REVIEW OF THE DECADE

The Tudors Supporters Club looks back at the last ten years in the life of Hemel Hempstead Town FC.

Ten years ago this week, The Tudors were halfway through a Southern League Premier Division campaign. Our most local opponent in the league was Bedford Town (Berkhamsted Town had folded the previous season and we were two years away from competing in the same division as St Albans), current gaffer Sammy Moore was playing for Dover in the Conference South, Chairman Dave Boggins was still sporting a mullet and there was no Tudors Supporters Club – the travelling hoards of the Tudor Army consisted mainly of whoever Dilesh could fit in to his car.

Fast forward a decade and Hemel are now an established National League South club, have been in the draw for the FA Cup First Round three times (playing one First Round tie), smashed Vauxhall Road attendance records and set records in a Southern League Premier Division championship winning season. So how did we get to where we are now…

Dennis Green was appointed as Hemel manager in the summer of 2009/10, with The Tudors aiming to improve of the previous seasons Play-Off defeat at Farnborough under interim manager Paul Byrne. However, Hemel and Green parted company after just 3 wins in 12 competitive games (8 league, 4 cup) and he was replaced by former Barnet ‘keeper Gary Phillips for his second spell in the charge at Vauxhall Road. Hemel ended the last decade with a home win against Bedford Town, having ended a run of four games without a win, but started 2010 with a 3-0 defeat away to eventual league winners Farnborough. Over the next three months, Hemel recorded just one league win and Philips became our second managerial casualty in March 2010, making way for Hemel player Dean Brennan to take charge – Brennan had recently returned to Vauxhall Road for his second spell as a player and made six appearances under Philips. As the manager, Brennan also only picked up one win in the remainder of the season, although Hemel did win the St Mary’s Cup and the Herts Charity Cup, against Oxhey Jets and Broxbourne Borough respectively. However, the bad league form left The Tudors in a relegation position and it took a reprieve for Hemel to retain their Premier Division status for 2010/11.

During the summer of 2010, Hitchin manager Colin Payne was appointed the new Tudors manager in time for the 2010/11 season which saw the Tudors celebrate 125 years in existence. The season started well but inconsistent form saw Hemel finish 15th in the league.

Hemel 2010-11
The Tudors squad, 2010/11

Payne led the team in to the 2011/12 however with Hemel firmly attached to a relegation position he was replaced in October by former Salisbury manager Tommy Widdrington. Despite the team not enjoying much better form under Widdrington, there was at least a slow progress so it was a great disappointment to the club when he left his position after just four months to take up a job at Eastbourne. Mark Eaton and Alan Biley formed a partnership to manage the Tudors however their best efforts could not pull the club to safety and relegation loomed after finishing 19th.

Towering above everyone here is Oliver Hawkins, signed by Hemel in 2012/13. Ollie was a slow burner but was a stand out player by the time Hemel were competing in the National League South; after being signed by League Two Dagenham & Redbridge he went on to be transferred to Portsmouth, where he scored the winning penalty in the Checkatrade Trophy Final shoot out against Sunderland in March 2019.

Reprieved from relegation, Hemel appointed Dean Brennan for his second spell as manager for the 2012/13 season. Brennan brought in a lot of new faces in to the squad and after a flying start to the season Hemel found themselves top of the league table, where they spent a total of 19 games before a dip in form saw eventual champions Leamington take over. Hemel finished the table in a club record fourth place and made it to the play-offs, facing third place Chesham United in the semi-final. Hemel won 0-2 at Chesham (this game was voted by Hemel fans as the best atmosphere at a Hemel game during this decade) and set up a home tie against Gosport Borough in the final. 2254 eager fans packed in to Vauxhall Road to watch the game that was to decide Hemel’s fate; Gosport went 2-0 up in the first half but Hemel fought right to the end and scored 2 late goals to draw level. After a goal-less extra-time, Hemel lost on penalties. Hemel did gain some silverware though, winning the Herts Senior Cup for the first time since 1926, beating Potter Bar in the final. Hemel’s last honour this season was the Sir Stanley Rous Memorial Trophy, awarded by the Herts FA to the club or individual that has brought the most prestige to Hertfordshire.

