Rossendale United F.C. is an English football club based in Newchurch, near Rawtenstall, Lancashire. The club was formed in 1898 and currently plays in the Northern Premier League Division One North. Rossendale United Football Club have had a long and eventful existence which has seen a lot of success, but also long periods of hardship that has brought the club's existence into doubt on many occasions.
1899/1900 brought a third new League, and the first silverware to the club. The Central Lancashire League Championship was won at the first attempt, a feat that would have been repeated the following season but for teams withdrawing part way through the competition meaning the loss of vital points which were to prove costly at the end.
In 1901/02 Rossendale United began their long association with the Lancashire Combination. The club played in the League for 69 years until they left to join the Cheshire County League in 1970. Success was spread pretty thin on the ground during those years, one Division One Championship win in 1926/27, Runners-Up in 1954/55 and a Division Two Championship in 1956/57 being the only League success.
The Combination Cup was also won twice, in 1929 and 1944, with Rossendale bringing home the Lancashire Junior Cup in 1912 thanks to a 2-1 win over Eccles Borough in the Final. It was also during that time the clubs greatest ever goal scorer, Bob Scott, played for Rossendale United. Between 1959 and 1974 he netted 223 goals in just 203 appearances, including an astonishing 72 goals in the 1959/60 season.
It was when the club left the Combination for the Cheshire League in 1970 that success started to come. The Championship was won at the first attempt in 70/71, with Runners-Up spot claimed in 71/72 and 73/74. Eight other trophies were to arrive at Dark Lane in just five seasons. The Cheshire League Cup, Cheshire League Challenge Shield, Lancashire Floodlit Trophy (twice), Lancashire Floodlit League, Lancashire Junior Cup and Ashworth Cup (twice) were won by arguably the greatest Rossendale United side of all time. There were also two memorable FA Cup runs in the early seventies. The Second Round was reached in 1971/72 before defeat by Bolton Wanderers in front of 12,000 at Gigg Lane brought the run to an end. The other was in 75/76 when Shrewsbury Town claimed a controversial 1-0 win in the First Round to sneak through.
The cup run of 75/76 proved to be the last throw of the dice from that successful side as financial difficulties struck the club hard. Matters came to a head in February 1978 when the players walked out the night before the home game against would be Champions Marine. A scratch side managed to score two goals, the only problem being that Marine managed to score 14!
The club staged something of a recovery at the start of the eighties as Glyn Watson managed to bring some respectability back to the side. Trouble wasn’t far away though, and 1981/82 brought a high court battle for the club’s Dark Lane home. During this time Rossendale United played their home games at Droylsden, and despite all the problems had their most successful season for a number of years. They finished fifth in the League and embarked on an FA Trophy run which took them to the Second Round before losing 1-0 at Slough Town.
In 1982 Rossendale United became founder members of the North West Counties Football League, and were placed in the Second Division on ground grading. Promotion to their rightful place in Division One was achieved in 1985/86 when they finished Runners-up to Kirkby Town. This proved to be the start of another successful period in the clubs history. 1986/87 brought a comfortable mid table finish, plus an eventful FA Vase run which eventually ended in Round Five at Emley.
NWCFL Division One Runners-Up spot was claimed in 87/88, Rossendale losing out to Colne Dynamoes on goal difference for the title. They went one better the season after, claiming the Championship and setting a couple of League records on the way. They remained unbeaten in the League until February, a run spanning 22 games, and set a new points record of 56 from just 34 matches (in the days of two points for a win). With the title came promotion to the Northern Premier League First Division (now UniBond League) and a respectable mid-table finish in their first season.
1990/91 proved to be the start of the decline as the club struggled both on and off the pitch. The extra cost of the higher League, combined with falling gates and increasingly poor performances on the field led to the inevitable relegation back to the NWCFL in 1992/93. The club’s final season in the NPL was a shambles. Three managers failed to halt the slide as the campaign ended with 18 straight defeats in the club’s worst ever season.
Back in the NWCFL for the 93/94 season, the club spent heavily to try to gain an immediate return to the NPL. Atherton LR pipped them to promotion as Rossendale finished Runners-up. They did however win the Challenge Cup, beating St Helens Town 1-0 in a drab Final at Gigg Lane. The cost of that season had a tremendous effect on the club. With little or no money, the facilities at Dark Lane fell into disrepair, as the team struggled to avoid relegation.
Rossendale United celebrated their centenary season in 1998/99, and until new owners took over at the end of the campaign, it could well have been the last season in the club’s history. New owners brought a fresh outlook and the clubs fortunes on and off the field took a turn for the better.
The installation of Jim McCluskie as manager saw Rossendale claim the NWCFL Division one title in 2000/01, and following an excellent start in 01/02 ‘Dale topped the NPL Division one table in the early stages of the campaign. Unfortunately, key players were lost through injury and the club dropped down the table but still finished a highly respectable ninth place, their highest ever finish in the non-league pyramid.
The next three seasons saw a procession of managers at the club as they all tried, and failed to repeat the success of McCluskie’s side. 2004/05 should have seen the club relegated back to the North West Counties League but an off the pitch reprieve saved them from the drop as they retained their UniBond status.
Following a disappointing start to the 2005/06 season, the board acted swiftly to bring in former Ramsbottom United manager Derek Egan in an attempt to revive the club’s fortunes. Egan managed this and at one point a place in the end of season play-offs looked likely as the side embarked on an impressive run off results.