If you know your football you’ll know that the World’s oldest football club is Sheffield FC who were formed in 1857. Just 16 years later The Club were competing in the FA Cup for the very first time.
Most clubs have tended to make their bow in the FA Cup within the first few decades following their formation (some like Bradford City and Chelsea competed in it in their very first year of existence), but many clubs, all obviously younger than Sheffield FC, have had to wait much longer.
Two of the 23 clubs making their debut in this year’s 2017-18 FA Cup, Framlingham Town and Chipping Sodbury Town, have both had to wait 130 years or more to compete in this famous competition. Their extraordinary length of wait puts both clubs into the Top Six sides who’ve waited the longest to taste FA Cup football.
So here is that list of half dozen clubs who collectively between them have had to wait almost eight centuries since their formation to compete in the FA Cup.
- Gillingham Town – 129 Years (1879 to 2008)
For the first 80 years of their existence The Gills interspersed the occasional seasons in the Dorset League with competing in even more local level football. However, in 1970, they joined the Dorset Combination, the most senior league in the County.
The Dorset Combination was renamed the Dorset Premier League in 2002 and six seasons later the club finished runners-up for the second time which this time qualified them for promotion to the Western League and entry into the FA Cup.
So on the 16th August 2008 the club hosted Saltash United in their first ever FA Cup match, 129 years after the club was formed. That match was drawn 2-2 before The Gills went on to win 4-2 in the replay. The following season saw the club reach the 2nd Qualifying Round, a feat they repeated three seasons later, and they have competed in the FA Cup in each of the last nine seasons.
Alas, the Gills are not in this year’s competition as they took voluntary relegation down to the Dorset Premier League. Hopefully it won’t be the year 2146 before they compete in it again.
- Framlingham Town – 130 Years (1887 to 2017)
The Castlemen are entering the FA for the first time this season, 130 years after forming.
For the first 128 years of the club’s existence they have competed in local leagues variously between the Suffolk and Ipswich League (originally known as the Ipswich and District League), the Framlingham League, the Leiston league and the Woodbridge League.
In 2016 the club won promotion to the Eastern Counties League after over 35 years of continuous membership of the Suffolk and Ipswich League, and just one season later they did enough in their debut campaign to qualify for the FA Cup.
So on the 5th August 2017 the club will face another FA Cup debutant in the shape of Wadham Lodge who have had a much shorter period to wait before taking part being, as they were, formed 121 years after Framlingham Town.
- Chipping Sodbury Town – 132 Years (1885 to 2017)
The Sods are entering the FA Cup for the first time this season, too, 132 years after forming as Chipping Sodbury.
For almost 70 years the club played in local Wiltshire based leagues before spending a couple of seasons in the Second Division of the Western League in the early 1950s just a couple of years before folding and re-forming.
The re-formed club competed in the Dursley and Wotton-under-Edge League for a few seasons before joining the Bristol and District League in time for the 1962/63 season. The Sods eventually progressed to the Bristol Premier Combination at the start of the 1990s where they were still competing when adding ‘Town’ to their name.
The 2008/09 season saw the club advance to the Gloucestershire County league and in 2015 they returned to the Western League after a 63 year absence. Promotion to the Premier Division at their first attempt gave the club the League status it needed to qualify for the FA Cup for the first time.
The Sods host another FA Cup debutant on 5th August in the shape of Brackley Town Saints, but they haven’t had to wait anywhere near as long as 132 years to take part in it.
- Colliers Wood United – 132 Years (1874 to 2006)
Formed as Vandyke in 1874, this Wimbledon based club first entered the FA Cup in 2006, at the time establishing a record 132 year wait to compete in it.
For the first 80 years or so Vandyke competed in local Sutton and Wimbledon based leagues, before advancing to Surrey wide competition from the early 1960s. The club were members of the Surrey County Premier League when changing their name to Vandyke Colliers United in 1997, and then two years later to their current moniker. In 2003 Colliers Wood United finished runners-up in the Surrey County Senior League to earn the club promotion to the Combined Counties League Division One.
