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East Grinstead Town Football Club was formed on May 8, 1890 although it was another ten years before they played their first competitive match as founder members of the Mid Sussex Football League. In those early days the club played in blue and white with the town’s coat of arms on the breast pocket. It was some years before they adopted their current colours of amber and black and were nicknamed ‘The Wasps,’ both of which survive to this day.
They won the Mid Sussex League in 1902 and their first major honour followed seven years later when they shared the Sussex Junior Cup with Arundel.
In 1909 they were awarded senior status which they have held ever since apart from two seasons when they were relegated to the intermediate third division of the Sussex County League in 1989.
In 1912 Grinstead reached the Sussex Senior Cup final for the only time in their history but lost 4-1 to St Leonards Amateurs in a ferocious snowstorm.
The Wasps were original members of the Sussex County League when it was founded in 1920, but they struggled to make any impact and after finishing bottom in 1927 and replaced by Horsham, they were not re-elected.
Rather than returning to the Mid Sussex League, they had four successful seasons in the Brighton League before stepping up to the Southern Amateur League. A fresh challenge reinvigorated the club and they won the Division Three title in 1932 with 15 victories out of 18. Three years later they played on the Test match cricket ground at Trent Bridge in Nottingham when they defeated Nottinghamshire Amateurs 6-0 in the old FA Amateur Cup. Determined to regain their place in the Sussex County League, they were re-elected back in 1937 after winning the Mid Sussex League again and finished fifth in their first season.
In those halcyon days either side of the Second World War, four-figure crowds were the norm at their old ground in West Street, East Grinstead, which they shared with the town’s cricketers. The club’s record attendance is 2,006 for an FA Amateur Cup tie against Lancing in November, 1947.
Success eluded Grinstead until 1952 when they won the Baldwin Cup, the forerunner of the Sussex County League Cup. That team is reckoned by many to be the finest the club has ever produced. It was certainly the most entertaining – 42 games that season in league and cup produced 222 goals!Grinstead were third in 1955, but their fortunes began to decline along with crowd numbers after that. They left West Street in 1959 and had a spell at King Georges Field in the town centre.
Following the spell at King Georges Field in the town centre it wasn’t until 1967 that they finally moved to their current home at East Court after a protracted battle to get the ground, which was prone to waterlogging, fit for football.
The club again finished third in 1973 but that was as good as it got for another 30 years although Grinstead did reach their first cup final since 1952 when they lost 4-1 to Haywards Heath in the RUR Cup in 1974 despite taking the lead. The Wasps found themselves in Division Two for the first time in 1979.
During the 1980s the club regularly hosted Crystal Palace and Brighton in charity fixtures watched by crowds of over 2,000 spectators. However during this time the Wasps had dropped even lower with two seasons in Division Three before regaining senior status.
They were promoted back to Division One in 1993, but lasted just two years. Floodlights were installed in 1997.
Bob Smith led Wasps back to Division One in 2003 and they also won their first trophy for 52 years, beating Three Bridges 4-0 in the final of the RUR Cup. Unfortunately, the club were relegated back to Division Two on the final day of the 2004-05 season and in October 2006 Smith, the longest-serving manager in the club’s history, was replaced by former player Steve Norris.
In his second season Wasps romped to the Second Division title by a massive 18 points, losing just twice all season. Their winning run of 14 successive league games at the start of the season meant they became the last senior non-league team in the country to drop points.
Since then the club has established itself in the top flight, most recently under former Brighton striker Simon Funnell and their progress on the field has been matched off it.
A new drainage system laid in 2003 transforming the playing surface, which is now one of the best in Sussex. The club were awarded the prestigious FA Standard Chartered Development Club award in 2003 and were registered as a Community Amateur Sports Club in 2005.In 2008 two new stands and a pitch perimeter barrier were erected.
In 2014 with the GAC Stadium already meeting the requirements of the Isthmian Football League after installing additional seating, the club began work on a new dressing room and hospitality complex, a new turnstile block and entrance and a resurfaced car park. Part of the 2014 funding included a £50,000 grant from FA Cup sponsors Budweiser, £100,000 from the Football Stadia Improvement Fund, £40,000 from Mid Sussex District Council and £35,000 from SITA Trust.
Funnell’s side finished the season in second place, their highest ever County League position, and in May 2014, the club were accepted into the Isthmian League for the first time in our history. Funnell left the club during our first season at Step 4 and Tony Beckingham returned to East Court for a second spell. ‘Becks’ kept the club in the League but he resigned in October 2015 and Matt Longhurst took over. Matt made sure Wasps retained their Isthmian status in his first season and in his following seasons.
During 2018 the club commenced working in partnership with the local Jubilee Community Centre to develop disability football provision in the area.
2018 also saw the Football Association announcement of a revamping of the Non-League pyramid. From 2018/19 the two division step 4 Isthmian League Division One North and One South (which the Wasps competed in) was replaced by 3 divisions (North, South-Central and South-East).
2019/20 saw the end of the Longhurst era after a poor start to the season.
Leigh Dynan took over for the remainder of the season and the next both of which were disrupted by the COVID lockdown, before he had to step down dur to work commitments. A brief period in charge for Tony Reid in 2021/22 didn’t work out at all and Wasps player Drew Cooney took charge initially alongside ex Manager Tony Beckingham saw out the season.
Drew Cooney having taken sole charge in early 2022 built on the foundations and has continued to keep a core of the squad together and develop the team which has continued to maintain its Isthmian League status.