The first club in Guildford were formed in 1877 as Guildford FC., known to everyone as the “Pinks”. They were an amateur side and played their home matches at the Woodbridge Road Sports Ground. They had a fund raising match in October 1920 against Brentford F.C. and a crowd of almost 3,000 watched the game. This led to a number of people meeting with a view to forming a new professional club and by the end of 1920 Guildford United was formed. In May 1921 they were accepted into the Southern Football League, then the equivalent of the National Football Conference League today. At the same time land had been purchased in Josephs Road and “United” were able to kick-off the 1921-22 season with a home game against Reading Reserves. Playing in green and white the hosts won 2-0 with over 5,000 paying for admission. That early success did not last long however and the team finished 17th out of 19 at the end of that season.
1927 saw the coming of Guildford as a Diocese and with it the building of Guildford Cathedral. It was believed that Guildford would become a city so the Club changed its name and the “City” was born. At this time they also changed the colours to red and white stripes.
Although they had little success in the League in these years the FA Cup bought a taste of glory in 1928-29 when, having battled through the qualifying rounds, they were drawn at home to Queens Park Rangers from the Third Division in the First Round Proper and beat them 4-2 in front of a crowd of nearly 8,000. In the next round they were at home again to Bournemouth, also from the Third Division but this time a crowd in excess of 8,500 saw the visitors romp home 5-1.
Despite these excellent gates and the highest League finish to date the Club was facing a financial crisis at the end of the season – this was to be a recurrent theme throughout the Club’s history. However, they managed to soldier on albeit with little success. Then at the start of the 1936/37 season the Club made the massive decision to turn full-time professional, appointing Haydn Green as manager. That season they finished 4th but next season things got even better. 1937/38 saw victory over League side Reading in the FA Cup before a defeat at Doncaster Rovers but in the League they were even more successful winning 22 and drawing 5 of their 34 games to finish as Champions for the first time. They nearly repeated the feat the following year. In an expanded League they played 44 games, won 30 and drew 6, finishing runners-up to Colchester United by 1 point, scoring 126 goals and conceding 52 in the process. Indeed the League game at home to Colchester on Easter Monday saw City win 3-1 in front of the highest crowd ever for a League game at Joseph’s Road 9,443. Earlier that season City had attracted an even bigger crowd to Joseph’s Road for an FA Cup 1st Round Replay against local rivals Aldershot F.C.. 9,932 saw City lose a nail-biting game 4-3.
This successful period was brought to a premature conclusion by the out break of the War and when competitive football started again in 1945/46 City reverted to part-time professional status but did not enter the Southern League that season due to the poor state of the ground which had been under Army control during the War. On re-entering the Southern League the following season they again finished runners-up, this time to Gillingham F.C. but there followed 3 seasons of mediocrity. 1950/51 was a more successful season with the team finishing 3rd in the League and reaching the Final of the Southern League Cup for the first time. The opponents were Merthyr Tydfil F.C. and in a two-leg match City won the first leg at Joseph's Road 4-3 but lost 3-1 away from home. The attendance for the home leg was 6,714 and gate receipts were £451.00. The following season they again finished runners up in the Southern League Cup to Hereford United and finished 4th in the League. This season also saw the longest trip ever undertaken by the City when they were drawn away to Gateshead F.C. in the 2nd Round of the FA Cup. An estimated 5,000 supporters made the overnight trip to the North East of England in December (no motorways in those days – and no heaters on coaches either) and were part of a 15,000 crowd that saw City dominate the game but lose 2-0. By the end of that season the club were over £10,000 in debt and City sold Jimmy Langley to Leeds for £2,000. Langley went from Leeds F.C. to Brighton and Hove Albion, then to Fulham F.C. where he gained 3 England Caps before finishing his League career at Queen’s Park Rangers in 1967.
The 1952/53 season was a poor one and ex Scottish international Archie Macaulay was brought in as player-manager for the following season and although initial progress was slow he started building a side that would win the title in 1955-56. However, he left before the end of the season leaving Bill Thompson to take over and lead the side to the Championship. In 1957/58 the club avoided relegation by one place and in 1958/59 the League expanded from 22 to 35 clubs and the League was regionalised. City were in the South Eastern zone and could only finish 15th out of 17.
For 1959/60 the League revised again, this time to a Premier and First Division. City’s miserable time the year before meant they started in the lower Division. Now the Club came under the management of Albert Tennant who had been a coach at Chelsea F.C.. His first task was to reorganise the Club and get a side together to win promotion straight into the Premier League. Four went up, City finished 5th but Exeter City Reserves who finished 4th decided to withdraw, leaving City to be promoted. 1961/62 saw Tennant start to build a side and although they could only finish that campaign in 15th place the next four seasons saw finishes of 3rd, 4th, 4th and 2nd: on the last occasion only 2 points behind champions Weymouth.. In the 1962/63 season they also lifted the Southern League Cup for the first time, beating Nuneaton Borough 2-1 on aggregate over two legs.
Despite this success by the summer of 1965 it seemed that finance was again a major problem at the Club. The reserve side was scrapped and 1965/66 saw the manager facing a strict budget which left him short of players, resulting in a disappointing 16th place finish, although they did manage to reach the final of the Southern League Cup again where they were beaten by Yeovil Town 2-1 on aggregate. 1966/67 saw the Club recover somewhat to finish 6th in the League and to improve on the previous year by winning the Southern League Cup with a 2-1 aggregate success over Barnet F.C..
