TWO photographs hang side by side at Surrey Street.
One is a Glossop team from the turn of the 20th century with the players in classic pose ready for Football League action. The other is from May, 1997, and shows the squad that won the Manchester Premier Cup.
A momentary glance allows you to view the two extremes of North End’s existence. A long and eventful, if not illustrious, past dragging back to the 19th century, which is counterbalanced by ambitious hopes for the new millennium.
Like so many other clubs, the Hillmen have had to contend with the fact that people tend to know only one thing about them. Glossop is the smallest town ever to have had a first division club.
There are some similarities with neighbours Hyde United whose predecessors once lost 26-0 in the FA Cup, However, while the Tigers have piled up honours in recent years, so that they are thought of more as an FA Trophy success than an FA Cup disaster, North End have found the going much more difficult.
They dearly want to remove the albatross of the past from around their neck, and now there are signs that they are on the right road.
For the record, Glossop were promoted from the second division at their first attempt in 1898-99, joining champions Manchester City. Their success was made possible by the patronage of mill owner Sir Samuel Hill-Wood, whose family later turned Arsenal into a major footballing power.
However, as might be expected, it all ended in disaster. They finished bottom of the table with only four wins to their credit, and the fairytale was over. After that life became a struggle for survival and other than reaching the quarter-finals of the FA Cup in 1908-09 it was a case of plumbing the depths.
North End’s tenure in the Football league ended as the First World War began. When the sport recommenced, in 1919, they were playing in the Manchester League. The occasional honour followed, notably the Gilgryst Cup, and promotion to the Cheshire League first division in 1981. But the next time the Hillmen made a significant impact on the headlines was in 1990.
In the summer of that year they invited “a local businessman” to take over as chairman. It is the closest a football club has come to placing a loaded pistol to its temple and pulling the trigger.
At first it seemed the new owner was building a truly formidable team. He brought in Brent Peters as manager and appeared to give him carte blanche. Peters reacted by signing players such as former Oldham keeper Andy Gorton and ex-Manchester United prospect Peter Coyne, and the club embarked on a winning run.
By Christmas they were challenging for honours on all fronts and had handed out a 6-1 FA Vase thumping to UniBond League Curzon Ashton in front of the first full house Surrey Street had seen in years.
Unfortunately, reality was soon to catch up with the club. A failure to hand over the requisite share of game receipts to opposing sides led to the Football Association calling off a Vase tie. By the time it was given the all-clear to go ahead, off-the-field events were beginning to take their toll. In addition, success on so many fronts meant that Glossop were left with a massive fixture backlog. Without lights, they had to play several of their games at Ashton United.
The result was that they ended the season with only one trophy, the Lamot Pils Cup, which was scant reward for the hard work done by Peters. However, thanks to the owners machinations, the club was left on the brink of disaster.
By now on the run from arrest (he was later imprisoned) the owner had left the Hillmen with huge debts and with no ground. He had sold Surrey Street to High Peak Council.
Thanks largely to two men, North End was able to survive. Peter Hammond, Glossop’s long-serving secretary who had been forced out when the new owner took over, returned to office. The chairmanship was taken by solicitor Peter Heginbotham who had originally been called in as part of the legal investigation into the club’s affairs.
Slowly, things got better. Under the management of Roy Soule the Hillmen began to claw back some respectability on the pitch. At the same time, and to signal a break with the past, the suffix North End was restored to the club’s name having been removed at the time of entry into the Football League to avoid confusion with Preston.
During the summer of 1992, and thanks to a monumental effort from all concerned at Surrey Street, floodlights were erected within two weeks, leading to promotion to the NWCL first (premier) division.
The process continued in 1993. Ged Coyne, just sacked by Hyde United, took over as manager. In a three-year reign he led the Hillmen to their two highest positions in the league and, after his departure, the stage was set for Syd White to take over.
A former Salford City boss, White had moved to Glossop to be Coyne’s assistant. When the senior job became available he signalled his interest at once.
It seemed like mission impossible but White countered by saying: “I want a respectable league position but I see the cups as providing us with our vest chance of success.
“Realistically, we are looking for a cup run to be the highlight of our season.”
With Glossop anchored at the foot of the table and with no wins to their credit it seemed like so much bravado. But it all came true and in spectacular fashion. The Hillmen roared down the final straight to finish twelfth and qualified for the final of the Manchester Premier Cup, a competition won by Hyde United in the previous three seasons.
The final could hardly have been more difficult. North End were up against NWCL champions Trafford, but on a sunny May evening, and against the superb backdrop that is Manchester United’s Old Trafford stadium, Glossop won on penalties after drawing 1-1.
A new era had dawned, both on and off the field. The match was Peter Heginbotham’s last as chairman, drawing this tribute from Syd White: “It’s marvellous that we should have won a final at the Theatre of Dreams just as he was calling it a day.
“It was a nice ending for Peter and I’m glad that he was able to share in it.”
Glossop was indeed in a much healthier position. Thanks to Mr Heginbotham’s efforts the club had secured a long-term lease on the ground, making it possible to apply for grant aid. Work done by club officials had resulted in Surrey Street, in Syd White’s words, looking better than ever.
Mr Heginbotham’s resignation has left a large gap, and the Hillmen are still seeking a club sponsor, but anyone visiting Surrey Street will now find a club with its eyes on a successful future rather than a remarkable past.