"Two Gates Football Club 1888 - 1988"



Early Days


The club was founded in 1888. It has continued until the present time with the exception of the war years 1914 - 1918 and 1939 - 1945.

They played on a field which is now a housing estate called Coalbourne Gardens.

At the turn of the century [1900] they played in the Dudley Church and Chapel League.

Two of the founder members were Jim Bate and Edwin Bird, the latter being the Chief Rates collector for Halesowen U.D.C. as it was then, with his office at his home in Colley Lane.

After a year of friendly matches they joined the newly formed Lye and District Sunday School Football League. There were two divisions and almost every Sunday School in Lye, Cradley and Halesowen were members.

The secretary and treasurer of this Two Gates Sunday School Football Club was Clifford Willetts, later to become Councillor Willetts. Incidentally Clifford Willetts was the first Labour mayor of Halesowen Borough Council.


Between the Wars


With Clifford Willetts at the helm this team continued until 1928 when it "folded". We now move on to 1932 when the team was reformed again by Harold Wellings, a great nephew of Jim Bate, one of the original founders. This team played at Harry Beasley's field, now part of the Fatherless Barn Estate. The rent of the ground was 4/3d per week. The club were members of the Stourbridge and District League, whose secretary was Mr. Baker. This League was unaffiliated i.e. "not under the jurisdiction of the Birmingham County Football Association". Alas, after just one season Two Gates Sunday School Football Club "folded" yet again.

We now move on to the 1935-6 season when the team re-formed, this time by Frank Bate, who was the son of one of the original founders. A season of "friendly" matches ensued, these were played on the Homer Hill Recreation Ground, which was shared with Colley Gate Football Club, who were members of the Cradley Heath and District League.

1936-7 was the season when Two Gates Sunday School Football Club were entered into the Blackheath and District League. Their secretary was a Mr. Featherstone, and this competition had an average age limit of nineteen years.

The team finished in the first three of this league but were "banned" from the final of the Rowley Regis Vase for failing to adhere to the age limit rule by just a few days.

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The Brierley Hill League Cup won by Two Gates FC in the 1938-9 season.

We were now playing where the present Caslon School is in Clent View Road, Two Gates. We changed in the Sunday School and rented the ground from Halesowen Council at the princely sum of 10/- per season. The use of this ground was only made possible by the eloquent pleas of Councillor Clifford Willetts after an initial application was turned down.

The advent of season 1937-8 saw us in the Brierley Hill League for the first time. The secretary of this league was a very popular man in local football namely Charlie Sharman of Corbett Crescent, Amblecote. We now had Archie Homer as our manager, a former centre forward, who figured prominently in the Birmingham League. Again we finished in the first three of this league.

1938-9 was a successful season being well placed in the league and winning the league but against Baldwins Football Club 3-2 after a replay.

War clouds were now looming, as we started season 1939-40. We played just one match against Buckpool Rovers on the day before war was declared. Immediately after this game the majority of the team volunteered for various branches of the armed forces, all seeing active service overseas.

Two members of the team paid the supreme sacrifice. They were Victor Taylor who went down with H.M. Submarine Usurper in 1943, and Billy Bradley who was lost in 1942 on a destroyer.


Post-War Years


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Two Gates FC in the 1946/47 season Rear, left to right: W. (Bill) Billingham, Percy Bate, V. Billingham, Harry Hughes, Ken Davies, Cliff Willetts (wearing cloth cap), Maurice Pardoe, Fred Hackett, Harry Cox. Middle row, left to right: Raymond Hackett, Jack Hughes, Tommy Reece, John North. Front, left to right: W. (Billy) Morse, Frankie Withers, Derek Taylor, Irvine Billingham, Reg Jackson.

After the second, world war Frank Bate re-started the team again and we re-joined the Brierley Hill League for the 1946-7 season. We finished runners up in the league and won the Division One League Cup, defeating the favourites Netherton Wayfarers by 6 - 0, at the "Grove" Halesowen.

