Tiverton Town Football Club – A History

Founded: 1913


Grounds: Athletic Ground 1913 – 1921. The Elms 1921 – 1939. Ladysmead 1946 – to date.
Highest attendances: 3,000 – Tiverton v Leyton Orient – FA Cup 1st round Nov 12 1994

Tiverton Town are currently enjoying the most successful spell of their 100+ year history. Since the turn of the century, Tivvy have established themselves as one of the top non-league sides in the South West and, at their level, arguably one of the top non-league sides in the country. Their dominance of the Western League and success in the F.A.Cup and F.A.Vase has brought the club into the national spotlight on several occasions.

All this is a far cry from the birth of the club in 1913.


Originally known as Tiverton Athletic FC, they played in the East Devon League and were based, at that time, at the Athletic Ground which is now known as Amory Park. In 1921, Tiverton Athletic moved to The Elms, which backed onto Blundell’s road (now a lorry park) and after several mergers with other Tiverton based sides, ‘Athletic’ was dropped from the name to become Tiverton Town FC in 1929.

As a junior club, they enjoyed periods of success, including four East Devon League titles on the trot from 1925 through 1928, plus the East Devon Senior Cup and the Devon Senior Cup on a number of occasions, along with other minor trophies. Tivvy won the North Devon League in 1932, their only season in the competition, and then joined and settled into the Exeter and District League enjoying reasonable success, winning the championship in 1934. With the onset of the Second World War football was suspended and the Elms was requisitioned as a storage dump.

1946 saw the reformation of Tiverton Town FC, move to their current ground Ladysmead and the return to the Exeter and District League (renamed Devon and Exeter League in 1971) where they remained until 1973, the year that the Western League accepted their application to join them. This marked the beginning of a new phase for Tiverton as they moved out of local football and into the top competition in the west country.

Tiverton 1973/74 Back row: R Shears (Trainer) J Cridland, T Butt, A Broomfield, R Sowden, P Hagley, J Vanstone, B Sharples (Manager) Front row: M Southcott, K Freeman, J Freeman, M Howe, R Stone, R Lancelles

Tiverton 1973/74 – Back row: R Shears (Trainer) J Cridland, T Butt, A Broomfield, R Sowden, P Hagley, J Vanstone, B Sharples (Manager)
Front row: M Southcott, K Freeman, J Freeman, M Howe, R Stone, R Lancelles

They consolidated their position in that league finishing fifth in the Premier Division in 1978/79. However, just two years later they were relegated to Division One where they languished in the lower reaches for four years, eventually finishing bottom of the First Division. Their Western League survival was due to the fact that the league was three teams short of it’s maximum so, whilst Ilfracombe town, Torrington and Westbury United were admitted, no team was relegated out of the league.

This was the turning point in Tivvy’s fortunes, because it coincided with the construction of a new clubhouse, thanks to the assistance of their new President Dan McCauley and the arrival from Clyst Rovers of John Owen who, two years later, became manager.

Tiverton 1989-90 - Back row: J Owen (Manager) M Saunders, M Short, J Durham, K Bryant, K Allen, P Webber, M Rogers, H Steele, K Simmons (Physio) Front row: R Forbes, N Saunders, C, Jones, N, Jarvis, M Seatherton

Tiverton 1989-90 – Back row: J Owen (Manager) M Saunders, M Short, J Durham, K Bryant, K Allen, P Webber, M Rogers, H Steele, K Simmons (Physio)
Front row: R Forbes, N Saunders, C, Jones, N, Jarvis, M Seatherton

Under the guidance of this very special man, Tivvy climbed the table and in the 1988/89 season won promotion back to the Premier Division. With John Owen at the helm Tivvy finished fourth in their first two seasons back in the top flight. In the 1990/91 and 1991/92 seasons they reached the First Round Proper of the F.A.Cup, going out to Aldershot who were then in the Football League and Barnet respectively. After capturing the Devon (St Lukes) Challenge cup at the end of that season, John Owen stepped down as manager to become assistant to Martyn Rogers who had joined the club as a player two years earlier.

