanters, and kilts and various animated gasometers, ladles, Bessemer converters and furnaces. One reader even sent in a drawing of a potato lumbering down the wing with the caption: 'The Tubers'.
    Somewhere amonst all that lot arrived the winning entry of the now familiar sheet steel man submitted by 26-year-old Thomas Chapman of Broughton who was studying at Leicester's College of Art and Technology. The result was announced in the 'Evening Telegraph' on Monday, September 16 and Mr. Chapman received his reward from S and L skipper Jim Gilchrist before the following Saturday's 3-1 home defeat by Spalding United.
    Around the same time letters also appeared in the press stating it was wrong that the brave men of the 'Steelbacks' Regiment should have to share their nickname with something as trivial as a football team. It was suggested that S and L should adopt a different tag and, bearing in mind the club's new emblem, 'The Steelbacks' became 'The Steelmen' shortly afterwards. But how close did they come to getting a spud as an emblem and being called 'The Tubers'!

This next article was taken from the programme on January 8th against Folkestone Invicta and is titled A Delve Into The Past. It is by David Tilley:
It is strange the things you come across which have Corby Town connections. I was recently given a copy of the Daily Express dated Thursday January 13th 1966. The main front page story had the headline: "Girl's Body Found In Ditch" and told of the murder of five year old Diane Tift from Cannock in Staffordshire. Other stories told of three British Labour M.P's who were "Roughed up" during a visit to Rhodesia and a possible escape attempt by the three Great Train Robbers held at Leicester Prison. There was also news that Barbara Windsor had missed the previous night's performance of the Lionel Bart Musicall "Twang!!" at London's Shaftsbury Theatre because of illness and an apology by the I.T.A for remarks made on T.V by actor Laurence Harvey during the previous Sunday's Eamon Andrews show. He apparently eraged some viewers by speaking about contraceptives and telling a joke about the Foreign Legion!
    The item which interested me, however, was a small piece which declared: "SOCCER SWOOP ON CORBY TOWN - See Back Page."
    Turning to the back page proved a rewarding experience as most of it was covered by stories concerning our forthcoming F.A Cup Third Round tie away to Plymouth Argyle. Under the banner: "Success Crisis" the lead story read: "Corby Town, the steel men of the Southern League, are playing themselves relentlessly towards a soccer crisis. It is a crisis which must decide whether this handsome new town in Northants has an ambitious future in the Football League of merely a happy-go-lucky existence in the obscurity of their present playing world.
    "The Corby club has grown in stature at the same pace as the town, which was a thatched village of 1,200 souls in 1930 and now has 45,000 inhabitants, nearly 80 per cent of them Scots.
    "Corby have never had a bad side, from their days as formidable United Counties League champions through the Midland League and into the Southern League. Now, like county neighbours Peterborough, they are getting their first taste of high success in the F.A Cup. It is this glittering success, reaching the Third Round and playing away to Plymouth Argyle next week, which points the way to permanent progress.
    "The Daily Express Soccer Swoop squad, investigating Corby's astonishing Cup feats on such slim resources - little better than those of a village side - spoke to officials of the soccer club, the supporters and Stewarts & Lloyds. This gigantic steel firm owns Corby's ground, holds half the shares and employs their manager and three quarters of the players.
    "The picture which emerged was of a deplorably supported team, a club baffled by this lack of encouragement despite an impressive playing record, and the benevolent steel factory, hovering in the background, willing to help when the time is ripe for the changes we feel are inevitable.
    "Corby Town chairman Fred Deeley told us: "I'm most disappointed we are only drawing 1,100 crowds for the Southern League instead of the 2,000 we expected after gaining promotion to the Premier Division. We have tried every thing - pushing 10,000 leaflets advertising matches through every door in Corby and advertising on cinema screens. But it hasn't worked and we just don't know the answer to this disheartening problem.
    "Our facilities are good, all the players belong to us and we shall persist in our attempts to be elected to the Fourth Division although, frankly, I can't see it coming for a long time.
