Despite extensive research, no one has been able to prove conclusively when Stafford Rangers was actually formed, as early minute books were destroyed during the First World War. Rangers’ formation year is recognised as 1876 because of articles in the local Advertiser newspaper, but an alternative theory on Rangers’ formation date, printed in the Sentinel newspaper during 1891, suggests that the club was founded by a Bible class in 1877.
Rangers’ early matches were cup games and friendlies, with the club reaching the FA Cup First Round in both 1884–85 and 1885–86. The club then had spells in the Shropshire League, Birmingham League and North Staffordshire League up to the turn of the century, and moved to their present Marston Road home in 1896. In 1900–01 Stafford rejoined the Birmingham League and in 1904–05 had an FA Cup run to the last Qualifying Round bowing out in a replay at Second Division Blackpool. They were demoted to the Birmingham Combination in 1912 but won the championship at the first attempt (1912–13) and then finished runners-up in two of the next four seasons either side of the First World War. Rangers won the Birmingham League title in 1926–27, twice finished runners-up (1928–29 and 1929–30) and were twice third in five memorable seasons. During this period a total of 542 league goals were scored with striker Eddie Cameron regularly scoring goals. Due to financial troubles the team spent the mid to late 1930s struggling to avoid re-election and in one game were so short of players that the club secretary R.P. Brown had to play and actually scored a goal. During April 1935 a successful appeal for £100 to pay creditors enabled the club to survive. When war broke out in 1939, Rangers participated in an emergency Birmingham League during the 1939–40 season, finishing as runners-up, and then disbanded.
POST WAR YEARS
After the Second World War the club reformed and played in the Birmingham Combination for six seasons, achieving a highest position of 6th in 1950–51. With a view to progress, Rangers joined the Cheshire County Football League in 1952 and finished 3rd in the 1954–55 season. However, Rangers’ spell in the Cheshire Football League was generally one of struggle and during the early sixties financial difficulties again threatened the club’s existence. There were, however, some positive results, including the seven goals scored by Les Box in an 11–0 FA Cup victory over Dudley Town during September 1957.
In 1965, the appointment of Colin Hutchinson as manager started an improvement. Rangers won the 1967–68 Cheshire League Cup and following season finished as Cheshire League runners-up to earn a place in the Northern Premier League.
The seventies were the most successful era in the club’s history. With Roy Chapman as manager, the club recorded a Northern Premier League Championship, FA Trophy and Staffordshire Senior Cup treble in season 1971–72, with Ray Williams scoring a club record of 48 goals in a single season. However, they did not apply for election to the Football League, and have never since finished high enough to enter the Football League.
Three seasons later Rangers progressed to the FA Cup Fourth Round defeating Stockport County, Halifax Town and Rotherham United on the way to a defeat against Peterborough United in front of a crowd of 31,160 at Stoke City’s Victoria Ground. The home Third Round tie with Rotherham attracted a record of 8,536 people to Marston Road. After Chapman had departed to manage League club Stockport County, Rangers were again at Wembley Stadium in 1975–76 for their second FA Trophy Final but they lost to Scarborough 3–2 after extra time. Roy Chapman returned as manager and success continued with a second FA Trophy Final win in 1979, this time against Kettering Town.
Rangers became founder members of the Alliance Premier League but this coincided with the club finishing low in the league, as various managers found it difficult to follow the success of the seventies. After four seasons Rangers were relegated to the Northern Premier League. This form continued, but with the appointment of Ron Reid as manager during the 1983–84 season as manager the club soon began to rebuild its reputation and won the 1984–85 League title. Back in the Alliance, the Bob Lord Trophy, Jim Thompson Shield and Staffordshire Senior Cup were all won within two seasons. During the late eighties and early nineties, Rangers struggled in the Conference, with six managers in seven seasons following Reid’s departure in May 1988. The sale of striker Stan Collymore to Crystal Palace in December 1990 for a substantial six-figure fee stands out in this period. Under the management of Dennis Booth, Rangers enjoyed a tremendous 1992–93 campaign. In the league they finished 6th and reached the FA Cup Second Round, defeating Lincoln City in a First Round replay at Marston Road.