The appointment of Martyn Rogers as player/manager was to be inspired because, under his guidance, the club have revelled in unprecedented success including four Western League Championships in the past five seasons, two further appearances in the F.A.Cup First Round Proper, as well as three Wembley appearances.

Tiverton Town 1992/93 - Back Row: Keith Simmons (Physio), Steve Hynds, Phil Everett, Ian Nott, Mark Saunders, Jason Smith, Steve Daly, Mark Short, John Owen (Assistant Manager). Front Row: Peter Rogers, Lee Annunziata, Kevin Smith, Martyn Rogers (Manager), Hedley Steele, Neil Saunders, Matthew Scott.

Tiverton Town 1992/93 – Back Row: Keith Simmons (Physio), Steve Hynds, Phil Everett, Ian Nott, Mark Saunders, Jason Smith, Steve Daly, Mark Short, John Owen (Assistant Manager).
Front Row: Peter Rogers, Lee Annunziata, Kevin Smith, Martyn Rogers (Manager), Hedley Steele, Neil Saunders, Matthew Scott.

The first, in 1993, ended in a 1-0 defeat to Bridlington. Tivvy finished as runners up in the league that year but won the Les Phillips Western League cup and Devon (St Lukes) cup. Their dominance in the Western League continued as in 1994 they completed the domestic treble of League Championship, League Cup and County Cup.

The following season saw Tivvy retain the league title and County Cup as well as reaching the First Round Proper of the F.A. Cup again following a memorable 4-4 draw with Farnborough at Ladysmead and a stunning 5-1 victory in the replay. Tivvys opponents in the F.A.Cup on this occasion was Leyton Orient who, on a soggy Ladysmead surface, ran out 3-1 winners in front of a record crowd of 3,000. A potential upset had been on the cards when it was revealed that several UK bookmakers had cut their odds after having taken several large bets on Tivvy to beat Orient, but it was not to be. 1996 saw Tivvy relinquish the league title to Taunton, but retain the Les Phillips (Western League) Cup.

In 1997 Tivvy courted the attention of the national media again with an incredible run that saw them win their first 26 league games on the trot before eventually dropping points in an epic tussle with Taunton under the glow of the comet Hale Bop.

With six of the side that lost to Bridlington in the Vase still at the club, Wembley held no fear for the team that had just broken the Western League scoring record of 148 goals in the top flight that Welton set in 1964/65. And so it proved to be that Tiverton became the first Devon and Western League Club to win a cup at Wembley, beating Tow Low Town with a single Pete Varley goal.

10,000 supporters journeyed to Wembley and it seemed that almost that many filled the streets of Tiverton the following Sunday afternoon to greet the team home. It was quite a party, but the players had recovered enough to beat Taunton in the Les Phillips (Western League) Cup final at Yeovil 3-2 on the Wednesday, to complete the treble of League Championship, League Cup and F.A. Vase.

Kevin Smith

Taking a closer look at the vase won under his captaincy, crowning a wonderful and truly memorable era at Ladysmead.

Taking a closer look at the vase won under his captaincy, crowning a wonderful and truly memorable era at Ladysmead.

That night at Yeovil, memorable for the amazing thunder storm that stopped the game on several occasions, was to be the last game that Kevin Smith was to play for Tivvy. Bowing out in style, as only Kevin could, with two stunning goals that took his goal tally with the club to a then record of 303, a truly remarkable achievement by a truly remarkable player.

The F.A. Trophy winners Cheltenham arrived pre-season 1998/99 to play a game that had been arranged following their 2-1 win over Tiverton in a thrilling F.A.Cup First round Proper tie in 1997/98. Team Talk donated the Team Talk Challenge Cup to be contested by the winners of the Trophy and Vase. Tivvy beat Cheltenham 2-0.

With the F.A.Vase in the trophy cabinet and the ground improvements implemented, the time had come to look ahead and plan the future. Thus the objective for the 1998/99 season was to finish in the top two and gain promotion to the Dr Martens League. When asked in a T.V. interview following the Vase win, “what was he hoping to achieve next season”, Martyn Rogers replied that he would like to “retain the thing”. I’m not sure that many thought that it could be done, after all it took Tivvy five years to get back there following the defeat by Bridlington, but with Tiverton being named as West Country Team of the Year and striker Phil Everett picking up the ultimate accolade of England’s Non-League Footballer of the Year, confidence was high and Tiverton Town FC had really come of age.

