One of the newest clubs in senior Non-League football, Hinckley United, was formed as recently as Wednesday 18th June 1997. A meeting on that date saw shareholders of Hinckley Athletic (Interlink Express Midland Alliance) approve a merger with neighbours Hinckley Town (Dr Marten’s Southern League Midland Division).
Merger moves were made immediately at the end of the 1996-97 season when Athletic narrowly missed out on promotion to the Dr Marten’s League for the third consecutive campaign following finishes of 2nd, 3rd and 2nd again. A meeting of the respective chairmen, Mick Voce (Athletic) and Kevin Downes (Town), established there was some common ground with each club having something positive to offer.
Formed in 1889, Athletic had the traditional support of the Hinckley people, averaging 250 and a Dr Marten’s League approved ground at Middlefield Lane with good and ever improving facilities as well as exciting development plans in hand. Town were formed in 1958 and made rapid strides from local football to the Dr Marten’s League with the 1980’s being a successful decade. Consequently, the new club were to play at Middlefield Lane with Town’s Leicester Road set up being used as a training ground, and once the FA and Southern League had approved the merger, United inherited Town’s Dr Marten’s League spot.
The new club acted quickly in appointing it’s managerial team as Dean Thomas had been released from his contract with Bedworth United and he became team manager with former Athletic boss John Hanna being appointed general manager, although Hanna relinquished his position in the new year leaving the former Notts County player in sole charge. United run a reserve side, a Youth side and numerous junior sides.
Off the field, the board of directors has fourteen members, seven from either club, with Kevin Downes taking the chair.
The club colours are red and blue stripes, a blend of the main colours from Athletic and Town whilst the club held a competition for fans to come up with a nickname and The Knitters was chosen reflecting one of the longest standing industries associated with the town. It is also a pretty poor nickname, but it could’ve been worse like ‘city’ or ‘boro’.
The aim of the merger was to bring a higher standard of football to the Town. Within four years that was achieved. After a mid table finish in their first season, Hinckley United improved with finishes of fourth, third and then won the Dr Marten Midland/Western Championship in season 2000-2001. That season saw Hinckley score 102 league goals and extend an unbeaten home record to 51 games. Only losing at home on the last day of the season.
In their first season in the Dr Marten Premier division Hinckley United ended up in 12th place, and though were never in the relegation zone, were in a relegation battle for the second half of the season. Their second season in Dr Marten’s Premier was much the same with consolodation the aim of the club. The third season however was better than anyone could’ve expected and the club finished in their highest ever position of sixth. That also meant finishing in a position to be accepted into the newly established Conference North division for 2004-2005.
After 2 mid table finshes consolidating in Conference North, Season 2006-2007 was accepted as the season Hinckley would make a serious challenge for the title. However after a good start tragedy struck the club when popular defender Matthew Gadsby collapsed and died on the pitch at Harrogate on 9th September 2006. Hinckley players took a month away from football and spent the rest of the season playing ‘catch up.’ When Hinckley returned to action the season was one of up and down, but held on to a play off spot, eventually rallying on and off the field to secure 4th place in the league, reaching the play off final, but missing out on promotion conceding a last minute penalty, plus off field events raised over £60,000 for a Memorial Fund set up in the name of Matt Gadsby.
Also in our short history Hinckley have had a number of FA Cup runs. In 1997-1998 we reached the 4th Qualifying round losing 1-2 to Colwyn Bay. In the Championship season they went slightly better having drawn 1-1 at home to Telford United of the Conference in the 4th Qualifying, they lost the replay 4-1 at the New Bucks Head ground. In season 2001-2002 Hinckley had their best ever FA Cup run. They managed to win through to the 2nd round proper, eventually losing at home 0-2 to Cheltenham Town of Nationwide Division 3, infront of 2661 fans at Middlefield Lane. Hinckley best ever Cup run was acheived in 2004-2005 which included defeating Torquay 2-0 at Middlefield Lane then drawing with Brentford in front of the Match of the Day cameras, before losing out in the replay.
The FA Trophy has not been as good for Hinckley. Their best performance was in 1998-1999 when they managed to get to the 4th round. An away tie to Conference Yeovil Town saw Hinckley narrowly lose 3-2 infront of their biggest away crowd of 2351.
Off the pitch things gathered pace with the development of the club. A move away from Middlefield Lane happened on 5th March 2005 when we played our first game at the new Marston Stadium. The Marston Stadium being a purpose built 4329 capacity football ground, including extra junior and reserve pitches plus an all weather floodlit pitch and conferencing facilities. Attendances increased at the new Stadium and a record was set for Hinckley when nearly 2900 watched Hinckley draw with Nuneaton on boxing day 2006.
- Dr Marten League Western Division Champions 2000-2001
- Dr Marten Merit Cup Winners 2000-2001 (Joint Winners)
- Leicestershire Challenge Cup Winners 2006-2007, 2003-2004, 2001-2002, 2000-2001
- Leicestershire Challenge Cup Winners Cup (no, it really exists…) 2007-2008
- Rolleston Charity Cup Winners 2004-2005, 2003-2004, 2002-2003, 2001-2002, 1999-2000, 1998-1999
- Jackie Borland Memorial Trophy Winners 1999-2000, 1998-1999