The New Salisbury FC

Salisbury FC is a phoenix club, forming in December 2014 when Salisbury FC Ltd was incorporated and created by a consortium of five- David Phillips, Ian Ridley, Jeremy Harwood, Graeme Mundy, and Steve Claridge, the latter also having the role of Team Manager. After buying the remaining assets of the predecessor club, Salisbury City FC, from the administrators, they started the huge task of creating a football club from scratch.

By early 2015, a new lease had been obtained on the Raymond McEnhill Stadium, which had been purpose-built in 1997 for the old club. This enabled Salisbury FC to apply to the FA, seeking a competitive league for the 2015/2016 season. However, the stadium had been locked and shuttered for a year; the grass on the pitch was 18-inches high, and much work was needed both on and off the pitch to bring it back into use. Supporters of the old club, desperate to see football back at the ground again, worked hard with other volunteers to get it all up and running in time for the first game on 28th April 2015, when a friendly against AFC Totton was watched by 729 people, ending in a 2-2 draw.

First Season; Champions of Wessex (2015-2016)

In May 2015, the FA placed the new club in the Sydenhams Wessex League Premier. Steve Claridge then knew the level of competition the club would face, and the type of players he would need for the season ahead. Following some intense work in a very short time, in trial and friendly matches, he succeeded in putting a side together, finally having the nucleus of the squad just in time for the opening league games. For the loyal supporters and fans, 18 months of hurt and pain following the messy demise of Salisbury City was eased as they finally watched their new team line up for the first time.

The Whites played their first competitive fixture on Saturday 8th August 2015, away to Brockenhurst, in the Sydenhams Wessex Premier, followed by their first competitive game on home turf, hosting Whitchurch United three days later.

Clubs representing the city in their various previous incarnations had a proud and successful history over 67 years, and in the later years Salisbury City reached the highest level of non-league football, so expectations of the new club were high, but one point from the first two league fixtures did not look too auspicious. Though the fans didn’t know it yet, a magical first season was underway.

There followed a brilliant run of 14 matches unbeaten in all competitions, then a magnificent mid-season run of 17 consecutive wins in all competitions, and a longest winning run in the league of 21 matches. This was quite an achievement for a club which had no players only 10 months earlier.

Unsurprisingly, attendances throughout the season were good, averaging over 700, and were higher than expected, matching previous attendances for Salisbury City. The new club smashed the league’s attendance record as 1,485 watched the local derby with Bemerton Heath Harlequins on 28th December 2015, and a stadium record of 3,450 was recorded for the second leg of the FA Vase Semi-Final against fellow phoenix club, Hereford FC. Whites’ travelling supporters regularly numbered between 200 and 300, and sometimes more.

An extraordinary season saw a final goal tally of 199 in 59 games in all competitions, together with the remarkable total of 27 clean sheets. Salisbury made the quarter-finals of the Sydenhams Wessex League Cup, were runners-up in the Wiltshire Senior Cup, and, after an excellent campaign in the FA Vase, went out in the semi-finals, just missing out on a trip to Wembley that could have been that extra cherry on the icing on the cake in a superb inaugural season.

The Whites secured their place as Sydenhams Wessex League Premier champions with 6 games in hand, with a 3-0 victory against Horndean at the Ray Mac on Thursday 14th April 2016. They ended the season on 105 points with a goal difference of +97, earning automatic promotion to the BetVictor Southern League Division One South & West for the 2016/2017 season.

The Whites celebrate the 2015/2016 Sydenhams Wessex League Premier title.

The Start of the Southern League (2016-2018)

The following season saw the Whites’ first venture into the FA Cup, starting with a comfortable 5-0 victory over Bitton before defeating Frome Town from the league above in the First Qualifying Round. A home draw to National League North side Gloucester City was the reward, and the Whites matched their opponents from two tiers higher, eventually succumbing to a 1-2 defeat.

Steve Claridge was Salisbury FC’s manager between 2015-2022.

The Whites were also reacquainted with Hereford in the league, and a 4-3 victory over the side who had pipped us to Wembley in the FA Vase the previous season, this time in the FA Trophy, was unfortunately offset by two league defeats as the Bulls won the title, with Salisbury finishing in second place. This meant a trip to the playoffs, and a Semi Final at the Ray Mac with Evesham United. In front of a crowd of 1,395, the Whites edged into the Final courtesy of a 119th-minute penalty from Tommy Wright, his 51st goal of the campaign. The Play Off Final, again played at the Ray Mac, saw Salisbury host Tiverton Town, a side they had lost to twice in the league. Unfortunately, it was not third time lucky for the Whites, as goals from Michael Landricombe and Tom Bath secured a 0-2 victory for the visitors and promotion to the Southern League Premier.