Following a stuttering start to the 1998/99 season Tivvy eventually found their rhythm conquering all before them in a single minded defence of the Vase. Following two impressive performances against old rivals Taunton in the semi finals with a 5-1 aggregate score, the scene was set for a return to Wembley and a climax to the season that saw Tivvy finish second and achieve their objective of promotion. At Wembley, 10,000 Tivvy supporters watched Scott Rogers score an 88th minute goal to beat a very good Bedlington Terriers side 1-0 to, as Martyn Rogers predicted, ‘retain the thing’.

The start of the 1999/2000 season saw Kingstonian at Ladysmead to compete for the Team Talk Challenge Cup and what an excellent game it turned out to be. Tivvy found themselves up against a very quick and very impressive Kingstonian side showing, clearly, why they are the F.A. Trophy holders and among the favourites to win the Conference. Having said that, Tivvy put up a tremendous display narrowly losing 3 – 4 giving up their hold on the cup which they had won so convincingly in the game against Cheltenham the previous year.

Martyn Rogers’ Testimonial

The other big occasion at the start of this season was Martyn Rogers’ much deserved testimonial match against Wolverhampton Wanderers in which Tivvy lost 1-3.

The Ladysmead boss was all smiles in the run-out in his own testimonial clash against Wolves. A crowd of 1,515 saw the visitors ease into a 3-0 lead before Tivvy replied through Kevin Nancekivell.

It was Tivvy’s first pre-season goal against Football League opposition after losing 2-0 to Portsmouth and drawing 0-0 with Northampton. “I know it sounds strange as we haven’t won yet, but I’m pleased with how things are going,” said Martyn. “We have played quality opposition and the lads have worked hard. They really stuck at it tonight. “It’s nice for the defence, especially, to get that sort of practice. It will stand them in good stead for the Dr Martens.

The biggest cheer of the evening was reserved for Martyn Rogers when the 44-year-old entered the action as a late substitute. Martyn received applause from both sets of players as well as an ovation from the supporters. He deserved the applause. Sixteen trophies in eight years as manager speaks volumes.

Tivvy chairman Dave Wright summed Martyn Rogers’ contribution to the Tiverton success story in the programme, where he quipped: “No-one doubted Martyn’s defensive abilities (on arriving at Tiverton). “All the supporters with stiff necks constantly looking skywards hoping to catch a glimpse of one of Martyn’s clearances were not to know they were looking at the limit to this man’s ability.”

Tivvy’s first season 1999/2000 in the Dr Martens League ended with them needing, on the last day, a win away at Rocester and Moor Green to lose at Bedworth if they were to be promoted to the Premier Division on their first attempt. Unfortunately it was not to be with Moor Green running out comfortable winners and deservedly finishing as runners up to Stafford Rangers who went up as champions. All in all, an excellent first season in the Western Division. Perhaps, if it had not been for serious injuries to three key players it might well have been different.

The season ended on a high, when an almost full strength Torquay United came to Ladysmead to contest the Devon St Lukes Bowl. On a warm May evening 780 fans witnessed one of the most exciting games ever seen at Ladysmead. In a pulsating game Tivvy more than matched their loftier opponents, but squandered a 2 – 0 lead for the game to finish 2 -2. Tivvy again took the lead in extra time only to see Torquay fight back to make it 3 – 3 in the dying minutes. Then followed a penalty shoot out that saw Tivvy’s keeper Paul Edwards in tremendous form. He brilliantly saved three penalties for Tivvy to win 3 – 2 and reclaim the Devon St Lukes Bowl for the sixth time in ten years.

picDave3The Start of season 2000/2001 was not quite as the club had intended.

The acrimonious departure of player of the year Kevin Nancekivell to Plymouth Argyle for an outrageously low fee had an effect on the way the team played. Nance’s drive and energy, not to mention his goals was sorely missed.

