In June 2007 Easington United Association Football Club celebrated its Diamond Jubilee with a special Dinner-Dance at the Country Park Inn on Hessle Foreshore, at which the Guest Speaker was England World Cup ’66 legend Jack Charlton OBE. It was an enjoyable event attended by some 270 players and guests of the club, some of who boasted an association with ‘The Eastenders’ stretching back for nearly all of those six decades. In an era when many much larger villages no longer support clubs of their own, Easington can be proud of the fact that not only has theirs survived for so long but that it is actually stronger now than ever before.
I am currently in the process of compiling a history of those first sixty years - a project which has turned out to be somewhat more time-consuming than had been first imagined! As a taster for visitors to this site, here is a whistle-stop tour of those first sixty years in the life of our own “Eastenders”…
Easington United AFC was formed as ‘Easington Association Football Club & Cricket Club’ in 1947. Details of the formation and the composition of the original committee remain sketchy although most veterans from the time that I’ve spoken to support the view that the first chairman was almost certainly Fred Harris, a coastguard, and that the secretary was probably local schoolteacher Dennis McLoughlin. Sadly, no written evidence survives to support this.
After a couple of seasons playing “friendly” fixtures against neighbouring villages, the Club spent its formative years in the now-defunct South Holderness League, wherein they clinched the Junior Shield twice, in 1951 (as joint-winners with Withernsea United) and 1954 after victory over Ottringham in the final.
During this period ‘United’ was introduced into the team name, while the Club’s current “Eastenders” nickname serves to reflect Easington’s location in the heart of what is known locally as “the East End” of Holderness.
In 1954 the Club, under the Chairmanship of Tom Boon, applied to join the East Riding County League and on acceptance began an association with that competition that continues to this day. Four years later, at a General Meeting of Friday, 27 June 1958 the Football Club split from the Cricket section and went its own way. A new Committee was formed, with Gordon Clubley at the helm, and for the next three decades ‘The Eastenders’ continued to flit around the lower divisions of the County League.
Despite a lack of any real success on the field of play, playing for Easington United carried with it an atmosphere and enjoyment that many of those who were part of the team described as “special”. Indeed it would appear that the Holderness Gazette wasn’t too far off the mark in March 1965 when it stated that “Easington is the home to real Yorkshire philosophy and humour”.
From the former players I’ve spoken to, many an amusing anecdote survives (most of which are recounted in my aforementioned work-in-progress). From these you get a real sense of the times, a feeling for how much the game has changed in the intervening period – and not always for the best.
For example, in 2007 the need for properly prepared sports grounds and a tendency to request postponement of matches at what seems the slightest hint of rain has all but erased the feeling of what it must have been like to play on pitches that were “allus wet”, when undulated farm fields provided the majority of pitches (not to mention the accompanying cow-pats and sheep droppings that made Low Farm such a unique venue).
Changes in pitch and ground criteria requirements for the leagues of today have also done away with the prospect of games being abandoned on account of the ball going over the cliff and floating out to sea (as occurred at Withernsea United’s Louville Road ground) or after a succession of balls had been punctured on the barbed wire fence (as happened at Burton Pidsea’s ground).
An increase in use of the private car and travel costs has done away with the joys of regular organised away match transport, which would see ‘The Eastenders’ regularly take a Connor & Graham coach to an away game – even if it was only a couple of miles down the road! Allied to this, the improvement in roads and the expansion of the local game to competitions spanning the breadth of the East Riding has almost wiped out the “true local derby” fixture, in which brothers from neighbouring villages would find themselves on opposite sides (especially when the likes of Holmpton and Skeffling provided Easington’s opponents).
And of course there have been the countless changes in how the game is actually played: the formations, the tactics, the so-called “ science” of the game – far removed from the days of eleven lads lining up in time-honoured fashion of “goalkeeper, full-backs, arf-backs and forrads”. Former players Tom Robinson and Dave Hodgson recently recalled the old times, with Tom saying, “You knew who your man was to mark and if he got past you were in trouble.” To which Dave, in reply, recounted his former team-mate’s usual instructions: “Gerrat him Dave; if the bugger gets past you I’ll nail him when he gets too near!”
The list of characters from the club’s first sixty years is a fairly endless one, which couldn’t be done justice to in an article of this size. Suffice to say many of them – including those no longer with us such as Gordon Clubley, Charlie Hill, “Old John” Clubley, Herbert Tomlin and latter-day figures such as Melvin Douglas and “Raggy” Hudson – now have their part in ‘ The Eastenders’ story recorded for posterity.
