The 1995/96 season was the culmination of four years of top-four finishes in the Wessex League Premier Division for Thatcham Town as the Kingfishers finally got their hands on the league title.
Thatcham – led by manager Jim Greenwood – pipped AFC Lymington to the top spot by a point after winning their final game of the season 2-0 against Whitchurch United at Waterside Park with goals coming from Nick Voller and an own goal off United defender Jim Macey.
You can imagine supporters at the time making could use of the song ‘We all follow the Thatcham, over land and sea’ with the Wessex Premier playing host to three Isle of Wight sides – Ryde, Cowes Sports and East Cowes.
Nick Voller, the opening goalscorer in the title-winning came is currently manager of Hellenic League Newbury whole Chris Ferdinand played for Mortimer last season – he is also the dad of Binfield’s Wembley goalscorer Liam Ferdinand who is currently tearing it up in the Southern League with the Met Police.
Finally, and we reckon this might be the best spot of all, the Thatcham team at the time included a player by the name of Steve Kean – the man who was appointed manager of Blackburn Rovers in 2010, taking over from Sam Allardyce.
According to Kean’s Wikipedia page, he had worked as a coach at Reading and Fulham where he was assistant to Chris Coleman, he also had roles with the legendary Welsh boss at Real Sociedad and Coventry City. Crucially though, he was familiar with West Berkshire having played for Newbury Town between 1993 and 1994.
An extract from the Reading Evening Post on Tuesday 7th May from the final game of the season says: “Voller’s diving header came a minute before half-time from skipper Steve Kean’s corner after a thunderous Chris Ferdinand volley was tipped over by Steve Bloomfield [Whitchurch goalkeeper].
“Kean also played his part in the second when his through ball for Neil Baker was knocked in by United defender Jim Macey.”
At the time, the league was sponsored by Jewson and known as the Jewson Wessex League.
What happened next
Lymington might have been pipped to the post, but they made up for it winning the title in consecutive seasons before a merger with New Milton Town in 1998, they won the league again that season as well as again in 2005 making the club in its various arrangements one of the leagues most successful. The club changed its name again to New Milton Town in 2007 and now plays in the Wessex League Division One.
Christchurch have hit a few national headlines in the last couple of seasons with a good run to the FA Cup Third Qualifying Round in 2020/21, losing eventually to National League South Dulwich Hamlet as well as going deep in the FA Vase. They remain a Wessex Premier side.
Looking for the club that’s pushed on the most from that season though, you’ve of course got Thatcham’s brilliant FA Vase win, AFC Totton reaching as high as the Southern League Premier Division between 2011 and 2014, but the plaudits have to go to Eastleigh who’ve climbed the pyramid successfully and are now holding their own in the National League alongside the likes of Notts County, Wrexham and our own Maidenhead United.
Portsmouth Royal Navy changed its name to United Services [US] Portsmouth in 2004 while Andover sadly folded in 2011 after five seasons in the Southern League.
And Thatcham? We’ve mentioned the Vase final, of course, the season prior to the Wessex League title though, Greenwood had led the team to the Wessex League Cup and they did the same in 96/97 and enjoyed their best-ever run in the FA Cup to the Fourth Qualifying Round losing to Boreham Wood 5-0. The Kingfishers can list Charlie Austin of QPR as well as Wimbledon’s Lawrie Sanchez among their list of former players.
What are your memories of the 95/96 season for Thatcham? Let us know in the comments below.