In November Ladysmead hero Dave Leonard announced to a shocked clubhouse that he was retiring from the game to spend more time at home with his family.

Hugely experienced, but pint sized Jason Rees was signed from Exeter City to beef up the midfield and prolific goal scorer, Dave Toomey was signed from Cinderford. With these new signings, gradually, things began to slot into place, the team began to gel and started to climb the league table after finding themselves in sixteenth place, a position that Tivvy are not accustomed to.

Tivvy hit the headlines in September when it transpired that an administrative error at Merthyr Tidfil meant that, unknown to Tivvy, Jason Rees did not have the international clearance to enable him to play in the English league or the FA Cup. When it was eventually discovered by the FA that Jason Rees had been playing for Tivvy without international clearance the FA decreed that the first qualifying round match against Bristol Manor Farm in which Tivvy won 1-0 at Ladysmead had to replayed at Bristol Manor Farm. Tivvy went on to win the rematch up at Bristol Manor Farm 4-0 without the suspended Jason Rees, but were eventually knocked out in the third round in an extremely ugly game in which Tivvy lost at home to Gloucester City 1-3.

Daily Telgraph article dated 6/12/00

It could be a grim winter for Devon’s footballing triumvirate. The county s three League teams – Plymouth Argyle, Exeter City and Torquay United — are all bundled together down at the bottom of Division Three. Only Halifax and Carlisle stand below them as they peer into that ghastly abyss that is the Nationwide Conference and wonder who will fall in come the end of the season. Being stuck in the bottom left-hand corner of the nation does not make life any easier for the Devon three.

Apart from their games against each other, every away game is a serious undertaking. Division Three is top heavy with northern clubs and trips to southern outfits such as Brighton or Barnet still mean the best part of a day on the road. And even when they get there, they have to endure an entire afternoon of “ooo-arr” taunts and BSE chants.But it is not all doom and gloom for Devonians. The county also boast an outstanding success story who are doing very nicely just below the League. Tiverton Town are enjoying the most successful spell in their 87-year history. In 1997, they won 26 games on the trot.

In 1998, they took 10,000 fans to Wembley, where they won the FA Vase, and the whole town went back again in 1999 to watch ‘Tivvy’ repeat the feat. Back then, they were in the Western League but they ploughed all the Vase proceeds into building a ground worthy of the Dr Martens League and were duly promoted into it in 1999. These days they are too big for the FA Vase and play in the FA Trophy.

Having dropped in for Saturday’s tie with Aylesbury United, I sense that this is a club with a long way to go. Despite the big Devon derby at Exeter — where more than 5,000 turned up for the clash with Plymouth — Tiverton had still pulled in 700 and sold out of programmes before the kick-off. By half-time, they were 2-0 up and running away with the game. Aylesbury produced a feisty comeback in the second half and managed one goal, much to the delight of a noisy Aylesbury contingent singing When The Ducks Go Marching In. In fact, the Ducks went marching out. Tiverton held on to their lead and were worth their place in the next round of the Trophy (a trip to Hendon or Worcester) It is a cliché to talk about clubs at this level being ‘friendly’ — some are not and a few are downright weird —but, in Tiverton’s case it is true.

On the pitch they are pushing for promotion to the Premier Division of the Dr Martens League. Off the pitch. they make a profit, owe nothing to the bank and boast the highest crowds in their division with around 600 for every home game. If they could clinch a couple of promotions, they would find themselves elevated to the Nationwide Conference, where they would not look out of place. Sadly, though, they might well bump into one of Devon’s larger clubs coning in the opposite direction.

As they say, football is a funny old game, as by Christmas Kevin Nancekivell had returned to Tivvy from Plymouth and immediately set about changing the teams fortunes and later in the season Dave Leonard returned in emphatic style to help Tivvy gain promotion. One of the main features of season 2000 – 2001 was the weather (slightly damp) which played havoc with the fixtures. Tivvy’s games were piling up to such an extent that they had to complete a quarter of the season in the last month!!

No one really thought that we had a chance to make up the remaining fixtures and win promotion, but that is exactly what they did. To gain promotion in such emphatic style is trully an amazing achievement and one that will be remembered for many a year as the lads managed to take 38 points from 15 matches in just 28 days – absolutely incredible.

