Eastleigh Athletic F.C.

Eastleigh Athletic were a long-running works football club, based in Eastleigh, Hampshire. They ran for over 70 years, many of which as the town's leading club and were one of the early pioneers of football in the area.

Eastleigh Athletic
Eastleigh Athletic FC.jpg
Eastleigh Athletic in 1911
Full nameEastleigh Athletic Football Club
Nickname(s)Railwaymen
Founded1890s
Dissolved1967
GroundDutton Lane, Eastleigh

HistoryEdit

Eastleigh Athletic FC were formed by workers at the Eastleigh Railway Depot sometime in the early 1890s and were originally known as Eastleigh LSWR (London & South Western Railway). The club owned their own sports ground at Dutton Lane in the town, which over the years was developed with an oval cycling track and grandstand for spectators.

In 1896 they adopted their best known identity of Eastleigh Athletic and were one of the eight founder members of the Hampshire League. On 5 September 1896 they took part in an historic match against Freemantle - the first ever game of the new competition. On a glorious sunny afternoon, the two teams provided plenty of entertainment for the large crowd with the match receiving full coverage from the Hants & Dorset press. Eastleigh narrowly lost that day 4-5 and fielded the following team: Collins, Dexter, Brocklehurst, Silverman, Bull, Service, Jeffcote, Bastock, Woodhouse, Knox and Sharp. Eastleigh finished the season in 4th place.

During the course of the AGM on 26 July 1897, it was mentioned by the Assistant Hon. Secretary, William Powley, that the colours of the club would be changed to chocolate and blue. This decision was to prove inspirational as in 1897–98, they were league champions and Hampshire Senior Cup winners, after a 2–1 victory against the 2nd Gordon Highlanders (Aldershot). The final was played at the County Ground, Southampton in front of a large crowd.

In order to generate a full fixture list, in those days it was not uncommon for clubs to enter more than one league during the same season and in 1897–98 Eastleigh also entered a side in the Western League (Professional Section).[1] Also playing in this eight-team Division were Swindon Town,[2] Reading, Bristol City and Bristol Rovers - Eastleigh finished in 7th place. The following season they then joined the Southern League Division 2 (South West Section),[1] finishing 5th out of six clubs, but on the scrapping of this short-lived division the main focus switched back to the more realistic Hampshire League.

In 1903 the league was divided into regional sections with Eastleigh placed in the South Division where they consolidated, however, they still maintained a strong cup pedigree. Eastleigh Athletic were regular entrants in the national competitions and in 1902–03 enjoyed their best run in the FA Cup when they reached the 4th Qualifying Round, losing 1–3 away to Whiteheads, the Dorset League champions.

1908–09 was another milestone season, when the Southampton FA was formed with Eastleigh becoming founder members, and entering Reserve sides in the Associations' newly formed league. There was further cup glory when they recorded a fine double by again winning the Hampshire Senior Cup after a 2–0 victory against the 2nd Cameron Highlanders (Tidworth) and also the inaugural Southampton Senior Cup after a 2–0 victory over Winchester City (both games were played at The Dell, Southampton).

The 1910–11 season saw the 'Railwaymen' reach another two finals; the Hampshire Senior Cup was won for the third and final time after a 4–2 success against Kings Royal Rifles Corps (Gosport) at Fratton Park, Portsmouth [3] but they were denied a cup double after losing 1–3 against Bitterne Guild, in the Southampton Senior Cup.

The early twenties saw Eastleigh yo-yo between the county league's two divisions, winning the West Division title in 1922–23. In 1925, after a poor season, they opted to join the less demanding Southampton League, where they soon found their feet again as they consecutively won the Junior 3, Junior 2 and South Hants Division titles during the final three seasons of the decade.

In 1930 the club returned to the Hampshire League Division 2 under the name of SR Eastleigh Athletic (S.R. stood for Southern Railway, the owner of the locomotive works in Eastleigh) and the team soon re-established themselves as they pushed for promotion. After several near misses they were champions in 1938–39 only to have their progress halted by the outbreak of World War II.

In 1947 Eastleigh again returned to the county League when they were placed in Division 3 East. Until this point they had been the town's senior club, but the post war era saw the emergence of local rivals Pirelli General, Eastleigh Spartans and Swaythling Athletic in the Hampshire League and this saw increased competition for the area's best players.

British Rail took over the works in 1949 and this saw the club's name amended to BR Eastleigh Athletic, and after several steady seasons their fortunes gradually improved. In 1956–57 they won promotion as Division 3 runners-up and remained a steady Division 2 side for a number of years until 1961 when they had to leave the competition. A year later they returned, and were placed in Division 3, but after several seasons of struggle they finished bottom in 1964–65 and were consequently relegated back to the Southampton League.

Worse was to follow when Eastleigh Athletic then unexpectedly lost the use of their ground during the 1966–67 campaign, when the Railway Goods Yard was expanded – this prompted the club to withdraw from the league and inevitably fold.

HonoursEdit

Playing RecordsEdit

LeagueEdit

FA CupEdit

Successor ClubEdit

A new team later emerged from the ashes - playing at a much lower level on hired council pitches, under the guise of B.R.S.A. (British Rail Staff Association). Alternating between the Southampton League and the now defunct Eastleigh & District League, they enjoyed moderate success before calling it a day in 1977.

In later years there were Youth teams playing under the same identity and a team called Eastleigh Locomotive but neither are thought to be connected.

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b "Football Club History Database - Eastleigh{1}". www.fchd.info. Retrieved 29 April 2019.
  2. ^ "Swindon-Town-FC.co.uk - Head-To-Head vs. Eastleigh Athletic". www.swindon-town-fc.co.uk. Retrieved 29 April 2019.
  3. ^ www:Hampshire Senior Cup