BY DARREN NORTON
It was a wonderful time, being a “Brid Kid” in the early 90’s. Not so much for the fact that I lived in the seaside town, after all it had seen better days as a tourist resort. We were in the age of package holidays, and it was cheaper to spend a fortnight in sun-kissed Spain, with it’s all inclusive incentives, than it was to spend the equivalent amount of time on the east coast of Yorkshire, eating fish and chips, and drinking watered down lager in either of the resorts nightclubs, Harbour Lights or Liberty’s. Neither of these establishments were for the faint hearted, as the town had a reputation as a place to go for a weekend bender of cheap drinks and punch-ups. It may have been a dump to some, but for me it was home. The reason it was wonderful, was purely down to the town’s football club, Bridlington Town.
Town were always the lesser of Bridlington’s two semi-professional sides. Bridlington Trinity, formed in the 1930s, were traditionally in a higher league, such was the fragmented state of the non-league pyramid at the time. Come the 60s however, both teams were in the Yorkshire League, sharing the title between them for a number of years. The rivalry continued until 1970, when Trinity became part of the Midland League. By the 1980s, both sides were in the newly formed Northern Counties East League (now Step 5/6 in the pyramid). For years the two clubs shared the Queensgate ground, but in 1990 the green and whites of Trinity fell on hard times and disbanded. Bridlington was left with just one club. But what a time it would be for the Queensgate faithful.
The 89/90 season saw Town crowned NCEL Premier champions (ironically, Trinity would actually finish fourth before their demise). The season was finished off with the club’s first ever trip to Wembley Stadium, for an FA Vase Final with Yeading. The game would finish 0-0, a first for a Vase Final, and would be decided nine days later at Elland Road in Leeds, as Yeading won the replay 1-0. By the following year, Town had a new owner in Doncaster born businessman Ken Richardson, a self-made millionaire through his company East Riding Sacks. A gambler and horse trainer, Richardson allegedly made £90,000 a year from his racing ventures. However, not all of it was legitimate. He was banned from racing for 25 years for his part in a fixing scandal. His horse Flockton Grey was famously switched with another horse for a big racing meet, netting the owner thousands of pounds. Devoid of his favourite hobby, Richardson ploughed his money into Bridlington Town, building an impressive 760 seat main stand, clubhouse, turnstiles, and the club’s first ever set of floodlights, which would become the envy of many in the league.
On the pitch, Guiseley would lay claim to the title of Yorkshire’s best non-league side for the next two years, winning and losing consecutive Vase finals. With this in mind, owner Richardson would hire his namesake, Colin Richardson for the 92/93 season. The experienced manager had a proven record in North East football, winning the Vase with Whickham in 1991, as well as successful spells at Spennymoor, Whitby, and North Shields, with whom he won the Northern Counties East League in 1992 by a margin of 24 points. The Tyneside team went into liquidation that summer however, and Richardson moved to Bridlington in the September. He brought several of that title winning side to Bridlington for the 92/93 season, to compliment the survivors from the 1990 Vase defeat; highly rated keeper Ian Taylor, and ex- Hull City fullback Steve Brentano. Three members of the beaten Guiseley FA Vase side of the previous season also joined, completing a formidable squad. Both owner and manager clearly had Wembley success on their agenda.
That success would come on the 8th of May, 1993, against Tiverton Town. To this day, the high point in the Seasiders history. Outnumbered by the West country contingent 2 to 1, it mattered nothing to the 3,000 travelling Brid supporters. A late Alan Radford strike - a 30 goal a season striker, rumoured to be on £300 per week, even then - was enough to bring the famous trophy back to East Yorkshire, to sit in the trophy cabinet with that season’s HFS Loans League First Division Title, secured a fortnight earlier. These were halcyon days on the east coast.
Like all fairy tales, the good times didn’t last. By the time the following season came round (93/94) Town would be playing “home” games 60 miles away at Belle Vue, then home of Doncaster Rovers, due to legal wrangles. The move was a disaster, on and off the pitch. Crowds barely touched treble figures, and 12 months after Wembley glory, the club were relegated, and eventually folded. Never has a rise and fall been so rapid.
It wouldn’t be Ken Richardson’s last dalliance with football, however. Within a year he would become owner of Doncaster Rovers, in a reign that would eventually see the club relegated into the Vauxhall Conference, on the back of a 30 defeat season and a minus 83 goal difference. But once again it would be events off the field that stole all the headlines, as Richardson plotted to burn down the stadium in a property development scam. The bungled attempt, in June 1995, saw damage estimated at £100,000 as fire ravaged the mostly wooden structure. After a police investigation, Richardson was found guilty of conspiracy to commit criminal damage, and was sentenced to four years in prison.
Ken Richardson today resides in the Isle of Man.
Colin Richardson, the man who led The Seasiders to the most memorable day in the club’s history, passed away in 2015 at the age of 71.
Bridlington Town AFC re-formed in September 1994.