1967/68 saw a 5th place finish in the League and a notable FA Cup run. Drawn away to Brentford the City were leading 2-1 when the match was abandoned during the second half because of snow. A second trip to Griffin Park ended with a 2-2 draw and meant a replay at Joseph’s Road in front of 7500 fans who roared City to a famous 2-1 victory. They were drawn at home to 4th Division Newport County in the 2nd Round but were beaten 1-0 in front of 8800 fans. Goalkeeper Peter Vasper was sold to Norwich City for £5000 and it was thought that this money and the money from the Cup games might ease the Club’s financial problems but they were worse than many had realised. The following season saw the end of Albert Tennant’s nine year reign and the Club finished the season bottom of the League and were relegated.
1969/70 saw Bill Coldwell take over as manager and in his second season the Club were crowned First Division Champions and promoted. This was also the year that Joseph’s Road was sold and it really signalled the beginning of the end. The following year they reached the 2nd Round of the FA Cup, visiting Third Division Shrewsbury Town, for which a special train was laid on for the fans, where they narrowly lost 2-1. However League results were poor and relegation looked certain until the manager resigned and player Terry More took over. An exciting back half of the season saw the Club win 12 and draw 2 out of 16 games to finish a respectable 12th. What is more the football was so good attendances topped the 3000 mark on 3 occasions – something that hadn’t happened for years.
The inevitable was only being delayed and although in 1972/73 the Club again reached the first round of the FA Cup where a visit to Watford F.C. ended with a 4-2 defeat, they could only finish 18th in the League. At this time the Club needed gates of 4000 to break even and were not even getting a quarter of that at most games.
1973/74 saw a new board of directors in place with Bill Bellerby elected President and Club stalwart Darby Watts as player manager. A bright start to the season soon gave way to increasing despair amongst the supporters and the mood was transferred to the players as it became apparent that the new board did not intend to fight to keep the club in Guildford, and despite the best efforts of Mr Bellerby and the long standing Chairman of the Supporters’ Club John Daborn, it was soon announced that the Club was to merge with Dorking F.C. and play at Meadowbank. The final game at Joseph’s Road was played on 12th February 1974 when the City beat Folkestone 2-0 in front of 625 fans. After 53 years senior football at Joseph’s Road had come to an end.
The re-emergence of Guildford City F.C. has been achieved in a relatively short space of time as the club was only founded in 1996. At that time the club was known as AFC Guildford, and it was formed with the sole purpose of bringing senior football back to the town of Guildford.
At that time Burpham F.C were playing in the Surrey Premier League when the Mayor of Guildford, in consultation with the Burpham F.C. committee, enquired as to whether the club would be prepared to change its name and move to the Spectrum Leisure Centre in Guildford. The Mayor had been an avid fan of Guildford City F.C. which at one time played in the Southern League, but folded in 1974. The only senior club appearing near the town after that being Guildford & Worplesdon, who played in the Combined Counties League in the early eighties, but who also folded after a few years due to ground grading problems. The Spectrum provided a venue which had the potential for development into senior football and already had floodlighting, (used for the Athletics arena).
Therefore in consultation and agreement with Burpham F.C, AFC Guildford was formed and moved to playing football at the Spectrum Leisure Centre, Guildford. The association with Burpham F.C. continued and the two clubs ran under the same banner for several seasons, with AFC Guildford playing in the Surrey Premier League, which eventually became the Surrey Senior League, and then Division One of the Combined Counties League. AFC Guildford were crowned champions of Division One at the end of the 2003-04 season and gained their first ever major honour.
On that basis promotion was obtained into the Combined Counties League Premier Division, with the 1st Team negotiating a ground-share with Cranleigh F.C. whilst the Spectrum Arena was being upgraded to a standard acceptable for Combined Counties Premier Division football. That work was eventually completed in early November 2004 which allowed for AFC Guildford to return to their home ground near to the town centre.
In the 2005-06 season the club changed its name to Guildford United, which does have some local historical significance, as the senior Guildford team during the 1920s also played under that name. However the club has now acquired the name of Guildford City F.C and in doing so has returned the once famous name back into senior football, after an absence of over 30 years.
Further improvement work at Spectrum has now been undertaken which provides for a Covered Stand with 135 seats, a new officials changing room and toilets for public use. The ground is known locally as the 'Guildford Goalodrome'. The improvements will allow the club to sustain its present status and when the time is right, progress to the next level.
Over the next 5 years it is the clubs ambition to build a purpose built football ground within the Borough of Guildford, allowing Guildford City F.C to progress to the top flight of non-league football, and eventually move into the Football League.
In late 2006, Nick Tegg returned as the manager of Guildford City. He replaced Dave Vaughan. This turned out to be a poor season on the pitch, with the club finishing 2nd from bottom, but relegation was avoided. The summer of 2007 saw more changes with Shahid Azeem becoming the chairman and former Woking players Scott Steele and Lloyd Wye becoming manager and coach. Steele and Wye had a spectacular first and (unfortunately) only season with the club steering City to second in the league and into the quarter-finals of the Surrey Senior Cup, notching over 100 goals in the process. Unfortunately the pair left the club in July 2008, citing the poor facilities at the Spectrum as a contributory factor in their decision. Days later, former Dorking FC manager Andy Lunn was announced as their replacement.