Two Gates Football Club
In 1888 the Ragged Sunday School in Two Gates, Cradley, decided to form a children’s football team to compete against other local church teams. Named after their school, Two Gates Sunday School FC practiced on a field at the rear of the chapel and competed in friendly matches for the first year before they began to play in the newly formed Lye & District Sunday School Football League which had 2 divisions competing nearly every Sunday. Founder members included Jim Bate and Edwin Bird. In their first season the team finished 9th in the league and W Billingham was named Player of the Year.
By 1900 the team competed in the Dudley Church and Chapel League until 1914 when its young men joined the forces fighting in the First World War during which many members were killed or wounded. By 1932 the team were playing on Harry Beasley’s farm fields, which are now part of Fatherless Barn Estate, and they competed in the Stourbridge and District League.
Following the cessation of hostilities, Frank Bate reformed the squad for the 1946–47 season and home games were played on fields of local farmer Billy Thomas, off Foxcote Lane.
The youth squad included Jack Hughes (photographed in 1947 & 2008) who played at inside right. Asked how football then compares to now Jack said, “You never saw anyone spit in them days and if someone fell down it was because they was hurt. Nowadays they just lie down for a rest. The ball was leather and when it got wet it got heavier and it was like kicking a brick wall”. Speaking about his team mates Jack mentioned Tommy Lewis, “He was an England schoolboy player and later signed for West Bromwich Albion. Tom was really good and he passed the ball right to your feet, every time.”
Like many team members, Jack was called upon to do 2 years National Service from 1950 but continued playing for the Royal Warwickshire Regiment. About that time Tom Jackson took over running Two Gates as club secretary until 1955. The reserve side were overseen by Reg Jackson and Norman Ovendeu and played in the Halesowen Youth League.
Over 120 years the club has lost some 18 home grounds to development including; Lutley Lane, Witley Lane, Long Innage, Coalbourne Gardens, Park Lane, Two Gates Lane, Park Hill, Foxcote Lane and Clent View Road.
In 1957 the team held a benefit match on their current home ground of Homer Hill Park for the wife and children of Billy Lee, who had played at centre half and died suddenly of a brain haemorrhage (stroke). The game saw the veterans of Two Gates Sunday School FC compete against their younger rivals, renamed Two Gates FC, who won 2 – 1.
Henry Collins recalls the team sharing a training gym with Cradley Olympic at Lye in 1970. Following training Henry took part in a friendly 5-a-side game, playing goalkeeper. On attacking Two Gates one of the opposing players collided with Henry whose false leg shot off and rolled across the pitch. Not knowing Henry’s leg was artificial, the attacker thought he had broken it straight off, became quite ill and had to be revived with smelling salts.
Two Gates takes pride in its achievements over the years and past honours included the Dudley Guest Cup, Corbett Hospital Cup and the Griffin Shield.
John Round played for the team in the 70’s and took over the role of Secretary for the club at the start of the 1988 season.
Two Gates continues its long tradition of developing top class footballers for more senior teams.
Two Gates Ragged School Football Club (1950s)
In 1937 the team was managed by Archie Homer and played in the Brierley Hill League. Sunday School leader, Clifford Willetts, negotiated the use of land where Caslon School now stands in Clent View Road for 10 shillings per season.
League winners during a successful 1938–39 season, the teamed played just 1 game against Buckpool Rovers at the start of the next season, the day before the Second World War was declared. Almost immediately after the game the majority of the team volunteered for armed service. During the ensuing conflict 2 of them were to die at sea; W H Bradney and V Taylor.
On 8th June 1940 Billy Bradney was aboard HMS Ardent (pictured), which with HMS Acasta, was escorting the carrier HMS Glorious following Operation Alphabet (the evacuation of troops from Norway). On route to Scapa Flow the vessels were intercepted by German battle cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. Despite inflicting damage on the enemy, all three British ships were lost.
It was on 3rd October 1943 with Victor Taylor onboard that HMS Usurper was patrolling waters off the Gulf of Genoa when a German vessel reported depth charging a submarine. Usurper (P56) failed to return to port.