Sutton United Football Club was formed on March 5th 1898 by the amalgamation of two leading junior sides, Sutton Association and Sutton Guild Rovers. Although the new club quickly made its reputation in local junior leagues, progress was unremarkable until 1910, when the decision was made to seek Senior status as members of the Southern Suburban League, and in the years before the First World War the Club played at a variety of local grounds, including one season at the Sutton Adult School Ground (click here for detailed ground history
When the Club returned to the Adult School premises in 1919, ownership switched to the local council and its name was changed to the Borough Sports Ground; that ground in Gander Green Lane has been home to the U's ever since. Sutton United was elected into membership of the Athenian League in 1921 and, after seeking re-election in 1926, the Club revived to capture its first Athenian League Championship in 1928. During the thirties the club established itself as a rapidly developing force in the amateur game and enjoyed several good runs in the Amateur Cup. The semi-finals were reached in 1929 and 1937 but on the first occasion the Club was expelled from the competition because two players were found "guilty" of also playing Sunday football.
Football carried on in a reduced format during World War 2 and the U's gathered a momentum which would sustain them throughout the next decade. The goals of a young centre-forward, Charlie Vaughan, helped the team to a succession of wartime honours and when the Athenian league recommenced in the 1945/46 season, his haul of 42 league goals helped the side to another title success. The Surrey Senior Cup was also captured for the first time. Vaughan soon turned professional with Charlton Athletic and although the 1950s brought few major playing honours, they were a time of great change for the Club, which was widely acknowledged as one of the most imaginative and forward-thinking clubs in the country.
Assets were transferred to Sutton United Ltd in 1953, with current President Andrew Letts as Chairman of the Club and of the new limited company, and a large new stand was constructed. Top young coaches were brought in to improve the side, including Jimmy Hill and Malcolm Allison, although Ron Greenwood was turned down, but it was not until the advent of George Smith as manager that success returned on the field. The Athenian League title was won for a third time in 1958 and that year the London Senior Cup was captured for the first time.
Progress accelerated under the guidance of Sid Cann, an FA Cup winner as a Manchester City player, and the Club's "Golden Era" commenced with a visit to Wembley for the 1963 Amateur Cup Final, which was lost 4-2 to Wimbledon, when Eddie Reynolds scored 4 times with his head. That summer the U's were elected into the Isthmian League and in 1967 they won the league title, the first of four successes to date. Another trip to Wembley followed in 1969, ending in defeat again at the hands of North Shields, and in 1970 the Club enjoyed nationwide fame with an FA Cup 4th Round clash at home to the mighty Leeds United, who fielded eleven full internationals and won 6-0. Cann's charges finished as runners-up in the league on 2 occasions and won the county cup 3 times.
In 1974 Cann was replaced by his former captain, England international Ted Powell, but United went through a series of managers in quick succession, including current Crewe boss Dario Gradi, before Keith Blunt steadied the ship. His major achievement was to guide the team to win the Anglo-Italian Cup in 1979, the 2-1 win in Chieti being the only time an English club captured the trophy, before taking over at MalmŲ and being succeeded at The Lane by Barrie Williams. Despite being hot favourites against a team from a lower division, the U's lost the 1981 FA Trophy Final to Bishop's Stortford, 1-0, and finished as league runners-up in 1982 after holding what had seemed an unassailable lead.
In 1983 a treble of the Surrey Senior, London Senior and Hitachi Cups was completed, with two retained the following year, and in 1985 the Isthmian League title was captured once more. Controversially, promotion was not sought because of problems connected with the ground but the title was retained in 1986 and the U's joined the Vauxhall Conference.
Quickly establish themselves as a Conference club, the U's were usually just outside the chasing pack at the top of the table, and set a Conference record with a 9-0 away win at Gateshead, and also recorded a remarkable 8-0 home win over Kettering. That stay in the Conference lasted five years, with the team always comfortably mid-table until the last few disastrous months of the 1990/91 season brought relegation as an inevitable consequence of injuries and a goal drought.
During that spell in the topflight, however, the U's established themselves in the national consciousness with two notable FA Cup runs, including wins over Aldershot and Peterborough and, famously, Coventry City in the 3rd Round in January 1989. Tony Rains and Matt Hanlan scored the goals in front of a crowd of 8,000. The Club also captured the Surrey Senior Cup a record six times in succession. Even in 1991, the team continued to show good cup form and lifted the Bob Lord Trophy and also recorded that 9-0 win away to Gateshead.
Hopes of a quick return to the top flight following relegation were not realised, despite two top-three finishes, but the Club could boast of a growing list of players who were transferred into the Football League. That list was spearheaded by Efan Ekoku, but also included Paul Rogers, Andy Scott and Robert Scott, who all joined Sheffield United, Stuart Massey and Andy Barnes (both Crystal Palace), Ollie Morah (Cambridge Utd) and Mark Watson (West Ham). Mark subsequently rejoined the Club. A little earlier, record goalscorer Paul McKinnon had been sold to Blackburn Rovers.
More FA Cup glory was tasted in 1993 when both Colchester and Torquay were beaten on their own turf before a 3-2 defeat at Notts County in Round 3. In 1996 a new managerial team took over, brothers John and Tony Rains, second and third in the club's all-time list of leading appearances (behind Larry Pritchard).
