A History of Runcorn AFC / Runcorn FC Halton
Runcorn Association Football Club was founded in 1918 when a local tannery owner and benefactor acquired the Canal Street Ground and the Club became one of the many activities of the Highfield and Camden Tanneries Recreation Club. The Club continued to be run under the umbrella of the tanneries until the formation of a limited company – Runcorn Association Football Club Limited – in 1953.
In its first season, the club became members of the Lancashire Combination and success was immediate as they won the Lancashire Junior Cup beating Blackpool RAMC in a replay at Anfield. The following season, Runcorn were one of the founder clubs of the Cheshire County League and were its first champions. Championship glory returned to Runcorn in 1936/37, with the Linnets also winning the League Cup to complete the double.
The following season they finished as league runners-up, but won the Cheshire Bowl. The final was against Tranmere Rovers who lost a thrilling match at Canal Street 5-4. The Linnets regained the title in 1938/39 in a season where FA Cup glory first came to Canal Street, with the team claiming their first league scalp as they defeated the then Third Division Champions Aldershot in the Second Round. In the following round, Runcorn got the dream tie against the Cup holders Preston North End, and in front of a club record crowd of 10,111, the Linnets went down 4-2, with Preston getting two late goals.
After also winning the wartime league in 1939 and 1940, this highly rated Runcorn team was broken up as the Second World War escalated and the league programme was suspended. When the Cheshire League resumed, Runcorn were no longer the same force, with the Linnets finishing ninth in 1945/46. Fans had to wait until the 60's for their next successes, with Runcorn lifting the league title in 1962/63 and taking their second league scalp in the FA Cup as they beat Notts County (1967/68). The 60’s were also a glory period in the Cheshire Senior Cup, with Runcorn lifting the trophy on two occasions to add to previous wins in 1924/25 and 1935/36.
In 1968/69, Runcorn left the Cheshire League to become founder members of the Northern Premier League, and won the Cheshire Senior Cup again in 1973/74. The following year, they retained the Senior Cup and added the NPL Cup, as the team became one of the strongest in the league. The season after - 1975/76 - the club won their first NPL league title, and took their third league scalp - Southport - in 1977/78, with the NPL Cup won again in 1979/80. In this season, the Alliance Premier League (now Nationwide Conference) was formed, with Runcorn surprisingly left out. The team though put this behind them and did the treble in 1980/81, lifting the NPL Championship, NPL Cup and the NPL Shield, achieving promotion to the top flight of non-league football.
After promotion, Runcorn continued their form and shocked the non-league world by winning the APL Championship at the first attempt by a seven-point margin, losing just five games. Runcorn also won the League Cup - known as the Bob Lord Trophy - on two occasions in 1982/83 and 1984/85, and were runners up in 1991/92. In the first ten years of APL football, Runcorn finished in the top eight on nine occasions.
The "Conference Years" were also Runcorn's most successful periods in the FA Cup and FA Trophy. In their fifteen years of tenure, Runcorn reached the First Round six times and the Second Round four times. They also defeated two league sides in this time - Chester (1987/88) and Wrexham (1988/89). In the FA Trophy, Runcorn went one better than their three Semi-Final appearances in the 70's by reaching the Final at Wembley in 1986. Unfortunately though local rivals Altrincham defeated them 1-0. Since then the Linnets have reached two more FA Trophy finals at Wembley, going down to Wycombe Wanderers (4-1) in 1993 and Woking (2-1) in 1994. Runcorn were also very successful in the Senior Cup, winning it for five consecutive years in from 1984/85 to 1988/89.
Despite their success on the field, disaster struck three times off the field during the 1993/94 season. A perimeter wall collapsed in a FA Cup tie against Hull, the roof blew off a stand in high winds, and the main stand was gutted by fire. With the club crippled by the cost of rebuilding their Canal Street home, Runcorn suffered on the pitch, and were relegated for the first time in their history in 1995/96 after fifteen years of top-flight non-league football.
Back in the Northern Premier League - now the Unibond League - Runcorn aimed to bounce back to the Conference as soon possible, but despite Presidents Cup success in 1997/98, the Linnets have yet to achieve their goal. In 1999/2000, and with crowds dwindling, Runcorn sold their Canal Street home to move into the 11,000 capacity Halton Stadium in nearby Widnes. The club also changed their name to Runcorn FC Halton to reflect the borough in which they now play.
In the 2003/04 season, the Conference announced the formation of Conference North and South for following season, with Runcorn qualifying by finishing the season in thirteenth - the final automatic spot.
The following two seasons saw relegations into UniBond Premier and UniBond First following financial difficulties, although the spot in UniBond First was never taken up as the club became dormant after the creation of Runcorn Linnets FC by the fans of the old club.