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Part Seven - 1963 to 1972
In their opening season in the Athenian League, Hemel finished fifth in Division Two and were subsequently promoted to Division One due to restructuring. Hemel also gained revenge over Oxford City in the FA Cup, by beating them 5-0 at home in the Second Qualifying Round (Hemel exited at the next hurdle at the hands of Maidenhead United, 2-1 away from home). In 1964-65 Hemel finished as runners up in Division One, winning promotion to the Premier Division. Hemel’s reserve team won the Herts Intermediate Cup again this season but things didn’t develop well for the club as a whole - Hemel only lasted three seasons in the Premier with a best finish of ninth in 1966 before two consecutive relegations saw Hemel start the 1969/70 season in Division Two, a level which Hemel remained for nearly 30 years! Future Wimbledon and Newcastle manager Joe Kinnear made four appearances for Hemel in 1965, scoring one goal during his short spell. 1962 and 1966 saw Hemel reach the final of the Herts Senior Cup but Hitchin Town then St Albans City kept the trophy from Hemel’s grasp. In 1967 Hemel reached the final of the Herts Charity Cup for the first time, losing 0-1 to St Albans City. During this period Hemel also reached the final of the Herts Charity Shield five times, although only won in 1964.
Hemel parted company with Manager Bill McGrae at the end of the 1967/68 season. Hemel opened the 1968/69 season with a home match against Dorking, with new manager Harry Gibson taking charge for the first time. After 11 minutes the referee took the players off of the field because of a rainstorm and play was held up for five minutes. Hemel went on to win 3-0. Gibson was eventually replaced by player-Manager Brian Pettifer. Former QPR player and Addmult Manager George Powell, who led Addmult to the South Midlands League Championship two seasons earlier, was appointed Manager for the start of the 1970/71 season. However, by the end of the season, Powell had been succeeded by then club secretary and former Manager Bill McGrae, who led the team as caretaker boss until the end of the season. Powell cited “personal reasons” for his departure; he resigned after a 4-0 loss at Edgware that left Hemel fourth from bottom of the league.
1000 spectators watched a friendly between Hemel and Luton at Crabtree Lane, with local press reporting that a large uniformed Police were present due to rumours that Watford supporters were attending to “run-the-eye” over their Luton counterparts. Also this season, local press reported Hemel goalkeeper Martin Skelton was involved in a skirmish with Wealdstone supporters at Crabtree Lane when two spectators jumped over the fence and began jostling Skelton. Play was halted and one man was treated for a mouth injury, Hemel went on to win 3-1. During Easter 1971, the press reported that Hemel had 16 players injured or unavailable for the weekend’s fixtures. Another team selection was hampered when striker Micky Young was getting married on match day with striking partner Derek Smart being his best man! Hemel were warned by the Disciplinary Committee of the West Herts FA about the number of cautions Hemel players had received. Despite the apparent lack of discipline, Hemel went on to win the St Mary’s Cup 2-0 at Crabtree Lane against local rivals Berkhamsted Town. On route to the final, Hemel Hempstead Town met Hemel Hempstead United in the Quarter Final in front of Crabtree Lane’s biggest crowd of the season; Town won 5-2 after extra time.
Déjà vous at the start of the 1971/72 season, just like three years previously Hemel started the season with a new manager and a home win, and just like three years previously the referee took the players off of the field due to a rainstorm and play was held up for five minutes again! Hemel went on to beat Eastbourne 1-0 under new boss Dai Price, who had previously spent nine seasons at Crabtree Lane as a player. Local press reported in April 1971 that Hemel Hempstead Town had confirmed that the 1971/72 season would be their last at Crabtree Lane, adding that the club was fairly confident of taking over another ground in the locality. Following the sale of the clubs home at Crabtree Lane, Hemel Hempstead Town merged with Hemel Hempstead United in the summer of 1972. The new club took the simple name of Hemel Hempstead FC and made United’s Vauxhall Road ground its home.
Hemel Hempstead Town FC, Athenian League final positions, 1963/64 to 1971/72
Collation of information/statistics and additional research by Marc Willmore. Please do not reproduce without consultation: firstname.lastname@example.org