A Brief History of Stevenage FC


By Pete H

If Stephen Hawking had decided to write a book about our club, we’d imagine this is the title he’d choose. But, with the passing of that particular genius, a boat has long since sailed. And the title is ours to grab. The reason? To serve you a little slice of Stevenage FC history; one to keep the TL;DR folk happy. Because not everyone wants to read a nine-page thesis about the origins of a football club. Even when said football club (i.e., us) has a lot to talk about in such a short space of time.

So, set your stopwatches. Here’s the history of Stevenage FC from 1976 to 2023 – all ticked off in as few words as we can get away with. We’re not sure if we’ll do it, to be fair…

Stevenage FC history: An introduction

Broadhall Way in 1984; a stadium transformed as Boro' rose in prominence.
Photo: Unknown

In the beginning was the word – and, for us, the words were “not again”. Out of the ashes of Stevenage Town rose Stevenage Athletic. But chasing the dream stretched the new club too far and saw them go the same way as Town in 1976. Not content to see town go without any football representation, a hardy group of angels came together to form a new club – at first called plain ol’ Stevenage.

The support of the council in our formative years saw us adopt Borough as a suffix; one we dropped in 2010 upon promotion to the Football League. At this point in time, we’re back in the third tier. It’s the highest level in the English pyramid we’ve reached so far – and it’s the second time we’ve tasted this degree of prominence; the last time being 2011 to 2014. As for our rise, it’s been comparatively quick by most clubs’ standards.

And here it is in a nutshell.

Formation and early years…

The arrival of the club that’d become Boro’ wasn’t exactly warmly received in all quarters. In fact, the chairman of the defunct Athletic had plans for the Broadhall Way stadium that had no place for the new football team. A bitter tussle ensued in which the pitch was defaced by a digger. Boro’ had to make do with local playing fields in their formative years. At this point, it’s also worth pointing out that we started life as a youth side.

In 1976, Stevenage Borough was born; starting life on King George V Playing Fields
Photo: The Comet

In 1979, Boro’ took on senior status. But the stadium issue was still dragging out. As a result, we couldn’t find a senior competition to join. Thankfully, we got it all cleared up a year later and joined the United Counties League; stepping out at a revived Broadhall Way stadium to boot. In our maiden season, we won the UCL Division One title – and, in just four years, we’d take the next step up; joining the expanding Isthmian League.

The first promotions and achievements

Boro’ were looking to make a habit of taking to things like ducks to the Proverbial. Our first crack at Division Two North saw us go close in the title/promotion battle. We couldn’t quite get it done then, but we’d only be waiting a year before clinching the title. We’d have to win the Division Two North title again 1991; Boro’ suffering a first-ever relegation in 1988. Such is life and, if we thought the 1980s had been eventful, the 1990s had news for us.

Under the leadership of Paul Fairclough, we climbed three divisions in just four campaigns; back-to-back promotions pushing us from Division Two North to the Premier Division of the Isthmian League by 1992. We took a season to catch a breath – and then won that crown too, which brought with it a place in the GM Vauxhall Conference. Wowzer. It had taken us a mere 14 years to get to the top of the non-league tree. And we still weren’t done there…

Stevenage Borough 4-0 Woking: Boro' made it 3-0 on 68 minutes; a Hayles shot heading wide until Efetobore Sodje got a foot on it to poke it home

More significant milestones to follow…

Not for the first time, Boro’ reached a certain level and only needed a single season to catch the run of things. Our second campaign in the Conference delivered yet another league title. This time, it ought to have delivered Football League status; a status both Town and Athletic dearly craved and ultimately collapsed in the pursuit of. But our ground wasn’t up to scratch by the mid-point of the season and we were barred from going up.

We weren’t the first it happened to. But we were the first to go to the High Court about it. We didn’t win, obviously. Yet, we did pave the way for others; those archaic regulations changed.

The bubble soon burst for Boro’. We were now at a plateau. The Conference was getting a lot harder to get out of (at the right end) too. Two up, two down from the Football League was a much-deserved development in the early 2000s. But it did mean some ‘bigger’ teams started coming down; the triple safety net of one relegation spot, election, and archaic ground rules no longer there. So, hello there Doncaster, Hereford, Oxford, and even Luton Town.

This section is in danger of becoming too long for a brief Stevenage FC history, so we’ll be a bit quick in saying that – by this point – we’d also developed a bit of a rep for cupsets.

The rise and rise (and fall) and rise again

We kept plugging away in the Conference – complete with its weird and wonderful names to come along in later years. In 2010, however, we cracked it once again. Where it had taken us 14 years to go from the United Counties League to the Conference, it had also taken 14 years to repeat our title-winning success. This time, there would be no barrier to our entry up into the Football League. For some, it was the culmination of a life’s work and just rewards too.

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

Now, what we have here is us going back over this piece to crowbar a paragraph in. This is a lot due to the fact we nearly skipped the whole ‘being the first team to win a trophy at what was then the new Wembley Stadium’. Ronnie Henry was the captain as we won the 2006-7 FA Trophy; a feat we repeated two years later. If nothing else, we’ll be the answer to a pub quiz question somewhere.

As ever, we weren’t there to make up the numbers. After a slow start to life in League Two, a second-half-of-the-season surge saw us power into the playoffs. And, would you credit it, it would part the waves and allow us to walk into League One. In just two years, we’d swapped the likes of Tamworth and Hayes & Yeading for Sheffield Wednesday and Charlton Athletic – and competing with sides of that stature on a level playing field.

Of course, there were knocks along the way. In 2014, Boro’ returned to League Two after only our second-ever relegation as a club. In 2020 amid the dystopian nightmare of Covid-19, the demise of both Bury and Macclesfield Town was all that stood between us and a humiliating return to non-league. It took us a few years and an equal number of managers to set it right again. Now, however, under Steve Evans we are back on the upward path.

Boro' were promoted from League Two in 2023, defying the early-season odds
Photo: Stevenage FC/Jim Steele

What’ll be the next chapter in the epic adventure that is Stevenage FC history?

Read on to find out…

1 thought on “A Brief History of Stevenage FC”

  1. It would be interesting if someone decided to write a book about the history of stevenage fc what an in absorbing read that would be,anyway here’s hoping


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