Worthing Association FC was founded in February 1886 and played home matches mostly in the People’s (now Homefield) Park until the Club moved to Beach House Park in 1889.
The early years were spent playing friendlies and competing in the Sussex Senior Cup, in which our first tie on November 27th 1886 resulted in a 1-0 home win over Brighton Hornets.
Worthing reached their 1st Senior Cup final in 1891-92 (losing 5-3 to Brighton Hornets) before winning the 1892-93 final 2-1 against Eastbourne at the County Ground, Hove. This was the first of a record 21 Senior Cup wins, the most recent being in 1999. Worthing were founder members of the West Sussex Senior League in 1896, along with their local rivals Worthing Athletic (founded 1891). The first of 7 championships was won in 1898/99, qualifying Worthing to play the East Sussex League champions Brighton Athletic in the Sussex Charity Cup donated by the Royal Irish Rifles. This match was lost 2-1, but we went on to win the RUR Cup (as it became known) 13 times (including twice jointly with Horsham).
In 1899-00 the name “Association” was dropped and we entered the FA Cup and FA Amateur Cup for the first time. In May 1900 Worthing and Worthing Athletic merged and in 1901 the Club moved to its current home, then known as the Sports Ground, now as Woodside Road.
The team of 1903-04 contained 3 players who would become full internationals; S.S. Harris and E.G.D. Wright for England and Charlie Webb for Ireland. Worthing withdrew from the West Sussex League for the 1904-05 season, so as not to be in competition with the newly promoted Worthing Rovers (founded 1901). We re-joined the League in 1905 after merging with Rovers during the summer.
In 1907-08 Worthing reached the quarter finals of the FA Amateur Cup, where we drew 1-1 away to the eventual winners Depot Battalion Royal Engineers, before losing the replay 1-0 before a then record crowd of over 3,000.
After World War I, in 1919-20, Worthing competed in 2 leagues, being founder members of the Senior Division of the Brighton, Hove & District League and re-joining the West Sussex League. The following year we helped found the Sussex County League and resigned from the West Sussex League in protest at a rule change.
The County League championship was won for the first 2 seasons: another 6 titles were won during our stay in this league. At the end of the 1921-22 season we applied to join the Athenian League, but withdrew the application before the AGM.
The FA Cup First Round Proper was reached in 1936-37, Worthing losing 4-3 at Yeovil & Petters United. In the 4th Qualifying Round we had beaten Wimbledon in front of our highest reported crowd of 3,600. This year also saw the first of 3 AFA Senior Cup finals reached, Worthing losing 7-1 to Harwich & Parkeston. The other 2 finals, in 1947 and 1949, were both lost to Cambridge Town.
In 1948-49 Worthing joined the Corinthian League. Little success was had in this league, finishing bottom 4 times. The best season was 1949-50, when a highest placing of 5th was achieved, along with reaching the Corinthian League Memorial Shield final for the only time (losing 2-1 to Erith & Belvedere).
The Corinthian League became Division 1 of the Athenian League in 1963 and Worthing enjoyed immediate success, being promoted as runners-up to Leatherhead as well as reaching the Athenian League Memorial Shield final (losing 2-1 to Chesham United on aggregate) and winning the AFA Invitation Cup (3-1 away to Harwich) for the first of 4 occasions.
Three seasons were spent in the Athenian League Premier Division before two successive relegations saw us languishing in Division 2. Worthing started their revival in 1971-72 by returning to Division 1 as runners-up to Staines Town and the following season reached the Athenian League Cup final, losing 2-0 away to Amateur Cup finalists Slough Town after extra-time.
Worthing left the Athenian League in 1977 to become members of the newly formed Isthmian League Division Two.
Barry Lloyd was appointed manager in 1981 and the Division 2 title was won in 1981-82, with prolific goal scorer Micky Edmonds scoring 53 goals. In 1982-83 we won the Division 1 title and reached the 2nd Round of the FA Cup, losing 4-0 at Oxford United. The next 2 seasons saw Worthing finish as runners-up in the Premier Division to Harrow Borough and Sutton United.