There was still time for another chance at silverware, though, as Salisbury defeated Bemerton Heath Harlequins in the Final of the Salisbury Hospital Cup.

The 2017/2018 season heralded another successful FA Cup campaign, again defeating a team from the league above, this time away from home against Farnborough, before another home tie against National League South side Poole Town, who came away from the Ray Mac with a 0-2 win.

A 13-0 victory over Bassett Bulldogs in the Wiltshire Senior Cup remains our largest margin of victory to date, surpassing the 10-0 win against Dorchester Town in the Southern League Cup the season before.

The Whites went toe-to-toe with Taunton Town in a straight shoot-out for the title, with the Peacocks eventually pipping us to the title after an inconsistent run of form in late March and early April. However, with a reorganisation of the non-league scene already underway, the top two teams would be promoted. Salisbury secured their place in the seventh tier with a 2-1 victory over Didcot Town on Saturday 21st April 2017, Stuart Green and George Colson netting for the Whites.

The Whites celebrate their promotion from the Evo-Stick Southern League Division 1 South & West

Back in the Southern Prem (2018-2022)

The Whites’ first season back in the Evo-Stick Southern League Premier South got underway against another promoted side, Beaconsfield Town at Holloways Park on Saturday 11th August 2018. Goals from Luke Hopper and Lewis Benson earned Salisbury a 2-2 draw before their first home game ended in a 1-2 defeat against Poole Town.

The Whites celebrate Darren Mullings’ second goal against Braintree Town in the FA Trophy.

For the third season running, Salisbury reached the Second Qualifying Round in the FA Cup, and were again beaten at home to a sixth-tier side, this time 2-3 after extra-time against Weston-super-Mare. The Whites fared better in the FA Trophy, beating Fleet Town, Merstham, and National League South side East Thurrock United to reach Round 1 where they hosted National League side Braintree Town. A brace from Darren Mullings earned the Whites a 2-1 victory and a visit to Carshalton Athletic in Round 2, where unfortunately the Whites couldn’t follow up their impressive performance in the previous round and were knocked out.

The league title was won by a resurgent Weymouth and, heading into the final day of the season, the Whites occupied third. However, a devastating 0-6 loss at home to Harrow Borough, who, along with Salisbury, finished as the league’s joint top-scorers with 97 league goals apiece. The defeat meant that Metropolitan Police overtook us in the table and, rather than hosting the Met in the Play Off Semi Final, a trip to East Molesey and Imber Court awaited. Goals from Bay Downing and Lewis Benson were not enough as the hosts held on to win 3-2. They would go on to beat Poole Town in the Final before losing the short-lived Super Final 2-3 after extra-time to Tonbridge Angels.

On-loan defender Tom Leak wins a header against future-White Harry Williams.

The 2017-2018 season also saw the Whites reach the final of the Wiltshire Senior Cup for the first time since 2016, but they were beaten 3-1 by Swindon Supermarine at Melksham Town’s Oakfield Stadium.

After the previous season’s play-off heartbreak, work got underway for another shot at promotion. Promising new signings included the free-scoring Toby Holmes and excellent shot-stopped Gerard Benfield from Wimborne Town. A promising start saw only two defeats in the opening 14 league games and our best FA Cup run to date, reaching the Third Qualifying Round before a 2-4 home defeat to Isthmian Premier side Margate. For the second season running, we reached the Second Round of the FA Trophy, including a come-from-behind 4-3 victory at home to Hayes & Yeading united with Alex Lafleur equalising in the 89th minute before Warren Bentley won the game in the 94th minute. Another higher-league scalp followed with Dan Fitchett’s late winner against Eastbourne Borough before a long trip to Chelmsford City saw us eventually fall to a 4-0 defeat, with three goals in the last 15 minutes sealing the game for the hosts.

A rocky run of form saw the Whites drop out of the Play Off places as news began creeping over from China about a mysterious new virus. As league fixtures began to get postponed, Salisbury played their last game of the soon-to-be cancelled season away to Harrow Borough on Tuesday 10th March 2020, where a 92nd minute Lewis Benson penalty salvaged a 2-2 draw.

Marvin Brooks celebrates Salisbury’s equaliser at home to Poole Town, having come from 0-2 down at halftime. Both sides would end the short season unbeaten in the league.

With the non-league scene below the sixth tier being left in the lurch, player retention and recruitment proved difficult and a new-look Salisbury FC side began to be pulled together as the possibility of the 2020-2021 getting underway became more likely. The first few preseason games were played behind closed-doors in an empty stadium with the games live-streamed for free and supporters were encouraged to donate online match tickets as, with many other non-league clubs around the time, cash flow dried up. A remarkable response was forthcoming and is documented here. Eventually, supporters were allowed back in, initially only 300, then increased to 600. Our first competitive game back at the Ray Mac was on Saturday 19th September 2020, more than six months after our trip to Harrow Borough. Hendon were the visitors, and the game ended in a 2-2 draw.