In the season 1947-8 we again competed in the Brierley Hill League. We now played our games at the Foxcote Lane, by kind permission of Mr. Billy Thomas, the Two Gates farmer. We now "changed" in the Vine Inn, but were still Two Gates Sunday School Football Club. During this season the secretary and treasurer Frank Bate resigned over a disagreement of playing policy and as how the team should be run. He left to pursue a career as a referee and spent the following thirty seasons officiating in many leagues, notably the Football League and the Old Birmingham and District League.

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Two Gates FC in the 1950-51 season Rear, left to right: W. Bradbury (trainer), R. Maginis (captain), H. Neath, K. Rowley, F. Smith, F. Potter, C. Hackett. Front, left to right: J. Hill, T. Davies, M. Easthope, B. Bradley, R. Jones, L. Blunt.

At this time many of the team were sought after by League Clubs. Notably Harry Neath who prior to the war was a formidable inside forward and wing half with the "Lukes", and could have walked into Portsmouth's Division One side. At that time this team constantly pursued him. Others who were sought after were Billy Lee, Benny Tipton, Edgar Billingham, Charlie Hackett and our star goalkeeper Ken Rowley, who did sign "pro" and kept goal for Stafford Rangers and Stourbridge. The others preferred to play for Two Gates. Another prominent member was Tommy Lewis, the well known West Bromwich player, and the first Worcestershire school boy international ever.

The team continued to play at Foxcote Lane until the mid-fifties and now operated in the Wolverhampton Amateur League, with Tom Jackson as secretary. They figured in many league honours and outside cup competitions, notably winning the very prestigious Dudley Guest Hospital Cup. Tom Jackson continued as secretary until 1955. We also had a reserve side in the Halesowen Youth League with Reg Jackson and Norman Ovenden in charge.

Two Gates Football Club continued to flourish in the Wolverhampton Amateur League and the secretaries were Jack Charles, 1955-6, Ray McGuinnis, 1956-1967 and A. Hutton from 1967-1969.

Many memorable games were played during this period, perhaps the most memorable being a benefit match for the wife and children of Billy Lee, our star centre half mentioned earlier in this report who died suddenly in 1957 of a brain haemorrage. This game was played on Homer Hill Recreation Ground between the former Two Gates Sunday School Football Club and the present Two Gates Football Club. The result was a 2 - 1 victory for the present side. The veterans however gave a good account of themselves. Many people will recall this game because it was refereed by Eric Jennings of Stourbridge, who later officiated at the F.A. Cup Final in 1971, between Leeds and Chelsea. The linesmen for this game were Bert Williams, the Wolves and England goalkeeper, and Leslie Smith, the former Wolves and Aston Villa left winger. Amazing scenes were witnessed at the final whistle when hundreds of soccer mad school boys brought Bert Williams to the ground in hero worship.

The team won many premier honours which included Dudley Guest Cup, Corbett Hospital Cup and the Griffen Shield.


Reflections


There are one or two interesting and amusing points in Two Gates history, such as, one of the pitches was at the far end of Lutley Lane, which meant a walk of nearly two miles. They changed under the hedges.

Pitches on which they played are now housing estates, there was Coalbourne Gardens, two at Witley Lane, Long Innage, Park Lane, Two Gates Lane and Lutley, Park Hill, near Park Hill Colliery, Foxcote Lane and Clent View Road. They had no fewer than eighteen different pitches. The rent was about £20.00 a year.

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Two Gates FC "supporters club" with trophy 1947-48 and 1948-49, cup and ball Left to right: Mrs. Harlene, Mrs. Bennett, Mrs. Neath, Mrs. Woodall, Mrs. Pearson, Mrs. Lewis.

The players and committee paid 3d a week. A collection was taken from the spectators. Players bought their own shoes, stockings and jerseys. They bought their own footballs out of this income, these cost 9/11d. The ball had to be taken to Griffens, Cradley Heath, to be blown up on Friday nights.

