What’s in a name, well to many football fans the club name is everything ultimately its their identity, the recent arguments between MK Dons & AFC Wimbledon over whom owned the nickname ‘Dons’ and it’s associated history proving the point.
There are many iconic and unique names throughout all levels of the game Crewe Alexandra (reputedly named after Princess Alexandra), Preston North End (due to the area of the town they play in) and of course Scotland has the famously named Hamilton Academicals (being formed by the Rector and pupils of the local school).
Non-League football has more than its fair share of interesting and unique club names such as Billingham Synthonia the only know club to be named after an agricultural fertiliser, (Synthonia being a contraction of ‘synthetic ammonia’, a product manufactured by ICI, with whom the club originally had a close connection).
There are plenty of United’s, City’s, Wanderers’s, Town’s, Rangers and even Celtic’s but its iconic names throughout the Non League game that standout and catch your imagination & attention such as the oldest known football club Northwhich Victoria and the interestingly named Swindon Submarine !.
There are even club at all level with names that you won’t find on a map such as Port Vale FC (who take their name from the Port Vale House where the clubs founders held their first meeting) and the Crosby based club, Marine (who take their name from a hotel on the River Mersey sea front at Waterloo).
Our own club name ‘Spartans’, given by the club’s first secretary Fred Stoker in September 1899 because he thought it appropriate to name the team after the Greek Spartan army in the hope that the players would give their all as they went into “battle” on the field of play, isn’t exactly unique throughout the world of sport these days, especially in the USA with American Football’s Michigan State Spartans, there is even an American Football club in Essex is named, Essex Spartans.
As for football we have the well know professional Maltese club Hamrun Spartans and of the we’ve played the Edinburgh Scottish club Spartans.
This summer however one famously named football club will disappear from the game altogether.
As of season 2012/2013 the name Bly Spartans FC will disappear from our game, that wasn’t a typo it is or actually was the name of a football club based in Kent.
However, no matter how much you look you will not find Bly on the UK map because the it doesn’t exist, it really is a case of ‘imitation being the greatest for of flattery’ because the club is actually from Strood in Kent and named as such purely because of our own very Blyth Spartans AFC.
Strood based Bly Spartans FC applied to the Kent FA to change their name to Rochester United FC, club secretary Tony Wheeler recently said:
“We have notified the KCFA about the change and are waiting to hear back. We wanted a name to give us an identity. We looked at several other options but it was a unanimous decision by the committee to become Rochester United.”
It will actually be the clubs 3rd name having been formed in 1982 as old school team called The Templars, with links to the local former Temple School for Boys in Cliff Road in Strood, however the latest name that they are changing from came about as a result of the club’s founder members President Bernard Hurst and club Chairman Dave Archer’s family links to Blyth, Northumberland.
Dave Archer originally came from Blyth, his father had lived in Blyth for some time and Bernard Hurst’s parents were from Blyth and with Archer currently living in a road in Rochester called Bligh Way at the time, the name was an easy choice for them.
Not exactly Croft Park but Bly Spartans (or shoud that be Rochester United) call it home.
The Club entered the Sunday Medway Football League where they played for the next fifteen years progressing to the senior Division.
In the 1992/93 and 1993/94 seasons they played in the All England FA Cup where they reached the last 32 at their first attempt.
The Club applied successfully to the Rochester & District Football League in 1997 and were placed in the 1st Division. In 1998/99 season they won the 1st Division title and were promoted to the Premier Division
In 2000 the Club successfully applied to the Kent County Football League and were placed in Division 3 West. Over the following two seasons the team achieved successive promotions after finishing runners-up in both Division 3 and 2 and were promoted to Division 1 West in 2003.
In 2002 the Club ventured into reserve team football, entering a team into the Medway Messenger Sunday Football League Combination Division. The team managed to win the League and Cup double and also picked up the Sportsmanship Trophy along the way. They were promoted to Division 3 the following season where they finished 4th.
To enable the team to progress a successful application was made to the Kent County Football League in 2004 where they were entered into the Reserve Division West, where they continue to compete.
In 2010/11 the reserve side reached the Final of the Hospital Charity Cup which they won beating Phoenix Sports 3-2 in extra time at Welling United.
The senior side finished runners-up to Orpington at the end of the 2006/07 season, but were successful in the ‘Bill Manklow’ Inter-Regional Challenge Cup Final, beating Bearsted 2-1.
The following season 2007/08, after moving to Division 1 East the 1st team had their most successful season to date, lifting the League title, winning the Les Leckie Cup and the Floodlight Cup, whilst finishing runners-up to Fleet Leisure in the ‘Bill Manklow’ Inter Regional Challenge Cup. The team was promoted to the Premier Division the following season where they finished mid table.
At the end of 2008 it was decided that a youth team would help move the Club forward in its development. In 2009/10 the youth team was formed and entered into the Charlton Athletic Valley Express Kent Youth League. They played in the under 16’s Central Division finishing fourth. In their second season they played in the U18’s Division South where they continue to play, again finishing fourth.
On May 1st 2009 the Club achieved the Charter Standard Club Status of which it is rightly very proud of.
In 2009 Bly Spartans Football Club Chairman Mr David Archer (pictured on the left) was presented with the Football Association Non League Football Ground of the Year Award for Clubs at step 7 and below.
With the help of the Kent County Playing Fields Association and the Committee, in 2010 the Club installed the floodlights to the main pitch. They were unveiled by Mr Paul Peacock of the KCPFA before a friendly match with Gillingham FC in August 2011.
In 2011 the Club successfully applied to the newly formed Kent Invicta Football League and proudly became one of the sixteen founder member Clubs. It proved an extremely successful first campaign with the club winning the league title, and as result of the title win Rochester United FC will play 2012/2013 in the Kent Hurlimann League which is level 5 of the National System. (1 level lower than the league Blyth will play at in 2012/2013).
It would seem that as when Blyth play away games all over the country the name Blyth Spartans AFC attracts support from former Blyth residents drawn by their pride of the towns famous football club and it would seem that is exactly what inspired 2 people with families ties to a town 300+ miles away to name their football club after the famous Blyth Spartans AFC.
Imitation seemingly really is the greatest form of flattery.