Rough Guide to... AFC Telford United

Cod Almighty | Article

by Mike Worden & Pat Bell

2 August 2011

In a nutshell
Telford, like Milton Keynes, is a new town. There, all similarities end. Telford has not only built, but rebuilt its own football club. Their motto pays due respect to their past, and also serves to mark with disdain those who believe you can steal the pride of another community: numquam obliviscere – "Never forget".

Telford has a football heritage almost a century older older than the town itself. Formed in 1872 as Parish Church Institute, and competing mainly in the Southern League as Wellington Town, the club adopted the name Telford United in 1969, when Wellington was incorporated into the new town.

Where Wellington had won honours abroad (Welsh Cup winners in 1902, 1907 and 1940), Telford won them at home: five times finalists and three times winners of the FA Trophy, in 1971, 1983 and 1989. In the FA Cup, Telford United beat nine Football League teams, four in 1983-84 and then, in 19845-85, another three in a cup run that culminated in the Fifth Round before 47,000 spectators at Goodison Park, home of the then League champions, Everton. Telford were founder members of the Conference, achieving a best finish of third. They played at the Bucks Head for over a century, until it was entirely rebuilt as the 5,400 capacity New Bucks Head, completed in 2003.

The New Bucks Head, TelfordThe New Bucks Head, home of AFC Telford, described by the Football Supporters Federation as "one of the best non-league grounds in the country [that] also puts many league grounds to shame". Photo by Tom Pine (cc by-nc 2.0)

Such is the stature that supporters in Telford refused to forget when, in 2004, the club, wholly owned by Andrew John Shaw, found itself with debts of £4 million, following the collapse of Shaw's business. The supporters trust, which had raised £50,000 in an unsuccessful attempt to keep Telford United alive, then proved that you can learn from history. On the same day, 27th May 2004, that Telford United were liquidated, AFC Telford United were formed. The new club is wholly owned by the supporters trust, protecting it from the vagaries and whims of an individual's fortune.

The new club were granted a slot in the pyramid three leagues below the Conference status the old club forfeited, but won promotion twice in their first three seasons to to gain a place in the Conference North. They finished in the play off positions in their next two seasons. Ending the 2009-10 season in 11th, they appointed Andy Sinton as manager.

Last season
AFC Telford's 2010-11 campaign began well with thirteen goals as The Bucks won their first four matches, and remained unbeaten in the league until November. They were helped initially, by Adam Proudlock, signed in September and scoring a fistful of goals in his first few games; he contributed nothing else all season (No change there then). Although Telford lost just four league games over the campaign, thirteen draws left them ten points behind champions Alfreton and faced with a close battle with Boston for the runners up spot. Luckily, the same bastards who offloaded Proudlock on Telford evened things up by nicking Boston's managers and, with 82 points, Telford finished three points clear in second.

AFC Telford's progress through the play-offs was a little nervous. They beat Nuneaton 3-2 on aggregate in the semi-final, indebted to a late equaliser in the first leg and, in the second, a penalty that the Shropshire Star described as controversial. Against Guiseley in the final, the Yorkshire club's local paper suggests that, despite Telford's home advantage, the away side dominated but for the first ten minutes, when Telford took the lead from the penalty spot, and the last 11, when goals by Liam Murray and Phil Trainer, in injury time, secured a 3-2 win, to restore Conference football to the town of Telford.

Next season
AFC Telford's official site suggests a busy close season with no fewer than nine players joining the club, including our own Dwayne Samuels, ex-Wolves reserve team captain Nathan Rooney, former Birmingham defender Dan Preston and forward Craig King, released by Leicester but with League experience at Hereford and Northampton. Their leading scorer, Andy Brown, with 52 goals for the club, remains at Bucks Head. What this string of names hitherto unknown to us might signify is uncertain. A more telling guide to the club's prospects might be a rather conveniently timed poll on the AFC Telford messageboard Bucks Chat which has the greatest number of respondents predicting they'll finish 16th or 17th.

In the longer term, the club's Wikipedia entry notes the predicted growth of the town to a quarter of a million population and extrapolates from that a fan base capable of supporting Premiership football. However, much of that growth has come from Wolverhamption, and much of the local population continues to support Wolves. The relationship between population and club is not always direct, but an average attendance only a shade below 2,000 in the Conference North does suggest a team easily capable of establishing itself as a force in the Conference.

Squad Size: 26 players (3First July)
Betting: AFC Telford are 50/1 against to win the Conference.

Apart from the football
Telford itself is not a brilliant place to spend the weekend but nearby Ironbridge (about 3 miles from Bucks Head) was the birthplace of the industrial revolution and is an absolutely great place to visit. A pretty gorge, nice riverside walks, great working museums, tea shops and a famous bridge built by Thomas Telford. The hill 'The Wrekin' forms a backdrop to the town.The Iron Bridge, TelfordThe iron bridge, built by Thomas Telford himself. Photo by John Morris (cc by-nc-sa 2.0)