A NEW ERA STARTS NOW
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HAVANT & WATERLOOVILLE – The Hawks Take Flight
Local football can be traced as far back as 1883 in the Borough of Havant, when Havant FC was formed, playing in the Portsmouth Football League. In the 1950’s Bobby Tambling made the large jump from playing for Havant FC (youth team) to join Chelsea, followed by International recognition with England. On retirement Bobby returned to the Havant area opening a local sports shop. In 1969 Havant FC merged with local side Leigh Park United winning the Portsmouth Football League at their first attempt.
This witnessed a boom time in the Club’s history as they joined the 4th Division of the Hampshire League. Between 1970-1977 the team progressed through to the 1st Division of the Hampshire League. This meant their home ground at Front Lawn would be unsuitable if the Club was to progress any further. The current home of Westleigh Park was acquired in 1980 and after two years of hard work and considerable cost opened in August 1982. The new club was rebranded Havant Town FC.
1986 saw Havant Town FC as founder members of the Wessex League. They finished runners up on three occasions before finally winning the title and moving into the Southern League in 1991.
Meanwhile Waterlooville Football Club, who were established in 1905, had become firm fixtures in the Southern League since 1971. They too had slowly progressed from humble beginnings moving through Waterlooville District, Portsmouth and Hampshire League Divisions.
With the formation of the National Conference, the Southern League re-organised themselves. In 1981 the side from Jubilee Park nearly won the Championship but narrowly failed despite going 31 matches without defeat. Waterlooville then spent a lot of years proving too good for the Southern League but not quite up to the grade of the Premier one. 1993 witnessed an 11th place finish in the Premier, their highest ever placing.
Relegation and rising costs meant that the Club struggled to remain competitive and the talk of a merger with their fierce rivals was first mooted. Havant Town FC had their own problems as well. In 1997 Club Manager Tony Mount had left unexpectedly, taking the core of his talented squad with him. June 1998 saw the two rivals join forces. Jubilee Park was sold and the newly renamed Havant & Waterlooville FC was created.
A NEW ERA BEGINS
On the 22nd August 1998, the new look team beat Chelmsford City 2-0 to begin a new era in the Club’s history. The team duly won the Southern League Southern Division, earning promotion to the Premier Division at their first attempt. With success came more financial backing and £500K was spent to bring the ground up to Conference standard. The Club had now improved both their Stadium and fan-base as the local community flocked to see their local heroes in action.
In 2004 the Club were part of the new restructuring of the Conference South. They have remained in the Division ever since.
Season 2006-2007 witnessed the highest placing for the Club, earning a play-off spot. A hard fought Semi-final against Braintree Town ended with the Hawks remaining in the Division.
Season 2011-2012 witnessed excitement of a different kind as the Hawks escaped relegation by the skin of their teeth, an extra time 93rd minute goal was badly needed to ensure that Conference football remained at Westleigh Park.
The last 16 years have seen the Club consolidate as an established member of the Blue Square South. With the game of football changing in the past few years, mainly due to financial matters being tightened up at all levels, the business side of all Clubs has become paramount. Fortunately the Club has been very prudent in this area and any money that has been made has been carefully re-invested in the Club as a whole; not just on the playing staff.
The Club can now boast a public house, The Westleigh, situated next to the ground. The stadium still retains its Conference ‘A’ Standard and is often viewed jealousy by visiting directors. The Club is working towards making the Club fully self funding with long-term security the ultimate aim.
The philosophy of the playing squad has changed over the past couple of seasons. Younger talent was sought out, backed up by some quality experienced Older heads to help establish growth of the squad year on year. 2005-2006 saw the Club Launch its Academy in conjunction with South Downs College.
It is the Clubs impressive Cup exploits that has really captured both local and National attention as we have earned the un-official title of ‘Cup Specialists’.
The 2007/08 FA Cup run
Perhaps the most famous moments in the history of Havant and Waterlooville Football Club came in the 2007/08 season when the Hawks made it to the Fourth Round of the FA Cup.
