The History of Aylesbury United

Aylesbury United were founded in 1897 when three local sides: Night School FC, The Printing Works and Aylesbury Town decided to merge.

The club, affectionately known as ‘the Ducks’ due to the famous Aylesbury breed, has experienced some incredible highs over our 125-year history but now battle for existence without a home ground to call their own.

In the early years United played in local leagues before joining the Spartan League in 1908 where they remained until the Second World War. 1951 saw the Ducks gain their first taste of national publicity as they became the only club from the Delphian League ever to reach the First Round Proper of the FA Cup, eventually losing to Third Division side Watford.

Aylesbury turned semi-professional in 1976 and joined the Southern League, a move which got the ball rolling on the club’s most successful period. A number of events followed which were to help: In 1983 the club appointed Trevor Gould as manager, and then a year later a young local lad called Cliff Hercules made his debut, unaware that he was to become the most successful player in the club’s history. ‘Hercy’ was, and still is, an Aylesbury icon, and some 20-years later he finally hung up his boots having smashed the club records with 669 appearances and scoring 301 goals.

Promotion to the Southern Premier was soon achieved and shortly afterwards the Ducks moved to their new Buckingham Road stadium. This gave the town a new impetus and Gould’s talented squad secured the Southern League Championship in 1987-88 and gained promotion to the GM Vauxhall Conference.

United then hit the headlines again, becoming the only non-league side ever to take on the full England team, as more than 6000 packed into Buckingham Road to see the Ducks take on the Three Lions. Unfortunately United’s brush with the non-league elite only lasted one season, after which the club were relegated to the Isthmian League.

During the period between 1985 and 1992, Aylesbury boasted the best FA Cup record of any side outside the Football League, reaching at least the First Round Proper every season. The highlights being a victory over then Division Four leaders Southend United, a narrow extra time replay defeat against Northampton Town, and being shown live across Europe against Walsall.

Ironically though it wasn’t Gould, the club’s most successful manager, who led the Ducks to their greatest FA Cup achievement, it was his successor Steve Ketteridge in 1994-95. Once again the club became media celebrities as the ‘Duck Walk’ goal celebration was shown around the world, as Aylesbury went on to reach the Third Round where they lost to Premiership side Queen’s Park Rangers at Loftus Road.

Ketteridge delivered the Isthmian League Cup title to Aylesbury, but it was to be the beginning of a rollercoaster ride for the club. After almost going out of business, the Ducks were pipped to the Isthmian League title by Sutton United a year later, despite heading the table for long periods. The following season saw United back in administration and fighting for survival both on and off the pitch.

Despite defeating Football League side Reading in the Berks and Bucks Senior Cup, for the second time in four seasons, the club was relegated to Division One for the first time in their history. In October 2000, the legendary Hercules took time out from his duties as the club’s Community Development Officer to manage the Ducks, and in his brief spell in charge he secured promotion back to the Isthmian Premier Division and extended the club’s proud FA Cup record with a First Round trip to Port Vale.

2002-03 saw Aylesbury returned to national prominence twice. First the club was privileged to play a major part in an England get together as the Buckingham Road facilities were used by Sven Goran Eriksson for a media conference and by the squad for a training session. Second the club made their first ever appearance in the FA Trophy semi-finals, where the Ducks were beaten by eventual winners Burscough.

For various reasons the club then began to cycle through a string of managers at an average of two a season – namely Chris Boothe, Kevin Wilson, Paul Curtis, Danny Nicholls, Jon Franklin, Tony Thompson and Mark Eaton. But nothing was to match the low point of summer 2006. Former chairman Bill Carroll failed in his plans to convert the Buckingham Road pitch to a 3G artificial surface, what he described as his ‘last ditch’ idea for creating a viable football club, when the Southern League and FA baulked at his ideas.

Carroll decided to cut ties with the club he had been involved with since 1997, and popular local businessman Graham Read took over the club. But in a cruel twist Aylesbury were left homeless after their lease expired. Since that time Aylesbury have been forced to play their ‘home’ matches some 20 miles out of Aylesbury whilst the committee work hard keeping the club alive. The campaign to ‘Bring the Ducks Home’ has generated plenty of publicity, but so far, sadly, nothing concrete in terms of a new home for the club.

