Looking back at 50 years of ‘super’ Southdown FC

U12 Finals 3rd April 1977
U12 Finals 3rd April 1977

Southdown FC was formed in 1969 during the days when players’ ‘subs’ were paid in shillings and pence.

At the time Burgess Hill 1st Scouts wanted to encourage more boys to join so together Martin Waner, a Scout leader, and West Ham fan Ken Somerville, who was involved in local football, started ‘Southdown Scouts’.

Southdown Rovers U12 League Cup winning team. Final played at Hanbury Park, Haywards Heath in 1986

Southdown Rovers U12 League Cup winning team. Final played at Hanbury Park, Haywards Heath in 1986

Ken recalled they had very mixed results in the early days, getting trounced 26-0 to winning a Cup. Once they opened up to all local boys they started to thrash the teams who had previously beaten them.

Under the subsequent tenure of the late Peter Strange the club then thrived as Southdown FC. The changing facilities being a small shed on the Burgess Hill Town Football Club site became less than adequate for a club of its size. So from 1985 chairman David Metcalfe and a team of parents/volunteers worked tirelessly for two years to get a clubhouse built at the club’s current home of Leylands Park. This was funded through grants obtained from local charitable trusts without the need to borrow money.

SEE ALSO Celebrating 50 years of football at Southdown FC

The club’s members still make good use of the now extended clubhouse, particularly every Saturday morning to provide a cuppa to supporters on the chilly sidelines.
The club’s true identity was further cemented in the 1980’s when player, Ben Wanless, won a competition to design the current badge. The crest displays Jack and Jill windmills proudly sitting atop the South Downs.

Southdown Eagles - Girls U15s winners of the league and cup in the Sussex Girls League in 1999/2000 Season

Southdown Eagles - Girls U15s winners of the league and cup in the Sussex Girls League in 1999/2000 Season

In the 1990s as standards improved in the adult game, Geoff Brailey and his team of volunteers, ensured this filtered through to youth football at Southdown. Codes of conduct for players and managers were introduced as were FA Coaching qualifications. Around this time a ‘Minors’ and Girls section were also started. This meant that boys and girls as young as four were able to enjoy the beautiful game and form friendships that would last a lifetime.

The club set up a six-a-side tournament which was later recognised as the biggest football tournament of its type in South East England.

Dan Airs, chairman during the noughties, said it was a time of incredible growth and development in Burgess Hill which placed an increased demand to provide local grassroots football. Southdown rose to the challenge and at its peak had 18 boys teams from U8 - U16 in three football leagues whilst continuing to expand the Girls section.

Over its 50 years Southdown FC has captured the essence of community. So many local families and committed volunteers, some of whom are no longer alive, have significantly contributed to making the club what it is and stands for today.