Chippenham Town are undoubtedly our region’s most successful football team of the 2016/17 season. Still with a game to go they have already hit the magic 100 point mark, stormed to the League title with three matches in hand and will now join Weston-Super-Mare and Bath City in National League South for the first time in their history.
Formed in 1873 the club has enjoyed an up and down existence. After joining the Western League in 1904 it struggled with results and reverted back to the Wiltshire League set up just a couple of years later. After a move to Hardenhuish Park, the centre for most local sports in Chippenham, Town then re-joined the Western League in the 1930’s.
Further moves in and out of the Western League followed until the 1990’s when under ebullient local character Tommy Saunders, Town went to Wembley for the FA Vase Final. A 1-0 defeat by Deal Town was softened by an attendance of over 20,000 supporters, the second highest in the history of the competition. Building on the Vase success Chippenham then were promoted to the Southern League in 2001. Although perhaps not always the highlight in terms of performance, the matches most fans looked forward to were the local derbies with Bath City (enjoying a temporary sojourn in the Southern League). Games were additionally hyped up by a strong rivalry between Saunders and Bath manager at the time Allan Pridham.
Since then after several changes in management, Town have again been successful with Mark Collier, twice reaching the play-offs albeit without success until this season’s romp to the League title. Manager Collier attributed this years success to a variety of factors. “We have managed to recruit good players, we have a strong infrastructure in the club we have put together over the last couple of seasons, a good mixture of youth and experience and it has all come together.
“We managed to get on a run when it became hard to see us losing and there was a mentality that went round the dressing room that nobody could beat us. We know next season we will have to up the levels again and I am sure we will have to add to the side. It will be a learning curve but it is one we should embrace.”