There are still plenty of reasons to remain positive; a glance to our near neighbours Slough Town, who now have definite plans for a new stadium in place to end their own exile, just goes to show that with patience and perseverance it can be done, and Aylesbury United will return to their rightful place eventually.

On the pitch the club continued to do remarkably well, going close to the play-off positions in the Midlands Division for the next three seasons but a new challenge arose last summer when the previous manager defected clubs, taking almost the entire playing squad with him. This led to another tumultuous season which saw Martin Stone initially appointed as manager, but due to personal reasons he had to renege on his appointment less than two weeks before the first game of the season. His assistant, Byron Walton, briefly stepped into the mantle and did a sterling job in assembling a competitive team in such a short space of time. He moved on and former United defender Tony Joyce became the club’s new permanent manager. Unfortunately Joyce was unable to prevent the club’s slide – which had seen them amass just one league win by October – and the club were relegated to the Spartan South Midlands League. However, Joyce built a new and strong squad which finished sixth in the league in 2010-11.

Season 2011-12 saw further progression in the league with the Ducks eventually finishing fourth after a strong run of results at the tail end of the season. There was disappointment, however in the cups with the team being out of all cup competitions by mid November.

The 2012-13 season saw the club competing for the title, being in the top four for the entire season. Finally finishing second to Dunstable Town, gaining promotion to the Southern League courtesy of the FA’s restructuring of the feeder leagues and the additional promotional places that created. The season was capped by securing the Spartan League Premier Division Cup, beating Hadley 3-2 after extra time.

The Ducks’ first season back in the Southern league saw them achieve a creditable 12th place finish in a strong division. Other highlights from the season was a much better FA Cup run and notable victories against Southern Premier League opponents Hemel Hempstead, Chesham and Burnham in the Berks and Bucks Senior Cup and The Red Insure Cup.

The 2014-15 season saw the club finish in 13th place but made the final of the Berks and Bucks Senior Cup for the first time in 10 years, losing 4-0 to Maidenhead United from the Vanarama Conference South.

After a disappointing start to the 2015-16 season, Tony Joyce tendered his resignation after six years at the club and was replaced by Glyn Creaser who had been coach under Tony. In Glyn’s first full season in charge, he led the club to the semi-final of the Southern League Cup, before losing at Premier Division St Ives. He also guided the team to 13th position in the Central Division.

After two seasons ground sharing at the ASM Stadium in Thame, a decision was made to return to The Meadow, the home of Chesham United for the 2017-18 season. After a disappointing start to the league campaign, manager Glyn Creaser was relieved of his responsibilities following a 6-1 home defeat against Cambridge City in December 2017, with the team lying second from the bottom of the table. His assistant Ben Williams was appointed caretaker manager in his place, before being appointed in a full time capacity in January. Ben steadied the ship successfully, integrating a number of new young players and developing a great team spirit, which saw the Ducks rise to 13th in the league, winning nine of their last 13 matches.

2019-20 began in promising fashion, with the Ducks unbeaten in the first nine league games, and winning ties in both the FA Cup and FA Trophy. Despite a slight dip in form, the Ducks remained in the play-offs before the season was curtailed early and voided due to the global Covid-19 pandemic.

The 2020-21 season suffered the same fate, abandoned after just two months. But that was still long enough for the Ducks to suffer heartbreak in the FA Cup, losing a penalty shoot-out to Moneyfields (in a game that had already seen four penalties) – before bouncing back to win on penalties against Tilbury in the FA Trophy.

There were hopes the form from the two cancelled seasons could be maintained, and 2021-22 began well with out best run in the FA Cup for a decade – scoring more goals than eventual winners Liverpool before being knocked out 1-0 by National League South side Ebbsfleet United. Just outside the play-offs at Christmas, the team unfortunately suffered a collapse in form, losing 10 consecutive games before rallying to avoid a relegation scrap, and finishing in 14th place.

This season is the club’s 125th anniversary, and hopefully the team can achieve success to celebrate this significant milestone in the club’s history.