    "If we ever did get in I'm certain that the local people would come along then. This is proved by the 6,000 gate we drew for the Second Round F.A Cup tie with Luton Town. I don't want to give the impression that our hearts are in our boots. This is a wonderfully happy little club and although that our hearts are in our boots. This is a wonderfully happy little club and although we can break even only because of the three hundred pounds a week we make from our developement scheme we are confident we can keep paying our way", he concluded.
    "The Daily Express squad spoke to many soccer-loving Scots who do not hesitate to spend a small fortune going to watch Celtic and Rangers but were almost embarrassed by questions about their snubbing of the fighting Steelmen in League matches. Yet next week, their imagination captured by Corby's F.A Cup run, up to 1,000 will make the massive return trip to Plymouth by plane, train, car and bus, paying up to twelve pounds for the complete outing. This surely proves the latent interest there is waiting to be tapped.
    "John Keir, chief general office manager of Stewarts & Lloyds told us: "The soccer club used to be part of our recreation club but because they wanted more freedom they broke away although we maintain firm links by owning the ground we leased to them and keeping a big shareholding in the club. Personally I can't see the situation arising for perhaps ten years where the club will be ready for the Football League and thus needing to make big changes. But if they should come up with any major plan I'm quite sure that Stewarts & Lloyds would give it sympathetic consideration. Having a successful soccer side is obviously good for the town and I can tell you that the F.A Cup win at Luton caught the imagination of everyone. Perhaps it would be an exaggeration to say morale in the works rocketed. But everyone was talking about it gaily and with tremendous enthusiasm. It's done a lot of good".
    As well as this major piece the item included smaller articles by Corby manager Tommy Hadden and goalscoring hero of the Luton game Maurice Goodall who admitted: "If a bigger club wanted me and the pay would top the two wage packets I can command as a part-time player with Corby and one as a clerk...I would have to consider the situation seriously. It's the sort of chance any player would think hard about".
    There was the usual photograph of some of the players at work, complete with hard hats and overalls, and a selection of quotes from supporters. One of these was a rather dapper-looking Harold Thompson, a foreman of a galvanizing plant, who said: "Shift working undoubtedly makes regular support difficult. Unless we could get 5,000 of so crowds there would be no chance of getting the league soccer which would clearly attract the support of people fresh to the town".
    In summerizing their trip to Corby the Daily Express gave the following verdict "The Daily Express squad's opinion is that under the shrewd direction of men like Tommy Hadden who continues to find good players under such tough opposition the Steelmen's playing success will continue in future years.
    As the town grows, and it is planned to grow enourmously, Corby could find itself as powerful a non-league side as there has been in the game's history. Of course, they may be prepared to face year after year of frustrating competition outside the Football League with the occasional dazzling cup run.
    "The alternative, approaching rapidly, is for Corby Town to launch itself on the scale of Peterborough and Oxford. The facilities would have to be drastically and luxuriously improved. Perhaps then thousands of soccer-mad Scots now ignoring the club on their doorstep would be ready to give Corby Fourth of even Third Division support. We are convinced they would".
    So, thiry four years on, what has changed. Certainly little for the better. We are still bemoaning low attendances - although these days crowds of even 1,000 are purely a dream - and we are still sponsored by the steel industry. Both on and off the field we have lurched from crisis to crisis since Plymouth ended that 1965-66 F.A Cup run and in recent years just staying in the Southern League has been a battle we have often looked like losing. There are still far more people leaving the town every Saturday to support the likes of Celtic, Rangers, Manchester United, Leicester City and Chelsea than turn up to follow Corby Town.
    If distributing leaflets to every house in the town during a nationally publicised F.A Cup run could not attract the crowds to Occupation Roac on a regular basis it makes you wonder what chance we have of getting them up to the Rockingham Triangle these days. Still, we must keep on trying as gaining a bigger support is our best chance of continuing our present progress.