|Full name||Webley Stadium Football Club|
|Nickname(s)||The Flowers, The Stads|
|Founded||Prior to CMSC VI|
|Dissolved||Following CMSC XXXIX|
|Final Chairman||Cameron LaPeriere|
|Final Director of Football||Adam Sullivan|
|Final Manager||Archie Dubicki|
Webley Stadium Football Club was a Candelariasian professional football club based in the town of Webley in the north of Candelaria. The most westerly professional club in the CMSC system, Webley’s modest success in the closing years of Candelariasian football – culminating in making the CMSC1 for the XXXVIII season – was due largely to the financial support of Taeshanese restaurant chain Fadron Pizza.
Prior to attainting top-flight status, the Flowers – or the Stads, as supporters with more fragile masculinities preferred – were best noted for playing at one of the largest grounds on Candelaria – and for regularly attracting attendances of less than a tenth than its capacity. Their single CMSC1 season saw them win just three games, a record low for the league’s International Era though, after their return to the CMSC2, Webley did achieve further notoriety by making the twenty-first Series B Champions’ Cup final, in which they were beaten in extra-time by Candelariasian rivals Gamboa FC.
Football in Webley can be traced back to the late 1880s, though the genteel market town produced few clubs of competitive note compared to other significant settlements in the north of Candelaria. Indeed, not a single side gained – nor even applied for – entry into the Northern Amateur League, making Webley the largest town entirely unrepresented in that competition until its transformation into a feeder competition for the National Foot-Ball League in the 1940s.
Railways Athletic and Webley St. Joseph’s both competed in the north’s major knock-out competition for the first time in 1929, but the disintegration of both trailblazing clubs in the following three years prompted a grand meeting of local businessmen, schoolmasters, and other community figures at Webley Grammar School to agree the formation of Webley United, a fully professional side to take part in the inaugural season of the NFBL in 1935.
United duly achieved a certain historical notoriety by becoming the first club relegated from the top-flight of professional football in the Candelarias, winning only two matches all season. Though the next few years in the second tier were spent gunning for promotion, it appeared clear to most observers that this area of the country simply wasn’t a hotbed of the sport. With locals schools infinitely more interested in rugby, cricket and athletic pursuits, United were for a time noted for their personal devotion to their youth system, but their few products of true talent inevitably left for first division riches before making a real first-team impact. Attendances at their early Polam Park home were consistently low, meanwhile – and an embarrassment to the club at a time when professional football in the Candelarias was attracting the largest crowds it would ever do.
In 1943, Webley United slipped out of the league altogether – finally playing in the Northern Amateur League for a time before being declared bankrupt. A second Webley United were founded in 1948 but, lacking access to Polam Park and with the town council viewing football as an uncouth pursuit and a breeding ground of socialism and unwilling to support the building of a new stadium, they too soon dissolved.
Both Uniteds are considered part of the modern club’s history, though their only truly significant bequeathment to Webley Stadium are their blue and white home kits.
Huber Hippos & the Stadium
Webley continued to maintain an amateur league in its own right, but the notion that the town could support an NFBL side was largely abandoned until the period immediately following the end of the civil war and creation of the modern state of Candelaria And Marquez.
A self-made Webley man, Christopher Huber had made his fortune during the late 1940s and early ‘50s; rising through the ranks at several confectionary companies before financially supporting his elder brother Hubert’s patented ‘Huber Powder’, an astringent substance created as a by-product in the manufacture of beef-flavoured ice cream and widely used in the Candelarias for preventing nappy rash and stimulating horses up until the 1970s when it was confirmed to be highly narcotic and banned by the state.
With the early success of Huber Powder threatened by the rapidly worsening civil situation in late 1959, both Huber brothers opted to put their natural political inclinations to one side and support the governing Socialist Party of Prime Minister James McManus, which remained – in the north of Candelaria, at least – in resurgence until mid-1960. The extent to which both Christopher and Hubert were aware of the true scale of the human rights abuses enacted on McManus’ orders during this period is unclear, but Christopher at least soon realised that his decision to support the Socialists – particularly in a staunch Conservative hold-out such as Webley – would badly damage his standing in society and public support for Huber Powder.
What was more, with the coming of the David Clarke administration of the 1960s, and its plans for economic redistribution, both now seemingly friendless brothers stood to lose their riches, largely for having publicly backed the wrong political horse during the war. In a last-ditch attempt to save his reputation, Christopher ploughed his fortune into the community of his upbringing. The centrepiece of this mammoth effort was the building of Webley Stadium, completed in 1964. Located on the outskirts of the town, the stadium’s capacity of over fifty thousand made it the largest, all-seater sporting venue in the Candelarias.
