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Until the last 20 years or so, Enfield were a huge name in the non-league game, from their triumphs in amateur football through to the club’s Conference years. The demise of a once great institution is as complex as it is sad, but Enfield made their name in the days before players were paid to play.
In the late 1960s, Enfield were an outstanding team, packed with internationals and habitually lifting trophies. They were Isthmian League champions between 1967-68 and 1969-70 and won the FA Amateur Cup twice, in 1966-67 and 1969-70.
From their election to the Isthmian League in 1963 to 1970-71, Enfield never finished outside the top four. They played an exciting brand of football that yielded 100-plus goals in two of their trio of title wins, but they were also formidable in defence, conceding less than 30 goals per season.
In 1966-67, Enfield reached their second FA Amateur Cup final, three years after they were beaten by Crook Town in the showpiece at Wembley. Enfield had won past a trio of big names from the south on the way to the final – Sutton United, Leytonstone and Walthamstow Avenue. But they also beat Highgate United in a game that had to replayed due to the first meeting being abandoned after lightning had struck a number of players. Tragically, Highgate’s Tony Allden died in the incident. The replay, at Villa Park, attracted more than 30,000 people and Enfield won 6-0.
The final at Wembley drew a crowd of 75,000 and ended goalless, but Enfield beat Skelmersdale United 3-0 in the replay at Maine Road. Midfielder Ray Hill scored twice and Irish international John Connell netted the other goal.
This victory acted as a springboard for further success as Enfield’s cemented their position as amateur football’s top team. In 1967-68, they were Isthmian League champions for the first time, finishing five points clear of Sutton and remaining unbeaten at home in the league campaign.
Despite the threat posed by Hitchin Town, Enfield retained their title in 1968-69, finishing five points ahead of the Hertfordshire club. A year later, they won the Isthmian again, but this time, the championship race was a tight affair. Enfield edged out Wycombe Wanderers by just a single point, but won three out of four points of their nearest rivals, including a 2-1 win at Wycombe’s Loakes Park.
Enfield also won through to another FA Amateur Cup final, beating old foes Skelmersdale in the semi-final, thanks to a goal by Peter Feely, who would go on to play briefly for Chelsea. They then beat Dagenham in the final at Wembley by 5-1 with goals from Feely, Connell (2), Joe Adams and an own goal.
This Enfield side was brimming with talent: In goal was school teacher Ian Wolstenholme;at the back was George Clayton (a Cambridge graduate), Phil Fry, banker Paddy Betson and John Payne, with veteran Alf A’Arcy also featuring in defence; midfield comprised players like Joe Adams, Ray Hill and Roger Day; and up front, Enfield could call on the charismatic and influential Tommy Lawrence, John Connell and Peter Feely. During 1969-70, Fry, Day, Gray, Payne and Adams and Feely were all capped by England at amateur level. Connell was an Irish international and Lawrence and D’Arcy were capped earlier in their careers by England. The team was full of top names that were well known across the amateur football circuit.
Today there are two clubs bearing the Enfield name. It is doubtful they will ever touch the heights that the old club achieved in a colourful history.