Chichester Surrender Top Spot in League

Chichester City United FC

Chichester City United were founded in 2000 following the merger of Chichester City Football Club and Portfield Football Club. The venture had been discussed for many years but it was only at the start of the new millenium that the brave step was undertaken. The City had always struggled to support two semi-professional clubs so the merger was seen as the only option for Chichester to become a force in non-league footballing circles.

The council are planning to sell the Portfield ground to housing developers and as part of the deal, a large cash injection will be given to the new club for the rebuilding of Chichester’s Oaklands Park Ground. Until the new stadium is built, likely completion is the start of the 2003/2004 season, Chichester City United FC will continue to play at Portfield.

In the clubs first season, the first team finished seventh in division one and were also the highest scorers in their league as well as having the best away record. The Reserve team won the Reserve Section West Championship by 10 points from local rivals Oving after going on a 30 league match unbeaten run – a good performance considering they lost their first two games of the season 8-2 and 6-4. They also reached the semi-finals of the Reserve Section Cup where they lost 1-0 to the eventual Premier league winners, Horsham YMCA.

In the 2001/2002 season, Chichester City United finished third in the County League Division One, 23 points behind runaway leaders Burgess Hill. The Reserves finished 5th in the Reserve Premier League and also reached the Reserve Cup Final where they lost 1-0 to Premier League winners Eastbourne Borough.

Club Honours

Reserve Section Challenge Cup Runners-Up (2001/02)Youth Section League Cup Winners (2001/02)Youth Section West Champions (2001/02)Reserve Section West Champions (2000/01)

Portfield FC

Portfield Football Club started life in 1896 as a group of local lads without a permanent pitch, a club in name only and formed, organised and supported by local business people. Meetings and team selection took place in the Whetasheaf Inn, a local Public House. Where now stands a set of traffic lights on the A27, Arundel Park Estate and St James Square, were all in thier day, home for the ‘Field’. Then came a new home ground called ‘Downers’.

A cow pasture upon which they were permitted to site an old railway carriage for use as achanging rooms, but not allowed to mow, prompted the teams nickname of the ‘Field’. Long wet grass where the cows hadn’t grazed, and other hazards where they had, made the old leather ball somewhat heavy and difficult to control, and to head it was risking concussion.

The 2nd World war interrupted organised football of course, but 1945 saw the return of most of the lads from the armed forces, and Downers, resplendant with the ex-army camouflage nets on the goals, were to witness the winning of the Sussex Junior Cup closely followed by the West Sussex League championship.

Memories of those days include the sight of Billy Hunt and Fred Bennett trundling their wooden box cart toward the ground on Saturday mornings, their mission being to ensure that the cows had been moved elsewhere, and to remove as much evidence of their presence as possible. Hanging the nets and carrying a bucket of cold water from the big house a quarter of a mile away, were also on the match day agenda.

Depsite being well outside the City at a time when very few people had cars, they enjoyed good support, but the biggest crowds usually occured when they played hosts to Graylingwell Mental Hospital because it was practice to walk a supervised party of patients to the match for exercise. They always made plenty of noise and seemed to enjoy themselves even if there were doubts among them as to who the competing teams were. Happy days, but they were poor relations to the likes of Chichester FC who were enjoying the luxurious facilities of one of Chichester’s main recreation areas, Priory Park.

In the mid fifties the ever growing need to quarry gravel from around the City’s outskirts eventually claimed ‘Downers’, and they were forced to move to a local recreation ground, Florence Road, which itself had been a quarry some years before. Whilst closer to the City’s population and the Wheatsheaf Public House, the infilling of the quarry had not had sufficient time to settle and all manner of sharp flints, metal etc. were often found on the surface. In those days there were also no changing facilities.

In 1958 Portfield were given permission to use the pitch that existed in Church Road (the current temporary home of Chichester City United). D. Rowe and Co., the local car garage were then leasing the ground from Chichester City Council for the firm’s sports club, and since their Managing Director’s first love was cricket, a wicket square dominated the centre of thr ground, with a football pitch running at a right angle of that of today. Three years later, Rowes gave up the lease on the ground which Portfield then acquired.

