Stevenage FC: Best and Worst

By Pete H

The ‘Best and Worst’ feature is one of our favourite parts in FourFourTwo magazine – so you can imagine our delight when they asked us to do it for Boro’. We’ve been sending them pre- and mid-season insights from our part of the world for a while now. We are asked to, just in case you were wondering. Anyway, we always had one eye on when it’d be Boro’s turn to get the ‘Best and Worst’ treatment – even if it was just as a curious reader.

Now, it’s not uncommon for a famous person to step in and give their fave and not-so-fave picks. In the absence of anyone like that here at the Lamex, our editor duly obliged. As the words were our own and we have the original Word document, we thought we’d reproduce here – just in case you didn’t get a chance to buy the January 2024 edition. If you don’t see eye-to-eye with our picks, you try summing up 30 years of supporting Stevenage FC!

Boro’ XI

Best: Des Gallagher; Lee Harvey, Mark Roberts, Efetobore Sodje, Scott Laird; Graham Cox, Michael Bostwick, George Boyd; Carl Alford, Barry Hayles, Steve Morison

* We did spot a bit of an error in the above. We got mixed up picking our best XI; forgetting that it should’ve been players we’ve seen. So, we ended up selecting Graham Cox as an “all-time pick” in a nod to the past. By the same rules, we should have Martin Gittings up front. But we reverted to players we’ve seen by the time we did the strikers. Silly us.

Worst: Clark Masters; Warren Kelly, Ashley Westwood, Jamie McCombe, Tyler Denton; Junior Lewis, Ian King, Jack Jebb, Paul Taylor; Liam George, Jermaine Hunter

PLAYER

If we had to pick our favourite all-time player, it turns out George Boyd is our man. But explaining why ain't quite that easy as we thought...

Best: It’s so hard to compare our best players across the different eras. But the best player we’ve seen at Boro’ is George Boyd. His career path after leaving us shows just how brilliant he was. And it feels even better knowing he was doing it for us at such a young age against seasoned pros.

Worst: Of all the duds we’ve had, the first – and worst – we’ve seen with our own eyes was Ian King; a symbol of the drudgery and mediocrity we collapsed into under Richard Hill in late 1999.

MOMENT

All teams have seasons that live long in the memory. For us, our amazing 2009-10 Blue Square Premier campaign is one of them...
Photo: Matt Ranson

Best: It’s unlikely to ever get better than our win at Kidderminster Harriers in April 2010 – the moment that we finally knew we’d be going up to the Football League. It had been a long 14-year wait.

Worst: It’s depressing enough to visit Kettering at Christmas – but to lose there on Boxing Day 2002, go bottom of the Conference, and know that Wayne Turner’s time was up? Merry Christmas indeed!

GAME

Best: For the pure insanity of it, we’ll always remember our 4-4 draw at Forest Green in April 2007: 3-0 down after 20, 4-3 up with nine left, and still going home disappointed after a stoppage time leveller.

Worst: Of the matches we’ve been to, it’s our 5-0 drubbing at Wrexham on the first day of the 2008-09 season. Graham Westley’s return as boss wasn’t universally welcomed at the time. This didn’t help.

SEASON

Best: The 2006-7 season started slowly under Mark Stimson, but turned into something very special. It remains some of the best football we’ve ever played, with players like Moro’, Steve Guppy, George Boyd and leading the line. And it led to us becoming the first to win a trophy at the ‘new’ Wembley.

Worst: The 2019-20 season was an utter calamity. The headline is more managers than league wins – everything else is but a footnote, if you ignore all that Macclesfield stuff and the whole Covid thing.

OWNER

Phil Wallace with the Blue Square Premier trophy

Best: Phil Wallace is the one, without doubt. He saved us from closure in 1999 – and has since gone on to transform all aspects of the club. We’ve made it into (and established ourselves in) the Football League, upgraded our infrastructure, and got onto a sustainable financial footing.
Worst: Victor Green. He fought hard when we were denied promotion to the Football League, as well as when Newcastle wanted to switch our 1998 FA Cup tie. But he also sacked Paul Fairclough when we were third in the table and was reportedly about to watch the club go out of business a year later.

SIGNING

Best: It’s not the most obvious pick, we grant you. But, in terms of impact made, Anthony Elding was a big arrival in early 2003. He scored seven times in 14 appearances – a big contribution as we pulled ourselves out of genuine relegation danger.

Worst: When you’re a non-league side, you always hope that making a “big name” signing will have a huge impact on your fortunes. And that’s what we hoped with Ray Houghton in 1999. Alas, it didn’t work out. He only played five times before retiring to the pundit’s chair.

CULT HERO

There weren't many highlights during our 1997-8 campaign. But Giuliano Grazioli did his bit to give us one big moment from it...
Photo: Phil Cole/Staff/Getty Images

Best: Giuliano Grazioli scored eight times when here on loan – but no-one’s ever going to remember any of them except for *that* one (well, there was Swindon away too to be fair).

Worst: Hard to know now if Diaguely Dabo was actually decent – or whether he was only competent, which was all it took for him to look good and gain some form of cult status in early 2020.

MANAGER

Best: If we go up this season, Steve Evans may edge it. But we’re sticking with Paul Fairclough (Mk I) for now. If he hadn’t led us to three promotions in four seasons during the early 1990s, who knows where we might be languishing today. Down there with Woking maybe.

Worst: Teddy Sheringham: The definition of an experiment that didn’t work. 

AWAY TRIP

Best: The away terrace aside, there was always something delightful about going to York City. Easy to get to by train, pints in the city centre, boats doing circles on the river, and (usually) a good result.

Worst: Barrow. It’s not that we don’t have a good record there. It’s more that it’s all the way up there *points* somewhere and may as well be on the other side of the world.

Some bonus content

GOAL

Best: Boydie away to Northwich Victoria in April 2004 was pretty special in the days before YouTube, TikTok, or whatever viral social media platform you can name. From the halfway line, Dean Brennan sends the ball out wide right to Jon Brady. On the volley, Brady fizzes a cross to the back post. Boyd meets it sweetly on the volley – bosh. The ball doesn’t touch the ground once.

Worst: Alan Shearer’s first in our 1998 FA Cup replay at St James’ Park. Mainly because it wasn’t a goal, but a miraculous clearance by Mark Smith. Done over by VAR before it was even a glint in the digital milkman’s eye. 

CHANT

Best: Freeman’s on fire, our best song was plagiarised.

Worst: Any song that asks someone “are you watching”. My guess is always they probably aren’t.

OPPONENT

Best: In their pomp and on their way up, Rushden and Diamonds seemed to have it all – the squad, the manager, the stadium, and the money. It’s almost weird how long it took them to gain promotion to the Football League.

Worst: There was always something irritating, frustrating, and utterly inexplicable about our ability to come up short against Welling United. Oh well, we helped them stay in the Conference a bit longer.

HARD MAN

Best: You’d be a brave man to take on the man mountain Jon Ashton. Brave… or foolish, not least when your name is Jermain Defoe and you’re taking flight across the Broadhall Way turf.

Worst: Steve Watson never quite endeared himself to the Boro’ faithful. We’ll always have the time he crawled across the centre circle to almost rugby tackle someone, to be fair.

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