The First Rainham Youth Football League Champions

Young, talented and successful, Rainham Youth Football team had it all during 1967/68 and experienced a very successful season as the first Rainham champions of the Medway Minor League which only operated as one division at under 18 level compared with the vast range of divisions and age ranges that exist today.

Playing at Rainham Recreation Ground on Sunday mornings in a strip of white shirts, black shorts and white socks, the team had considerable local support with big crowds turning up to watch home matches. Going through the entire season undefeated in the league, the team only dropped one point in a 2-2 draw with Upchurch early in the season but were able to hold off a strong challenge from their local opponents until they met again at the end of the season. The Rainham youngsters outplayed their opponents in their final match of the campaign to win 4-1 and take the championship. This avenged a 3-0 defeat which Upchurch had earlier inflicted on the Rainham youngsters in the League Cup at Upchurch.

Graham Knight Gillingham Football Club 

Graham Knight of Gillingham FC

Rainham Youth also did well against the men in the Medway Sunday League Cup by defeating Division 1 side Woodfield 6-0 in the second round but were eliminated by premier team Strand Athletic 6-3 in a hard fought third round match. They also did well in the Kent Minor Cup until they were defeated 4-2 by Gravesend team Riverside on a very small pitch in the quarter finals. Upchurch went on to win the Kent Minor Cup and the League Cup as the two local clubs totally dominated boy’s football in the Medway and Sittingbourne areas.

Rainham had an array of talented players which included Graham Knight who went on to play for Gillingham as a professional and he still lives in Rainham. He played his entire career for Gillingham after one season with Rainham Youth, making 274 first team appearances and scoring 10 goals as a full back for ‘The Gills’ from 1968 to 1979. Dave Pullen and John Higginson of Rainham Youth also played with him for Gillingham Youth team. David Wood played in goal for Rainham Youth, defenders included Graham Smith, Brian Puplett and Trevor Moore, midfielders Brian Perkins and John Higginson, forwards Terry Arnold, Ray Heath, Dave Pullen, Jack Barlow and Chris Tong. Several people helped organise the team including Len Harrison from Station Road who was usually on hand to offer help and advice. Players who later performed for the team at senior level in the Medway Sunday League included Geoff Stone, Denis Chambers, Les Woolley, Mick Arnold, Martin Cogger, Andy Findlay and Howard School PE teacher Mr Clark.

After winning the Medway Minor League the team got admittance to Division Five of the Medway Sunday League which they won in their first season and were then placed in Division One where they competed and challenged for promotion in successive seasons but just failed to get into the premiership before breaking up. Most of the original team re-formed during the mid-1970s to become Rainham Social Club FC and went on to become very successful in the Medway Sunday League.


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