The team built their first clubhouse in 1969 which housed dressing rooms for both teams and match officials, showers, toilets, clubroom and bar. Separate changing room facilities were added in 1983 followed by floodlights in 1987 and other facilities – the stand and hard standing area around the pitch – have progressively improved.

Club Honours

Sussex County League Division Two Winners (1973/84)
Sussex County League Division Two Invitation Cup Winners (1971/73)

Chichester City FC

The first Chichester Football Club was formed in October 1873 and added the title of City to it’s name in 1948. The club’s original home was in Priory Park but established it’s present head quarters in Oaklands Park in the early fifties.

The club was represented in the inaugural meeting of the Sussex County F.A. in September 1882 and competed in the first ever Sussex Senior Cup competition in the same year when they lost to Storrington 5-0 on 2nd November.

In 1896 Chichester became members of the newly formed West Sussex League and remained there until they became founder members of the Sussex County League in 1920.

The first major honour was achieved in 1926 when they won the Sussex Senior Cup for the only time. Inter-war success was limited and most of the club’s achievements have been in the post-war era.

In 1960 Chichester clinched their first Sussex County League title and the following season proved even more successful. City retained the League championship, shared the Sussex R.U.R Cup with Brighton & Hove Albion after a 2-2 draw and reached the first round proper of the F.A. Cup before losing 11-0 away to Bristol City.

Success returned to Oaklands Park in 1968 when City recaptured the league title and reached the 4th qualifying round of the F.A. Cup finally succumbing 3-0 to Guildford.

In the 1970’s Chichester’s fortunes were mixed; the high point being another League Championship in 1973 and a good run in the F.A. Amateur Cup which was finally halted by cup holders Hendon.

That success was only short lived though and after several seasons of struggle, City were facing relegation for the first ever time early in 1979. However, the appointment of ex-Plymouth and Portsmouth player, Richie Reynolds, as Club Manager sparked off an amazing revival which saw City claw their way to safety. The following season was one of City’s best ever as Reynolds masterminded an oustanding League Championship win (City’s fith and last championship). A late run of nine successive victories left Chichester needing only a draw from their final match; a result that they duly achieved on a memorable May evening, with the home side missing a late penalty.

A spell of mid-table security followed but the club were eventually relegated for the first time in 1983 after a dismal season. City finished sixth in their first season in Division Two but promotion and a Division Two Cup success followed in 1985.

However, this time the stay in Division One was short lived and they retunred to the Second Division for the 1987/88 campaign. Promotion proved elusive for two seasons despite being amongst the pacesetters each time although the Division Two Challenge Cup was won once again in 1988.

Then in the summer of 1990 Steve White took over as Club Manager and the side enjoyed another promotion campaign with a third Divison Two Challenge Cup success after beating Stamco. The club struggled for several seasons in the County League top flight before again being relegated to Division Two in 1994.

In 1996, City finished in the promotion places behind Selsey and Saltdean United but were denied promotion by the absence of planning consent for floodlights. In the same year a financial crisis threatened the future of the club – but the club survived and Aidie Girdler was appointed club manager in July.

In 1997, City returned to the top flight after finishing runners up to Littlehampton Town and permission was finally granted for floodlights at Oakland Park. City remained in Division One up until the merger with Portfield FC in 2000.

Club Honours

Sussex County League Champions (1960/61/68/73/80)
Sussex County League Runners Up (1951/62/66/67)
Sussex County League Division Two Runners Up (1985/91/97)
Sussex Senior Cup winners (1926)
Sussex R.U.R Charity Cup Winners (1961/64)
Sussex County League (Invitation) Cup (1948/55/57/64)
Sussex County League Division Two Challenge Cup Winners (1985/88/91)
P.G. Cunningham Sportsmanship Trophy (1983)
Sussex Youth Cup Winners (1989)
Sussex Youth League West Section Winners (1989/1990)
Sussex Intermediate Cup Winners (1967)