This is the story of Hércules de Alicante Club de Fútbol (don’t worry we will refer to them as Hércules from now on!), from formation to their move to the Estadio José Rico Pérez. A tale that pre-dates the opening of their current stadium by 60 years and follows the toing and froing of the club, both on and off the pitch.
We start back in 1914 and the formation of a youth team. Its members struck upon an inspirational name, that of ancient Greek hero Hercules. Hércules was a useful youth team and formed a senior section on October 20 1922. However they only really started to prosper, when an older and more successful local rival hit the rocks. Club Natación Alicante was the footballing arm of the local swimming club and in the 1920s were the dominant local club in the city and had good form in the Copa del Rey, reaching the quarterfinals in 1924. However, after losing the plot in a match at Valencia CF in February 1927, the Valencian Football Federation threw the book at them and rather than take the fine, the footballing arm of the swimming club was wound up.
Natación played their matches at Campo de La Viña and shared their ground with Hércules, so rather than form a new club, the players and officials of Natación joined Hércules, who in turn adopted their neighbours blue and white striped shirts & black shorts. Campo de La Viña was a basic enclosed field and by the time the club appeared in the Tercera for the 1928-29 season, thoughts were already turning to a new stadium. Their first Tercera title arrived in 1931-32 and coincided, for the team being, with the club leaving La Viña. Hércules didn’t move far, heading just 500 metres eastwards to the purpose-built Campo de Bardin. The Campo de Bardin opened on 18 September 1932 with a friendly versus Real Madrid. It was quite an impressive ground by 1930’s standards, with a full-length covered stand on one side of the pitch and decent terracing around the other three sides. A further Tercera title followed in 1932-33, but a loss in the playoffs meant 1933-34 would be spent in the Tercera. The fourth-place finish that followed was, however, good enough to earn the club a place in the new regional second division for the 1934-35 season.
Hércules was a club on the up and 1934-35 would prove to be their most successful season to date, when they topped their region of La Segunda, earning a third league title in 4 years. Their debut season in La Primera saw the club finish in an impressive sixth place, with wins over FC Barcelona & eventual champions Athletic Club de Bilbao. The team had achieved a great deal in a short space of time and the future was looking bright for a young and skilful team, but then the Civil War interrupted proceedings. Following the war, Hércules continued in La Primera and another sixth-place finish was achieved upon resumption. Around this time, Franco’s policies started to interfere with the Spanish Football Federation, and Hércules and FC Alicante were forced to merge and take the name Alicante Club Deportivo. The marriage, however, was a short one and in 1942, after relegation to La Segunda, the clubs went their separate ways. Over the next 30 years, Hércules saw three short visits to La Primera, but conversely, also tasted 2 spells in Tercera, in the late fifties and late sixties. They also left Campo de Bardin, playing the last match at the ground on 27 June 1954, securing a 2-0 victory over Osasuna that earned promotion to the La Primera. Here’s some rare colour footage of the last match at the Campo de Bardin.
Hércules returned to a renovated and expanded Campo de la Viña for the start of the 1954-55 season. Unlike the Campo de Bardin, La Viña did not have a covered stand. It did, however, have a higher capacity and resembled neighbouring Elche CF’s Altabix ground. It was basic, but acceptable by 1950’s standards. After two seasons in the top flight, Hércules dropped to La Segunda. Worse was to follow in 1959 when the club dropped to the regional Tercera. The promotion was secured back to the second tier a year later, thanks in no small part to the 17 goals scored by a 21-year-old loanee, a certain Luis Aragonés. Remarkably, La Viña was not finished as a top-flight stadium, as Hércules won a place back at the top table in 1966. The club had struggled financially for much of the past two decades, but things were about to change.
At the end of the sixties, José Rico Pérez began his presidency, and so would begin the most successful period in the club’s history. Pérez made his fortune as a builder and was instrumental in the club’s return to La Primera in 1974. He also negotiated a deal with the local council that saw the sale of the land that La Viña occupied and the building of the stadium that carries his name. La Viña had one last glorious day when Hércules beat Córdoba 2-0 on 19 May 1974 to earn promotion back to La Primera. On 3 August 1974, Hércules played host to FC Barcelona in a friendly to mark the opening of the Estadio José Rico Pérez.