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Upton AA Football Club

Introduction

Following the demise of Upton Athletic the next football club to emerge in Upton was Upton AA.

Upton AA Football Club has an important place in the history of football in Upton.

It is interesting to examine why it is that Upton AA Football Club has endured, and is still in existence today, whilst so many other football teams in Upton have 'fallen by the wayside'. One can come to the conclusion that Upton AA has over the years enjoyed the interest and the services of dedicated people with the ability to be able to recognize and grasp the opportunities that ensure the long term stability of a local football club.

"In the Beginning!!"

Upton AA Football Club was founded in 1962.

It was the brain child of the Parish Church Youth Club leader Arthur Formistone and the Rev Perris Williams a curate at the Church of the Holy Ascension.

The age limit for the Youth Club, which used to meet in the Village Hall, was sixteen and it was the idea to provide activities for former youth club members beyond the age of sixteen, which led amongst other things, to the formation of a football club in 1962.

"We chose the name Upton Athletic Association for the club because we wanted a team name somewhat different from United, Rangers or Villa.   We also wanted to establish the fact that although the club had grown out of the Parish Church Youth Club it was independent of any organization and Upton based."

For two years the football club played, with some success, a series of friendly matches against local opposition.

"/ think that many parents and friends were so pleased that something was being done to occupy the youth in the village and keep them out of mischief that adults were only too ready to help the club establish itself. They could also see beneficial effect that having a football club in the village could have for everyone in Upton at that time"

Encouraged by their success the club, now known as Upton Athletic Association Football Club, applied to join Section D of the Chester & District League for the 1964-65 football season.

The Executive Committee of the Chester & District League thought at first that the application for membership of the league was one from the now defunct Upton Athletic masquerading under another name.   Reassurances as to the viability of Upton AA, its ability to play in the Chester & District League and fulfil its commitments led to the club's application being accepted.

Chester & District League -1964-65

There really were huge levels of local interest in Upton AA

So many players were keen to commit themselves to the new club that Upton AA Reserves were formed.

The reserve team could not play in the same Section of the Chester & District League as the first team so an application was made on their behalf for admission to the Runcorn & District League.  This was accepted and despite having to travel some distance to play their away games Upton AA Reserves officially came into being.

"There was this enormous enthusiasm and good will for the club.  People busied themselves preparing for the coming 1964-65 football season.  Mike Denham's hither made two sets of goalposts and a set of comer flags. Raffles were organized to raise the monies to purchase the goal nets, a football strip and footballs.

The 1964-65 season began on 29th August 1964 with Upton AA playing their first Chester & District League match at Wealstone Lane against Waterworks(Chester) FC

It must have been a huge disappointment, allowing for the enthusiasm and the interest that Upton AA Football Club had generated in the local community for the team to lose 3-1... .but worse was to follow.

The following Saturday Upton AA travelled to Tarporley for their first away fixture against Tarporley Community...... the team that would end the season as champions of Section D  The young team from Upton suffered a shattering 15-0 defeat being completely outplayed by a much more experienced side than themselves.

It says much for the spirit of the team and the support that they received that the team recovered from their catastrophic defeat at Tarporley to such an extent that a report in the Chester Chronicle on 17th October 1964 comments on Upton AA
Football Club settling to the rounds of league games in Section D of the Chester
& District League...

"After a shaky start Upton AA are proving to be one of the better sides in the Section D. They pulled off a fine 4-3 win against Runcorn Boys Club who were fancied to run away with this section at the start of the season"

The progress being made by the team from Upton could also be set against the result of their return game with Tarporley Community at Wealstone Lane on 7th November 1964.   In a hard fought game Upton AA lost to the champions elect by the odd goal in three.

The new football club was the proverbial 'hive of activity".

"On the mornings of match days everyone connected with or interested in the club who had a lawn mower went down to the Wealstone Lane pitch to take part in an activity........ that could only be described as 'communitylawn mowing'.   We mowed the pitch."

Once the pitch was mown it was marked out and the goalposts and nets put up for the match

"We used to change in the garage of the house on the comer of Wealstone Lane and Weston Grove.   The house was owned by the father of John Isles who played for the team....... it was really quite convenient II"

Upton Athletic Association FC was not just about those playing football for the teams and those involved running the club.   Upton AA was very much a family club.

"Mothers, sisters and girlfriends of the players provided refreshments at half time in our home games at Wealstone Lane for both teams and the spectators.  It was quite a sight, just before half time seeing them coming down Wealstone Lane and Weston Grove with cakes and sandwiches together with teapots full of tea and the cups to pour the tea into balanced dangerously on trays...... they also broke with footballing tradition and provided refreshments for players and spectators at full time as well".

The enthusiasm for the club was endless and the people of Upton involved with the club were always looking for ways in which it could be taken forward.

