Stevenage Borough FC
In 1976 the town’s football club Stevenage Athletic FC folded. Stevenage Borough FC was created in its place. After quite a few years in the lower regions of the Non-League pyramid, Paul Fairclough was appointed in the early nineties and Boro’s rapid rise up the divisions began. In 1993/1994 Stevenage won promotion from the Diadora Premier to the GM Vauxhall Conference for the first time. The 1994/1995 season saw Boro consolidate in 5th place. A remarkable achievement considering they were languishing at the bottom for some while.
In 1995/1996 Stevenage won the Conference title, but were denied promotion to the football league due to their Broadhall Way stadium not being up to football league standards. This season was by far the best ever seen at Boro in its short history. The following season, Stevenage could not repeat the same feat, finishing 3rd behind Kidderminster and eventual winners Macclesfield.
1997/1998 was the season where most of the title-winning side of a year earlier left. The season was a transitional one with Boro finishing a lowly 15th, but one which will be remembered for the FA Cup run which ended with a replay against Premier League Newcastle. Stevenage drew the first game 1-1 after Giuliano Grazioli equalised an Alan Shearer opener. The replay ended 2-1 to the Magpies with Shearer again scoring. The following season Paul Fairclough left the club and was replaced by Richard Hill. Stevenage finished the season in 6th place.
Throughout this time Boro were in financial difficulties with ex-chairman Victor Green threatening to close the club down if no new owner was found. Fortunately ex Boreham Wood chairman Phil Wallace came to Boro’s saviour and fought to improve the finances at the club. The following season started well with 6 wins on the bounce and Boro clear at the top of the league. Slowly though Boro began to fall down the table and eventually in March 2000, Hill was sacked. Steve Wignall was appointed as his successor, but his reign was short-lived as he departed for Doncaster just 2 months later.
In the summer of 2000, Stevenage re-appointed Paul Fairclough as manager. Boro were hot favourites for the title that season, but never really got going, finishing 7th. Midway through the following season Paul Fairclough again parted company with Stevenage with the club in mid table. Peterborough United assistant manager Wayne Turner was Fairclough’s successor. In the league, Boro’s form continued to dip, but a run in the FA Trophy had lifted spirits at Broadhall Way although they eventually lost in the final to a very impressive Yeovil side, 2-0 at Villa Park.
2002/2003 was yet another transitional season at Boro. Stevenage started the season poorly and even went bottom of the Conference at Christmas 2002 with defeat away at Kettering. That was it for Wayne Turner, he was sacked and replaced by Farnborough Town manager Graham Westley. Along with Westley came a host of Farnborough players including Danny Carroll, Michael Warner and Steve Watson. Westley also brought in other players from around the Conference including Anthony Elding, Dino Maamria and Lionel Perez to help them survive the drop. That they did ending the season in mid table.
So with Boro finishing the previous season on a high, 2003/2004 began with high expectations. Westley had bought in more good players in the hope of breaking into the playoffs although they finished short, finishing 8th. The following season did bring Boro into the playoffs. After finishing 5th, Boro beat 2nd placed Hereford over two legs before facing Carlisle at Stoke’s Britannia Stadium in the final. Boro though “never turned up” and lost the game 1-0. The following season was more of the same, though this time Boro missed out on the playoffs on the final day losing to Forest Green. Stevenage also had a very bad discipline record this season which all in all led to Graham Westley not being offered a new contract.
In the summer of 2006, Mark Stimson was appointed as Stevenage Borough manager. When he arrived most of the players from the previous season had gone and Stimson more or less began from scratch. Players left from the Westley era were Alan Julian, Ronnie Henry, Luke Oliver, Dannie Bulman, Adam Miller and George Boyd. Stimson came in and immediately looked at bringing in young players who could play the ball on the floor. The season didn’t start well and this new look Boro team seemed to take time to gel. Eventually though Boro got things together and the form began to improve. Stevenage got to the FA Trophy Final again, this time winning 3-2 at Wembley v Kidderminster Harriers. Boro were 2-0 down at half time, but second half goals from Mitchell Cole, Craig Dobson and Steve Morison secured the Trophy for the Hertfordshire side.
The optimism was at an all time high by the time the 2007/2008 season began. Boro had a good young side and were labelled as favourites again for the Conference title. That tag was being lived up to as Stevenage started the season like a house on fire. 8 straight clean sheets saw Boro go top in September. Fans were beginning to believe that this was the year, but then in October, manager Mark Stimson resigned from his post at Stevenage to take over at League 1 Gillingham. This rocked the ship massively as star players John Nutter and Adam Miller followed him to Kent.
