Or “why you should never include the word ‘Norton’ in your club name if playing in the FA Cup”.
There have been seven clubs in FA Cup history which have included the word ‘Norton’ in their name, six of which have subsequently folded in the last 20 years and the other’s very existence remains in a perilous state.
Sheffield based club Norton Woodseats were founded in 1912 and first entered the FA Cup in the 1926-27 season whilst members of the Sheffield Association League.
Norton Woodseats had 37 FA Cup campaigns in all, including falling just one step short of a First Round ‘Proper’ appearance in the 1948-49 season, losing 4-2 at home to Gainsborough Trinity after extra time.
In their FA Cup adventures they won 9-0 against Steel, Peach and Tozer, and 8-0 against the world’s oldest club, Sheffield FC.
But, despite being a regular member of the highly regarded Yorkshire League, Norton Woodseats FA Cup involvement ended in the 1st Qualifying Round stage of the 1973-74 season, with a 4-0 home defeat to Denaby United.
The club became founder members of the Northern Counties East League in 1983 before changing their name to Dronfield United for seven seasons.
However, they returned to the Norton Woodseats name as they dropped out of the Northern Counties East League into the Central Midlands League. But their fortunes were in a downward spiral and before long they disbanded in 1994.
Three seasons later they reappeared in the Sheffield and Hallamshire League, but this second life lasted only three seasons and the folded for good at the end of the 1999 season.
Worcestershire based club Kings Norton Town were formed in 1993 as Richmond Swifts as a result of a merger between Swift Personalised Products and Richmond Amateurs. And if they’d stayed with that name then maybe they’d still be around to this day.
However, the Nomads took on the Kings Norton Town name in 1997 and soon after joined the Midland Alliance. In their third season as members of that league they had their one and only foray into the FA Cup.
They would experience just one FA Cup match, a 1-0 defeat at Redditch United in the Preliminary Round of the 1999-2000 season, and by the end of that season the club was no more.
The club that would for three years be known as Norton Sports were actually formed in 1961 as Teynham and Lynsted. The Kent based club played under that name for 27 years before taking over an existing club called Norton Sports, taking on their ground, their players and their name.
The original Norton Sports had been formed in 1927 and had been competing for most of their existence in the Canterbury and District League. The newly created Norton Sports would take their place in the higher Kent County League 1st Division East.
The club became an established Kent County League Premier division side in time for a re-organisation of the football pyramid in 2008 when they were allocated a position at Step Five in the Premier division of the Kent League.
Membership of that league opened the door for Norton Sports to enter the FA Cup. A brace of 2-0 victories against Redhill and Banstead Athletic in the 2010-11 season set up a 1st Qualifying Round tie at Beckenham Town, which they lost by the odd goal in five.
Maybe due to some form of extra sensory perception, the club changed its name from Norton Sports to Woodstock Sports at the end of that season (actually it co-incided with their move to Woodstock Park, a ground which was fit for the Kent League Premier division).
It was only a stay of execution really. Two more FA Cup campaigns followed, being knocked out in the Extra Preliminary Round, and soon after the Kent League we re-named as the Southern Counties East League the club ceased to exist.
A 2-0 defeat at Pagham was their last FA Cup game before their demise at the end of the 2014-15 season. A change of name had not helped at all.
Another ‘Norton’ club came to an untimely end at the end of the 2014-15 season, too, but their story is a little more unsavoury.
Formed in 1989 Norton United joined the Staffordshire Senior League and five years later they got their first taste of promotion to the Midland League Division One.
Seven years further on and the club were promoted to the North West Counties League Division Two, from where they would be able to make their FA Cup bow in the 2003-04 season. A goal-less draw at Long Eaton United in the Preliminary Round was followed up by a 2-0 defeat at home in the replay. But better days in the FA Cup would be ahead, much better days.
The club would continue at that level in the pyramid for several years progressing no further than the 1st Qualifying Round in the FA Cup, even after they were promoted to the North West Counties League Premier division at the end of the 2011-12 season.
Two years after that promotion they went up again to the Northern Premier League Division One South for the 2014-15 season, and at that new level they took the FA Cup qualifying Rounds by storm.
Victories over Stafford Town, Corby Town, Spalding United, Runcorn Town and Shildon took the club four rounds further than they’d ever been before and into the magical First Round ‘Proper’.
