Football in Bracknell
History & Nostalgia

A brief history Wokingham & Emmbrook on the road

The Sumas are coming home for good after a near 20 year nomadic existence

A brief history Wokingham & Emmbrook on the road

Wokingham & Emmbrook should be back home for the 2019/20 season after the club revealed it had been granted funding for improvements to the Lowther Road ground.

The Sumas have been playing first team matches at Larges Lane in Bracknell for the 2018/19 season after the Football Association clamped down on ground grading at step 6.

Notable victims of the FA’s cull include Finchampstead who are now at step 7 of the English Football Pyramid and Penn & Tylers Green who are currently playing home games away from their French School Meadows ground.

A report in the Wokingham Paper this week revealed the club had received approval for Football Foundation funding to improve the Lowther Road ground. These improvements will include floodlights and a stand as well as refurbishments to the bar.

Wokingham & Emmbrook in action at Lowther Road
Wokingham & Emmbrook in action at Lowther Road. Photo: Clive McNelly.

The club were initially granted planning permission to improve Lowther Road in 2016 and now after nearly 20 years on the road the club looks set to come home for good.

In the early 1990s, as Wokingham Town the club were on the verge of reaching the top level of non league football, then known as the GM Vauxhall Conference (and now the National League) finishing 5th, 11th, 2nd, 11th and 5th between 1988 and 1992 in the Isthmian League Premier Division.

However, a subsequent slide down the division’s resulted in the club struggling in the lower reaches of the Isthmian League, finishing 15th of 22 in Division Three in 2002.

Related: Following Wokingham Town home and away – a love letter to non-league football

The clubs ground at Finchampstead Road was sold in 1999 to developers, beginning a nomadic existence for the club which merged with Thames Valley Premier League side Emmbrook Sports in 2004.

During that period, the Sumas ground shared with neighbours Bracknell Town as well as far afield as Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Surrey.

  • The Runnymede Stadium – Egham Town
  • Wilks Park – Flackwell Heath
  • Larges Lane – Bracknell Town – on two occasions
  • The Triangle – Henley Town
  • Elm Park – Reading FC
  • Stag Meadow – Windsor

During that time, the club did play at least six seasons at Lowther Road in the Hellenic League, as well as at Cantley Park in Wokingham and in 2008 were given permission to build a stand in the park.

According to a Get Wokingham article on plans for the town that never took off: “In 2007, the football club came up with a plan to build a 250-seat stand at Cantley Park in Milton Road, Wokingham.

“The plan caused a huge stir amongst people living near the ground, who said it would blight their neighbourhood with noise, litter, extra traffic and inconsiderate parking.

“Lengthy protests and negotiations took place, but eventually in 2008, the club were given permission to build the stand in the park.

“However, for reasons no-one quite understood, the council didn’t hand over a lease to the football club.

“As a result, the Football Foundation did not release the funds needed for the project, which subsequently collapsed.”

Further reading: Nick Judd writes for TheInsideLeft blog on a visit to Finchampstead Road in 1988

Mark Ashwell remembers the famous FA Cup tie when Cardiff City came to Berkshire

What are your memories of Wokingham’s time on the road? Are you pleased they are returning home? Let us know in the comments below.

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Tom Canning

Tom is the co-editor of FootballinBracknell. He has played at the lowest possible level of football. In real life Tom works for Trinity Mirror. Manager of Binfield Ladies in the Thames Valley Women's League.

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