Drayton Grange football club was formed in February 1976 by founder members Ken Barton and Alf Hudson with the original intention of giving kids from the Grange estate a game of football. Regular Friday evening training sessions were started that proved to be very popular, so much so that the manager in the first season of competitive football Bob Green recalls counting 86 children of all ages training at one particular session. Originally playing friendlies against established teams under the name Daventry Young Blades, the club entered an under 12’s team under its new name Drayton Grange into the Rugby and District league in 1978. Based at the Pike & Eel pitch on the Grange estate the club soon grew and entered 2 teams for the 1979/80 season, relocating to the Groveland’s and Helicopter park pitches. For this season, the club entered an under 12’s team run by Dave Kendricks and Brian Kenny with the previous years under 12’s moving up an age group to under 13’s ran by Ken Barton and his son Gary.
Off the pitch, the club formally established a committee in May 1979 with Ken Barton serving as treasurer, Mike Barnett as secretary, Pete Protheroe as treasurer along with various general committee members. Along with this, the club also became financially stable through the establishment of the Tote in August 1979. The Tote saw the club easily raising £230 pounds a week with the money split evenly between the club and the prize winners and set the foundations for the clubs growth.
The 1980’s saw Drayton Grange firmly establish itself as a major provider of community football. The club started the 1980/81 season running 3 sides at under 12’s managed by Stan Danks and Tony Towney, 13’s by Dave Kendricks and Brian Kenny and 14’s by Don Williams. With Vaughan Williams and Harry Shingler soon to bring through a younger age, by the end of the decade the club was running teams from under 11’s all the way through to under 16 age groups as well as various senior Sunday sides as players who grew up together became too old for junior football but keen to continue playing as a group.
Friday night training sessions for all remained a popular outlet for encouraging players to play as the club soon became one of the town’s major providers of junior football as other clubs in the town and villages as a source of junior football declined. Demand to play for Drayton Grange was that great that as the club became a focus of football provision for not just the Grange estate but of the wider local community. This meant the club abandoning a rule by the early 1980’s that stated 75% of the team had to come from the Grange estate to enable it to cater for wider football needs in the community.
The 1980’s saw a lot of innovations still felt today. For instance the Barcelona kit worn by teams to this day was introduced as the official club colours by the mid-1980’s with variations of the blue and red were also worn. On the pitch the Drayton Grange Colts Sunday side helped gain global exposure by earning a place in the Guinness Book of Records for a 49 nil score line they administered back in 1987.
Off the field, the Tote continued to be the clubs major form of income as individuals were able to collect large amounts of money at their places of work or from friends and family. The bingo players at Nene Hall on a Monday night were also very supportive in buying Tote numbers as this corresponded with the Drayton Grange committee meetings and weekly tote draw on the same building on the same night. Sponsors were actively sought, with SRB based in Sheaf Street becoming the clubs first shirt sponsor in 1984 soon followed by firms with a local presence such as Kohen and Windsor, Poli-Film, Citizen and Cummins all aiding the club.
In the same year an entertainment’s committee was also initiated under the guidance of Jenny Haynes and Marge Langridge. This committee became responsible for boosting club funds and raising money for charity through the organising of anything from shopping or football trips to schoolboy internationals, raffles, sponsored fun runs and lads versus dad’s matches.
If the 1980’s was the decade that Drayton Grange firmly established itself as a junior and senior football club, the 1990’s can be seen as the decade in which the club expanded beyond all recognition of its early days. By the end of the 1990’s the club was running 15 teams, many with two different teams at the same age level as Drayton Grange became synonymous with providing high quality football provision for not just the local community but as far a field as Rugby and Northampton. The club was attracting players drawn by the clubs ability to offer football to all. Indeed, mini football provided through the likes of the long serving Nigel Dudgeon was popularly received and was a provision many other clubs could not provide. The club also became trail blazers in that they could claim to have the area’s first female manager in the form of Linda Tyson.
One of the major attributes of this was clubs ability to develop a more professional outlook during this period. For instance, the club was now able to attract larger numbers of sponsors, mainly locally based who were able to provide new kits and training tops to individual teams on a regular basis, a far cry from being able to take what kits they could get and constant hand me downs of the earlier years. As well as this the club was now investing lots of time into putting team managers and helpers through FA training courses, whilst these new found skills were put to good use in the form of the club being able to run soccer schools that again was successful in attracting many children into the club. One of the examples of this was with one Drayton Grange coach, Dave Kelly eventually progressing to Rushden and Diamonds in a coaching capacity.
1994 saw the establishment of the first Drayton Grange 6 a side tournament held at Ford’s Sports and Social club. Originally ran as a one off senior Charity event for young footballer Ben Mider who had been involved in a road accident and required electronic equipment for his wheelchair. However, the tournament was so well received it was continued annually and today is a 3 day event at Stefen Hill Sports Club attracting well in access of 100 teams including a veteran’s competition.
The 2000’s has seen the club progress further and receiving recognition for their efforts by the FA. From the club’s roots of running one football team in its first season of competitive football, presently the club runs 18 junior sides as well as senior sides, women’s and disable teams. So far this decade the club has been successful in obtaining both it FA Charter Club Standard and the FA Community Club Charter, becoming only the second club in the county to achieve this status. One of the main factors behind this was the successful introduction of girls and disabled football though the work of individuals such Keith Spires, Steve Littlemore and Ricky Deal.
This decade has also seen the newly built Mayfield Park on the new Timken estate become the official home of Drayton Grange after years without a fixed base. The acquisition of these facilities should guarantee the clubs long term future as a FA Community Charter Club providing football provision.
Off the field, the committee has seen major changes to its make-up. Ken Barton (Chairman 1976-2001), Marge Langridge (Secretary 1984-2000) and Theresa Clark (Treasurer 1989-2001) all retired from their positions as the next wave of committee officers and members have come through. Presently, the club Chairman is David Grey in his twentieth season’s involvement with the club with the hardworking Paul White as secretary whose responsibility covers the administration of all the Drayton Grange teams and Lee Wyatt as treasurer in an ever increasing role. Another aspect is that the club also now holds regular manager meetings at Mayfield Park. As the club continues to expand, so does the need to keep everyone informed of what is happening, ensure the collection of subs and to provide a forum for all in the club to contribute.