We began our journey in the Second Qualifying Round when we faced local rivals Bognor Regis Town victories against the Rocks, Fleet Town and Leighton Town saw us in the hat for the first round where some of the Football League big boys were entering the fray.
The Hawks were drawn away to York City of the Blue Square Premier, the side making to date their longest ever trip for a competitive game. Huge underdogs to progress to the second round, Shaun Gale’s side pulled of an upset by winning 1-0, courtesy of a Mo Harkin goal midway through the first half.
Having made it through to the second round, they were given another away trip but this time to League opposition as Havant made the trip to Meadow Park to take on Notts County.
Again huge underdogs to win the contest against a side who were having a decent season in League 2, many saw this being the end to the clubs best ever FA Cup run, but the reality would be that it was just the start to a fairytale story.
And it was the Hawks’ ability to settle the game by the odd goal which would see them into the Third Round of the competition for the first time in our history. Tony Taggart would be the hero on this occasion with just three minutes left to play.
Kevin Scriven made some crucial saves in goal throughout the game with the Premier League and Championship big boys entering the competition.
With everyone gathering around in The Westleigh, hoping for one of the Premier League’s big clubs, however despite the high hopes and optimism, there would be a soft landing when League 1 Swansea City was pulled out of the hat.
Swansea, who were top of the third tier at the tie, were almost home bankers to get through the tie and with relative ease, but the Hawks would again prove their tenacious qualities to stop of the Swans from progression to Round Four.
The South Wales side took the lead in the tie and with the Hawks staring defeat in their eyes, Rocky Baptiste equalised with just three minutes left to play to secure a reply back at Westleigh Park.
And again, back into the draw for the fourth qualifying round, it was dream time for Hawks fans, players, management and board alike. When the ball came out everyone was dancing around The Westleigh clubhouse before pinching themselves when Liverpool away was drawn out of the hat.
But first the task of facing Swansea City at Westleigh Park to get the opportunity to face the seven time FA Cup winners.
The game would be televised live on BBC Sport Wales and in front of a packed house at Westleigh Park, with not a seat or standing place to be had at a sold out Westleigh Park. Although officially we were only allowed 4,400 under Safety instructions, some say that more were inside the ground for the occasion.
Havant and Waterlooville got off to the most miraculous of starts when Garry Monk turned the ball into the back of his own net to put the Hawks 1-0 up after just four minutes.
Then 20 minutes later the lead was doubled when Jamie Collins scored to send the stadium into raptures.
It was truly become dreamland for all Hawks supporters when just under 10 minutes before the break when Baptiste squeezed the ball into the back of the net to make it 3-0 and dreams of Anfield started to become ever more visible.
However, the dreamland destined Hawks fans would come crashing down to
earth just two minutes later when Guillem Bauza scored for the Swans.
Then before the break Roberto Martinez’s side were handed the opportunity to go within one as they got a spot kick. However, Leon Britton charged with the responsibility of taking the penalty saw his effort saved by Kevin Scriven.
Just after the interval Swansea did hit back to bring the game back to within the odd goal when Jason Scotland netted three minutes after the restart.
But with 25 minutes left to play the Hawks would secure their place into the fourth round and the chance to face Liverpool when Brett Poate send a cross into Tom Jordan who knocked the ball into the back of the net.
A dramatic ending to the game ensued before the full time whistle saw the Westleigh Park pitch flooded with supporters as the dream became a reality and the Hawks would face Liverpool at Anfield in the Fourth Round of the FA Cup.
The interest regarding the fixture was mesmeric. Media outlets from TV, Radio and Newspapers both domestically and across the World kept asking the club for interviews by phone, live at the ground or at TV studios.
The day of the game saw Havant and Waterlooville fans on Soccer AM, with Showaddywaddy, who performed the club anthem Under the Moon of Love live on the programme on the morning of the game.
However from Brentwood to Anfield and the Hawks was the talk of not just the town but of the competition as a whole, as the true romance of the greatest cup competition bared it’s fruits.
