AFTER 139 years football appears to have come to an end at Darlaston Town. The West Midlands Regional League website announced the club has “called it a day” and the League has confirmed that the club has not registered for the 2013/14 playing season.
While there has been no official announcement from the club it is understood they have not registered as part of the non league pyramid system, leaving the town without a senior football team bearing its name.
The club has been playing at the City Ground, Waverley Road since 1899. Until this season only the war years prevented the town from having a senior representative team.
Until this season the club, together with Black Country neighbours Lye Town, were the only two original members still playing in the West Midlands Regional League since it was formed in 1962/63.
However the League’s website has revealed the club has called it a day and not renewed its registration with the league, breaking 50 years of history.
The club has a long and illustrious history unmatched by its non league rivals. It boasts a history which will never again be repeated by such a small town.
No fewer than 114 players have played for the club and also played in the Football League at clubs such as Manchester United, Arsenal, Aston Villa, West Bromwich Albion, Southampton, as well as local clubs Wolves and Walsall.
They can boast five FA Cup winners amongst their ranks as well as two England internationals and an England captain.
Their two most famous sons are Jack Burkitt and Billy Walker. Walker was born in Wednesbury and played for the club for two seasons between 1915 and 1917 before going on to become Aston Villa’s all time leading goalscorer, representing England 18 times including three as captain. Walker went on to manage both Sheffield Wednesday and Nottingham Forest to FA Cup success in 1935 and 1959 respectively.
Burkitt was also a Wednesbury lad his mother Mabel and father Horace were licensees at the Jollier Collier public house in Meeting Street, Wednesbury. Burkitt joined the club as a 19-year-old at the start of the 1945/46 season and played for two seasons before transferring to Nottingham Forest for £500 in August 1947. He played more than 500 games for Forest and captained them to FA Cup success against Luton town in 1959.
Despite the news that the town no longer has a senior football team a group of supporters, former players and officials are hoping to form a new club to represent the town for the 2014/15 season.
Former chairman and club historian Neil Chambers said, “Since this news I have received numerous calls from long-time supporters, former players and well-wishers asking me if I could do anything to form a new club bearing the town’s name. I have also received calls from people who left the town more 40 years ago and live hundreds of miles away but still have great affection for the town. They have offered help and support and have even said they will travel to attend future meetings.
“There is a real enthusiasm from people to form a club to represent the town and if possible keep the name of Darlaston Town alive. They have said to me that they remember great times in the town and the history of the club is simply too illustrious to let the club and name disappear without a fight.
“It might be that we have to start again from scratch and build a new club and team but if that’s what we have to do then I am convinced there is enough support from the people and businesses in the town to give it a try”
Neil says, “The people I have spoken to have no pre conceived ideas about what they want to happen. They simply want a community led and community based football team to represent the town and bear its name. They all know that the new club will have to start afresh and at the moment that will mean finding a home ground and raising funds to set up and run a new team.
“So far the response has been fantastic and two lifelong followers and supporters of the club have already agreed to make monthly contributions to help with the running costs.
“I am convinced Darlastonians both young and old , far and wide, who have an interest in the town or the club will be prepared to help both with raising funds and in setting up and running the club”.
To gauge the interest and enthusiasm in resurrecting the old club or setting up a new club bearing the town’s name, a meeting is to be held at Darlaston All Active Club, Willenhall Road, Darlaston, WS10 8JG, on Wednesday, 4th September, at 7.30pm. Anyone interested in attending or who can help the club in any way should contact Neil on 01543 458348 or email chambers568@btinter net.com.
Our main photograph shows the Darlaston team and officials in one of their most usccessful seasons, 1907/08, when they won the Walsall Senior Cup, Birmingham Junior League Shield, Bilston Charity Cup and the Walsall Charity Cup.
The second picture was taken at the 1959 FA?Cup Final and shows Jack Burkitt presenting Billy Walker (both ex-Darlaston players) to the Duke of Edinburgh before kick-off.