"The wonderfully supportive Mr Denham, Mike Denham's father, suddenly announced that he had managed to get hold of a large wooden hut which he thought would be ideal for the teams to change in.  It was rumoured that the hut was one which was surplus to requirements on the Dale Camp but that did not matter."

Approaches were made to the Chester City Council who agreed to provide a base for the hut, which was then duly installed.

"The hut was a huge improvement on the rather cramped conditions of Mr Isles garage and furthermore it was actually on the Wealstone Lane playing field. The hut was also useful as it served as a storage depot between matches for the goalposts, the goal nets, the line marking machine, the bags of lime for the line marking machine etc: As a result the hut acquired a unique atmosphere all of its own.

The hut was quite spacious but had no running water or lighting.

David Berry sorted out the problem of the lack of lighting.

"/ managed to get together a collection of car headlamps.  I mounted them up around the hut and wired them up to an array of car batteries to provide light inside the hut on match days After the match it was my responsibility to ensure that I took the batteries home to charge them up to provide light in the changing rooms for the next home game."

Although the teams changing facilities, in comparison with some other teams in the league, could be described as rather sparse........... its training facilities were almost state of the art for a football team in Section D of the Chester & District League.

"Now that we were playing in the Chester & District League we thought mat we had better try and get fit  Initially, In a valiant attempt to keep fit, we used to indulge in what we wistfully referred to as circuit training.   This involved running down Butter Hill (where the people of Upton in snow filled winters past would go sledging) to the canal and men up Caughall Road to Badgers Rake and then...maybe....perhaps...round again! This sort of unsupervised activity did not meet with approval of Arthur Formistone and the Rev Perris Williams.   They approached the authorities at the Dale Camp to explore the possibilities of Upton AA Football Club using the sporting facilities at the Dale Camp for training purposes'

It would seem that Western Command were only too willing to be involved in the local community and permission was forthcoming for Upton AA to use not only the football pitches at the Dale Camp but also the gymnasium.  The use of the gymnasium and its facilities was extremely helpful in bad weather and in the dark evenings before the advent of all weather football pitches and floodlighting.

"Circuit training took place in the gymnasium under the watchful and demanding eyes of Western Command Physical Training Instructors. Slowly but surely our reputation of being a very fit team began to develop".

Interest in Upton AA within the local community was considerable.

"As a Team we did enjoy a considerable degree of local support   This was apparent in the coach load of friends and supporters who followed the team to away matches, especially when we were involved in cup ties."

One of the club's loyal supporters, who is remembered with affection by former players, was Frank Lloyd.

"Frank Lloyd was the caretaker at Upton Heath Primary School.  He was there on the touchline at every home game no matter what the weather. He didn't say too much unless the referee, in his opinion, made a wrong decision which did not favour Upton AA!!  When the match was over it was the custom amongst us players to ask Frank Lloyd how he thought mat we had played.  It did not matter what the result was. ...a convincing win, a hard fought draw or a disappointing defeat the answer was always the same impish reply "You were b....y rubbish!!"

Sometimes the passions provoked by the game caused some of the Upton AA supporters to react in the heat of the moment in a manner that they would bitterly regret once the game was over and passions had cooled.

"I remember one game in which one of our mid field players, he would be an inside forward in those days, dribbled his way past an opposing defender who ran back after him and tackled him. It must be said that our inside forward was a skilful player but somewhat lacking when it came to withstanding a determined tackle. He went down in a heap.   His mother, who had been caught up in the cut and thrust of the game, ran onto the field and beat the perpetrator of what she thought was a dreadful foul on her son with her umbrella.  As the referee ran over to calm down the situation the unfortunate player pushed the irate lady away and swore at her.    The referee sent the player off for swearing.   The lady concerned was walked off the pitch by her husband who banned her from watching any future Upton AA match in which her son was involved....wonderful days!!!"

Upton finished the 1964-65 season in mid table. It was agreed that their first season in the Chester & District League had been a success considering the dreadful start that they had made to the season.  The team had learnt the lessons of playing league football to such an extent that they had finished the season losing just twice in their last eight games, six of which were played away from Wealstone Lane.

The performances of the team had been noted over the season to the extent that full back John Williams had been selected to play for the Chester & District Youth team.

The 1964-65 football season was also notable for the success enjoyed by the Upton AA Youth team who reached the final of the Minor Medals Competition.

In the final Upton AA met Chester City and were leading 2-1 with minutes to go when according to Stuart Crawford "Chester were awarded a dubious penalty from which they scored the equalising goal".   Stuart scored twice in the replay but it was not enough to prevent Upton suffering a 6-2 defeat.

Upton AA were now, much to the delight of their numerous supporters, laying claim to a place on the local footballing map.

Chester & District League 1965 -1972

The period was one of steady advancement in the history of Upton AA.   Over the period they benefited enormously from the continuous service of Tom Varey as manager

it is interesting to note that in these early days, in keeping with the clubs all inclusive aims, the Rev Winston Barraclough a curate at the Congregational Church in Heath Road (now the United Reform Church) played for Upton AA.

