Nigel Biddlecombe’s ‘A History of Weymouth FC’ mentions ‘The Blues’ as early as 1902/03 when the club was referred to as Portland and Grove and they were also called that in 1905/06. (In 1904/05 we were just mentioned as Portland.) 1906/07 we were then Portland Prison Officers. In 1910/11 there was reference to Portland Prison Officers and Utd.
In 1907/8, a combined team entered the FA Cup under the name ‘Portland Prison Officers and Portland United’. They were exempt from the preliminary and 1st qualifying round and were drawn in the 2nd QR to Longfleet St Marys. The game was played on 19 October 1907 in Poole (probably at Eastlake) and the score was 2 – 2. The replay resulted in a 3 – 1 win for Portland. In the 3rd QR they were drawn at home to Whiteheads and lost 0 – 2 (2 November 1907). They entered again the following year and also in 1909/10. There were then two more seasons when the Prison Officers part of the team did not play.
After that, the next entry was after the war when the club reformed in 1921 playing at Grove Corner and in 1925 joined the Western League Division Two. Although winning this division twice before World War II, the club never achieved promotion to Division one. They regularly played in front of crowds of two and three thousand – a period when they were virtually unbeatable at their Grove Corner ground. During this period, the club won the Dorset Senior Cup on four occasions and the Dorset Amateur Cup three times.
Following World War II, the club turned semi-professional and re-joined Division One of the Western League, where they remained for the next 24 seasons. During this time the ‘Blues’ lifted the Dorset Senior Cup a further six times. The record attendance at Grove Corner was set in January 1949 when 4,127 watched the League match against neighbours Weymouth – which Portland won 4 – 1.
One of the most successful seasons in the club’s history came in 1965/66 when they finished as runners-up in the Western League Division One and progressed to the 4th Qualifying Round of the FA Cup where they held Yeovil Town to a 1 – 1 draw at Grove Corner in front of a crowd of 3,069. In the replay at the Huish, in front of 6,005 spectators, the ‘Blues’ were beaten 3 – 1.
In 1994 the Crown decided it needed the original ground for mineral extraction and the club was provided with a new home a couple of hundred yards along the road – hence the name at the time of ‘New Grove Corner’! The last game at the ground took place on 9 May 1994, when neighbours Weymouth were the visitors in front of a 500 plus crowd. It was, however, a far cry from the record attendance, set on 27 January 1949 when 4,127 saw Portland defeat Weymouth 4 – 1 in a Western League Division One match.
During the winter of their first season at the new ground, the entire island of Portland had to be evacuated whilst an unexploded wartime bomb – found underneath the penalty area of their old ground – had to be defused! (To read more, visit the Dorset Echo’s article).
Although Portland did step up to the Wessex League in 2001, they struggled and returned to the Dorset Premier League in 2006 where they were very successful League winners: 2007/08, 2008/09, 2012/13 and 2013/14 and runners up in 2014/15. They also won the Dorset Premier League cup in 2008/09 finishing as runners up on three more occasions.
Portland’s promotion was approved by the Football Association in 2015 (new floodlights were installed) and Portland Utd FC were promoted, much to the delight of everyone connected with The Blues, to The Sydenhams Wessex Football League Division One.
The Blues won Division One in their first season, losing just four games in the league, amassing 84 points with a +72 goal difference from 34 games. Portland also reached the semi-final of The Wessex League Cup losing to eventual winners Team Solent in extra time. The Blues also knocked out three other Wessex Premier Division sides en route to the semi-final. Portland Utd FC’s programme also received the Programme of the Season Award.
The start to the 2016/17 season in the Prem Div saw Portland Utd FC win six, lose two and draw 2 – everyone supporting The Blues were looking forward to hopefully ending up in the top ten at the end of the season. However, following an unbeaten league run of 27 league games, Portland Utd FC had everything to play for in their last match home v Bemerton Heath Harlequins – needing all three points to have a chance of winning the league. With the game at 1 – 1 at 90 minutes it looked like The Blues would have to settle for second place – but a 95th minute goal saw the Blues clinch victory and achieve a remarkable first season in the Premier Division under Manager, Gary Bailey. Portland Utd FC’s once again received the Programme of the Season Award and Portland also topped the highest average attendance table.
After four years of being in charge of The Blues, Manager, Gary Bailey, made the decision in the beginning of May 2017 to step down. In those four years, Gary’s squads had been league champions three times and runners-up on the other occasion. Simon Browne (former Manager of Dorchester Res, Salisbury Res, Hamworthy Utd and Wimborne Town FC) was appointed to take on Gary’s role.
The 2017/18 season saw mixed results for Portland Utd FC First Team and following some disappointing results, it was decided to relieve Simon Browne of his duties. Gary Bailey stepped up as Interim Manager at the beginning of February 2018. The Blues ended up in 15th place and although the attendance had dropped slightly, Portland were still second in the league attendance table. For the third year running, Portland received the Programme of the Season Award for the Premier Div. Gary Bailey also picked up an award for Outstanding Contribution as a Manager in Dorset at The Dorset County Football Association Awards 2018.