Chesham v Hemel 2013 (3)
The Tudor Army at Chesham United for the Play-Off Semi Final

It was the 2012/13 season that fans started to organise travel to away games, with the teams success generating more interest in supporters following The Tudors on the road. Subsidies from the Tudors Chairman, Management team and players allowed fans to travel at a discount and as the organised coaches became better organised and more frequent, the Tudors Supporters Club was formed. By November 2013, the TSC had a committee and was arranging fund raising events in order to become self sufficient and independent of the Football Club.

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An early TSC trip, with Tudors fans at Truro

2013/14 was a fantastic season for Hemel.

The Tudors got off to a flying start, despite losing the opening league game at Hitchin, Hemel went on to win ten consecutive games and went on to spend the majority of the season well clear at the top of the Southern League Premier Division league table. Hemel were also in the draw for the FA Cup First Round proper for the first time since 1938 after drawing 3-3 with Conference South high fliers Sutton United, but unfortunately lost the replay. With just the league to concentrate on, Hemel went on to break records with striker Ben Mackey scoring a club record 43 goals in all competitions and ‘keeper Laurie Walker keeping the most clean sheets by a single goalie in Hemel’s history. The Tudors had the Southern League’s highest average attendances and Vauxhall Road entertained nearly two thousand fans against both St Albans City and Chesham United. It was at home to Chesham on Easter Monday that Hemel lifted the Southern League Premier Division winners shield, having secured the championship away to Hungerford two days previously. Click here for a much more detailed summary of the successful 2013/14 season.

It was in early 2014 that we welcomed the “German Tudor Army” to a Hemel game for the first time. Dusseldorf ground-hoppers Marcel, Alex and Stefan joined the TSC coach trip to our away game at Poole, having selected an English non-league team at random to watch. Since then, our German friends have attended Hemel games frequently and have introduced other associates of theirs to The Tudors.

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Marcel, Stefan and Alex with then-Tudors boss Dean Brennan in the Tudors Tavern, after our 2014 game at Poole

It was the start of a whole new era for Hemel Hempstead Town FC in August 2014, the clubs first season in the second tier of the English non-league game. The Tudors first ever game in the Conference South was an away win at Basingstoke Town, however stuttering form during the seasons early stages led to numerous changes of playing personnel, with some of the previous seasons championship winning side leaving Vauxhall Road to make way for some more experienced players and some young professionals loaned from some of the area’s leading clubs. Hemel’s form improved as the season developed and the club was still capable of reaching the play-off’s within a few weeks of the season ending. A respectable 9th place finish was accompanied by cup final wins in the Herts Senior Cup and the St Mary’s Cup, while club record runs were achieved in the FA Cup (first round) and FA Trophy (third round).

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Dave got to wear his snazzy red suit for the big game at Bury.

In 2015/16, inconsistent form and many injuries saw The Tudors exit all the cups early on and at one stage there was a threat of a relegation scrap – however fantastic late season form saw another record finish, sixth in the table, with defeat at home to Whitehawk on the final game of the season seeing our visitors secure the final play-off spot over us. During the season, the management team of Dean Brennan and Stuart Maynard became the longest serving Manager(s) at Hemel for thirty years. During this season, Tudors ‘keeper Jamie Butler went viral and generated a lot of interest in Hemel FC when he scored a last minute equaliser against Sutton United at Vauxhall Road; click here for more detail.

The 2016/17 season was a significant one at Vauxhall Road, as it was the twentieth season Chairman Dave Boggins led the club as Chairman. On the pitch, the momentum gained in recent seasons slowed down, with inconsistent form during the opening stages of the season making a push for promotion highly unlikely by the halfway stage. There were also quick exits from the major cup competitions. However, the return of former captain Jordan Parkes and the recruitment of some key players via loan signings led Hemel on a mid-season charge up the table, at one stage being the division’s form sides as the play-off’s became an achievable target. The change in fortunes didn’t last though, and as form dipped in the latter stages, The Tudors season resulted in a 12th place finish – lower than expected but not unreasonable for a club still establishing itself at this level of the game.

