Welcome to volume two of my blog paying homage to the football clubs I've visited all over the world and the wonderful people responsible for keeping them going and looking after the stadiums, and in some cases basic grounds.

Since I was a little lad I've been fascinated in football and more so where games are played. With my love of travel and curiosity of the game I wanted to visit as many grounds and see games wherever possible. I was lucky that my Dad also loved the game and spent so much of his spare time taking me to matches. As I got older the boundaries widened owing to my location and increased wages to Europe and indeed the world. The sight of a stand or a floodlight pylon in the distance immediately hightens my senses and eagerness for a closer look.

I hope this site gives you the chance to share in my pleasure and experiences and maybe one day set you on the road to adventure. If you get half as much out of the hobby as I've done I can guarantee some great memories, good friends and stories to pass on to future generations.

Give your local club a go today. They'll be pleased to see you!

Everlasting thanks primarily to my late and very much missed and dearly loved parents; my Dad Bob Bernard and my Mum; Ann, who put up with endless years of football chat and my brothers Nick and Paul who gave me the chance and encouragement to do what I have. Thanks to all my friends who offer encouragement and Sally and Stan who inspire and give me great pride. Young Stan is showing a keen interest in my hobby!

Please feel free to post any comments (please use sensible language - I want everyone to be able to enjoy reading) or ask any questions relating to visiting grounds or events. If you want to see any ground reviewed please let me know. It will take quite some time for everywhere to appear, but make sure you keep having a look as the site is continually updated.

If you click on a lot of the pictures you will get a larger version on your screen.

I have also added links to video clips on youtube where appropriate for those of you who are bored of reading or are filling in time at work. I haven't always gone for the most obvious choices, but items that will be in some cases unusual but always historically interesting.

Click to see volume one of HAOTW.

Rob Bernard

London

September 2015

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Stafford Rangers





Stafford Rangers FC are a non league football club from the county town of Staffordshire in England's West Midlands. It is widely believed that the club were formed in 1876, although no-one can be quite sure as early minute books were lost in World War One.

Rangers started out playing cup games and friendlies. They reached the first round of the FA Cup in 1884-85 and 1885-86. Up to the turn of the century the club competed in the Shropshire League, Birmingham League and North Staffordshire League while moving into their Marston Road home in 1896.After rejoining the Birmingham & District League in 1900-01 'Boro' as the club are nicknamed, were demoted but won their place back before winning the league title in 1926-27 as well as finishing as runners up on two other occasions.



The 1930's were spent with Boro suffering from severe financial worries. A successful appeal was made for donations to pay off the clubs creditors. After peace broke out following World War Two, Rangers spent six seasons in the Birmingham Combination before moving to the Cheshire County League.

The early sixties saw more financial worries before the appointment of Colin Hutchinson as manager saw a turn around in on the pitch fortunes, and a league runners up place led to inclusion in the Northern Premier League for the 1969-70 season. Roy Chapman came in as manager as angers enjoyed the greatest spell in their history.

The 1971-72 season saw Stafford complete the Northern Premier League and FA Trophy double, with Barnet beaten 3-2 at Wembley. Ray Williams scored forty eight goals during the triumphant season. Rangers reached the Trophy semi final the following season, but were defeated by Wigan Athletic.

The 1974-75 campaign saw angers go on a tremendous FA Cup run all the way to the fourth round. After Belper Town, Macclesfield Town, Burton Albion and Kings Lynn were knocked out in the Preliminary Rounds, Rangers beat Stockport County, Halifax Town and Rotherham United, before they went out in front of 31,160 fans against Peterborough United at Stoke City's Victoria Ground.



In 1975-76 Boro ended league runners up and lost 3-2 at Wembley to Scarborough in the Trophy final, while Chapman had a spell at Stockport County before returning to Marston Road. Rangers also reached the second round of the FA Cup following wins against Alvechurch and AP Leamington before Halifax exacted their revenge for the previous campaign. Further success came in 1979 as the club collected a second FA Trophy win. This time Kettering Town were defeated 2-0 at Wembley.

Rangers became founder members of the Alliance Premier League in 1979, but were relegated back to the Northern Premier League following the 1982-83 season. Ron Reid came in as manager as the club won the league title in 1984-85, returning to non league's elite, as the league changed its title to become the Conference a season later.

