A history of senior football in St Albans - Part 11
Through the 1990s
By Derek Roft
After a dismal season of 1990-91, in which the club finished just above the relegation area, it was hoped for an improvement for 1991-92. Former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Garry Brooke was signed. Paul Price, an ex Welsh international was also signed. He had returned to his roots in a sense because Price was actually born in St Albans 37 years earlier. Another player who ultimately became a virtual legend was a striker signed by the name of Steve Clark.
Duke quits, and then passes away
As the 1991-92 season got under way Ron Duke was reported by a referee after an incident during an F A Cup tie. Not untypical of the controversial Ron Duke. Some time after this Duke quit as assistant manager.
Steve Clark began scoring goals freely. He scored a hat trick against Hitchin Town in the FA Trophy and four against Tilbury in the league. Being his early highlights
By the end of the 1991-92 season it seemed as though John Mitchell was steadily assembling a team capable of possibly winning the league title. Even though they had only improved a couple of places on the 1990-91 season.
There was sad news during the close season when it was learned that Ron Duke had passed away. He had been a former manager and assistant manager of the club.
It was announced that ‘Roy of the Rovers’ was sponsoring the club for the 1992-93 season. A member of the boys football comic staff lived in St Albans and had persuaded the company to sponsor the side. On the front cover of the club programme was a comic picture of the football hero Roy Race.
Finally knocked out
Ex-Crystal Palace striker Dean Williams joined the Saints as a strike partner to Steve Clark. The season began very well with City in the leading group. In fact they were unbeaten in their first six games. They also reached the 1st Round Proper of the FA Cup after beating Brimsdown Rovers, Rayners Lane, Stevenage Borough (after a replay) and Telford United. They were finally knocked out by Cheltenham Town.
When they were knocked out of the FA Cup they were lying 2nd in the table and dreaming of Conference football. The officials from the Conference inspected the ground and concluded that it was not up to standard. In an effort to put things right the club officials worked round the clock. It finally emerged that the main reason for the refusal was two oak trees including one that was on the terrace. City were in a hopeless position as to what to do.
Do they chop them down and risk a massive fine which could break the club financialy because oak trees were protected by law?.
Or do they leave the oak trees standing and lose out on playing in a higher league with the possibility of larger crowds?.
It was decided to leave the trees standing. To add insult to injury the club finished the season as runners up. The ground of the eventual champions Chesham United was also not up to standard which meant had it not been for the oak tree City could have been promoted to the Conference.
Steve Ketteridge appointed as Manager
John Mitchell had been so disgusted at the Conference’s decision not to promote St Albans City that he resigned as manager.
The Saints appointed Steve Ketteridge as their new manager. He had previously played in the Football League for Wimbledon among other teams. Steve Clark began to attract offers from other clubs throughout the following season but he stayed loyal to St Albans. Towards the end of the 1993-94 season he scored his 100th goal for the club. This season was a sort of anti-climax after the 1992-93 season because the club finished 7th in the table.
150th goal scored by Clark
In the 1994-95 season Martin Duffield and Allan Cockram, who had returned after a spell of league football with Brentford, became joint managers of the team. Brian Stein joined the club as a strike partner with Steve Clark. As the season got under way Stein was matching Clark goal for goal. In the F A Cup Qualifying Round against Hillingdon Borough St Albans City won 11-1 and Clark had scored six goals. He nearly scored a seventh but missed by inches to equal the record held by Billy Minter set in 1922. Brian Stein left the club in February 1995 after being told. “We can’t pay your wages anymore”. Towards the end of the season Clark scored his 150th goal for the Saints. He also broke Billy Minter’s record for the most goals in a season in all competitions.
At the start of the 1995-96 season Martin Duffield left for a coaching job in the U S A. Greg Howell was signed from Enfield among other players. After thirty games City were at the top of the table by a point. Could City sustain that position until the end of the season? A few games after this saw the slender lead disappear and they fell away to finish 7th.
Naseem Bashir and Rob Haworth arrived from Aylesbury United and became the latest strike partners for Steve Clark. Steve Clark scored his 200th goal in all competitions against Croydon in the London Challenge Cup. The Saints went on another F A Cup run when they reached the 2nd Round Proper before getting thrashed 2-9 to Bristol City. Jimmy Neighbour, the former West Ham United winger, took over as the manager. After a steady start to his time as manager the Saints finished 6th in the table.
Bernard Tominey steps down
Among the new signings for the 1997-98 season was Justin Gentle from Enfield. Chris Moore, an attacking midfield player, came from Yeovil Town. After a difficult start City climbed to 4th but by the end of 1997 City had slipped down the table. There was a change of Chairman when Bernard Tominey stepped down. This paved the way for Lee Harding to take over. Towards the end of the 1997-98 season Steve Clark had scored his 250th goal in all competitions for the Saints. Jimmy Neighbour left the club and Garry Hill became the new manager. The Saints had dropped from a top six club to finish half way down the table.
Under Garry Hill the side made a terrific start to the 1998-99 season. Steve Clark became the 4th player after Phil Wood, Billy Minter and Freddie Collings to complete 400 games for the Saints. They had an F A Trophy run after beating Leyton Pennant, Hastings United, Ashton United, Dagenham & Redbridge and Boston United to reach the semi final. The semi final was a two-legged affair against Forest Green Rovers. The 1st leg was drawn at home 1-1 but sadly in the 2nd leg away City lost 2-3. Yet another semi final heartbreak in the modern day equivilent of the FA Amateur Cup. At the end of the season Garry Hill left to manage Dagenham & Redbridge.
Bob Dowie takes over as Manager
Former player Bob Dowie took over as manager at the start of the 1999-2000 season. A fine start was made and maintained until November when they were second to Dagenham & Redbridge. In January 2000 Dowie stepped down owing to business commitments. Another former player, Kevin Mudd, took over. Initially City’s form under Kevin Mudd were a little shaky but in the end he did so well that they only finished 5th at the end. The final game of the season saw Steve Clark play his final match for City. He signed for Canvey Island.