Our first-ever encounter with Stafford Rangers was a milestone in our evolution. But how did things go after our initial meeting?
Photo: "Welcome to Stafford" by Martin Deutsch is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Our first-ever encounter with Stafford Rangers was a milestone in our evolution. It marked the first time that we were dining at the same table as the non-league elite; opening up our debut GM Vauxhall Conference campaign at their Marston Road home. Of course, we’ll get to all that. Don’t you worry about that. First, how did they happen to be there waiting for us when we got there. Were they much of a presence  in our Conference lives? And how did things fare when it was just us two after our first meeting – one on one? Well, that’s enough introduction…

Who are Stafford Rangers Football Club?

It’s not 100% certain when the club came into existence. According to their official site, it goes back to a Staffordshire Advertiser reference in September 1876. Another theory, says Wikipedia, is that 1877 was year zero. Either way, the club is bloody old. And it should come as no surprise that, with such uncertainties over their formation date, we have no idea why they ever came to become known as Boro’. Honest – that’s their nickname. Without ever being called Borough.

Or, at least, not that we know of.

In the early years, they moved around a bit. The Birmingham & District League, however, would be a familiar stomping ground for them right up until World War Two. That was despite the fact that the 1930s were a period of financial strife. Rangers even disbanded during the War; coming back to life in 1946. At first, it was in the Birmingham Combination. Next, came the switch to the Cheshire County League. Finally, in 1969, they joined the Northern Premier League.

Why do we know the, er, Boro’?

For all the various issues off the pitch up until that point, the 1970s were very kind to Boro’. They won the league and FA Trophy double in 1972, before claiming another FA Trophy crown in 1976. All the while, they were a formidable contender in their league. So, it makes perfect sense that – in 1979 – they were among the founder members of the Alliance Premier League. To start with, it was a struggle. And the club were relegated back to the Northern Premier League in 1983.

The hiatus was brief, thankfully. Their second NPL title in 1985 took them back up to the Alliance Premier League, which became known as the GM Vauxhall Conference in 1986. Their record was patchy over the next few years; twice coming sixth, but also finding themselves towards the foot of the table. They did, however, manage to hold on at that level for the promotion of the punchy upstarts that were Paul Fairclough‘s Stevenage Borough in 1994.

What is our record against them?

If we thought the Conference would be a bridge too far, those doubts were eased effortlessly on matchday one; Boro’ romping to a 3-0 win at Marston Road. In hindsight, it may have given us a bit too much confidence. We didn’t win again in the league until 10 October. And it wasn’t going well for Rangers that season too. Our 1-0 home win in March 1995 might have been closer. But it was also one of their 22 league defeats that season; the club relegated to the Southern League.

If we thought the Conference would be a bridge too far, those doubts were eased effortlessly on matchday one; Boro' romping to a 3-0 win at Marston Road
Photo: Stevenage Football Archive

It was more than 10 years before Rangers got back to the top flight of non-league football. Could they do to us on their return what we had done to them when we were promoted in 1994?

Well – no.

In fact, we doubled down. A 6-0 thumping in September 2006 set our Mark Stimson era ablaze at Broadhall Way. And a 3-1 away win in February 2007 kept our promotion hopes on course; hopes that were ultimately extinguished as our successful FA Trophy run kept us distracted. Meanwhile, Rangers clung onto their Conference National status by a single point. So, we were going to be in each company for a second straight campaign. It was another first for our respective sides.

There are few good things we can say about the 2007-8 season. Most of our campaign highlights were before Stimmo jumped ship. This included a 3-0 win at home to Rangers in September; the sixth in an eight-match run of clean sheets. By the time our return match came around, Peter the Tailor was at the helm and hadn’t yet started undoing our promotion hopes. We won 2-1 at their place to record a third straight league win. And it’s now, to date, the last time that we’ve met.

Stafford Rangers: Boro’s Record

Our head-to-head: P 6 — W 6 — D 0 — L 0 — F 18 — A 2 — Pts 18 — WR 100%
Our last tango: Stafford Rangers 1-2 Stevenage Borough, 05 January 2008

What happened to them?

Our two wins that season were among 31 suffered by Rangers; relegated comfortably down into Conference North. Three seasons later, another relegation sent them back down to the Northern Premier League for the first time since 1985. That’s where Rangers remains too; forced to bounce back from Division One South in 2015 just to still be a Premier Division club. Covid, arguably, did its bit to retain their Premier Division status too.

After taking up residence in the lower half of the table, the 2019-20 season saw Rangers sat rock bottom of the division when the curtain came down early on proceedings. The same can be said for the early finish of the 2020-1 campaign too. As the club emerges (hopefully) from the intense conditions of non-league football during Covid times, will there be a new dawn at Marston Road. Or will the club fall foul of what had seemed like the inevitable in recent times?

• WANT TO KNOW MORE? – Stafford Rangers club profile

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