Stevenage Promoted: The Times Boro’ Went Up…

By Pete H

Stevenage promoted. That’s all the history books will say. Everything else will be a footnote; Boro’ completing a remarkable reversal in fortunes to earn their place in League One for the 2023-4 campaign. It’s the seventh time (if we counted right) that we’ve gone up one division based on our on-field achievements. We didn’t count 1996, which should’ve seen us go up to the Football League. Nor do we count 1984’s move into the Isthmian League.

Just so you know, like.

So, what are we getting at? Well, it seems as good a time as any to recount the former times in which Stevenage were promoted. Unless we did a blunder, 2023 is the first time that Boro’ have gone up automatically without winning a league title. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that. It simply makes the achievement unique in our list. Funnily enough, the other time we got to League One was the only time we’ve been promoted through the playoffs!

1981: Boro’ promoted to United Counties League Premier Division

For us as a young club, the 1980-1 campaign was a milestone moment. But you wouldn't know it was our first as a senior side...
Photo: The Comet

A young Boro’ side only four years old were made to wait for their first taste of senior action. Due to a protracted wrangle over our ability to use Broadhall Way, we were playing games at King George V Playing Fields or on the road in our formative, youth-status years. We stepped up to senior status in 1979 – but no league would accept a ‘homeless’ team.

So, when we got that chance a year later, we wasted no time; cruising to the United Counties League Division One and League Cup double. That’s how you announce your arrival.

1986: Stevenage promoted to Vauxhall Opel League Division One

Phil Driver's goal clinched the 1985-6 Division Two North title at Barton Rovers

It took five years for Boro’ to secure a second promotion. In that time, we made a judgement call to join the Isthmian League; the competition expanding in 1984 to newcomers. While the club hadn’t come close to the UCL Premier Division title, the Isthmian League era was a step change for us. In came the likes of Paddy Butcher, Jim Beech, and Steve Armsby; taking Boro’ to a new level of quality and performance.

We weren’t far off promotion in our first Division Two North campaign, to be fair; falling just short of the top two come the end of things. The following season, however, there was to be no stopping us from clinching the title.

1991: Boro’ promoted to Diadora League Division One

Our first stint in the Isthmian League Division One stretched to two seasons before we went through our first-ever relegation. But we dusted ourselves down; setting our sights on going back up. We had to be a bit patient, mind. And we needed the appointment of a certain Paul Fairclough to unlock the potential. But, wow, how it all came together in the 1990-1 season.

Records tumbled as we romped to the Division Two North title with consummate ease. Now, could we thrive in Division One this time around? Hmm – we think the answer is “you bet”.

1992: Stevenage promoted to Diadora League Premier Division

Under Cloughie, the whole fabric of Stevenage Borough FC changed. The last time we’d been in Division One of the Isthmian League, it had been a bit of a struggle. This time, however, it was little short of a breeze. Martin Gittings scored an incredible 44 goals as we cruised to an unquestionable title; Boro’ losing just four times and amassing 96 points in the process.

If Division One wasn’t a step too far, how about the Premier Division?

1994: Boro’ promoted to GM Vauxhall Conference

Boro' secured promotion to the GM Vauxhall Conference in 1994
Photo: Unknown

Boro’ weren’t able to record a third successive promotion in 1993; seventh position being an impressive-enough first go at that level. But we were a long way behind the champions that year. Chesham United ended up 36 points better off than us. Not that it delivered promotion to the Conference. We presume their ground didn’t tick the right boxes or something.

Clearly Cloughie saw what he needed to that season, however, to make sure it was Boro’ who led the way. And that’s what happened; Boro’ ultimately edging out Enfield to claim the title.

2010: Stevenage promoted to the Football League

No doubt its detractors will say it's a Pompey knock-off or something like that. It is, however, much more than that
Photo: Matt Ranson

It should’ve been a fourth promotion in six years when we lifted the Conference title in 1996. We all know why it wasn’t, however. So, let’s not dwell on it. Instead, we had to dig deep and plug away at the top of the non-league tree for 14 more years. In that time, we’d been under threat of relegation and at risk of being swamped by a deluge of League clubs coming down.

Indeed, our Blue Square Premier title-winning campaign was pretty impressive stuff if you’ll consider that ex-top flight teams Luton Town and Oxford United were sniffing around.

2011: Boro’ secure another back-to-back promotion

Embed from Getty Images

Too much too soon? Boro’ are no stranger to back-to-back promotions. Halfway through our first Football League campaign, we were nowhere near the pack bidding to go up. A cracking run of form lifted us into the equation; Stevenage nipping into the top seven on the last day of the season. There to make up the numbers? No chance.

John Mousinho’s historic goal at Old Trafford was enough to see off Torquay United. And it is also what took us up into League One; the last time before 2023 Stevenage were promoted.

Main photo very much the copyright/ownership of the magnificent Jim Steele/Stevenage FC.

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