A somewhat forceful and direct footballer he scored numerous goals for the team As such must have been every sports writer's headline from heaven - "Upton AA achieve victory on a wing and a prayer!"...."Upton AA saved by divine intervention"

The 1965-66 football season saw Upton AA building on the experience that they had gained in their first season in the Chester & District League.

They enjoyed a wonderful season scoring 129 goals, the highest in Section D. They lost just four games and, agonizingly, finished in 3rd place just three points adrift of a promotion place.

The team was also beginning to establish itself as a force to be reckoned with in cup football.

Amongst a great deal of excitement they reached the semi final of the Cayzer Shield before losing a hard fought encounter with Barrow FC, 1-0.

Upton AA Youth team stormed through to the semi final of the Minor Medals competition.   Some convincing victories were recorded on the way to the semi final with Peter Futcher scoring 5 goals on two separate occasions.

Sadly, like the senior team, they lost their semi final, 3-1 to ICI (Widnes) Juniors.

The success that the team had enjoyed in the 1965-66 football season did have its rewards much to the delight of all those people of Upton involved with the club both on and off the field.

In the close season the Chester & District League Executive carried out a restructuring of the league.   Upton AA's progress had been noted and as a result the club was promoted and would play in Section C in the 1966-67 season.

The team continued to progress and finished in 4th place in Section C only two points behind the promotion places to Section B.

Again Upton AA Youth team reached the semi finals of the Minor Medals Competition before losing to Heath United (Runcorn)

However the exploits of the team had come to the attention of the selectors of the Chester FA Youth Team.   Ken Hughes and Peter Futcher were selected for the team which enjoyed a run to the semi finals of the Cheshire FA Youth Cup.

In the semi final (much to the dismay, in particular, of the Upton contingent) they lost to the Northwhich FA Youth Team. However the selection of Ken Hughes and Peter Futcher for the Chester FA Youth Team was another indication of the rising profile of Upton AA Football Club in local footballing circles.

In the close season the structure of the Chester & District League was subject to a substantial re-organisation.

The League's four Sections were renamed as 'Divisions'.   To accommodate those teams that wished to join the 'new-look' league the new divisions were restructured. The result was that Upton AA Football Club, based on its continuing progress, was confidently promoted to the new Division 2.

The new 1967-68 season began full of speculation as to how Upton AA would cope with playing at a higher level in the Chester & District League.

Reviewing the opening day of the new season "Linesman" in the Chester Observer wrote -

"Elton, relegated to Division 2 have attractive visitors in Upton AA who are one of the new sides in Division 2 as a result of the re-organisation of the league.  Although Upton AA are capable of upsetting the best on their day maybe Elton may prove just a little too experienced for them"

On 2nd September 1967 Upton AA began their season in Division 2 with a convincing 6-1 win at Elton........ Stuart Crawford causing havoc on the wing and scoring four times...... what a start!

The team stormed through the season finishing in 3rd place in the Second Division just four points short of a promotion place

With Upton AA now well established in Division 2 the club made a successful application on behalf of the reserve side for membership of the Chester & District League.

As a consequence, the 1968-69 football season opened with Upton AA in Division 2 of the Chester & District League and Upton AA Reserves in Division 4.

This fact was noted in "Linesman's" review of the new season, which appeared in the Chester Observer -

"Upton AA will be hoping for better luck (a reference to the club finishing in 3rd place in Division 2 in the 1967-68 season) and with their reserve side now in Division 4 there is certainly going to be keen competition for places"

Both sides enjoyed successful seasons with Upton AA finishing in 5th place in Division 2 and Upton AA Reserves finishing 4th in Division 4.

At the end of the season several clubs resigned from the Chester & District League to play in different leagues or through the result of difficulties, lack of support, loss of ground etc; that made it impossible for them to carry. On the other hand no fewer than seven new clubs had made applications for league membership.  The Management Executive was placed in a position whereby it was forced to conduct yet another re-organisation of its league structure.

The end result of all this administrative activity was that Upton AA, no doubt as a result of the club's growing reputation in local footballing circles, were promoted to Division 1.   Furthermore Upton AA Reserves as a result of their good showing in their first season in Division 4 were promoted to Division 3.

Football in Upton had never been operating from such a strong club base.

Both teams struggled somewhat to cope with the higher standards of play that they encountered during the 1969-70 season but showed a pleasing determination not to be over awed by their new status.

To their credit both teams finished in mid-table in their respective leagues. Upton AA finished 8th in Division 1.   Upton AA Reserves finished 7*1 in Division 3.

It is interesting to record that during the season Upton AA added to their reputation with cup runs that took them to the semi finals of the Chester FA

Junior Cup (which they lost 4-2 to Observer) and......... the Chester & District League Cup.

The three meetings between Upton AA and Bunbury, in the semi final of the Chester & District League Cup produced a classic illustration of the wonderful nature of local football.