There was to be no fairy tale draw against a league team, nor was there to be a giant-killing as they went down 4-0 against Gateshead, but there was a lot of money to be made. Their cup run alone brought in over £50,000.
But by the end of the season the club folded, citing financial difficulties of competing at Step Four on crowds of 50 or 60 a week with what they considered to be extortionate rent. Fair enough in normal circumstances, but what happened to all that money from the Cup run?
Oxfordshire based side Hook Norton were formed two years before the end of the nineteenth century as a works team for Brymbo Ironstone Company.
Playing local league football for many, many years, the Hooky eventually joined the Oxfordshire Senior League, finally making it to Step Six of the football pyramid 103 years after forming when they joined Division One West of the Hellenic League.
After waiting so long to get there the club didn’t hang about and within a season they were promoted to the Premier Division, but it would be another decade before they took their first tentative steps in the FA Cup.
A heavy 6-1 defeat at the hands of Leverstock Green in the Extra Preliminary Round was followed by a five year hiatus from the FA Cup, but then the club from the village better noted for its fine ales, went on a mini Cup run.
Their 2015-16 campaign started with a 5-0 thrashing of Frimley Green, then a 4-2 victory over Burnham, followed by a tight 1-0 win at Eastbourne United Association.
I had the good fortune to be present at their biggest game in their history when they took on Weston-super-Mare, a National League South side, in the 2nd Qualifying Round. A fabulous day and a record crowd, and despite scoring one of the goals of the competition that year, the Hooky went down to a creditable 2-1 defeat.
The following season saw a 2-0 defeat at Chertsey Town in the Extra Preliminary Round in August and the club folding at the end of the season in May.
The club have re-formed and joined the much lower Witney and District League for the 2018-19 season, but it remains to be seen whether or not they go the same way as Norton Woodseats who reformed after folding only to disappear very soon after.
Norton and Stockton Ancients were formed in 1980 when the long-standing Stockton FC were wound up merged with Norton Cricket Club. Stockton had had quite an illustrious FA Cup adventure in their almost 100 years existence, reaching the Third Round ‘Proper’ in 1951-52 season, losing 4-0 at Notts County then a second tier side.
Starting off in the Teesside League the Ancients very quickly got promoted to Northern League Division Two from where they made their FA Cup debut in 1985-86 season. They drew one apiece with Shotton Comrades before going down 5-2 in the Preliminary Round replay.
Over the next 37 years the club would compete in the FA Cup 21 times, with a best win of 6-1 over West Allotment Celtic in 2006-07 season, and a best run to the 3rd Qualifying Round four seasons later. That run culminated in a 5-2 home defeat to FC United of Manchester and a record crowd of over 1,500 spectators.
But the good times were not to last and within seven years of that big FA Cup game the club ceased to exist, folding during the 2016-17 season. The club has been reformed in 2019 under the same name, but will the curse of ‘Norton’ remain with them?
The final club with ‘Norton’ in their name to play in the FA Cup in the oldest of the lot, and remarkably are still going despite the challenges of running a non-league club in these financially straitened times.
Oxfordshire side Chipping Norton Town were formed way back in 1893 as Chipping Norton Swifts, and played junior football for the first sixty years or so of their existence before eventually winning the Oxfordshire Senior League.
The Magpies then became founder members of the Hellenic League for the 1953-54 season and remained members of that League for the next 25 years before joining the Midland Combination Division One at the start of the 1980s.
Soon after not only were they being promoted to the Premier Division, but they were also competing in the FA Cup, albeit for just two seasons before returning to the Oxfordshire Senior League due to financial unsustainability.
Their FA Cup adventure was less than illustrious. Two matches and two defeats, first 3-0 at Highgate United and second 4-2 at Bourne Town.
A brief return to the Hellenic League ended in 1993 and a return to lower level football which sees the Magpies now competing in the Witney and District League.
It may well be lower level football, but at least they are still in existence, despite the fact that their ground is under threat of closure and having to play their home games at Enstone Sports and Social club. How much longer can they stave off the curse of having ‘Norton’ in their name?
So my simple advice to Yorkshire sides Norton United and Malton & Norton, West Midlands based Norton Canes, Suffolk side Norton Athletic, Staffordshire club Norton Wanderers, Somerset outfit Norton Fitzwarren, Oxfordshire club Brize Norton is this.
If you have aspirations of one day competing in the FA Cup then my recommendation to you is to change your name before doing so. If not, you will be putting your club’s very existence in peril.