Billericay local hero recalls club's Wembley heyday

Wednesday 08 Oct 2014
Billericay host Weymouth on Saturday

As FA Cup qualifying resumes on Saturday, one side still competing has quite a history with the trophy's final destination.

Billericay Town host Weymouth in The FA Cup Third Round Qualifying on Saturday. 

While dreams of another Wembley visit in this competition might be fanciful, long-standing club servant Ron Symes has been recalling the club's glory days - when the Essex outfit were regular visitors to Wembley.

Billericay Town v Weymouth

FA Cup
Third Round Qualifying
3pm, Saturday 11 October
New Lodge, Billericay
Winners receive £7,500

The Isthmian Premier side competed in three FA Vase Finals in the 1970s.

Ron, 80 years young, has been associated with the club since he joined as a player in 1959 – and has been a local hero ever since.

“I moved to the area in 1959 and I played for the reserves,” he said. 

“I was with them for a few months but had a bad injury very early on and had to hang up my boots. But I still wanted to be involved.

“Within a year I was fundraising for the supporters’ club. We had a lottery kiosk up the high street and various other things going on.”

Ron has helped out at the volunteer-run club for over 50 years.

Ron celebrates his 80th birthday - at Billericay Town FC of course

During his time there he has run the supporters' club, been vice-chairman, kit man, chief fundraiser, organised fans’ travel, run the bar and even helped dig a coach out of a ditch – all as a volunteer for the club he loves.

But it was during the 1970s that they enjoyed their heyday, with three FA Vase trips to Wembley.

In 1976, the competition’s second year, they beat Stamford 1-0 after extra-time.

The following year they drew 1-1 with Sheffield, and went on to win the replay 2-1 at Nottingham Forest’s City Ground.

Their third visit came in 1979, when they recorded a resounding victory over Almondsbury Greenway - and it was this match that Ron looks back on most fondly.

“They were fantastic days and wonderful memories. We had three trips to Wembley in the 1970s.

“I think the most memorable one for was the last one – the 4-1 win against Almondsbury Greenway. 

"I remember Dougie Young scored a hat-trick and there was almost 20,000 people there. I’ll never forget that day.

Ron presents a man of the match award after a Billericay win

“Back in those Wembley days we had the Trustee Savings Bank as our ticket office and they looked after the sales for the tickets. I remember there were people queuing at the door and right the way down the high street."

Whisper it quietly around the club – but born in the Kings Cross area of London, Ron is actually an Arsenal fan – although admits his affinities are now split equally between Billericay and the Gunners.

And what of the chances of Billericay getting through to the Third Round and drawing Ron’s boyhood club? 

“I don’t know about that,” he laughed. “I’d be quite happy to get to the First Round. Then maybe we could think about what comes next.

Wembley Stadium in 1977. A far cry from how it looks today

“We had Swansea a few years ago and that was great. We had them almost at a replay stage and that was great – and they beat us in the last seconds to make it 2-1.

“But even getting to this stage of the competition means a lot. Anything after that is a bonus.

“We’re a small club, completely run by volunteers like myself. 

"So the prize money The FA Cup provides goes such a long way, and it means a lot to clubs like ours.”

By Jamie Reid Senior Writer