The Tudors bounced back in 2017/18, in a season which saw the National League South increase play-off positions to the second to seventh placed sides in the final league table. With the prospect of a play-off position much more achievable, a competitive season saw many clubs fancying their chances at promotion. Despite some inconsistent form, a more settled Hemel squad than previous seasons did well enough to spend much of the season in the play-off’s and even in the latter stages of the campaign automatic promotion was still with sights. Eventually, a new club record finish of fifth place in the National League South secured a home play-off “elimination” tie (effectively a “quarter-final) against Braintree, who beat Hemel on penalties on their way to winning the play-offs. The Tudors reached the final of the Herts Senior Cup this season but conceded the final against Hitchin Town, due to Hemel staff’s concerns about the safety of their players on the playing surface of the neutral venue. This season also saw landmark appearances for Tudors players Jordan Parkes and Kyle Connolly who each reached 200 appearances for Hemel, whilst the management team of Dean Brennan and Stuart Maynard took charge of their 300th game.

2018/19 was one of the most eventful at Vauxhall Road for a few years, with some significant changes at the club. Long serving management team Brennan and Maynard departed Hemel for league rivals Billericay Town in September; however this was seen as a good opportunity to implement some changes at the club after Hemel had won just 3 of the opening 10 league games and suffered a run of form that was the worst in Hemel’s era at the current level of the game. Tudors Captain Jordan Parkes took temporary charge of the team, four consecutive wins was followed by four games without a win before former Luton player Joe Deeney was appointment as Manager. After a bright start, Hemel’s form dipped as the season progressed and, under Deeney, the team endured a poor run of form that equalled the worst ever run suffered previously during the opening stages of this season. ‘Keeper Laurie Walker, who was the fans player of the year, made his 200th appearance for Hemel in the final league game of the season; for the club, this season culminated with a 16th place finish – our worst at this level of the game. The season ended with a Herts Charity Cup final defeat against Hitchin which followed with Deeney being relieved of his role.

Following an Twitter poll of eight great Hemel goals scored in the last decade, Tudors fans voted Hemel’s third goal at Dulwich, a fantastic long range effort by Jordan Parkes, as the best:

During the summer of 2019, former Stevenage, Wimbledon and Leyton Orient player Sammy Moore, who had managed league rivals Concord Rangers in 2018/19, was appointed Hemel manager. Almost the entire existing squad was released, as Moore (partnered with Jack Midson, another former Wimbledon player who also spent a brief loan spell at Hemel in 2004/05) set about rebuilding a team capable of challenging at the right end of the table. There was much controversy amongst fans as popular long serving players such as Jordan Parkes, Laurie Walker and Kyle Connolly departed, however some impressive signings and a flying start to the season soon had the Tudor Army enthused for the new regime. As 2019 and the decade came to an end, Hemel’s form dipped and for the third time since the summer of 2018, the run of gaining just two points in six games was equalled, with derby-day defeat at St Albans on boxing day being the low point. However, The Tudors head in to 2020 on the back of a 1-1 draw with in-form Slough with an air of optimism still over the club. Maybe the new decade will provide Dave with another opportunity to bust out that snazzy red suit and cowboy hat…

Hemel Hempstead Town FC, honours and achievements 2010 to 2019:

Herts Charity Cup:
Winners: 2009/10

Herts Senior Cup
Winners: 2012/13, 2014/15

St Mary’s Cup:
Winners: 2009/10, 2014/15.

Southern League Cup
Runners Up: 2010/11

Sir Stanley Rous Memorial Trophy (This honour is awarded to the club or individual that has brought the most prestige to Hertfordshire)
Winners: 2012/13, 2013/14

Southern League
Premier Division Play-Off runners up: 2012/13
Premier Division Winners: 2013/14

National League South
Play-Off First Round: 2017/18

FA Cup
First Round: 2014/15

Games Won: 248; Drawn: 130; Lost: 195; Goals For: 415; Goals Against: 316.

Most Appearances: Jordan Parkes: 280; Kyle Connolly: 245; Danny May: 203; Laurie Walker: 200; Dave Pearce: 180.

“Dangerous” Dave Pearce (right) celebrates scoring for The Tudors. Dave won numerous Player of the Year awards at Vauxhall Road and was one of just two players retained (along with Danny May) by Dean Brennan when he set about building a SLP championship winning side.

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