Aside from an odd promotion here and there, the sum total of the club’s success between 1958 and 1990 was a couple of league cup semi-finals and occasional victories in the Holmpton Invitation Cup. However, that was about to change.
In 1990/91, under the stewardship of Mike Wilson, Easington United clinched the East Riding County League Division 3 title and narrowly missed out on a ‘treble’ when losing in the final of both the league’s Harold Robinson Cup and the South Holderness Cup. It was a success made poignant – and all the more creditable – by the fact that halfway through the season the Club had been rocked by the death of its leading goal scorer, Melvin Douglas.
Steady progress through the divisions followed, accompanied by expansion of the club. A Reserve team was launched in 1995, winning the Division 4 championship in its first season, and a Sunday team followed two years later. Meanwhile, the First Team’s progress included a first ever win in the South Holderness Cup in 1997 and culminated in promotion to the Premier Division in 1998/99. That same year ‘The Eastenders’ romped to victory in the East Riding County FA Intermediate Cup (beating AFC Darleys 5-0 in the final) and confirmed their status as ‘the team to beat’ locally with the second of eight South Holderness Cup wins and the second of six successes at the annual Withernsea Carnival.
Becoming founder members of the Humber Premier League (the County’s new FA Supply League) in August 2000 Easington were rewarded for the strides made on and off the pitch by being asked to play in the inaugural match, under the floodlights at Dene Park against Hall Road Rangers Reserves on 16 August 2000.
The first two seasons in the new competition proved difficult but three successive East Riding Senior Cup semi-final appearances encouraged optimism for the future, with a top five placing in 2002/03 suggesting that ‘The Eastenders’ were finally in a position to challenge for honours.
In 2003/04, under new manager Sean McLaughlin, the Club enjoyed its most successful campaign to date with a runners-up place behind champions Hutton Cranswick United in the Humber Premier League and victory in the Grays League Cup, alongside continued success in both local cup competitions. Along the way they completed an unprecedented clean sweep of four victories against previous champions Reckitts (the hitherto all-conquering east Hull side had not suffered such a thing as a league ‘double’ in two decades). Success also came at Reserve level, with promotion to County League Division One.
Recognition of the Club’s efforts came with a share of the ‘Carling Team of the Season’ award (which followed a similar award for ‘December’s Team of the Month’) from the competition’s sponsors, while striker Paul Wilkinson clinched the League’s ‘Golden Boot’ award for top scorer.
Following McLaughlin’s resignation due to work commitments midway through the 2005/06 season, the highly-respected duo of Dave Mackay-Dundas and Dave Walmsley took over the reins and remain in charge to this day. Further progress has seen promotion for the Reserves to the County League Premier Division and success for the first team in the inaugural Holderness Cup Winners Cup in August 2007.
Currently, the Club is proud to boast three adult teams (with two in the top divisions of their respective league competitions) in addition to a new veterans section (“The Awd Ezzies”) and a mini-soccer section (the ‘Football Academy’) from which it is hoped to revive junior football within the club. This follows a successful School-Club Link Programme, run in conjunction with the County FA and local Primary Schools, which has seen several boys and girls attending regular training sessions.
Having achieved FA Charter Standard status in April 2004, the Club’s Management Committee is currently compiling a ‘Development Plan’ and continues to enrol volunteers onto the various East Riding County FA courses, thus building up a solid core of coaches and officers within the Club as well as promoting a safe environment for people of all ages and ability.
Away from the action, the Club continues to work closely with the Easington Recreation & Sports Association (ERSA) in developing facilities at its Low Farm ground. Immediate aims include the erection of permanent pitch barriers (along with a small enclosure for supporters) and possible floodlight provision, with longer-term plans (recently passed by the County Council) including an all-weather surface, new car parking and purpose-built changing rooms.
Off-the-field activities also include production (since 1996) of an award-winning match programme and a critically-acclaimed club web site (set-up in 2003) which boasts nearly 36,000 hits as of December 2007, not to mention the aforementioned Club History. Having established itself as the foremost club in Holderness over the past ten years, the current Management Committee is determined to see Easington United AFC continue to be a “flagship” for the area.
The future is bright – the future is Green & Yellow!
Richard Lusmore, January 2008