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The Lincolnshire Brigade: Brigg Town
By: Richard Lord
GRIMSBY Town may presently be the most successful Lincolnshire football club but it is not the oldest. That status belongs to Brigg Town FC, formed in 1864. Today they play their football in the Northern Counties East Football League (NCEFL), and have been since the structure was formed in 1982.
The recent success of Boston United attaining Football League status makes Lincolnshire one of the most prosperous footballing counties in England. The Pilgrims, along with Grimsby, Scunthorpe and Lincoln, have shown that regional teams can punch above their own weight in an ever-increasing money-orientated Football League.
Gainsborough Trinity are another Lincolnshire club making excellent progress in the lower leagues. There is certainly no denying a boom in trend for football in Lincolnshire, and if it weren't for ground regulations, Brigg Town would currently be playing in the Unibond League. The Unibond is one step closer to the Football Conference where comes the chance to enter League Football.
Brigg Town are known as The Zebras and only Sheffield (1857), Harefield United (1858), Hallam (1860) and Cray Wanderers (1860) are any older. Brigg shot to fame this season by entering the FA Cup first round proper for the first time in their history. Ironically, they beat Boston along the way in a qualifying round - 1-0 at York Street. Tranmere were the eventual team to put an end to Brigg's FA Cup progress, beating the Zebras 4-1 at Prenton Park.
In the late part of the nineteenth century the Zebras were the top team in North Lincolnshire and enjoying much success, especially in the first Lincolnshire Challenge Cup where they lost to Spilsby in the final. Brigg's club secretary Harry Storm was said to be a leading light in the formation of the Lincolnshire FA. Of an original 16 clubs in the association, four of them were from Brigg itself.
Into the twentieth century and Brigg have been playing in many different leagues and at different grounds. The Zebras used the Old Manor House Convent playing field in Station Road for many years whilst competing in the Lindsey League. A record attendance of 2000 was recorded at Brocklesby Ox, but the team these days play at Hawthorn Avenue.
Brigg became founder members of the Lincolnshire League in 1948 and in the next season the team won their first of eight league titles in a flourishing 25-year spell. It wasn't until 1976 when the club was elected to play in the Midlands Counties League. Brigg finished third in their first season but went on to win the title in the next campaign, during which they lost just once.
In 1982 the club were placed into Division One of the NCEFL after their ground did not meet the grading requirements of the Premier Division. However, three years later and Brigg were in the Premier Division, that achievement was largely due on many peoples' part, as a clubhouse was built and enlarged, dressing room facilities were erected, and floodlights were installed during the 1989/90 campaign. Ground improvements have continued to meet the requirements of the NCEFL Premier League to attain Grade 'A' status.
Despite a long and illustrious history, the considerably recent 1995/6 season was thought to be the best in the club's history. The Zebras beat Clitheroe 3-0 at Wembley Stadium to lift the FA Vase.
Last season was also a huge success as Brigg ran away with the NCEFL title by a massive ten points, but promotion to the Unibond was denied because of ground facilities not being complete by a set date, and so Ossett Albion were invited to take the place of Brigg.
There is a long way to go before the club can start thinking about the Football Conference, but there is a general good feeling in the air around the Town that they have the scope and the audacity to aim even higher. With a devoted manager who has stuck with them longer than Dario Grady has stuck with Crewe, there's an optimistic feeling in the air.
The Brigg Town website can be seen at: www.briggtownfc.co.uk
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