After Booth departed for Bristol Rovers, Rangers found success difficult to achieve and were relegated from the Conference to the Southern League Premier Division at the end of the 1994–95 season. The slide continued at the start of the 1995–96 campaign and when Kevan Bowen took over in October 1995 Rangers had not gained a point. Bowen made an immediate impact and achieved good results in the second half of the season but the damage had already been done at the start and the club was relegated for the second successive season. With an ambition to take Stafford Rangers back to their former heights in non-league football, the Board appointed Kevin Bond as manager towards the end of 1997. Despite some good performances Rangers ended the season in a mid-table position and Bond moved on to Portsmouth.
Ian Painter succeeded Bond in the 1998 close season and in his first term Rangers finished 5th in the Southern League Midland Division with the distinction of being the equal highest scorers in the pyramid with 92 goals. In 1999–2000, following a slow start, a strengthened side achieved a club record unbeaten run of 23 league games. Rangers were once again equal highest scorers in the pyramid with 107 goals and duly won the Southern League Western Division championship.
After two seasons in the Premier Division, finishing seventh and ninth respectively, Painter left the club in April 2002. During Painter’s final season, Rangers recorded a club-record 15–0 victory over Kidsgrove Athletic in a Staffordshire Senior Cup tie on 20 November 2001.
Phil Robinson, whose playing career took him to several top Football League clubs around the East and West Midlands, joined his hometown club as player-manager in the 2002 close season and immediately set about creating a structure to develop young local talent with the introduction of reserve and youth teams. He retained only a few of Painter’s squad which led to increased support on the terraces due to improved results. They finished second in the Southern League Premier Division, reached the FA Cup First Round for the first time in a decade and brought the Staffordshire Senior Cup back to Marston Road with a 5–1 victory over Stoke City at Port Vale’s Vale Park. Robinson’s second season in charge, 2003–04, brought more success with Rangers this time finishing third in the league behind Crawley Town and Weymouth to earn a place amongst the Nationwide Conference North founder members. Rangers reached the Staffordshire Senior Cup Final but lost 1–0 to Kidsgrove Athletic. At the end of the 2004–05 season, silverware returned to Marston Road as the team regained the Senior Cup, defeating Leek Town in the Final at Vale Park. As well as reaching the FA Cup First Round, where they lost to Chester City, Rangers finished the inaugural Conference North season in 8th position with the tightest defence in the division, conceding just 44 goals.
Stafford Rangers achieved promotion back to the fifth tier of English football after a play-off win on penalties over Droylsden in May 2006 at rivals Burton Albion’s new Pirelli Stadium. This came at the end of a successful 2005–06 league campaign which resulted in a second-place finish.
In the 2006–07 season the club reached the second round of the FA Cup where they lost to Brighton & Hove Albion. A match against Dagenham & Redbridge was featured live on Sky Sports. Goalkeeper Danny Alcock was selected for the England Non-League squad in January 2007 and a month later Cameroonian Guy Madjo was selected by his nation for international duty. The club managed to avoid relegation on the final day of the season, and finished 20th in the Conference.
2007 saw Stafford struggle to compete in an increasingly difficult league with many ex-league and professional sides. Phil Robinson left the club after five-and-a-half years in charge and many Stafford fans were unhappy to see him leave. Players Neil Grayson and Kevin Street were placed in temporary charge of the county town club as joint caretaker managers.
On 21 February 2008, Steve Bull was appointed as head coach. Bull was unable to save the club and on 7 April 2008, Rangers were relegated to the Conference North following a 4–0 defeat at home to York City. He left the club on 12 December, being replaced by Chris Brindley, who was assistant manager under Bull.
At the end of the 2009 season, Stafford Rangers’ future was uncertain as they needed to pay Slick Seating £50,000 by 7 July. The club came up with the idea of selling 250 tickets at £200, that would be repaid in weekly draws, this worked and the club was saved from going into administration.