Peter Taylor was appointed as Stimson’s replacement in November 2007, but was fighting against a split dressing room from the start. Further players left before the January transfer window ended including Barry Fuller, Stuart Lewis, Craig Dobson and Mark Arber. A new team again had to be assembled and quickly to help Boro stay in the race for the playoffs. After being in the hunt for the playoffs all season Boro slipped out after a defeat away at Burton Albion. A further defeat at home to relegation haunted Northwich ended Boro’s hopes of promotion for another season. A season which promised so much had ended very disappointingly.
Peter Taylor left Stevenage on the 28th April 2008 after failing to get the side into the playoffs. Graham Westley was re-appointed as Stevenage Borough manager on the 2nd May 2008 on a one year contract, much to the majority of the Boro supporter’s dismay. Westley immediately looked to sign up experienced, proven Conference players as well as a first class coaching team to assist him during the season. Big name players like Lee Boylan, Mark Albrighton and Iyseden Christie came in on big wages as GW assembled a big squad, good enough to challenge for the title.
The season didn’t start well though. After an impressive pre-season, which included beating former manager Mark Stimson’s Gillingham side 1-0 at Priestfield, Boro were hammered 5-0 away at newly relegated Wrexham. Westley’s return couldn’t have begun any worse. It didn’t get much better when newly promoted Eastbourne visited Broadhall Way the following Tuesday and shocked the Hertfordshire side, going away with a 3-1 victory. Some fans were already calling for the manager’s head just 2 games in to the new campaign. Things got slightly better the following Saturday with Boro playing well to get a 1-1 draw against Weymouth, but it soon went down hill again when Stevenage travelled to Ebbsfleet getting beat 4-0 in the worse performance seen by a Boro team in years.
Gradually though, Stevenage began to pick up some results and Westley’s side were gelling slowly into a difficult team to beat. There were some games in the early part of the season that showed real optimism, beating eventual Champions Burton 4-1 at home and a solid 2-1 win away at Grays. Boro though couldn’t put a consistent run of form together and hit rock bottom after a run of 4 games in November that yielded just 1 point. A 2-1 home defeat to Wrexham was Westley’s last straw for some supporters, but he made it through that period and Boro never looked back.
Stevenage went on a record-breaking unbeaten run which saw them climb up the table and into the play-off positions. An amazing achievement considering the start to the season the team had. All this as well as progression in the FA Trophy, resulting in another final appearance at Wembley. Boro never looked like getting beaten in that run and were brushing aside teams with ease. In the end the team finished in 5th place and drew Cambridge United in a two-legged play-off semi final. Boro looked like they were going to go to Wembley twice after a fantastic 3-1 victory at home with just 10 men, but they capitulated in the second leg, losing 3-0 to go out 4-3 on aggregate. After the major disappointment of the play-offs, Boro returned to Wembley just 6 days later and comfortably beat York 2-0 to win the FA Trophy for the 2nd time in 3 years.
The 2009/2010 season started slowly with Boro only winning 1 of their first 5 games. Again it looked like it would be another season competing for a place in the play-offs, but gradually over the season, Graham Westley’s side gained more belief that they could challenge for the title. Impressive results against the likes of Mansfield, Luton and Cambridge kept the team in the promotion shake up at Christmas and after beating Cambridge again on New Year’s Day, Boro went top.
The good form continued into 2010 and even though the team slipped up a few times against Tamworth and Rushden, Stevenage were remaining to be consistent and putting pressure on Oxford. March 2010 was a big month for Boro and as the pressure finally began to take its toll on Oxford, Westley’s team took full advantage. Seven straight wins in the month took the Hertfordshire side to the summit of the Blue Square Premier and they were now odds on favourites to win promotion.
Defeat to Luton at the beginning of April gave their neighbours a bit of hope that they could catch Stevenage, but in truth they were never really close enough. Boro bounced back immediately with a 3-0 win away at AFC Wimbledon before solid results against Forest Green and Altrincham. Those 3 wins meant that Stevenage only needed 3 points from their last 3 games, the first of which was away at Kidderminster. Nearly a thousand supporters made the trip to Worcestershire to see Boro win the game 2-0 and clinch promotion to the football league for the first time in their short history.
As well as having a successful league campaign, Stevenage also continued their superb run in the FA Trophy, reaching the final for the third time in four years. Boro played Barrow at Wembley and took the lead when Andy Drury scored from outside the box. Barrow though turned the game around and goals from Lee McEvilly and then Jason Walker in extra time gave the Cumbrian’s victory and denied Boro the double.