Two Gates won the league on one occasion only to learn that the coveted medals would not be forthcoming as the league had no money. The players bought their own.

The cost for the 1964-5 season for Two Gates was £421. 14s. 1p. (remember shillings and pence?). During the late 60's we ended our participation in the Wolverhampton Amateur League and joined the Kidderminster League in division 2. Our headquarters at this time was the British Arms, Furlong Lane, and we trained at Valley Road Schools, Lye. Approximately twenty years ago F. Bellfield, B. Bellfiel, and H. Collings, meeting on the corner of Foredraft Street, Colley Gate, started Two Gates Football Club Reserves, who played in the Kidderminster League North. The reserve team was managed by D. Fairley. Some notable players during this time were T. Watts, Pritchard, Brothers, M. Prosser, A. Cox, L. Phipps, D. Bloomer and many more good players remembered for their playing ability.

One memorable match springs to mind against Bridgnorth and by half time they led by 4 - 0. The scorer hit the headlines, R. Davis who went on to play for Derby County. At half time D. Fairley, Two Gates' manager told M. Perry to mark Davis which he did and "played" him off the park. If R. Davis was worth that much then God knows how much M. Perry was in his "hey-day". This match ended 4-4. The season 1980-81 was memorable for Two Gates' Reserves winning both the league and the Minor Cup. The players set a remarkable record of being undefeated all season, and winning all but three drawn matches. More so when you know that the last match and cup match was against Kidderminster Fire and A. Hughes the manager played all the reserved players who turned up week after week. We won the league match 3-1 and the cup match 4-1 against the league "runners up", themselves only losing two matches all season, of course, against Two Gates. The first team also had a good season so it was a credit to R. Buttery and A. Hughes and shows what depth of playing ability we had.


100 Years


In the 1982-3 season A. Hughes fell a little under the weather and had to give up managing, however, the first team still managed O.K. under R. Buttery. However, in the 1985-6 season the reserves finished second to bottom. Things took a turn for the worse in the 1986-7 season when owing to work commitments the manager had to give up and Two Gates lost virtually the whole first team squad to a team in a higher grade of football. The reserve side who had finished second from bottom were pushed up to the premier Division to replace the first team and a new reserve squad started from scratch. They started disastrously losing 7 - 0, 7 - 1, 8 - 0. P. Ray, the manager stepped down and J. Round took over, but Two Gates by Christmas only had three points. P. Cooper took over the first team and towards the end of the season Two Gates were in top flight again ending with seventeen points and third from bottom.

Two Gates FC 2005-06 season

Two Gates started the centenary year in style by winning but soon lost their way. The two managers P. Cooper and R. Tibbetts got their heads together to sort out the problems. R. Tibbetts got his team on the right track, and in fact, finished fourth in the league. P. Cooper went for a young side but being in a higher league it took longer. P. Cooper's team were still out of touch, with the loss of players and injuries, but all credit to them as they battled through although it looked a lost cause.

P. Cooper may not have the best Two Gates' team that ever played but I would certainly put them forward as the most loyal. When it looked impossible they were there, they gave their best and enjoyed the game, win or lose. We now go into the next 100 years with only one team under the chairmanship of R. Tibbetts and secretary J. Round. We wish them all well.


Thanks


We would like to thank Dudley Council for all the help and co-operation we have received in the past.

Secretaries:- T. McGuinness, F. Guest, D. Adams, A. Hutton, S. Raybould, H. Collins, M. Raybould, P. Williams and A. Cox.

Washing the strip:- Mrs. Bennett, Mrs. Collins, Mrs. Raybould, Mrs. Fairley, Mrs. Round, J. Ince and Mrs. Cox.

Programme and correspondence secretary, Mrs. L. Mole.

Programme designer, Mr. T. Mole.

Transport:- Hadley Coaches in the 60s, Players cars and in 1988, A Van.



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