On 14 April 2010, news was leaked that chairman Jon Downing had resigned from his position, after 17 years on the club’s board. In September 2010, Brindley resigned as manager of Stafford Rangers. The following month, the club appointed Tim Flowers as manager, but he resigned as manager on 11 January 2011 after just nine games in charge and his assistant Matt Elliott took over the job. Despite some improved performances Elliott could not prevent relegation to the Northern Premier League for the 2011–12 season. Their fate was not confirmed until the final game of the season, a 3–2 defeat at Stalybridge Celtic. Elliott initially accepted the offer to become manager for the next season but then had a change of heart and resigned. On 31 May 2011 Greg Clowes was appointed manager, but on 8 September 2013, following defeat in all of their opening seven league games, Clowes, Garner and coach Mick Hathaway were relieved of their management duties. The club appointed Andy Mutch as interim manager until Graham Heathcote was announced as manager on 3 January 2014. Following a further relegation, this time to the NPL Division One South, Heathcote felt he could not continue as manager on a limited playing budget, and on 28 May 2014 former Rushall Olympic boss Neil Kitching was appointed as the new manager of Stafford Rangers.
MORE RECENT HISTORY
In 1979, Rangers won the FA Trophy for the second time beating Kettering 2-0, the match setting a record gate for the final (32,000).
Rangers struggled in the newly formed Alliance Premier League and were relegated to the NPL in 1983.In 1985, Manager Ron Reid led the club to a record 20 games unbeaten and the NPL title and followed this with the Bob Lord Trophy the following season. Rangers went on to record their best ever Conference finish (6th) in 1988 but life was largely a fight against relegation. This, despite the likes of future internationals Stan Collymore (England) and Paul Devlin (Scotland) making their names at Rangers.
Dennis Booth matched the 6th place finish in1993 and also took the club to the 2nd Round of the FA Cup with victory over Lincoln City before leaving for Bristol Rovers. Rangers were relegated from the Conference in 1995, and then suffered a second consecutive relegation after picking up just two points from their opening 19 games in the Southern Premier League. Rangers bounced back in 1999/2000 as Ian Painter led the club to the Dr Marten’s League Western Division title, setting a new club record with a 23 game unbeaten run in the process.
2001/2 saw another club record broken as Rangers beat Kidsgrove Athletic 5-0 in the Staffs Senior Cup
in 2001/02 Phil Robinson replaced Painter as manager and the club finished Southern Premier runners up in his first year (2002/03) as well as winning the Staffs Senior Cup and taking the club to the 1st Round of the FA Cup for the first time in a decade. The following season, Rangers finished 3rd and qualified for the newly formed Conference North. After topping the table for much of the 2005/06 season, Rangers eventually finished runners up but won promotion back to the non-league top flight after a play-off victory over Droylsden. Rangers’ stay In the Conference Premier lasted just two seasons before they were relegated
back to Conference North, but the cost of those two years lingered and once more the future of the club was in doubt.
The appointment of big name managers such as Steve Bull, Tim Flowers and Matt Elliott failed to improve fortunes and Rangers dropped to the third tier of the pyramid, returning to the NPL for 2011/12. Greg Clowes then took charge, but two more disappointing years followed before a disastrous start to the 2013/14 season ended Clowes’ reign. Another big name appointment, Andy Mutch, was another failure and his replacement, Graham Heathcote, couldn’t turn results around. Neil Kitching took the managerial reins for the start of the 2014/15 season following his move from Rushall Olympic and major changes were also made at Boardroom level. However the season started badly with the untimely death of Secretary and Director Mike Hughes who had guided the club through difficult times.
Rangers narrowly missed out on the play-offs on goal difference but did win the Staffordshire Senior Cup beating Leek Town in the final at Vale Park and on a positive note gates were up by 25%. The club was now moving forward with new Chairman John Bromley leading the way as he set about renovating the Social Club, which for many years has provided funding for the football section.
In 2015/16, Neil Kitching and his management staff Nick Amos and Martin Prentice led the ‘Boro to the Evo-Stik First Division South title, which went right to the wire with a draw away to Coalville Town. Gates were again up, and the club had turned the corner both on and off the field of play.
