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Happy Birthday Tonbridge Angels


Today we celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the opening game for Tonbridge Football Club

21st August 1948, an estimated 5,800 people gathered at The Angel Ground, for what was in a playing sense, the birth of Tonbridge Football Club. There was to be no fairy tale ending on the day, Hastings United emerged victorious 2-1 with Albert Robson taking the glory of being the Blues (the Angels nickname was not adopted for a couple more years) first ever goalscorer.

The pathway to this first Southern League game had begun the previous year when a meeting at the Medway Hall had given resounding affirmation of the desire to form a new senior club in the town. The chairman of the meeting, the local MP, Gerald Williams, resolved that “Tonbridge not only wanted a senior football club but that the town wanted to do the job properly. Let us have it and make a success of it.”

Herbert Portch, who was to become the club’s first chairman, was a figurehead and had negotiated with Tonbridge Urban District Council for the use of the Angel Ground for football whereby for many years it had been a country cricket ground. A supporters club was formed on the evening of the meeting and this had its first secretary in the name of Bill May, who became a legendary figure at the Angel for many years.

The first manager to lead Tonbridge was Jock Denoon, a Scottish goalkeeper who had played in the Football League for Swansea Town and his first captain was Jack Duffield. His first selection is pictured in the accompanying graphic.

Injuries to Ron Anderson (who hobbled through much of the match) and Len Richley (no substitutes in 1948) disrupted the home side but they went ahead two minutes into the second half with Robson converting John Griffiths’ cross with a fierce shot. There was to be no fairytale ending as Hammond scored twice to send the East Sussex side back down the A21 with the two points.

The club endured a troublesome infancy on the pitch, failing to win a Southern League game until late October when they beat Bedford Town, but in the intervening time they had won an FA Cup game at Bexley United; a Kent Senior Cup tie at neighbours Tunbridge Wells United and had a Kent Senior Shield victory at Margate but, despite the lack of success, the crowds continued to flock to the Angel with 3,000-4,000 each match.

So today, we celebrate 75 years of our football club. The club moved from the Angel Ground to Longmead, with appropriately Mickey Angel scoring the last ever goal, in 1980 and the Angels was adopted into our title in 1994 and whilst we tip our cap to our forefathers, in her own words our present chair Sophie Purves echoes the thoughts of Gerald Williams: “Let’s do the job properly and make a success of it” and lay the foundations for the next 75 years.


Published Monday 21st August 2023