World's second oldest football club
Located in a leafy suburb of Sheffield 10 to the West of the city centre and some 800 feet above sea level lies Sandygate Road, officially the oldest football ground in the World and home of Hallam FC since 1860, thus making them the second oldest football club in the World to Sheffield FC!
After the formation of Hallam Cricket club in 1804 by the then landlord of the Plough Inn the club blossomed until by the 1850's it had in excess of 300 members. It was the wish of these members, many of whom were familiar with the team football being played by Sheffield FC , formed in 1857, to create a less exclusive club led by cricketers and thus in 1860, Hallam FC was born.
The first ever challenge match took place against Sheffield FC on Boxing Day 1860 at Sandygate Road. This is still believed to be the first ever Inter Club game and the oldest to survive until today.
John Shaw who was the founder and captain of Hallam FC represented the Sheffield Football Association who along with Charles Alcock of the Football Association of London created a nationally accepted set of rules of playing the game. The two gentlemen in fact both captained their respective teams in the first all Sheffield match with London in 1871 in which they experimented with the new rules.
In 1867 Hallam went on to win the Youdan Cup named after a local football enthusiast Thomas Youdan. This is believed to have been the first cup competition and the oldest football trophy in the World which remains the property of the club as it was won outright by Hallam in 1867.Although lost for a number years it was bought back from a Scottish antique dealer in 1997.
As professionalism grew within the game and more clubs were formed Hallam struggled to compete however they were content to retain their amateur status and still enjoyed success in local league and cup competitions. A crowd of over 2000 spectators filled Sandygate as they defeated Bishop Auckland in an FA Amateur cup game in 1925.
Hallam progressed through the senior local leagues and had the opportunity to play more famous clubs in the FA amateur cup competition. One such cup match against Dulwich Hamlet in 1953 was played at Sheffield Wednesday's Hillsborough stadium and attracted a crowd of over 13,000 spectators. Hallam went on to win the Sheffield senior cup four times during the 1950's and 1960's.
With the restructure of the amateur leagues in 1982/83 season Hallam had to make extensive fund raising efforts to meet the requirements of the new ground grading system which was as influential on promotion as the teams performance itself and to pay a premium for the 99 year extension of the ground lease which had to be met within 12 months of being agreed with their landlords, a burden to be shared by the cricket club.The ground lease is due to expire in 2088.
Necessary improvements to the ground included the provision of floodlights,first used in 1992, a 250 seat stand and a covered standing area to house 100 spectators. The fund-raising was boosted by a legacy from a late supporter and the two new stands were completed for the 1999/2000 season. New changing rooms were then built behind the main stand and the old ones were refurbished internally to create a licensed clubhouse.
During season 2000/2001,Hallam FC received two certificates from the Guiness World Records organisation, which recognised that Sandygate was the Oldest Football Ground still in use and that Hallam FC possesses the World's oldest "knock-out" cup , namely the "Youdan Cup" of 1867.Both certificates can be seen proudly displayed in the entrance porch of the new 1860 suite.
In 2003/04 season a baron spell of 36 years without a trophy was ended as the club beat Mickleover Sports 1-0 in the NCEL cup final at Buxton.
2009/2010 season saw the club's 150th anniversary season celebrated with a Dinner and the replay of the first inter club match with Sheffield FC which was delayed until May Day 2011 due to a heavy snow cover on the Sandygate Road pitch on Boxing day itself. The closely fought game watched by a crowd of over 500 spectators saw Sheffield win 2-1 to take home the Alan Cooper Memorial Trophy. A special 150th anniversary edition of "The Countrymen" the official History of the club written by John A. Steele was also published to mark the anniversary.
New manager Julian Watts worked hard during the second half of the season to try and maintain the club's premiership status and against all odds took it to the last game of the season at Arnold but defeat meant the anniversary season ended in disappointment.
For 2011/12 season the club had renewed optimism. A new young Hallam team was emerging and were finding their feet in the NECL Division one and looking for a top ten finish on which to consolidate for the future however the season slipped away and the team finished 14th.
Off the pitch the marvellous legacy left to the club by lifelong fan Roger Bell allowed the facilities to be upgraded in line with the modern day league requirements and to refurbish the clubhouse which was officially re-opened by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who is also the local MP for Sheffield, Hallam, on the 13th April 2012 as the "1860 Suite". Hopefully the new building and facilities will help to generate a much needed sustainable income for the club.
Chris Sellars joined Julian Watts at the helm of the first team as the 2012/2013 season kicked off and after exciting and promising pre-season displays against the two Sheffield professional clubs and Manchester City the team once again struggled to find any form in the league and cup.
Behind the scenes a new structure of well qualified coaches was taking shape and the club added an U-18's side to the Hallam stable. With the U-19's and County Senior Reserve side having some good young talent in their ranks and the first team turning around their season over the Christmas 2012 period the future of the club is starting to look much brighter with their ultimate goal to gain promotion back to the NECL Premier Division as soon as possible.
26th July 2015
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