Hinckley United was formed on Wednesday 18th June 1997. A meeting on that date
saw shareholders of Hinckley Athletic (then Midland Alliance) approve a merger
with neighbours Hinckley Town (then 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 Southern 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 Southern League approved ground at Middlefield Lane. Town
were formed in 1958 and made rapid strides from local football to
the Southern League with the 1980s 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.
Off the field, the board of directors had fourteen members, seven from
either club, with Kevin Downes taking the chair.
The club colours are red and blue, 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 Southern League Mid/West 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 Southern League 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 Southern League
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. One consolation was during this season, off field events
raised over £60000 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 Hinckley 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
Off the pitch things gathered pace with the development of the club. A move away
from Middlefield Lane happened on 5th March 2005 when Hinckley played the first game
at the new De Montfort Park Stadium. The De Montfort Park 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 home league attendance record was set for Hinckley when nearly
2900 watched Hinckley draw with Nuneaton on boxing day 2006.
Following from the play off final defeat, Hinckley United struggled the following
season and were involved in a relegation battle throughout. Despite being bottom
of the league at christmas, relegation was avoided by a nine game unbeaten run at
the end of the season, ensuring survival in the penultimate game.
The next few season were of consolidation, as financial hardship hit the
club off the field. Lack of proper budgeting the previous seasons meant the club
were unable to meet debts, and the HMRC petitioned the courts for a winding up
order. The football club was also sanctioned with a 'registration embargo' limiting
the number of players at the club to a maximum of 16. Over two years were spent with
the club trying to finance and settle the debts, gaining adjournments from the courts,
and the debt finally settled in November 2010.
Players left the club, due to the financial issues, and season 2010-2011 saw a virtual
fresh team of players start for Hinckley. Again it was a battle against relegation, but
after the 'registration embargo' was lifted in November 2010, some new players were
brought in and Hinckley dragged themsleves away from the relegation zone towards a
mid table finish.
Another season of struggle and financial hardship followed in season 2011-2012 and the
club were relegated on the final day of the season, though finished on 48 points, the
highest points total to be relegated from the Conference North. On the 25th of May 2012,
the FA published their proposed club allocations for the 2012-2013 non-league season
proposing Hinckley United will be in the Conference North for the 2012-2013 season after
both Darlington Football Club and Kettering Town Football Club were relegated further
divisions after financial problems. In June this reprieve was officially confirmed at
the Football Conference AGM.
Off field events became dire for Hinckley United in the 2012-2013 season. Following
boardroom upheavel the Chairman resigned from the board and there were wholesale changes
at the club. The playing budget was drastically reduced and a few weeks into the season
manager Dean Thomas resigned, to be replaced with assistant Carl Heggs. As historical
debts were the priority, football debts were ignored and the club operated under a 'registration
embargo' for the first half of the season, using many of the clubs Development team as
cover. Unsurprisingly the club was rooted to the foot of the Conference North all season,
and relegation was confirmed in March 2013, having won just 3 matches all season.