Havant stayed up on the Friday night before travelling to Anfield on Saturday, the side got a Police escort from their hotel towards the ground where they were met and greeted with a heroes welcome from supporters of both sides.
It was always going to be mission improbable beating Liverpool, but it would be a day out that the close to 6,000 fans that made the trip from Hampshire to Merseyside would never forget for the rest of their lives. The famous You’ll Never Walk Alone from the Kop preceded a 90 minutes for the club which only comic books ever written.
And incredibly Havant and Waterlooville took the lead after eight minutes when Richard Pacquette knocked the ball home to send the away end at Anfield into a frenzy, and stunning the Kop which the Hawks were attacking in the process.
Inevitably Liverpool would have a response, but it would take 20 minutes before getting back level when Lucas levelled the scoring midway through the opening period.
But, the unthinkable was unfolding before the Havant fans eyes just four minutes later because a defensive mistake from the reds saw the ball into the path of on-loan Peterborough player Alfie Potter who knocked the ball home after a deflection. Despite Potter having the glory in the heat of the moment, the record books will always have the goal as one which Martin Skrtel put into his own net.
At 2-1, Anfield was stunned, the Hawks was doing what perhaps they dreamt off the night before, a moment to savour. But in the same vain as the opening effort, they would be pegged back just before the interval when Yossi Benayoun netted a minute before the break.
And it would be the Islraeli midfielder which would spark the end of the dream for Shaun Gale and his player, having scored a hattrick by scoring two goals within 15 minutes after the interval.
Peter Crouch would finish off the scoring in time added on as Liverpool ran out 5-2 winners to end a miraculous and heroic FA Cup run for Havant and Waterlooville.
After the game the Kop stayed behind to cheer the Hawks off the pitch and the players went over to celebrate with the 6,000 or so supporters who made the trip.
The Bradbury Era
Since Lee Bradbury’s appointment as manager, the Hawks have been on a rollercoaster journey with both highs and lows culminating in the Hawks’ promotion to The National League in 2018.
Bradbury’s first full season in charge of the club saw the Hawks reach the semi-finals of The FA Trophy for only the second time in the club’s history before being beaten by local rivals Gosport Borough to be denied a place in the Wembley showpiece.
However, a run of successive postponements meant the side had to play 13 matches in 43 days and such an accumulation of matches seemed to be the undoing of the sides hopes of making the Skrill South play-offs with a late Dover penalty seeing them sneak into the final spot and then winning promotion to the Vanarama Conference.
Following on from those disappointments, the Hawks looked to go from strength to strength. Havant reached the first round of The FA Cup for the first time since 2010 where they entertained Preston North End at Westleigh Park, a game which would be shown live on BT Sport in the UK and to viewers all around the globe. Unfortunately two red cards didn’t help our cause as the three time winners ran out 3-0 victors.
Bouncing back from that disappointment, the Hawks got themselves in the play-offs that season, a feat which eluded them the season before. The task in the semi-finals was a tie against Boreham Wood over two legs. The Wood ran out 2-0 winners at Westleigh Park, before a 2-2 draw at Meadow Park would be enough to see them win 4-2 on aggregate before winning the play-off final.
The 2015/16 season saw Havant have the tag of favourites to gain promotion to the promised land that was The National League. And despite decent runs in both The FA Cup and FA Trophy, a season of despair was on the cards at Westleigh Park. The Hawks were left in a situation where they had to beat Weston Super Mare on the final day to secure their status in the sixth tier or be faced with relegation. However, a 1-1 draw was all that they could muster and the Hawks would drop into the Ryman League Premier Division.
A first Hampshire Cup title did lighten the mood at Westleigh Park after a dramatic penalty shootout win over Winchester City at St. Mary’s Stadium.
Lee Bradbury stayed on at the Hawks and going into their first season in the Ryman Premier League decided to move to a more local based squad of players who would be hungry to wear the Havant badge. This meant the signings of the likes of Alfie Rutherford, Jason Prior, Rory Williams and Bradley Tarbuck alongside the star signing of Wes Fogden.
