Workington A.F.C.

Full name Workington Association Football Club
Nickname(s) The Reds
Founded 1921
Ground Borough Park, Workington
Ground Capacity 3,101 (500 seated)
Chairman Glenn Heathcote
Manager Derek Townsley
League Northern Premier League Premier Division
2015–16 Northern Premier League Premier Division, 5th

Workington Association Football Club, also known as Workington Reds, is an English football club from Workington, Cumbria.[1][2] The club competes in the Northern Premier League and play their home matches at Borough Park, which has a capacity of 3,101 (500 seated, 2,601 standing). The club play in red, and are known locally as the Reds. The club is often referred to as Workington Reds to distinguish it from Rugby League club Workington Town.[3] The Reds' traditional rivals are Carlisle United and Barrow.


Long folk history

Football in Workington has a very long history.[4] Close by and adjacent to the home of Workington A.F.C the folk game of "Uppies and Downies" is still an annual event. There are records about the game from 20 April 1775 in the "Cumbrian Pacquet" which is one of the earliest reports of a football match ever. This report says the match on which it is reporting is "long contended" thereby noting an even longer unwritten history of the game in this Cumbrian Town.[5]

Formation of the club

Association football was introduced to Workington in the 1860s and further popularised when a group for steel workers migrated to the town from Dronfield, Derbyshire. They were workers of the Charles Cammel and Co steel works that arrived in the town in 1884. It is estimated that 1,500 townspeople moved to Workington. 'Dronnies', as the people of Workington called the newcomers, formed Workington AFC in 1888.[6] This is also confirmed in a short history of the club which was produced as part of 16 page brochure in the club's application to the Football League in 1951.[7]

The original Workington A.F.C. were one of the founder members of the Cumberland Association League in 1888 and played at Lonsdale Park. In 1894 they moved to the Cumberland Senior League, and in 1901 joined the Lancashire League. However, the league closed two seasons later, and they returned to the Cumberland Senior League. In 1904 the club were admitted to the Lancashire Combination, but in 1910 seasons they decided to economise and join the North Eastern League. However, after only one season, the club folded.

The new Workington A.F.C. was born in 1921 and immediately joined the North Eastern League. During the 1933–34 season, the club managed its best-ever FA Cup performance, reaching the 4th round, before losing to Preston North End. Later in the decade, the club moved to its present home, Borough Park. In 1951 the club was voted into the Third Division North of the Football League replacing New Brighton.[8]

The early Football League Years of Workington Reds are chronicled in a series of books entitled So Sad So Very Sad – The League History of Workington AFC part 1 (1951–58), part 2 (1958–64) and part 3 (1964–65).[9]

Football League years

Their first season in the League was a sign of things to come: the club finished rock bottom, and only improved by one place the following year.

From 6 January 1954 to 15 November 1955 the club was managed by Bill Shankly.[1][10][11] who would achieve fame between 1959 and 1974 with his success at home and abroad as manager of Liverpool.[12]

During the 1957–58 season they played the great Manchester United team known as the Busby Babes at home in the 3rd round of the FA Cup, attracting a record crowd of 21,000.[1][13] This was just a month before eight of the United players lost their lives in the Munich air disaster.[3][14] However, at the end of that season, the club dropped into the newly formed Fourth Division after a reorganisation of the Football League which saw the abolition of the regionalised Third Divisions.

Programme from the Blackburn Rovers 1 Workington 5 game on 22 October 1964 Ogilvie and Lindsey penciled in for Brown & Ower

In 1964, player-manager Ken Furphy led them to 3rd position, earning promotion to the Third Division. During both the 1963–64 and 1964–65 season, they made it to the quarter-finals of the League Cup, where they lost to West Ham United and Chelsea (in a replay) respectively.[2] During the latter cup run, the club beat Lancashire neighbours Barrow 9–1, a record which remained until the mid-1980s. The club's proudest night was at Blackburn Rovers on 22 October 1964 in a Football League Cup 3rd round replay.[15] A Workington team of seasoned professionals such as Keith Burkinshaw, Dave Carr, Ken Furphy and Kit Napier[16] and a few young upstarts, like John Ogilvie who went on to a have a long career at the club that reached 430 appearances,[17] beat the Blackburn team 5–1 at Ewood Park.[18] The Blackburn team that night were full of England internationals, such as Ronnie Clayton, Mike England, Newton, Byrom etc. This was reported in one newspaper as "Incredible Fantastic Workington rubbed Rovers elegant noses in the mud of Ewood park to produce the finest result in their 80 year history"[19]