In those days before floodlighting on local grounds, between teams having to cope with the extremes of the British weather and the annual end of season fixture congestion(Upton AA had to play 8 games in a three week period), the tie was a legend waiting to happen 11

Upton AA had played Bunbury at Wealstone Lane on 28th March in a Chester & District League match which had set the scene for their cup clashes to come. Upton AA had dominated the first half and by half time were leading 2-0. In the second half Bunbury had staged a fighting come back and a very hard fought game ended deadlocked at 3-3.

Episode one

"On Wednesday 1st April Upton AA and Bunbury met at Churton in a game that should have produced a finalist in the Chester & District League Cup. Bunbury playing the more positive football went into a two goal lead. However shortly before half time with Upton AA starting to come back into the game the light began fading fast and a snow storm of blizzard like proportions blew up.   This resulted in the referee having no other option but to abandon the match.   The replay will take place next Monday 6* April"

Episode two

"On Monday evening, 6* April, Upton AA and Bunbury renewed their battle for a place in the final of the Chester & District League Cup at Reliance.

Upton AA showing much more drive than they had shown in the previous encounter between the two sides at Churton last week deservedly took the lead when Strange headed home a brilliant cross from the right wing.   The first half ended with Upton AA dictating the play.   However in the second halfBunbury came back into the game and enjoyed long spells of pressure on the Upton AA goal.  During one such period of play they scored the equalizing goal in a goal mouth melee when the ball cannoned into the net off an unfortunate Upton AA defender. At full time with the score still at 1-1 extra time was started but before long it was too dark to continue.  A third meeting between the two sides will now take place"

Episode three

"On Thursday 30* April Bunbury eventually made their way into the final of the Chester & District League Cup with a semi final win over Upton AA The early stages of the game were evenly contested and with the score at 1-1 thoughts of another draw between the two teams seemed a real possibility.  However the longer the game went on the stronger Bunbury seemed to become.   The strong running efforts of the eager Bunbury mid field was a factor thai Upton AA increasingly struggled to contain.   In the end Bunbury scored a further four goals and ran put comfortable winners 5-1.

Throughout this period the strong support of the local community for the club was evident in reading through the old club newsletters, prepared by Tom Varey.

The newsletters, as well as providing news about the progess of the club on the field also, make note of and gave thanks to the many local firms, businesses and individuals in Upton who provided financial backing through the sponsorship of, what they saw as, their local football club.

The very same newsletters carried messages encouraging team members to support, in turn, the local firms and businesses who supported them as a team.

Local sponsorship of the club was vital to its well being.

It enabled the fledging football club to purchase football kits, footballs and to meet its running costs such payments to the Chester & District League, the payment of referees fees and the fees for the use and the maintenance of the Wealstone Lane playing field etc:

The teams success attracted the attention of those scouting for league clubs. Gareth Hughes and Stuart Crawford were invited to trials at Arsenal Football Club in London.

They spent a fortnight rubbing shoulders with many of the club's international stars but at the end of the fortnight they were according to Stuart Crawford..............  "thanked for coming to Arsenal for trials and wished the very best in their future careers...and that was it."

But what an experience for the two young men from Upton.

Graham Futcher, who had played for the Chester & District Youth team in the 1968-69 football season, became the first player from Upton AA Football Club to sign for a Football League club.

After a successful trial period with Chester City Football Club he was signed by the club in 1971.

1972-73 - Championship success

After finishing in their highest ever position in the Chester & District League as runners up to Division 1 Champions Reliance in the 1970-71 football season Upton AA approached the start of the 1972-3 football season with re-newed confidence.

However at their Annual General Meeting before the start of the 1972-73 football season the Chester & District League had announced that the league would be reorganized for the 1973-74 football season to incorporate a Premier Division at the top of the league structure.

The Premiership would include all the teams that finished in the top ten places in Division One in the 1972-73 football season plus the applications of the four clubs whose claims for membership of the new Premiership had best passed the scrutiny of the Chester & District League Management Committee.

So it was that the stage was set for what was to be a truly memorable season in the history of the club during which the team displayed the resilience and spirit which would take them, much to their supporters delight to the league title.

There were many games when the team came back from the brink of defeat to earn victory, when a comfortable half time lead almost disappeared under a frantic second half onslaught by the opposition, when stubborn, heart stopping resistance was only overcome in the later stages of a game, when the team were out played and somehow managed to avoid defeat and the odd occasion when no matter how hard they tried nothing went right for them

The character of Upton AA's historic season can be best illustrated by looking at some of their final league matches in the 1972-73 season starting with their game with Newton on 4th March 1973 -

"There must be some days when league leaders in any class of football fear the worst and on Saturday it was one such day for Upton AA  At the interval in their match with lowly Newton they found themselves 3-1 down. However after the break Upton showed their mettle and slowly played their way back into the game to draw level at 3-3 thanks to a hat trick from Badrock.   Now in the ascendancy Upton AA pressed forward. They scored the winning goal a minute from time when Llowarch cracked home a fine effort much to the relief of the Upton team and their supporters.   They could hardly have had a closer call than this!"

