In the first post on Catford Southend they were left at the outbreak of World War 1 as ‘a solid non-League team with a relatively new ground in early 20th century suburbia, in a similar position to many non-League teams that are still around almost 100 years later.’
Their story is picked up after hostilities ceased and football resumed in 1919, like a lot of sport, the Athenian League that The Kittens had played in before the war had been mothballed during the bloodshed of World War 1. By the time the Athenian League was reformed for the 1919/20 season, Catford Southend had moved on – newcomers to the league that season were to include local non league stalwarts Kingstonian, Bromley and Wimbledon.
Catford returned to the London League after the War, it had been their ‘home’ for much of their existence. On the field, the 1919/20 season was a struggle, had it not been for the abject performance of Islington Town, the Kittens would have been propping up the table. Further up the Division, in second place, were Charlton Athletic – the Addicks had initially joined the league during Southend’s brief stint in the Athenian League. It was probably the only time the first teams Charlton and Catford played in the same league – Charlton moved onto the expanded Southern League for the 1920/21 campaign.
Catford’s 1920/21 season (team photo above – see notes for credit) ended up with mid-table mediocrity – the brilliantly named Gnome Athletic (later the more prosaic Walthamstow Borough) propping up the table. The following season saw the Kittens finish second, although some distance behind the runaway leaders, Grays. The 1922/23 season, the last in the League saw Catford hovering above the relegation places.
Just outside the ground at the Dartmouth Arms on the corner of Laleham and Ringstead Roads. A new landlord, Harry Issaacs, had arrived around 1921who was soon to develop big plans for Catford Southend, it isn’t clear whether he became the owner, but his impact became very clear in early 1923.
A proposal was made to Charlton Athletic in April 1923 for them to move to Catford, play at what had become known as The Mount and merge to two teams under the Catford Southend name. The logic for the acceptance had been Charlton’s financial losses in the previous season and the hope that they would get more paying punters in through the turnstiles in Catford.
The Kittens had to give up London League status due to potential merger with Charlton as otherwise the merged team would have to play at Catford’s level in the football pyramid.
It seems that the orientation of the pitch was changed to allow a larger stand to be dismantled at the Valley and rebuilt at The Mount, Charlton seem to have paid for the move of the stand which would give the ground a capacity of 20-25,000 (other, less plausible, higher estimates are available). The map below (on a Creative Commons from the National Library of Scotland) from a couple of decades later shows the area covered by the enlarged ground.
1923/24 season that saw Charlton ground sharing at The Mount saw Catford playing in the Kent League. As was covered in an earlier post of Charlton’s sojourn at the Mount, attendances were not as expected and at the end of the campaign the Addicks returned to the Valley. Running Past covered Charlton’s short stay a while ago – which included a stand sliding down the created terrace towards Laleham Road. Charlton were heavily criticised at the London League AGM in June 1924 for causing the ‘demise’ of Catford. While the report of club’s death was premature, The Kittens were in a perilous position (1).
The 1924/25 season saw the club turn professional in the Kent League, they weren’t allowed back into the London League due to their resignation 18 months before. The decision to turn the Kittens into a professional outfit seemed ambitious at best. There is much less information available about the Kent League, than those seasons that went before, Catford’s story having to be pieced together from very limited local press reports, often little more than scores and few tables. Consequently there are frequent gaps in the narrative. The manager was a former Spurs and Charlton forward Geoffrey Dodd, who had played for the latter at The Mount (2).
While there were some the early successes in the Kent League, they were not maintained. The campaign started with a 3-2 home victory over Tunbridge Wells Rangers, with the Kittens coming from 2 down in the final quarter of an hour. The campaign continued well during September with a victory against Bexleyheath and draws against Margate and Gillingham (3).
In mid-October there was a trip to Dreamland (above – source eBay July 2017), the new home of Margate; it proved to be a nightmare for the home team – the Kittens mauled the men of Margate 5-3. Unusually, there was a team sheet in the Thanet Advertiser Bransby, Champion, O’Connor, Shaw, Tolhurst, Wells, Hopper, Devonshire, Weston, Humphreys, Mills (4).
Results were more mixed during October and November and this became the pattern of things, while it hasn’t been possible to find an end of season table, by the end of March, Catford were mid table – 20 points adrift of the league leaders Chatham (5).
The 1925/26 campaign saw little improvement; early poor form saw Catford close to the bottom of the League at the end of October (6). While results improved during December, including a 9-0 home thrashing of Ashford (7) , the mixed results continued, although another 9-0 victory against Sheppey will have brought cheer to the Catford faithful (8).
The Kittens were finally allowed back into the London League for the 1926/27 campaign but this seems to have been the final desperate throw of the dice to try to make their professional status work. The Kittens struggled to resource running two teams and started to send ‘short’ teams to some matches – this led to a 13-1 humiliation being inflicted by Sittingbourne (9).
They started to not fulfil games in the Kent League, including a no show in Tunbridge Wells in December (10). By the end of January 1927 the Kent League table showed a desperate position Catford had only managed to play 10 games, all of which were defeats, with just 5 goals scored and 49 conceded (11).
While the Kent League seem to have been inclined to leniency, once matches in the London League, were failing to be fulfilled, including one at Chelmsford, the London League acted, suspending Catford (12). The Kent League did likewise but seems to have briefly lifted the suspension in an attempt to allow them to fulfil a game at Norfthfleet – which they were unable to do, leading to a further suspension (13).
There was to be no comeback this time, by April the record of Catford Southend for the season had been expunged (14). There doesn’t appear to be any evidence of either Isaacs going bankrupt or the winding up of the club, although it may well have been run through a holding company.
Ultimately, a successful London amateur non-League team was brought to extinction by over-ambition and trying to take a short-cut to Football League status which some of its nearest neighbours in Millwall, Crystal Palace and Charlton had all already obtained.
After the departure of The Kittens, the ground was re-absorbed back into the Park – certainly the Ordnance Survey map from 1949 (above) suggests that the stands had already disappeared by then and a new pitch created alongside. The outline of the home of the Kittens is still clearly visible through the large flattened area’ pitch area.
- 9 June 1924 – Athletic News
- 11 August 1924 – Athletic News
- 5 September 1924 – Kent & Sussex Courier
- 11 October 1924 – Thanet Advertiser
- 28 March 1925 – Thanet Advertiser
- 24 October 1925 – Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald
- 12 December 1925 – Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald
- 27 February 1926 – Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald
- 8 January 1927 – Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald
- 3 December 1926 – Kent & Sussex Courier
- 29 January 1927 – Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald
- 4 February 1927 – Chelmsford Chronicle
- 4 February 1927 – Sevenoaks Chronicle and Kentish Advertiser
- 23 April 1927 – Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald
Some of the information for the post has come from the fantastic non-League resource Non-League Matters, which, if you have a penchant for league tables past, it could keep you occupied for days.
Sadly, the owner of the site looked as though they are planning to mothball the site in May 2017, if anyone reading this has any time on their hands and wants to take it over there are contact details on all the pages on the site other than the home page.
Picture credits – the team photograph is courtesy of the always helpful Lewisham Archives.