Northerners Athletic Football Club
NORTHERNERS AC was founded in November 1892 at the old Vale Café, which was later to become the Ship Inn.
Its seven founding members on that Friday night were: Dr Jones, Robert Lower, Mr Daniels, Walter Savage, John Hanley, RT Osler and William Bird, and so keen were they to get their club started that it played its very first game the next day at Delancey.
It is not known against who that first game was played, but what is known is that North turned out in a green and black strip, and did so for the next 10 years until the wife of the then president William Stranger told her husband she did not like the colours.
He agreed that no one else on the committee really did either and challenged his wife to come up with something else, and so the chocolate and blue design was born after receiving the overwhelming support of its officials.
North won its first Priaulx Cup [First Division Title] in 1900, and since then has gone on to win a total of 28 first division crowns.
The club was also the winner of the first ever Upton to be held between the Guernsey and Jersey champions in 1907 when North beat the Jersey Caesareans 3-0 at home.
However they failed to hold on to their crown the following year when they lost in Jersey, to Jersey Wanderers 2-1 aet.
William Bird, president of the club from 1904 – 1936 remembers North went down to Jersey that day with just one supporter, Philip Vaudin.
That had all changed by the Upton in 1933 when more than 1,800 made the trip across to Jersey, and although North once again lost 2-1 to Jersey Wanderers, Mr Bird said the game would always be remembered for the highly respectful procession the club and its supporters embarked on to the cenotaph before the match where it laid a wreath out of respect for the sister island’s war dead. At this point in its history the club had won the Upton 10 times. It has since gone on to win it a total of 16 times.
The 1926/27 season was arguably the club’s most historic when its first team won every single match it played and captured the Priaulx, Upton, Jeremie, Martinez and Stranger trophies – the club was presented with a special trophy by the GFA to mark the achievement of that season.
But that unbeaten run came to end the following Christmas after 18 months – when the Royal Navy smashed eight past the chocolate and blues. That same season the Guernsey Muratti team contained nine Northerners, and although the greens lost 2-1 aet, the following year with seven North players in the line-up, Guernsey swamped Jersey 7-1 in Jersey.
During the same decade, North’s legendary Busty Warr caused a bit of a stir during a Stranger Cup match with Rangers. Warr had protested at the award of a penalty against North and despite the referee telling him to be quiet or he would send him off, Warr replied: ‘You wouldn’t have the nerve’. But the referee did and gave him his marching orders. However, so aghast were three of the North players that the team’s popular lynchpin had been dismissed that they followed him off by way of protest. The seven men held on for a honourable draw, but such was the consternation that the incident caused that Warr was suspended for the rest of the season and missed out on yet another Muratti cap.
On a more positive note, it is worth mentioning that North also holds a record that dates back more than 70 years, namely the youngest captain ever to win the Upton. The player was Jack Marley, his age was 21 and the year was 1936.
The club is also responsible for the island club competition, the Stranger Cup. Originally, the cup was contested by just North when the club split its players into eight sides to battle it out with each other to win the trophy donated by William Stranger.
The reason for this was because the club, for just one season, quit the GFA unhappy at its treatment around the council table.
But upon its return to the GFA a year later, it decided to present the cup to the GFA, which decided to make it into an annual competition.
Through the years the club has gone on to produce a number of local players that have gone on and made it in the professional grade.
One was Richard ‘Flip’ Le Flem, famous for his corkscrew runs, who went on to be capped at under-23 level for England against Holland. He played for Wolverhampton Wanderers, Middlesbrough and Leyton Orient.
Another Northerner to make the international grade was the inside right Barry Mahy, one of the stars of the 1961-63 side.
He turned professional with Scunthorpe United and later made his way to America where he played for New York Cosmos and impressed so much that he was chosen to play for Team America.
He also had the distinction of captaining a New York side, which included none other than the legendary Pele.
But red-headed wing half Ron Farmer was the first and he went on to play for Coventry City.
Believe it or not, after dominating the early decades of Guernsey football, North had to wait from 1963, when they completed an Upton hat-trick, until 1990 to win another Priaulx title.
They did so with a memorable 7-0 win over St Martin’s at Northfield, needing just a draw. They then won the next two league titles, but would once again have to wait a long time – another 15 years to win it again when they did so in 2007, and repeated that feat in 2009.
It is not just on the domestic front that North has been a formidable outfit. In the years that the club entered the Dorset Senior Cup at the end of the 1980s and early 1990s it was a tough opponent for many mainland teams.
Its most successful entries into that competition came in the 1987/88 season when the side reached the semi-finals only to lose a winnable semi-final at home to Bridport, 3-2, and then in the 1989/90 season when again North reached the semi-final and lost. This time away, to Swanage Town & Herston, 2-0.
For those who didn’t know – Northfield has not always been the club’s home. It used to be The Track until in 1973, North officially opened Northfield on Saturday 18 August. The then-Bailiff Sir John Loveridge kicked off the specially arranged game with Vale Rec, but unfortunately the match ended in defeat, 6-1 to Vale Rec, who 20 years earlier had invited North to play the inaugural game at Corbet Field.
In 1990, the club also played its first game under floodlights. But yet again, the sky blues failed to open with a win and could only manage a draw with Rovers.