2011 to the Present Day ( 2017)
History 1 of 5

1. 2011 to the Present Day ( 2017)

2011 TO THE PRESENT DAY ( 2022 )

Things have changed a lot since 1879 and even since 2011. At the end of 2010 the then Assistant Manager Neil Tooth asked if the Club could use it's Rotary connections to find somewhere they could train throughout the season. The Board undertook a survey and it was agreed with funding from within the Club to spend £400,000 on a 3G artificial pitch as the main stadium pitch. At that time ( and it still is ) this was a massive project for a Club at that level. The ground was levelled and a very efficient drainage system installed before the 3G carpet was placed on top. All of this was done in record time from early May when the season ended and work commenced, to mid July when it was completed, in time for pre season friendlies.

The 3G pitch has completely changed the fortunes of the Club. On the playing side, no matches are ever postponed due to bad weather ( 2 were postponed in the first season due to heavy snow ) and the level pitch ensures good passing football can be played ( by both sides ).

On the commercial side, the pitch is hired out to other teams for matches and many teams and other organisations use it for training, 6 a side matches and tournaments. The income generated is used to maintain the pitch ( including money put aside for a fund to replace the pitch after 10 years approximately ), staff the operation and put money into the Club to financially support the 1st team budget. In the 2014-5 season the 1000th 11 a side match was played on it.

Chris Keogh stood down as manager at the start of the 2012-3 season and Assistant Manager Neil Tooth took over as 1st team manager.
In that season the Club again famously missed out on a play off place on goal difference in injury time of the last game of the season when leading against Leek a penalty was conceded and the match drawn.

However, the Club finally achieved, what many thought they never would, and after leading the Evostick Northern Premier Division 1 South for most of the season, fell away just after Christmas 2014 but rallied and finally made the play offs in 4th place. Two superb performances, away at Newcastle Town in the semi finals and away at Leek in the final ( in front of a crowd of 1200 ), when the Royals won 2-0, meant that the Club took their place in the NPL Premier division for the 2015-6 season.

Again many doubters said they should not have been promoted and would certainly immediately be relegated, but they ended their first season at step 3 in a comfortable 12th position.

In addition, the Cup hoodoo over the last 20 years was finally broken in this season when several good victories eventually led to an appearance in the 1st round proper of the FA Trophy at home to Conference Premier side Barrow. With a late breakaway goal from Barrow, after a good penalty shout for the Royals, they lost 1-0.

Also during this landmark period the Club has acquired their own brass band, choir and avid supporters group called the Ultras. They are the envy of most teams the Royals play and certainly add to the match atmosphere. In the bad floods of 2015/6 some of them made the long trip to Ramsbottom United in Lancashire who play in the NPL Premier alongside the Royals, to help clean up their football ground after extensive flooding. This caused quite a stir in the non league football world and led to more justified publicity for them and the Club.

Season 2016-17 proved to be a relegation fight all season and in November 2016 manager Neil Tooth was replaced by former Dutch player and WBA stalwart Richard Sneekes and his assistant Steve Hinks. Relegation was averted on the very last day of the season with a fighting 0-0 draw at Workington.

During early 2017 there was heavy investment at the ground with new toilets in the Clubhouse, new 100 seater stand adjacent to the Clubhouse and a new triple turnstile block. During the close season prior to the 2017-18 season the 3G pitch was lifted, a new base of tarmac installed and then relaid to ensure a perfect playing surface for many years to come.

The 2017 – 2018 season mirrored that of the previous year; again, Sutton struggled to pick up league points and were knocked out of the FA Cup and Trophy in the early rounds by lower league teams. At the beginning of 2018 with the team having only 5 wins and 5 draws from 29 games and a goal difference of minus 48 the decision was once again taken to change the management. Neil Tooth (Toothy) was reappointed with a new management team and reinvigorated the team doubling the number of wins and being competitive in almost all the remaining games. However, the deficit inherited was too great and relegation became something of a formality.

