Welling United Football Club were founded in 1963. An incredible journey in the early years saw the club rise from an U15 Sunday youth team to the heights of the Football Conference where the Wings remained for a remarkable 14 years. History has proved this to be one of the most astonishing journeys in the modern football era.
Originally formed in 1963 with just one youth team playing in local league football on a nearby park pitch, the club expanded its youth system before embarking on a period of Saturday football in the London Spartan League. Membership of the Athenian League and Southern League (South) followed.
For the first 15 years, Welling played on a sports ground at nearby Butterfly Lane, Eltham, before taking their present ground at Park View Road, after the demise of Bexley United who, at the time, were members of the Southern League.
Rise to the Conference…
After progressing from park football to senior football in a relatively short space of time, success was to continue with three promotions within five years. Initially winning the Spartan League and then after three more seasons in the Athenian League, progression and election to Southern League rounded off a marvellous period of success. This continued after just one more season when promotion to the Southern League Premier Division was secured after the league was re-organised. In the fifth season in this division, the Wings romped to the title by a record 23 points after an incredibly exciting season and were promptly promoted to the Conference
Welling found life in the Conference much more of a challenge and although they were one of the most consistent sides during their 14-year spell in non-league’s top flight. Success in the Conference was limited to four County cup wins. Cup football produced many of the highlights during the late 80s and early 90s with six successive First Round FA Cup appearances, and a Third Round appearance on one occasion at Park View Road, when Welling went out of the FA Cup by losing 1-0 to Blackburn Rovers.
The Wings dropped out of the top flight when they were relegated on the last day of the season in 1999/2000.
The new millennium…
After four years back in the Southern League Premier, Welling finished just high enough to qualify for the inaugural season of the newly formed Conference South as the FA restructured the leagues so that two fed into the Conference which became Conference National.
Welling’s first foray in this league in 2004 was a struggle under the guidance of former England defender Paul Parker. With the Wings languishing near the bottom for the first three months of the season Parker left the club by mutual consent.
Adrian Pennock took charge of the struggling Wings and guided the Wings to safety in 16th place. The next season was one where it was exciting to be following Welling again with notable success in the FA Cup where they lost in the First Round away to Huddersfield Town. The FA Trophy also proved rewarding where Welling drew Woking away and after a thrilling match narrowly missed out on a place in the Fourth Round when they let a 2 goal lead slip and finally went down 3-2. The Wings spent most of the season in the play-off places but a succession of draws, and a few defeats at the end of the campaign saw Welling finish the season in ninth place.
They continued their improvement with an 8th-place finish, missing out on a playoff spot by four points. In that season the Wings reached the Quarter Final of the FA Trophy, which had only been managed once before in the clubs history. Grays Athletic eventually knocked the Wings out with a win at Park View Road. The final game of the season was the last for the management team of Adrian Pennock and Phil Handford who both departed.
Neil Smith replaced Pennock as manager but struggled and Welling were once again at the wrong end of the table for the first half of the season. Smith left the club and was replaced by Andy Ford who managed to keep the Wings afloat in the league that year. 2008-2009 saw Welling United become a real force in the Blue Square South and they won the Kent Senior Cup with a 6-1 defeat of Whitstable Town in the final, the Wings’ first trophy for ten years. Ford’s side finished 7th, the highest ever for the Kent side in this division.
After a disappointing start to the 09/10 campaign, with the Wings lying in 18th position after 12 games, Ford resigned and former Welling United player Jamie Day was appointed First Team Player-Manager in November 2009. Day selected another former Welling player Barry Ashby as his Assistant, with Dean Frost also joining from VCD Athletic as First Team Coach. He guided the Wings away from relegation and steered them to a final position of 9th in the Blue Square South table.
At the start of the 2010-11 season, the Wings were rocked by the news of a winding up order by HMRC on the 12th August. Given 14 weeks to pay the outstanding debt the Wings’ fans showed their devotion to the club raising almost all the £60,000 needed to avoid the club going bust. Despite this, they were still deducted five points by the Conference and were handed a transfer embargo lasting until March 2011.
Against all the odds, Day’s side held a place in the playoff positions for the majority of the season playing wonderful attacking football. A fantastic run of results against the Wings’ main rivals looked to have secured their place in the top five. However fatigue eventually caught up on the small squad and dropped points at the end of the season proved costly as the Wings missed out on the playoffs by one point. They still finished sixth, their highest position in the Conference South ever, and their highest league position for ten years.
2011/12 saw the Wings climb to their highest league position for 26 years finishing third in the table and earning their first ever venture into post-season football. After reaching the playoff final with a 2-1 aggregate win over Sutton United, the Wings were defeated by their arch rivals Dartford by a score of 1-0 at Princes Park meaning another year in the Conference South.
Conference South Champions…
That season saw Welling United finally regain their place in the Conference Premier after Jamie Day’s team set a new Conference South league record of 12 consecutive wins and overcame a 10 point deficit by runaway leaders Salisbury City to win the league by four clear points.
In their first season back they enjoyed a comfortable season and would have finished higher had they not had a poor run at the end of the season with safety already guaranteed. However, that proved to be the pinnacle. After all seemed to be moving along nicely, a vacancy arose at Ebbsfleet and Day, along with his management team, found the lure too great and departed.
Jody Brown came and went, then Loui Fazakerley took over the reins. Although Welling survived that season by the skin of their teeth there was no escape the following season and they finished rock bottom.
Towards the end of that season Mark Goldberg bought the majority share holding of the club and also took on the role as team manager.
Back in the sixth tier…
Back in the Conference South, but now known as the National League South, Welling again struggled and Goldberg stood down to concentrate on off field affairs as he looked to re-build the whole structure of the club.
Having finished a disappointing season but safe from relegation, and with Goldberg now chairman, former player Jamie Coyle was appointed manager. 2017-18 was an improvement although it tailed off towards the end and Welling missed out on a play-off position and Coyle departed.
Steve King was invited to be the manager for the following season and he led Welling to a third placed finish and a play-off final but defeat in a tight game at Woking meant that there was to be no promotion.
Over the summer, another management overhaul saw King depart with Goldberg restoring himself as manager for the 2019-20 season however disappointing results caused him to stand down and Bradley Quinton was appointed as manager in January 2020. There was an immediate improvement before the season was curtailed, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with the club safely in mid-table.
Uncertainty before the 2020/21 season resulted in another squad overhaul and sadly the team failed to gel so one year and two days after joining, Quinton left the club to be replaced by experienced manager Steve Lovell. Covid-19 once again interrupted the season and a National League restructure meant that only the bottom team would go down the following year. Welling reduced the budget and struggled. Lovell left after a poor start and Peter Taylor came and went before Warren Feeney guided the Wings to safety.
Goldberg’s ownership finished at the end of that season and Feeney was appointed by the new board to build a more competitive squad for 2022/23, with his side securing a mid-table finish.
The summer of 2023 brought about more change following Feeney’s departure, with former Eastbourne Borough boss Danny Bloor stepping into the dugout at Park View Road ahead of the 2023/24 season, bringing about an air of positivity around DA16.