BELPER TOWN FOOTBALL CLUB – A BRIEF HISTORY
Belper Town's unusual nickname, 'The Nailers', came about because the craft of nail making began In Belper in the middle ages when it was the site of a hunting lodge for John of Gaunt. The huntsmen needed nails for the shoes of their horses and the trade in nails eventually grew.
Nail making was a domestic industry with the Nailers working in family groups but, in 1861, the introduction of machinery to manufacture nails was the begin¬ning of the end for the local trade which died out altogether at the beginning of the century to be replaced by modern industry and commerce in the town.
Like the nail making industry, Belper Town FC has faded away in the past. Origi¬nally formed in 1883, the Nailers went out of existence three times through lack of finance.
The main highlight in those early years was an FA Cup 1st Round tie against Sheffield Wednesday on 15th October 1887 in which the Nailers were narrowly defeated 2-3 by the Yorkshire giants.
The Club reformed, possibly for the fourth time, in 1951 and took up residence at the current ground at Christchurch Meadow. In those early days, there were very few amenities on the ground and for a number of seasons, players used to get changed at the Talbot Hotel, a few hundred yards from the ground.
The ground was purchased in 1986 from the owners of the adjacent mill complex, for the princely sum of £6,000 and has afforded the club the security of tenure over its facilities ever since.
Lying in a picturesque setting, the recently named Marston’s Stadium is well appointed with excellent facilities and a first class playing surface.
The club has made many improvements in recent seasons, including new dressing rooms and conference facilities built in 1999. In 2003, the club opened a new 500-seater stand to bring the stadium up to NPL Premier Division standard and beyond.
This supplemented the provision of an earlier covered stand that accommodates 300 spectators, improved spectator terracing and perimeter barriers. The current ground capacity is 2,000.
New floodlights were installed in 2014 at a cost of £76,000, which more than doubled the intensity of the previous system. The new floodlights are of Football Conference standard.
On the playing side, the club joined the Central Alliance League on its reformation in 1951, taking over the fixtures of Mansfield Town ‘A’ who withdrew their team midway through the season.
In the early years, Belper Town enjoyed its record attendance when 3,600 fans turned up to see Belper play Ilkeston Town. Regular four figure attendances were commonplace at Christchurch Meadow in those days.
Season 1958/59 was a turning point as the Nailers outshone wealthy Heanor Town and Ilkeston Town, their strongly backed neighbours, with 2,000+ gates to win the Central Alliance League championship and the Derbyshire Senior Cup.
Three years later, they were invited to join the revamped Midland Counties League although three times the Club finished bottom of the League, the last time in 1978/79, when only the charitable overtures of member clubs at the League AGM saved Belper from comparative obscurity once again.
Under the astute managership of lvan Hollett and John Harrison, the Nailers responded to the challenge in magnificent style by winning the Midland Counties League championship in the very next season and, just for good measure, the Derby¬shire Senior Cup as well.
The Midland Counties League merged with the Yorkshire League in 1982 to form the Northern Counties East League and the Nailers won the League Championship in 1984/85 the guidance of the late Harry Bethel.
The championship success that season coincided with the arrival of former Derby County and England striker, Kevin Hector.
However, lack of finance at that time held the Club back from taking up a place in the newly formed First Division of the Northern Premier League.
The club has enjoyed success in the FA Vase, reaching the 5" Round twice and also a semi-final appearance in which they lost 2-3 on aggregate to Oxford City, having won the first leg 1-0 at home, in front of nearly 2,000 spectators.
Highlights that season included a 5-1 win at Falmouth Town (the longest distance ever travelled for a competitive match) and a 1-0 success at Metropolitan Police in the quarter final.
Having achieved the runners-up position in the Northern Counties League in 1996/97 under the excellent stewardship of Martin Rowe, the Club took its place in the Northern Premier League 12 years after the first opportunity had been spurned.
Initially the club did well in the NPL but then struggled in subsequent seasons. Ernie Moss and his assistant, Sean O’Neil, kept the club safely away from the relegation positions during their time in charge at Christchurch Meadow but the club did not really challenge for honours.
