Leatherhead

Leatherhead Football Club is a football club based in Leatherhead, Surrey, England. The club is nicknamed The Tanners and plays home at Fetcham Grove. They play in the Isthmian League Premier Division. The club is affiliated to the Surrey County Football Association and is a FA Charter Standard club

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History

The club was founded in 1907 as Leatherhead Rose, and originally played friendlies. In 1909 they joined the Dorking and District League, and won the league at the first attempt. After the First World War the team rejoined that league and again won the league championship. The following season they joined the Kingston and District League, and went on to win three league titles before the Second World War.

Leatherhead also had another local club, Leatherhead United, formed in 1924, who won Division One of the Sutton and District League in the 1925–26 season. United also finished third in the Premier League in the 1928–29 season, behind Leatherhead Rose who were runners-up. In the early 1930s Fetcham Grove-based United joined the Surrey Junior League and became Champions at the end of the 1933–34 season. This enabled United to join the Surrey Intermediate League, but they were relegated after a few seasons at the end of the 1936–37 campaign.

After the Second World War officials of the two clubs met; and on 27 May 1946 Leatherhead Football Club was officially formed at a public meeting. The two clubs pooled their financial resources and chose United's Fetcham Grove ground for their home pitch. The club then joined the Surrey Senior League for the start of the 1946–47 season.

They won that league four times in a row, and left the league to join the Metropolitan & District League for the 1950–51 season. The next season they became founding members of the Delphian League. The team played in the Delphian League for seven seasons before joining the Corinthian League. In the 1962–63 season they became the last Corinthian League champions, as the league was disbanded. Along with most of the other sides, they joined the enlarged Athenian League in the new Division One. At the end of their first season in Division One they were promoted to the Premier Division as Champions.

1970s

The club reached the semi-finals of the FA Amateur Cup in 1969, losing to eventual winners Skelmersdale United, and again in 1971, falling to Ilford. The hero of this era was "Nobby" Skinner, noted for his ability to "poach" a goal out of nothing. After these cup runs further progress was made in the league when the club joined the Isthmian League for the start of the 1972–73 season.

In the 1974–75 season, The Tanners were national news with an FA Cup run that saw them beat Isthmian League rivals Bishops Stortford (First round), League side Colchester United (Second round), and 3rd Division Brighton, managed by Peter Taylor (Third round). In the Fourth round they were drawn against 1st Division Leicester City at home. It remains the furthest the club has ever reached in the competition. With the game switched to Filbert Street, at the request of Tanners management, the BBC's Match of the Day and over 32,000 people saw a dramatic match, in which the Tanners went two goals up, and then saw a Chris Kelly goalbound shot that would have made it 3–0 cleared off the line. Leicester City's fitness and class eventually told as the top team fought back to win 3–2 in the second half.

Kelly was the star player of the side, earning the nickname "The Leatherhead Lip" for his readiness to talk up the team. At the height of the team's success, Kelly appeared on national television, including Match of the Day, Nationwide and even Tomorrow's World. Later in the year, his name featured in the TV comedy Porridge on the back of a copy of The Sun, read by Fletcher.

The following year another budding FA Cup run saw Leatherhead beat Cambridge United, managed by Ron Atkinson.

In 1978, the side reached the final of the FA Trophy, played at Wembley, only to lose 3–1 to Altrincham.

1980s and beyond

The Tanners also reached the FA Cup first round in 1980 but lost 5–1 to Exeter City. Three seasons later though the club struggled in the league and was relegated to Division One in the 1982–83 season, and further relegation followed at the end of the 1989–90 season when they were relegated to division two south. Seven seasons later the club finished as Runners-up in Division Two and gained promotion to Division One at the end of the 1996–97 season. However the club could only stay four seasons in Division One before being relegated to Division Two at the end of the 2000–01 season. A season later, upon the league reorganisation, they were placed in Division One South.

In October 2006, they were drawn against Torquay United in the FA Cup first round, the first time in 26 years they had reached this level, going out 2–1.

In 2011, Leatherhead gained promotion, beating Dulwich Hamlet in a dramatic play-off final. The Tanners were 3–1 down going into injury time when Kevin Terry managed to pull two goals back, taking the game to extra time. Terry scored again in extra time to claim his hat-trick and take the Tanners into the Isthmian League Premier Division. However they only managed one season in the top flight of the Isthmian League before being relegated back to Division One South.

In the 2013-14 season, Leatherhead were promoted after winning the play-off final against Folkestone Invicta. Jimmy Bullard managed Leatherhead in the 2016-17 season. In the 2017–18 season Leatherhead reached the second round of the FA Cup, under Sammy Moore, but lost 3–1 away to Wycombe Wanderers. Leatherhead also reached the final of the Surrey Senior Cup and finished 6th in the Isthmian League Premier Division, missing the play-offs on goal difference.

Nikki Bull took over as manager at the start of the 2018-19 season. The 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons were unfinished due to Covid-19. In August 2021, Martin McCarthy took over as manager from Bull, who stayed with the club to focus on player recruitment. The U23 side moved to the Suburban League and Leatherhead Women FC started playing on Sundays at Fetcham Grove in the South East Counties Womens League.

Club operations

Financial problems emerged at Fetcham Grove just before Christmas 1999. The club survived that immediate crisis but it seemed that they were doomed in the summer of 2000 when a last-ditch appeal to the local business community for sponsorship failed. It was then that the supporters of the Tanners stepped in to save their club. A group of fans secured a new long-term lease on Fetcham Grove, helping to secure the Tanners' future, under the motto "a club run by its supporters for the benefit of the community".

Tim Edwards (1954–2009) was a leading figure in that group and went on to become club chairman, having previously served as the club's youngest ever committee member, at age 25, and then as press secretary, programme editor and photographer.

Leatherhead