They guided the team to third place in each their first two seasons, just failing to celebrate the Club's Centenary by securing promotion into the Conference. That lapse was rectified in 1999, when after Christmas the U's put together just the sort of run that was needed, 13 wins and 3 draws in 17 matches, to overhaul long-time leaders Aylesbury and eventually finish 11 points clear of the field. The Surrey Senior Cup was also won with a 3-0 defeat of Carshalton Athletic in the final. Unfortunately, the club did not have the resources to bring in the necessary players to strengthen the squad. In most games the U's gave as good as they got, but there was a noticeable problem scoring goals. Having seemed set to pull clear of the relegation zone at Christmas, the U's struggled to win games and were relegated again after just one season.
What that lesson showed, was that an ageing team might win promotion but to have a chance of competing against very good sides in the Conference, the squad needed to be younger with the ability to carry on improving. Over the last three to four years, the average age of the squad has come down considerably, to the extent that the average age of the team for most of 2003/4 was just over 21. After winning the Surrey Senior Cup in 2003, a good start to the 2003/4 season promised well, but a terrible run of form saw the side fall dangerously close to the relegation zone and crash out of the FA Cup and FA Trophy.
The introduction of young players brought up through our youth and reserve sections brought a dramatic change of fortunes. A run of just three defeats from Christmas, culminating in nine wins from the last ten games, saw the team finish as runners-up in the Ryman Premier League. Most satisfyingly, the side played a brand of open, attacking football that thrilled the fans. The county cup final was reached again, but ended with a narrow 2-1 defeat against Woking. In a momentous season for non-League soccer, with the introduction for 2004/5 of two new divisions (North and South) feeding into the Nationwide Conference, Sutton had done more than enough to clinch their place in the new set up.
That form inevitably attracted the attention of other clubs, and five of the squad left to begin the following season with clubs in the national Conference division, with midfielder Nick Bailey, a member of the successful youth side two seasons earlier, going on to help Barnet to the Conference title and play an important part in their Football League return. He then moved to Southend two seasons ago for a £175,000 fee, and early last season in to the Championship with Charlton, where although the club was relegated he was voted Player of the Year.
The need to rebuild the side resulted in Uís struggling to make an impact in Nationwide South, with the relegation zone often too close for comfort as excellent away performances failed to be matched at home, but ultimately Uís did enough to avoid the drop. Encouragement came with the success of the youth team, who reached the second round of the FA Youth Cup, beating Southend before going out to a Bristol City side whose regular league opponents included Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea. The side also contributed the majority of the reserve squad that won the Suburban League, remaining unbeaten after the first Saturday of December.
The next two seasons saw Uís continue to consolidate their place in what is now the Blue Square South Division, with John Rains standing down as manager in March 2006 after ten years in charge and Ian Hazel taking over, but a poor start to the 2007-2008 season saw Uís bottom of the table at the beginning of October, and he resigned to be replaced by Ernie Howe, the former Fulham, QPR and Portsmouth defender who had twelve successful years in charge of Basingstoke between 1994 and 2006. After hinting at a revival either side of Christmas, however, fortunes remained low and after Sutton had been condemned to a relegation position at the end of March a second change of management saw Jimmy Dack, a midfielder in the championship winning side of 1999, take over. Despite a promising end to the season he decided against taking the job on a permanent basis, and Paul Doswell, who had achieved great success with Eastleigh in recent seasons, was appointed in the middle of May 2008. With a much changed squad, he enjoyed immediate success when he guided Uís to the 1st round of the FA Cup for the first time since 1995, and a place in the Ryman League play-offs, where Staines proved too strong in the semi finals, but this season started well as Uís again came through the FA Cup qualifying rounds before going out in the first round proper at Hereford.
The youth team has continued to impress over the past two seasons, completing a calendar year without defeat last September and going on to win the Southern Youth League title last season, finishing the regular league campaign with a 100% record and winning both games in the championship playoffs. Several members of the team have represented Uís at first team level, with Billy Dunn making his debut as a 16 year old in March 2008 and being a regular member of the senior squad last season, contributing some important goals.
The success of Nick Bailey has continued the tradition that Sutton have had in recent years for producing players who would play in the Football League and Premiership, with the most notable being former Norwich, Wimbledon and Sheffield Wednesday striker Efan Ekoku, who originally left Sutton for Bournemouth in 1990 and was a member of Nigeria's World Cup squad four years later. Andy Barnes (Crystal Palace), Stuart Massey(Crystal Palace and Oxford), Ollie Morah( Cambridge United) and Mark Watson (West Ham) were all signed from Sutton, while other players who began their career at Gander Green Lane are Paul Rogers, who went on to play for Sheffield United, Wigan and Brighton, Andy Scott, who played for Sheffield United, Brentford, Oxford and Leyton Orient and last season managed Brentford to the League Two championship, and brother Rob Scott, who also played for Sheffield United before spending several seasons at Rotherham and has more recently played for Oldham and Macclesfield before going in to management with Ilkeston and now Boston. The trend continued in July 2000 when Brentford signed midfielder Ed Hutchinson, a graduate of Uís youth team who had established himself in the Conference squad as a 17 year old and was a regular in the Brentford side for several seasons, while his twin brother Tom, with Sutton as a youth team player, has played for Dundee in the Scottish Premier League and Woking in the Conference. At the start of the 2007-2008 season Dagenham & Redbridge, newly promoted to the Football League, signed striker Jon Nurse, who had begun his senior career with Sutton before joining Stevenage, and earlier this year he represented Barbados in their World Cup qualifying game against the Dominican Republic. Another former Sutton player, Solomon Taiwo, was a team-mate of Nurseís at Dagenham last season before joining Cardiff, and this season striker Stefan Payne, who was signed from Croydon in the summer after impressing against Sutton in the Southern Youth League Cup final and scored seven goals in his first eight games including a hat trick on his debut against Margate, signed for Fulham, the move being confirmed once the transfer window had opened in January.