‘Proud members of the Blue Square Premier League,’ the sign outside the Dripping Pan pronounces, and if you knew where Lewes Town Football Club had come from you would understand why. For a tremendous footballing story is unfolding just a few miles up the road from us, and I would presume few are aware of it.
In recent times, Lewes FC have undergone a meteoric rise in their football status. For years they had languished in the numerous tiers of the Isthmian League – a feeder to the Conference South – at one point battling relegation from the whole Isthmian itself in its Third Division. However, the late nineties were the start of the long road to where they find themselves today. When asked what was central to Lewes’ recent success, Club Commercial Director Steve White commented that former manager “Jimmy Quinn started this phenomenal rise. The board funded [later manager] Steve King’s ambition which continued the great success story. Between the two of them Lewes have risen through the non-league pyramid quickly.” This rise is truly startling, for over a ten year period Lewes have navigated their way through the choppy waters of the Isthmian and into the Conference South. The 2007-08 Season was the final push to the Blue Square Premier where they find themselves today; just one promotion from league football and playing alongside teams such as Bradford City, a team who were in the Premiership in the not too distant past.
By no stretch of the imagination does it appear that Lewes will be getting that promotion just yet. They currently lie in 23rd place out of a possible 24, and relegation back to the Conference South includes all those up to 21st position. However, there have been some proud moments already for the club, including their first win of the season on 27 September. A win, that I was able to witness against Oxford United. It was quite momentous to achieve this win against such a club – a club who, when Lewes were in the regional leagues, were in the top flight of English football and winning major honours such as the League Cup in 1986. How fitting that one club that has undergone such a great rise in fortunes should defeat another who’s recent history couldn’t be more different. The victory was well deserved too: a battling, yet at times classy victory to come from 1-0 down to win 2-1 in the 88th minute.
Either side of this victory, Lewes earned away draws against Histon and Grays Athletic. Both these results are credible considering Histon are currently second in the table, and in the match against Grays their second half performance perhaps warranted all three points. Nonetheless, as it stands, Lewes are unbeaten in three and at the time of going to press were about to take that record to 6th-placed Cambridge United. Steve White is also optimistic and believes that the Lewes squad’s ‘confidence is growing and that with the new team gelling, if it can stay injury-free, then improvements will be seen on the pitch.’