Despite an early FA Cup exit to Kidlington on penalties, the Whites started the season very strongly and, when the government decided to shut down football at our level and below thanks to a surge in Covid cases, they were unbeaten in the league. A 6-0 victory at home to Tiverton Town in the FA Trophy and a 1-6 away win at Dorchester Town were particular highlights of the short season and made everyone at the Ray Mac wonder what might have been.

The Whites applaud the home support after the final game of the disappointing 2021/2022 season.

Unfortunately, any sense of optimism was short-lived as the next two seasons proved to be the most difficult in Salisbury FC’s young history. Disappointing cup exits at home to Tiverton Town in the FA Cup and away to Plymouth Parkway in the FA Trophy compounded a poor league performance, with the Whites finishing 15th with just 49 points, scoring only 49 league goals, conceding 75, with a goal difference of -26, all record lows for completed seasons. A loss against Western League Premier side Corsham Town in the Semi Final of the Wiltshire Senior Cup was part of a nightmare end to the season, scoring only three goals in the final ten games. The football was less than pleasing and, with crowds dropping and growing discontent amongst the fan base, Steve Claridge was under increasing pressure to turn performances around.

The expectation was clear ahead of the 2022/2023 season. Improvement was necessary. Whilst results were on the up- a promising FA Cup performance against an Oxford City side who would end the season earning promotion to the National League and the Whites finding themselves in the Play Off places, albeit having played more games than anyone around them- performances were still struggling to convince the Salisbury faithful to return to the club and attendances were lower than ever. A fresh start was needed at the club, and Steve Claridge was relinquished from his position as First Team Manager on 13th October 2022.

The Dutts Years (2022-Present)

Days after Claridge’s dismissal, Brian Dutton was appointed in his place, and the fans immediately responded. A crowd of 672 showed up for the first home game of the new tenure, the highest so far that season.

A change in the training schedule meant many first team players departed and an unsettled team struggled for consistency. Another 15th-place finish followed, but there was a clear sense of optimism that the club was headed in the right direction.

Dutton’s first full preseason saw a number of new additions with only four players, Devon Arnold, Dan Fitchett, Aaron McCreadie, and Josh Sommerton, staying on from the previous season. Another opening-day fixture against Beaconsfield Town ended in a 1-1 draw, with Sido Jombati scoring a last-minute penalty. Playing a more attractive, positive style of football than had been on offer in previous seasons, the Whites started the season strongly, and were unbeaten in their first eleven games, before going down 2-1 away to Sholing. A visit from National League South side Slough Town in the Second Qualifying Round of the FA Cup saw the Rebels’ lucky to return to Berkshire still in the competition after the Whites did anything but score in the 0-0 draw. A seven-game winning run followed, with Tom Leggett’s 93rd minute winner away to Harrow Borough propelling Salisbury to the top of the table.

A difficult December saw only one victory in six games and the Whites slip to second, but attendances were up more than 50% year-on-year, and a season-high 1,186 watched Salisbury’s 3-1 victory in the top-of-the-table clash with Chesham United on Saturday 9th March, their highest attendance since 1,224 watched Salisbury lose 3-4 to Weymouth on Saturday 26th January 2019.

As the season went on, it looked more and more likely that the Whites would finish in the playoffs, and a 0-1 away win against Plymouth Parkway, played at Exmouth Town’s Southern Road ground due to ongoing issues with Parkway’s pitch, ensured Salisbury would be competing in the postseason. The battle was still on with AFC Totton and Gosport Borough for second and guaranteed home advantage, but a 0-2 home loss to Harrow Borough meant the Whites had to be content with third and a semi-final clash at home to Gosport.

2,234 fans packed into the Ray Mac on an overcast evening. After a nervy first half, Gosport came out at the start of the second half firing on all cylinders and eventually, and deservedly, took the lead with around 20 minutes to play. Just as it looked like Salisbury’s season was coming to a climax, as had happened so often over the course of the previous nine months, there was late drama to come. An 88th minute equaliser from Josh Hedges was followed by a 92nd minute winner from Noah Coppin to stun Gosport and put the Whites through to the Play Off Final.

After beating Bracknell Town in extra-time in the other semi-final, the final saw AFC Totton host Salisbury. As Salisbury fans descended on Snows Stadium, they easily outnumbered the home support, but it was the Stags who struck first, Tony Lee heading home in the 78th minute. If there was one thing to say about the 2023/2024 Salisbury squad, it was that they never knew when they were beaten. Another late Noah Coppin goal from the penalty spot, after ex-Salisbury captain Charlie Kennedy blocked a cross with his arm, meant there was another 30 minutes on the cards.