On 3 April 1965, Workington gave a debut to one of the youngest players ever to play in the Football League: Tony Geidmintis, who was ony 15 years 247 days old.[20] Geidmintis went on to play 328 games for Workington, scoring 37 goals, and made 452 league appearances in all before retiring at the age of 31. He died prematurely from a heart condition at the age of 43.

The mid-1960s also saw Workington give a debut to one of the earliest black professional footballers in the Football League. This was Peter Foley, who played over 80 games for Workington as a forward and scored some 16 goals for the club, before moving on to Scunthorpe where he kept a young Kevin Keegan out of the team for a couple of years.[21] Later, Foley became an ambassador for racial equality in football, receiving an Order of the British Empire for his work.[22]

In 1966, Workington finished 5th, narrowly missing out on promotion to the Second Division, but the next year they finished bottom and were relegated back to the Fourth Division. Manager Ken Furphy had moved on to Watford, taking some of Workington's key players such as Dave Carr and Dixie Hale with him. This marked the start of Workington's downward spiral back to non-league status.

In the 1968–69 season Workington gave a Football League debut to one of the game's legendary goalkeepers, John Burridge.[23] Burridge, born locally, made his debut against Newport County on the last day of the 1968/69 season; in an inauspicious debut, one of his very first touches saw him punch the ball into his own net from a Newport corner.

In the late '60s and early '70s, Workington had "Johnny Martin on the wing",[24] a statement that became the most popular chant for Workington supporters. A cult hero at the club, Martin was often dubbed the "poor man's George Best",[24] but to older supporters with longer memories, his tricks were reminiscent of the Clown Prince of Football Len Shackleton. Martin would, for example, dribble past two or three opponents, then sit on the ball and ask who wanted it next.[25][26] Martin played 224 league and cup games for Workington, scoring 33 goals. He joined the club in 1969 and was transferred to Southport in 1974.[27]

In 1974 and 1975 the club finished second from bottom, and in 1976 they finished bottom.[2] In 1977 the club won only four games, and again finished bottom of the League with attendances falling well below the 1,000-mark. This poor run led to the club being voted out of the League in the summer of 1977, replaced by Wimbledon.[28][29] Workington were the penultimate team to fail the re-election process before it was scrapped in 1986; Southport, who were voted out the year after Workington, were the last.

During the 1985-86 season one of the world's football greats played for Workington.[30] The Club was in poor financial straights with debts of £300,000, but on the 9th April 1986 George Best played for the "Reds" in a fund raising friendly match against a Lancashire Football League 11. The Oldham Athletic chairman, Ian Stott, put together a team managed by Joe Royle to play at Borough Park. Hence a few weeks before George Best’s fortieth birthday he captained the Workington team with Phil Neal leading out the opposition; which included players from Oldham Athletic, Carlisle United and Bolton Wanderers. Mr Best was the ultimate professional that night, playing his best and staying on to sign autographs for young and old fans alike.[30]

The club's appearance record for the whole period of time that Workington played in the Football League was achieved by Bobby Brown. Born in Motherwell, Brown played for Polkemmet, Motherwell and Workington.[31] Brown, who was selected for the Third Division North representative team while at Workington, made a total of 469 league and cup appearances for the club between 1956 and 1967.[32] Bobby Brown, Malcolm Newlands, Jimmy Fleming (footballer, born 1929), Dennis Stokoe and Jack Bertolini were all recognised by the Football League and represented Workington A.F.C. in the Football League Third Division North vs. South Representative Games during 1950s.