Huber was no boyhood supporter of Webley United and cared little for football, but it was clear that he had seen what direction the sporting winds were blowing. The NFBL was rapidly becoming introduced to the word ‘franchise’, with traditional clubs either coming under new ownership or falling to the wayside in favour of new entities founded with corporate interests at heart. The NFBL was about to enjoy an extremely short period of vast wealth and Huber was intent to get it on the ground floor, under the cover of remorseful philanthropy. Though Webley Stadium initially lacked any team to play in it, its creator went ahead and founded the Huber Hippos, playing in the blue and white of Uniteds past and wearing a not dissimilar club badge.
The Hippos, it is generally agreed, were an unmitigated disaster. On-field, Huber failed to provide anywhere close to the necessary financial support to get them promoted into the First Division, and they struggled badly in the second tier under a baffling succession of managers. Funds were ploughed into the club’s off-field activities, but without an on-field product to match there was little interest in merchandising even in Webley itself never mind the rest of the country, while the cost of maintaining the Hippos’ vast arena was, for the time, astronomical. Huber finally pulled the plug on his failed enterprise in 1972, and the Hippos went out of business.
Webley Stadium FC
Webley was hardly alone, in the era that followed, in once again lacking professional football, but the sheer scale of their Stadium made it a horrifically expensive white elephant. Soon home to graffiti, gypsies and shopping trollies; the town council appeared intent on washing its hands of the unloved edifice even as the CMSC got underway.
The popularity of the new competition, and its intent on keeping the runaway greed that had brought about its predecessors downfall firmly reigned in, prompted another fresh look at the possibility of professional football in Webley – principally as means to make maintaining Webley Stadium itself a profitable enterprise for the town council. Public support for the creation of Webley Stadium Football Club was hardly overwhelming however, and faltered even further after the national Department for the Environment ruled that the community of Candelarian white-breasted mice that had set up home inside the stadium was too rare to risk upsetting with the introduction of a football team.
Instead, WSFC were forced to play at a tiny athletics ground with a capacity of 945 during the earliest two years of its history, following its entry into semi-professional, regional football. The club – who by now had been given the nickname of ‘the Flowers’, after the rather fetching array of wildflowers that had grown up around Webley Stadium itself – eventually moved to their pre-destined home after it was agreed that the goal-line stand opposite the tunnel and dug-outs would be demolished to make way for a mouse sanctuary, a situation that remains in place to this day. The gypsies, for what it’s worth, were turfed out at the first opportunity.
Though capacity was initially restricted to a little less than 10,000; even this proved almost impossible to come close to through WSFC’s early years, with the club averaging barely 2,000 supporters for league encounters. Overtures to big business to take on the club and its stadium consistently failed, while both the CAMAFA and CMSC maintained no obvious interest in taking on the task of converting the ground into one of the country’s finest once more. Despite this, the Flowers themselves bobbed along relatively comfortably, steadily rising through the ranks of the lower leagues under the stewardship of first Arnold Brown and later Patrick Mann. In XXVIII, whilst still in the fourth tier of Candelariasian football, the club completed their then greatest achievement by ousting Abiodun South on route to the last thirty-two stage of the CMS Cup – with Webley Stadium attracting 9,970 supporters for the visit of Albrecht FC in a 3-0 defeat.
Webley would benefit hugely from the reorganisation of the CMSC’s semi-professional divisions prior to the following season, being elevated – largely off the back of the perceived potential of their ground – into the Candelarian Premier League, only one step beneath the CMSC2. Though still dilapidated, and with both home and away supporters using just a fraction of the ground on any given matchday, the CAMAFA also enacted an about turn and began using the stadium for national youth team matches and training – attracting national attention following a 4-0 defeat of the C&M Under-17s by their West Kovaneli counterparts during the XXIX season. Under Michael Sharp, the club meanwhile finished comfortably mid-table for the next few seasons despite having the smallest average gates in the division.
The notion that WSFC could ever consider playing at a higher level burst into life only during the latter stages of the XXXV season, following the arrival of young manager Archie Dubicki, a former Candelaria-Allemalli centre-half. Sitting as the sixth placed of twelve teams and ten points off the lead with eleven matches of the season still to play; the Flowers rose to the top with four games to spare and ultimately achieved promotion and a first ever title with twelve league victories.
