Ilford FC is a famous old name in non league football, hailing from the large cosmopolitan town that forms part of East London. Depending on your opinion, the club can be traced back to 1881 or 1987. For the benefit of this page, both histories are covered for you to make up your own mind.
The original club became founder members of the Southern League in 1894, playing at Lynn Road in Newbury Park. In 1905 'The Foxes' switched and became founder members of the Isthmian League, becoming champions in their second season.
From 1920 to 1938 the club enjoyed their golden period, in particularly in the first ten years. The league title was lifted in 1921 and 1922. This was followed up by two victories in the FA Amateur Cup. In 1929 Leyton were defeated 3-1 at Highbury and the following year Ilford beat Bournemouth Gasworks Athletic 5-1 at the Boleyn Ground, West Ham. Added to this they finished runners up in the league on four occasions as well beaten finalists in the 1936 Amateur Cup when Casuals beat them in a replay.
The Foxes reached two more Amateur Cup Finals which were both played at Wembley, but both ended in defeat. In 1958 Woking proved too strong and in the last ever final, Bishops Stortford lifted the cup in a 4-1 victory.
Apart from that the club didn't win any major honours and even had spells outside the top flight of the Isthmian League. Lynn Road was sold to developers in 1978 with the funds being intended to be used on a new ground at Fairlop. Unfortunately the sums didn't add up, so the club merged with Leytonstone to become Leytonstone/Ilford FC.
For details about the merged club and how Ilford FC are a part of Dagenham & Redbridge FC, go to:
Lynn Road was redeveloped as housing. In a nice touch one of the roads was named Dellow Close after R Dellow, a former player of the club from the golden era.
In 1987 the name of Ilford FC was brought back to life as the club entered in the Spartan League. They found the going tough and dropped out of the league for a spell before rejoining and then leaving again.
In 1996 The Foxes entered the Essex Senior League playing at Cricklefield Stadium in Seven Kings. In 2004 they finished runners up, which was enough to win promotion to the Isthmian League Division Two, a league they won at their first attempt. In 2005 non league football was restructured, which meant Ilford being placed in the Southern League Eastern Division. In a further realignment The Foxes rejoined the Isthmian League a season later.
After several seasons of struggle Ilford finished bottom of the table in the 2012-13 season and were relegated to the Essex Senior League.
Ilford FC will play in the Essex Senior League in the 2015-16 season.
Wednesday 26th September 2007
I was off work for the day so I decided a days groundhopping around Essex and East London was in order. I had caught the tube to Barking and then a bus to Mayesbrook Park to take my photos of Barking FC and then another bus to Green Lane to the south of Cricklefield Stadium.
Unfortunately the gates were locked so I couldn't get a proper look inside. However I got enough of a view to see the Main Stand at the far side of the stadium, open terrace at the far end, a plethora of facilities at the near end and a cover on the near side.
I caught a bus towards Rush Green, the old home of Ford United, now Redbridge FC determined to return to Cricklefield for a match.
Ilford 0 Grays Athletic 5 (Wednesday 7th December 2011) Isthmian League Division One North (att: 94)
I finally made it to Cricklefield for a game as I was resting after my night shifts. I almost went to watch Waltham Forest there a couple of weeks previously, but preferred to wait for an Ilford game.
It was cold and windy night as I got out at Seven Kings station and I walked down High Street away from a very vibrant area. I found the entrance easily enough and walked through an area being developed, past the cemetary on my right, before arriving at the turnstiles. I was greeted by a friendly chap who gave me a quick owdown on where to find everything, which was a nice touch. He reminded me of the bloke covered in tattoos who supports Portsmouth at a first glance.
I made my way upstairs to the excellent clubhouse, which had windows overlooking the pitch. Sadly the only bitter was courtesy of a very cold Greene King IPA smoothflow, but you can't have everything. It was already apparent that there would be a large gathering of away fans in attendance. I read the decent up to date programme before making my way into the open to watch the first half and take some photos.
The ground was as good as it gets for football in an athletics stadium for viewing down the sides as the track only had six lanes. There was good terracing or seating round three quarters of the arena, including the two covers mentioned from my previous visit. The refreshment stand seemed to be doing a good trade in hot drinks and burgers. I have to say that the floodlights were as weak as I'd seen at this level giving out an orange glow, despite having four pylons at each side of the pitch and two behind each end.
The match saw Ilford kick off rock bottom of the division, with Grays in the play off positions. I had got round to the far side when there seemed to be some kind of altercation involving the linesman and the home bench. I didn't hear what was being said, as I was listening the football on my radio, but it ended in apologies and laughter.
Shortly after Grays took the lead when a scuffed cross come shot was turned in by the unmarked Anthony Ryan at the back post. The cheers made it clear that without the visitors from along the Thames, the gate would have been extremely meagre.
The pitch was extremely bobbly, no doubt caused by the amount of games being played on it. The strong wind behind the backs of Grays in the first period didn't help play either. There was a sad lacking of ballboys behind the goal, meaning many delays in play while the Foxes keeper went to retrieve the wayward attempts on his goal.
That keeper, Robert Budd was also the skipper of Ilford and he was in action making a Gordon Banks type save from a powerful downward header. The visitors were on top, although Ilford did have an occasional foray. Athletic had a shot come back off the post as the piled on the pressure, while I sheltered in front of the high clubhouse wall.
The two wide men were causing the home full backs plenty of headaches. One made a terrible challenge and picked up a yellow card, before he limped off. The substitute took around five minutes to get ready, while his team mates were under the pump.
I retired to the clubhouse for a medicinal whisky at half time, where there was plenty of interest in Man Utd's poor performance in Basel. I reflected on our game, and thought it could get interesting after the break with Ilford having the advantage of the bitter strong wind.
I stayed upstairs to watch for a while, and saw Grays double their lead as Ryan finished beautifully at the near post from a low cross as he crashed the ball in off the bar. Ilford replied and hit the post with the ball rolling back along the line straight to the nonplussed keeper. At this point I went back into the open air. It was a good view in the warm, but the atmosphere was missing. It just didn't seem right.
The third goal soon came as a cross evaded all apart from full back Craig Pope who volleyed into an empty net at the far post, as I sheltered in the seats. Ilford were having less and less of the ball and one or two of their players tried things out of desperation, while not fighting back once they lost the ball. They looked a well beaten side, and one who would face a long season. They had a couple more escapes as shots cannoned back off the woodwork of their goal.
The fourth goal came when Joe Sweeney controlled a blocked shot and fired in from an angle, as the Ilford rearguard were put under extreme pressure. The final goal was scored around five minutes from full time, when a shot and then a miraculous save both came back off the crossbar before Kenny Beaney fired home.
Grays were full value for their win and Ilford looked poor once they had been broken down. I felt a bit sorry for them, especially with their nice set up, but lack of support.
I didn't want to go home just then so I called in The Cauliflower opposite the entrance to the ground. This was a magnificent old building, but the bar was virtually empty. I had a fine pint of Bombardier as I imagined how good a venue it must be on a weekend with live music on the go. It reminded me of a much cleaner Spotted Dog in Willesden.
Still not done I took a bus, train and then tube to Chancery Lane to call in at Ye Olde Mitre. This fine pub was built in 1546 and always served good ale. The pub was warm and welcoming as I ordered a brilliant pint of Humbug from the York Brewery. I was wearing my Scarborough Athletic rainjacket and the landlady/manageress asked if I was from the town? It turned out that her and her husband had The Commercial pub, which many of us used pre match for many seasons. I think they had the pub just before I was of the age of pre match libation.
It ended a decent evening on a superb note. If only they had opened until midnight!