Upton AA proved how focused they were and how they and their supporters were more than rewarded for their efforts in their game at Wealstone Lane against Bunbury on 24ft March 1973

"Bunbury's efforts to contain the league leaders by relying on the offside game proved disastrous as Upton AA won in a canter, 5-1.   The only real excitement came before the game actually started when a very efficient repair job on a broken cross bar was carried out  It showed that the Upton AA as a club are ready for any emergency."

Getting the broken crossbar repaired so the game with Bunbury could take place was a real bonus for the club -

"Furthermore, as Blacon YC suffered an unexpected 2-0 defeat at the hands of United Services, Upton AA find that 2 points from their last 3 games will secure them the Division 1 championship for the first time in their history"

With the title in their grasp Upton AA travelled to Hoole Park on 14th April 1973 to take on Hoole FC.  They found out that the opportunity to upset prospective champions can spur opposing sides to great heights!!

"In a thrilling game at Hoole Park in which the result was in doubt till the final moments Hoole FC scored a notable triumph by three goals to two over the prospective champions.  At half time Hoole were winning 1-0 and Upton AA were decidedly second best  Early in the second half Upton equalized through a fine headed goal by Llowarch. Hoole went ahead when they scored from the penalty spot   Then in a match which was now flowing excitedly from end to end Upton AA were awarded a penalty but missed the chance to equalize.   The penalty miss seemed to inspire Upton AA and they pressed hard to equalize through Badrock.   With time running out and the game finely balanced at 2-2 Davison ran through the Upton AA defence to score the winning goal for Hoole FC.   When the Upton AA team came off the field they and their supporters faced an anxious few minutes waiting for the result of the game at Newton Lane between County Officers and title challengers Blacon YC. Leading 2-1 with just minutes to go Blacon YC's title ambitions were blown apart when County Officers equalized from the penalty spot and Upton AA had pulled it off!! I am sure that Upton AA never anticipated that they would win the league title in this way but over the season as a whole they are deserving champions"

The 1972-73 season saw the club claim their first Chester & District League Division One Championship in a season in which they were also League Cup runners up.  This success was achieved by a truly local football team as all the members of the team were from the Upton area.

The closing days of the momentous 1972-73 football season saw Upton AA also make a substantial move forward off the field

On 28th April the club played its last home game of the season from its new home at the recently opened Pavilion on the Wealstone Lane playing fields.

The building of the pavilion had been put to a parish meeting some five years previously.  The meeting was told that the cost of building the pavilion, which was considered a much desired development of the Wealstone Lane playing fields site, could be met by putting an extra 4d in the on the rates for 4 years.

This was accepted and in 1973 the newly built pavilion was opened by Councillor Mrs Sheila Garston who had lived all her life in Upton and became Mayor of Chester in 1977-78.

Before the game, a 3-0 victory over Hoole FC, the presentation of the Chester & District League First Division trophy took place at the clubs new home which seemed an appropriate way in which to celebrate their move to their new base at the newly built Pavilion.

Not only had the club changing rooms, which were far removed from the cramped conditions experienced in Mr Isles garage, but also there were the facilities for the players to socialize after a game and for the committee to meet to discuss club business.  Off the field it was a major step forward for the club.

The move by Upton AA to establish its base at the new Pavilion was at the instigation of Reg Bedford who played for Upton AA and was a youth worker at Upton Youth Club on Wealstone Lane.

Over the years Reg Bedford went on to become a legend in local football.   He represents one of the threads of continuity vital to the well being of football clubs at the local level.

He is one of Upton AA's most loyal servants.

He played over a thousand games for the club.  After his playing days were over he went on to become a member of the Upton AA Football Club committee.   He is currently serving the club as the manager of Upton AA Reserves playing in the Third Division of the West Cheshire League.

He also finds the time through his involvement with the Upton Youth Club to manage the Upton Youth Club team which plays in the Chester & District Sunday League

'Reg Bedford was one of those people in local football who if they were a stick of rock you would find 'Upton' printed right through the middle.  I can remember one game when Reg took a knock which left him with a badly cut eye.  Our trainer ran onto the field with the traditional bucket of cold water and a sponge (no aerosol sprays in those days) to have a look at Reg. "It looks quite bad Reg.  It needs stitches.   You'll have to come off he informed the reeling Reg.    Thinking of the team having to play a man short Reg replied "Give me the sponge.  I'll play the game out and see what ifs like then. If I think that I need to go to hospital then I'll go.Unbelievably Reg played on clutching the sponge to his eye!!!"

These days players suffering from a running wound would not be allowed to stay on the field.