Dubicki’s star continued to rise as he guided Webley to a mid-table finish in the CMSC2 against all expectations; journeyman winger Adam Robinson and home-grown fox-in-the-box Tom Scott providing the flair in a team very much built from the back, with giant central defenders Ray Thompson and Craig Burch, alongside goalkeeper Alex Jones, letting barely more than a goal a game past them despite finishing just tenth.
Dubicki certainly had offers from far bigger clubs than Webley, ahead of the XXXVII season, but he was given a very sizable reason to stay after the club was sensationally bought by representatives of the vast Taeshanese firm, Fadron Pizza.
The company were no strangers to sport, as sponsors of the highest division of Taeshanese icy hockey and the country’s domestic football cup competition as well as owning the naming rights to Wiechester FC’s home ground, but their takeover of Webley Stadium was still a bolt from the blue. Scepticism abounded, but Dubicki and his team had seen how Ironside-Talinger, boosted by Pocoan riches, had won the CMSC2 during XXXVI with a record points haul. A flush of young Taeshanese signings soon followed, adding youthful exuberance to a well-drilled side that looked competitive for a play-off place and placed sixth after the Apertura stage of the season, just a point outside SBCC qualification.
While by no means an attractive outfit to watch – Dubicki coming to rely on an unusual but highly effective 4-3-3, with Scott and his Taeshanese colleagues Lee Vey and Thomas Grey swamping the opposition box and hoping to receive long balls from the back in a side that largely circumvented midfield play altogether – the new Flowers proved a nightmare to deal with. Webley lost just two matches during the Clausura, entering the top two on the penultimate day of the season with a typical 1-0 victory at Arrigo’s Castellano Hills FC, and a 1-1 draw at Albrecht Independent FC proved enough for second place and a stunning promotion after early pacesetters Cathedral City fell 4-2 at title winners Gamboa FC.
Prior to the following season the stadium was opened to a greater number of supporters – with club officials aiming to break into five figures for the biggest matches.
With a starting XI featuring eight Taeshanese players, including new signings Orion Swimmer and Daniel Tartaglia in defence and midfield destroyer Mike Reynolds; Webley opened their debut CMSC1 season, in front of thousands of newfound life-long supporters who ventured into the stadium’s long-abandoned and structurally unsafe upper tiers in search of the best view, with a 2-1 home defeat to Albrecht Turkish. It would not be until the final day of the Apertura that Dubicki’s men would pick up their first victory, against mid-table Arrigo Portuguese, by which time their immediate relegation already appeared assured.
The team won few friends for their particularly vicious brand of defensive football, though it would be in international competition where it would prove most effective. After narrowly outsing Vephrese side Fekler FE in the SBCC playoff round, Webley won their group with five wins from six and without conceding a goal at home, though two rounds later they would exit at the hands of União Trabalhadora of Cafundéu
Relegated with nineteen points, a joint-worst record since the move to an eighteen team division, they would go down in the record books as the International Era’s only one-season wonders and claim that period’s lowest overall points-per-game ratio. The bulk of their squad would remain in place the following season, but would ultimately finish fourth and exit the promotion hunt in the play-offs.
The final clausura of Candelariasian football would however see the club undertake another international adventure; a journey that led into the SBCC semi-finals in which they gained revenge over Aguazul’s CSD Trecelunas for a 3-1 home defeat in the group stage thanks to the same scoreline and a Grey hat-trick following a goalless draw at home. In an ill-tempered all-Candelariasian final against Gamboa FC, played in the challenging weeks that followed the Beatrice event, Webley had the better of a goalless ninety before star man Adam Robinson was sent off for a two-footed lunge on the Nethertopian Leo Delamater early into extra time. Cafundelense striker Jorge Roberto was awarded and scored a dubious penalty soon after, with Gabriel Bell completing Gamboa’s 2-0 victory.
Webley’s final competitive fixtures came in the following SBCC, a team shorn of their Taeshanese players going down 3-1 on aggregate to Coiners FC of Eastfield Lodge. Thereafter the club, like most sides in the top two divisions of Candelariasian football, retained the core of their playing and backroom staff in the hope of the professional game’s return for several months before ultimately acknowledging the new status quo. Unlike many other clubs however, Webley Stadium would fold both as a football team and as a social enterprise. The stadium itself soon returned to its former derelict state – save for the west stand, lovingly maintained by the Candelarias Animal Protection Bureau on behalf of the mice.