Modern Non-League years

The club dropped into the Northern Premier League (NPL), but failed to trouble the top teams, never finishing higher than 7th, before they were relegated to the NPL First Division in 1988. They continued to struggle, eventually being relegated to the North West Counties League in 1998. However, the club managed to win the League at their first attempt (This was also their first ever championship).[33] After a 2–0 defeat at Kidsgrove Athletic on 27 February 1999, manager Peter Hampton set the squad a challenge, win their last 14 games and they would win the league. Sure enough after winning the next 13 games Workington squared up to league leaders Mossley at Borough Park in front of a 2,281 spectators, a league record only beaten by the formation of F.C. United of Manchester. Workington ran out 2–1 winners with goals from Stuart Williamson and substitute Grant Holt. Workington became the first club to return to the NPL First Division at the first attempt.[7]

As a result of a 7th-place finish in 2004, the club moved up to the NPL's Premier Division during the non-league restructuring. They then continued their upward movement by winning the first-ever NPL promotion play-offs (after finishing in 2nd place) to win promotion to the Conference North.

Following a mid-table finish in their first season in Conference North, the 2006–07 season saw Workington finish in third place and qualify for the promotion play-offs where they lost 2–1 against Hinckley United. After two mid table finishes the following seasons, Workington made the play offs again in 2009–10 this time going down 4–1 on aggregate to Alfreton Town in the semi finals.

The Club's longest serving manager Darren Edmondson left the club in December to take over at Barrow. Former player Ian MaDonald took over as manager prior to Christmas. He was unable to save the cub from relegation as Workington finished 22nd in Conference North.

Ian MaDonald resigned as manager at the end of the 2013/14 season. Gavin Skelton was appointed as his replacement in May 2014. Derek Townsley joined the club as Skelton's assistant.

Skelton led the Borough Park side to the Northern Premier League Play-offs in his first full season in charge, finally falling to Ilkeston Town in front of 1,500 supporters at Borough Park. Skelton left Workington in June 2015 to take a coaching role with the Dumfries club Queen of the South. Derek Townsley was appointed as his replacement a couple of weeks later.

Record appearances for the club

Defender Bobby Brown is the current (2014) record holder for Workington, all of Brown's 469 appearances were during the period Workington were during the football league. Brown was also honoured to represent the club in Football League Third Division North vs. South Representative Games. Only 2 others have passed the 400 appearance mark; defender John Ogilvie with 431 again in the football league years and more recently defender Kyle May reached the 400 milestone in the club's non-league days and has already reached 430.[34] Long serving goalkeeper Mike Rogan fell just short with 390 appearances.[35][36]

Current first team squad

As of 19 November 2014[37]

Note: Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.

No. Position Player
England GK Jonny Jameison
England GK Alex Mitchell
England DF Kyle May
England DF Lee Andrews
England DF Josh Calvert
England DF Jake Simpson
England DF Gari Rowntree
England DF Sam Smith
England MF Phil McLuckie
England MF Dave Hewson
England MF Scott Allison
No. Position Player
England MF Anthony Wright
England MF Connor Tinnion
England MF Adam Telfer
England MF Steven Rudd
England MF James Earl
England MF Rob McCartney
England DF Joe McGee
England FW Gareth Arnison
England FW Jonny Murray
England FW Matty Tymon
England FW Alex Salmon

Notable former players

The following players won full senior international caps:

Former managers

Listed in order from 1950 to present:[38]
  • Bert Flatley – Aug 1950 to Jun 1952
  • Ted Smith – Jun 1952 to Sep 1953
  • Bill Shankly – Jan 1954 to Dec 1955
  • Norman Low – Jan 1956 to Feb 1957
  • Tommy Jones – Feb 1957 to Jun 1957
  • Joe Harvey – Jun 1957 to Jun 1962
  • Ken Furphy – Jul 1962 to Nov 1964
  • Keith Burkinshaw – Nov 1964 to Mar 1965
  • George B. Aitken – Mar 1965 to Jun 1965
  • George Ainsley – Jun 1965 to Nov 1966
  • Bill Leivers – Nov 1966 to Feb 1967
  • Bobby Brown – Mar 1967 to Dec 1967
  • Frank Upton – Dec 1967 to Jul 1968
  • Brian Doyle (footballer) – Jul 1968 to Mar 1971
  • George B. Aitken – Jun 1971 to Oct 1974
  • Brian Wood – Oct 1974 to Nov 1974
  • Colin Meldrum – Nov 1974 to Apr 1975
  • John Waugh – Apr 1975 to Jun 1975
  • John McNamee – Jun 1975 to Dec 1975
  • Alan Ashman – Dec 1975 to Feb 1977
  • Colin Meldrum – Feb 1977 to May 1977
  • Gordon Livesey – Jul 1977 to Dec 1977
  • David Wilson – Dec 1977 to May 1978
  • Bobby Johnstone – Jun 1978 to Oct 1978
  • Peter Foley – Oct 1978 to Jan 1979
  • Paul Sharp (Player/Manager) – Jan 1979
  • Barry Endean – Jan 1979 to Apr 1980
  • Sean Gallagher – May 1980 to Oct 1981
  • Joe Wojciechowicz – Oct 1981 to Jul 1984
  • Mick Taylor – Jul 1984 to Jul 1985
  • Wayne Harrison – Jul 1985 to Nov 1986
  • Ian Hodgson – Nov 1986 to Oct 1987
  • Alan Oliver – Oct 1987 ~
  • Colin Meldrum – Oct 1987 to Feb 1988
  • Ian Hall – Feb 1988 to Nov 1988
  • Jimmy Irving – Nov 1988 ~
  • Mick Heaton – Nov 1988 – Oct 1989
  • John Walsh – Oct 1989 ~
  • Les O'Neill – Oct 1989 – Jul 1991
  • Martin Harris – Aug 1991 – Jan 1992
  • Jackie Hather – Feb 1992 ~
  • George Norrie – Feb 1992 – Nov 1992
  • Alan Cook – Nov 1992 – Nov 1994
  • Stewart Sherwood – Dec 1994 ~
  • Wayne Harrison – Jan 1995 – Feb 1997
  • Keith Hunton – Feb 1997 – Sep 1997
  • Tony Clinton – Sep 1997 – Jan 1998
  • Jackie Cunningham – Jan 1998 – Mar 1998 ~
  • "Committee Control" – Mar 1998 – Apr 1998
  • Peter Hampton – May 1998 – Oct 2001
  • Keith Mason – Oct 2001 ~
  • Tommy Cassidy – Oct 2001 – Sep 2007
  • Darren Edmondson – Sep 2007 – Dec 2013
  • Ian MaDonald – Dec 2013 – Apr 2014
  • Gavin Skelton – May 2014 – May 2016

~ Denotes Acting Manager

Honours list

The details of Workington A.F.C.'s performance year by year between 1921 and 2005 is detailed in Tom Allen's book Reds Remembered – The Definitive Workington A.F.C.[2]