Today clubs have to have, in the interests of Health & Safety, spare shirts ready to replace any players shirt that becomes splattered with blood whether that player is injured or not...even in the history of football - "times they are "a changing!"

1973 - into the Chester & District League Premiership

As the 1972-73 champions of the Chester & District League Upton AA Football Club were guaranteed membership of the new Premiership.

The forming of the premiership was designed excite interest in and at the same time enhance the reputation of the Chester & District League.   It was also seen as a move to raise the standard of football as better players would be encouraged to play in the league for the football teams now enjoying Premiership status.

It had the desired effect.   Some very strong teams emerged such as Newton, Malpas and in particular Blacon YC. whose success was built on the fact that they were able to attract and sign the contract players now allowed to play in the Chester & District League.

It quickly became apparent that the days when a club like Upton AA Football Club could win the Premier League with a team of local amateur players was a thing of the past.

It is also significant that during this period Tom Varey left the club.

In the short term he proved an extremely difficult person for the club to replace bearing in mind his length of service and his commitment to Upton AA.

Different managers have different ideas about how football should be played. Change does not necessarily breed championship or cup winning sides.

In the circumstances it was not surprising that the Club found it difficult to build on their success in winning the old First Division Championship title in 1972/73.

Throughout the period Upton AA retained their membership of the Premier League and built the reputation of a solid mid table side. They were a club side that was not going to make much impression on the stronger clubs in the league but able to avoid a seasonal battle to stay out of the relegation places.

The excitement and the tensions that football can create were indeed, in this period, the sole property of Upton AA Reserves.

The team experienced a period of fluctuating fortunes. In 1973-74 they earned promotion to Division Two. In 1974-5 they suffered relegation back to Division Three. In 1977-8 they won promotion yet again to Division Two.

In 1978-79 they were relegated to Division Three.

In 1979-80 they won promotion to Division Two and a year later won promotion to Division One.

However a local business man Geoff Gomall, a former player and member of the committee who became chairman of Upton AA invested in the club and ignited an era of huge success for Upton AA.

The golden era of the 1980's

Geoff Gomall was responsible for bringing to the club a group of experienced footballers.  They included amongst others Bob Delgado, Paul Needham and Graham Futcher who had played for Chester City in the Football League. Interestingly Paul Needham and Graham Futcher were from Upton

The experience of the players brought to the club by Geoff Gomall helped to mould together an Upton AA team now capable of mounting a challenge to the elite group of clubs in the Premiership of the Chester & District League.

The challenge mounted by Upton AA was to say the least considerable.

They won three successive Chester & District Premier League titles between 1982-85.  The club enjoyed further success with the winning of the Chester & District League Cup in 1983 and again in 1985.   In 1984, Upton AA was League Cup runners up.

The club was Chester Senior Cup winners in 1985 and in the same year won the Tom Gerraghty Cup a competition in which Upton AA were losing finalists in 1982.

It was an unprecedented run of success for the Upton based club which encouraged the club to make a successful application for membership of Division Two of the West Cheshire League for the 1985-86 football season.

The club now moved to a new home at the County Officers Sports Club, in Plas Newton Lane, to meet the higher standards of playing facilities and changing accommodation demanded by the West Cheshire League.

1985 - Upton AA in Division 2 of the West Cheshire League

Upton AA quickly established itself at the higher level of the West Cheshire League.   In the three seasons between 1985 and 1988 the club finished in the top four in Division 2

The club's elevation to the West Cheshire League co-incided with the winning of the Chester Senior Cup in four consecutive years between 1986 and 1989.

During this time Upton AA were the George Law Trophy winners in 1987 and in the same year were runners up in the West Cheshire Bowl.

The club had now widened its footballing base by having a reserve team in the Chester Premier League but a colts team in the Chester & District League Division One.

Both teams enjoyed success in their own right.

Between 1985 and 1988 Upton AA Reserves appeared in 3 finals of the Chester & District League Cup without sadly managing to win the trophy that their considerable efforts deserved.

The most disappointing of this sequence of results came in the 1987-88 season when Upton AA reached the final of both the Chester & District League Cup and the Chester & District FA Challenge Cup and finished as losing finalists on both occasions.

However Upton AA Colts won the Cayzer Shield in 1987.

With the help of grants from the Football Foundation, West Cheshire Trust and the Cheshire Football Association, Upton AA developed the ground on Plas Newton Lane

The drainage of the pitches has been improved and perimeter fencing put up. Dugs outs for team officials and players together with a 200 seater grandstand were installed. The dressing rooms benefited from a new lighting system.

The club also benefited from the use of the facilities at the County Officers Club

In 1988 Upton AA were elected to Division One of the West Cheshire League.

Their election was based on the club's continued success on the field and their improving facilities, now amongst the best in the West Cheshire League

1989 - Upton AA celebrate 25 years in local football

The first of Upton AA Football Club's annual Sportsman's Dinners was held on the 25th February 1989 to co-incide with the clubs 25th anniversary year.  The former Manchester United manager Tommy Docherty was the guest speaker.