When Josh Hedges coolly clipped the ball past another ex-White, Josh Gould, just before halftime, the Salisbury faithful started to believe. However, AFC Totton were not going to lie down and Ethan Taylor fired the hosts level with just minutes left to play. On to the dreaded penalties. The Whites had been involved in a penalty shootout already that season, away to Gosport in the FA Trophy. On that occasion, Salisbury scored only one of their four.

It was AFC Totton up first, and, surprisingly, it was Josh Gould, their goalkeeper, who stepped up. Having only left Salisbury that February, Gould saw his penalty saved by the man who ultimately replaced him, Ryan Gosney. Coppin took Salisbury’s first penalty, and he fired confidently home. As did Josh Hedges, then captain Sido Jombati, and finally Owen Dore. Tony Lee took AFC Totton’s fifth penalty, knowing he had to score or the Whites were up. A firm glove from Gosney denied the former Poole striker. Salisbury fans flooded the pitch as celebrations began, celebrations which ended when the last few players left the Ray Mac around 10 AM the following morning.


Past Salisbury Football Clubs

Salisbury FC may be a new club, but it follows in the footsteps of earlier Salisbury clubs going back to the 19th century, including an earlier Salisbury City, playing in the Southern League Second Division from 1906 to 1911. However, the most immediate predecessor club was formed in 1947 as Salisbury FC, later changing its name to Salisbury City FC in 1992.

Playing in the Western League, the original Salisbury FC won the Second Division title in their first season, with a record attendance of 8902 watching the Championship decider against Weymouth in April 1948 at their old Victoria Park ground.

In 1968 the Club entered the Southern League, finally achieving success in the 1985/1986 season when they finished as Southern Division runners-up to Cambridge City, on goal difference, after an unbeaten run of 15 games. They were runners-up again in 1993 but were refused promotion to the next level because of ground grading rules. That promotion however came 2 years later.

Following Salisbury City’s near demise in 2002, the club was saved by business consortium and was then led by Neville Beal, a former Salisbury player, with former Southampton FA Cup winner Nick Holmes installed as General Manager.

The 2005/2006 season saw SCFC become Southern League Premier Division Champions, with matches in hand, resulting in promotion to the Nationwide Conference South. They were just passing through it seems, and after another successful campaign gained a second successive promotion to the Blue Square Premier League, where they remained for the next three seasons.

Unfortunately in the 2009/2010 season the Club went into administration. Despite finishing mid-table they lost their place in the Conference because of an inability to fulfil financial criteria, and were placed in the Zamaretto Southern Premier league. A new Board, led by Chairman William Harrison-Allan, appointed experienced midfielder Darrell Clarke as Player/Manager.

The following season was again successful as promotion saw the side bounce straight back to the Blue Square Bet Conference South and they progressed to the top layer of the Conference a season later when, after a nailbiting series of exciting play-offs, they defeated Dover Athletic 3–2 to restore their previous status in the pyramid.

The first season back in the top flight saw the departure of manager Darrell Clarke to progress his managerial career at Bristol Rovers, and the youngest Manager in their history, Mikey Harris, was appointed, leading them to a respectable 12th place finish.

In the close season of 2014 disaster struck, when the SCFC Board sold their shares to two businessmen. The main 98% shareholder could not settle the Club’s debts and it was removed from the Conference for non-payment. Having no league to play in was a breach of the terms of the stadium lease and after a protracted legal tussle involving seemingly endless court appearances, the High Court ordered the winding up of the Club. The residual assets were bought by the new Salisbury FC Ltd and thus a new club was born.

Former Clubs’ Cup achievements

Away from league action, cup exploits over 67 years in existence included winning the Hampshire Senior Cup (twice), the Western League Cup, Southern League Challenge Cup, and the Salisbury Hospitals Cup (on 12 occasions), whilst they succeeded 15 times in the Wiltshire Premier Shield.

In the major FA competitions they had a fair degree of success, reaching the quarter-finals of the FA Trophy 3 times and the Semi-finals once, in 2009/2010, when they lost over two legs to Barrow the eventual winners.

In the FA Cup they habitually reached the First Round Proper, and on the eighth occasion they did that they sampled the Hillsborough Stadium, but lost out to Sheffield Wednesday 4-0. They reached the Second Round 3 times, memorably holding Nottingham Forest to a 1–1 draw at home, (featured on BBC Match of the Day), before going out 2-0 at Forest, which game was covered by Sky TV cameras. Salisbury City FC reached their highest stage in the competition in the 2011/2012 season when the reward for an exciting replay victory at Grimsby Town saw them take on high-flying Sheffield United at Bramall Lane in the Third Round where, despite a very good performance, they went down 3–1.