In 2016/17, Rangers consolidated their position in the Evo-Stik Norther Premier League finishing a creditable 13th The season was marred by passing of the club’s patron Roly Tonge, who for many years had been instrumental in keeping the club afloat. A mention here also of the demise of President Leon Douglas and Director Cliff Went. These gentlemen were for many years the backbone of Stafford Rangers Football Club
Rangers fared a little better in 2017/18 finishing just one place above that of the previous season. A win against local rivals Hednesford Town in the Staffs Senior Cup final brought the season to an end. Off the field the excellent work continued both in the Social Club and in the stadium. The start of the 2018/19 brought about another managerial change as long time Rangers favourite Steve Burr moved into the hot seat. The FA’s re-structuring of the non-league pyramid also brought many changes in the playing squad. Rangers struggled however in the lower end of the table and at the start of 2019, Burr resigned and was replaced by his two assistants Alex Meechan and Andy Fearn as joint managers. The pair worked wonders and the team moved away from the relegation positions.
In October 2018 Rangers were saddened by the passing of their President and former Chairman Jon Downing. Jon had suffered for two years from motor neurone disease. Jon had been an inspirational figure at the club for many years. On 14 December 2018 a fan based project to build a stand at the Town End of the stadium came to fruition. The Shed End opening was celebrated with a 4-1 win over Hednesford Town. Meechan and Fearn were retained as joint Managers for the 2019/20 season and built what was on paper a strong squad. However as the season progressed an unprecedented succession of
injuries hampered Rangers progress. In March 2020 football was halted by the Corona Virus Pandemic. At this time Rangers were at the foot of the table and looked odds on for relegation.
However, the Northern Premier League, with a resumption looking very unlikely, decided to make the league null and void with no promotions or relegation. A decision which certainly came to Rangers rescue. The Managerial duo of Meechan and Fearn were relieved of their duties. The following season 2020/21 was again declared null and void with Rangers again at the foot of the table. New Manager Jody Banim’s reign was short lived, and he left the club. Former assistant manager Andy Fearn joined the Board of Directors in a new role of Director of Football.
This season, 2021/22, former player, Matty Hill, has taken over as manager with Dale Belford as his assistant. Currently the duo are building a new squad and there are early indications for a better season.
Birmingham Combination Champions: 1912/13
Birmingham League Champions: 1926/27
Northern Premier League Champions: 1971/72, 1984/85
Dr Martens Western Division Champions: 1999/2000
Evo-Stik League First Division South Champions: 2015/16
Birmingham League Runners-Up: 1928/29, 1929/30
Birmingham Wartime League Runners-Up: 1939/40
Cheshire County League Runners-Up: 1968/69
Northern Premier League Runners-Up: 1970/71, 1975/76
Dr Martens League Premier Division Runners-Up: 2002/03
Nationwide North Runners-Up: 2005/06
FA Trophy Winners:
1971/72 (3-0 v Barnet); 1978/79 (2-0 v Kettering)
FA Trophy Runners Up:
1975/76 (2-3 v Scarborough)
Staffordshire Senior Cup Winners:
1954/55, 1956/57, 1962/63, 1971/72, 1972/73, 1977/78, 1986/87, 1991/92, 2002/03, 2004/05, 2014/15
Leek Cup Joint Winners: 1899/1900
Wednesbury Charity Cup Winners: 1920/21
Walsall Senior Cup Winners 1921/22, 2012/13
Staffordshire Qualifying Cup Winners: 1928/29
Cheshire League Cup Winners: 1967/68
Midland Floodlight Cup Winners: 1969/70
Northern Premier League Shield Winners: 1985/86
Jim Thompson Shield Winners: 1986/87
FA Cup 4th Round: 1974/75
FA Cup 2nd Round: 1975/76, 1979/80, 1992/93, 2006/07
League clubs beaten in the FA Cup:
1974/75 1st Round v Stockport County
1974/75 2nd Round v Halifax Town
1974/75 3rd Round v Rotherham United
1992/93 1st Round v Lincoln City
All competitions: 15-0 v Kidsgrove Athletic 20/11/2001
FA Cup: 11-0 v Dudley Town 6/9/1958
League: 10-1 v Walsall Res (H), St Georges (A), Wellington Town (A) – all 1930-31
All competitions – 0-12 v Burton Town, 13/12/1930
Most goals in a game: 7 by Les Box v Dudley Town, FA Cup 6/9/1958