On the 17th May 2010, Phil Wallace announced that Stevenage Borough FC would become Stevenage FC from the 2010/2011 season. The ‘Borough’ was dropped from the name in favour of reverting to the name of the original football club in the town back in 1894 ahead of their first season in the football league.
The club’s opening game in the Football League was at home to Macclesfield Town, who were rivals from Boro’s early days in the Conference. After taking an early lead, Macclesfield went 2-1 ahead before Charlie Griffin earnt Boro a point with a late strike. Another new experience followed just 2 days later when Portsmouth visited in the Carling Cup. Stevenage competed well with the ex-Premier League outfit, but ultimately bowed out at the first round. Defeat at Bradford the following Saturday meant that it had been a slow start to their first season in the Football League.
The first win in the League wasn’t too far away though. Stockport were brushed aside at Broadhall Way with relative ease as the team continued to adjust to their new level. Progress was evident, but it was taking time. Another four games went past without a win before Lincoln were beat at Sincil Bank, with new loanee Chris Holroyd grabbing the only goal of the game. The trick was repeated a few days later when Holroyd hit a hat-trick to help hammer Hereford 4-1 at Edgar Street.
Inconsistency was Boro’s biggest problem throughout October and November and the team just couldn’t seem to do enough to turn draws into wins. At the turn of the year, the team were 18th in the League 2 table and heading for a season of consolidation. January saw 3 home wins and 2 away defeats in the League before Newcastle were knocked out of the FA Cup with some conviction. That win seemed to give the team more confidence and the results began to follow.
Unfortunately the Cup run was ended in the next round as Reading came away from the Lamex Stadium with a 2-1 victory. However, the league form was beginning to pick up. A late win at Crewe proved to be the catalyst. Wins at Port Vale and at home to Cheltenham followed before a brief lapse at Torquay and Hereford. Stevenage then went on a 6 match winning streak with began at Wycombe. John Mousinho smashed in the only goal of the game to give the Hertfordshire side the 3 points.
Each win brought the play-off dream that one step closer and by the time Southend ended that 8 match unbeaten run, Boro were now favourites to finish inside the play-off places. A home win over Port Vale strengthened their grip meaning that defeat to Northampton and a point on the final day to already promoted Bury didn’t affect Boro’s position. A place in the play-offs was secured.
Boro were drawn against Accrington Stanley in the Semi-Finals. A 2-0 win at Broadhall Way gave Westley’s side the upper hand as they travelled to the Crown Ground for the second leg. Boro had been heavily criticised by Stanley boss John Coleman beforehand which made for a spicy encounter. However, Stevenage were professional and went through to the final after winning 1-0 on the night thanks to Chris Beardsley’s late strike. A 3-0 aggregate win meant that the club would face Torquay in the final at Old Trafford.
Stevenage were made slight favourites in the final and the bookies were to proved right as John Mousinho’s goal just before half time was enough to win the game and earn Boro a place in League 1 for the 2011/2012 season.
Stevenage (the town)
Stevenage was one of the first new towns to be built after the second world war. It is located around 30 miles north of London and 18 miles north of the M25. It is believed to have around 90,000 inhabitants. The town is still expanding with plans to develop a new “West Stevenage” on the other side of the A1(M). The town centre is also being re-developed in the near future.
Areas of interest in Stevenage include the Museum, the Town Centre, Stevenage Leisure Park, The Gordon Craig Theatre, Roaring Meg Retail Park, The Plaza, Fairlands Valley Park, voted as one of the best free attractions in the country and Knebworth House, which is located just off Junction 7 of the A1(M).
If you’re planning a night out in Stevenage then the best bet would be to head to Stevenage Leisure Park where various clubs and restaurants can be found. The main clubs are Liquid and Envy. There is also a Chicago Rock Cafe and a Jumpin Jaks. The cinema (Cineworld) is also located here. Elsewhere across the railway line is the Plaza which has Hogshead, Yates’ and Wetherspoons chain pubs. Other bars and pubs can also be found in the Old Town area of Stevenage about a mile away from the new Town centre.
If you’re staying for the night then various hotels can be found in Stevenage. The Novotel is located on Junction 7 of the A1(M) and is probably the nearest one to the ground.
There are two Holiday Inn’s within the town centre. An express one is located near the Plaza in the town centre and the other one is on St George’s Way. There are also 2 Premier Inn’s, one in the Gunnelswood area of the town and the other at Corey’s Mill, near Junction 8 of the A1(M). An IBIS hotel is also in the town centre near Tesco.