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ROCESTER FOOTBALL CLUB - A BRIEF HISTORY
Records show that Rocester Football Club was formed as long ago as 1876 following which friendly matches were played against other teams from the surrounding area. The club went on to compete in various local leagues throughout the next 100 years before the formation of the Staffordshire Senior League and the appointment of retired Midlands businessman Don Hill as the club’s chairman led to Rocester establishing themselves amongst the county’s leading non-league clubs during the 1980’s.
Under the guidance of manager Alan Beaman, the club won their first senior honours when they became champions of the Staffordshire Senior League and winners of the Staffordshire F.A. Vase in the 1985-86 season.
More success followed in 1986-87 when the Senior League Championship was retained, and only a penalty shoot-out defeat in the final of the Staffordshire F.A. Vase prevented the club from repeating the double success of the previous year.
1986-87 was also a particularly memorable season for the Romans in the F.A. Vase, which they had entered for the first time. Starting their run in the Extra Preliminary Round, the team reached the last sixteen knocking out the Vase holders Halesowen Town on the way before a club record crowd of 1,026 at Leek Town’s ground.
The start of the 1987-88 season saw Rocester move from their home of more than a century, in truth little more than a field with wooden changing rooms, to the present ground, named at the time as Riversfield, on the opposite side of Mill Street and next to the imposing former cotton mill. Much of the clubhouse and changing room facilities were built upon the site of an ancient Roman fort, which led to the club adopting their nickname of ‘The Romans’.
At the same time the club began its campaign in the West Midlands (Regional) League Division One into which it had been accepted by remaining unbeaten in its first twenty-two games before going on to lift the League title easily. The team also won the League Cup and the Staffordshire F.A. Vase to pull off a magnificent treble.
The new ground was further developed with the addition of floodlighting and a stand, which enabled the club to take its place in the Premier Division of the West Midlands (Regional) League.
Following a mid-table finish in 1988-89, The Romans made their first serious challenge for the Premier Division title in 1989-90 but after a tremendous season they had to be content with second place after Hinckley Town edged them out on goal-difference.
At the start of the 1994-95 season Rocester became founder members of the new Midland Football Alliance, which arose from an amalgamation of the leading sides in the West Midlands League and the Midland Combination.
Rocester finished in second place behind Bloxwich Town in 1997-98, but a year later at the end of the 1998-99 campaign under the management of Terry Greer, Rocester finally achieved their ambition by being promoted to the Southern League Midland Division as League Champions - the ground (renamed as Hillsfield in memory of Don Hill who died in 1997) having already been graded in 1998 as meeting the required standard for promotion.
Despite reaching the final of the Staffordshire Senior Cup for the first time in 2000-01, the club found life difficult in the Southern League. Although the appointment of Warren Campbell as manager at the start of the 2002-03 season gave the club a fresh impetus, it was still not enough to avoid relegation by the slenderest margin on goal difference.
Having returned to the Midland Football Alliance Rocester were soon back on track and promotion was achieved as Champions at the first attempt in 2003-04. However, due to the re-organisation of the non-league pyramid The Romans were placed in the Unibond Northern Premier League Division One and a horrendous season ensued – a whole season without a league victory resulted once again in relegation back to the Midland Alliance, where the miserable run of results has continued.
Rocester appointed former Chasetown boss Michael Rowe as manager in September 2005, and although performances improved it wasn't until the end of January that the team recorded its first league victory, a 3-1 success at Quorn, which ended a run of 67 league matches without a win. After finishing bottom of the Midland Alliance the club avoided a second successive relegation thanks to league restructuring.
A new era began at the end of the 2005-06 season when local businessman Peter Douglas took over the club. His first actions saw the appointment of Damien Grocott as first team manager and the introduction of several new people to the committee.
After two disastrous years the 2006-07 season saw Rocester begin to move forward again, finishing their Polymac Midland Alliance campaign in a respectable 12th place and enjoying a fine run to the 3rd Qualifying Round of the F.A. Cup.
The Romans will be aiming to maintain their progress this season.