About the club
A BRIEF HISTORY OF ERITH & BELVEDERE FOOTBALL CLUB – 2022-23
Erith and Belvedere FC celebrates its centenary this season. The Deres were formed in 1922 following the restructuring of Belvedere and District FC, a club founded in 1918 (although the original Erith FC, formed in 1885, played in the inaugural FA Amateur Cup in 1893.) The new club played its first Kent League match on 26 August 1922 at its original home – Park View, Belvedere – losing 3-1 to Chatham.
In that first season Deres reached the FA Amateur Cup quarter-final, and in 1923-24 they went two better: losing the Final 3-0 to Clapton at The Den in front of the biggest football crowd in England on a day with a full First Division programme. In the same season they won their first trophy, the Kent Amateur Cup. The Amateur Cup run earned them a bye to the fourth qualifying round of the FA Cup, losing 2-0 at home to Third Division Reading. In 2015 the Royals became the only club to have played at both Erith & Belvedere and Wembley Stadium in the Cup!
Later in the 20s several Deres players joined French clubs and one, Stan Hillier, went on to win honours with Cannes and Sète. Cannes won the French Cup in 1932 and were runners-up in the inaugural French League in 1933 with Hillier, who went on to manage them later in the 30s: they have never repeated this level of success!
Apart from two seasons (1929-31) in the London League, the Deres remained in the Kent League until the war. In a league featuring many semi-professional and nursery sides, third place in 1928-29 was their highest finish, but greater success came in cups. They reached successive Kent Amateur Cup Finals in 1934/5. The FA Amateur Cup Final was reached again in 1938: although they lost 1-0 to Bromley, again at The Den, the 33,346 crowd was the biggest ever for a Deres match.
In 1939 the Deres lost the London Senior Cup Final to a Dulwich Hamlet side fielding seven amateur internationals, and on the outbreak of war four months later they joined the South-East Combination with other amateur clubs continuing through hostilities. Since local industry was important to the war effort, Erith lost few players to the Forces, and became one of Kent’s top clubs. In 1941-42 they won the Kent Senior Cup (the first amateur club to do so for 30 years) and the South East Combination League and Cup double: they dropped only one point, scored 253 goals in 44 games and had a 64-game unbeaten home run ended only by an Army side fielding four full internationals. Former Grimsby Town professional Martin Ruddy scored an astonishing 84 goals and ex-Dartford forward Bob Collins 67, although the circumstances and the standard of the opposition – Forces teams and local rivals weakened by call-ups – make comparison with peacetime records unfair.
Having won the London Senior Cup on the weekend after VE Day with a 5-3 win over Tooting and Mitcham, the Deres were founder members of the Corinthian League, winning the Memorial Shield (League Cup) three seasons in succession (1948-50). Along with Slough and Maidenhead, the Deres remained in the Corinthian League throughout its existence, and in 1963, having finished runners-up in the final Corinthian League table, they joined the Athenian on its expansion to 3 divisions. It was not a promotion: admission to the Athenian premier was by invitation not league placing, and Deres were denied the level their league place deserved. The 60s saw the heyday of Dennis Crawford, who holds the club appearances record with 505, and Colin Johnson, a former West Ham youth team-mate of Bobby Moore whose tally of 227 puts him way out in front in Deres’ goalscoring list.
In the late 60s the Deres won the Kent Amateur Cup four times in five years and were runners-up in an international tournament in Belgium! They reached the Athenian premier division in 1971 (managed by local-born Roy Dwight, FA Cup Final goalscorer with Nottingham Forest in 1959 and of course Elton John’s cousin), and won the League Cup in 1974. Tommy Ord from the early-70s team played briefly for Chelsea and lined up alongside Pele for New York Cosmos in 1976! The club chose to return to the Kent League in 1978, but in 1982 entered the Southern League as Kent League champions and Kent League Cup finalists, the highlight of Peter Peters’ record 17½ years in charge between 1971 and 1991.
Life was hard for the Deres in the Southern League, with just six top-half finishes and a best placing of 7th under Harry Richardson in 1993. On his departure the club’s fortunes were at a low ebb until the appointment of Mike Acland in 1996. 18 months into Acland’s reign the club could have folded when arsonists destroyed the main stand at Park View on 1 September 1997. The club was based in portakabins for two years – to Acland’s credit results actually improved in these difficult circumstances – before starting a groundshare with Welling United in 1999. Acland departed in 2003, and in 2005 the Deres were relegated, ending a 23-year Southern League stint. This was despite a senior debut season for Chris Dickson, who later played for Charlton, featured in the Champions League with AEL Limassol, gained international caps for Ghana and won the FA Trophy with Hornchurch.
Back in the Kent League, the Deres were in promotion contention until the final day of 2005-06, but were out of the hunt in the following few seasons, apart from an extra-time Kent Senior Trophy final defeat to VCD in 2009 when they were twice within 17 minutes of the trophy. Micky Collins took over as manager in May 2010 and took the Deres to 5th, then 2nd, and in 2012-13 achieved an epic Kent League title win, beating VCD Athletic to the title with a 7-1 win v Greenwich in the final game, scoring 113 league goals in 32 matches and completing a run of scoring in 68 consecutive league games. They beat Corinthian in the League Cup final to complete the double.
But Collins resigned soon afterwards, the double-winning squad dispersed and 2013-14 was a debut Ryman North season to forget: a 16-game losing sequence, 137 goals against, with relegation confirmed with four games to go. New manager Matt Longhurst’s biggest achievement was to restore the club’s spirits from that position, and 2014-15 was an unexpected delight for the Deres: they finished a strong third in the SCEFL, having led the table until Christmas, and as a bonus reached the quarter-final of the FA Vase before going out, in front of their biggest crowd for 22 years, to eventual winners North Shields. Alfie May scored 41 goals that season - an early highlight of a career which peaked in 2021 when he won the League 2 title with Cheltenham Town and scored a memorable FA Cup goal with which the Robins led Manchester City for 21 minutes!
Longhurst and eight players departed in the space of a month in autumn 2015, beginning a decline which (despite a SCEFL Cup Final appearance in 2016) saw the Deres relegated in 2017. They came back two years later as runners-up in the SCEFL second tier under Owen Jones, winning the London Senior Trophy, setting a 17-match club record unbeaten run and with Harry Harding scoring a club record 45 goals in the season.
Their first season back in the SCEFL top flight, 2019-20, was patchy and got worse in the opening weeks of 2020 when Jones and most of his team left and the club’s future was in doubt due to resignations from the board. A group of former players led by Paul Springett took over as directors virtually on the eve of the coronavirus pandemic, which left the Deres at the bottom of the incomplete table. 2020-21 saw improved results and encouraging cup runs as Del Oldfield started to build a team, but the second lockdown ended the season in November.
Danny Murphy, former player with QPR, Motherwell and Cork City, took over for 2021-22 after Oldfield stepped down for family reasons. Danny, who was also in charge of Welling United’s women’s team, took the Deres to 6th, their highest placing in seven seasons, and has now returned to Cork City to manage their women’s team. New manager Tony Beckingham is looking to take the club onwards and upwards.