At the end of 1984-85 the Club’s main stand burnt down. In 1985-86 we reached the last 16 of the FA Trophy. Barry Lloyd left to join Brighton & Hove Albion and the following year Worthing were relegated from the Premier Division. Four years later we had a disastrous season, finishing bottom of Division 1 with only 10 points and having conceded 157 goals.
Former Northern Ireland international Gerry Armstrong was appointed manager in 1991-92 and the following season Worthing became the first club to win Division 2 for a second time, having dropped only 12 points from the last 27 matches.
Armstrong left in the summer of 1994 to be replaced by his coach John Robson. Premier Division status was regained as runners-up to Boreham Wood in his first season and the FA Cup 1st Round reached again (losing 3-1 at AFC Bournemouth after taking the lead).
Worthing finished bottom in their first season back in the Premier and Robson was replaced as manager. Others followed before Brian Donnelly became manager at Christmas 1996. Under Donnelly’s leadership, Worthing staged a remarkable late season recovery, winning their last 5 games to escape relegation on the last day. “Sammy” was to remain manager until November 2001 when Barry Lloyd returned for his second spell in charge.
In 1998/99 the club were finalists in the Isthmian League Full Members’ Cup and won the Sussex Senior Cup for the first time in 21 years. 1999/00 saw us reach the FA Cup 1st Round for a 4th time, losing at Rotherham United.
In 2001 Worthing celebrated 100 years of playing at Woodside Road, an event marked by the publication of the first book devoted to the Club.
Finishing as runners-up in 2003/04 meant promotion back to the Premier Division. Cup runs saw the team reach the Senior Cup final and the last 32 of the FA Trophy, being beaten by eventual winners Hednesford Town.
The stay in the Premier Division was short lived as the club was relegated at the end of the 2006/07 season despite reaching the Sussex Senior Cup final for the 28th time.
Two consecutive appearances in the Isthmian League Division One South play-offs followed, but each time losing in the semi-finals to the club that was eventually promoted.
The management partnership of Alan Pook and Danny Bloor chose to resign in the summer of 2009 and Simon Colbran, then coach at Eastbourne Borough took over the reins. Worthing again managed a play-off spot, but yet again failed at the first hurdle, losing to Godalming Town.
Colbran resigned at the end of the season and Chris White took over for 2010/11. After a year of tight budgets White managed a solid mid-table position and lifted the Brighton Charity Cup in his first season.
Former Brighton & Hove Albion defender Adam Hinselwood was appointed manager in December 2013. Just over a year later the club’s budget was completely cut and it’s debts revealed to be around £200,000. Despite this Hinselwood steered his young side to a respectable 6th placed finish, just five points shy of the play-off places.
However the club’s future was in serious doubt until March 2015 when George Dowell became majority shareholder in the club, clearing the debts and investing considerably in the refurbishment of the ground at Woodside Road, most notably with the installation of an artificial 3G playing surface prior to the start of the 2015/16 season.
By this time Hinselwood had stepped down to take up a full-time coaching role at Brighton & Hove Albion and had been replaced by his assistant, Jon Meeney alongside another former Seagulls defender, Gary Elphick as joint managers.
The first match on the new pitch was a pre-season friendly with League Two Northampton Town that the Cobblers won 5-2, Ben Pope became the first Worthing player to score on the new surface.
Meeney and Elphick steered the team to promotion to the Isthmian League Premier Division via the play-offs in their first season in charge, beating Faversham Town 3-0 in the final in front of 1,889 fans at Woodside Road.
They missed out on a memorable double after narrowly losing the Sussex Senior Challenge Cup final, 1-0 to two-divisions higher Eastbourne Borough at the American Express Community Stadium.
Consolidation was achieved the following season despite Meeney stepping down to leave Elphick in sole charge with four games to go, a 1-1 draw with Burgess Hill Town in the penultimate game of the season securing survival, eventually finishing 14th in the table.