Promotion Party

FA Vase hero Scott Rogers came up with a crucial goal on Saturday as Tiverton Town crushed Blakenall 3-0 to win promotion to the Dr Martens League Premier Division. Rogers’ second against Blakenall put Tivvy into the comfort zone at last in what was their 15th game in just 29 days.

Town’s achievement of finishing in the second promotion spot is all the more remarkable given that their last nine games came in the final two weeks of the season. Rogers, who cracked Tivvy’s 1999 winner against Bedlington Terriers at Wembley, was told a week ago that he had a blood clot on a lung. But he fought back to claim the right wing-back berth for the last two games after Steve Winter had pulled a muscle during Tuesday’s 7-2 success against Racing Club Warwick. Town, roared on by 450 fans who pushed Blakenall’s season’s best crowd from 174 to 495, had to win to be sure of pipping Bilston Town for the second promotion spot behind Hinckley United.

With the aid of the slope and the wind, they piled on the pressure to such an extent that it was a full 15 minutes before keeper Paul Edwards touched the ball. And two minutes later, Paul Chenoweth sent over an inswinging corner from the right and the ball squirmed into the net off defender Ronnie Walker’s head as Steve Ovens arrived to make sure. Ovens’ 35th-minute wasted opportunity looked costly as Blakenall found the strength to fight back after the break. John Muir blasted wastefully high and wide after tricking Nicky Marker and Edwards had to be at his best to tip over a John Quilt free-kick.

But striker Les Palmer ended Blakenall’s resistance when he was dismissed 20 minutes from time for kicking out at Steve Daly. Within five minutes, Town produced the first of two quality goals to sign off with a flourish. Marker broke from defence and found Phil Everett, who picked out Ovens on the edge of the area, the Town player-of-the-year guiding the ball into Rogers’ path for a goal to send visiting fans wild. Five minutes from time, Ovens created space on the right and Kevin Nancekivell sidefooted a third.
Express & Echo – 07/05/01

On a sad note, 2001 will also be remembered as the year that Tivvy lost two past chairmen. Two of the nicest men you could ever wish to meet – Wally Knowles and Derek Long both sadly passed away before seeing their beloved team promoted to the Premier Division.

Season 2001-2002 saw Tivvy in the Dr Martens Premier Division for the first time in their history and started brightly with a 2-0 win at Ladysmead against Folkestone Invicta. Coupled with the unexpected departure of Steve Daly, Tivvy took a little longer to settle into life in the Premier Division and started to slide down the table to depths not known for many years. Dave Leonard also found life (travelling) in the Premier Division difficult and announced his departure from the club.

A magnificent victory at Billericay in the 4th round of the FA Cup was a turning point for Tivvy’s fortunes, starting with a place in the FA Cup 1st round for the fifth time in their history.
The draw saw them first out of the bag to play Cardiff, but a meeting between club officials and the police saw, for safety reasons, the fixture switched to Ninian Park.

Tivvy played magnificently, but lost to the Second Division promotion hopefulls 1-3 with Tivvy’s goal coming from Kevin Nancekivell.

Tivvy, however, received a standing ovation from the crowd of 6648, as too did Paul Tatterton, who used the occasion to announce his retirement from the game.

The end of season dinner and presentation evening was the venue that Neil Saunders used to announced that he was leaving the club. Since joining the club from Crediton United back in 1988, Neil has been a superb servant, was always consistent and never gave less than 100%. Neil spent one season 95/96 playing for Bath City in the Conference. He returned to Ladysmead the following year an even better player. He was the only team member to have played in all five F.A. Cup First round Proper ties and is (and will probably always be) the club’s most decorated player.

Nicky Marker also used the occasion to announce his retirement form the game, saying, “my mind says that it wants to keep going, but my body says that it is not up to it”.