  1. 1 2 3 Allen, Tom (1990). Team from Beyond the Hills. Martin Wingfield.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Allen, Tom (1 November 2005). Reds Remembered: The Definitive Workington AFC. Soccerdata. ISBN 1899468234.
  3. 1 2 George, Ricky (4 February 2004). "Peeks of past pervade Workington's new era". The Telegraph. Retrieved 27 July 2016.
  4. Davies, Hunter (2003). Boots, balls & haircuts-an illustrated history of football from then to now. pp. 19–20&30. ISBN 1844032612.
  5. Hornby, Hugh (2008). Uppies & Downies -the extraordinary history of football games of Britain. English Heritage. pp. 164–171. ISBN 9781905624645.
  6. Byers, Richard (30 November 2002). The History of Workington, An Illustrated History from 1866 to 1955. Richard Byers. ISBN 9780952981251.
  7. 1 2 Eade, Paul (2003). Images of Sport – Workington Association Football Club. Tempus Publishing. p. 13. ISBN 0752428187.
  8. George, Ricky (4 February 2004). "Peeks of past pervade Workington's new era". The Telegraph. Retrieved 27 July 2016.
  9. Wingfield, Martin (1995). So Sad So Very Sad – The League History of Workington AFC parts 1,2 & 3. Martin Wingfield.
  10. Allen, Tom (1 November 2005). Reds Remembered: The Definitive Workington AFC. Soccerdata. p. 11. ISBN 1899468234.
  11. "Bill Shankly — This website is a part of". Retrieved 2012-07-17.
  12. "BBC – Beginning a football revolution". BBC News. 2009-11-30. Retrieved 2012-07-17.
  13. Allen, Tom (1 November 2005). Reds Remembered: The Definitive Workington AFC. Soccerdata. p. 76 & 141. ISBN 1899468234.
  14. "BBC ON THIS DAY | 6 | 1958: United players killed in air disaster". BBC News. Retrieved 2012-07-17.
  15. "Workington Reds' Blackburn win named one of top League Cup moments". Times & Star. Workington. 10 December 2009. Retrieved 25 June 2012.
  16. Allen, Tom (1994). The Team Beyond the Hills. Martin Wingfield.
  17. Fuller, John (19 April 2014). "Kyle May angry at Workington Reds boss questioning his loyalty". News & Star.
  18. "1960's – League Cup 50th Vote". The Football League. Retrieved 29 July 2010.
  19. Wingfield, Martin (1995). So Sad So Very Sad 1964-5. p. 17.
  20. "Back to school for the 15-year-old who has become the Football League's youngest ever player". The Daily Mail. 1 October 2008. Retrieved 19 August 2009.
  21. Allen, Tom (1 November 2005). Reds Remembered: The Definitive Workington AFC. Soccerdata. p. 31. ISBN 1899468234.
  22. "Former Reds player who is helping kick racism off the pitch". News & Star. 11 November 2005. Retrieved 4 November 2014.
  23. "Interview: John Burridge, football veteran". The Scotsman. 19 February 2011. Retrieved 29 July 2014.
  24. 1 2 "Ashes of Workington Reds legend scattered at Borough Park". News&Star. 11 March 2014. Retrieved 3 November 2016.
  25. Fuller, John (9 March 2009). "Poor man's George Best but the Crown Prince of Borough Park". News & Star. Retrieved 5 August 2014.
  26. Armstrong, Paul (22 November 2013). "Johnny Martin (1946–2013)". Pitch Hero Ltd.
  27. Allen, Tom (1994). The Team Beyond the Hills. Martin Wingfield. p. 87.
  28. Barrett, Norman (1994). The Daily Telegraph Football Chronicle. Carlton. p. 162. ISBN 0091790611.
  29. Allen, Tom (1 November 2005). Reds Remembered: The Definitive Workington AFC. Soccerdata. p. 95. ISBN 1899468234.
  30. 1 2 Armstrong, Paul (18 May 2016). "Thirty years ago". Retrieved 3 November 2016.
  31. "Profile". Post War English & Scottish Football League A – Z Player's Database. Retrieved 14 September 2013.
  32. "Recognition for long-serving Workington Reds pair". News and Star. 5 October 2011. Retrieved 14 September 2013.
  33. Eade, Paul (2003). Images of Sport – Workington Association Football Club. Tempus Publishing. p. 119. ISBN 0752428187.
  34. Fuller, John (28 August 2013). "Praise for Kyle May after 400th Workington Reds appearance". News & Star. Retrieved 4 August 2014.
  35. Irving, Alan (24 July 2009). "Keeper Mike Rogan almost swapped Workington Reds". Retrieved 5 August 2014.
  36. Irving, Alan (15 July 2009). "A twist of fate denies Mike his top flight keeper's tale". Whitehaven News. Retrieved 5 August 2014.
  37. "1st Team Profiles 2014/15 Season". Workington A.F.C. Retrieved 29 May 2014.
  38. Allen, Tom (1 November 2005). Reds Remembered: The Definitive Workington AFC. Soccerdata. p. 142. ISBN 1899468234.
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