Reid soon moved on following a Bob Lord Trophy win, with several managers all giving the job their best shot without success. Stan Collymore was sold to Crystal Palace for a substantial fee to help with finances. In 1992-93 Boro got to the second round of the FA Cup once more, but success was thin on the ground, leading to relegation to the Southern League at the end of the 1994-95 campaign. The rot was set in and the club suffered a second successive demotion.

Under Ian Painter, a free scoring Rangers side won the Southern League Western Division in 1999-00. Phil Robinson followed Painter a couple of seasons later as support increased as he looked to embrace local talent. After a couple of good seasons, Rangers became founder members of Conference North in 2004-05.



The 2005-06 season saw Boro win promotion to the Conference national division following a play off win over Burton Albion at the Pirelli Stadium. The following campaign saw Stafford get to the FA Cup second round after beating Dagenham & Redbridge in a live TV game. However, the club struggled to compete in the league as Robinson departed after a five and a half year spell at the helm.

Steve Bull was appointed in February 2008, but he couldn't prevent Rangers being relegated to Conference North. Bull lasted less than a year before Chris Brindley came in. he summer of 2009 saw Rangers close to closure as they needed to pay an immediate £50,000 debt. The fans came to the rescue once again.

Chairman Jon Downing resigned after seventeen years on the board of directors as the club continued to struggle on and off the pitch. Brindley was replaced in September 2010 by Tim Flowers and then Matt Elliott, who could not save the team in the 2010-11 season as they were relegated to the Northern Premier League. Greg Clowes became the new manager in May 2011.

Graham Heathcote took over as full time manager in January 2014 but he was unable to prevent the team being relegated at the end of the season so he departed with former Rushall Olympic chief Neil Kitching taking charge of team affairs.

Following a season of consolidation, Rangers won the Northern Premier League Division One South title in 2015-16.

Stafford Rangers FC will play in the Northern Premier League Premier Division in the 2016-17 season.


My visits

Stafford Rangers 0 Scarborough 0 (Sunday 13th May 1979) Northern Premier League (att: 1,523)



Dad too Nick and I to this game on the Supporters Club coach. It would be the last game the teams would play before moving to the newly formed Alliance Premier League game the season after. It was just a week or so before Rangers were to play at Wembley in the FA Trophy Final, so excitement was high.

Note from the programme, that admission was by programme only. This was in the very early days of Sunday football in the UK and clubs were not allowed to charge for admission. Instead they produced a low cost programme and charged fans for that and then let them in.

I was still new to seeing other non league grounds and compared then all to the Athletic Ground back in Scarborough. I remember thinking that Marston Road was not that good, though hindsight has taught me that it was in fact an excellent venue.



The Main Stand was a raised seating area with flat open standing towards the Marston Road end where the changing rooms were situated, and a few steps of terrace on the other side. Behind the goal was a flat open shallow shale bank. The Lotus Side was a terrace with the centre section covered with a low roof. Behind the far goal was a small terrace with a cover behind the goal and a programme shop at the rear.

The programme shop did a bit of trade from me after the kind gent running it opened up specially. That was about the highlight for me as a poor end of season game petered out without many chances. It would be the last time some of Scarborough's old heroes would pull on the red shirt as they didn't fancy the travel involved in a national division the following campaign.

Stafford Rangers 3 Scarborough 0 (Saturday 28th October 2006) FA Cup Fourth Qualifying Round (att: 1,034)



Scarborough were drawn away to Rangers in what would be the old clubs last ever game in the FA Cup. They were having a terrible time financially would would finish the club off, despite Mark Patterson doing a heroic job with his limited resources on the pitch.

I managed to get away from work at 11am and got on board the train at Euston with a couple of cans to quench my thirst. With time being short on arrival I took a taxi straight to the ground and had a couple of pints with Carl Ellis and other Seadogs. There was as ever a good turnout.

Scarborough actually played very well and created a couple of chances against a Stafford team from a division above. However, Rangers scored and from then on there was only going to be one winner. Guy Madjo the big centre forward was a class above anything else on show.



At full time we walked back to the station down Marston Road and through a town centre, with plenty of young chavs hanging around doing their best to look menacing. It said something that the towns jail was the major tourist attraction. It was so bad that we didn't find a pub and ended up with a can at the station buffet, where to our surprise Mr Madjo pitched up. He was heading back to London on the same train as myself.







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