Relegation saw us competing in the EVO-STICK League South: Div.1 Central for the 2018/19 season. Toothy completely rebuilt his squad and, unsurprisingly, this took time to come together and there were some early season disappointments. However, given a little time, and how often have Managers at all levels craved for that, the new squad with its balance of experience and youth got to grips with the league and two very good runs in the season saw us finish 5th and qualify for the play-offs. This saw us lose 3–2 after extra time to Bromsgrove Sporting in front of a crowd of 1,850 in what was possibly the best and most exciting game of the season. Other highlights were a good FA Cup run which saw us beat Rushall Olympic of the South Premier League Central after a replay before losing to Alfreton Town of the National League North in another replay. We had a little earlier lost on penalties to another National League North Team, Leamington, in the Birmingham Senior Cup. Our last game of the season was against Boldmere St. Michaels in the final of the Walsall Senior Cup where we lost 2 – 0. Coming so close after the play-off semi-final this just proved a game to far for the team.

With a further revision of the BetVictor NPL structure the 2019/20 season saw us back in the North East section after one season away “down south”. This was an opportunity to re-acquaint ourselves with a number of former adversaries, while for many of the Club Players, Officials and Supporters it was an opportunity for a number of first-time visits to some clubs. Again, Toothy’s philosophy for the season was to blend experience with the continuing development of, in particular, U21 players and many were given the chance to play at senior level. We had considerable success in the FA Cup with a win over Gresley Rovers, while Redditch and Kettering were beaten after replays. The dream ended with a 1 – 0 defeat to a very good Boston United team in the 3rd Qualifying Round. There was some success in the FA Trophy with wins over Yaxley and Stafford rangers before a defeat at the hands of Hednesford Town. The League season started slowly, the cup runs taking a toll, but the results improved as the season progressed including 6 wins on the bounce in February and March and gave hope that the final weeks of the season might see a play-off place. However, it wasn’t to be and in March the season was terminated and all football activity ceased with the onset of the Covid pandemic.

Sadly the 2020-21 season was significantly compromised by the continuing COVID-19 pandemic which had a significant impact on all clubs; not just from a playing perspective but survival became a real issue for many across all levels of football. The season didn’t start until September and was curtailed and then cancelled in November. We had a slow start losing the first games in both the FA Cup and FA Trophy, while only 7 games were possible in the league and we finished with a record of 3 wins, 2 draws and 2 defeats.

After losing last season we approach 2021-22 with anticipation, expectation and a little trepidation. Budgets have been compromised due the closure of facilities, after 2 difficult seasons a number of players have retired or moved on and some supporters (the life blood of clubs at our level) are uncertain about attending games. Nevertheless, we have retained key players from last year’s squad, a number of former U21 players have matured well and are in contention. As always, our Manager, Toothy, has been watching the local scene and has made some key signings and there is a great enthusiasm for the new season. During the lockdown the Board continued to invest in the Club’s future with a number of facility improvements and a commitment to other long-term developments. We also look ed to continue the total development of the club as the Ladies and Junior sections go from strength to strength and we are committed to working with the local community.

2021/2022 began with a 2-0 home win against Soham Town, which proved to be one of only a handful of wins in 2021 in what became a difficult season for the Royals. Under Neil Tooths leadership only one more win was recorded before the end of October against Sporting Khalsa, and following a 5-1 defeat to Ashton United in the FA Trophy resulted In Toothy and his assistants resigning as the management team. Ross Thorpe was appointed as the new manager following a short stint as interim manager, with Steve Hinks later joining as assistant. A resurgence in December saw the Royals record their first away wins at Soham Town and Coleshill Town and further wins at home against Stamford and Shepshed also followed. The key game to avoid relegation came in a home tie which saw an incredible attendance of 823 witnessed a crucial 3-0 win against fellow strugglers Wisbech Town. This run of results helped the Royals beat the drop with games to spare on 37 points. On guaranteeing step 4 for the Royals, Ross Thorpe resigned as first team manager to follow other career options. The Royals appointed former Chasetown and Shepshed Dynamo manager David Stringer to take the Royals forward in the 2022/2023 season. Aswell as a new management team, it was also an important pre-season for the Royals as the 3G pitch has been replaced following the original being installed back in 2011 along with the new LED lights and a refurbished main stand ready for the 2022/2023 season. We look forward to the challenge ahead in the new season under David Stringer.

All in all a lot has happened since 1879!