11:30 01 September 2016
By Stevenage FC
A short history of the club...
Football in Stevenage can trace its roots right back to 1884, when a number of Victorian “gentlemen” (who were also members of the Stevenage Cricket Club), resolved to form a football club. Chaired by Herbert Salmon, this was the very first Stevenage Football Club.
In 1896, the Stevenage Wanderers FC and the Stevenage Rovers FC combined forces to become Stevenage Town Football Club, and the fledgling club joined the newly-formed North Herts League. In their first season, they finished a creditable 3rd out of seven clubs.
At the behest of committee member William Wadsworth, the team colours were established as red and white – the same colours which still remain to this day.
Stevenage Town FC played at London Road, just about where the Stevenage Leisure Centre is located now.
In the early 1960’s the club relocated to Broadhall Way and in 1963 joined the Southern League - whilst at the same time turning professional. This move ultimately proved catastrophic for the club, which went under just five years later, incurring debts it just couldn’t service.
In 1968 Stevenage Town FC was replaced with Stevenage Athletic FC, another venture into professional football, which again turned out to be ultimately unsuccessful. In 1976 another debt-ridden club went to the wall having lasted for only eight seasons.
In an attempt to resurrect a senior club in Stevenage, a number of like-minded volunteers organised themselves and at a meeting at the Stevenage Swimming Pool on Thursday September 30th 1976, Stevenage FC, our present club, was born.
The first chairman was Keith Berners. Vic Folbigg was tasked with arranging a team to play Hitchin Town Youth at Broadhall Way on November 6th as a curtain-raiser for this new venture. Volunteers prepared the pitch in anticipation, but their plans were scuppered when the ex-chairman of Stevenage Athletic F.C. - and stadium lease-holder - desecrated the playing surface at Broadhall Way by digging a trench across the full length of the pitch.
The new club persevered, and with help from the Stevenage Borough Council, they started life by playing in the Chiltern Youth League at the King George V playing fields. In recognition of the Council’s help, the Stevenage Football Club were granted consent to incorporate the name “Borough” in their title and to adopt the town’s civic emblem as the club badge.
The Stevenage Development Corporation reacquired the lease for Broadhall Way and the asset passed on to Stevenage Borough Council, who in turn allowed the football club to become its tenant. The stadium was re-occupied in 1980 and has been the home of Stevenage Borough FC ever since.
Having its own ground again, the Stevenage club secured senior status and joined the United Counties league, winning both the 1st Division Championship and the League Cup in the very first season.
By 1984, the progression of the club saw it compete in Div. II (North) of the Isthmian League, and achieved promotion to Div.I in a single season. Sadly the momentum could not be maintained and just two seasons later, Stevenage were, for their first and only time, relegated.
With new manager Paul Fairclough at the helm, the club soon found its way again and embarked on a succession of promotions through the Isthmian League, achieving Football Conference status in 1994. After just two seasons, Stevenage won the Conference but were denied promotion to the Football League due to a technicality – the Broadhall Way Stadium was deemed non-compliant for the League’s standards.
Stevenage thrived in the Conference for 16 years, often achieving high finishes in the table and picking up various accolades along the way, particularly in the FA Cup (where they took Premier League Newcastle United to a replay after a famous 1-1 draw at Stevenage in 1998) and the FA Trophy (which they reached four finals of and won twice, becoming the first club to win a trophy at the new Wembley Stadium in 2007).
In 2010, under Graham Westley's leadership, Stevenage Borough were crowned champions of the Football Conference with 99 points. They finished 11 points clear of second place Luton Town and secured their place in the Football League for the very first time. That summer the club dropped the 'Borough' from its name, making a break between non-league Stevenage Borough and the new Football League side Stevenage Football Club. The club's nickname remained 'Boro'.
After an encouraging start to their debut Football League season in 2010-11, Stevenage really found form in the New Year, reaching the FA Cup fourth round after beating Premier League Newcastle 3-1 at The Lamex Stadium and securing promotion to League 1 with a 1-0 win over Torquay United in the playoff final at Old Trafford.
Despite competing in the highest division in their history alongside such teams as Charlton Athletic, Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday, Stevenage continued their run of good form in 2011-12, despite losing manager Graham Westley to Preston North End in January 2012. New boss Gary Smith, who had previously won the MLS Cup with Colorado Rapids, took the side to an FA Cup fifth round replay at White Hart Lane and the League 1 playoffs after a sixth-placed finish. Having taken four points off Sheffield United in the two league meetings, the teams met again in the semi-finals. A goalless draw at The Lamex was a good start but despite battling hard in the second leg, an 88th minute goal at Bramall Lane took the Blades to Wembley in heartbreaking fashion.
2012-13 saw a blistering start to the campaign with Stevenage sat second in the autumn. However a disappointing run of results saw Boro slide down the table, with Gary Smith departing the club in March 2013. The following month Graham Westley returned for a third spell at the helm, picking up the necessary points to secure safety.
2013-14 saw Stevenage battling for much of the campaign to retain their League 1 status. A League Cup second round game against Everton at Goodison Park and an FA Cup fourth round tie at home to the Toffees proved the season highlights as league form proved patchy. A mini unbeaten run in February / March gave Boro hope, but ultimately a run of one win in the final 12 games saw Stevenage drop out of the division.
With a fresh start in League 2 and a new squad, 2014-15 was much more promising on and off the pitch for the club. Crucial wins against rival playoff contenders in the latter stages of the campaign proved essential in securing Boro's second playoff spot in two seasons at this level. A 1-1 draw at home to Southend set the second leg up nicely, with Tom Pett even giving Boro a 2-1 lead on aggregate at Roots Hall. An equaliser for Southend and then a missed home penalty in the dying seconds sent the tie to extra time in dramatic fashion, where a tiring Boro conceded twice to send the hosts to Wembley and eventual promotion.
The summer of 2015-16 saw the departure of Graham Westley and the appointment of former England international striker Teddy Sheringham in his first managerial position. However despite some occasional signs of encouragement, Boro proved far too inconsistent as the season progressed, despite suffering a number of key injuries and Teddy departed in February 2016 with Stevenage 19th in League Two.
Caretaker manager Darren Sarll steadied the ship, aided by the experienced Glenn Roeder as managerial advisor and oversaw an improvement in results which ensured the club's Football League status. Darren was then appointed permanent manager in May 2016 and with an encouraging pre-season, hopes are high for a better campaign in 2016/17.