Ernie and Sean resigned their positions midway through the 2006/07 season, to be replaced by goalkeeper, Andy Carney and club captain, Danny Hudson, initially on a caretaker basis. The joint managers did more than enough though to secure the managerial reins on a permanent basis and enjoyed consistently successful results in the League during their time in charge..
The new managerial team achieved their first piece of silverware in 2008 by winning the Derbyshire Senior Cup with a 4-3 aggregate victory over neighbours, Alfreton Town
In 2008/09, the Nailers finished the league campaign in second place, having secured 81 points and equalling their record points score of 1984/85 when the club won the Northern Counties East League championship. A heartbreaking home defeat in the play-off final against Stocksbridge Park Steels was a bitter pill to swallow.
But the Nailers went close again the following season before just missing out for a play-off position by finishing in sixth position. They did capture the League President’s Cup with a 3-1 victory over Stamford but missed out on a cup double, losing 0-2 against neighbours Matlock Town in the Derbyshire Senior Cup Final at Pride Park Stadium.
The end of the season saw the resignation of manager Andy Carney after a six-year stint at the club and the appointment in the close season of former West Ham and England International defender, Tommy Taylor, as the club’s new manager assisted by Jon Froggatt, the clubs leading goal scorer in the 2010/11 season.
But, the early season expectations failed to materialise and Taylor resigned his position after just nine games in charge, leaving the Nailers with only two wins to their credit. The Belper board acted quickly to appoint former Retford United manager, Peter Duffield into the hot seat, supported by Mick Godber as his assistant and Shaun Hird as first team coach.
Results in their first season at Christchurch Meadow were quite remarkable with the team winning 44 points out of possible 48 in the final run-in to the campaign, but the club just missed out on the play-offs by a single goal difference.
Despite a poor start to the 2012/13 season and lying in bottom place in mid-October, the Nailers embarked on a 25-match unbeaten league sequence that saw them gain an automatic play-off position.
But heartbreak was to repeat itself at the end of the season when a home defeat against eventual promotion club Stamford in the first play-off match, consigned the Nailers to another season in the First Division.
The club finally made it into the NPL Premier Division at the end of a hard fought 2013/14 League campaign in which they finished the regular season in fourth place.
A 2-0 semi-final play-off win at Leek Town set up a home tie against Derbyshire rivals Mickleover Sports and a 1-0 success in that final game earned the Nailers the promotion they had been craving after 17 seasons in the League’s lower tier.
But the 2014/15 season proved to be a major disappointment as Peter Duffield and Mick Godber resigned after a winless opening 10 games to be replaced by the club’s leading goal scorer Jon Froggatt, assisted by Mark Ward.
Arriving in the hot seat was former Grantham Town manager Jimmy Albans and he was joined by his former assistant, Wayne Hallcro, later in the season but despite an encourage spell of late season form and results, the damage had been done and the club lost its place in the NPL Premier Division at the end of the campaign.
Season 2015/16 saw a continued decline in playing fortunes and Albans and Hallcro were relieved of their duties in September 2015 after a dismal start to the season, to be replaced by former Derby County and Notts County defender Charlie Palmer and his assistant, Lee Barrow
The new management team steadied the ship, securing a comfortable mid-table finish and an appearance in the Derbyshire Senior Cup final against Alfreton Town, which ended with an undeserved defeat on penalties.
Another mid-table finish was secured in 2016/17 but Palmer decided to end his ties with the club and former Belper player, Anthony Danylyk and Paul Donnelly took over the managerial reins at the Marston’s Stadium, having earned their positions through their managerial exploits at Leek Town the previous season.
The pair decided to cut their ties with the club in December and former Burton Albion legend, Aaron Webster was appointed to the Nailers hot seat, assisted by ex-League professional, Lee Williamson. Their tenure started brightly enough but ended with a disappointing conclusion to the League campaign with six straight defeats, after which they were both relieved of their posts.
New into the Nailers management roles this season are Grant Black, who will be assisted by former fans’ favourite Mick Norbury. Prior to taking the reins at the Belper Town, Grant was manager at Ossett Town and led the club away from the relegation zone and into the play-off final, all in the space of 16 months.