There are few teams who can match the long, memorable ascent of Stevenage FC since 1976; putting the town on the football map. We started out with humble origins; the club rising from the ashes of Stevenage Athletic, with an ardent group of fans determined to make sure the town didn’t lose a senior football team. Those small steps at first involved youth team football on King George V Playing Fields. Three years in and that senior status returned – though senior competition had to wait one more year due to ground wrangles.
We lit the blue touchpaper in 1980 by joining the United Counties League. In the seasons that followed, we climbed the ladder with determination and confidence. Mind you, we had occasional mis-steps on the path. Each time we broke a new boundary, we looked to push on; whether that is going from the Diadora League Premier Division to the GM Vauxhall Conference (1994) – or from the Blue Square Premier into League Two (2010). Even now, having established ourselves in the Football League, we are always looking to get better.
The set of circumstances that kept us up in League Two in summer 2020 gave us a chance to kick on once more. Three campaigns on, Boro’ were transformed from basement battlers into promotion winners; gaffer Steve Evans steering us back into the third tier of English football for the second time. The 2023-4 season would be our fourth in League One – the same amount of time we spent in the United Counties League way back at the start of the 1980s. And that’s one microcosm in which you can gauge the rise of Stevenage FC.
Formed back in 1976, Stevenage FC stormed into the 21st century with drive and determination. You have to say that we’ve come a long way since first stepping out at the town’s King George V Playing Fields; returning ‘home’ to Broadhall Way in 1980 after taking on senior status in 1979. It was that ground situation that would actually deny us a place in senior competition for the 1979-80 campaign. The trouble with the ground dated back to the old Stevenage Athletic and a chairman who didn’t want to give up the land.
The future of Broadhall Way now secured, Boro’ secured a place in the United Counties League Division One line-up for 1980-1. Stevenage FC were also Stevenage Borough FC by this point in recognition of the valued support received from the borough council. Over the next four decades, the rise of the club would lift us into the Football League; a far cry from small beginnings. And it’s something that neither former sides – Town or Athletic – could ever dream of.
Like all clubs, we’ve seen our ups and downs. But, unlike many others, we squeeze it into a shorter space of time. A league and cup double in our first senior season set the benchmark. Four years later, we signed up to the Isthmian League and won the Division Two North crown at the second attempt (1986). Maybe we did too much too soon. The 1987-8 campaign saw us relegated for the first time; dropping from Division One back to Division Two North.
The Paul Fairclough years
Such a relegation could have dented the confidence of a lot of sides. Not us. And it was the appointment of Paul Fairclough that acted as the catalyst for an incredible rise from 1990 onwards. Isthmian League Division Two North (1991), Division One (1992) and Premier Division (1994) titles were added to our roll of honour in quick succession. Two more years later? We were the top non-league dogs in the land; marching to the GM Vauxhall Conference title.
But we would be denied our rightful promotion to the Football League. It all came down to archaic ground rules imposed by the Football League. Essentially, your ground had to make the grade in the December of any given promotion-winning season. That meant taking a punt on ground improvements without the sure promise of success. We subsequently helped change those rules for the benefit of Conference champions that followed. In the mid-1990s, we also carved a name for ourselves as an FA Cup giant-killer too.
Where next for Boro’?
As the 1990s became the 2000s, we came close to the Football League under Graham Westley in 2005. We were the first side to win a competitive match at the ‘new’ Wembley Stadium under Mark Stimson; a fact that no-one else gets to claim. And a second FA Trophy title in three years came our way in 2009. But our long-awaited promotion wouldn’t be kept on ice for too long. Our 2009-10 Blue Square Premier title unlocked the next level; the new chapter in Boro’s fine history. Back-to-back promotions even took us to the verge of the second tier of English football.
Stevenage FC are now reasonably established in the Football League. It hasn’t been without its extremely close calls, however. By all measures, we should have been relegated as PPG was used to decide the ups and downs of the coronavirus-affected 2019-20 season. Bury were already down and out. Only one team would go down. And it’d ultimately be Macclesfield Town, not us, who would be that team; the Silkmen in dire straits and given a fatal points deduction.
In 2023, Boro’ defined the odds to secure promotion to League One for the second time in the history of Stevenage FC. And now, reader, you have the benefit of hindsight when you come to read this to see where – if anywhere – that next chapter takes the club…
How to get to Stevenage – Travel Information
You can take one of two options when travelling to Stevenage FC by road.
It’s usually a much better idea to drivers come via the A1(M) than anything else; using Junction 7 (Stevenage south, Ware A602). The A1 connects with a number of primary routes to help supporters travelling from the north, south, east or west. Here are some of the most notable interchanges:
A14 – the Midlands and East Anglia (also useful for M6 traffic)
M18 – South Yorkshire
M25 – London, the South East and South West
M62 – West Yorkshire and the North West
The benefit of the A1(M) is that it’s mostly dual carriageway for its entire length – even when it reverts back to the A1. So, it provides a direct and fast route from a variety of directions.
For confident drivers, there is an option that’ll save you around 30 minutes when travelling to Stevenage FC from the east or south-east. Instead of coming all the way around the M25 to connect with the A1(M), come off at Junction 25 for the A10. Head north for around 10 miles and leave at the junction for Ware immediately after crossing the Kingsmead Viaduct. This is signposted B1001 – plus Stevenage A602. Follow the A602 to Stevenage for around nine miles, with the ground on your left as you enter the town.
Do: Use our dedicated and free (at the moment) car park located at Fairlands Valley Park. It is very clearly signposted for drivers coming in from the A1(M). For the absence of doubt, this car park is opposite Boro’s North Stand on the other side of the dual carriageway. So, if you do come in from the A1(M), go across two roundabouts and it’ll be on your left.
Don’t: Cross the dual carriageway on foot. There is an underpass under the nearby roundabout to let you cross. And there are also fences now up to prevent you crossing four lanes of traffic.
Do: Be considerate if you chance your arm at local street parking in the Broadwater district.
Don’t: Even think about parking at one of the retail parks adjacent to the stadium. You’ll be risking a fine if you do.
Services to: LONDON KINGS CROSS, LEEDS, PETERBOROUGH, BRIGHTON, YORK etc.
Our station is not far from the town centre and is about a mile from the ground. It’s all walkable too; taking around 15-20 minutes with signs guiding the way. Leave the station on the town centre side – not the Leisure Park. Use either the ramp or stairs to come down to ground level. Walk along the dual carriageway against oncoming traffic past the police station and down into the roundabout.
Here, turn left and head for Asda on the opposite side of the roundabout; taking you under two bridges that carry the roundabout. You’ll come out into the Asda car park. Walk across to the vehicle entrance and leave out onto the dual carriageway. Walk up here past the retail park(s) on your right. You’ll soon come to another roundabout – this is where the ground is.
Again, head in a 10 o’clock direction to get to the stadium. Away fans are around to the right.
If this all sounds like a faff, a taxi won’t cost the earth. Bus route 5 from Stop E also passes the ground.
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