Club History

Clitheroe FC 1893 - Lancashire Junior Cup winners (Photo courtesy of Pye's of Clitheroe)

The club was formed as Clitheroe Central in 1877 at the Swan Hotel in Castle Street by local businessmen. After playing in local leagues the club joined the Lancashire Combination in 1903 and dropped Central from their name.

The first major trophy won was the Lancashire Junior Cup in 1893 - a trophy they had to wait 92 years to win again. In 1985 at Deepdale, home of Preston North End, they defeated Barrow 1-0 with local lad Eric Geldard scoring in extra time.

Clitheroe FC 1935 - winners of the Lancashire Combination Cup (Photo courtesy of Pye's of Clitheroe)

Except for breaks during the first and second World Wars (1914-18 and 1939-45) Clitheroe played in the Lancashire Combination until the end of the 1981-82 season. They won the Lancashire Combination Cup in the 1934-35 season and the League Championship in the 1979-80 season.

For the 1982/83 season The Lancashire Combination amalgamated with the Cheshire County League to become the North West Counties League. Clitheroe became one of the founder members, however the state of the ground meant they started in the third division. There then followed one of the most successful periods in the club's long history when under the guidance of manager Eric Whalley (now Chairman of Accrington Stanley) they won the Third, Second and First Divisions in consecutive seasons. Captained by Mick Ashcroft the team regularly attracted bumper gates, with the championship winning season seeing three crowds of over 1000.

Cracks started to appear when Whalley took over the manager's seat at Accrington Stanley and took almost the whole first team with him. To compound matters, the new UniBond Division 1 was formed but a lack of floodlights meant the Blues could not take their rightful place and they found teams effectively leapfrogging them.

Dennis Underwood leads the team out at Wembley
It was not until the mid-1990s that the club recovered from this setback and started to fulfil its potential and not only to become a force in the NWCFL Division 1 again but also make itself known on the national FA Vase stage.

Possibly the highlight of the club's history came when the Blues reached the 1995-96 FA Vase Final under the joint managership of Dennis Underwood and Gary Butcher after an epic two legged Semi final win against Mangotsfield United from Bristol. 2050 people were on Shawbridge for the 2nd leg when a deflected goal saw the Blues home with 7 minutes of extra time remaining. The Wembley final pitted the Blues against a powerful Brigg Town side and a 0-3 reverse in front of 7500 fans was a fair reflection of the play.

The last decade of the 20th Century saw most of the 10 years spent getting the ground up to scratch with 130,000 being spent in the process. The sale of 2 players, Jon Penman to Southport and Carlo Nash to Crystal Palace (within a month of the Vase final), helped considerably with the expenditure on the ground.

The club saw little success on the pitch after the Wembley visit until manager Steve Parry led them to the Floodlight Trophy by beating Kidsgrove Athletic 2-1 in the 1998-99 final.

An early photo of Diddy?! (Photo courtesy of Pye's of Clitheroe)
Local lad Dave Burgess took over the management of the First Team in 2000/01 after several successful years running the second string, with player Lee Sculpher as his assistant. In their first season they finished as league runners-up and FA Vase semi-finalists.

Work commitments led to Dave standing down in 2001/02 and Lee took over and again finished as league runners-up before losing 1-2 to Mossley in the League Cup final at Bury's Gigg Lane ground.

Early cup exits the following season enabled the Blues to concentrate on the league and superb away form saw the 2003/04 NWCFL championship won on the final day of the season with a 3-2 victory at Nantwich Town - a memorable late goal from Neil Reynolds sealing a fantastic achievement.

Shock news was received November '04 when Lee Sculpher resigned as manager and short spells in charge by Paul Byron, Tommy Lawson and Mark Smitheringale followed before Chris Stammers was appointed manager on 18th September 2006. A further shock was received immediately after the 1-10 loss to Kettering Town in the FA Trophy on 25th November when Chris tendered his resignation citing he had taken the club as far as he could. His assistant Ash Berry took temporary charge of team affairs before the club appointed popular Neil Reynolds and Kendal's veteran player Peter Smith as the new management team on 6th December 2006.

The club started to invest again in its infrastructure both on and off the pitch. Some 50,000 has been spent on a new canteen and clubhouse, the latter being completed one day prior to the first game of the 2008/09 season. 

Neil Reynolds stood down towards the end of the 2008/09 season and Peter Smith brought in Kenny Mayers as his assistant. The partnership led the team to the club's then highest ever league placing of 8th at the end of the 2009/10 season.

Just one match into the 2010/11 campaign Kenny Mayers returned to Squires Gate to continue a playing career and Peter Smith moved swiftly to bring in Phil Eastwood as his playing assistant.
Peter Smith resigned amicably at the end of March 2011 and chairman Carl Garner stood down from his position to take over the managerial reins. He promptly won the league's Manager of the Month Award for April by remaining unbeaten in his first 8 games as a manager....and the club had their highest ever finish of 6th in the 2010-11 season! Unfortunately the 2011/12 season was not a good one and Carl Garner stepped aside in March 2012 for Lee Sculpher and David Burgess to see the season out with Clitheroe doing just enough to keep their Evo-Stik League place.

In May 2012 the club appointed Paul Moore as manager and assisted by Dave Hughes he steered the Blues to a club record Northern Premier League points haul of 73 points to finish in 8th place.

Paul Moore left the club by mutual consent on 12th October 2013. Ex-Blues player Simon Garner was appointed as the new manager on 14th October 2013 with another former player Ryan Parr as his assistant.

The club has invested again in its infrastructure with new, bigger changing rooms in place ready for the 2014/15 season and continued pitch improvement work during the close-season ready for the 2015/16 campaign.

Simon Garner resigned at the end of the 2015/16 season having led the team to a decent league placing of 7th at the end of that season. Ex-Wales international Simon Haworth was appointed as the new manager on 29th April 2016. In his first season he reached the semi-finals of the League Cup and the Lancs FA Trophy and finished just outside the play-offs in 7th place. Discipline was so much improved that the club topped the Non-League Paper's Fair Play table and picked up the PFA Fair Play award at the National Game Awards held at Stamford Bridge in May 2017.

Simon Haworth stepped down at the end of the 2017-18 season after reaching the final of the Lancs FA Trophy but ending the season with a poor run of results that saw the team slide down to 12th place. Former Warrington Town manager Stuart Mellish was appointed as the new manager on 29th April 2018 with ex-Ossett Town manager Lee Ashforth as his assistant.

After a poor start to the 2018-19 season the club accepted Stuart Mellish's resignation on 12th September 2018 and his assistant Lee Ashforth was named as manager 8 days later with coach David Mannix as his assistant. Another poor run of results at the end of the season saw Lee and his team sacked on 29th April 2019. Ex-Lancaster City manager Phil Brown was appointed as the new manager on 8th May 2019.

The 2019-20 season was cut short by the coronavirus pandemic and Phil Brown stood down as manager on 11th May 2020. The club moved quickly and appointed former player David Lynch as new player-manager on 15th May 2020. He will be assisted by Chris Holland and Carl Garner who returns to the club as Director of Football.

The 2020-21 season was also cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

David Lynch resigned on 22nd July 2021. Senior players Billy Priestley and Gary Stopforth were placed in interim charge the following day and appointed as the new management team on 1st August 2021.

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