The History of Cowes Sports Football Club
The history of Cowes Football Club can be traced back to 1881, when the club was originally formed, although competitive action did not arrive until 1886 in the shape of the Hants and Dorset Junior Cup.
The club joined the newly formed Hampshire League in 1895 and the following spring Cowes were confirmed as its first-ever champions. That season the club also won the Hampshire Senior Cup to complete the double.
In 1898/99, Cowes won the South West Division 2 of the Southern League and, as a limited company, ventured in to the Southern League alongside the likes of Tottenham Hotspur, Millwall, Bristol City and Swindon. However, financial difficulties and a string of poor results prompted the withdrawal from the league midway through the season and the winding up of the club.
In 1903 the club was resurrected and nine years later celebrated moving to current home Westwood Park by winning the Hampshire Senior Cup for the second time.
By the mid 1920s the club had become a formidable force in Hampshire football and between 1926 and 1937 Cowes won the Hampshire League on four occasions and added three more Hampshire Senior Cup triumphs.
In 1932 the club lost the final of the Hants Senior Cup to local rivals Newport at The Dell, Southampton. But the day will be remembered more for the incredible crowd of 21,000 – a record gate for such a final to this day.
With four figure crowds regularly being attracted to Westwood Park, the main stand was erected in just 24 hours – before a local derby with Newport – by a force of workers from one of the many shipyards in the town. Extensive renovation work has helped ensure that it remains one of the largest in non-league football in the South.
After the war, the club continued to pick up county honours and in 1963 enjoyed a run to the fourth qualifying round of the FA Cup. Giant-killers Yeovil ended hopes of a first round proper appearance with a 1-0 victory at Westwood.
By the mid-1960s the club was a spent force and, after winning the Hampshire Senior Cup in 1967, Cowes dipped into Division 2 of the county set-up for the first time. The 1970s were a barren spell marked only by the Division 2 title in 1975.
The 1980s heralded a rebuilding period for the club and, in a bid to attract more local players to Westwood Park, Cowes merged with Whites Sports. By this time the newly named Cowes Sports FC was once more a Division 2 side.
The club finally regained its place in the top flight of county football in 1989 after an exciting battle for promotion alongside the now-defunct Ryde Sports and AC Delco. Consolidation followed and with improving finances and a strong committee, Cowes Sports FC once again became a force to be reckoned with.
The 1993 season brought the first silverware to the club in nearly 20 years when the Hampshire League Cup was secured at Cam Alders – with more than 120 ecstatic Cowes supporters cheering the team on to a 2-0 victory over New Street.
Events the following season were even more exciting, with Cowes and Blackfield enjoying a dogfight for the Hampshire League title. Blackfield held the advantage as the final stage of the season approached, but a splendid run of results saw Cowes claim the title. During the summer, the club was accepted into the Wessex League.
The club achieved a respectable mid-table position in its debut season of 1994/95 and the year was capped with the first Isle of Wight Senior(Gold) Cup victory in 30 years. A thrilling 4-3 victory over Newport at Smallbrook preceded a 3-2 win against Binstead in the final.
Two more steady league campaigns followed before 1997/98 saw the club enjoy another exciting season. After a poor start, Cowes steadily climbed the table and could have claimed a top three spot were it not for another poor run at the season’s close. Nonetheless, the final finish of sixth place was highly creditable.
But the season will be remembered more for the wonderful run to the fourth round proper of the FA Vase. Here Cowes faced 1997 runners-up North Ferriby, who grabbed a replay victory on Humberside after coming within 10 minutes of defeat at a packed Westwood Park.
The 1998/99 season saw the side finish seventh in the Wessex League, but the campaign was crowned with a splendid victory over champions Lymington in the Wessex League Cup final.
Two seasons later the club exceeded all expectations by reaching the last 16 of the FA Vase, losing to Taunton Town in the fifth round in front of almost 1,000 fans at Westwood Park.
The 21st Century
01/02 saw the Yachtsmen victorious in the IoW Senior(Gold) Cup defeating Dr Marten’s side Newport IW 2 – 1 in a thrilling final.
The Reserves won the Wessex Combination Cup in 2004 defeating Eastleigh Reserves in the final at Brockenhurst.
Andy Sampsons U18 side were next to shine as they dominated 04/05 and 05/06 seasons winning the Hants Youth League Cup and Hants County U18 Sunday Cup defeating Winchester City U18’s in two close finals. The following year both Cups were won again, defeating US Portsmouth 10 – 0 in the County Cup, they also added the Hants Youth League Div 1 title to complete a unique treble.
The IoW Senior(Gold) Cup returned to Westwood Park as Newport IW were defeated at Whippingham 2 – 1 in 06/07 whilst the Reserves beat Newport IW Reserves to win the IoW Challenge Cup but unfortunately the Reserves could not complete the ‘Cup treble’ as they lost to AFC Totton Reserves aet in the Combination Cup Final.
The Yachtsmen retained the the IoW Senior(Gold) Cup in 07/08, beating East Cowes Vics 2 – 1 aet. Again a ‘cup double’ was completed as the ‘A’ team beat Oakfield to win the Memorial Cup.
An all round disappointing year 08/09, 1st XI finishing 13th, Reserves 11th in their final season as they were to return to Island football the following year. ‘A’ team saved themselves from relegartion with late season wins over second placed Oakfield(4 – 2) and Champions West Wight(2 – 1).
A 5 – 4 home defeat against Bournemouth Poppies coupled with a Laverstock & Ford draw, meant relegation for the 1st XI at the end of 09/10. Too many late goals conceded costing dear at the end of the season. The Reserves won their final game at St Helens to keep them in Div 1.
With plenty of new grounds to visit in Div 1, a poor start to the campagin left the Yachtsmen to recover to a mid table finish. The reformed ‘A’ team just missed out on promotion and also finished runners-up in the Junior B Cup.
A creditable sixth place finish for the 1st XI and a great run in the FA Vase beating Totton & Eling away 3 – 2 aet, home wins over US Portsmouth(1 – 0) and Gillingham Town(3 – 0), a superb away win at undefeated Egham Town(1 – 0) before bowing out at Reading Town(0 – 1). However a trophy was won, as the IoW Senior(Gold) Cup again came back to Westwood with a penalty shoot out win(4 – 3) over East Cowes Vics following a 1 – 1 draw aet.
Despite being well in the mix for promotion in 12/13, a poor run of form in he final couple of months ended with a 4th place finish although skipper Gareth Bricknell (24 goals) finished joint top of the Div 1 scoring charts with three other players. 4th place finish for Reserves and 3rd for the ‘A’ team meant successful campaigns all round.