The end of a football season means its summer. In our books, there ain’t no debating that. And, as long as the weather keeps playing ball, we can put up with the two-and-a-half-month wait until we do it all again. Trips to the seaside ‘n’ all that; the stuff we couldn’t do on those cold midweek January jaunts to Margate, Sarfend or Morecambe. Even Canvey Island has its charm during the summer months. You just might not have known it…
Canvey Island: Who Are They?
Canvey Island’s charm is hard to accept if you’re on the end of a shallacking at Park Lane (Not that one? Ed.) in the middle of winter; solace found only in counting the tankers sailing out of the Thames Estuary. Boro’ aren’t alone, though. The Gulls have been around since 1926 and have probably handed out plenty of hidings in their coastal corner of Essex. And it was in and around this corner they stayed for much of their first 35-odd years.
It wasn’t ’til 1963 and Canvey’s decision to join the London League that put ’em on the wider footballing radar. A couple of mergers between leagues during this time means this part of their history is a bit patchy. Or, it’s a bit patchy as we’re not digging any deeper. So, we’re picking up the tale once more in 1975 and their switch to the Essex Senior League. It was a 19-year stay, earning them two titles and an FA Vase semi-final outing.
After joining the Diadora (Isthmian) League in 1994, Canvey Island started to make themselves into a force to be reckoned with. There were two straight promotions in their first two seasons. Their debut crack at Division One ended badly and it was back to Division Two, but it was a blip. They bounced right back up, going straight through Division One on the way to wind up in the Premier Division in 1999. The Conference was in sight.
Us And Them…
It felt like a matter of time before Canvey Island would reach the top of the non-league tree, but they did have to wait. That’s why the first meeting between us and them would come in the 2000-1 FA Trophy Fifth Round. A Neil Illman goal brought the tie back to ours, but our higher league standing didn’t count for much. The replay indoors ended 0-0; Boro’s bang average record with spot-kicks putting us out 4-2 and on Canvey marched.
To be fair, it wound up that we were knocked out by the eventual Trophy winners that term.
It still took the Gulls three more seasons before they finally went one better than second. Aldershot, Ebbsfleet and Farnborough had all pipped them before; 2004 was their turn, taking their Goals For count past 100 for the third straight season in the process. So, up they came to the Conference with a swagger. And, wow, didn’t they make us look a bit silly at Broadhall Way in our first-ever league meeting: a humbling 4-1 home defeat for us.
The return at theirs later that season saw us fare little better. In fact, you’d probably say it was worse. Boro’ drew a blank, but still went down by three goals at Park Lane. With a head-to-head record for the season of P2 L2 F1 A7, it’s odd to think that we’d go on to make the 2004-5 Nationwide Conference playoffs and they’d stay up on goal difference. But that’s football and, if you don’t know that by now, then perhaps you never will.
And Then What?
They stayed up, we stayed down and our fortunes versus Canvey Island improved. Boro’ earned a point at Park Lane in September, before finally ending the hoodoo in February with a comfortable 3-0 home win. It was our last meeting to date against the Gulls, however. In spite of finishing 14th, they quit the Conference with owner Jeff King, it was reported, scaling back his investment. It was back to Isthmian League Division One North.
After two seasons, the Gulls won promotion back to the Premier Division; the first time they had played in the division since they went up to the Conference. They missed out on the 2010-1 playoffs on goal difference, and that’s as good as things have got during the last 12 years. In fact, Canvey were relegated to Bostik North in 2017. And, in this season just gone, more playoff heartbreak as Haringey denied them an immediate return.
The Gulls have scaled the heights before. It remains to be seen if they can repeat the trick again.
Canvey Island: Boro’s Record
P6 W1 D2 L3 F6 A9 – League Points: 4, Cup Meetings: 2, Win Rate: 17%
• BoroGuide’s Canvey Island club profile – for old time’s sake…