Bideford's great western push

FOUNDED in 1946, Bideford FC played three seasons in the Exeter & East Devon League before joining the Western League in 1949.

Bideford had a request to be elected to the second division denied, and had to play in the third division instead.

This was the only season the Western League ran a third division, and Bideford won it without losing a game.

Two seasons later they also won division two, and so took their place in division one. Bideford won the Western League three times before joining the Southern League in 1972.

The club spent three seasons at that level before the expense involved and increased travelling took its toll, and they had to drop down back to the Western League.

During their Southern League days, the club set an all-time FA Cup record, when in 1974-75 they played 13 FA Cup games in a single season – they faced numerous replays in qualifying rounds including needing five games to beat Falmouth Town and four more to beat Trowbridge Town in the next round.

With the subsequent abandonment of second and further replays, this record is likely to stand for a very long time. Two more Western League titles followed in the early 1980s, before a financial crisis hit the club.

There was doubt that the club would be able to continue, but a re-formation took place in 1987 leading to the current set-up, a company limited by guarantee, under the revised company name Bideford AFC (1987) Ltd.

Under the stable chairmanship of Jim McElwee, and then Paul Mitchell, the club have recovered to the point where they have now won four more Western League titles since 2000, and have also made it to the FA Vase semi-finals, where they lost out to Winchester City.

Now under the new chairmanship of Bideford businessman Roy Portch, and managerial skills of Sean Joyce the club has been transformed into a once again winning side.

Despite winning the Western League several times, they have elected not to apply for promotion to the Southern League due to the amount of travelling and expense that would be involved in playing teams which, almost without exception, would be over 100 miles away.