It says much for the reputation of Upton AA Football Club that the demand for tickets was so great that there was unfortunately no venue in Upton that was able to accommodate the numbers of people wishing to attend and the evening had to be staged at the Christleton Country Club.

Such was the success of the Sportsman's Dinner that a second 25th anniversary year Sportsman's Dinner was held at the Christleton Country Club on 7th October 1989.  The guest speaker was Wilf McGuinesss another former manager of Manchester United.

On Saturday 5th August 1989 a fun day was organized complete with numerous activities, side shows and a senior five a side football competition.   The day concluded with a barbeque and a disco.

On the Sunday a junior five a side competition took place for teams in the Under 10, Under 12, Under 14, and Under 16 age ranges.

On Monday 7th August a large crowd came to watch the 25th anniversary year match between Upton AA and Chester City which ended in a 2-2 draw.

On Friday 11th August another large crowd saw Upton AA play the Manchester United Academy X1.

This was the eighth consecutive year that a team from Manchester United had played a pre season friendly fixture against Upton AA.

The games had been the result of Geoff Gornall now the Upton AA chairman and club secretary Barry Gaulton (a fervent Manchester United fan) writing to Eric Harrison the Old Trafford club's youth team coach to ask if they would like to include Upton AA amongst their pre-season fixtures.

Much to their surprise and delight Upton AA were invited to play the Manchester United Academy at The Cliff, Manchester United's training ground.

The first match between Upton AA and Manchester United took place in August 1982 and was reported in "United Review" the Manchester United match day programme for the league match versus Everton on Wednesday 8th September 1982.

In the article "Spotlight on Reserves & Juniors" the occasion is thus recorded -

"United's junior team also had a field day in their preseason friendly against Upton AA at the Cliff. Their quickness not only deceived the eye but also the feet of the visitors. It was a fizz' for the fit looking United side who finished 5-1 winners. Glen Dempsey opened the scoring for United in the 14th minute and Derek Murray made it two 13 minutes later to leave United leading 2-0 at the break,   o goals in fours minutes straight from the break from Mike Rowbotham and Derek Murray and a fifth from Gary Worthington completed the scoring for United. The men from Chester thoroughly enjoyed themselves despite the result   Their whoops of delight with a last minute consolation goal could not have been louder if it had been the winning goal.  It was scored by their youngest player Phil Barlow, aged 14, who looked like a club mascot when the burly Upton AA team trotted out for a pre match warm up.  He was full of neat touches and trickery but his grand finale was the best when he lobbed a 20 yard effort over goalkeeper Fraser Digby.   The ball hit the bar, then the back of the 'keepers head, to bounce back over the goal line"

Upton AA's game with Manchester United on 11th August 1989 was the first time that the match had taken place in Upton.

It was a gesture of friendship from the Old Trafford club that they agreed to play the game in Upton to mark the 25* anniversary of Upton AA Football Club.

The occasion was recorded in that section devoted to news about Manchester United's Reserve and Junior sides in the Manchester United match day programme "United Review" for the match versus Norwich City on 30th August 1989

A more familiar name came next on the juniors '"chopping list" (a reference to the fact that Manchester United Juniors had won their first two pre-season friendly games scoring seventeen goals in the process without reply), Upton AA who have regularly helped United with pre-season fixtures in recent years. We normally provide the venue, but this year Eric Harrison took the lads for an away day to help to celebrate the Chester club's 25th anniversary. Unfortunately for Upton AA they did not have a great deal to cheer about as far as the match was concerned; United running out 3-0 winners with Mark Robbins claiming a couple and Paul Sixsmith scoring one of the best goals of the pre-season'

Manchester United had won the match 3-0 but afterwards Upton AA chairman Geoff Gornall expressed how delighted he was with the local support for the event.

"We are hoping to making a donation to Upton Youth Club" he declared "as many of our young players come from there"

He went on to highlight the ground improvements carried out by the club and these, coupled with the success that the club had enjoyed on the football field, had made Upton AA a focal point of local sporting interest.

He outlined ambitious plans for the future.   "It is our ambition within the next four years to install floodlights so that we can play evening games. but obviously that will take a lot of hard work".

(The club now runs a seven a side league for local teams on the all weather pitches at their home at the Cheshire County Officers Sports Club.)

Furthermore Upton AA had produced a programme for the 25th anniversary match which became something of a collectors item amongst the supporters making up the huge, global Manchester United fan base.

As such it ensured that the name of Upton travelled world wide.

It is interesting to note, and a compliment to Upton AA and the local community, that such was the warm welcome and the well organized reception that the Manchester United team and officials received before, during and after the game that pre-season games' between Upton AA and Manchester United in succeeding years were played in Upton.

Locally this was an eagerly awaited match, as much as it was a social occasion.

