Guernsey FA - The History - Part 8

1970’s and 80’s - Vale Recreation Rule

St Martins continued to dominate local and inter insular senior football as the 1970’s commenced, although it was Belgrave Wanderers that would claim the distinction of winning Guernsey’s first floodlit competition in the 1969/70 season after the Stranger Cup became a floodlit competition.

The dominance St Martins had held throughout most of the 1960’s would soon disappear as Vale Recreation would become Guernsey’s leading club throughout the 70’s when winning five consecutive Priaulx leagues, multiple Jackson, Railway and Junior leagues, along with both the Upton and Jermie Cups for the first time in what was the club’s golden era. However, it is arguably the club’s run of fourteen consecutive Stranger Cup victories between 1973 – 1986, for which it is most famous.

As local football entered the 1970’s, on-going discussions between the GFA and the Amalgamated Committee with a view to the GFA purchasing the Track continued to the extent that a valuation of the ground was undertaken. That process led to the Track being valued at £12,650 in 1970 but the GFA were unable to secure an agreement with the Minutes recording that: “the Amalgamated informed Council that the possibility of the ownership of the Track being acquired by the GFA was not possible as a unanimous agreement between the three clubs (Belgraves, Northerners, Rangers) could not be reached.”

Before the Summer of 1970, the GFA Secretary was contacted by legendary football manager, Brian Clough, then at Derby County, to confirm that Mr Jimmy Gordon, the Derby County coach had been given permission to spend two weeks in Guernsey tutoring local club coaches. The trend of individuals involved in the professional game influencing football in Guernsey continued in the 1970/71 season, when the GFA was able to secure the services of John Gabriel, Southampton FC’s Scotland international player. Those services were to ‘coach and sharpen up’ the Muratti team but unfortunately it did not lead to Guernsey winning the trophy that season.

The 1971/72 season witnessed the ‘Rockett Case’ lead to the GFA Discipline Committee resigning as a collective body and in doing so stating that: “We are resigning because of the decision of the Executive of the Association to reduce the suspension from all football of Mr T Rockett from four to two matches”.

The GFA Council, with the exception of Rangers and St Martins accepted the resignations on the basis that the Discipline Commission made clear they had ‘no confidence in the Executive’ and subsequently appointed an interim Discipline Committee until the 1972 AGM.

It was the 1972/73 season that started a period of dominance for Vale Recreation, when winning the Priaulx league for the first time, along with the Stranger Cup and the Jackson league. Success followed the club the following season when winning its first Upton trophy along with retaining the Priaulx, Stranger and Jackson trophies and adding the Jeremie Cup to the collection.

Ahead of the 1974/75 season, Rovers applied for entry into the Priaulx league, with the club delegate advising Council that the club ‘now had a ground fit for Priualx football’ and the club thereafter admitted into Guernsey’s first division.

The 1975/76 season was the first in which the Priaulx league was sponsored, with Vale Recreation proceeding to claim the inaugural Rothmans Priaulx league, along with the Stranger, Junior A and Junior B trophies. That collection led to the club also winning both the Upton and Portsmouth trophies, whilst also adding the Wheway trophy for a remarkable trophy haul.

It was finally Rangers that broke Vale Recreation’s run of consecutive Priaulx triumphs in the 1977/78 season, whilst St Martins claimed the Jeremie and Wheway Cup double, which led the club into winning the Priaulx league the following season, one in which the club also became the first club to enter the FA Vase competition.

Ahead of the 1979/80 season, it was confirmed that with only four clubs remaining, the Sarnian League had disbanded, whilst the novel concept of a coin toss was used to decide that Rangers and Belgrave Wanderers would have use of the Victoria Avenue and Les Brehauts pitches for the forthcoming season!

In 1980/81 Vale Recreation claimed the Priaulx, Jackson, Railway and both Junior leagues along with becoming the Channel Island senior and junior champions when lifting the Upton and Portsmouth trophies, whilst still retaining the Stranger Cup. This particular season is arguably the greatest in the club’s history. In addition to the on-pitch battles, Vale Recreation and Northerners also had a dispute at a Council meeting in response to a letter of complaint sent to the Guernsey Press by Northerners. The dispute led to Northerners being reprimanded for its conduct.

Vale Recreation would continue to dominate local football throughout the 1980’s, winning a further seven Priaulx titles to make it thirteen in a seventeen year period. Perhaps disappointingly, the club only won four Upton trophies in the same period although seven Jeremie Cup and seventeen Stranger Cup triumphs were some consolation!

In that same 1980/81 season, the use of red and yellow cards for on-field discipline was stopped when the GFA followed the change in process introduced in England, although the representative for the Guernsey Society of Referees enquired whether ‘it would still be alright to use them for matches when there was a language problem’, which was approved by Council.

The 1981/82 season saw the introduction of shirt sponsorship for the first time, whilst it also saw Central once again disband from GFA competitions when a letter was sent to the Council stating:“the club was withdrawing from all football commitments because of a shortage of players and officials to run the club.”

Whilst other clubs were enjoying success with many players registered, the 1982/83 season saw Belgrave Wanderers struggle to fulfil its Junior B fixtures, and finally take the decision to withdraw from the league. This led to much discussion and review, and ultimately a decision was taken that junior players could transfer at any point in the season.

The 1982/83 season saw the GFA secretary resign, and with that being the second resignation in three years, concern was being raised about the scale of the role and whether it was too big for one person.  Ahead of the 1983 annual general meeting, the Mr Howard Allen, from the Senior Selection Committee, made a motion that one person should have sole responsibility for selecting and coaching the island team. This was subsequently agreed at the annual general meeting, with Mr Allen assuming that role, although the relationship with the clubs was not always harmonious due to perceived disagreements over player availability. In the two years leading the island team, Mr Allen won one, and lost one Muratti Final, before resigning and being replaced by Mr Tony Blondel before the 1986 Final, which Guernsey lost 3-2.

As the 1980’s drew to a close, Vale Recreation remained the dominat club on the local scene, until their Grand Fort Road rivals, Northerners, claimed three consecutive Priaulx titles from the 1989/90 season onwards.