The current suspension of non-league football in the area, due to the coronavirus pandemic, has somewhat overshadowed the centenary season of Wisbech Town.
Wisbech, otherwise known as the Fenmen, were formed in 1920. This was courtesy of a merger between three local clubs – Wisbech Working Men’s Conservative Club, Park Works, and St Joseph’s. The new club began playing in the Peterborough League.
From Fenland Park to Elgoods Fenland Stadium
For many years, their home ground was Fenland Park. The stadium was on the site of a former orchard in Walsoken, just north of Wisbech. At the start of the 1957-58 season, an attendance of just over 8,000 saw a Midland League match against Peterborough. This remained their record attendance at that ground. That match was ultimately a game between the top two, as the Fenmen finished runners up to Peterborough in the league that season.
Despite never beating the Peterborough match attendance figure, Fenland Park hosted several other big matches that attracted large crowds. The most notable of these was in December 1997 when the Fenmen made it to the second round of the FA Cup, only to lose 2-0 to Bristol Rovers from the Football League.
Sadly, their Fenland Park Stadium was sold for housing, and the Fenmen vacated in 2008. The housing development now on the site is called Fenmen Place, a clear reference to the club’s former home. Two years after vacating Fenland Park, Wisbech played their first match at what is now called the Elgoods Fenland Stadium.
Fortunes across the years
The Fenmen currently play in Division One South East of the Northern Premier League. However, during their 100 years they have won league titles in the United Counties League and the Eastern Counties League, as well as Division One of the Southern League.
The club has hit the national headlines more than once. On 19 March 1967, Fenland Park hosted the first professional football match to be played on a Sunday. Wisbech played Dunstable Town in a Southern League fixture. Then, in 1995, when Wisbech were in the Eastern Counties League, they came to national attention once more following a rather bizarre incident. The club failed to attend meetings to answer complaints about a lack of sandwiches and other hospitality for visiting teams and officials at Fenland Park. As a result, Wisbech were suspended from the league. Thankfully, the ban was lifted and replaced with a fine. Finally, and as recently as February 2020, an iconic image made the national press – Storm Ciara destroying one of their terraced stands.
Join in the celebrations despite the pandemic
Wisbech fans are currently unable to see any action on the pitch due to the pandemic. But the Fenmen have engaged their supporters with their centenary by designing a commemorative pin badge. They have also asked their fans to share their memories on social media using the hashtag #FENtenary. Those same fans will be hoping that they’ll be able to see some kind of football as part of their centenary season after the latest lockdown has finished.
WORDS Andrew Dunn
To read previous article from Andrew click here