Crowds of up to a thousand people used to attend these games which gave the footballing enthusiasts amongst the Upton community the opportunity to watch the Manchester United stars of the future.

For example the Manchester United team for the fixture played on Monday 10th August 1992, which, surprisingly, Manchester United won 7-0, was -

Pilkington, O'Kane, Riley, Casper, Neville.G*, Rawlinson, Gillespie*, Beckham*, Roberts, Savage* and Scholes*

What a wonderful feast for the spectators... .but what an occasion for the players of Upton AA to have actually played on the same playing field as so many international stars of the future(*).

As the young United stars careers unfolded and many of them became international stars on a world wide stage what an opportunity to tell anyone prepared to listen during a conversation about football............ "Oh! David Beckham....! played against him"

First Division of the West Cheshire League

The club found it difficult coping with the higher standards of football that they were now experiencing in Division One of the West Cheshire League. The group of experienced players who Geoff Gornall had brought to the club were reaching the end of their playing careers.

Bob Delgado was now the club manager when for the first time Upton AA reached the semi finals of the Cheshire Amateur Cup in the 1989-90 season. Unfortunately in the semi final, played at Winsford, Upton AA lost 2-0 to Knutsford.

Paul Needham eventually emigrated to Australia

John Butcher went on to become a committee member and then chairman of the club.

The club found it increasingly difficult to recruit the players able to play to the standard that would allow it to compete successfully in Division One of the West Cheshire League.  The result was that Upton AA spent a number of seasons trying to avoid the bottom places in Division 1 and the consequence of relegation to Division 2.

The 1993/94 season was a particularly trying season in which the club won just three games.   Sensationally one of the three wins, by three goals to two, was away to the eventual West Cheshire League Champions, Cammel Laird.

However, the 1994/95 season finished with Upton AA suffering relegation to the 2nd Division.

On to the future

It says much for the club that relegation was not the defining disaster that it had been for other football clubs in the history of football in Upton.

It says a great deal about the sound base that the club now enjoyed off the field.

Thanks to the work done by the committee members over the years it enjoyed a sound structure, was financially stable and enjoyed excellent facilities.

The last few seasons has been a time in which the club has strived to build on its off field base, to regroup on the football field and to rebuild for the future in an attempt to recapture their previous successes, whilst at the same time "living within it's means".

With relatively young teams Upton AA's problem is one of consistency.

Over the past few years third and fourth places have been achieved in Division 2 of the West Cheshire League, excellent starts have been made to seasons only for the team to fall away into mid table and late runs of success have just failed to win a promotion place.

All the time the club's planning was for the future.

It withdrew the Upton AA Reserve side from the Chester & District League and successfully applied for membership of Division Three of the West Cheshire League for the 1998-99 football season.

It was believed that the higher standard of play that the reserve team players would experience playing in the West Cheshire League would be of greater benefit to the club than if the reserve team continued to play in the lower divisions of the Chester & District League.

It was a policy decision to provide young reserve team players with the necessary experience to eventually allow them play in the first team.

In the 2002-03 football season Upton AA Reserves beat Christleton Reserves to win the Chester FA Challenge Cup.  They retained the trophy during the 2003-04 season so hopefully the clubs policy of building for the future could well prove successful.

The off the field strengths of the club was recognized both in 1997 and 1998 when Upton AA Football Club was declared the" West Cheshire League Club of the Year".

This is an award presented annually to the club that is considered by West Cheshire League officials to be the best administered club of the season and also the club possessing the best disciplinary record

The strength of Upton AA Football Club both on and off the field is the loyal and unstinting service over the years of so many people like Reg Bedford, Mike Denham, Geoff Gomall, Peter Upton and Barry Gaulton (who at the end of the 2003-04 football season received a West Cheshire League 25 years long service award in recognition of his contribution to the development of Upton AA Football Club)

They have provided the backbone of the club.


The continuity of service, firstly as players and then as serving committee members and club officers has, as much as anything, helped to ensure the continuing existence of Upton AA Football Club.

Upton AA is a football club that the Upton community can be proud of.

The special place occupied by Upton AA Football Club in the hearts and minds of so many people can perhaps be best illustrated by reference to the fact that in 2002, forty years after the club was founded an event to commemorate this fact took place at the Cheshire County Officers Sports Club.

Dave Isles, John Isles, Reg Bedford, Jimmy Dutton, Mike Denham, Derek Johnson, Chris Nevett, Graham Nevett, John Williams and Ian Caveney members representative of the early years of Upton AA Football Club rolled back the years under the watchful eye of David Berry (event manager and referee) to take part in a commemorative 5 a side football match.

It is also interesting to note that the sons of Mike Denham, Reg Bedford, Frank Rowland and Chris Nevett all former Upton AA stalwarts now play for Upton AA

Upton AA Football Club has been the vehicle which has afforded so many people, the enjoyment, the companionship and the friendship that is to be found in what truly is, in Upton as elsewhere, - "the people's game".