ESTABLISHED history has it that Andover Football Club was founded in 1883 and that the club’s first game was played against Basingstoke Mechanical Engineers on October 27 of that year.

The club continued to play for almost 130 years, initially at Stride’s Meadow, which was to the rear of Swiss Cottage in Weyhill Road, then at the Walled Meadow in London Road until 1989, and finally at the Portway Stadium until the club’s demise in 2011.

But there is some fragmentary history of an earlier Andover Football Club.

READ MORE: Andover Football Club collapses

The Hampshire Independent recorded in April 1864 that ‘the members of the Andover Football Club met on Tuesday last and enjoyed an excellent game’ – no mention of whom the club played, so perhaps it was between themselves - while The Sporting Gazette during December of the same year reported that a match was played between Andover Football Club and the Acre Club.

The latter would comprise workers from the Acre Ironworks on the eastern end of the old borough. The score is not recorded but ‘the Andover players proved too strong for their opponents, who did not succeed in kicking down the ball on the opposite goal.

'The playing of Mr T Thurlow deserves special mention.’  

At this early period, official rules were in their infancy, and the number of players may have depended purely on how many were available.

In March 1868, Andover played Romsey and although the Andover side were ‘overmatched’, there were no goals.

The weather was poor and the meadow wet but also in a masterpiece of understatement: ‘from want of a proper understanding as to the rules, the game was not so agreeably conducted as was anticipated.’

There were no referees in those days and it was reliant on the captains to keep order.

Even 10 years later, in 1878, a match of the Andover club against Basingstoke was reported as being played to ‘Rugby Union’ rules, meaning it was pretty lawless!

On this occasion Basingstoke won 1-0.

Interestingly, the report in the Andover Chronicle claims it to have been the first match played by the Andover club and that many of them had never played together before; evidently then, this club was a new one and previous incarnations had been disbanded.

The club was not just an ad hoc gathering of enthusiasts; there was an official organisation.

A chairman and committee were elected each year at an annual meeting and subscribers were invited to join and new players welcomed.

In 1876 there was an appeal for any prospective players to come along as ‘the captain had ‘received numerous challenges’ and was ‘anxious to get a strong team together’.

It may have proved wishful thinking.

In view of remarks made above, it was another two years before anything materialised.

Sadly, the fledgling Andover Football Club of 1878 did not fly either, and by May 1880 it had gone.

SEE ALSO: Streets Ahead football club appoints new chairman and secretary at AGM

Frederick J J Browne, the forthright editor of the Andover Chronicle wrote that ‘the ignominious failure of Andover Football Club is still fresh in my memory’ and he bemoaned the lack of local, athletic enthusiasm, observing that there were men ‘who have arrived at such an advanced state of lackadaisicalness that even ‘sprinting’ to catch a train has the effect of prostrating them for the remainder of the day’.

Happily, in 1883, another Andover Football Club was founded and this proved to be a more resilient institution than any of its fragile predecessors.

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