Nicky Marker, whose stay with the club lasted two and half years, made an enormous contribution to the success and promotion of the club. Nicky began his career with his home town club (Exeter City) making 202 appearances for the Grecians. He moved on to neighbours Plymouth Argyle and made another 202 appearances for the Pilgrims. Blackburn Rovers was Nicky’s next port of call. He made 54 appearances for the Ewood Park Premiership champion winning team and also played in Europe before turning out 61 times for Sheffield United and 4 more for Plymouth whilst on loan.

Tivvy eventually finished the season in a very creditable 6th position. It was a good performance for their first season in The Premier Division, but following a narrow 2-1 – extra time – defeat at home to Exeter City in the semi final of the Devon St Lukes Bowl, the end of season run-in had an unfamiliar feel about it.

It was the first time in many years that the club has had nothing to play for. The carnival atmosphere in the last game of the season at home to Kettering, in which Kettering needed to win to gain promotion to the Conference was all the more strange, but perhaps a feeling that, at this level, we will have to get used to.

Tivvy played Exeter City again after the season had finished. This time it was to honour, just voted – The All Time Tivvy Hero – Phil Everett in his testimonial.

Phil’s Testimonial

Few players can ever be, or have ever been, held in as high esteem at a football club as Phil Everett is at Tiverton Town. As if to disprove the old saying ‘You can’t please everyone’, Phil has been all things to all men at Tivvy. Professional in his attitude, skilful as a player, and ‘all round good egg’ off the field. Over 700 fans turned up at Ladysmead to watch a strong Exeter City line up face a Yellows side that included players from a decade in which Phil had been an integral part of Tiverton’s climb from the Western League to the brink of the football Conference and to thereby honour the man that has topped 500 competitive appearances and found the net over 350 times for the club.

The starting line up included only one of the ‘old boys’. Kevin Smith wore the No.8 shirt as he had done in the days when his pairing with Phil had caused many a defence to quake before their onslaught. A few pounds heavier, Smudger showed he still retained some of the old touches, even though the pace may have been lacking – and was that a pack of Marlboro’s tucked in his shorts?

City took the initiative early on but unsurprisingly for such a match there was little urgency, the spectacle and occasion being more important than the result. On the half hour Exeter took the lead. A penalty. Such was the cruciality of the kick that Stuart Fraser left his station between the City posts, galloped the length of the field and crashed the spot kick home past Paul Edwards outstretched left hand. Town came back and nearly levelled things on the half time whistle when Scot Rogers hit the crossbar.

Mass substitutions at half time saw the remainder of the current Tivvy squad take the field and with them a replacement of energy levels. Jamie Mudge, eager as ever to show that he was a match for his former club mates, took just three minutes to make his mark. In a typically Jamie move he broke down the right and crossed into the box to present Antony Lynch with a simple sidefoot past Fraser.

Town were not only back in the game they were in control. When Lynch set up Mudge for the second goal six minutes later they were deservedly in front and it was time for another bout of personnel changes. A few of the young hopefuls that still keep in touch with Ladysmead in the hope of getting a game were given their chance. Steve Hynds, Pete Conning, Paul Tatterton and the ever youthful Hedley Steele were all out there, joining Phil who returned to the fray after a prolonged half time break. Even Paul Edwards was given a rest as the redoubtable Ian Knott donned the gloves once more. And ‘Knotty’, like Kevin Smith showed he had lost none of his old touch.

The first time the ball came to him we were treated to a ‘Diss moment’ as Ian grabbed it at the third attempt, raising cheers from those fans with memories far longer than the former Tivvy keeper’s kicks. It became all quite light hearted as the fans willed the man whose evening it was to find the net. The yellow shirted players endlessly tried to tee the ball up for Phil but the Grecians were having none of it and thwarted the attempts with the determination of hardened party-poopers. With seconds remaining Phil turned on a sixpence to crash the ball goalwards but Sub keeper Steve Johns scrambled the ball away and it seemed the goal was not going to come.

One final attack. One last chance, and Everett on the score sheet as he bundled the ball over the line from close range. It completed the evening’s entertainment both metaphorically and factually as no sooner had City re-started than the final whistle sounded. It was the end of the game and possibly the end of an era. Hopefully we will still see a lot more of Phil Everett in a Tivvy shirt. If not, then we have ten years of memories to thank him for.