Havant had a heavy favourites tag to get out of the division first time and fell at the first hurdle with a 3-1 defeat to Leiston on the opening day.
However, the Hawks would hold their nerve to keep themselves locked in a tight title tussle with Bognor Regis Town which would go all the way.
The two sides faced off on the penultimate game of the season at Westleigh Park with a Bognor win securing them the title, and a Hawks win putting them in pole position going into the final day of the season. A Wes Fogden goal 10 minutes into the second half gave the Hawks the 1-0 win needed to put the league title in their own hands going into the final day.
Havant drew 0-0 with Kingstonian, but with Bognor being held by Met Police, the draw would be enough to see the Hawks back into The National League South at the first attempt.
In the summer of 2018, the signing of Matt Tubbs was announced to bolster the squad heading into its first season back in The National League South.
With the play-off system heading down to seventh place, hopes were high of a place in the end of season lottery.
However after a solid start to the season, where the Hawks found
themselves fourth in the table, a run of victories in the New Year saw Havant climb to the top of the league table and locked into a title battle with Dartford.
Going into the final week of the season, the Hawks went into it behind Dartford by three points and on goal difference with a game in hand ahead of two final home fixtures.
The first took place on Wednesday 25th April against East Thurrock United. Having gone into the break 1-1, the Hawks put in a truly heroic second half display to win 6-1 and put them top of the table by 3 goals on goal difference going into the final day of the season.
The Hawks took on Concord Rangers at Westleigh Park whilst Bognor hosted Dartford. Havant went 2-0 up in the opening period and went into half-time confident of winning the title.
However, two goals from Concord twinned with Dartford’s win at Nyewood Lane meant that the Hawks looked as if they had missed out on a golden opportunity to play National League Football.
But in the 89th minute up stepped Jason Prior to score and send Westleigh Park into raptures as Havant and Waterlooville won The National League South, and with it a place in Non-League Football’s top tier for the first time.
The season also saw the Hawks win an unprecedented treble after winning both the Hampshire and Portsmouth Senior Cups.
The following season would be the Hawks’ first in The National League. With excitement building as to who our first game would be against, we would quickly learn about the travelling the division would entail when we faced Barrow away in our first league outing.
We would lose that game 3-0, before two home draws against Boreham Wood and AFC Fylde respectively.
Our first win as a National League side would come five games in when we came back from 3-2 down in the 94th minute to beat Braintree Town 4-3 in the 96th minute thanks to late goals from Nicke Kabamba and Alfie Rutherford.
Three weeks later we would host our first televised league match when BT Sport selected our game with Aldershot Town at Westleigh Park for live broadcast. Havant would win the game 2-1 thanks to goals by Theo Lewis and Paul Robinson in either half to secure the victory.
A barren run would follow which would leave the Hawks second bottom before Halloween. After a 4-0 defeat away to Leyton Orient, Lee Bradbury recalled striker Alfie Rutherford from his loan spell at Eastbourne Borough.
He would be on the scoresheet twice as we ran out 7-0 winners over Maidenhead United at home in our largest ever National League win. That was followed by four home wins on the bounce against bottom of the table rivals FC Halifax Town, Maidstone United and Braintree Town.
A barren run after Christmas seemed to be the Hawks’ downfall, victories against Barrow and Boreham Wood in consecutive league games was met with a run which saw the Hawks win just one league game afterwards.
Defeat at Solihull Moors on April 13 ultimately sealed Havant’s fate and relegation back into The National League South.
After a 2-0 defeat to Aldershot Town on the second to last day of the season, Lee Bradbury and Havant and Waterlooville parted company.
Shaun Gale took charge of the Hawks’ Hampshire Senior Cup final victory over Basingstoke Town, where we left it late to lift the trophy and our final league game against Barnet.
In April 2019, Havant and Waterlooville appointed Paul Doswell as manager.