A season later the club was in the Premier Division where they have stayed ever since, and two seasons after that they made their bow in the FA Cup when, 132 years after forming, on 2nd September 2006 they were held to a 1-1 draw by Chipstead. The Wood won the replay 2-1 before going out in the 1st Qualifying Round.
The club would not go any further in the competition, not until last season, when they finally made it through to the 2nd Qualifying Round in what was their 11th campaign.
- Radcliffe Olympic – 134 Years (1876 to 2010)
Radcliffe Olympic was formed in 1876 as Radcliffe-on-Trent and became founder members of the original Nottingham and District League 14 years later. Before the end of the 19th Century the club became members of the Notts Alliance League, a League they won in 1901, then competed in the Nottinghamshire Spartan League, before joining the Nottinghamshire Realm League prior to World War II.
Adopting the current name Radcliffe Olympic after the cessation of hostilities, the club remained in the Notts Realm League before returning to the Notts Spartan League and then joining the Midland Amateur Alliance League in the mid-1960s. The club quickly climbed the non-league ladder to compete in the Central Alliance League and then the East Midlands Regional League before returning to local Nottinghamshire football at the start of the 1980s.
Olympic remained in local football until promotion to the Central Midland League was attained in 2004 where they would remain for the next five seasons. However, by the time Olympic were members of this League, its member clubs were not eligible for the FA Cup. However, being Supreme League Champions in 2009 meant Olympic were promoted to East Midlands Counties League for the 2009/10 season.
A creditable top five finish in the club’s inaugural season meant Olympic qualified for the FA Cup in the next season. So after 134 years the club got to play in the FA Cup where they faced Holbeach United on 14th August 2010. Olympic took to the FA Cup like a duck to water winning through four rounds before eventually being defeated by Tipton Town after a replay in the 3rd Qualifying Round.
Radcliffe Olympic has so far only competed once more in the FA Cup, a much less successful campaign the following season, as the club has failed to finish high enough in the Step Six East Midlands Counties League to qualify. But there is no reason to believe it should take them another 134 years before the club does so again.
- Brading Town – 137 Years (1871 to 2008)
This Isle of Wight based club was formed in 1871, coincidentally in the same year that the FA Cup began, but The Romans did not participate in this famous competition until the 2008-09 season, some 137 years later, whilst members of the Wessex League Premier division.
The club began life competing in the Ryde and District League before becoming founder members of the Isle of Wight League in 1898. The club continued to play its football on the Isle of Wight for the next 75 years before moving to the Hampshire League in 1973.
Despite four successive promotions taking Brading Town to the 1st Division of the Hampshire League in 1977, a division that for the next 10 years would see some club members enter the FA Cup, the Romans never did get to take part in the Cup.
When the Wessex League was formed after the end of the 1985-86 season, Brading Town remained in the Hampshire League but their members were now no longer eligible to compete in the FA Cup. The Romans remained in the Hampshire League for the next 29 years, culminating in finishing bottom of Premier Division in that League’s final season in 2004.
Brading Town joined the Wessex League the following season and gained promotion to the Premier League for the 2006/07 season. However, it would be two more seasons before the club was eligible to compete in the FA Cup. The Romans finally made their bow in the competition on 16th August 2008 and defeated Wantage Town 3-1 in their first ever game.
Brading Town would compete in the FA Cup in each of the next three seasons, reaching the 1st Qualifying Round on two occasions, but at the end of the 2011-12 season the club decided to return to compete in the Isle of Wight League, citing costs of competing in the Wessex League as the reason for doing so. As a consequence their FA Cup involvement was over, for now.
Whether or not the Romans ever do return to compete on the mainland remains to be seen, but their record of being the club with the longest wait to play in the FA Cup may well remain for some time to come.
A good omen for the Castlemen and The Sods is that the four other clubs in this exclusive list all won through their first FA Cup tie. Can Framlingham Town and Chipping Sodbury Town keep up that record?