HISTORY CORNER: Meet The Champions Of 1986 – Enfield

4 months ago By Steve Whitney

The 1985/86 Gola League season – the last under that title with GM Vauxhall Conference coming into force the following campaign – proved to be a superb one for Enfield, who won the title by a seven-point margin in the end.

But it was a thriller of a finish for those trying to stay in the division.

The shame for Eddie McCluskey`s side was that it came a season too early, as the 1986/87 season was the first when promotion could be achieved by the league winners, assuming their facilities were suitable.

Wycombe Wanderers, Dartford and Barrow in the end suffered the drop – in Wycombe`s case, after just one season back after promotion from the then-names Vauxhall Opal League (Isthmian).

Apart from Enfield, Frickley Athletic were the season`s surprise package.

They followed an FA Cup run to the Second Round proper with their best ever position in the league as runners-up and had three players capped by the England semi-professional side (now England C).

Kidderminster Harriers finished third in their Centenary season, while Altrincham made the FA Cup headlines that season, beating First Division Birmingham City 2-1 at St Andrews in the Third Round before bowing out at Bootham Crescent to York City in the Fourth Round.

But it was McCluskey`s fine Enfield side who rightly triumphed in the league that season.

They were an excellent footballing side.

While producing consistently outstanding performances in the league, highlighted by their 4-1 win at Altrincham`s Moss Lane, Enfield found the cup competitions less profitable, although a good run in the FA Trophy ended at the semi-final stage for the second successive season, giving Alty a little revenge!

However, in the league, the consistent goalscoring exploits of Carl Richards and the delightful football played throughout the season must have brought immense pleasure to the E`s regulars.

The title-winning side contained England semi-pro internationals defenders Keith Barrett and Dave Howell, goalkeeper Andy Pape, midfielder Nicky Ironton and forwards Noel Ashford and Richards, who they lost shortly after the title success when he was sold to Bournemouth.

Unlike many of the teams in the Gola League at this time, Enfield possessed no well-known former pros, but McCluskey kept his squad consistently challenging for honours by shrewd acquisitions from the leagues below.

Enfield had two unbelievable runs which ultimately won them the title.

One came early on when they won six successive league games as well as a 7-0 FA Cup win against Barnet.

And then at the turn of the year, nine consecutive wins in the league and Trophy virtually sealed the success, as did three wins on the trot against Wealdstone, Bath City and Scarborough in their final three games of the campaign.

Richards finished the season with 35 goals and Ashford chipped in with 19, with Steve King and Martin Duffield also managing double figures.

An awful lot has happened to the club since these heady days – not least being forced into liquidation.

Just four years after this title success they were relegated to the Isthmian League in 1990.

And, despite a run of seven consecutive top three finishes, they remained in that league, being denied promotion after winning the title in 1995 because the Conference were not satisfied with the club's financial credentials.

The final nail in the club`s coffin came in 1999 when they were forced to sell their Southbury Road stadium.

Since then, Enfield Town have come into existence alongside Enfield 1893, but the heady days of the 1980s when they won non-League football`s top league in 1982/83 and 1985/86 and the FA Trophy in 1981/82 and 1987/88 have long gone.

That said, Enfield Town are currently just one rung below the National League South in the Bostik League Premier, so it may not be long before we see the famous name back amongst the elite of the non-League game.

Where next?

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