Our Reserve team, playing in the Dorset Senior League (with Justin Faulkner in charge again), had a good season and found themselves equal second on points with Chickerell Utd First – but coming third on goal difference. Justin’s team was duly promoted to The Dorset Premier League.
At the end of the season, Gary decided that with work commitments, he would not be able to continue as Manager of the First Team but joined the committee. Brendon King was appointed manager with Mark Carter as his assistant and Stuart Heath as coach.
2018/19 saw The Blues start off well and were sitting at second behind eventual Champions, Sholing at Christmas. Unfortunately, with injuries and unavailability’s, the second half of the season saw a number of unexpected losses which resulted in Portland Utd FC ending up in fourth position. The season did not end with the league though as The Blues reached the final of The Sydenhams Wessex League Cup v Baffins Milton Rovers. The only goal was scored in injury time and that was by Baffins.
Justin’s Reserve side were fourth in the DPL at Christmas but with the first team, short of players on so many occasions, there was a knock-on affect with reserve players being called up to help Brendon’s squad and they ended up a credible eleventh. Another knock-on affect was our third team playing in Div 1 of the Dorset League who also ended up eleventh.
At The Sydenhams Wessex League Presentation Evening, for the fourth year running Portland Utd FC were award the Programme of the Season Cup.
Season 2019/20 proved to be very eventful for everyone at the club – mainly due to the pandemic which shortened the season with several unplayed games. This resulted in no promotion or relegation. The season as a whole saw us under achieving with the quality of players we had at the Club. Although we did reach the semi-final of the Sydenhams Wessex League Cup, which should have been played v Hamble. Another highlight was our 2nd QR of the Emirates FA Cup home v Salisbury when we had an incredible day losing 0 – 1 in front of just under 600 supporters. A fantastic memory can be found at this link.
Off the pitch, it proved to be a very successful year as we were faced with the prospect of either seeing out the remaining time on our lease from The Crown or purchasing the ground for £55,000. We achieved this by the end of March through the Squares initiative, Stars board, help from The Court Leet and all the wonderful people/organisations who donated. The ground is now owned by Portland United FC and will remain as a sporting facility for ever.
On a sadder note, was the decision made by our Chairman, Robin Satherley, to step down from this post, although remaining on the committee, Robin has held this position for several years and was an excellent, popular Chairman. With our Vice-Chairman also stepping down, Gary Bailey was appointed as Vice-Chairman.
At the end of the ‘expunged’ (2019/20) season, Brendon announced that he wished to resign as 1st team Manager and Callum Brooks was duly appointed for the 20/21 season; but for personal reasons, Callum resigned at the end of September. Once again Gary Bailey stepped into the breach and was interim Manager until mid October when Franklyn Clarke was appointed Manager bringing with him Sam Poole. For the second season running, the league had to be curtailed due to Covid19 and our last game of the season was played on the 12th December 2020.
2020/21: After a short period in charge Callum Brooks (the newly appointed Manager) stepped down and Franklyn Clarke was appointed with Sam Poole as his assistant. For the second season running Covid put paid to football.
2021/22: Portland Utd FC’s Centenary Year! Pre-season was busy with the appointment of Matt Lucas as Chairman, Robin Satherley became the Club’s first ever Club Ambassador, the appointment of a Commercial Manager – Vic Holland and the addition of an U18 team to play in the Dorset Football League.
The U18s came second in Div West, the Reserves 11th in the DPL and the 1st Team came 15th. Portland won the Wessex Programme of the Year and was also named as the 2nd best in Non-League Football in the UK out of 633 entrants.
Towards the end of the season, our committee grew stronger with the addition of Dave Wilson, Paul Knight and Reggie Carter. After 15 years Darren Whyton relinquished his groundsman’s post and Randle stepped back from his secretarial duties; a position he had held for 8 years. Both Darren and Randle remain on the committee. We welcomed Dave Ring as our new secretary.
The end of the centenary season saw Portland Old Boys host a team of Ex-Saints. Over 800 watched and contributed to the £9,000 raised for charity.
2022/23: Our Manager Franklyn Clarke dropped a bombshell and resigned mid-January leaving the club at 16th on the league table. The newly appointed First Team Manager Kyle Critchell and his assistant Jamie Symes took over the reins at the end of January and in the remaining fifteen league games, recorded eight wins and two draws which resulted in Portland Utd ending up 11th.
Phase 1 of our extension of our club house was completed just before Xmas.
Once again we hosted an Ex-Saints team and were able to donate £7,500 to three charities including local charity The Three Ells Trust.
Our Reserves came 13th/17 whilst our U18s did well in their first ever FA Youth Cup winning v Brockenhurst and Christchurch before being knocked out by Horndean. Again Portland won the Wessex Programme of the Year and this time the programme was named as the best in Non-League Football in the UK out of 635 entrants.