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Note that this page is from our Gresley Rovers archive.
It may not be related to the new club Gresley FC.
Story posted: Monday, 11th December 2000

Gresley Rovers - 100 Years
To mark the centenary of Gresley Rovers Football Club in 1982 the late Brian Spare produced "Gresley Rovers - 100 Years," a history of the club based on information collected by Burton Mail sports editor Rex Page for a series published in the Mail's "Green 'Un", from the extensive records of club historian and statistician Derrick Kinsey and from Brian's own wealth of knowledge of the club's past.
Much has happened at the club in the intervening years so now, in a new series of articles, we attempt to update Brian's history of the club in what will effectively be "Gresley Rovers - the next 100 Years." First, though, a brief resume of that eventful opening century.

Much of Rovers' early history is either unrecorded or its records have been lost, with the "first traceable newspaper report" dating from the Burton and Derby Gazette on August 29, 1885. Brian's book deals only passingly with the club's formation and early years. During that period Rovers were playing only in local cup competitions and friendlies, joining the Burton Junior League in 1892 and graduating into the Derbyshire Senior League at the start of the 1895-96 season, with crowds reaching 2,000 for the opening day game against Clay Cross and 3,000 for the derby with Swadlincote Town.

Fortunes took a downturn and by 1897 Rovers were back in the Burton and District League, stepping up the following year into the Leicestershire Senior League and winning, among other trophies, the Leicestershire Senior Cup, in which they suffered a 3-0 semi-final defeat by Leicester Fosse Reserves only to be reinstated because Fosse had fielded an ineligible players. Many years later, a similar situation was to arise at a place called Mile Oak. Much water would have gone under the bridge by then.

Rovers moved to the Moat Ground on September 9, 1899, but the change of home marked the start of a period of rollercoaster fortunes. Rivals Swadlincote Town disbanded because of financial problems in 1901 establishing Gresley as the top local club and stints in the Notts. League and the Derbyshire League, which they won a canter in 1903, were followed by a fateful move to the Midland League in 1903. Two seasons of struggle were followed by one of unmitigated disaster in 1905-6. Rovers' inability to pick up their first point until December 9 (Brian's book says) was made irrelevant by a major outbreak of unruly behaviour during a game against Rotherham, with the sending off of a Rovers player prompting a "noisy demonstration" against the referee and the Rotherham team, with allegations of "several disorderly incidents" including assaults by a Rovers player and the club secretary. Rovers were suspended until November 30, forcing the club out of business for the rest of the season.

The shadow of financial ruin has trailed the club through its long history. After a poor start to the 1899-1900 season attendance's dropped and in 1899 there was an appeal for cash support from local people and the issuing of collection books. In a scenario to be repeated later, Rovers were unable to pay their players' wages until after Christmas.

Rovers joined the Midland League in 1903-4 but after holding their own for two years struggled badly in the 1905-6 season, failing to pick up a point until December 9 with a home draw against Lincoln City Reserves. Even worse, ''disorderly incidents'' after a game against Rotherham led to Rovers' ground being closed and the club suspended from competition until November 30, 1906. The 1906-7 season was thus spent raising money with the committee issuing a statement to its creditors to the effect that members were ''fully aware of our financial responsibilities'' Rovers were ''back to square one,'' playing only friendlies in the 1907-8 season and entering the Leicestershire Senior League in 1908-9.

Andy Parker
Burton Mail

Andy would like to express his sincere thanks to Scope Electronics for their assistance in producing this series.
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League Position
  Team P GD Pts
6 Brighouse Town 7 3 11
7 Stamford AFC 7 2 11
8 Lincoln United 8 2 10
9 Sheffield FC 7 0 10
10 AFC Mansfield 6 -1 10
11 Gresley 8 -4 10
12 Stocksbridge Park Steels 8 -6 10
13 Tadcaster Albion 7 -1 9
14 Loughborough Dynamo 7 1 8
15 Wisbech Town 6 -1 8
16 Belper Town 7 -4 8

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Carlton Town
Wed, 26th Sep 2018, 7.45pm (Away)
Frickley Athletic
Sat, 29th Sep 2018, 3.00pm (Home)
Stamford AFC
Tue, 2nd Oct 2018, 7.45pm (Home)
Pickering Town
Sat, 6th Oct 2018, 3.00pm (Away)
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